When did you realise you were ‘old’? Was it the day of your 50th birthday? Because that’s how advertisers and the media would like you to feel; well, the ones that actually bother advertising to you, that is!
There’s a common cultural problem in the UK, and that is the classification of the ‘Over 50’
Often used to describe someone later in their life, yet grouping someone at 51 together with others at 75+; imagine classifying a 13 year old in the same category as somebody approaching 40! It’s a ludicrous notion that needs to be addressed, especially as life expectancy increases nationwide.
One of the major sources of this Over 50’s classification comes from advertisers
Despite the fact that 79% of the UK’s wealth is held by those 50 and over, and by 2020 they’ll make up 50% of the population, 96% of over 50’s don’t feel advertisers focus on them at all.
While more and more brands are trying to focus on an older demographic (commendations must go to John Lewis and Waitrose), many commercials for life insurance policies (free pen just for enquiring, anyone?) and holidays take an outdated look at their target demographics.
What advertisers, the media and society alike need to realise is that 50 now is not the same 50 it was a generation or two ago
Over 50s now consist of everybody from Brad Pitt (51) through Meryl Streep (65) and even Keith Richards (71); just three out of hundreds of celebrities who you wouldn’t class as being of a similar age, but in the advertiser’s eyes they must be categorised as one: the silver surfer, the old-aged, the ‘Over 50’.
While it’s true that many 50 year olds and 75 year olds may enjoy the same holidays being touted at them from cruise-ship operators, it’s just as likely that couples in their early 50s may have a young family, having opted to have children later in life than their parents before them.
And just as the media have been shouting about the changes to pension freedoms - allowing unrestricted access to savings from age 55, and the need for financial advice over big decisions increasing - many people may not even be thinking about retirement in their 50s, never mind considering it, so even pension rules are starting to look outdated.
As the new pensions minister, Ros Altmann explains “Life is changing, but attitudes and social norms have been slow to keep up”
So what can we do to change the perception of the ‘Over 50s’? Ros Altmann believes that describing a person by their age should be as unacceptable as describing them by their gender, race, religion or skin colour. And terms such as elderly, frail, past it and over hill, are clearly derogatory.
Altmann believes that the only fair term can be ‘older adults’, but even then it doesn’t address the issue of 55 year olds being categorised together with those 20, 30 or even 40 years older than them.
But let’s not get bogged down in trying to categorise everything; we are the age that we are, and silly labels aren’t helpful in the slightest.
But I think we can all agree as we say “stop grouping the over 50’s together!”
With the average life expectancy rising to 79 for men and 82 for women, it’s only just past the half way point of life; there’s certainly no need to lump everyone together as one.