Sheila Parry kicks around a few well-worn terms to avoid when you are thinking or talking about age.
The Grey Pound: in fact, let’s call a halt on any reference to grey when you are referring to people with more than 50% of the world’s consumer spending power. It’s time to come up with more positive approaches to winning share of wallet from the most affluent and savvy generation of over 50s. This month saw the launch in the USA of Brandmettle, a full-service advertising agency that is working with brands to appeal to a market that they have christened the Experienced Consumer. According to co-founder and Gerontologist, Amy LaGrant, brands have so far been missing the mark by not valuing the unique differences, life experiences and mature brain of this influential market. Brandmettle will seek to communicate authentically not with ‘seniors’, not with ‘Boomers’, but with the diverse and more discerning Experienced Consumer. Founder of UK creative agency, Bureau Jeff Boardman has also pioneered a more sophisticated approach to market segmentation, encouraging clients to understand people through their passions, rather than just mapping them through their data. “Consumers are already comfortable operating across generations and across platforms. It’s brands who have forgotten to talk to everyone and who have to catch up. We get them to ask the right questions, then make connections between data and lifestyles and find audiences who are interested in what our clients have to say.”
Good for his/her age: it’s curtains for this one, and any similar ill-conceived put-downs, such as “she must have been beautiful when she was younger”. If someone over the age of 50 is successful, or healthy, or attractive, or does something good, why not just say so. There is no relevance or added value in qualifying it with a reference to age. When Dame Helen Mirren joined Instagram last month, Metro just couldn’t resist the snipe, “Dame Helen Mirren has just dragged the average age of Instagram’s user community up a couple of decades.” Nobody is too old for social, thanks Metro. Mirren has been an icon of beauty for decades, and now as a multiple Oscar-winner and the face of L’Oreal is synonymous with ageless Hollywood glamour. “Don’t allow people to make rules for you, about what you can or cannot do, and when,” she says. “And if you have to have them, make your own rules. People can structure great rules around themselves, they fall into habits so quickly and feel that the world will fall part without them. But as an actor, you learn that this is not the case, you have to constantly change your schedule, change your look, meet new people. I think it is better not to have too many rules.”
Having a senior moment: You may be coming to terms with being over 50 yourself, and occasionally feel ever-so-slightly negative about it, but never, ever refer to it. Older people perpetuate stereotypes about themselves when they refer to themselves as “over the hill” or “having a senior moment”. You never hear young people say they are having a junior moment, and you never will, because self-deprecation on the basis of age doesn’t do anyone any favours. Make the most of your years, they have provided you with experience and wisdom. Take your place in society as an Elder, rather than becoming a weaker version of your younger self.
The Age of No Retirement is on a mission to create a new world where age does not matter and to change the narrative about age. It is lobbying the media and business to rethink stereotypical vocabulary and attitudes to age. Spread the word, do what you can to change the story.
Sheila Parry is Founder & Chairman of theblueballroom ltd.