Image is important. But it isn't everything ...

Share
Related Topics
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 pounds 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 pounds 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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
King Abdullah made Saudi Arabia prosperous but had absolute disregard for what liberal Westerners would view as basic human rights  

The media cannot ignore tricky questions when someone dies - but it must stick to the facts

Will Gore
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us