Yesterday's Magazette

2 – Opinion

O P I N I O N

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On Stereotyping Seniors

For many years, when I had the printed version of Yesterday’s Magazette, I waged a continuous debate with potential advertisers. And, it was always the same confrontation. They had this stereotype image of the over-50 populace and I had another. They would argue that people over the age of fifty were no longer active consumers; so why should they advertise in a publication that was primarily slanted toward this age group. Most fervently believed in the “rocking chair” image.

From my close relationship with readers of YM I knew this to be a distorted image. Besides, living in Florida, it is obvious that seniors are an active lot. But trying to get local advertisers to take off their blinders was an exhausting challenge. I finally stopped soliciting local advertising all together and have had no regrets.

But, today, I see a curious thing happening: local and national advertisers are awakening to the realization that being over-50 does not mean being “over the hill” for most Americans.

For instance, Reader’s Digest had an article that stated: “The old in America today work less, live longer, and are wealthier and more independent than ever before. Their per capita household income is now higher than that of the average American, and their median income has doubled since 1960.”

Social Security benefits and private pensions have soared. Today’s elderly have piled up assets like no generation of oldsters in history: They hold title to about 30 percent of all household net worth and 40 percent of all financial assets. Fewer than one in ten people over 65 are poor.

Of course, in today’s downward economy this might not be the case. But, then again, it’s not a good time for any age group.

Art Linkletter said it best in his book, “Old Age Is Not For Sissies”, when he stated the senior years should be “golden not rusty.” And, I believe, most seniors follow this advice.

Statistics show that more than 25% of the U.S. population is now over the age of fifty. They account for more than half of this nation’s discretionary spending and more than 3/4 of its wealth. And these numbers will significantly increase in the next 10-20 years. Will advertisers still ignore these facts?

I am strongly against stereotypes of all kinds and thankfully we have put many of them to rest.

But now we must bury this final myth that everyone over the age of fifty is feeble in mind, body and the pocketbook! As one marketing director recently admitted: it is common practice to lump consumers over the age of fifty into one category while taking the time to discover separate buying habits for 18, 19, 20 and 21-year-olds.

It’s as if advertisers believe that all 60, 70 and 80-year-olds think and act like one homogenous group. This is not only unfair; it is not true!

So, now is the time to get your business community to open its eyes and minds to the obvious fact that there is a vast market of vibrant, energetic and very active consumers out there whose chronological age just happens to be over the half-century mark.

It is, I believe, an awareness long overdue.

– E. P. Ned Burke

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