The portrayal of individuals in the media usually affects the way the public perceives and treats them. The negative views of the elderly in this country are often blamed on the way in which the media have depicted the aged in our society. For example, in hearings on “Age Stereotyping and Television” before the House Select Committee on Aging, Representative William S. Cohen testified:
All too often, the image of the older person portrayed in the media is a cliche—the white-haired, venerable sage, whose life is uncluttered by the emotions, such as love, hate, and jealousy, that tax the rest of us, or perhaps the old fool in his dotage, a laughingstock for the Pepsi generation and those a few years removed from it. It requires little beyond modest powers of observation to determine that these cliches have little basis in fact. The elderly possess the same rich diversity that makes up every other segment of our population. What makes these myths more dangerous in the era in which we live, however, is the pervasive effect of television. With 97 percent of all households owning at least one set and nearly half that many possessing two, the ability of television to persuade and convince supercedes anything imaginable in past ages dominated by the written word [U.S. Congress, 1977: 8].