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Media reporting guidelines

Media plays a vital role in shaping the way we perceive people and issues in our communities. Integral to raising the voices of older people, awareness about their rights and issues they’re affected by is the need to communicate images and language that reflect their dignity and rights.

When reporting on older people, we encourage all members of the media to consider how they’re contributing to perceptions or harmful stereotypes about older people.

  • Am I contributing to harmful stereotypes about older people
  • Include a point of contact
  • Interviewing & interacting
  • Appropriate use of language

Am I contributing to harmful stereotypes about older people?

Ageism refers to stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination towards others and ourselves, based on age. In essence, it is how we think, how we feel and how we act towards others, and when directed at older people, it comes from negative attitudes and beliefs about what it means to grow old.

In our daily lives, ageism is believing older people can’t make decisions for themselves, using patronising names, or making so-called jokes about ageing.

In the media, this can be communicating images or language that reflect older people as a burden to society, lacking capacity, unable to understand concepts, ideas, or situations, and being frail or dependent on others.

Ageism can be unintentional, like when members of the media make comments that are intended as compliments, such as saying a person doesn’t look old, or remarking at what someone has achieved at their age.

When media generates outdated reflections about older people, it contributes to stereotypes about ageing and encourages ageist attitudes.

Those attitudes have an enormous impact on older people. Ageism can lead to poor physical and mental health, financial insecurity, loneliness and social isolation, and abuse or early death.

Increased community understanding about ageing and the needs of older people will improve their quality of life and ability to speak up and advocate for themselves or others.

Media can contribute to ensuring the dignity and rights of older people with coverage that older people are not defined by their age.

We encourage you to use appropriate language that recognises and respects the rights and dignity of older people and acknowledges them for who they are, not their age.

Include a point of contact

Older people can face barriers to accessing support services, such as not wanting to think about aged care, not wanting to cause a fuss or being unaware there is free and independent assistance available to help them navigate a complex and confusing system.

Aged care advocacy support offered by our network assists older people to maintain control and independence, have a better experience with aged care in the long-term and prevent mistreatment and abuse.

It is critical to provide older people with an avenue to support when covering stories about aged care either in the community or aged care homes. We strongly encourage you to include the following message in your coverage to enable older people to seek support:

For assistance and advice regarding aged care, please call the Older Persons Advocacy Network on 1800 700 600 or visit their website at

If you require a comment or assistance, please see our Media centre page

Interviewing and interacting

  • Treat the older person like any other interviewee. Act naturally, greet them and avoid patronising or over-praising language.
  • Avoid correcting, interrupting or speaking on behalf of the person.
  • Allow for time and conduct your interview in an appropriate setting.
  • Ask only one clearly phrased question at once and be clear and precise when seeking information on the person’s experiences.
  • If you do not understand the answer you receive, ask for clarification, or repeat what you have understood for confirmation.
  • If someone lives with dementia or has cognitive decline, make sure you have met with them beforehand to talk through what will happen and look at. Read Dementia Australia’s guidelines about reporting on dementia.
  • An older person is a person first, and any condition they may have comes second. For example, a person living with dementia, an older person that is homeless.

Interviewing and interacting

The words we use have power and can influence how other people perceive or treat older people. We encourage you to avoid using language like:

  • You don’t look like you’re [age]
  • You don’t seem like you’re [age]
  • Elderly person
  • Old people
  • Residential aged care facilities (use Aged care homes)
  • Aged care residents (use People living in aged care homes)