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Subject: AEJ 06 RobinsoT MAG Body Image of Older Adults in Magazine Advertisements: A Content Analysis of Their Body Shape and Portrayal
From: Elliott Parker <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:AEJMC Conference Papers <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 3 Nov 2006 09:42:51 -0500

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This paper was presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and
Mass Communication in San Francisco August 2006.
        I am not the author. If you have questions about this paper, 
please contact the author directly.
	If you have questions about the archives, email rakyat [ at ] For an explanation of the subject line, send email to
[log in to unmask] with just the four words, "get help info aejmc," in the
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(Oct 2006)
Thank you.
Elliott Parker

Body Image of Older Adults in Magazine Advertisements: A Content 
Analysis of Their Body Shape and Portrayal


Tom Robinson and Mark Callister
Brigham Young University
Department of Communications
BRMB 360
Provo, UT  84602
[log in to unmask]

RUNNING HEAD: Body Image of Older Adults

       Because body disturbance, eating disorders, and the drive for 
thinness, are all conditions that effect older individuals, the 
images of older adults in the advertisements of national magazines 
can have a lasting impression. These media images compete with real 
life role models as the predominant source for body comparisons among 
both men and women This study uses a content analysis to determine 
what body image of older adults is portrayed in national magazine 
advertisements. The findings indicate that magazines present an 
"ideal image" of older people that is healthy, happy and of an 
average body weight. Given the proclivity of older people to make 
comparisons from media images of peers and the potential for many to 
suffer from these comparisons in terms of eating disorders, feelings 
of inadequacy, and dissatisfaction, a concern arises over the 
prevalence of the "ideal body image" that abounds in these portrayals.

As baby boomers increase in age, the number of older Americans is 
predicted to increase to over 86 million by the year 2050 (U.S. 
Census Bureau, 2004). According to the American Association of 
Retired Persons, 5,000 people turn 65 every day. In fact, as the 
older population continues to grow, its members will begin to 
outnumber the teenagers of America by a 2-to-1 ratio (Doka, 
1992).  Proof of this growth is due to the expansion of life 
expectancy. With modern advancements in medicine and the increased 
availability of information on living healthy, Americans are taking 
better care of themselves, eating healthier, exercising more, and 
seeing their doctors on a regular basis (Wellner, 2003). For example, 
a male born in 1995 could expect to live to be 71 and a female to 79 
on average; however, by the year 2050 the average life expectancy is 
predicted to increase to 79 years for males and 84 years for females 
(Hoyert, Kung, Smith, 2005).
       Even with their increased numbers, healthier lifestyle, and 
life longevity, older adults continue to experience negative 
stereotypes and attitudes toward them, their ways of thinking, and 
their abilities (Wellner, 2003). The media continues to portray older 
people as, "institutionalized, in poor health, senile, constipated, 
incontinent, and either extremely poor or very wealthy" (Deets, 1993, 
p. 134). Research has found that when older individuals are exposed 
to these negative images they tend to internalize and believe them 
(Hummert, 1990; Levy, 1996, 2000).
       Studies have shown that negative images of aging can have a 
powerful psychological and physiological impact on older people.  A 
study conducted at the Harvard Medical School study found that 
viewing either positive or negative images of aging had a significant 
effect on older people's ability to walk (Hausdorff, Levy & Wei, 
1999).  Older individuals who were shown positive images walked 
faster and appeared spryer while older individuals who were shown 
negative images walked slower and more hunched over.  Gunter and 
Wykes (2005) note that "an important psychological mechanism that may 
underpin mediated influences upon body self-perceptions is the 
tendency for individuals to make comparisons between themselves and 
the role models" (p. 154).  These media images compete with real life 
role models as the predominant source for body comparisons among both 
men and women (Gunter & Wykes).
       For those older individuals who frequently consume media 
images, whether in print or broadcast sources, the realistic 
portrayals of people that characterize these sources may form the 
basis for many of their conceptions of the ideal body image.  Gunter 
and Wykes (2005) state that "exposure to the media-portrayed thin 
ideal is related to eating pathology and suggests that women may 
directly model disordered eating behavior presented in the media" (p. 161).
       However, women are not the only ones impacted by media 
portrayals.  Research indicates that males experience body image 
disturbance (the muscular body) as frequently as females (the thin 
body) (Cohane & Pope, 2001). In fact, as men age their feelings of 
unattractiveness increases "suggesting that the body image of males 
is more affected by the aging process" (Paxton & Phythian, 1999, p. 
119).  The purpose of this study, therefore, is to explore the body 
image portrayals and physical characteristics of older men and women 
in the advertisements of national magazines.

Review of Literature
       Research has recently found that body disturbance, eating 
disorders, and the drive for thinness, conditions generally 
associated with adolescent and college-age women, do occur in older 
individuals (Wills & Olivieri, 1998; Zerbe, 2003). Hsu and Zimmer 
(1988) found in their research "that the clinical picture of eating 
disorders in the elderly resembles closely that in younger patients" 
(p. 137). The psychological and physical changes a person goes 
through during the aging process and menopause are similar to the 
changes an adolescent goes through during puberty and menarche which 
have been found to produce eating and weight related disorders 
(Gupta, 1990; Lewis & Cachelin, 2001).  Researchers have discovered 
that with older persons, the onset of an eating disorder may be 
triggered by a fear of growing old, the fear of gaining weight, a 
major separation in their life such as the death of a loved one, a 
delayed adolescent crisis, a highly restrictive diet, the denying of 
an illness, a prior eating disorder, or the social pressures to be 
thin (Hsu & Zimmer, 1988; Paxton & Pythian, 1999; Price, Giannini, & 
Colella, 1985; Gupta, 1990).
       Hsu and Zimmer (1988) observed that even older women are 
giving into the social pressure to be slender. In fact, the concerns 
most women experience regarding aging focus on body image and 
attractiveness, which can "lead the woman at midlife to feel just as 
dissatisfied with herself and her body as a younger woman" (Zerbe, 
2003, p. 81). The social pressures, perpetuated by the media, include 
the concerns of growing old, the desire to stay young, and that being 
thin helps maintain a young, attractive, more sexual appearance 
(Lewis & Cachelin, 2001).  Park (2005) reports in her review of 
literature that studies "have consistently identified the 
sociocultural emphasis on thinness as the likely primary cause of the 
development of these disorders [anorexia nervosa and bulimia 
nervosa]" (p. 595).  In sum, the research does provide evidence that 
older women are just as susceptible as teens to the sociocultural 
emphasis on thinness, an emphasis that is further reinforced through 
consumption of mediated images and messages (Hsu & Zimmer, 1988; 
Lewis & Cachelin, 2001; Zerbe, 2003; Park, 2005).
       Relevant research in media content has observed trends in 
coverage of health and fitness-related issues in magazines and on 
television. For example, in a content analysis of the top rated 
women's magazines published from 1959 to 1989, the researchers report 
an increase in the number of diet and exercise articles and an ideal 
body size for women that continues to grow thinner over time 
(Wiseman, Gray, Mosimann, & Ahrens, 1992), mirroring a similar 
pattern in teen magazines where the messages lead young women to 
believe that the image of beauty and success is one of being thin and 
staying slim (Evans, Rutberg, Sather, & Turner, 1991). Another 
content analysis of women's magazines covering a period of 27 years 
found that advertisements for food had significantly increased the 
number of health and weight-loss claims (Klassen, Wauer, & Cassel, 
1991). Similar research reports that the majority of products 
advertised by older characters centered on health related products, 
in addition to insurance and financial services (Robinson, 1998; 
Bramlett-Solomon & Subramanian, 1999).
       Beyond the media portrayals of physical health and fitness, 
researchers have also examined the mental health and personality 
portrayals of older individuals (Bramlett-Solomon & Subramanian, 
1999; McConatha, Schnell, & McKenna, 1999; Miller, Miller, McKibbin, 
& Pettys, 1999; Robinson, 1998).  Using content analyses of 
advertisements in top circulating magazines, these studies found that 
overall the magazine advertisements contained a positive portrayal of 
the older characters and that each magazine only contained a small 
number of negative stereotypes.  Miller et al. (1999), for instance, 
reported that no characters were portrayed as "a recluse, vulnerable, 
severely impaired or despondent" (p. 333). Robinson stated that 46.4% 
of the older characters were portrayed as happy and content and that 
most of the older characters were shown outdoors (68.3%).
        Two important theories relevant to the potential impact of 
mediated images and messages of older individual's self-image are 
social comparison theory and cultivation theory.  Social comparison 
theory states that people establish their personal identity through 
making comparisons between themselves and others who have specific, 
valued attributes (Festinger, 1954). The theory assumes that 
individuals make comparisons between themselves and individuals they 
deem as being ideal or desirable. Many of the models and celebrities 
seen in the media are a source for this unrealistic comparison in 
addition to individuals from a person's own life. Although these 
comparisons have been shown in some cases to lead to short-term 
increases in motivation for self-improvement, they typically result 
in long-term discouragement, negative affect, and body image 
disturbance, particularly when the comparisons lead to the 
realization that the ideal portrayed in the media is difficult, if 
not impossible, to obtain (Thomsen, 2002). Research in social 
comparison theory has found that the more comparisons made, the more 
dissatisfaction people feel toward their own body (Gunter & Wykes, 
2005). There does seem to be a difference in the way that men and 
women make comparisons to media images. Men are not as likely to make 
upward comparisons with media models and celebrities as women (Gunter 
& Wykes, 2005). We do know that older people are heavy consumers of 
the media and therefore, inundated with the media's perception of 
what the ideal body image should be for older individuals.
      The second theory that helps explain the media's effects on 
body disturbance is cultivation theory. According to this theory, the 
media have a significant impact in shaping or "cultivating" people's 
views of social reality.  Cultivation theory holds, therefore, that 
individuals who spend a considerable amount of time involved with 
media images are more likely to be influenced by how the media 
depicts social reality.  It is the continual, long-term exposure that 
exercises a subtle impact to which cultivation theory addresses. 
Repeated exposure to stereotypical images cultivates beliefs, 
assumptions, and common conceptions of societal facts and norms, and 
such exposure can influence individual conceptions of reality, 
standards or judgment, attitudes, thoughts, and behavior (Gerbner & 
Gross, 1976; Gerbner, Gross, Morgan, & Signorielli 1994). Therefore, 
individuals who are exposed to a heavy dose of media models and 
celebrities who display the thin ideal may have a distorted view of 
what is an acceptable and normal body image. This is especially true 
if the individual's real-life experiences are not different from what 
they see in the media.
	This study, therefore, explores the images of older people as 
portrayed in popular general interest magazines.  Of particular 
interest are the possible recurring images or portrayal patterns of 
older people in terms of physical, mental, and personality 
characteristics.   Understanding how magazines present older people 
to the reading public can provide important insights into the nature 
of images from which older people may make comparisons and from which 
other viewing publics may form perceptions and attitudes.
	The following research questions will guide this inquiry:
RQ1:	How many older people are pictured in the advertisements in the 
top general interest magazines?
RQ2:	How are older people portrayed, in terms of their physical 
characteristics, in the advertisements in the top general interest magazines?
RQ3:	How are older people portrayed, in terms of their mental and 
personality characteristics, in the advertisements in the top general 
interest magazines?
RQ4:	What is the body image of older people that is portrayed in the 
advertisements in the top general interest magazines?
RQ5:	Is the overall portrayal of older characters in the 
advertisements in the top general interest magazines positive or negative?


       Magazines were selected for the content analysis because 
researchers have found that the relationship between eating disorders 
was stronger for magazine consumption than for other media use 
(Gunter & Wykes, 2005). The sampling frame for this study was 
selected based on the top eight national, general interest magazines 
with the highest older adult readership. The circulation numbers were 
taken from the 2004 Mediamark Research Inc. (MRI) report. Mediamark 
is the leading provider of syndicated consumer magazine audience data 
in the United States. The national magazines selected were Reader's 
Digest, Better Homes and Gardens, People, National Geographic's, AARP 
The Magazine, TV Guide, Family Circle, and Time. One issue from each 
month, November 2004 through October 2005, was coded. For weekly 
magazines, the last issue of each month was selected for examination. 
Because AARP The Magazine is published bimonthly, the past 12 issues 
were selected for coding. From the total of 96 issues, each full-page 
advertisement was analyzed and each advertisement that contained an 
older person was coded.
       There was no attempt to control for duplication of 
advertisements as many advertisers utilize high frequency of 
repetition as a technique to achieve brand recognition. Two 
independent coders were trained on how to use the content analysis 
instrument; coders were instructed to identify older individuals, the 
role they portrayed in the advertisement, their personality traits, 
their physical characteristics, and their body image. The list of 
roles, personality traits, and physical characteristics were gathered 
from an extensive review of literature (Dellmann-Jenkins, 1997; 
Guerrero, DeVito & Hecht, 1999; Hummert et al., 1994; Peterson, 1992; 
Robinson, 1998; Robinson & Anderson, 2006; Swayne & Greco, 1987; 
Ursic et al., 1986). Body image of the older characters was 
determined by comparing the character's actual body size to Thompson 
and Gray's (1995) Contour Drawing Rating Scale. The drawing scale 
provides images from very thin to obese that the coders could easily 
match to the images in the magazine advertisements.
       The coders were instructed to identify all older characters 
who meet some of the following subjective criteria: (1) an appearance 
of retirement, (2) extensive gray/white hair, (3) wrinkles of the 
skin in hands and face, (4) extensive loss of hair or balding, (5) 
use of an ambulatory aid such as a cane or wheelchair, (6) the parent 
of a middle-aged son or daughter, and (7) evidence of grandchildren 
or great-grandchildren (Gantz et al., 1980; Bishop & Krause, 1984; 
Peterson, 1992; Robinson, 1998; Robinson & Anderson, 2006; Swayne & 
Greco, 1987). A person was determined to be old if they met a 
majority of the above criteria. Only those older people whose faces 
and/or bodies were shown and could be identified by age and gender 
were counted. Advertisement that contained a older celebrity endorser 
were not counted because "celebrities are nearly always depicted in 
positive terms and are not representative of the population as a 
whole" (Miller et al., 1999, p. 326).
       The coders were instructed on how to recognize possible 
problems in judgment that might occur during the coding process. A 
coding sheet was devised to assist in noting information about each 
of the old characters. In an attempt to minimize any coder bias that 
may have existed in the findings, after an intercoder reliability 
check was made, the data from each coder were compared and one set of 
data was produced for analysis purposes.  Any questions or 
discrepancies that arose during the process were discussed by the 
coders and corrected. When a disagreement did arise, the coders were 
allowed to view the advertisement in question again so a decision 
could be made. To determine intercoder reliability, Holsti's (1969) 
reliability formula was used to calculate agreement for the 
approximate age of the older character (83% agreement), the 
characters' level of activity (98% agreement), the characters' health 
(89% agreement), and the characters' body image (93% agreement).
       Finally, an evaluation was made of the older character's 
overall portrayal as either positive or negative. This methodology 
followed the positive and negative dimensions established by Schmidt 
and Boland (1986) who defined negative stereotypes of older people 
as, "despondent, mildly impaired, vulnerable, severely impaired, 
shrew/curmudgeon, recluse, nosey neighbor and bag lady/vagrant" and 
positive stereotypes of older people as "John Wayne conservative, 
liberal matriarch/patriarch, perfect grandparent, and sage" (p. 258). 
Therefore, decisions about the positive or negative portrayal of a 
character were made after considering all physical and personality 
traits and body image.

       From the eight magazines coded, there were 4,698 
advertisements, of which 2,219 had people and 290 (13.1%) contained 
at least one older person (see Table 1).

Table 1: Total Number of Advertisements with Older Adults by Magazine
		Total Number	Number of Ads 	Number of Ads
Magazine	of Ads 	w/ People	w/ Older People
TV Guide	214	86	29	33.7%
Reader's Digest	640	256	33	12.9%
AARP The Magazine	116	134	70	52.2%
Better Homes & Gardens	1401	675	61	9.0%
People	683	345	16	4.6%
National Geographic	285	131	14	10.7%
Family Circle	795	373	24	6.4%
Time	420	219	46	21.0%	
TOTALS	4,554	2,219	290	13.1%

As expected, AARP The Magazine had the largest number of 
advertisements with an older character (52.2%), but TV Guide (33.7%) 
and Time (21.0%) also had large percentages (see Table 1). Better 
Homes and Gardens (9.0%), Family Circle (6.4%) and People (4.6%) had 
a lower percentage of advertisements with an older character, which 
may be a reflection of the younger target audience of these 
magazines. There were a total of 3,923 people in the advertisements 
and 280 (7.1%) older individuals (see Table 2). The 280 excluded 63 
older celebrities that were not coded. Again, AARP The Magazine 
(40.4%) had the largest number of older people in their 
advertisements and People (1.5%) had the fewest number.

Table 2: Total Number of People and Older Adults in Advertisements by Magazine
		Total Number	Number of
Magazine	of People	Older People
TV Guide	164	16	9.8%
Reader's Digest	640	39	6.1%
AARP The Magazine	218	88	40.4%
Better Homes & Gardens	1128	67	5.9%
People	723	11	1.5%
National Geographic	200	14	7.0%
Family Circle	642	26	4.0%
Time		392	19	4.8%	
TOTALS	3923	280	7.1%

Physical Description of the Older Characters
       Fifty-six percent of the older people were male and 44% were 
female. The racial makeup of the older characters was 84.7% 
Caucasian, 13.2% African American, 1.3% Asian, 0.3% Hispanic, and 
0.6% coded as other. The characters were seen most often as being in 
their 60s (60.3%) with 27.9% in their 50s and 11.8% in their 70s or 
above. The portions of the body shown in the advertisements were 
distributed evenly between full body (30.3%), partial body (38.5%), 
and head only (31.2%).
       The older characters' activity level was primarily inactive 
(60.3%) which included all portrayals where the older person was 
sitting, standing, or posing for the camera; however, 39.7% were 
shown as either active (e.g., walking, gardening, shopping, yoga) or 
very active (e.g., jogging, bicycling, swimming, surfing). The health 
status of the older characters was overwhelmingly "good" (97.4%) with 
only 2.6% of the characters shown with "minor limitations" and there 
were no portrayals of older adults with "poor or declining health." 
The older characters were shown with a limited amount of wrinkles 
(73.1%), a moderate physical appearance (91.4%), not in need of 
glasses (90.0%), and not using a physical aid such as a wheelchair, 
cane, or walker (98.6%). Only 2% of the males were shown as bald or 
balding and 77.4% of the males and females had gray hair. The older 
characters were cast in a number of positive roles including a 
model/spokesperson (57.2%), a grandparent (14.5%), a husband or wife 
(9.0%), a worker or boss (7.2%), and a parent to a middle-aged adult 
(4.8%). They were pictured most often outdoors (34.5%) and in the home (14.5%).

Personality and Mental Description of the Older Characters
       Overall, the mental and personality traits of the older 
characters were positive. Eighty-three percent were shown as happy 
and content, 23.4% as friendly, 15.9% as loving, and 15.2% as 
intelligent. Only a small number of the older characters had negative 
characteristics such as angry or grumpy (3.8%), or sad (0.3%), and 
there were no characters shown as forgetful, senile, eccentric, 
overly affectionate, helpless, nosey, or lonely.

Body Image of the Older Characters
       Body image was only calculated on those characters whose 
partial body or full body was shown in the advertisements. 
Advertisements that displayed the head only were not coded leaving 
189 characters' body image coded. The body image of the older 
characters was predominantly average (80.4%) with only a small 
percentage of the characters shown as either thin (4.8%) or 
overweight (14.8%). When the body image numbers are broken down by 
gender (see Table 3) the percentage of underweight and overweight 
females does slightly increase but the largest percentage are still 
of average weight. Table 4 shows the Body

Table 3: Body Image by Gender
	Gender	Thin	Average	Overweight	TOTAL
	Male	3	2.9%	85	82.5%	15	14.6%	103
	Female	6	7.0%	67	77.9%	13	15.1%	86
	TOTAL	9	4.8%	152	80.4%	28	14.8%	189

Image numbers divided by race. The largest percentage (86.9%) of the 
Caucasians were shown with an average body weight and only a small 
percentage were shown as either underweight (4.9%) or overweight 
(8.2%). However, the 26 older African American characters were 
divided evenly between average (53.8%) and overweight (46.2%). The 
only Asian character was portrayed as overweight and the only 
Hispanic character was shown with head only so body image was not measured.

Table 4: Body Image by Race
	Race	Thin	Average	Overweight	TOTAL
	Caucasian 	9	5.6%	137	85.1%	15	9.3%	161
	African American	0		14	53.8%	12	46.2%	26
	Asian	0		0		1	100%	1
	Hispanic	0		0		0		0
	Other	0		1	100%	0		1
	TOTAL	9	4.8%	152	80.4%	28	14.8%	189

Overall Portrayal of the Older Characters
       The variable the coders were asked to determine, based on the 
overall representation of the older character, was if the characters' 
portrayals were positive or negative. The results (see Table 5) 
indicate that 333 of the characters (97.9%) had an overall positive 
portrayal and seven of older characters (2.1%) were portrayed in a 
negative manner. Time, Reader's Digest, and Better Homes and Gardens 
were the only magazines that contained a negative portrayal.

Table 5: Overall Portrayal of Older Characters
Magazine	Positive	Negative
TV Guide	16	0
Reader's Digest	37	2
AARP The Magazine	88	0
Better Homes & Gardens	66	1
People	11	0
National Geographic	14	0
Family Circle	26	0
Time		15	4	
TOTALS	273 (97.5%)	7 (2.5%)

       The purpose of this study, in addition to building upon the 
research of Robinson (1998), Bramlette-Solomon and Subramanian 
(1999), Miller et al. (1999) and McConatha et al. (1999) on the 
physical and mental characteristics of older characters, was to 
determine what body image of older men and women appear in national 
magazines. As found in the earlier research, older characters are 
underrepresented in the number of advertisements in which they appear 
and in terms of their total numbers. The 2000 United States Census 
data reports that the number of adults 65 years and older was 12.4% 
of the population. Older characters did appear in 13.1% of the 
advertisements, which is a large increase from studies conducted in 
the 1980s that reported percentages of less than 5% (Gantz, 
Gartenberg, & Rainbow, 1980; Kvasnicka, Beymer, & Perloff, 1982).
       Older characters were, however, underrepresented in the total 
number of people appearing in the advertisements (7.1%). While they 
were in a larger number of advertisements, their total number is well 
below their actual numbers in the population. Other researchers who 
also found that the older population was underrepresented in 
advertising, concluded that the advertisers must not see the older 
population as major players in the consumer market (Gantz et al., 
1980; Peterson, 1992; Robinson, Duet, & Smith, 1995; Swayne & Greco, 
1987). They did advertise a wide variety of products (e.g., 
entertainment, food, automobiles, retail stores and electronics); 
however, 50% of the products that featured an older character were 
for medicines and medical related products and an additional 5% were 
for insurance and financial institutions.
       As was found in earlier research, the older character in this 
study were presented in a positive manner even though the 97.5% 
positive portrayals. Even the physical and mental characteristics 
have stayed consistently positive over the past few years. 
Researchers have been concerned that if advertisers continually 
portray older adults in a negative manner that the images could have 
detrimental effects on the images older adults have of themselves 
(Hausdorff, Levy & Wei, 1999). The results of this study clearly 
indicate that in magazines with a large older adult readership, a 
negative image of older people hardly exists.  The older characters 
in this sample of magazines were primarily portrayed as grandparent 
or spouse, white, in their 60s, of an average physical appearance, 
gray hair, limited wrinkles, not in need of glasses, happy and 
content, in good health, physically active, outdoors, and of an 
average body weight.
       One area  of concern is the over representation of older 
Caucasians (84.7) who make up about 60% of the 55+ population, and 
the under representation older minorities. Older African Americans 
were slightly under represented with 13.2% appearing in magazine 
advertisements in comparison to 14.8% of the U.S. population. Older 
Hispanics were grossly underrepresented as the make up 10.3% of the 
U.S. population but were less than 1% (0.3%) of the older characters 
in magazine advertisements. Older Asians are also extremely 
underrepresented as they make up 14.7% of the older population and 
they represented only 1.3% of the older characters.
       With the majority of the older characters having a body image 
that is considered average and with only a few outliers shown as very 
thin or overweight, this research clearly indicates what body type is 
considered by the advertisers to be a normal size.  Research on body 
image disturbance that focuses on the media-generated "idealized 
images" or "thin ideal" observes that these images do have an 
influence on young women who attempt to model these behaviors in 
order to look like actresses or models. Studies have shown that older 
women, who are subjected to an ideal female image in the media, can 
be affected the same as young women (Hsu & Zimmer, 1988).
       As stated earlier, the social pressures felt and the mediated 
images seen by older women deal mostly with growing old, the desire 
to stay young, and that being thin will help them maintain a young, 
attractive appearance (Lewis & Cachelin, 2001). The results of this 
study clearly shows that advertising leans toward the "ideal image" 
of an older adult in the models they select for their advertisements. 
Carrying a responsibility to present products and services in a 
positive light, advertisers naturally create advertisements that 
establish positive associations through appealing portrayals. 
However, given the proclivity of older people to make comparisons 
from media images of peers and the potential for many to suffer from 
these comparisons in terms of eating disorders, feelings of 
inadequacy and dissatisfaction, a concern arises over the prevalence 
of the "ideal" body image that abounds in these portrayals.  The 
concern is most pronounced for older adults who are heavy magazine 
readers.  For such readers, the cumulative message from these 
magazines is one in which most older people are living vibrant, 
healthy, content, socially-active lives and doing so in a fit and 
functioning body.  While in some respects this is good news, 
especially given research showing that many mediated sources have 
placed older people in harmful and negatively stereotypical 
depictions.  However, the concern rests with older readers who are 
susceptible to unfair and personally harmful social comparisons that 
arise from the cultivation of these cumulative images.  	Cultivation 
theory explains that because people use the mass media as a source 
for information and socialization, repeated portrayals can have a 
powerful and lasting effect on them (Gerbner et al., 1994). 
Therefore, just as negative images can have a negative effect on the 
viewer, a consistent stream of idealized images, over time, can have 
similar detrimental effects, especially for those older, overweight 
readers who may lean toward unrealistic and harmful social 
comparisons. Such readers may suffer from lower self body perception 
and feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction.
       As noted in social comparison theory, individuals establish 
their personal identities by making comparisons between themselves 
and others who have specific, valued attributes they see as desired 
or normal. Thomsen (2002) found that although these comparisons can 
lead to some life changes, they often result in the person becoming 
discouraged and developing a negative self image. When the 
comparisons lead to the realization that the ideal image portrayed in 
the media is difficult, if not impossible, to obtain it may lead to 
the person developing body image disturbance.
       This state of affairs poses a challenge for magazine 
advertisers who are driven to create effective magazine 
advertisements through surrounding and pairing their featured 
products with appealing, positive, and compelling images.  However, 
advertisers also operate under the pressure, whether internally or 
externally applied, to create advertisements that reflect sensitivity 
to social issues and that do not negatively impact audiences that may 
experience certain vulnerabilities.
       The emerging tension requires magazine advertising executions 
that reflect sensitivity to these issues, yet can still achieve 
desired outcomes. More realistic executions in which older characters 
of diverse body types, fitness levels, attractiveness, and physical 
capabilities are engaging in life events in a positive and appealing 
manner may carry an attractive force that more successfully resonates 
with older people.  Arguably, such executions may find a more open 
audience and an audience that can more closely identify with images 
that do not trigger harmful comparisons, yet still accomplish 
advertising objectives.

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