ICAA warns consumers to beware of graywashing

Vancouver, BC (PRWEB) June 07, 2011

Boomers and their parentsuntil recently viewed as virtually non-existent by many marketersare fast becoming coveted customers. People age 50 and above have over 2 trillion dollars in their wallets1–and many have few qualms about spending that money to maintain an active lifestyle. Indeed, this burgeoning demographic spent 79 billion dollars in 2009 on products and services that claim to slow the aging process2despite the fact that most of those products and services dont deliver what they claim to, says Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA).

Companies increasingly are recognizing the spending power of older adults, and targeting them in advertising. Some are doing this responsibly, as part of an overall approach that acknowledges aging as a normal process that happens to everyone, Milner states. Others are simply jumping on the bandwagon, positioning their products as appropriate for an older demographic when, in fact, they arentor coming up with products that allegedly combat aging, as though theres something about getting older that needs fixing. Either way, the consumer loses.

Milner has coined the word graywashing to refer to the act of misleading consumers regarding any purported age-associated benefits of a product or service.

Similar to greenwashing,3 graywashing gives older-adult consumers a false sense of security by positioning a product or service as uniquely beneficial to them, Milner explains. Consider a health club that wants to attract more members. The club sets up a senior discount that allows older adults to use the club during off-peak hours at a reduced rate. However, the clubs services and offerings remain the samegeared to a younger population. Putting the word senior in front of a discount or program doesnt automatically make it suitable for older people.4

Graywashing also perpetuates ageist stereotypes and self-stereotyping, Milner continues. Products that claim to make you look 20 years younger instantly, for example, are a waste of money–and theyre promoted on the assumption that theres something wrong with the way you look now. The companies that market them treat older adults as though theyre damaged goods, reinforcing the erroneous belief that aging equals illness and decline.

Older adults themselves are not the only ones at risk of being graywashed, Milner notes. Young people may buy greeting cards for their parents or grandparents that they think are appropriate, when in fact those cards use humor that demeans or trivializes an older person and reinforces negative stereotypes, he says.

To avoid being graywashed, Milner offers the following tips:

Understand that no pill or procedure will stop you from aging, no matter what anyone claims to the contrary.

Ask yourself if an expensive anti-wrinkle cream or cosmetic surgery will make you feel better about the way you look, or if lifestyle changes such as getting more rest and eating a balanced diet can make you feel better–and look better, as well.

Before enrolling in a fitness or seniors center, ask for a tour. Do you see people like yourself engaged in activities that interest you? If not, look for a club or group geared to your interest, not your age.

Does a product claimwhether its for energy, brain boosting, weight loss, getting rid of age spots, or some other purpose–sound too good to be true? If so, it probably iswhy throw away your money?

The signs and consequences of graywashing will be explored in greater detail on the ICAAs Changing the Way We Age

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