E Jane Dickson: Image is important. But it isn't everything...

Respect for the elderly needs to go further than applause for celebrity facelifts

Share

We're none of us getting any younger. In fact, more of us are getting older. A glance at British demographics shows that half the population is now over 40, while 44 per cent fall into the over 50s age group. So, it should, I suppose, be cause for celebration that Twiggy, 55, is clambering back on to the catwalk to front Age Concern's campaign to combat "ageism" in advertising.

We're none of us getting any younger. In fact, more of us are getting older. A glance at British demographics shows that half the population is now over 40, while 44 per cent fall into the over 50s age group. So, it should, I suppose, be cause for celebration that Twiggy, 55, is clambering back on to the catwalk to front Age Concern's campaign to combat "ageism" in advertising.

Following a survey conducted by Age Concern, which showed that 74 per cent of people over 50 feel that advertising portrays them negatively while 74 per cent "cannot relate" to current ads, the charity is backing a drive to promote better awareness of this group.

"Older consumers want to see attractive older men and women advertising products aimed at them," says a spokesperson for the charity. Thus, Twiggy, the face that launched a thousand eating disorders back in the Sixties, has been relaunched as the (tautly) concerned face of older women who feel they're discriminated against by a beauty industry which insists on advertising anti-ageing creams with pictures of girls barely out of their teens.

"It is vital," says the newly politicised model-turned-actress, "that older people are treated equally as consumers of beauty products."

As emancipation campaigns go, it's not exactly up there with Emmeline Pankhurst and Rosa Luxemburg, but you can see what she means. Sort of.

Personally, I have never woken up in the morning crushed by the knowledge that I am inadequately advertised to. Indeed I am less irritated by images of flawless teenagers than I am by the smug harpy advertising RoC wrinkle cream who flashes her can-you-believe-it? smile at the camera and announces "I'm 44!". This may be because I am 43, and not in nearly as good nick, but there is a wider principle at stake.

On the heels of the Age Concern campaign, the picture files of almost every national newspaper have been raided for positive images of older women. Joan Collins (102? 103? Who knows Joanie's real age?), her face a rigid testimony to the mortician's art, is invariably wheeled out, as are the extensively nipped and tucked Anne Robinson, 60, and Sharon Osbourne, 52.

Now, to paraphrase Mrs Merton, what can be the beauty secret shared by these multi-millionairesses? I'm thrilled to learn that Mrs Osbourne's £120,000 face-and-body lift was a matter of "self-esteem and empowerment", but I'm not sure how it's supposed to make the rest of us, who are guilty spending more than £20 on a jar of face cream, feel better about ourselves.

Still, there's no arguing with an acronym: Marks & Spencer, keen to plug the marketing gap between thongs and winceyette bloomers, has come up with Disco (Discerning, of Increasing Years, Stylish and Comfortably Off) woman. I'm wondering if there's another niche in the marketing structure, for unreconstructed Dogs (Discerning, Of increasing years, Grinding their teeth in exasperation) - women who are fed up with being told there's nothing wrong with being old, as long as you don't look it.

It is true that there is an expanding market of affluent baby boomers in the Western world, possibly the first generation of over-50s who are more inclined to spend than to save. Age Concern, naturally, looks to the rights of these consumers - the charity wants to see unfair "age barriers" lifted in respect of loans, car hire, travel insurance etc - and I suspect that, as the demographic reality begins to bite, businesses will give older customers the respect their finances deserve.

But the elderly are a widely disparate economic group; while advertisers seek ever more sensitive ways to relieve affluent over-50s of their money, the less affluent elderly are living in conditions that are the shame of Europe.

Two million - one in five - British pensioners are currently living in poverty.

Public provision of care homes has all but disappeared and a whole new consumer group with little in the way of choice, much less respect, has been created as old people are forced to pay their life savings for frequently inadequate private care. It's horrible to think how quickly the "active consumer" cited in "grey power" rhetoric becomes tragically passive - another figure on another balance sheet.

It's even more horrible to consider an estimated 7-10 per cent of old people in Britain are subject to abuse - that's not being offended by inappropriate advertising, but actual physical, emotional and financial abuse. I've always admired Maurice Chevalier's stylish assertion that "old age is better than the alternative". Unfortunately, for many British pensioners, that may no longer be true.

Respect for the elderly needs to go further than applause for celebrity facelifts. The 55-year-old Twiggy (who, for the record, has yet to go under the knife) is lovely, but she's no more representative of her generation now than she was at 16 and her "positive image" campaign seems to me indicative of a culture obsessed by cosmetics.

Image is important. But - the older we get, the more most people realise - it isn't everything.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Rohingya migrants in a boat adrift in the Andaman Sea last week  

Burma will regret shutting its eyes to the fate of the Rohingya boat people

Peter Popham
New BBC series Britain's Hardest Grafter seems to be tapping into the 'poverty porn' trend started by C4's Benefits Street  

'Benefits Street' meets 'The Hunger Games' is a new low for the BBC

Alice Jones
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor