Media portrayals of older employees: a success story?

Martine van Selm, Beatrice van der Heijden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to provide an analysis of how portrayals of older employees in mass media messages can help combating stereotypical beliefs on their employability. Design/methodology/approach – The authors conducted a systematic review of empirical studies on mass media portrayals of older employees in order to show what these reveal about the ways in which their employment status, occupation, job type, or work setting is portrayed. The approach builds upon theory on media portrayals, media effects, and stereotypes of older workers’ employability. Findings – This study shows that older employees in media portrayals, when present at all, are relatively often shown in higher-level professional roles, herewith overall, depicting an image that is positive, yet differs from stereotypical beliefs on their employability that are prevalent in working organizations. Research limitations/implications – Further empirical work is needed to more safely conclude on the prevalence of age-related portrayals of work and employment in mass media. In addition, longitudinal research is called for in order to better understand the possible causes for the way in which older employees are portrayed, as well as effects of age-related stereotyping in mass media and corporate communication outlets over time. Practical implications – This research sparks ideas about how new portrayals of older employees in mass media and corporate communication outlets can contribute to novel approaches to managing an aging and multi-generational workforce. Social implications – This study shows how working organizations can make use of the positive and powerful media portrayals of older employees, in order to activate normal and non-ageist behaviors toward them, and herewith, to increase their life-long employability. Originality/value – This study highlights the role of media portrayals of older employees in combating stereotypes about their employability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)583-597
JournalJournal of organizational change management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • IR-92066
  • METIS-305479


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