Two mainstream media views–at variance–of marketing, technology for older adults

The writer experiences the dulling of senses that age can bring by wearing MIT’s AGNES simulation suit. He talks to Intel’s evangelist Eric Dishman, who laments our national lack of urgency on ‘gray tech’. AgeLab helps companies with products and services to understand what older adults want–not old people’s products, for one, but things that are well designed and are unobtrusive. By the end of the article, the writer conveys the problem, challenge and the business opportunities in doing so for this heterogeneous group–even touching on changing geriatric medical care to a more preventative model–with a fair amount of empathy and quality reporting. Ed. Steve’s Tina and Mick test, anyone? In a Graying Population, Business Opportunity [Hat-tip Victor Patterson]

The WSJ article, however, starts at a low level and augers in from there. The writer, obviously on snark patrol, headlines that companies are ‘retooling’ for profit on the premise ‘Baby boomers, famously demanding and rebellious, don’t want anyone suggesting they’re old.’ Those sneaky marketers are making design changes so boomers can read tiny type, creating new euphemisms, altering graphics and surreptitiously changing drugstores to not look like they have ‘old people’s sections’ and have…carpeting. (Well, golll–eee!) Not a jot about technology–not even cell phones–aside from implying that ADT’s Home Companion PERS has been renamed and customer service schooled in speech to not offend boomers who call (Ed. Donna worked with them in 2006, same name then)–not even mentioning that boomers are usually calling to get the device for their 80+ parents (just as they did in 2006). The faint sneer of stereotyping permeates both the article and the video–the ‘new oldsters’?? really??…and lots and lots about Depends. From Diapers to ‘Depends’: Marketers Discreetly Retool for Aging Boomers (Is this less offensive than the print edition headline: ‘How to Market to an Aging Boomer: Flattery, Subterfuge and Euphemism’?. You make the call. And read the comments to understand something about inter-generational conflict.)