It's time to change how we think about and talk about aging in the media.
We are continuously bombarded with messages at every turn urging us to join the war against aging (at a cost). We listen to the "anti-aging sirens" sing sweet words of encouragement (and promises) in our ears whenever we turn on the television, see a movie, or read a magazine (even those allegedly aimed at "older women"). "Youth is beauty," the sirens sing. "You don't really want to age... do you? Who will hire you? Who will love you? Who will desire you? Come with us, and be young, young, young... forever."
If advertisers really want the post 50 dollars, why don't they feature real boomers in their campaigns, not airbrushed 30-year olds? And how about offering products that will solve some of post 50 life's challenges in a way that is respectful and realistic? The way it is now, advertisers play on our insecurities about aging, sexuality and desirability.
The media in which the ads appear are often just as guilty. A new study finds that the absence of older women in magazines wreaks havoc with our self-esteem. It isn't limited to just the images on the covers: An analysis of editorial and advertising images reveals that despite proportions of older readers ranging as high as 23 percent, magazines (even those supposedly geared to women over 40) show older women infrequently, if at all. Magazines geared toward older women generally show young, thin, wrinkle-free women on their pages . . . an "ideal" that's impossible to sustain, even with the use of Botox, fillers, or plastic surgery. Now experts are saying these media messages threaten to cause eating disorders, low self-esteem, and loss of sexuality in post50 women.
Denise Lewis, a gerontologist at the University of Georgia and author of the study, wrote:
It does lead to problems of negative body issues. It leads to issues that have people denying aging, so going to great lengths to continue to look like that ideal of a youthful person.
It's no wonder that plastic surgery, Botox, fillers and other expensive means to re-capture the glow of youth are on the rise for both men and women. While everyone should do whatever they want with their money and their bodies, it's important to do it for the right reasons.
Isn't it time to change how we view aging? Have we created a society of "haves" and "have nots" based not so much on how much we have, but on how much we can spend on looking younger? Have we completely removed any opportunity for a level playing field? Have we fooled ourselves to the point where we actually believe we are younger just by erasing crow's feet with Botox? And do we think we fool others?
But more importantly, isn't it time to rise up and demand that the media -- and the advertisers that support magazines, television, and radio -- change how they engage with us?
In a recent article in Life Science, Denise Lewis was asked, "Could consumer pressure lead to breakthroughs with older women, especially with the baby boom generation aging?"
Her hopeful response?
I do think that boomers will bring that change. The baby boomers have historically not done very much in a quiet way.
Time to get noisy.
Follow Barbara Hannah Grufferman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BGrufferman