Forever Young? (Not so fast) - Photos of the Boomer Generation

Posted Wednesday, 2 March 2011 by Ellen Boughn in Ellen Boughn, Photography
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.
Mature couple riding a motorcycle in the desert

© creatista/Crestock

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.

Senior couple by pool acation - A senior couple sitting against nature background

© Yuri_Arcurs/Crestock

© Yuri_Arcurs/Crestock

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.

Senior Worker - Enthusiasm Global business

© lisafx/Crestock

© andresr/Crestock

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.

Elderly Hiking Guide

© Leaf/Crestock

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.

Happy senior men and women taking self portrait

© Yuri_Arcurs/Crestock

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.

Happy senior man and his dog Unconditional Love

© barsik/Crestock

© ngothyeaun/Crestock

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.

Happy senior woman reading text message Close-up of young woman and her grandmother

© Yuri_Arcurs/Crestock

© deanm1974/Crestock

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!

Ellen Boughn

Ellen has over thirty years of experience in the stock business gained at such organizations as Dreamstime, UpperCut Images, Workbookstock, Corbis, Getty (Stone), The Image Bank (Artville) and the creative agency, After-Image, she started in Los Angeles at the beginning of her career. Having been directly involved in the creation of four major stock photography collections, Ellen offers her decades of experience to assist photographers seeking success in stock photography.

Twitter @ellenboughn Facebook ellenboughn

Ellen Boughn's best-selling book, Microstock Money Shots, is filled with insights, tips and advice on how to create commercial images and improve your work flow to profit from photography whether you're a hobbyist or a professional photographer.
Order now on

Weekly Free Stock Photo The Weekly Free Stock Image
We are giving away a free, high quality photo every week! Get Your Image


forever young
By Ryan on Monday, 7 March 2011 10:50 PM
These are great pictures. Kind of makes you want to be old.

Add your comment:

Further comments have been disabled on this post.