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The vibrancy and vitality of the color grey.

“You can’t avoid getting older, but you don’t have to get old,” said George Burns, the well-known comedian and centenarian a few years ago.

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Ageing is all in the mind. Seniors aren’t counting their time away, begrudging the march of Father Time; instead they are looking forward, thinking about everything they still want to do and achieve in life.

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People are living longer nowadays. The Boomers have a larger disposable income. They are retired, or semi-retired so they have more time on their hands and the choice of what to do with all that time. They are fitter, more active and have a younger outlook. 

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Don’t forget that in the Sixties, when huge social and cultural shifts occurred and men and women no longer dressed like their parents as soon as they turned 21, they expressed themselves through music, art, sex and fashion. Those folk that were responsible for the Sixties revolution are now in their seventies. Times may have changed but their outlook hasn’t. Don’t underestimate their vibrant joy for life – and image usage capturing this should be about attitude and spirit, not age.

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A good example of this came from retail giant Marks & Spencer in the UK. It has made older women feel proud about the stage they are at in life and recently ran a fashion campaign celebrating these strong women and their achievements. With notable figures like Emma Thompson, Tracey Emin, Helen Mirren and Annie Lennox featuring in the photographs, they made their point clearly and stylishly and were shot by another notable older female, Annie Leibovitz.

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According to AARP, nearly 10,000 adults turn 65 every day. This group of sexagenarians has over forty-five times the net worth of their younger counterparts. That’s a lot of potential for marketers to target.

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Senior consumers want to see marketing showing moments of fun, energy and adventure. And despite what younger generations may believe, they are also eager consumers of technology. According to the Pew Research Center, ‘The 74+ demographic is the fastest growing among social networks.’

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Research conducted by ‘Pragma’, the Retail and Commercial Strategy Consultants, says many see ‘growing older’ as a positive, as they have more time for experiences and what they want to do with their time.

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These folk are redefining ageing. They are taking risks, travelling the world, returning to study, being entrepreneurial and starting second careers. Their kids have flown the nest, so they are enjoying rich cultural lives, moving back to cities to be near theatres, galleries and museums and because they don’t feel old – they still feel like they are in their thirties or forties – they have no interest in slowing down.

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Gransnet.com revealed recently in research conducted through its subscribers that 30% of over fifties say that they respond well to ads that make them feel something – ads that are funny, sad or surprising.

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These seniors are choosy customers who are wiser, more rational and less influenced by fashion and trends than younger consumers. Imagery and marketing messages need to be subtle and engaging, showing independence, a freedom of spirit and a sense of adventure, capturing emotional truths, caught moments and credible casting. All underpinned by concepts around Vitality, Wisdom, Experience, Energy, Enthusiasm, Adventure, Fun, Love and Togetherness.

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Many usages of this imagery are within the healthcare industry, conveying a positive, upbeat approach to life, health and vitality. Others may be cross-generational family images celebrating key milestone moments such as birthdays, anniversaries and weddings. This shows the family unit representing dependability, longevity and resilience in these tough economic and political times.

Other popular imagery usages are in business, with seniors of all ethnicities, shapes and sizes, featuring in regular business pictures as part of the workforce – as well as in top management positions. And then there are the more unusual, artisan, craft-based businesses too, where the presence of a skilled, more mature worker/owner communicates key concepts around Tradition, Quality and Heritage.

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However, British Vogue’s beauty and lifestyle director Jessica Diner, says, “In 2019, women over 50 remain conspicuous by their absence in the beauty and fashion industries, as well as the wider media landscape. Age discrimination most definitely still exists, both consciously and unconsciously, leaving many women feeling excluded and invisible.”

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Presenting an elegant middle finger to those who think age is a barrier, May’s issue of British Vogue features octogenarianJane Fonda along with a celebration of the creativity and talent of older women. Fonda says “It’s important to understand that older women are the fastest growing demographic in the whole world. It’s time to recognize our value.”

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The ‘Non-Issue Issue’, as Vogue has billed it, is published in partnership with French cosmetics company L’Oréal Paris. Fitness fanatic Fonda joins the likes of Helen Mirren in the magazine that editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, who has made it clear he wants to make fashion more inclusive, describes as proving that “a person’s age will always be a more intriguing, nuanced and inspiring factor than a simple number could ever suggest.”

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For imagery, communications and content to really resonate with seniors, there has to be a tangible benefit, like all effective advertising.

Maria Garrido, CEO of Havas X says it needs to help, inform and educate. For content to be more relevant, it needs to focus on important lifestyle elements such as staying healthy, staying connected, love and relationships, travel and experiences. With a keen interest in technology, when they have a positive experience with a product or service, 68% of seniors say they share it with their social networks.

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Being in good physical shape is one of three top priorities for 41% of seniors. The second is staying in touch with what is going on in the world, identified by 77%.  

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The third priority, according to 46% is ‘having people in my life who really care about me’. 

There is a huge still untapped opportunity to turn silver into gold. Whatever you call the over fifties – older, mature or senior, ageing ain’t what it used to be. Thank goodness!



Ashley Jouhar
Ashley Jouhar is a Creative Director, Art Director and Photographer who has worked as a senior creative in the photography industry for over 14 years, first as Deputy Director of Photography at Getty Images and then as Creative Director of Image Source. Before turning to the photography industry full time, Ashley worked as a senior Art Director and Group Head at McCann Erickson, London creating popular and award winning advertising for clients such as Bacardi, AT&T, BMW, Medecins Sans Frontieres, TK Maxx and Nescafe.

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