The media shape both what people consider significant and how people think about key issues. This paper explored the cultural beliefs and stereotypes that underlie media portrayals of nursing homes. The analysis of texts of 157 articles about nursing homes published from 1999 to 2008 on the front pages of four major-market American newspapers (The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post) was conducted using a qualitative approach inspired by comparative narrative and critical discourse analysis. Results suggest two major themes, each with several narrative components: (a) managing disposable lives (bodies outliving bank accounts; making frailty affordable; and the economics of triage); and (b) retaining purchasing power as successful ageing (consumption as a sign of market participation, spending money as an indicator of autonomy; and financial planning as preparation for future decline). Thus, the results indicate that nursing home residency in-and-of-itself is not a marker of unsuccessful ageing. This, instead, depends, in part, on the extent of choice available as a result of the level of financial solvency. This study shines light on the betwixt and between zone that distinguishes the Third and Fourth Ages; that is, independence versus dependence in old age. If individuals in a nursing home retain control over the management of their lives through the maintenance of financial independence, even if physically frail, association of nursing home residence with the Fourth Age may be ameliorated.