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Erickson’s ‘Really Living’

Bold new ad campaign challenges stereotypes with residents living life to the fullest

Created date

August 9th, 2010

Have you seen the television commercial for Snickers candy bars? A group of young men in their 20s are playing football with none other than 88-year-old actress Betty White. Grouchy and off her game, White takes a bite of a Snickers bar and magically transforms into a young man. Meanwhile, another player is losing steam. Guess what? He s Abe Vigoda. [caption id="attachment_13470" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Marian and Leroy Jenkins get a final touch-up before the cameras start rolling. (Photos by Zach Cheney)"][/caption] The commercial is supposed to be funny but at whose expense? The underlying message is clear: Older equals less fun and less able. Despite the fact that Americans are generally living longer and healthier lives, the media continue to present the older generation in an unfavorable light. Ageism is pervasive in our culture perhaps because unlike other stereotypes, such as race or gender, age is something that everyone may experience. Ageism, or a negative attitude toward older people, seems ingrained in Western culture. It s definitely a cultural thing, says Todd Nelson, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at California State University. What research has shown is that as Asian cultures become more Westernized and adopt the values of Western societies, they also adopt ageism and age prejudice. [caption id="attachment_13472" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Alva Holcombe enjoys a break during the commercial shoot."][/caption] Stereotypes are damaging because they tend to reinforce a negative view of certain groups. Over time, these stereotypes start to define a group of people and can influence legislation, social services, and employment. It also impacts the way people see themselves.

Fighting back

How to combat those stereotypes? Nelson says, If we see older people doing things we don t expect them to do, it makes people reconsider what s possible. Older people see that and they might feel freer to violate what s called age grading or what society sets as acceptable age-appropriate behaviors. In direct opposition to the status quo,Erickson Livingis rolling out a new advertising campaign giving television viewers a decidedly non-stereotypical view of the older generation. The Really Living campaign focuses on actual residents ofErickson Living communities; people who are living life to the fullest. They perform in shows, they enjoy time with friends, they create television programs, and they work on environmental projects. These people are leading vibrant lives in every sense of the word.

Residents speak out

Alva Holcombe ofMaris Grovein Glen Mills, Pa., is one of the residents profiled in the new campaign. She says that stereotypes definitely impacted her at one time. The way I looked at aging ten years ago was different from the way I looked at it five years ago, and the way I look at it now is totally different because I m living it. The people here are living a life of opportunities, doing things that break that stereotype. [caption id="attachment_13471" align="alignright" width="280" caption="Evelyn and Al Jacobs on the set of the Really Living commercial shoot at Maris Grove in Glen Mills, Pa."][/caption] Evelyn Jacobs, another resident ofMaris Grovewho participated in the ad campaign, says there was a time when she too was influenced by stereotypes. I really never thought I would be this happy at this time in my life, she says. Boy, was I wrong. There s so much to do and our circle of friends has grown. I m busier than ever. Bill Sperry, a resident ofCedar Crestin Pompton Plains, N.J., is a retiree who put his engineering background to use by helpingCedar Crestmodify its shuttle buses to run on cooking oil from the campus restaurants. Why did Sperry want to be a part of the Really Living campaign? I think it s important to show potential residents what they can do and how active they can be on anEricksoncampus, he says. Marian Jenkins ofLinden Pondsin Hingham, Mass. is shown in the commercials working in theLinden PondsTV station with her husband Leroy. Just because you re retired doesn t mean you have to sit down, she says. I think we project that. And when I say we, I m referring to all the people who live here. I think it s crucial that other seniors see that. Marian s husband concurs. I ve come toLinden Pondsto continue on with my life, he says, learn new careers, try new things, be active, be creative. Being a part of the TV commercial gave me a chance to express myself and all the things I am involved with to show people what their possibilities are. Of course, the Really Living campaign was created to get people interested inErickson Living communities. But the commercials will reach far more people than just those who will choose to live at anErickson Living community. For everyone else, the simple message that older adults are as vibrant and fun loving as any one else should make some headway in knocking down existing stereotypes. As Al Jacobs, who appears in the ads with his wife, Evelyn, says, Just being a part of this commercial has been an opportunity for us to give the general public a new image of retirement communities and the people who live in them. Editor s note: Erickson Living s television commercials will be airing over the next several weeks in most major markets on both network and cable channels. httpv://