Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Elder Media: For Women Only? Dumb Ones?
As Crabby Old Lady has written here in the past, the largest impetus behiind this blog was the fact that after seven or eight years of diving deep into available research on aging and what it would be like for her to get old, there was nothing to be found that had anything positive to say. It was all about disease, decline and debility.
When Crabby began planning Time Goes By in 2003, with the idea of opposing that negative spin, there was hardly any attention paid by mainstream media to elders. The lives of old people in newspapers, magazines and on television were, for all intents and purposes, non-existent; there was even less of it online.
Soon, however - 2004, 2005 or so - the media checked their calendars and saw that the oldest baby boomers would soon hit the 60 milestone. There was a sudden flood of stories all pretty much on the same theme: boomers will “redefine” retirement, repeated ad infinitum based on not a whit of evidence (nor any since then, but that rant is for another day).
By last year, as the first wave of boomers became eligible for Medicare, the media had taken advantage of what they belatedly realized was an entirely new (to them) advertising demographic – old people.
One way that was manifest through these years, was a proliferation of websites meant to attract boomers. Crabby frequently checks the web looking for elder online trends and regularly disappointed that these websites are generally awful.
Crabby is not talking about the serious organizations that deal factually with crucial aspects of aging like Social Security, Medicare, caregiving, health and medical information, financial services, choosing new living arrangements, etc. Those serve specific purposes and the best of them, quite a few, do it well.
No, Crabby is talking about the brand-name, general-interest websites aimed at boomers and seniors - magazine-style publications meant to both entertain and inform.
When Crabby Old Lady was studying aging in her pre-blogging days, it was all about how terrible getting old is – might as well shoot yourself was the impression she got.
Nowadays, it is the opposite. Although the websites openly target their aging audiences by name – boomers and, sometimes, seniors – there is little in the topic selection to indicate the audience has left puberty.
According to the headlines, life in people's 50s, 60s and beyond hasn't changed since they were reading Seventeen magazine or maybe
The headlines make Crabby cringe: Why We Marry the Wrong Men, 10 Weight Loss Myths, Five Steps to Healthier Nails, Is Your Relationship in Trouble? and the one that sent Crabby over the edge to this blog post: Spandex Done Right.
Like Crabby said, she is embarrassed. When she read those stories half a century ago (with only slight variations in the headlines), she had an excuse: she was young, unformed and uninformed.
Crabby is old now, smarter, much better informed and she resents being treated like nothing has changed, that she has learned nothing in the intervening 55 years.
In addition to the juvenilia – not to mention the anti-aging articles and advertisements - all of these websites are aimed at women. Most have home page links with such titles as Women's Health, Women's Health News or Women's Health Center without comparable links to men's health.
And as far as Crabby can find, there are no websites specifically for boomer and senior men which doesn't seem fair. If this blog is any indication, male readers – although fewer in number - are just as interested in what we talk about here as women readers.
But from the websites that target boomers and seniors, Crabby wouldn't know there were any elder men at all (except for those causing “relationship” problems).
All these years since Crabby Old Lady first began investigating what it is like to get old, the subject just gets more intense, complex and compelling. But you wouldn't know it from boomer and senior websites.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Michael Gorodezky: Metaphor