As Americans we’ve become so compartmentalized and categorized by marketing, media and myth that we barely know what to think anymore.
The media have us bookmarked as 25 to 54’s - the most desired audiences. It used to be 18 to 34’s but the country began aging so media shifted, but keeps the audience as young as possible.
If you’re 55 or older, ever wonder why you can’t find a good movie or TV show to watch? Talk to the media moguls and their advertisers who love everything young. Oh, they’ll give you the evening news packed full of drug commercials for every ailment known to man. That’s about it.
In a Pulitzer Prize Winning book in 1975, Dr. Robert Butler, a noted Gerontologist, called aging, “the neglected stepchild of the human life cycle.”
Now, 37 years later, aging is the hottest of topics.
Ten thousand of us turn 65 every day and although that’s causing all sorts of policy considerations, that 65th birthday suggests that you’re now officially old. This, at a time when Americans are living comfortably into their 80s and 90s. In fact, Americans have more centenarians than any country in the world, more than 70,000 of them with more on the way. Researchers are busy as bees trying to figure out the reasons for their longevity.
There’ve been occasional old folks before: 123,000 over 85 in 1900, now there are over three million Americans over age 85. By 2050, that number goes up to 50 million, equaling 16 percent of the population.
Two-thirds of all who’ve made it to age 65, in the history of mankind, are today walking the earth, and we haven’t seen anything yet.
John Gardner, LBJ’s HEW Secretary back when Medicare was invented, founded the Experience Corp when he was in his 70s. He was concerned that Americans were engineering their own old age through inactivity and social intercourse. He wanted to engage Americans to keep that body in motion.
He told me a few years ago, “We are witnessing changes so profound and far reaching that the mind can hardly grasp all the indications.” He admonished, “Do something. We quit too soon.”
He may have been worried you may buy into the network of negative myths that have been created about what it means to grow older - People over 65 are old, most older people are in poor health, older minds are not as bright as younger minds, older people are unproductive, older people are unattractive and sexless, and all older people are pretty much the same.
They’re all hooey, especially that last one. My grandpa used to say, “If we all liked the same things, everybody’d be after your grandma.”
Growing older is a challenge and a special opportunity for the Boomers to dispel the myths and change the image of aging in America - positive, healthy, involved, active, full of life and learning.