all of the selves we Have ever been
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,
as cases surged, government and health officials continued to believe they could harness the energy of youth and youthful feelings of invulnerability by pleading with young people to stay home and save old people from the coronavirus.
Let’s get real. Young people don’t go to crowded
bars to drink to the health of senior citizens.
The public has been confronted with horror stories about droves of older adults dying in nursing homes. Many young people, and some not so young, don’t know anyone living in a skilled nursing facility. Some folks believe that older adults go to nursing homes to die, so what’s the big deal? With all of the focus on frailty and “underlying conditions,” the picture painted is one of aging citizens about to tip over the edge at any moment. Why shut down the economy for such a hopeless cause? Never mind that 42 is the median age of COVID-19 cases in my state of Ohio.
Advertising adds to the misperceptions of older adulthood. If most of your education about aging comes from television, what is a person to believe about the quality of life and the value of seniors?
Let’s take a look. Turn on your televisions sets. Stop with the Pilates and pay attention.
Senior citizens watch a lot of television and are big consumers of cable TV services. Cable? Yes, cable. How quaint. Didn’t cable go out of style along with typewriters and rabbit ears? How can you take someone seriously who doesn’t stream?
“Active” seniors are depicted out in the park walking their dogs. The really hip grandparents are busy snapping smartphone photographs of their pets and sending three of those pictures each day to their grandchildren. What a full life! Really groovy grandparents might work part-time and still manage to walk a couple of miles twice a week, but the fact that they can still concentrate and remember their names is due to brain-preserving over-the-counter medications.
And speaking of medications…how many erectile dysfunction advertisements do you think a child sees in the years from preschool through college? Is it any wonder young people can’t imagine adults with intimate relationships and full lives? Based on advertising, a viewer might believe the number one problem facing older adults is sexual dysfunction.
And why would senior citizens care about sex when they are the subject of so much advertising for arthritis pain relievers, heart disease remedies, and diabetes medications? How about those sexy ads for bladder and bowel leakage products? If you were a teen, wouldn’t you rather die from COVID-19 than humiliation?
Body and mind problems aside, older adults fall and they can’t get up. When the ads come on, they take notes about term life insurance, reverse mortgages, and pre-paid funeral services. None of those products implies a future.
Add to the regular diet of product advertising, more recent election campaign ads zeroed in on helpless seniors. How about the one in which an older woman, one with a landline, is trying to call 9-1-1 while an intruder with a crow bar breaks through her front door? Of course, the police have been defunded and the woman’s call goes unanswered. The intruder enters her home and the phone falls to the floor.
The media paint a pathetic portrait of growing older in America. Most of the sad images are of women. Now I don’t expect to overturn the developmental processes of youth and the accompanying lack of insight about aging and responsibility to elders, but I would like to see more images of the men and women that I know. Show me the seniors who stream, run marathons, and direct corporations. Let me see some sexy women on Mediterranean diets with robust health and a string of boyfriends. Give me a gal who comes to her own defense, tripping the intruder with her running shoes, clobbering him with her hand weights, and tying him up with her shoe laces. Show me the lives of the older people that I know, lives with a quality that even a teen can deem worth saving. Then we can all meet at a bar and drink to that!