The impact of the media on the elderly (over 60) population in America's middletown

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Woodress, Frederick A.
Murk, Peter J., 1942-
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Researcher Frederick Woodress has added another study, one on media as it has impacted the elderly, to the large 65-year-old data bank for Muncie Indiana's "Middletown." The basic data was established in 1924 when Robert and Helen Lynd, pioneer sociologists, arrived in the Midwestern town to research and write their Middletown books. This new study covers 553 males and females ages 19 to 92--400 over 60 selected at random by computer, 75 in the 30 to 50 group, also selected at random by computer, and 78 journalism students. The elderly and 30 to 50 year-olds were interviewed by telephone while the students completed questionnaires face-to-face.As part of this investigation, Woodress surveyed prominent newspaper columnists, TV news people and editors about their perceptions of the media's coverage of the elderly. With 53 percent return, the author summarized the results of this mail survey.The 14 mediums examined included television, radio, newspapers, tabloids, magazines, books, comics, computers, VCR's and motion pictures. Complaints and compliments were expressed about various media with television rating as the medium the respondents of all ages would miss the most with newspapers a distant second. Elderly respondents displayed a strong interest in television, newspapers, magazines and books, spent considerable time listening to police/fire radio scanners and showed some interest in using computers. The elderly were very critical of the movie industry and two-thirds said they had not attended a movie for at least a year. Almost one-third of the 30-50 age group also admitted they had not attended a movie theater showing for a year, but all groups were watching movies on television, cable and VCR's.All three groups commented on the media coverage of the 1988 presidential election campaign and told what activities they would rather be doing than reading newspapers, listening to radio or watching television. This study is an overview of the growing elderly population, a group given scant attention in previous Middletown studies. It provides important insights for the media concerning this growing segment of the population.