What’s the first image you conjure up when you think of a commercial with seniors in it? Perhaps you might picture a frail, old lady lying prone on the floor while crying, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Or maybe you imagined a whole flock of seniors squawking at each other as one cups a hand to his ear.
Despite the fact that older households have drastically more wealth than younger families, seniors are often ignored or insulted by advertisers. While using older people as comedic relief is easy for a cheap laugh, there is mounting evidence that ageist media portrayals of older adults are actually threatening the health and well-being of our aging population.
Ageist Beliefs Impact Health and Happiness
According to AARP, “46% of the U.S. adult population is over 50, only 15% of images containing adults include people in that age segment….” Older adults are rarely featured in ads, but when they are, it’s often as the butt of an ageist joke. This may seem innocuous and amusing, but research has shown that ageist marketing and cultural sentiment can impact a person’s health as they grow older.
One study even shows that the idea of being “only as old as you feel” actually proves to be true. According to the study, people with more positive self-perceptions of aging “lived 7.5 years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions of aging….” The psychological impacts of ageist advertising and negative stereotypes are long-lasting and pose a serious threat to the health of our aging population.
The World is Getting Older
We don’t like to think about it, but we’re all getting older with every passing second. More than that, the entire world is growing older on average as well. The global population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 with nearly one-third (3.2 billion) expected to be aged 50 and older by the same time.
We often associate older generations with being out of touch, sedentary, and unwilling to let go of their stockpiled cash, but the facts say otherwise. Those aged 50 plus make up a third of the American labor force. Over half of U.S. shoppers over the age of 55 shop online, and that number has grown rapidly since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. And nearly 70 percent of people between 55 and 73 own a smartphone.
Ignoring a large, wealthy, and growing demographic seems like a pretty poor business decision. So why then are so many companies still ignoring seniors when it comes to advertising? Well, some companies are starting to realize the error of their ways and are making strides to improve the public image of aging while also improving their appeal to seniors.
Now is the time to start changing the public perception of aging while also growing your customer base and getting some PR points in your basket at the same time. You might even help improve your own life by changing the way you feel about getting older in the process.