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Commentary: Old people ads

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William Carter, columnist

William Carter is a retired longtime Franklin city employee and published author. He may be contacted at

Apparently, according to all of the commercials out there these days targeting only old people, no matter what they’re advertising, I’m supposed to be practicing Tai Chi in a park somewhere with a bunch of other old people, or tottering into the kitchen to interrupt my wife as she’s making soup for lunch, sweep her into my arms and slow dance with her, cheek to cheek, for no other reason than, I guess, to indicate how happy we are to be retired and having soup for lunch. 

Old people also play a lot of cards in these commercials, discuss disposable catheters with each other or admire the free, plastic water bottles we received for renewing our yearly memberships to AARP.  

Old people seem to like to admit, too, how terrified we all are of climbing ladders to clean out our gutters, which, if the ominous, underlying message of one particular, clog-free gutter ad is to be believed, is the second leading cause of death of the elderly, topped only by stress-related heart attacks from screaming at squirrels that are invading our bird feeders.   

I’ve also become aware that in most commercials depicting family gatherings, the old couple, wearing matching pastel sweaters, are generally sitting off to the side somewhere, quarantined, as if to protect the young ones from being tainted by age. I can’t help but notice, too, how hungrily me-maw and paw-paw seem to be eyeing all of the grandchildren flitting around those scripted backyard barbecues or Christmas morning festivities, as if their entire reason for being has been reduced to craving just a little bit of attention and affection from creatures who don’t even know their own address yet and who, more likely than not, still have a taste for boogers.   

Probably the most frustrating of these ads are the ones where an aging former television star stares into the camera and, with all of the sincerity a professionally trained, highly paid actor can muster, tells us that reverse mortgages are nothing to be afraid of, or that we’re a**holes if we don’t buy burial insurance so as not to be a burden on our loved ones when we die. Are we supposed to believe that gracefully aging, stylishly gray, multi-millionaire actor who probably pays someone to scream at the squirrels invading his bird feeders has a reverse mortgage on his mansion? Do any of us really think Mr. “I’m not really a doctor, but I played one on TV” actually relies on a 10% AARP discount to pay for his monthly blood pressure medication? Is this person’s “Aw, shucks” demeanor supposed invoke in us boomers images of simpler times when TV remotes were much less scary and complicated than they are now? I just don’t get it.   

It must be working, though, because, from what I’ve seen, there will be no end to commercials depicting the over-60 population as nothing more than a bunch of befuddled, old retired farts more concerned with osteoporosis and the rising cost of hearing aid batteries than for being the actual greatest buying force in the history of the world we truly are. And I wonder, as clever as people in the ad industry probably like to think they are, why no one has yet to figure it out.   

Not to alarm anybody, but people my age play video games, drink beer, eat Doritos, wear new clothes, watch the latest blockbuster movies and even upgrade our phones every once in a while. We’re also, for the most part, pretty content with where we are in our lives. Oh, and not to be gross, but old people still have sex, too. But one thing you hardly ever see in commercials is an older person throwing back a shot of tequila in a night club or sporting the trendiest headphones as they’re hunkered down in front of their PS5 shooting aliens or saving the world from Nazis. And you definitely won’t see a 60-second spot on television for lingerie from Victoria’s Secret targeting senior citizens because, God forbid, grandma just might be up for a little “wink, wink” in the bedroom when the lights go out.   

Here’s something else: Not everyone in their 60s and 70s is living a retired life of Riley and meeting up with other senior citizens in the park every morning for that round of Tai Chi, or getting excited about soup and afternoon naps. In fact, most of the people I know my age are still working because we have to, not because we want to. All of us have been affected by financial situations; all of us play our economic parts.   

Granted, I’m a whole hell of a lot slower than I used to be, and it’s a fact that if you catch me doing tequila shots in a night club, it’ll probably be before my 8 p.m. bedtime. It takes a while for me to get out of bed most days, and I also ache all the time, so I do actually pay attention to some of those painkiller commercials. And, I must admit, I do occasionally now think about the horrifying prospect of having to shop around for disposable catheters a few years down the road. But, still, I do wish sometimes the younger generation would stop thinking that all of us old geezers are doing nothing more than just sitting around wallowing in pension payments and waiting for our final reward. We’re a lot more active than I think some of you would like to believe.   

That’s my rant, and I’m sticking to it.   

As for right now, I’m trying to figure out if it’s worth the effort for me to bend over to tie my shoes, and, if so, if there’s anything else I can do while I’m down there.

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