The advertising industry continues to depict stereotypical seniors to the exclusion of the new and vibrant seniors who are staying as young as they were 25 years earlier.
It’s a fact: Many Boomers plan to work in some capacity in retirement. When they reach the big six-o, they won’t automatically switch into the role of typical traditional retiree. It’s is not part of their life plan.
They will not fade into the sunset to play bingo, shuffleboard, or waste time and money gambling at casinos. They exercise, are in fabulous good health, and will work to stay that way.
That means an increasing number of 60-plus year-old men and women do not think, look, or live like their parents at the same age. However, judging by images and portrayals of seniors in TV ads, these folks do not exist, even though their numbers are increasing.
For example, TV ads pitching supplemental Medicare insurance for seniors, depict only typical retirees: grandma kissing the baby; grandma blowing bubbles with the grand kids; grandma and grandpa strolling along the beach holding hands; grandpa playing ball with the grand kids.
Those ads generate a positive response from those who identify with the images and portrayals. And that’s okay. But where are images of “new” retirees who look and live differently? Many of them are also on Medicare and are candidates for supplemental insurance.
People have the right to live the way they choose to live. But I am bothered by the almost exclusive portrayal of seniors in the same way they were portrayed 25 years ago.
Showing traditional seniors as the norm to the exclusion of the “new” productive young vibrant seniors perpetuates the stereotypical idea that traditional aging is the acceptable or only way to age. Worse, it gives mid-lifers a “license” and even a subliminal mandate to accept a traditional sedentary, non-productive lifestyle as they age.
In Don’t Stop the Career Clock, Dr. Helen Harkness defines the new stages of aging that many mid-lifers are adopting as their framework for living:
• First Midlife: 40-60
• Second Midlife: 60-80
• Young Old: 80-90
• Elderly: 90 and above
• Old-Old: 2-3 years to live
The media needs to acknowledge that “Harkness adopters” — those in their “second midlife”, and the “young old” resent the out-dated, antediluvian portrayal of how “old” people are and how they live, and frankly, I don’t blame them. It’s time for corporate America and the advertising industry to catch up with reality. The earth is not flat and 75 is still young to those who don’t fit into the traditional “old” mold.