Media, health and aging – University of Copenhagen

Ageing and old age in the media and elderly people’s media use

Media, health and ageing

Project Leader: Christa Lykke Christensen

Health and ageing are not only high on the political agenda but also central aspects of modern lifestyle. Previously, ‘lifestyle indicators’ of health primarily described peoples’ smoking, alcohol and exercise habits and media were equating ‘good health’ with ‘absence of illness’. Nowadays, the concept of a healthy lifestyle is considered in a much wider sense. Health experts appearing in the media understand concepts of health and lifestyle in ways converging with ideas of social identity in general. The media frame health as wellness and individual lifestyle choices that may enable the elderly to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

The question this subproject poses is: how do elderly people understand and reflect on the concept of health and which role do the media play in relation to this understanding? The subproject studies how elderly people of different economic and social resources consider health. For instance, do elderly people understand health as the promotion of healthy choices of lifestyle and of ‘the good life’ or are their ideas of health rather a question of the absence of illness? How does a healthy old age look like from elderly people’s point of view and which role do media play in relation to elderly peoples’ knowledge of health and their efforts to get a good and meaningful life as ageing people? The subproject will examine how elderly people experience and use media for information on and monitoring of their own health, for instance through media such as magazines, patients associations’ information outlets, internet sites such as Netdoktor.dk and Ældresagen.dk as well as mobile apps for monitoring the individual health situation.

The study will be based on qualitative interviews with elderly people analyzing the specific role of the media in elderly people’s life with regard to how media influence elderly people’s notions of health. Thus, the project contributes to general discussions of what health in old age means and to evaluate if the increased media possibilities for seeking information on health and for monitoring the individual body enhance elderly people’s health and quality of life.