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+ Old Frame New Picture Online Event: how older people are represented in the media and what we can do about it?

On 28 October 2020 the Greater Manchester Older People's Network and Great Place GM hosted an online symposium event called 'Old Frame New Picture: How Older People are represented in the media and what we can do about it?'

Timed to run alongside the Old Frame New Picture photography competition, this online event was an opportunity to examine and discuss the way older people are portrayed in the media with negative and stereotypical images of vulnerability and fragility. Speakers addressed how we can challenge this narrative with one that celebrates the diversity of older people’s lives and their contributions to society.

The event included presentations and provocations from a range of speakers who drew on professional and personal insights, exploring why we represent older people in this way and how this has been compounded by Covid-19. Presentations were followed by a broader discussion on ageing, media and representation where attendees had the chance to share views and ideas on how we might change the current picture.

+ Chair notes by Julie McCarthy – Project Manager, Great Place GM:

  • The seminar highlighted the many forms of ageism and exclusion that older people experience, including visual ageism

  • These create barriers to civic participation and promote a deficit model of ageing where older people are dependent. Even supposed positive representations are from a deficit model

  • The opposite of dependency is agency and this looks very different to everyone (you can have agency if you are living in a care home with reduced mobility too)

  • Older people experience wonder and surprise but this is never represented in visual representation s of older people. Instead we see dismembered body parts (wrinkly hands, comfortable shoes..)

  • Language is linked to image “she is still jogging in her 60s.”

  • We need an intersectional approach and to work intergenerationally

  • Tech can be our friend – how do we disrupt the algorithms that dictate what we see online?

Calls to action:

  • Let’s have a radical campaign

  • Collaborate with media organisations

  • Develop guidelines on non stigmatised use of visual images (look to the Cochrane Library for an example)

  • A media charter that counters clichés and stereotypes

  • Call out those that use stereotypes

  • Use a legal framework to challenge ageism

  • Work with advertisers and the social corporate responsibility teams of the corporations that use them

+Speakers and presentations

Alex Rotas
View Alex’s presentation here
Alex Rotas specialises in challenging ageing stereotypes through photography.  Alex Rotas is an award-winning British photographer. She specialises in photographing older sportsmen and women who still compete nationally and internationally through their 60s to 100+. She has held exhibitions in the UK, across Europe and in the US, and her photos have featured on the BBC national website and in numerous other online and print publications both in her native UK and across the globe. Alex is a frequent contributor on both TV and radio and gives talks about her work both nationally and e. She is working with the World Health Organisation in Geneva Switzerland to produce an exhibition of work in line with their launch of the ‘Decade of Healthy Ageing’ starting in 2020. She is also currently making a documentary film called ‘the Maverick Generation’ about old female athletes. She is above all an anti-ageism activist, determined to challenge, through her photography, the widely held, pessimistic notions that getting old inevitably means diminished horizons, purpose, fulfilment and happiness. Alex and film maker Danielle Sellwood have just released a new short film (6mins) about Alex's work and anti-ageism activism. The film is available to watch here

Thomas Scharf
View Thomas’ presentation here
Thomas Scharf is Professor of Social Gerontology in the Population Health Sciences Institute, Newcastle University, and co-lead of the University’s new Centre for Ageing and Inequalities. He previously directed the Irish Centre for Social Gerontology, NUI Galway, Ireland, and the Centre for Social Gerontology, Keele University. From 2019 to 2022, Tom is President of the British Society of Gerontology. His research addresses issues relating to social exclusion in later life, often focusing on the spaces and places in which exclusion arises.

Steve Connor
Steve is the co-founder and CEO of Creative Concern. An experienced strategist, writer and communications consultant, Steve specialises in ethical and sustainability issues, integrated campaigns, city strategies, brand development and creating strange installations out of trees, lights and beautiful type. After the event Steve wrote a blog about the event Age, appropriate

Pauline Smith
Pauline is a mature Mancunian, who lived and worked for over 30 years in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands until her return to Manchester in 2008 and held several European business management positions for US multinationals and ran her own consulting business. Since her return to Manchester she has continued her consulting work; and from 2010 became active in social and support groups for older people. These include the Pride in Ageing programme at the LGBT Foundation, where she is a trustee, being a community reporter for Talking About My Generation who provide a wide range of articles, advice, podcasts, poetry, recipes and nostalgia about older people across Greater Manchester. And she is a member of the LGBT social group for older people in Manchester – Out in the City – which is affiliated with Age UK. Pauline is an active member of the GMOPN (Greater Manchester Older People’s Network) and is a member of the Positive Ageing Imagery committee and the subsequent promotion and launch of the Old Frame New Picture photography competition.


Sabrina Fuller
View Sabrina’s presentation here
Sabrina Fuller is an artist exploring difference and how exclusion leads to acts of creative resistance. Tools of her practice are collaboration and giving voice, through sound, writing and still and moving image. She combined a career in the NHS with photography, exhibiting nationally and internationally, before retiring and studying MA photography at London College of Communication. Her work is regularly shown, screened or broadcast. She was lead artist for the 2017-18 Artquest Lifeboat group residency, is a 2020 bOlder artist and an active member of numerous collaborative and collective groups and networks.


Heather Bell
View Heather’s presentation here
Heather Bell is an emerging photographer who graduated in 2019 from the University of Salford, and went onto complete a graduate scholarship programme which has recently come to an end. Heather's work uses archives that have been donated or found to tell stories that often focus on the trappings of power and the resulting restrictions, aiming to give voices to those that were left unheard. She is currently investigating loss and disappearance, helping local communities deal with the idea of loss and what it means to them. Other projects include Masks for Life (@Masks4Life).

Old Frame New Picture is funded by Ambition for Ageing with the support of the National Lottery Community Fund, National Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England as part of Great Place GM.

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