In tune with Boomers, pro­mot­ers rein­vent at­ti­tudes on ag­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen­nifer Harper

Plenty of hope­ful baby boomers have al­ready ral­lied be­hind the motto “70 is the new 50,” cur­rently pro­moted by as­sorted fi­nan­cial com­pa­nies, re­tire­ment com­mu­ni­ties and vacation plan­ners. The se­ri­ous slo­gan started as a joke — a cheeky cap­tion in a New Yorker car­toon last year.

The no­tion has since ex­panded into a cul­tural move­ment billed as “rein­vent­ing ag­ing.”

Ad­vo­cates are in­tent on re­shap­ing the Amer­i­can at­ti­tude to­ward the dreaded march of time among young and old alike. So far this year, Har­vard Uni- ver­sity’s School of Pub­lic Health, the Florida State De­part­ment of Elder Af­fairs, the Na­tional Coun­cil on Ag­ing, the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety on Ag­ing and pub­lic re­la­tions gi­ant Fleish­man-Hil­lard are all in “rein­vent age” mode — busily pro­duc­ing re­search pa­pers, sur­veys and pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ments.

“We need new lan­guage and new images that por­tray healthy and pro­duc­tive ag­ing,” said Susan Moses, co-di­rec­tor of Har­vard’s cam­paign, which joined forces with Pa­rade mag­a­zine ear­lier this year to so­licit new de­scrip­tors for the ma­tur­ing set with­out men­tion­ing nono words such as ag­ing, re­tired or se­nior.

Among the 4,000 sug­ges­tions from an ea­ger pub­lic: sea­soned cit­i­zens, re-gen­er­a­tion, geri-ac­tives, give-back­ers. Har­vard is also chal­leng­ing Hol­ly­wood to “re­think por­tray­als of older peo­ple in film and television,” and has founded a new Web site — rein­ventin­gag­ing.org. At Fleish­man-Hil­lard, 100 mar­ket­ing re­searchers are now on the ag­ing case, track­ing the “boomi­verse” at the­boomerblog.com.

The AARP, mean­while, plans to spon­sor singer Tony Ben­nett on a 20-city tour next year, in ad­di­tion to a mas­sive “Life@50” expo in Bos­ton, com­plete with “hot danc­ing at the Stu­dio 50-plus night­club.” On a smaller scale, a “Rein­vent­ing Ag­ing Work­shop” con­ducted in Seat­tle on Nov. 28 urged par­tic­i­pants to “be a part of the ag­ing revo­lu­tion.”

A new Gallup sur­vey, how­ever, could of­fer a boost to boomer op­ti­mism. Ad­vanc­ing years are not so bad, ac­cord­ing to 964 adults asked to de­scribe rel­a­tives 80 and older.

“Some of the com­mon fears peo­ple have about ag­ing are based more on worst-case sce­nar­ios than the ac­tual ex­pe­ri­ences of to­day’s old­est se­niors,” said Gallup re­searcher Ly­dia Saad.

The sur­vey re­vealed 53 per­cent of the re­spon­dents de­scribed their elder’s phys­i­cal health as ei­ther ex­cel­lent or good; 69 per­cent said their rel­a­tive’s men­tal health was also ex­cel­lent or good. Even among those with rel­a­tives over 90, more than half said the nonage- nar­i­ans were in ex­cel­lent or good health, with 36 per­cent in “fair” health. An­other 68 per­cent said their older re­la­tions still lived in their own homes, and 8 per­cent re­ported them liv­ing in a nurs­ing home.

And an av­er­age 89 per­cent de­scribed their rel­a­tive as hav­ing a good me­mory, with only mi­nor me­mory loss. Mo­bil­ity can be a chal­lenge with age, but 80 per­cent said their rel­a­tives from 80 to 84 walked on their own; the fig­ure was al­most half — 46 per­cent — among those over 90.

The sur­vey was con­ducted in three ses­sions be­tween Aug. 28 and Oct. 26 and re­leased Nov. 30. It has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or mi­nus three per­cent­age points.

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