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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.

Spandex?

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


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

"there is little in the topic selection to indicate the audience has left puberty."

Once again, Ronni, you have hit the nail on the head.

The elder years are different from the adolescent years but the media aimed towards us seems to have only the youth template.

I have done youth and young adulthood, I have moved on but the media seems to think I want to do it again. I don't.

Many of your readers publish blogs rich with positive discussions on art, family, music, memories, books, trends and many other topics unrelated to age. I can think of at least a dozen sites off the top of my head, including my own. But, you're right, when it comes to commercially produced sites. Maybe it's because that's where the ad dollars are---pumping dreams of yesteryear instead of dealing with the realities of today and the promises of tomorrow.

Great post--and unfortunately too true. But, as one of your other readers commented and your own site's blog roll demonstrates, there are some excellent elder blogs out there, well worth reading. Just don't expect much from the commercial sites, many of which I suspect are written by people well below age 50 who all took the same "How to Market to Boomers" webinar.

Chana and paula b...
Certainly you are correct and TGB keeps an Elderbloggers List of more than 400 blogs written by people 50 and older that readers will benefit from investigating. Some excellent stuff going on there.

But Crabby Old Lady's post today is not about personal blogs; it's about professional media.

The problem with it, of course, is that by their subject matter, they perpetuate a negative view of old women - in this case, as juveniles who either never grew up or are into that awful old cliche, second childhood.

Crabby suspects the reason for the concentration on pubescent subjects is that the websites are written by 20-somethings who never speak or consult with anyone older than 50.

I recall that many of the magazines I saw (but seldom read) were aimed at women -- Good Housekeeping, Vogue, etc.
Other mags, mostly business news/war news/foreign news/sports news, were aimed at men. And the only general audience ones like Life and Saturday Evening Post were mostly slanted (I thought) towards men.

And all of them seemed to be aimed at the 25 to 45 yar old demographic. Never saw anything for anyone under 25 or over 50!

Everything seemed to jump from those to AARP immediately with no content for anyone over 55.

I agree with Chana, the people today writing for anything that might be aimed at an older demographic all must be under 35. They just don't GET IT! The photos are all of people that look 45 at the most. It's disgusting.

If the target audience of these sites, senior women, avoid visiting and reading these... would they still be publishing?

I stopped buying women oriented magazines years ago. The last one was Harper's Bazaar and mostly I gave it up not because it was silly but because they airbrushed any old woman which was ridiculous as the point of the article would be how they still looked good and then they airbrushed out her living reality.

Otherwise I read a mix of serious and fun stuff about old age. I read what attracts me and it can be about appearances, emotions or political issues impacting the elderly. I don't see it as an either or, and there is a lot out on both sides of it.

The funny part is they seem to aim a lot of the stuff for oldsters to people in their 50s which is still middle age by most standards. But about appearance, I am still interested in sometimes reading the articles--shallow or not. I suspect some of what is out there is because of the number drawn to read the piece encouraging more or less on that topic.

The sites need to hire some people in the relevant age groups if they want to tell it like it really is. I had no clue what aging would feel like until it started happening to me. Like puberty, it is a unique experience and should be treated as such.

But of course, ageism will prevent the hiring of anyone older than their 30s, especially for a web publication.

This, along with the notion that getting older means "look, I can still jump out of a plane..." make me want to scream. There seems to be only two sides of this coin---- sky-diving, or decrepitude. How about a natural aging person with whatever limitations getting older brings? And affirming the changes would be even better.

I "Get" what you are saing Ronni and agree: My bitch is that when it comes to "age groups"....50 is not "old", "aged", "elder"....
I don't know what anyone else thinks....but "old"/"elder" didn't "fit" for me until I reached 70. And sometimes I am annoyed at how we pander to the "old" fifty year "old. Maybe we need to redifine our relevant age groups.

Here in Arizona I thought that male elders were only interested in gun, hunting, off-road vehicle, golf and
money magazines! Oh and listening to FOX news, of course! Plenty of that here!

Seriously the only magazine I read religiously is Real Simple. I'm an addict! It does not seem slanted to me toward any particular age and is practical and fin to read. Otherwise it's blogs, all sorts of online news sources and my favorite cable stations.

>Like puberty, it [aging] is a unique experience and should be treated as such.

Go, Nancy, for that great comment ... and Crabby, for posting so eloquently on the ever-present cheery and cheesy "youthiness" of mass media.

I feel a rant coming on myself. I've been a Boomer all my life. Strangely, like every other human who ever lived, I had no choice about when I was born. Since childhood, I have never known where these trend pieces about Boomers come from--space aliens, it seems.

We hear that we're the most privileged generation, though our childhoods would seem pretty bleak to kids today. Then we're the most educated generation, even though the competition we faced for careers was twice as tough as the two generations right in front of us, which probably accounts for a lot of midlife MBAs. Now we're presumed to be crazed with our lost youth and are presumably spending our children's inheritance on plastic surgery and collector Corvettes. None of this is true of most of us and never was, yet these trend pieces with their merry, condescending spin keep right on coming.

You think someone would ask us, just once in 60 years, what our real lives are like before we're all dead, wouldn't you?

Ronni, I'm just wondering why you call yourself Crabby Old Lady which is a direct contradiction to that which you vehemently oppose, i.e., stereotyping elders. Just a thought!

Crabby makes an excellent point that those writing about aging usually belong to the younger set. Why aren't many fine elder writers (Crabby, for example) being recruited to fill an obvious need?

The Yankee dollar drives the media (I spent my career in newspapers, magazines and books), and until the older demographic makes a concerted fuss, nothing will change. The previous commenters have made some cogent points, but society will have to undergo a sea change before older adults are viewed as they are, instead of the way advertising departments see them.

In general, the media don't call their shots; their advertisers do. Advertising is the primary source of income for media. Not until a lot of advertisers are trying specifically to target seniors will the media follow suit with their content. Once again, it's all about money.

Monica...
Crabby Old Lady has been ranting on Time Goes By since its inception eight years ago.

She is Ronni's alter ego - an extremely pissed off old woman (almost always with good reason) who takes over the keyboard now and then - sometimes on serious topics, other times more light-hearted ones.

Some people find her kinda funny. (This is not one of her better rants.) She means no harm when she blows off steam except to those who mean harm to or demean elders.

Yes! Still another relevant rant. Rant on, Crabby!

Imagine asking a grade nine class to describe, in writing, a day in the life of a senior.

That would be some kind of hilarious.

Bravo. You stirred them up dear Crabby. Keep it up.

Rant on, Ronni!
What pisses me off are these articles on "age defying" which seem to flood the
media on a daily basis, usually featuring an aging actress who can afford all kinds of enhancements and soft focus lenses.
The inherent message being: what's wrong with the rest of ya for not looking this good at 75?
Grrrrr.
XO
WWW

I can't remember how I found you, but I'm glad I did.
And I love Crabby Old Lady!

Do you have the Sage-ing Guild on your radar? Excellent, positive, take on aging with pride and elder wisdom

Ok, I get the alter ego thing. But I read you religiously, and I find you intelligent, not crabby!

IMHO, you're describing the AARP magazine

Sightings...
Yeah, Crabby sees your point. Their target audience gets younger every year.

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