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Gauging Aging Report (2015)

Gauging Aging: Mapping the Gaps Between Expert and Public Understandings of Aging in America (2015) lays the groundwork for a larger effort to develop a new, evidence-based narrative around the process of aging in our country and the needs and contributions of older adults. By comparing experts' views to those of the general public, the report details a set of communications challenges to elevating public support for policies and programs that promote the well-being of older adults. Key among these issues is the public’s view of aging as a decidedly negative and deterministic process, as well as its overall fatalism about our collective ability to find solutions to the challenges of an aging population.

This research is distinct from most public opinion scholarship, which documents what people say by conducting polls or focus groups. In this report, experts took analysis a level deeper to document the assumptions and thought processes that inform what people say and how they structure their judgments and opinions. This cultural-cognitive approach is powerful because identifying ways of thinking is key to developing more effective and strategic communication. By understanding the various ways that people are (and are not) able to think and reason about an issue, communicators can craft messages that avoid unproductive understandings, activate productive ones, and elevate new ways of thinking that are better aligned with policy goals. In short, an understanding of how people think is a powerful tool in identifying the specific perceptual challenges that require reframing in our narrative on aging.

In a webinar accompanying this first report, the FrameWorks Institute review results from the first phase of FrameWorks’ research on aging and older adults. They discuss recommendations that emerge from expert interviews and cultural models interviews with members of the general public, and they explore an analysis of the ways that the media and organizations working on aging issues frame topics related to aging and older adults. The webinar concludes with a brief discussion of next steps for the larger project.

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