Proven: Older IS Wiser – and Smarter (from 2006)
Some Oddities of Being Old (from 2007)

Advertising the Agony of Old Age (from 2008)

EDITORIAL NOTE: Time Goes By Sunday Elder Music columnist, Peter Tibbles and his Assistant Musicologist are visiting from Melbourne for a few days.

While they are here, in place of new posts are some vintage TGB stories that I kind of like and hope you will enjoy them in rerun. I won't disappear entirely. I'll be checking in now and then to see how it's going and perhaps join in the comments.

And, IMPORTANT, all Elder Storytelling Place stories linked at the bottom of these repeats are NEW.

This story has been rolling around in Crabby Old Lady’s head for several months. She kept meaning to record some hours of prime time television over a few days and then zap through the shows to the commercials with pen and paper in hand to have some hard numbers for you. But it would undoubtedly raise her blood pressure and she never got around to it. So you’ll have to trust her general impression:

According to television commercials, old age is so dangerous or painful or simply annoying, it may not be worth hanging around for. Some say old people are more visible on television these days, but not in any manner Crabby wants to be portrayed.

Mostly, elders appear in commercials for remedies to treat diseases and ailments that range from minor through deadly serious to disgusting. Even that icky, mucus, cartoon character is old and these ads outnumber all other types.

Take a look at this list, typed out off the top of Crabby Old Lady’s head. There are so many commercials and public service announcements broadcast so frequently that any young person watching can only assume old age is agony:

Back pain
Aching joints
Loose dentures
Gum disease
Bad breath
Heart disease
Hair loss
High blood pressure
Acid Reflux
Restless Leg Syndrome
Erectile Dysfunction

Just to check that her memory isn’t failing, Crabby pulled out a recent issue of AARP magazine to see what they advertise to their readers. Most of the items on the list are represented and the rest of the ads are for insurance.

Crabby wouldn’t be so ticked off if she had ever seen an old person in a car commercial. Not even detergent ads feature elders, as though we don’t wash clothes or dishes in our dotage. And no one old appears in glossy ads for clothing, expensive watches or fancy electronics – none of the glamour stuff.

It’s enough to make a Crabby Old Lady sicker than advertisers believe she already is.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Terry Hamburg: Close Encounters of the Third Kind


I loved this when I read it first and I love it again today! Hope you are enjoying Peter's visit.... all that knowledge in one human being :)

Dear Crabby. You hit the nail on the head again. :)

Agree, with your statements. Makeup, clothes, soaps, beauty products, jewelry, cars, and many other ways to advertise would be appropriate for us elders. I am tired of the assumptions. Thanks for bringing to the front line.

Great list. I notice too that the women in the ads for erectile dysfunction drugs generally look under 50 (or even 40). The men tend to look older but not by much. Don't people over 60 ever have sex? Just a rhetoical question!

I'm glad that you're using some older posts while your guests are here. Having just discovered your blog a few months ago, I'm enjoying a look at some earlier ones. I hope you're all enjoying your time together and that it isn't "going by" too fast.

The only older persons I've noticed in a card ad lately are the parents being picked up by their son at the airport (at least I think that's what was happening). The mother keeps trying to give her adult son gas money. He keeps saying he doesn't need it, but she finally shoves $2 in his face, and the father says "just take it." I have no idea what car was being advertised, but the message I was left with is that older women are entrely out of touch with the cost of gas these days, and are still living in the days of their children's youth.

Well, I wouldn't look to the ad world for positive images of ANYONE. Advertisers make women look silly; they make men look stupid; and most of the rest of the time you can't figure out what they're talking about at all!

And of course the onslaught of all these conditions requires products like LifeAlert buttons and walk-in tubs. I just wish the "older" women in some of these ads really were older, with wrinkles, etc., instead of 40-year-old models with wigs or silver-dyed hair.

Yeah! What the hell? At 65 I only have 7 of the 21 listed ailments! Why are they picking on us?

I've seen a car commercial for a high-end Lincoln that features a man with white hair (from the back) who picks up a youngish (mid-30s) beautiful woman in an evening gown standing outside in a portico waiting for him. The message, of course, is that you can be an old dude and still get the babe if you drive an $80,000 car, and you don't even have to walk up the steps and ring the doorbell.

What I want to see is an older woman driving the expensive car and not have her be comical. Or pick up the young guy. Or do anything Betty White would do.

The "targeted" ads on Facebook are a riot. I can hardly wait to see what they are going to try and sell me next. I even blogged about last week.

I love to believe I am confounding the lot of 'em cause I ain't a buying' none of it! (English major just used ain't, what is the world coming to? (grin)

Well said and amen!
Oh, and I agree with Cathy and her comment on the car ad and the $2 the woman offers her son. What IS that a commercial for anyway?

Sadly, the free market knows that baby boomers no longer are easy to appeal to on most ideas and products, except for age related commodities. It's easier to sell many a Rx for pain or insurance for retirement security than the latest fashion or car deal.

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