Truth in Advertising?

The depiction of the 60+ crowd upset a lot of people, including me.

I’m not sure what happens to women over the age of 50, but we become a little obsessed with aging.

It’s not necessarily just our own aging process that interests us. We’re also interested in the age of other women we see on the street, in the supermarket, in the CVS drive-thru line, in ads and on the TV screen, wondering how old they are. Senior days at the supermarket are a particularly fertile time for this pastime: it’s interesting to see how many older women rock spandex leggings or pink streaks in their hair these days.

I don’t remember age being part of the equation when I was a “kid” in my 20s and 30s, but maybe it was always there waiting to be unleashed like the grey hair at my temples. People say one of the gifts of turning 50 is no longer caring what other people think of you. If that’s true, then so is looking at other women around your age and seeing how Father Time is treating them.

My first memory of making a point to Google an actor’s age is after a play at Long Wharf in New Haven that I attended with a few friends several years ago. The star of the show was a gorgeous actress with a killer body, but it was obvious that she was a mature woman. My friends and I debated her age, finally settling the debate with a few finger strokes on our trusty I-Phones. For the record, the woman was a few years younger than I was, but looked a helluva lot better than me. That’s OK. That’s not a high bar these days.

One of my pandemic obsessions is Googling people’s ages on my phone as I watch various shows, or should I say programs? I don’t much care how old men are – they’re merely a blip on my phone screen. But I’ll admit that I did a double take when I realized an old bald guy on a recent episode of “Magnum PI” was Corbin Bernsen. As an early fan of The Young & the Restless, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Corbin because he is the son of the late Jeanne Cooper, who played Katherine Chancellor for years.

I’d seen his name in the credits at the beginning of Magnum PI, and looked forward to seeing the hunky blond actor from “LA Law.” As I watched the show, I kept thinking, “Where’s Corbin?” It wasn’t until the end of the show that I realized that he was the old guy dying in a hospital bed. To be fair, the makeup people did a job on Corbin, making him look much older than his 66 years. He’s still a very attractive man. But it was hard seeing him as the old bald character actor rather than the gorgeous lead from his younger days. Maybe seeing him reminded me that I’m no longer the young woman I was when I was watching him rock that blond mane back in the ‘80s.

It’s nice when you look up a celebrity’s age and are pleasantly surprised that they’re holding up so well: Jane Fonda is 83, Lily Tomlin is 81, Helen Mirren is 75 and Christie Brinkley still looks great at 67. Of course, it’s possible a fair bit of work may be involved, but that’s OK. I’d never fault anyone for plastic surgery, though it’s not a route I plan to take (never say never). I only ask for honesty when plastic surgery is involved: please don’t tell the public you’re all natural when we all know you’re not.

Aging isn’t easy for any of us, and it doesn’t get any easier with each passing year. It’s hard to know what you look like to the outside world as you age, particularly with everyone wearing masks that cover troublespots like lined cheeks, sagging jowls, drooping chins and laugh lines. One of the most humbling experiences is catching a glimpse of myself in the camera at the self service checkout at Wal-mart and Big Y: I look quickly and then avert my eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding going out in public like this,” I think.

You’re having a pretty good day, and then you realize you’re on camera . . .

Though I’m not consumed with age, and realize that aging is a privilege, it’s hard to think of myself as looking like an old lady at 62. So it was with a mixture of amusement and horror that I looked at an age progression chart for the Keto Diet on Facebook. Each of the age groups features a depiction of women at different ages and what they can expect to look like on Keto. Everyone looks pretty good until you get to the woman in her 60s, who looks old from her head to her toes. 

I thought I was the only one who objected to this scary depiction of a frumpy if kindly looking old lady until a Facebook ad for Keto popped up in my feed this week. The responses came from around the world, with the consensus that we’ll all stick to our terrible diets if this is what awaits us:

“How about some new photos of over 60? one woman wrote.

“Wow, looking at how you depict women at certain ages. This is so off,” wrote another.

“My 83-year-old mother looks better than the example of the 60+ woman,” wrote another.  So does my 87-year-old mother, for that matter.

“If going on Keto means that I’ll lose my sense of style and look like this, I’ll stick to my current diet,” a 71-year-old woman wrote.

It was a relief that I wasn’t the only one who objected to the depiction in the 60+ age bracket. And people found other problems with the ad, from misspellings (stake instead of steak) to its lack of representation for men and minorities. Some people criticized the clothing, with one guy noting:

“I didn’t realize that age 40 was the age that Karens got their wings.”

Of course, most people commented on the diet, which was, after all, the point of the ad. But I think the comments about the 60+ woman’s appearance speaks to the importance of accurate branding. I know plenty of women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s who are in fantastic shape and stylish. Seeing how the 60+ crowd is depicted in the Keto ad is insulting because it’s not an accurate depiction. In fact, it will probably turn off more women than it will attract.

Maybe the ad people will get their act together and update the chart – we can always hope they come to their senses. In the meantime, there’s a bowl of pasta with my name on it.

23 thoughts on “Truth in Advertising?

  1. Ok…here’s the problem. Whatever the 60+ model looked like, someone was going to have a problem with it. If the person was thin, some would say it was body shaming. If they were stylish, others would say that it’s not an active representation of the “normal” 60+. There was no way the ad company was going to win this war. We also live in major metro areas. I’m guessing that if you compiled all the over 50 woman to come up with a true composite or average, the average 60+ woman would look like that. I know that when my NYC friends see pics of me with my non nyc friends, they say they notice the difference in style and such. No matter what, it’s hard to try to age people appropriately. Thought provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had this conversation about age checking a while back. I also check ages after I watch an actor or actress and so when I look up a Rob Lowe or Alfre Woodard and realize they are freaks of nature or vampires . . I find it both inspiring and daunting.

    A post-note. The individual I was discussing my Google habit with is in her thirties with nary a concern about the gray hair and wrinkles that haven’t yet made the scene. When I told her Rob Lowe was 57 she exclaimed “He’s that old?” I didn’t have an adequate comeback that wouldn’t have required a four letter word.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is funny when I saw the ad I never looked any further than the 50-60 age, seeing that I will turn 62 in a couple of months I guess maybe I am in denial. I thought back to when I got married 40 years ago, my mother was 61 at the time and since my son will be getting married this year I thought since I was around the same age I would compare myself to my mother. It made me feel a bit better and guilty at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s funny, because when I first clicked on your post, I looked at that ad and found myself (age 62) and thought, “hell no, that’s not me!” My mom, yes, but not me….. I think it’s hard to accept aging, but those kind of ads don’t help. There’s no right or wrong way to look, or to act, at a certain age. I have a friend who is 70 and looks 50, where as I look a bit older than I am due to eye bags and a saggy chin. But we’re both happy and healthy, which is what matters most!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think the chart goes off the rails starting at 40, to be honest. I’ll be 50 in three months, and I look nothing like the 40 or 50 version. I’m cool like that, I suppose. I kid. But seriously, no wonder everyone says, “you don’t look like you’re *insert age here*”. If that chart is what everyone goes off, it’s no wonder why.

    LOL at the comments left on the FB page.

    Liked by 1 person

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