PASTORING: Senior Productions Raise Self-Esteem


This article originally appeared in Issue# 45

Older viewers face a confusing TV world. Despite recent improvements, over-50 characters are all too often stereotyped or ignored. Crime and violence featured on news and action shows contribute to older people's unease about their personal safety. At the same time, commercials and features imply that the magic of technology can eliminate the physical toll of aging itself.

Stereotyping and media misunderstanding must be found on many levels. Making older viewers the stars of their own shows is one of the most effective, since it raises self-esteem while providing hands-on media instruction. Existing video resources owned by religious and nonprofit groups in many communities can be adapted to senior uses with only a little adjustment. Seniors trained to use video cameras and microphones can soon be creating their own programs and documentaries while learning the language of television.

The most successful efforts respond to local needs. In one notable example, a cable channel serving a large retirement community is operated by resident volunteers. Aided at times by a paid manager and small technical staff, its older production personnel have created community news programs, commentaries and talk shows, documentaries on local attractions, even a cooking show.

This program's success demonstrates that seniors, like the rest of us, are attracted to solid enterprises that promise real rewards in learning and achievement. A well-conceived production effort led by respected local experts is the best place to start.

Planning a Program

  1. Assess interest and recruit leaders before beginning. If possible, instructors should be interested in and experienced with a senior audience. They should have enough time available to assist with production problems as they occur.
  2. Plan for needed equipment upgrade, backup staff support and continuing training from the start of production. Departures of key people, rising expectations and inadequate support can lead to frustration.
  3. Productions that attempt to duplicate commercial TV miss the point. Encourage program planners to address their own needs as a unique group.

Media production can be an enthralling experience for a properly supported older group. But perhaps its greatest payoff lies in the message its practitioners create — what's important to them, what their lives are like, what their stories have taught them about the history they've lived through and their place in it. That's what I'm watching for as seniors take their rightful place in the production world of television.

Author Bio: 

A former media consultant, Peter Paulsen is a pastor and program executive in the Reformed Church in America.