With the oldest baby boomers turning 60 this year and the rest of those 78 million coming right up behind them, elder media is taking off. Some new television shows this year are featuring such 50-something actors as James Woods, John Lithgow and Ted Danson, and Judd Hirsch continues on Numbers. This is a good start, but I’ll be impressed when 55- and 60-year old women star in programs.
There are a few new elder media projects that are trying to reach beyond – or say they are trying to reach beyond – the limited themes of money and appearance.
Founded by the former CEO of monster.com, Jeff Taylor, Eons aims to be “50 plus everything,” as its tagline says, “inspiring people" says Mr. Taylor, "to live the biggest life possible.”
To help elders do that, Eons give them space to list their top ten Life Dreams, create a LifeMap, play a whole lot of games (most of which are downloads for a price), join a discussion group (which aren’t very active yet) and create a blog. But I’ll be damned if I can find anyone’s blog on the site. And that’s a big drawback; the site is incredibly difficult to navigate.
The stories are disappointing too. In the career section, there is just a simplified job search form from (where else?) monster.com, along with a story about enrolling in benefit plans. The sections on love, money and body feel empty – just recitations of information that can be found on dozens, even hundreds, of other websites with more informative detail. There is nothing here that inspires a “big life” - whatever that means.
I began to feel dubious about the site reading a story from a contributor about buying a second-home with an accompanying photo of his “cottage” which looks like a castle. And I became downright alarmed reading a story about a chemist who is serving three months in jail for supplying a performance-enhancing drug who intends to target older people with his products when he’s free again so “athletes will turn to the antiaging world because it will be easier to get the drugs they want there than from the bodybuilding world.”
Eons is only two or three months old and perhaps, with time, it will find its footing. But it certainly has a way to go.
RETIREMENT LIVING TV
Another new elder media venture is Retirement Living TV – a television project which is the brainchild of John Erickson, the founder, chairman and CEO of Erickson Retirement Communities which are described as full-service, continuing care retirement communities.
The goal, according to their website, is this:
“We believe television is a promising source for generating positive images of older individuals. Our programming will provide positive models for older viewers enhancing individuals' sense of control over their lives and their ability to overcome challenges. By achieving this, we will begin to reverse the stigma associated with aging.”
I’ll buy that for a good start. The network was launched just a few weeks ago with, so far, four hours of programming a day titled:
The Art of Living
The Informed Citizen
The Prudent Advisor
The Daily Apple
The shows cover health, everyday wellness, interviews with elders, politics, social issues and getting the most from your money – a good lineup. They’ve even covered age discrimination already, and their hosts are actually older people.
So far, RLTV is available only to Comcast subscribers in Mid-Atlantic and New England states, but you can view recent episodes of each program on their website. They are well-done, compelling and useful while treating the audience like the grownups we are.
I have just one quibble: I hope they will mix up the extraordinary elders they feature, like the 70- and 80-year-old hockey players on a recent show, with ordinary people too. Everyone is interesting if you pay attention.
Boomers TV, which has trademarked its tagline, “redefining life after 50,” has been around for about a year and is broadcast on some PBS stations in about 22 states. It is slickly produced by a husband-and-wife team who are boomers themselves, and the program is relentlessly boomer-oriented - how to be an older boomer with every latest trend including Oprah guru, Dr. Michael Roizen.
There’s nothing wrong with the program except that there is nothing new, compelling or “redefining” about it either. You know, eat your veggies, exercise, take a road trip, spice up your sex life. You can find out more about redefining old age by reading any one of the Elderbloggers on the list in the left column.
There are short clips from the show on their website or you can buy the first 13 episodes on four DVDs for about $50.
New ventures often stumble in their early days and all of these should be given a chance to improve. But of the three, only Retirement Living TV is, so far, intriguing. They’re taking a chance that elders are interested in serious social issues, in politics and want useful information on money, health and living that informs, educates and isn’t recycled from other media.
By not pandering to the pretense of youth that many elder-targeted media projects do, Retirement Living TV is reaching for something original in elder media and I’m hoping they succeed. They have made a good beginning.