Positive aging: Laugh with us, not at us

There is no doubt that older people are becoming increasingly more visible in the media, which can only be a good thing. But recently I’ve come to question the way that a recent number of adverts tend towards ridicule.

Are they merely harmless fun and meant to be seen as affectionate, or are they sending the wrong message when it comes to seeing older people as vital and relevant members of society?

Last weeks brilliant BBC2 programme Blurred Lines: The new battle of the sexes, pointed out that by laughing at “ironic” sexist jokes, we are validating others who are sexist and are subliminally condoning this behaviour and creating a normality around hostile attitudes to women.

Could there be some similarities when it comes to laughing at rather than with, older people in the media?

The fact that the Spotify advert has made it humorous for the seniors to like contemporary music is surely wrong? Why shouldn’t they like M.I.A or John Newman – although I draw the line at Kelis, surely no-one likes that terrible song? And the Specsavers ad featuring a room full of beige old people in a community centre, brought to life by a Zumba bunny, is just plain depressing.

Not only are these ads ridiculing older people, they are also excluding them from activities that should be seen as completely acceptable – at any age. In the same way that women shouldn’t be seen as “different”, nor should old people. Making normal behaviour humorous, simply because it’s undertaken by seniors, is surely wrong.

A couple of times during the screening of the Advanced Style documentary last week, I noticed some of the audience laughing and it made me cringe and want to ask them why – as it felt condescending and unkind. Shouldn’t we be celebrating and respecting these wonderful women who are pushing boundaries and paving the way for the rest of us to live our lives to the full as we age?

No-one wants to be laughed at and while we don’t want to take ourselves too seriously as we age, shouldn’t the media be taking steps to portray growing older as a a positive, inclusive stage of our lives, rather than making it the butt of (young?) media creatives jokes.


  • sarah says:

    I very much agree with you about this. Isn’t this what advertising does, separates us into ‘tribes’ to sell to.
    With the Specsavers ad, I suppose we are being invited to laugh at the instructor ( with northern comedy accent) and the old people are collateral damage.I also hate sexist ‘stupid man’ ads. Irony has really become a sort of sneering.
    What I can’t understand is how slow business is to realise the financial clout of the older citizen and try to win our respect.

  • Sarah says:

    Agreed. It’s time marketeers realised that we all get older, we all age and no one wants to be in the demographic that is portrayed as sad and funny (in a bad way). The trouble is most marketeers are young, so maybe don’t realise (or care) it is offensive. Off to watch Blurred Lines before it goes.

  • Jane says:

    Its time to make those (young) marketeers take some notice. Or even better, how about creative companies start employing some older people to keep them informed about the real world!!
    J x

  • Granddad K says says:

    Seen both ads, and, as I can’t identify with contemporary music ,never heard of John Newman ,Kelis or done the Zumba bunny ,thought you might like the views of a eighty plus year old.
    Sharing an environment ,with fifty other flat owners.” not a care home” we would invite those (young )marketeers to pay us a visit to see how we enjoy life.
    Weekly keep fit, happily in a more relaxed atmosphere, book, play reading, art ,and music,lunch clubs with regular coffee mornings, all keep our bodies and minds active.
    We are however not without problems as ,a continuous source of concern is dispersing with the build up of fluff in our communal laundry driers.

  • Tiffany says:

    Also agree. I got a copy of the Kinfolk magazine on ageing and while there were some lovely pictures (what Kinfolk does best), the text was trite and disappointing, with snide comments about bingo-playing and knitting – clearly the 20-somethings who created it haven’t actually bothered to SPEAK to anyone over 65 … In other words, while purporting to embrace the wisdom and relevance of age, it did nothing of the sort. As you can probably tell, it made me rather cranky.

  • Belinda says:

    On a totally trivial note – I love the Kelis song!

    Perhaps advertisers think older people are a harder market to crack, they think longer and harder about a purchase so it’s easier to go for a younger market where returns are better as they’re more easily influenced?

  • Mrs Ford says:

    Completely agree that media portrayal of older people is often sadly ignorant as well as offensive. I seem to spend quite a lot of my time with people in their seventies and eighties, who often have fascinating pasts (designers, professors, spies…) and generally remain considerably more active, interesting and competent than me. Our village would certainly crumble without them!

  • Deborah says:

    I am getting fed up of being lumped into a group – over 50’s are not (and have never been) an homogeneous sub section of society. I like clothes, design, science, engineering, gardening, cycling and so much more, but I am not a grandmother, or mother and do not go to bingo! Oh, and if I see one more advert for Silver Surfers which assumes that you have no IT skills because you are over 50, I will do more than scream; someone needs to remember that we grew up with the technology. Younger people in society need a reality check and older people to start making more noise.

  • Jane says:

    Great Tacehl thanks J x

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