Does today's advertising patronise older people?

Google ‘Christmas gift ideas for retirees’ and you’ll find the tone of many of the articles eye-wateringly patronizing.

“There is nothing they need and very little they want. What do you give someone who has almost everything, and their house is already full of family photos, albums, personalized mugs, slippers and bath oils?”

Wow. Don’t forget the ties, socks and soaps.

It gets worse. 

“The key to maintaining a senior's independence is to keep them safe and one of the basic areas of safety is their home. This makes assistive devices very good gift ideas.”

This particular article goes on to recommend a 31 Day Pill Organiser, or a Bath Tub Grab Bar?

Thanks but no thanks? We thought so.

Nobody wants one of these, not until we have to, possibly never, and certainly NOT for Christmas!

And yet the internet is full of these kinds of recommendations. Who actually buys this stuff?

American author Joseph F. Coughlin says most businesses completely misunderstand the desires of the older consumer due to a ‘counterfactual narrative of aging”.

In his new book “The Longevity Economy” he says marketers are blind to the real desires of retirees.

“It’s become so ingrained that very few people—and perhaps even fewer businesses—think to question it. When most people picture “the old,” a specific impression usually comes to mind… Older people are assumed to live apart, quietly sequestered away in retirement communities, assisted-living facilities, and nursing homes, surfacing to shop and dine only when everyone else is at work.

In this all-too-common reading of age, older people are somehow simultaneously needy (because they’re con­sidered constitutionally unable to provide for themselves) and leisure-oriented (because, in the absence of work, they are at their most visible while out buying things and having fun).

Taken together, these ideas add up to a picture of the older consumer that feels deceptively complete: Leisure products must be all older adults want, while medical and accessibility-oriented products must be all they need. With both needs and wants covered, businesses need perform no additional mental legwork to under­stand the desires of the older population.”

Coughlin says business are so focused on the obvious problems of old age—issues like hearing, mobility, medication management—they fail to consider the other things someone of any age would want.

“Concerns about self-image or style, crucial considerations for every other age group, are frequently seen as frivolous, and come only as an afterthought.”

The good news is that Coughlin says the tide is gradually turning.

He notes the rise of smartphone fall-detection apps to replace the dreaded emergency call necklace and more excitingly “hearables”—wearable technology for the ears that blur the line between hearing aids, earplugs, and headphones. This technology not only looks good, it has the potential to turn up or down certain frequencies of environmental sounds - something that could appeal to younger and older users alike.

“With technological innovation applied to older consumers’ actual wants, needs, and goals, older adults may soon find themselves living not just longer lives, but better lives, defined by independence and connectedness.“

This is music to the ears of New Zealanders Cath Hanna and Kim Turner, who 12 months ago set up www.midi.co.nz, an an online store where women can purchase hand-picked fancy and functional goods, discreetly. 

“We wanted it be an online experience rather than a public one. When your kids all leave home you suddenly feel quite different to how you used to. It can be quite a vulnerable time. Shopping becomes really hard with all the young things everywhere who don’t quite get you. So we decided to set up Midi.”

Kim says although many of Midi products could be described as ‘assistive’ they’re not diminishing.

“They’re functional, but attractive too and most importantly not crippling on your ego. They’ve just been tweaked for our time in life. So if you’re someone who pees when they laugh we’ve got our sexy Pee-Proof Underwear to make your day to day life a little bit easier!”

Kim loves finding new products for Midi customers and is proud that every product they’ve picked so far has been successful.

“I think we really understand our market because we are our market. We’re getting more discerning about what we want and so are our customers. The one thing that drives me crazy is always having to put my glasses on. But I have to otherwise I put my makeup on then put my glasses back on and think God, is that what I really look like? So I found these glasses where you can lift up one eye at a time to do your makeup. These are great for any woman who wears glasses, never mind her age.”

Kim agrees with Coughlin when he says that companies that continue to treat older adults as needy and leisure-hungry will fare poorly.

She says older consumers, particularly women, are valuable and should be treated as such.

“Older women are the new IT Girls. There are lots of us, a lot of us have money and now we want to spend it on ourselves for a while.” 

So what do you want for Christmas this year? And for goodness sake don’t say nothing!

Here are some ideas to gently pass on to friends and family…

1) IPad Mini or Kindle Paper White

Easier to handle than conventional books and font size can be easily adjusted.

2) Pedometer

One of the most important things you can do for your health and well-being is to move your body every day. Gentle running is an effective way to build endurance and stamina, but for starters, walk 10,000 steps every day.

3) A book subscription to BWB Texts

BWB Texts are short books on big subjects from great New Zealand writers. Read on smart phones and e-readers, tablets and as snappy paperbacks. http://bwb.co.nz/texts/subscribe

4) Mighty Bright Lighted Wallet Magnifier

It's small enough to keep in a wallet, and features a built-in LED light, making it easy for anyone to read—be it a restaurant menu or city guide book—on the go.

https://www.amazon.com/Mighty-Bright-87022-Lighted-Magnifier/dp/B002E3KJBG

5) Yoga mat, yoga concession card, or yoga membership

Yoga offers a wide array of health benefits - working physical and psychological wonders. Fantastic for anyone who struggles with pain, joint stress, imbalance, osteoarthritis…

6) The Bucket List Journal

A leather bound journal complete with maps for listing all your hopes and dreams.

https://www.etsy.com/nz/listing/233519684/bucket-list-journal-with-maps-as-a?ref=related-1

7) Rose Tinted Glasses - Make-up glasses with power lenses to avoid those bad make-up days!

https://midi.co.nz/products/copy-of-makeup-glasses

8) Long and Hot - longest hot water bottle with cashmere/merino cover - great for heat therapy

https://midi.co.nz/products/yuyu-luxury-long-hot-water-bottle-and-cover-10-cashmere-90-merino-cover-eco-friendly-rubber-bottle

Article written by Hannah Hill, Lifetime Income.

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