Age matters: Embracing the value of growing older

Posted: March 19, 2024 | Word Count: 804

You don't have to look too far to see the proliferation of positivity campaigns in our society today. Diversity and inclusion, coupled with the message of "you're perfect just as you are," are being shouted loud and clear. Advertising is reflective of it, hiring is focusing on it, and brands are making it a priority. It's empowering and valuable. No matter what we look like, who we love or what our pronouns are, we're all being invited to the table by advertisers, business owners and, not incidentally, our neighbors. And it's about time.

One group, however, is typically not included in these positivity-forward movements. One big bias lingers, unaddressed. Most people don't even know they're holding onto it. It's age. There is still the perception in our society that aging is a negative. A diminishment. Something that makes a person "less than" in our youth-obsessed world.

This nation's top politicians might have something to say about the zeitgeist of aging right now. But you don't have to be a politician who is deemed too old to do his job to feel it. You just need to be someone over the age of 50 who gets laid off and has to face the prospect of getting back into the job market. Or, who watches television on any given night and never sees a character older than 40 (Tom Selleck notwithstanding) who is not stereotyped, joked about or featured in ads, unless they’re selling prescription drugs or AARP memberships.

But it's more serious than just representation. We know age discrimination and bias create barriers to health care, workforce development and services. It also negatively impacts people’s perceptions about themselves, which can negatively affect their overall health and wellness and even contribute to shortened life spans.

It shouldn't be that way, not if our country's demographics are any indication. By 2034, there will be more people over the age of 65 than under 18 for the first time ever on our planet. And by 2060, Americans 65 and older will comprise 23% of the U.S. population (95 million people), compared to just 17% (56 million people) in 2020, according to census projections. That's a lot of consumers who aren't being invited to the table. We can't afford to discount our collective future by not valuing all the positives that come along with aging.

Where are all of the advertisements for age positivity? Where's the Gray Pride parade?

At Next50, we're committed to creating a future where aging is valued. We can see it on the horizon and hope you can, too. Here's what it would look like, and how you can help ageism disappear.

Age-inclusive hiring practices. Hiring today is focused on skills and experience, with careful attention to diversity and inclusion. That's great, but age needs to be part of it. The idea that job seekers in their fifties are not as bankable as those in their twenties is completely outdated. Why? It came into fashion decades ago, when people tended to stay in one place for their entire career. Back then, if you hired someone just out of school, they'd likely stay with you until retirement. Today, younger generations tend to job-hop their way up the ladder. Hire a Boomer or Gen Xer? They'll not only bring a trove of skills and experience with them, but they'll stick around.

Multigenerational collaboration. When you hire those older workers, it creates an incredible opportunity for collaboration and mentorships across the generations. And not just older people mentoring younger ones. Mentorship goes both ways. That type of knowledge sharing can break down biases — yes, older people do like technology — strengthening intergenerational understanding and reinforcing the value of all ages.

Transforming the media portrayal of older adults. Dove put body positivity for women on the map, Subaru made us all want to get a dog and go hiking, Nike told us to just do it, and we did. That's the power of advertising. A similar campaign for age positivity can invite older consumers (with deep pockets) to the table, and help shatter stereotypes, too.

Changing the narrative. Negative assumptions like physical decline, decreased mental ability, and being out of touch with the times need to be replaced with more positive aspects of aging. The beauty of a love story that has lasted 40 years and is still going strong. The freedom of following your bliss during retirement. The facts about how we're aging better than our parents did, and what that might mean to society.

It's time to flip the switch on ageism. At Next50, we're working toward a society that values aging and makes growing older an empowering, fulfilling experience. We invest in innovative ideas that will help us get there. Contact us today, or visit us on Facebook or LinkedIn to find out more.

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