N*ked Older Women
Elder Oscar Night

The "Problem" With Elders

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles has been "podcasted" by John Lindner at The Baltimore Sun for his Blogography presentation. You can listen to her gorgeous Texas twang right here.]

category_bug_ageism.gif The new Dove commercial we discussed yesterday may be a step forward for the portrayal of elders on television, but is no more than a grain of sand on large ocean beach.

A Tylenol PM commercial has been running for several months. Encouragingly, it opens with an older woman, passed her 50th birthday, who is not made up to appear younger. Then, unfortunately, she opens her mouth:

“Aging doesn’t happen one problem at a time,” she says. “First, there was high blood pressure. Then came arthritis…”

That, apparently, is how the owners, executives and creative types at Tylenol view the totality of aging – as one problem after another.

The company is not alone. It is a standard stereotype that there is nothing good about getting old. It is perpetrated by most product advertising and pervades all media influencing everyone – young and even the old – into believing that aging is the worst thing that can happen to a person.

Commercials are the one place on television where elders are numerous and in plain view. However, unlike beautiful young men and women, they are not driving shiny new automobiles. They don’t even use new laundry detergents. Not one has been spied with an iPod. Apple promotes its kewl computers using a hip, young kid contrasted with a dumpy old man portraying the rival PC. And even the latest AARP commercials feature children, no elders.

Elder commercial actors are pushing pain pills, constipation remedies, medical devices and prescription drugs meant to alleviate gastro-intestinal difficulties that would be better left undescribed. And that’s about all the air time elders regularly get.

The absence of elders in any media context except pain and suffering is what keeps those deadly, elder stereotypes alive.

Alternately, paeans are written to youth and young love, motherhood has become the latest celebrity trend and a fetish has been made of children – all stages of human development that are held up as the gold standard of life.

But who speaks for elders?

That’s what Time Goes By is for and a large part of why this blog was founded three years ago. Do I sometimes go over the top in extolling the virtues of elders? Sure. Am I partisan on the side of elders against the slurs and stereotypes flung our way? You betcha.

But there are few enough who take the elders’ side in any manner and way too many Tylenols who think elderhood is nothing but a problem.


Right on! Ronni!

Exactly. I love breaking stereotypes and doing the opposite of "what seniors should do." I'm 63, perfect health, take no meds and have been applying to part time jobs such as golf course grounds keeper,construction assistant,CURVES boss, and will see if I am hired. If not, I will plow on and apply for anything I feel like doing. I have a good pension and all the time in the world to bust down walls. And I will.

I commented about an offensive Chrysler ad on one of your BlogHer posts: the one where Chrysler magically trades in an old wife for a young model. I tried really hard to write to Chrysler about this and couldn't find a way to contact them unless I had a Chrysler vehicle VIN number in my possession. But I do think we should complain about these offensive ads when we can find a way.

Yes, that truly is usually the case, but I have spotted one ad for an i pod featuring a senior. An older black senior, actually. This is as I fall victim to the stereotype myself as one part after another begins wearing out.

You da best!

Thanks, Ronni!

Thanks, Ronni, for being our advocate. Let's all stress the many benefits of being an elder. In spite of my physical decline I find that, in many ways, this is the best time of my life.

did i mention the cards i once had? rooster is observing an egg he seems to have laid. caption: assume nothing. that's how i feel about media and aging: little useful come from that direction.

cowtown pattie on a podcast is something else entirely. knitting (not usual activity at computer)and listening to what brought her to blogging was eye-opener. and her family stories! thanks, ronni, for leading to a place i'd never have gone--especially in texas!

Thanks for such a fine story.

I am running an abridged version on my website.

I'm 57 and I ache after playing with my grandkids, and I can't read without my glasses. But hey, when I was 15 I had zits and braces, when I was 25 I had morning sickness and stretch marks, and at 32 I had knee surgery and depression. It isn't age that causes problems, it's life. And I find life more fun and more meaningful the older I get. I tell that to my kids and anyone else that will listen. I figure we're our own best advocates.

Travelinoma surely does have that right: "It isn't age that causes problems, it's life."

Yeah, I heard that "Texas Trifles" gal's podcast interview. I've been enjoying her blog "for quite a spell." Surely was generous of her to help that West Coast elderblogger get her blog going.

About these commercials -- go get 'em, Ronni! I'm with you.

The "dumpy old man" in the Apple Computer ads is John Hodgman of "The Daily Show," a very, very funny man who is only about 35!

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