Which older women inspire the over 50s?

When the media go in search of inspirational older women for their cover images and interviews, it does tend to be the same faces coming back on a regular basis. Mostly they are well-known for their long-standing places in the entertainment business.

But a recent survey shows that inspirational stories come from a far broader community. Alongside the well-known and well-rehearsed stories of the likes of Judi Dench, Mary Berry and Joanna Lumley, there are leading lights from politics, academia, campaigning, health, sport, and the Royal Family.

The poll was carried out amongst users of the website Look Fabulous Forever. The company says that the survey shows how much life is left for women past the age of 60, and that careers can still flourish past retirement age. While the site focuses on the over 50s woman, the company argues that these women provide inspiration for all ages.

It is very interesting to note that many of these women have had diverse careers. Some have achieved fame and then used that to drive campaigning on subjects that are close to their hearts. Dame Esther Rantzen is a great example – a TV presenter who has gone on to create and promote the Childline and Silverline charities. Others have built on a first career to take up a second, with Sue Barker as a good example of a sportsperson turned presenter.

Why is this important?

The fact that the poll has listed 60 living older women as role models suggest that those who want to appeal to the mature market should be looking further than the same faces and voices. And that while stars of stage and screen are more often in the public eye and therefore more recognisable, the list of inspiring women covers many walks of life.

Who are the inspiring women?

Featured in the top 60 list are (with many of those featured spanning several of my rather arbitrary categories):

  • TV, film and radio: Dame Judi Dench – 86, Joanna Lumley OBE – 74, Dame Julie Walters – 70, Meryl Streep – 71, Dame Lesley Lawson (Twiggy) – 71, Sandi Toksvig – 62, Oprah Winfrey – 67, Alison Steadman OBE – 74, Angela Rippon CBE – 76, Dame Maggie Smith – 86, Dame Jenni Murray – 70, Baroness Floella Benjamin – 71, Dame Helen Mirren – 75, Lorraine Kelly CBE – 61, Anne Reid MBE – 85, Dame Sheila Hancock – 87
  • Music: Dolly Parton – 75, Annie Lennox OBE – 66, Dame Shirley Bassey – 84, Carole King – 79, Tina Turner – 81
  • Politics: Baroness Betty Boothroyd – 91, Caroline Lucas MP – 60, Angela Merkel – 66, Baroness Shirley Williams – 90, Theresa May MP – 64, Harriet Harman QC MP – 70, Baroness Helena Kennedy – 70
  • Public life: Dame Cressida Dick – 60
  • Health: Professor Wendy Savage – 85, Dr Jenny Harries OBE – 62, Edith Eger – 93, Jane Scullion
  • Science: Dame Jane Goodall – 86, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell – 77
  • Academia: Dame Mary Beard – 66, Germaine Greer – 82,
  • Authors: Dame Hilary Mantel – 68, Dame Jacqueline Wilson – 75, Chi Chi Nwanoku OBE – 64, Margaret Atwood – 81
  • Religion: Rose Hudson-Wilkin MBE – 60
  • Horticulture: Carol Klein – 75, Bunny Guinness – 65
  • Food: Prue Leith CBE – 80, Dame Mary Berry – 85, Delia Smith CBE – 79,
  • Campaigner: Dame Esther Rantzen – 80, Baroness Doreen Lawrence – 71, Dame Joan Bakewell – 87
  • Sport: Lady Mary Peters, Jayne Torvill OBE – 63, Billie Jean King – 77, Sue Barker OBE – 64, Sister Madonna Buder – 90
  • Fashion: Zandra Rhodes CBE – 80, Dame Vivienne Westwood – 79
  • Royalty: Queen Elizabeth II – 94, HRH Princess Anne – 70, Duchess of Cornwall – 73

In case you’re interested

I’ve just reviewed a few of the products from Look Fabulous Forever on the Whey They Get Older blog.

Why mobility should be a beautiful thing

It must be at least 15 years ago that my folk art painting teacher appeared at class with a walking stick that she had decorated for a friend.

Gone was the boring brown. Instead she’d background painted the cane in a mint green, and then covered it with delicate daisies of white, yellow and blue.

It was gorgeous.

It was also pretty unusual.

Since then I’ve noticed good-looking creeping onto similar products on sale at National Trust shops and the RHS, for example. Places where people who enjoy life but need a little help might choose to visit.

It seems to have been a long time coming, but according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, designers and start-ups are now realising the value of aesthetics alongside practicality for a gently ageing population.

The news service found businesses on both sides of the Atlantic turning their attention to mobility helpers that are lighter, more manageable, and good looking.

Why? It’s partly because the end-user experience has become core to learning design. And also because the group of consumers classed as ‘older’ or ‘less mobile’ are getting on the internet and searching out what they want to own, rather than what other people think they should own. So they want something that’s a pleasure to own and use, and can be a talking point for social contact.

Whether it’s a walking cane, a walker, or another mobility helper, the people who are buying are more discerning and demanding than a generation ago. They are also regularly charged with in many cases being the owners of high disposable incomes. No wonder there’s a growing number of ventures willing to invest in a more beautiful lifestyle for longer lifetimes.

Mature audiences care about words

The language we use to talk to our audiences can make or break our credibility.

And with the disposable income of the over 50s calculated to be a significant catch, it’s worth taking time to think about the right words.

The BBC recently asked its audience about the language that they didn’t like. This was followed up in a major social media group, who identify as Radio 4 listeners who aren’t all middle-aged. (But they probably are.) A vast generalisation is that this audience is reasonably well educated, and while accepting that language evolves, still want ‘good’ English from communicators, that’s not simply a stream of buzz words.

Here are a few of the terms that were mentioned repeatedly as enough to throw your radio out of the window. If they excite that much wrath, they won’t be working to the good in your marketing communications either.

Going forward. First example of an unnecessary complication. Just because it’s used everywhere doesn’t make it right.

So … I’m guilty of this one, but it drives others nuts. Starting sentences, or even completely new topics, with ‘So’ is a habit that can get far too much.

Pre-book, pre-order, pre-prepare. My contribution. Who decided to put that pre- on verbs that are perfectly adequate as they stand? It annoys me enough that if a theatre or bookshop invites me to pre-anything, I don’t on principle, even if I want to. (We mature people can be like that.)

Very unique. It either is or it isn’t.

Quite unique. See above.

Was stood. Was sat. This is the passive voice. That means if I was sat, someone else has sat me there. Otherwise I was sitting. People like me do get very exercised over this, and it doesn’t matter that it’s ubiquitous and the argument is that it should therefore be accepted. It hurts when we see it written down. Admittedly, this does also come under the heading of regional differences, which is a completely different matter.

The verbing of nouns. (See what I did there?) As someone pointed out, ‘medalling’ seemed to become a word at the 2012 Olympics. Now the practice is everywhere, and we don’t like it.

Low hanging fruit. Just one example of phrases that get thrown in without deep thought, and therefore is seen as lazy. It’s also verging on marketing speak, which we don’t want in our consumer communications, thank you very much.

Room 101. Like ‘low hanging fruit’ it’s a contagious phrase that has spread everywhere. Other examples are available.

World beating. Dislike of this one is a criticism of a certain type of politician who thinks all of life is a competition. The danger of anyone else using the term is guilt by association.

World class. I come across this regularly in B2B marketing. Not anywhere as bad is ‘word beating’, but what does it actually mean?

Killer app. What do they kill?

Off of. Uggh.

Literally. Regularly used when the writer means anything but literally. I literally laughed my head off.

Challenges. I was quite surprised that this offended some. We talk about ‘challenges’ in B2B marketing because no one wants to talk about ‘problems’. I have been in the business long enough to remember when IBM said there are no such things as problems, only opportunities. I have no idea if people believed them.

It is hard to use the language of a group of people to which you don’t belong. I do understand. I struggled with writing for millennials on a car insurance project, and had to call on help from some current 20+ friends to take the patronising out of the copy.

It’s important to get the tone right for any audience. Mature consumers can be a demanding bunch, so checking your communications meet their approval is a worthwhile task.

Read more of my thoughts on copywriting for businesses of every size.

Visit my website for families with older relatives and friends.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin from Pexels.

Do you need over 50s marketers to reach an over 50s audience?

This is a question that’s turned up in an excellent article in Marketing Week about marketing to the over 50s.

The piece covers much of the ground that I’ve discussed before.

  1. The over 50s is a massively broad general category that encompasses many tastes and often two generations in a single family
  2. Even if you narrow the age group, the interests of that group are still wide and various, and not tied to their age
  3. When people hit 50, some may be interested in ads for funeral plans and stair lifts, but most don’t see any relevance to their lives.

The extra question that Marketing Week poses is whether you need people with experience of being over 50 to understand the audience sufficiently to market successfully to them.

This is a really good question, but are we just going down the same path as those who lump all “older people” into one category?

The respondents in the article took the view that interests and experience are more important than age in marketing.

I think that’s true of marketers too. What we, the aforesaid over 50s need, is people with understanding and a positive attitude.

Let’s take understanding, and break down the market. If you take a group of people who, say, have no dependents, but are still gainfully employed, can a marketer predict what their spending priorities will be? Saving for retirement and care home fees? Conspicuous expenditure on quality living? And can you do that for multiple groups of people over 50? Surveys help, and some businesses have been at pains to research the market effectively.

Then there’s attitude, and this is where I think marketing can come undone. I remember, in my first major freelance copywriting gig, being asked to recruit a video expert, and my client expressing absolute horror that I had found someone with white hair. It’s a very unsubtle example of something that is pervasive in many organisations. Young is good, intelligent, adaptable etc etc. Older is dull, uninspiring, inflexible, unadmired. It’s not obvious everywhere, but it’s there enough for it to spill into marketing campaigns addressing those so uncool older people.

My view, then, is that you don’t need to be over 50 to market to the over 50s, any more than you need to be a small child to market to small children. But an open mind and a desire to understand without prejudice are vital.

Photo by ieva swanson on Unsplash

The grannies are grumbling – and who can blame them?

paper bags near wall

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Gransnet has just produced a report citing what people over 50 know – but many marketers are still failing to grasp. “Mature” consumers are not one step from the grave and only thinking about recliner chairs, funeral plans and who’s going to get the money when they’re gone.

We over 50s don’t come as an homogenous lump. In reality we’re probably more varied as a generation as any other. We’re interested in what’s on offer, but we don’t blindly follow fashion trends to fit in. Many of us have more disposable income than at any other time in our lives.

And for many of us, we have dropped the responsibilities of caring first for children and then older relatives, and we are free to spend our time and our money where we want to.

All that begs the question, why do we feel so dismissed? According to some of the respondents of the Gransnet survey, it’s because the younger marketers simply don’t understand this market.

Does your marketing take account of the growing number of over 65s?

Customer service feedback

When I encourage businesses to take account of an ageing population to boost their success, I’m not talking about getting rich quick from a captive audience.

What I believe businesses in any area should be doing is understanding the changing marketplace and making adjustments accordingly.

Take going online. There are around 4.5 million over-65s in the UK who are not online. Why? They may not have the skills, they’re very rightly worried about security, or they may struggle with the dexterity, vision or memory that makes online shopping, banking or using any services difficult. Or, like my dad, they may simply refuse to go any further than an electric typewriter.

So financial institutions, retailers, utilities and more can go one of three ways. They can ignore the changes in the shape of their market. They can take an opportunity (as many are already doing) to make more money by charging more for offline transactions and argue that they are simply covering costs.

Or they can take a hard look at how they interact with their market and make adjustments to win more share through a better experience for all. It’s a losing strategy to assume that everyone of any importance has a mobile phone and a Facebook account, or is even internet-enabled. More worthwhile is to think about which channels work best for different segments of the population. Which messages are most relevant to this growing older audience? How can you demonstrate that you are a credible provider while protecting your customers from those who seek to steal and destroy?

We’re always talking about the customer experience and how customers expect the best. Older people deserve the best too, and that’s a long-term strategy for businesses who want to stay around and build their reputation wisely.



Getting blog contributions right for the mature market

blogTwo weeks ago a slightly strange thing happened to me while I was wearing my hat as editor of When They Get Older.

Someone contacted me on behalf of a bingo company with a suggestion for an article. It was to be based around an app they were offering to help youngsters get to grip with numbers.

I ignored it because I genuinely don’t have the time to deal with time wasters. He hadn’t looked at our site obviously. Just gone on the name. When They Get Older isn’t about children. It’s about ageing friends and relatives. The clue’s in the  couple of hundred articles we’ve already published.

The even stranger thing is that a week later he chased me up to find out if I was interested in his article. Fortunately I’m not an aggressive person. But he does now know what he was doing wrong.

Over the course of my editorship of print and digital magazines and blogs I’ve come across many would-be authors and content providers who are excellent at proposing articles.

And some that verge on the excruciatingly weird.

So if you want to get your articles around the ageing population published by high-quality sites, here are a few tips.

  1. Know the audience. See above
  2. Know what the site has already published and find something new
  3. If you can’t find a new topic, find a new angle
  4. Say something useful. If you’re representing a company that works in this market, tap into their internal knowledge to provide real insights
  5. Propose a few ideas to let the editor choose
  6. Give it a week before chasing
  7. Use a writer who can interview your experts and write well – and brief them about the audience and style of the blog
  8. Make it a really interesting article and don’t fill it with product puffs that the editor will just take out again
  9. Proofread before you send it to the editor – to show how much you care. Mostly people do. But I have also received cut and shunt articles that range from first person casual to third person formal without taking a breath and are full of typos and grammatical errors
  10. Offer some really good images. Don’t start me on the use of images of hands to illustrate articles about older people. Much better to find an original image about your particular subject

Really, it’s all about being exceedingly helpful to the editor by taking on the chores that they would otherwise have to do. That, and remembering the audience.

Good luck.