For many senior citizens, aging is like swimming upstream against the current in today's forever young society. We live in a youth-obsessed nation where aging is out; young is in. Young celebrities like Kim Kardashian are revered while the elderly are on the outside looking in. People spend billions of dollars on anti-aging creams and surgical procedures to eliminate the worn-look of wrinkles rather than choosing to view wrinkled faces as reflections of life's experiences that took years to create.
Many older people are ashamed and/or embarrassed to display some of the marks of aging in a forever young society that too frequently labels old people as frail and useless. Wrinkles are ugly, wheelchairs represent helplessness and hearing aids reflect weakness.
Some older people have deserted modern society while others fight to stay relevant with anti-aging products and current fashion. There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to appear young if it makes you feel good, raises your confidence and promotes a healthier lifestyle. The problems with forever young attitudes are not individual attempts to maintain youthful appearance but rather the societal messaging that staying young is superior to growing old.
Our overall goal is to re-brand 'aging' into a more favorable light. A successful public relations campaign will replace a forever young society with a society that honors and reveres its aging population. This is a battle over lives; and it takes all of us working together to make it happen.
It will take a concerted effort to shift people's views of an entire class of people. Media campaigns could include a combination of advertisements, op-eds, articles and press releases using the full spectrum of media: television, radio, print and social media.
A branding campaign for senior citizens will likely be effective since everyone can relate to growing old because it will eventually happen to all of us. "We are in this together" could become a slogan for the campaign. This compares favorably to the successful media campaign of eliminating body shaming for full figured women where many of us cannot relate because we are either male or are women that are not full figured.
Another successful television campaign was to elevate the image of the military after the controversial Vietnam War. "The few, the proud, the Marines" was a slogan that captured the nation's attention.
We should also highlight the potential commercial value of the senior population which is around $9 trillion in net assets. This staggering amount should capture the attention of business and government leaders.
There have been some positive steps in changing societal attitudes toward aging such as the portrayal of gray hair as powerful and beautiful in advertising. This has shifted the perception towards aging ever so slightly. Fundamental changes in societal attitudes towards aging need to be made to cope with the vulnerabilities of an increasingly aging society.
Under the direction of a leading commercial ad company, United We Age will initially release a series of television ads covering a number of subject areas that cast a positive light on senior citizens aging.
Elevate National Senior Citizen Day
Ever since President Ronald Reagan proclaimed August 21 as National Senior Citizens Day, the public has largely ignored the holiday. We need to raise awareness of this holiday by celebrating older Americans' contributions to their country and communities.
Endorsements from celebrities, business leaders and government leaders will increase our movement's visibility and encourage millions of people to get involved.
Create and produce a documentary on Aging in America exposing the harsh realities that too many older people and people with life-threatening disease live alone, in a forever young society that doesn't respect or revere older people.