AARP is aiming to disrupt aging.
The nonprofit organization that advocates for older Americans is spearheading a multi-year initiative to get brands, ad agencies, and designers to shift away from the stereotypical portrayals of aging adults. In other words, AARP wants to make turning 50 and joining the ranks of a senior set whose ranks are estimated to be around 110 million look cooler. Because many of them are, and that’s just not reflected in the media.
So it made sense to start with a partnership with Getty Images, one of the largest repositories of stock photos in the world with some 300 million assets. The company has seen an uptick in searches for seniors among its images, reporting a rise of 151% in the last year alone.
The problem is that this group is underrepresented in the media. An AARP analysis of over 1,000 images, found that while nearly half (46%) of the U.S. adult population is over 50, they’re only in about 15% of media imagery. The images that do show older adults portray individuals as socially isolated or otherwise dependent, and not often in a work setting. This despite the fact that one in three people in the U.S. labor force is 50 and older.
Rebecca Swift, PhD, the global head of creative insights at Getty Images, says that the selection process for the Disrupt Aging Collection, tells Fast Company that the selection process was rigorous to ensure that there was a range of subject matter for people in their 50s, 60s,70s, 80s, 90s, and 100s. “We then made sure we covered leisure, business, family, education, and travel,” she explains, “But we also took steps to ensure that we pulled out images that are all at once less expected and more active.”
Shifting stereotypes, the Disrupt Aging Collection includes pictures of same-sex couples and grandparents taking active roles in family gatherings. There are images depicting work, fitness, and dating as well. “The models in this Collection aren’t all dressed in beige, and their lives aren’t beige, either,” Swift notes.
The overarching goal in creating more inclusive images, ads, and campaigns is to target a lucrative and growing market. According AARP’s Longevity Economy 2016 report, people 50 and older generate $7.6 trillion in annual economic activity. And it’s only growing from there. By 2032–when the oldest millennials turn 50–this market is expected to drive more than half of the U.S. gross domestic product.