TENA partners with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media to launch new ‘Ageless Test’ to tackle ageism in media

  • As part of their Ageless campaign, TENA discovered that 51% of women over 50 think it is essential that we change perceptions of ageing in media
  • Released today, the Ageless Test study reveals only 1 in 4 films passed the ‘Ageless Test’, with stereotypes still paramount and older women taking on leading rolls in the top 30 grossing films
  • TENA’s partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media famed for challenging misrepresentation in media, is the latest move in the brand’s bid to empower and improve the wellbeing of women

London, UK, 19th October 2020: As society continues to break down taboos and stigmas around sex, race , LGBTQ+, Disabilities and body type, there are still many topics that are yet to experience the same treatment, with one of the most prevalent being age.

Ageing is still fuelled by traditional and outdated stereotypes and preconceptions; particularly in the way the older generation are portrayed in global film and television with little to zero ‘real’ portrayals or representation of older women on screen. This is despite that fact that research by TENA revealed that 51% of women over 50 think it is essential that we change perceptions of ageing in media.

TENA has partnered with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University to launch the ‘Ageless Test’, as part of a wider research report on ageism in media. This is the first global study to systematically analyse representations of older adults in entertainment media. The collaboration follows TENA’s Ageless campaign which launched in March 2020 – with the first UK advertising campaign to feature women over 50 openly talking about their sexuality and incontinence, asking “Our bodies change. But why should we?”, which was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, director of award-winning film ‘The Favourite’.

The Ageless Test examines whether women aged 50+ are presented as having fully realised lives rather than serving as scenery in younger people’s stories. In order to pass the Ageless Test, the film must have:

1. At least one female character who is 50+ who matters and is tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have significant effect
2. The character must be presented in humanizing ways and not reduce to ageist stereotypes

Applying the test to the 30 highest grossing films from 2019, the study found only 1 in 4 films passed the Ageless Test, with no women over 50 cast in any leading roles. When older women do appear, they’re cast in stereotypical roles (stubborn 33%, unattractive 17%, grumpy 32%, unfashionable 18%).

Ageless Test findings:

  • No female character’s 50+ appeared in leading roles, while two men 50+ were featured as leading men.
  • Three-in-four (75%) characters ages 50+ are male, compared to one-in-four (25%) are female.
  • Female characters 50+ are more likely to be depicted as lonely (19%) and homebound (16%) than male characters ages 50+
  • Female characters are more likely to be the target of ageist slurs than male characters (6.5%) with comments including “weariness comes with age”, “no wonder you have grey hair”, “you’re useless.”
  • Characters under 50 are three times more likely than characters 50+ to be depicted in a sex scene (8.4% compared with 2.6%) sending the message that older bodies are not as worthy to be shown in sexual ways.

Geena Davis, founder and chair of The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University: “Given that adults 50+ are 20% of our global population, we need to not only include diverse adults 50+ in our stories, but also show them having full lives in order to de-stigmatise the stereotypes around ageing. We are excited to partner with TENA to launch the Ageless Test to advocate for and drive systemic change in media and entertainment.”

Meta Redstedt, Global Master Brand & Communications Director at TENA: “At TENA, we are on a mission to de-stigmatise the stereotypes around ageing and urinary incontinence. Working with The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University to launch the Ageless Test builds on our mission to highlight and change the negative perception of ageing. We want to ensure that people of all ages are able to see equal and fully realised representations of themselves within the entertainment and media industry.”

Driving change

To continue to drive change, TENA recently announced its sponsorship of the Women Over 50 Film Festival 2021, launching a new awards category to encourage and reward the film industry to show more authentic representation of older women.

The WOFFF 2021 competition will launch in February 2021, and will have a specific TENA category briefing filmmakers to create films around the theme “Our bodies change, but why should we”, with the aim to help drive positive and real portrayals of older women on screen, as well as help support older women behind the camera.

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About Essity
Essity is a leading global hygiene and health company that develops, produces and sells Personal Care (Baby Care, Feminine Care, Incontinence Products and Medical Solutions), Consumer Tissue and Professional Hygiene products and solutions. Our vision is; dedicated to improving well-being through leading hygiene and health solutions. Sales are conducted in approximately 150 countries under many strong brands, including the leading global brands TENA and Tork, and other brands, such as Leukoplast, Libero, Libresse, Lotus, Nosotras, Saba, Tempo, Vinda and Zewa. Essity has about 48,000 employees and net sales in 2016 amounted to approximately SEK 101bn (EUR 10.7bn). The business operations are based on a sustainable business model with focus on value creation for people and nature. The company has its headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden, and is listed on Nasdaq Stockholm. Essity used to be part of the SCA Group. More information at essity.com.

About TENA
TENA is a brand of Essity, a leading global hygiene and health company. With over 60 years of experience TENA is the No 1 adult incontinence brand globally*. We offer a full range of absorbent products, skincare and digital health technology solutions that are tailored to the needs of individuals, their families and healthcare professionals.

With TENA, Essity is at the forefront of developing products and services that help improve dignity and the quality of people’s lives. Our products reduce our carbon footprint, step by step, we’re not just protecting people, but the planet too.

About the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University
The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University is a research organisation dedicated to reducing harmful stereotypes in the entertainment and media industry. Founded in 2004 by Academy Award Winning Actor Geena Davis, amassing 28 years’ worth of significant research.