By Helen Hirsh Spence
Estimated read, 3:29 min.
I frequently invite participants in our workshops to describe what “old” looks like to them. Typically, two out of three words offered have negative connotations which conjure up images of decrepit, solitary, and vulnerable individuals. It used to surprise me, but it no longer does. After all, most journals, magazines, or ads on TV portray older adults in this way. There are rarely (if ever) any beautiful or sexy, older women on magazine covers.
The tide may be shifting slightly, especially for men, but for women of a “certain age”, their invisibility and irrelevance thrives unless the advertising references anti-aging potions. Granted, we live in a youth-obsessed culture, but how naïve are these larger companies that continue to market primarily to the young? Don’t they realize that about 75% of North American buying power resides in the hands of the over 60 crowd?
How we see ourselves represented in senior positions (on Boards of Directors, or as CEOs), has been proven to either inspire or demolish an individual’s aspirational goals. We have changed language to be more representative of gender neutrality: policemen have become police officers; stewardesses are flight attendants; firemen are firefighters. As a result, we have more women and gender neutral people in these roles today.
With the recent success of Black Lives Matter, almost every ad on TV or in print is represented by a person of colour or a mixed-race couple. It’s fantastic for children, men, and women to see themselves depicted in everyday situations. Marketers know that it makes a difference to brands, and yet there continues to be a blind spot when it comes to illustrating the lives of older people.
Finding photos of active, engaged, fit, curious, working, dancing, biking, or mountain climbing older adults are next to impossible to find, hence my call out to photographers. We need more images of older people (not models) who represent what ordinary older adults are doing today, instead of the recurrent images of older citizens in wheelchairs or using walkers in seniors’ residences, or pictured in conversation with medical professionals. Of course, I exaggerate slightly, but medicalizing ageing is as bad as calling out women for having wrinkles, or gray hair. How many older men are degraded in ads because of their balding heads or beer bellies? Unfortunately, as women age their worthiness is determined by their looks whereas older men gain credibility, value, and praiseworthiness with wrinkles and receding hairlines.
If you are an amateur or a professional photographer who is willing to seek out and photograph older persons who are gainfully employed, participating in sport, living a healthy life, indoors or out, or are representative of who we olders are today, the Top Sixty Over Sixty team would love to showcase your photos in its posts, blogs, ads, social media, and on our website. We are desperate to find representational pictures of older generations.
We need to document the power and potential of older individuals with images. We need to demonstrate beyond doubt how vital our contributions are, if given a chance. It must become the norm to see a robust, interesting, technologically savvy older people in roles that typically are depicted by younger people. Until this reality is understood, those over fifty-five will continue to be relegated to the sidelines.
- High resolution images (300 dpi)* are preferred
- Lower resolution (96dpi) is acceptable for social media purposes
- Minimum size for social media: 1200 x 900 pixels (width x height)
- Image file names: Please include your name and, if possible, the size of the image; e.g., Woman-with-laptop_JaneDoe_1000x1000px_300dpi
- Email images to [email protected], and include the word, PHOTOS, in the subject line
- There are no deadlines; please keep them coming!
*High resolution images, 300 dpi (dots per inch)) contain a high amount of visual information, so they can be used in print and/or easily cropped.
By submitting images, owners agree to grant Top Sixty Over Sixty permission to modify images, to use photographs online, on its website, in social media, blogs, newsletters, print material, presentations, and to promote Top Sixty Over Sixty and its products and services, without compensation to the photographer. Whenever possible, photographers will receive attribution. Identifiable people will not appear in a bad light or in a way that is offensive. Top Sixty Over Sixty will not redistribute or sell the photos.