Monday, April 05, 2004

What a Difference Demographics Make 

There is a hilarious story in The Los Angeles Times that discusses how the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is trying to change the perception of those over 50 in its magazine. It's a public relations campaign for Baby Boomers feeling their joints and walking slower. According to AARP, it is suddenly OK to talk about "sex after sixty."

AARP even changed the name of its magazine from Modern Maturity to "AARP The Magazine." It has banned the term "Senior Citizen," and it has proudly announced that "Sixty is the New Thirty."

Back in the 1970s, I tried to convince media buyers that people over 50 hadn't died yet and deserved attention. I was looked upon as a lunatic. Since then, I have watched sporadic efforts to remind marketers that people live past 35. Marketers still refuse to believe it unless they sell denture cream or Metamucil. Now, AARP tells me I'm sexy.

There is a chance with the growing number of aging people that getting old won't be as much of a penalty as it used to be, but I have yet to see that. Marketers saturate America with images of youth, vigor and sex, and we want to believe their pandering. Now, AARP is trying to do the same with those of us entering "geezerdom." We want to believe AARP too, but will anyone else in the business world accept it?

It would be interesting to see a communications campaign that tells the truth about aging, but I suspect it would fall flat. In our minds, we see ourselves 20 years younger than we are. We can't accept age and we forget quickly the annual, dreaded day when we turn another year, so we can regain our self-delusion. AARP is playing to that psychology.


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