Forever Young? (Not so fast) - Photos of the Boomer Generation
Posted Wednesday, 2 March 2011 by Ellen Boughn in Ellen Boughn
Twenty years ago when the baby boomers reached their mid-forties, smart photographers started using older models more often in lifestyle photos. Then came the "50 is the new 30" idea. Stock photo files were filled with shots of frolicking older folks on motorcycles and surfboards.
Ten years later in 2000 models in their early 40's whose hair had turned prematurely grey were still being used to illustrate the active retired. Now the day of reckoning is upon us. The first boomer child turned 65 on January 1 of this year.
Everyone wants to stay young forever but reality is setting in for both boomers and the advertisers that want to reach them. We will continue to use photos that celebrate the stamina of those that keep in shape well into their 70's and 80's or even the 90's.
Vigorous sports like surfing are fine for a lucky few but more and more have to face the fact that they are probably safer surfing the net. After the first knee surgery, a potential bad landing from skydiving has new meaning. Does that mean that the only photos of boomers that will sell will be of oldies with canes? Most certainly not! But understand that we live in an age of realism. Buyers and readers want authenticity and recoil from overly unrealistic photos.
Working after 65. In the past employees might be handed a gold watch AND be shown the door at 65. Some professions still adhere to strict retirement ages but many older people continue to work for both financial and emotional reasons. They may have to make up for savings that were diminished by declining home values or the illness of a spouse. Some are in jobs that are lesser than what they had during their active work life but happy to be working. Older workers are sometimes valued for their experience but some encounter ageism. Publications use images to illustrate these topics.
Volunteerism is encouraged as a method for older folks to stay involved. Images such as this appear in brochures and on websites of non-profits.
Friendship. Retirement homes and residential care facilities emphasize the importance of social contacts and friendships to the elderly. Positive images of retirees enjoying the company of their contemporaries are in demand.
These are excellent models to use to illustrate a secure retirement or promotions for a retirement home. They are natural and pleasant looking while still looking their true age.
Older friends can be photographed playing bridge, hiking and even skiing. Doctors recommend walking, swimming and biking as the best exercises for strength building and balance in those over 60. Don't limit relationships to merely human ones. Studies have shown the importance that a pet can have to the mental well being of an elderly person who without the companionship of a four footed friend could be isolated and depressed.
Technology. On February 11, 2011, TechCrunch reported that the fastest growing age group using Facebook is 65+. Older individuals are discovering that one of the most reliable ways to keep up with their grandchildren and other family members is by using technology whether via video calls, tweets or other social media. Grandma may still knit but it's time to show retirement age individuals working with laptops. Idea: photograph a laptop screen with a photo of a child inserted on the screen to simulate a video conversation between generations.
Family remains the most important topic to users researching photos of older demographics. Family portraits taken outside or around a dining room table seem to be more successful than those where the family is gathered on a sofa. Groups of people from several generations in activities around a patio while food is grilling on a BBQ is a winning photo.
When selecting models, remember that there's gold in the golden years!
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