To get a sense of how older adults are depicted in online images, researchers reviewed a random sample of more than 1,000 online images from brands and thought leaders posted on news sites and social media with at least one million followers
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A random sample of 1,116 images was drawn from more than 2.7 million images downloaded from professional and semiprofessional domains and social distributions for brands and thought leaders, defined as having at least one million followers. The media sources consisted of public digital and social content on news sites, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in 2018.
Natural language processing technology was used to find images using topical guides chosen to be reflective of online images. The topics were selected based on the hypothesis that adults age 50-plus were likely to be over- or under-represented in them (continuing education, family, finances, healthy living, medical, recreation, technology, travel, volunteering, and workplace).
The research found that:
- Although 46% of the U.S. adult population is over 50, only 15% of images containing adults include people in that age segment
- Negative portrayals of adults 50-plus is more common than negative portrayals of younger adults
- Images suggest homogeneity of adults 50-plus and exaggerate stereotypical and outdates physical appearance characteristics
- Adults over age 50 are presented as dependent and disconnected
- Adults over age 50 are rarely shown with technology
- Images of the 5-plus portray the opposite of their actual work and financial status
- Older adults are infrequently shown in work settings