TV wakes up to the power of old peo­ple

A whole new lineup of shows have been an­noun­cend at the world’s largest TV mar­ket in Cannes, France, aimed at old peo­ple.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Senior -

THEY have long been ig­nored and de­spised as a “dy­ing de­mo­graphic” by tele­vi­sion ex­ec­u­tives in the head­long stam­pede for younger view­ers.

But with mil­len­ni­als spend­ing less time in front of the small screen than their mo­biles and com­put­ers, TV is at last wak­ing up to the needs of its vast grey au­di­ence.

A whole swathe of new shows at MIP, the world’s largest TV mar­ket in Cannes, France, ei­ther fea­ture or are aimed di­rectly at old peo­ple.

From new dra­mas like The Vi­a­gra Diaries to hit re­al­ity shows like Old Peo­ple’s Home For 4 Year Olds in which small chil­dren and re­tire­ment home res­i­dents are brought to­gether, pro­duc­ers are chal­leng­ing the ta­boo that se­niors don’t make good TV.

The Voice Se­nior, an old folks ver­sion of the block­buster singing show, will hit screens across Europe and Asia in 2018.

It fol­lows hot on the heels of the suc­cess of an orig­i­nally Korean tal­ent show Bet­ter Late Than Never – which has been sold to 16 coun­tries - where older hope­fuls share the bill with vet­eran en­ter­tain­ers.

The Dutch pro­duc­ers of The Voice Se­nior, Talpa, are also launch­ing Around the World With 80-Year-Olds, where eight oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans who have never left their home­land jet off to­gether.

With age­ing baby boomers TV’s most loyal view­ers, watch­ing up to five hours a day, pro­duc­ers say it is high time this rel­a­tively rich de­mo­graphic was taken se­ri­ously.

“Why not show older peo­ple on screen too?” said Talpa’s An­nelie Noest. “They watch a lot of TV but we never see them.”

She said when The Voice Se­nior was shown in the Nether­lands it at­tracted a sur­pris­ing high younger au­di­ence.

“You see your­self or your par­ents in these sto­ries,” Noest said.

“Old peo­ple on screen his­tor­i­cally has been a bit tricky if we are hon­est,” said Harry Gamsu, of Red Ar­row In­ter­na­tional, the com­pany be­hind Old Peo­ple’s Home For 4 Year Olds.

“But the suc­cess of shows like ours – and it had mas­sive rat­ings – is chang­ing that, par­tic­u­larly com­bined with kids, which broad­ens it out.

“There is a real ap­pre­ci­a­tion that this grow­ing slice of the pop­u­la­tion want to see con­tent that is rel­e­vant and re­flects them,” Gamsu added.

“Just be­cause a show is star­ring older peo­ple doesn’t mean it can’t be in­no­va­tive, or a bold and loud so­cial ex­per­i­ment,” he said.

Nor are broad­cast­ers in search of the holy grail of shows that tran­scend the gen­er­a­tions afraid to res­ur­rect old for­mats if it can put bums on the sofa.

In Britain, the BBC is re­viv­ing The Gen­er­a­tion Game, which first screened in 1971, which of­ten brought three gen­er­a­tions of fam­i­lies to­gether on set.

Pro­fes­sor Carolyn Yoon, au­thor of the Ag­ing Con­sumer, said that trend was “hugely pos­i­tive” par­tic­u­larly since new re­search be­ing car­ried out at the Univer­sity of Michi­gan where she works shows ex­po­sure to young peo­ple can wipe years off older peo­ple.

“Peo­ple gen­er­ally think of them­selves as about 12 years younger than their chrono­log­i­cal age.

“But it turns out that in pos­i­tive sit­u­a­tions with younger peo­ple, or just be­ing sur­rounded by im­ages of young peo­ple, can make peo­ple feel even younger.”

She said two decades can be wiped off a felt age – but the ef­fect only works in pos­i­tive sit­u­a­tions.

Con­trary to the stereo­type, Pro­fes­sor Yoon said “older peo­ple are much more fo­cused on pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ences” than young peo­ple and any­thing that gen­er­ates pos­i­tiv­ity.

“I can see how these shows can cre­ate a very pos­i­tive feel­good cross-gen­er­a­tional ef­fect” for pro­gramme-mak­ers, she added.

“It is re­ally quite an ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ment par­tic­u­larly as the pic­ture of age­ing has been rel­a­tively dis­mal even up to now even with the age­ing of the baby boomers.”

But taboos may be slowly tumbling.

Hav­ing not made it to the screen in 2012, an adap­ta­tion of the best­selling novel The Vi­a­gra Diaries, about “Gen­er­a­tion Vi­a­gra” third-agers re­dis­cov­er­ing dat­ing in their 60s and 70s, is fi­nally be­ing made into a TV se­ries in the US. – AFP

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