There’s a hoarding outside a new housing development opposite the railway station in my home town. It implies that would-be residents will be effortlessly connected to the rest of the world on foot, and by road, rail and air if they buy one of the houses.
To be fair, we are well connected which means that houses in the town (particularly within easy walking distance of the station) are more highly priced than in other parts. Ironically, this makes ‘connection’ that much harder for a whole host of house-buyers!
But the ‘effortless’ bit of the ‘effortlessly connected’ marketing slogan is more contrived.
Overlooking the cost in terms of time, tickets and fuel, travel by road, rail and the air is not always effortless and in many cases people find it’s the opposite – stress-inducing! Which is where marketing (I speak as someone involved in it for 35 years) can be abused – using shorthand to paint rosy pictures about a life to which you and I can only aspire (like living in the ‘luxury homes’ being built behind that hoarding).
And the same criticism goes for bringing marketing and media speak to issues around ageing. Not only do they not know what to call us – senior citizens, elders, the elderly, the old, old people or older people etc – but they can’t make up their minds whether we’re a liability or an asset to society!
In a recent tweet, Mervyn Eastman co-founder of Change Agents (http://changeagents.coop/Change_AGEnts/Welcome.html) highlighted some of the mixed messages about our ageing population. Mervyn listed four: we’re living longer, wise and valued; we’re ‘hoarding’ wealth; we’re an economic drain; we’re dependent. I added another pair of stereotypes – we’re either frail or we’re skydiving at 100.
In common with others (or all ages) helping to keep older people ‘out of the system’ for as long as possible, Men’s Sheds – I’ve started one in Hertfordshire – are fighting a constant battle to challenge stereotypes peddled by marketing people, the media and yes, some well-meaning support agencies. Ultimately it’s up to every one of us to think less about shorthand and slogans, and more about the people behind the words. And remember – from the day you were born, you could accurately be described as ‘ageing’.