Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
Forum 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 

Sunday, 3 December, 2000, 12:44 GMT
Are pensioners stereotyped?

Pensioners are fed up with being stereotyped on television as grumpy Victor Meldrews or sweet little old ladies, according to a study.

The research by the Independent Television Commission and the charity Age Concern found that older viewers wanted to watch the same as everyone else cutting edge comedies or violent movies.

The survey of more than 3,000 adults in their sixties and seventies revealed that older viewers felt under-represented on television.

Do we stereotype the older generation? Are they all flat-caps and wrinkly stockings? What can be done to improve the pensioners image on television?

HAVE YOUR SAY No. In fact, they should be cut off of any money. There is entirely too much money going to these old fogies. We need the money for luxury goods like Mercedes Benz and Lexus. The money going to them could help me get a new car.
Daniel McGovern, Ireland


Without them, there would be no decent sitcoms involving 'elderly' characters, nor, probably, amusing advertisements

Jane De Gruchy, England
I do agree that pensioners are stereotyped on TV but, without them, there would be no decent sitcoms involving 'elderly' characters, nor, probably, amusing advertisements! Having said that, my parents who are in their 70's are rarely to be found at home. They're either over foraging in France, going to friends' houses or participating in the local pub's Quiz Night. They both enjoy satirical programmes on television, debating current affairs and telling/hearing jokes. Like most intelligent 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's, in fact, so they would not be 'typical' wrinklies as represented by the media in any way, shape or form.
Jane De Gruchy, England

What I have noticed, but I may be wrong here, is that OAP stereotyping has a lot to do with the "class" system. The "comical" OAP codger is more likely than not to be of working class or lower middle class background. Not many of the "U" classes seem to be laughed at perhaps because they don't have a need for the miserable state pension. For instance I don't think anyone would dare present the late Sir Steven Runciman as a stereotyped OAP! Personally I don't give a damn. There has to be after all some material for the talent-challenged writers of "comic" material (stand-up and fall-down).
Kostas Laskaris, UK-pensioner

I am nearly 38 years old. These days, I don't want to be rushing around trying to do everything and finish it just as I start. I learned to relax. Being relaxed and not trying to pressure all and sundry has led me into gaining more respect from older people. The other day at a checkout till, I spoke to the lady ahead of me who was trying to push all her groceries into a plastic bag that she could take as long as it needed to pack her bags and finish. Her face lit up, and one could almost sense the "thank goodness there are people around who aren't rushing all the time" mood. Older people are very nice if you nice to them. If you try to talk down to them, they will quite rightly look down on you. Can you blame them?
Simon Devine, Surrey, England

The thing is that Victor never complained needlessly. The fact he wasn't prepared to be a doormat, treated like an idiot, or abused by yobs is actually one of the few positive role models seen on TV today. Make a stand for decency and support anyone else who does.
Graeme, England

The sample upon which the research is based is pitifully small. If many pensioners, including myself, do not watch the idiotic material being shown on TV. It has all to do with quality. Little or no plot, sitcoms without laughs, shouting, young people with dreadfully short experience and it shows in their inability to put over a convincing character.
George Brown, England


I don't think it is a stereotype, more an accurate representation of symptoms common to men in that situation

Sue Doughty, UK
I don't think it is a stereotype, more an accurate representation of symptoms common to men in that situation. The feeling of hopelessness, of not being needed by the society they want to be part of coupled with a deep and growing resentment that life has passed them by. Regrets surfacing as a series of psychological and physical disorders they have no help in dealing with. No, Victor wasn't unusual at all, quite the opposite, for a man in his circumstances he was a pussy cat compared to reality.
Sue Doughty, UK


The passing of time affects anyone's view on life

Dicky Dawes, Greece
The passing of time affects anyone's view on life. As the years go by one learns to accept the way people of all ages behave. I am a 'younger' pensioner - pushed off the shelf to make room for true 'youngsters' to earn a living for the sake of their own responsibilities. I have suffered burglaries, the loss of life-savings, the murder of close friends etc, but I am managing to survive. This is not an 'old man' whinging - just a middle-aged man understanding that life is a challenge. To many people moaning seems a sin and yet we are all encouraged to complain if things are not right. Only the experience of life can justify grievances. Let the young be bold and inexperienced. Let the older generation pass their judgement on life in general - and may the younger generation glean some wisdom from our 'moaning'.
Dicky Dawes, Greece

They are all old and on a pension.
Alex Xeman, New Zealand

Of course pensioners are stereotyped. Humans are adept at grouping, categorising and placing in boxes. The fallacy comes in assuming this happens uniquely to pensioners. Children, teenagers, middle-aged men and pensioners are all equally stereotyped on television, radio and in writing. How do we avoid stereotyping? It would seem that we don't.
Christopher Flather, Great Britain


I'm not even 30 but I sympathise with some of Victor Meldrew's rantings

John B, UK
I'm not even 30 but I sympathise with some of Victor Meldrew's rantings. I find it staggering that as a paying customer I am expected to put up with shoddy service, inattentive staff, transport delays and a "society" that seems to be on the side of those that want to destroy everything around them. As someone said earlier, if we all learned to complain and shout if necessary perhaps we'd get a better level of service.
John B, UK

I am not a pensioner myself, but I am disabled and I see quite a lot of views that are very similar to people of pensionable age. I think that there should be more elderly icons on television. Daytime television, for example is full of commercials for over fifty pension plans and all that. It's a pity that programmes can't cater a bit more for the elderly as commercials do. And what about celebrity pensioners? Thank the world for Dame Thora Hird, that's what I say!
George Handley, UK

I think that non-grumpy pensioners seem to be the exception, rather than the rule. There doesn't seem to be a day goes by when I don't get tutted at on the bus for not leaping up immediately to give an old person my seat (after a 10 hour day), someone telling me that "I fought in the war; show some gratitude", or yelling out their window as to where I park my car in my crowded street! My grandad, on the other hand, is 80, sprightly, still does odd-jobs for people, drives his car (sometimes a bit worryingly, I must admit), and generally just acts like any other grown-up. There's the occasional story of when he was in the Home Guard, or the odd groan about his old bones, but I'd certainly like to meet more pensioners like him.
Jenny, Scotland


He lives life to the full

Rachael, UK
I think there is definitely a section of the population who are grumpy and moan all the time, but they're not all of a pensionable age. I'm fortunate that I have a Grandad who, at 81 years of age, shows no sign of turning into a stereotypical pensioner. He has a "girlfriend" who is in her 70's, has a part time job to earn some extra pocket money, stops out all night at least a couple of times a week, drinks a bottle of whisky a week, and generally prefers the company of younger people. As someone who is still 18 years old mentally, he finds the moaners of the world tedious. He lives life to the full, and the day he says he feels old, will be his last.
Rachael, UK

We should all be like Victor - complain when you get poor service. Then maybe things will improve.
Mike, UK

I do not see why young people tend to stereotype their parents or the elderly in general. We should treat them with respect. They deserve dignity.
Jaouad Haqhaqi, Canada/ Morocco


Isn't everybody stereotyped?

Anton McCoy, UK
Isn't everybody stereotyped? Children (Grange Hill), Teenagers (Kevin & Perry), Students (Young Ones), Twenty/ Thirty Somethings (Cold Feet), Pensioners (One Foot in the Grave), Women (Smack the Pony), Men (Men Behaving Badly), Asians (Goodness Gracious Me), Web People (Attachments), Spin Doctors (Spin City) etc. Isn't that where the humour is based?
Anton McCoy, UK

The old are getting younger these days. I'm currently thirty years old and hope to feel the same in forty years. Ours will be a different generation, we will still have our pop music and trendy clothes I am sure of that. We tend to stereotype old people who were around in the Second World War. Let's leave this all behind and live longer, more enjoyable lives.
Graham Hardcore, UK

You're missing the point. Comparing old people to 'grumpy' Victor Meldrew isn't correct, as the character is not grumpy, he is just very frustrated by the apparent lack of care or general manners against all ages.
To look at a better example would be Alf Garnett in the last series he did. That was a bitter old man who felt that he should be better treated than he was by the state. I'm not surprised that older people resent the stereotypes, but I know just as many grumpy under 30's as over 60's. The 'right' older person is full of wisdom, the 'wrong' isn't...
Dominic Hill, UK

Be careful ... we'll all (hopefully) be old one day!
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK


I see nothing wrong with stereotyping the elder generation in this manner

Matt Wahl, USA
I see nothing wrong with stereotyping the elder generation in this manner. Mr. Magoo, The Golden girls, Grumpy Old Men are all just factual . It's the way things are. When I reach that age that's the way I want to be.... It makes you more of a friend to societies other age groups.
Matt Wahl, USA

I don't think the image of old people really matters much. The important thing is to target them with effective marketing, they are very affluent. Marketers need to get them spending more, they owe it to the younger generations who need the opportunities.
Tom, Australia

When we are young, it is youth versus authority. As we get older, we become more aware of injustices in life and tend to vent our feelings, so eventually it is the older generation versus the up and coming younger generations. Whether the older generations decide to make a hobby out of complaining is entirely their own choice, much the same as the younger generations wanting to be aggravating during adolescence and any other age.
As a middle-aged person going on towards crumbly age I find life too short to complain all the time - one has to face the fact that there things in life that can be changed and those that cannot and be able to know the difference.
Hazel, UK

While there are undoubtedly some pensioners who fit the stereotype - poor, always whinging - there are equally vast numbers for whom retirement and pensioner-hood is a time of unparalleled wealth (they've paid off their mortgages, their kids are off their hands, they've got investments and private pensions) and opportunities to indulge in recreational and leisure activities they never had time for while they were working. Go on a cruise, or an "over=-50s activity holiday" and you'll find pensioners out there living it up, enjoying their new-found freedoms. Unfortunately, only the whingers get reported - a case of the "Squeaky wheel" I fear.
Pete Morgan-Lucas, UK


We put so much effort into providing young people with entertainment to try to keep them out of trouble, but we ignore the older population

Damon Evans, England
My Nan, like many other pensioners, doesn't complain about the weather, pensions or things like that, she complains that she has nothing to do with her time. We put so much effort into providing young people with entertainment to try to keep them out of trouble, but we ignore the older population. Not everyone wants to go to bingo or sit around knitting. If we paid more attention to what they want, perhaps they wouldn't appear so miserable. I think they could do with cheering up a bit, but you can't blame them.
I think programmes like One Foot in the Grave do pensioners some good, it highlights the stereotype and gives us the opportunity to change our attitude to pensioners and will hopefully make others try not to end up like Victor Meldrew.
Damon Evans, England

Lets face it, old people are very funny. My parents retired 2 years ago, and have subsequently become highly eccentric. I like visiting them just to see their latest lunatic project. I think paragliding is the current one....
Mark B, UK


I have found Meldrew-like moments in all ages

Jenni, UK
Stereotypes have been used as a basis for comedy since well before the days of political correctness. We poke fun at all ages and all professions but most of us are sensible enough to realise that these stereotypes are for the comedy writers only and do not reflect reality. I deal with a lot of elderly clients but have found no Victor Meldrews - but I have found Meldrew-like moments in all ages.
Jenni, UK

I don't believe it. All we get is miserable old fogies on TV. Not like when I was a lad, we had real characters then. Someone you could have a bit of respect for. Nowadays it is just old people complaining and moaning all the time. I tell you, the youth of today. They should bring back national service, that'll teach them some discipline - and another thing.....
A P Worthington, England


It is more a stereotype of a personality trait rather than their age

Rob Jones, Oxford, UK
I think that we seem to have forgotten that it is just a character in a TV program and not trying to portray every pensioner in the world. The fact is that there are people like Victor, and I know one, and they can range from 15 to 100 - it is more a stereotype of a personality trait rather than their age!
Rob Jones, Oxford, UK

Victor is only a character but he did bear a great resemblance to my Grandfather. All the great characters are people that the public can relate to whether it's Basil Fawlty, Del Boy or Victor. The older generation should just keep quiet and quit complaining about every subject under the sun especially now considering that a lot of them don't have to pay for their TV licence.
Andy McIntyre, United Kingdom

Stereotyping is not just directed at old people, it is aimed at all of us in some way. The Irish have 'Father Ted, the Scottish, 'Rab C Nesbit and the Germans have 'Dads Army' and yet I hear few complaints at any of these
Ryan Harley, UK

At least they're represented in the UK! In the US, there is no series on Network TV that has anyone over 60 as their MAIN character. I spent years taking care of the "seniors" in my family, so I've thoroughly enjoyed watching shows like "Waiting for God" and the Victor Meldrew series. These are shown on Public TV here in the States, and are often scheduled at the worst viewing times. They're funny, brilliantly written and make me laugh 'till I have tears in my eyes.

Most of the seniors I know feel entitled to voice their opinion, and give in ever more to their little "quirks." So the characters are quite familiar to me. If you really want to offend your pensioners, try having them relate to the parents in the American sitcom "Seinfeld"...
Micaela, US

You forget that older people are fitter than they have ever been before. Not only that, many of us have our own cars and we pursue a wide range of interests from computers to downhill skiing and theatre to eating out. The people who are entrenched in old-fashioned attitudes and are behind the times are those in the media who don't seem to be able to keep up with the times like us over 60s. Get a life! - we enjoy the good things of life like everyone and we have the time to do it!
Sonia Stone, UK


Please don't try to make comedy, or TV in general, an ageist issue; it's a non-runner

Sarah, Ireland
People - regardless of age - are portrayed by comedy writers because (hopefully!) they are funny. Hence Kevin the teenager at one end of the spectrum and Alf Garnet, and Victor at the other. I can't recall any sweet old ladies (Mavis Riley) as great comedy heroes. Please don't try to make comedy, or TV in general, an ageist issue; it's a non-runner.
Sarah, Ireland

Old people are stereotyped, but listen to any of them and you'll see that the stereotype is not wrong at all
Paul Dabbs, England

What exactly are you asking us? If older viewers want to watch the 'same as everyone else' why should they then feel 'under represented' on television? Besides, Victor Meldrew was 60 when the series started and not a pensioner. Just someone who was made redundant (replaced by a black box) and was too old to find another job.
Gill, UK


Let's celebrate the uniqueness of every person, regardless of age, rather than try to force people into narrow age stereotypes, however old they may be

Kevin Graves, UK
There are programmes that stereotype pensioners, but they also stereotype teenagers, the unemployed, the upper classes - you name it, it's stereotyped. However, popular programmes like Eastenders and Coronation Street make it clear that pensioners are people too - they drink, have fun, have arguments, get married - even have sex! There are pensioners who like to garden and wear flat caps, there are also pensioners who wear leathers and ride motorbikes. Let's celebrate the uniqueness of every person, regardless of age, rather than try to force people into narrow age stereotypes, however old they may be.
Kevin Graves, UK

Both ends of the age spectrum are stereotyped; the old are decrepit and teenagers are thugs and hooligans.
Gerry, Scotland

Older people are stereotyped because that's how they are. Could not have had a younger person as Victor Meldrew. It was funny due to the fact that everyone sees old people like that. Which is how they must portray themselves
Dave, UK

Pensioners are under-represented on the box because older television staff retire and we don't see them any more. Also, wrinklies are not as attractive as twentysomethings in the ratings war.
Clive Mitchell, UK

Send us your comments:
Name:

Your E-mail Address:


Country:

Comments:

Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE
See also:

Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Links to other Talking Point stories