Do a quick internet search for images of “senior citizens” or and tell me what you see. Any pictures reflecting active, adventurous lifestyles, or gorgeous, people with sex-appeal? Add the search terms “business” or “play” and the choices are even more dire. God forbid that you want images of minority seniors – apparently they’re on the endangered species list, because on the internet they are virtually extinct! Despite the fact that the 50+ crowd are healthier and more vital than EVER before in history, society and the media does not appear to have gotten that message!
According to Nielsen, which has been tracking Americans’ habits for decades, people 50 and up are “the most valuable generation in the history of marketing.” The fact that older citizens are virtually ignored by marketers mired in last century’s obsession with youth, is a mystery. In truth, only 5 percent of advertising is even directed at older consumers. As veteran ad man Bob Hoffman put it recently, “Almost everyone you see in a car commercial is between the ages of 18 and 24. And yet, people 75 to dead buy five times as many new cars as people 18 to 24.” Talk about an insult!
Why aren’t there more images and stories like triathlete nun, 86-year old Madonna Buder. Buder is the oldest woman to ever complete an Ironman Triathlon, a race that requires participants to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26.2 miles. Buder holds the record for best finishing time in the 80 to 84 age group. (…hmm, there is an 80-84 age group in the triathlon?…) Oh, and by the way, Buder didn’t start running until she was 48! Then there’s 80 year-old Ernestine Shepherd. A weight lifter and body-builder who didn’t start working out until she was 56. Her picture alone is worth 1,000 words!
These are the images of maturity that resonate with me. You say, these are just the exceptions to the rule and don’t reflect the average person? Pick up a fashion magazine – EVERY model you see in it is the “exception” to the rule and doesn’t reflect the average person. Somehow that fact doesn’t seem to prevent media marketers from presenting those multi-billion-dollar industry images as the “norm!”
While I do get a kick out of all the ‘Fashion-after-50’ sites that talk about how I should be dressing (…as if we somehow forget how to do that after 50…) I would much rather look at sites promoting a hip-happening mindset and attitude, like the Facebook group I just discovered called Fly, Hip and Ageless. There definitely needs to be more pages like that!
As much as I want to reframe my next half-century, I am not so naïve as to believe that there won’t be real threats to my dream reality. Yes, there are many seniors living the leisure life, jetting off to vacation spots around the world, spending their days between their country house and their city house, playing with grandkids, and focusing on the next golf tournament…and in fair disclosure, that does pretty much sum up my parents’ retirement…but that is certainly not the picture for the majority.
According to a Brandeis university Report from the Institute on Assets and Social Policy, the wake of the Great Recession has left most seniors feeling vulnerable and insecure.
“The aftermath of the Great Recession left a wake of hardship across age groups. While these data indicate some small signs of improvement, many older Americans remain financially vulnerable. Housing, household budgets, and diminished assets were found to be particularly harmful to seniors’ economic well-being and levels of insecurity remain particularly high for older minorities and single women.”
Another statistic shows that while boomers have been great innovators (computers, iPhones, electric cars, etc.) they are lousy savers! Probably, because we, like the generation before us, were expecting Social Security to make up the gap. Unfortunately for us, the rising housing, medical and inflation costs already have any anticipated Social Security allotment spread pretty thin!
It is realities like these that prompt me to want to redefine how I live my “Golden Years.” There was a recent television commercial that I love. A woman walks into her boss’s office to say she’s quitting. The boss is shocked that she is giving her 2-week notice. Then she corrects him by stating, this is not her 2-week notice but her 15-year notice! She was making plans for the future! Way to think ahead! That’s where I see myself. I am not going to live by the whims of Wall Street, or the tyranny of my bank balance. Consider this my 15-year notice! I am reinventing, redesigning, reimagining what ageing looks like!
Primarily, that means that I will continue to work. NOT working, as a slave to the timeclock or a paycheck, but working to promote the causes and ideals about which I am most passionate. Besides, when exactly did “work” become such a nasty concept, anyway? Statistics show that of retirees who continue working, the majority do so not because they have to, but because they want to! Personally, I enjoy knowing that I can continue to make a contribution to something I am passionate about. It is part of what keeps me relevant and helps give my life meaning. If I can volunteer, great. But even better to get paid doing what I love!
One of my favorite sayings goes, “The first 30 years are your Learning Years, the second 30 years are your earning Years, the third 30 years are your Returning Years and the last 30 years are your Re-burning Years! (…yes, I know that adds up to 120, but science confirms that in the absence of disease there is no reason why the human body can’t live to be 120!…) While most people can’t even imagine what to do with all of that time, I’m planning on going out in a blaze of glory – as close to 120 as I can get!
PLEASE COMMENT BELOW: Tell me how do you envision your “Golden Years?
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