Helping Elders in Two Good Ways
Universal Healthcare is in the Air

Age Nullification

category_bug_ageism.gif Although this media story is about baby boomers, it should be about everyone who is older than 50. I like it because it introduces a new phrase to easily explain what is wrong with pigeonholing people by their ages.

Age nullification. [Boomers] aren't concerned about ageism being imposed upon us. I am REALLY annoyed by headlines that read '40 is the new 20' and '70 is the new 50'. What a bunch of hooey. I am my age. I don't want to be twenty years younger, thankyouverymuch, nor do I care if you think I am younger or older. Age is nullified by my generation. We are okay with acting in accordance to the way we feel, doing the things we like to do with no thought to what we should or shouldn't be doing at our age."
The Rearview Mirror, 1 March 2007

Would that that statement were true about boomers in general - the original age deniers. And the superior attitude it displays toward the generations older than boomers is annoying. But the writer, a boomer herself, is on the right track and the idea of age nullification will become important in fighting age discrimination and other forms of ageism because advertising, by its ubiquity (people on average see 5,000 advertising messages a day), sets and reinforces much of the culture's stereotypes about age.

The person who identified age nullification is J. Walker Smith, president of the Yankelovich, Inc., which recently identified the following false notions advertisers adhere to even though they are long outdated and untrue of all people older than 50:

  • older consumers are not likely to switch or try anything new
  • older people without children at home won't spend as much
  • older people are not worth the marketing expense
  • shopping interests of older consumer are focused mostly on products and services to fix the ills and ailments of old age

We see the results of these notions every day on television where old people appear only in commercials for products to relieve pain and suffering while music, movies, video games and theme parks are marketed only to younger people. These practices are folly for advertisers as the numbers Mr. Smith quotes show:

"Music buyers 45 and older comprise the biggest part of the market for CDs, double that of older teens, and music buyers over age 50 account for nearly one-quarter of online music sales. Moviegoers 50 and older were 23.9 percent of the total audience in 2005 compared with 21.3 percent in 2001.

"This is in contrast to flat or declining attendance among younger moviegoers. One-quarter of video game players are 50-plus, up from just 9 percent in 1999. Half of the visitors to Disney World are adults who come for their own enjoyment, with no children in tow."

Productivity - Think Attitude, Not Age, February 2007 [may require free registration]

Mr. Smith does all elders a disservice when he says "age is not a concept relevant to understanding baby boomers." His statement ignores elders, assuming people never change and that everyone maintains purchasing behaviors adopted in their twenties for the rest of their lives. But if it takes the huge number of boomers to force people like Mr. Smith and marketers who listen to him to back off practices that have helped perpetuate cultural ageism for decades, let's welcome it.

"Age nullification means a felt sense of permission to do anything one is interested in and capable of without worrying about age appropriateness," writes Mr. Smith. "Age is not a barrier that defines or restricts alternatives. Age is not a source of embarrassment. Age is simply not relevant. Boomers just take it for granted that age doesn't apply."

As the boomer billions spent on cosmetic surgery, Botox, anti-aging nostrums, etc. show, Mr. Smith's last sentence is off-base. But if he impresses advertisers with his age nullification idea, everyone older than the boomers will benefit too. I just don't like being ignored and dismissed as though we are already dead.


"Age nullification means a felt sense of permission to do anything one is interested in and capable of without worrying about age appropriateness,"

Hear, hear, Mr. Smith! I am 60 and I still go to science fiction and gaming events, and just started taking horseback riding lessons again. I am also on the Trustees Council of my local senior service agency and do volunteer work on Medicare Part D. I won't be put in a box!

I know I can't speak for everyone, but personally I am really tired of hearing about the "boomers." Present company, not included! Dee

Amen to that!

Age nullification is a preposterous concept. No matter how much we may deny it, things change as one ages. Cosmetic fixes and psuedo psycho therapy merely provide patches for the body and mind. What is down underneath does change as one ages. And that does not always mean changes for the worse. A lot of the changes of late life are liberating.

I found turning 50 a remarkably freeing experience. Now, as I approach 60, I can say that in many ways this decade has been one of the most creative in my life. I've learned to be so much more at ease in my skin and can only hope that the benefits of this acceptance continue.

Here's a link to some books I want to read on aging. I love the title of the first one: Crones Don't Whine: Concentrated Wisdom for Juicy Women!

I am 58 and I accept it. I am what I am-it cannot be imposed on me. I fit my skin rather well. :)

Aging itself is not allowed. Taking care of your body is no longer a personnal choice, it is a duty. We are drafted in a war against the normal process of aging. That too is age nullification. We are denying aging like we are denying diying. Do looking tired, or old, being wrinkled, have to be punishable crimes against society. If you are not part of the herd running to the gym, eating a-b-c-d-e-f-g vitamins, you are guilty of something. I'm only 47 and I allready feel all that pressure, what will it later!!!! / I absolutely love your blog. Thank you. I know it's a lot of work to maintain one. So, thanks a lot.

Suzanne, who's not allowing aging? The cool kids? Mom? Who's still making all these rules for you at 47? It's your life to have fun with; live it for you, not for what they'll think of you.

I can't believe the changes in my 5-year-old grandson in 5 short years. He's changed physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially. I hope he continues in this way and is bigger and smarter when he's 10. When he's 20 I expect great things of him. It would be a tragedy if someone said to him, "You know, 16 is the age you ought to stay. You're young and strong...just stay 16." A 16-year-old might think 16 is great, but the rest of us know it's not the place to stop! Why would anyone think we want to stop growing?

I was fine at 40, but hope I've grown and changed in the last 17 years! And I don't want to stay here for the rest of my life. I don't want to sit on some plateau because others have said it's high enough. I want to peak!

I wonder if Boomers will be able to deny being dead? Check out One of us dies every 55 seconds ... ooops, not dead, just resting!

Goodness I never thought too much about age. I was nevered "carded" when I was young and now people don't believe me when I tell them my age now. I feel age is just a number and I remember someone saying once that their's was unlisted! I wished I could have thought of something that cleaver.

Funny all this 'Boomer' talk - if it weren't for the media, I would not have known I am a Boomer!:) I just figured heck if it doesn't kill me, hurt too much and looks like fun - give it a shot! Now I'm supposed to know what 'ageism' is or worse - want to be 16 again? Not bloody likely! I'm still learning to skydive because para-sailing was boring (which scared me silly at 16).

All jokes aside. I've been "carded" at 53, down-sized at 45 and having a ball looking at I care that somewhere, somebody has a problem with my walking 2 miles a day, buying my first BMW for my birthday or dancing to Beyonce?! Not likely.

I just got a catalog that had two plaques for sale and the message on them sums up the way I feel about aging. (By the way, for those who have not read my comments before, I am looking down the barrel at my 83rd birthday.)

1). Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming, "Wow, what a ride!!".

2). I want to be an outrageous old woman who never gets called an old lady.I want to get leaner and meaner, sharp edged and earth colored, till I fade away from pure joy.

What does age have to do with it, anyway?

Hi Darlene.... I LOVE the sayings on those two plaques you mentioned! What catalog was it that they were in?

Hi Darlene.... I LOVE the sayings on those two plaques you mentioned! What catalog was it that they were in?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)