Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Journalism and Mass Communications


Elliot Schreiber and Douglas Boyd, colleagues in the Department of Communication at the University of Delaware, conducted a study in 1980 to find out whether the elderly found television commercials useful in making consumer decisions and what other factors might affect their perception of television advertising. These researchers used a self-administered questionnaire to survey 442 persons at group meetings in senior centers and apartment houses for the elderly in Wilmington, Delaware. The present study was initiated to determine if the same results would be obtained when elderly persons were interviewed individually about their media habits and perceptions of television advertising. The author went a step further and asked participants specifically about television were designed for the young and had little appeal for them. A survey conducted in 1971 by Richard Davis, publications editor for the Gerontology Center at the University of Southern California, reported nearly 80 percent of respondents denied television advertising influenced their buying habits. But the 1980 study by Elliot Schreiber and Douglas Boyd found elderly persons had generally a high regard for television advertising. These investigators reported that 68 percent of the elderly they surveyed said commercials were "often" or "always" useful to them, while only 30 percent found commercials never useful. Commercials chosen as most useful and best-liked in this study were those for food and health products (e.g., Geritol, denture cream). Heavy viewers, defined as those who watch three or more hours of television each day, were more likely to find commercials useful than were lighter viewers, those watching one to two hours daily. Findings in these studies that health product commercials were favored and that heavy viewers were more likely to find television commercials useful takes on greater significance when coupled with another aspect of aging the increase in chronic disease and consequent increase in drug use. Approximately 77 percent of the elderly are taking drugs, the number of drugs increases with age. Almost 40 percent of the elderly must take at least one drug per day to be able to perform the activities of daily living, and as many as 70 percent of elderly persons use self-selected over-the-counter drugs, usually without discussing it with either their physician or pharmacist. Given the growth of the elderly population and the large share of the television viewing audience this age group represents, this study explores: 1) How are television commercials generally perceived by persons over age 65; 2) To what extent do television commercials influence preference, knowledge, and use of over-the-counter medications; 3) Is there a relationship between increased television viewing and a corresponding rise in the use of nonprescribed medications.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Television advertising -- North Dakota -- Fargo

Older people -- North Dakota -- Fargo -- Drug use

Drugs, Nonprescription -- North Dakota -- Fargo

South Dakota State University Theses



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University