In tune with Boomers, promoters reinvent attitudes on aging
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.