In today’s society, we’re flooded with negative messages and images about what it means to age and to be an older person. We are constantly exposed to stereotypes that show older adults through a lens of decline and diminished value, emphasizing the “burdens” of growing old. In North America, we seldom hear about the value of older adults, or the rich, untapped potential of an aging population. We don’t see enough portrayals of active older adults who are taking on new challenges, expanding their knowledge and skills base, or working tirelessly to help others. The result? Our views of aging are distorted.


ICAA’s Changing the Way We Age® Campaign is taking action to overturn stereotypes and encourage more positive, realistic views of aging. This campaign, spearheaded by the International Council on Active Aging®, will shift society’s perceptions of aging.


What is the focus of the campaign?

The focus is to inform the media, marketers, families and individuals about the untapped human potential associated with aging. As it stands now, older people are told (and therefore tell themselves) on a regular basis that they’re too old to engage in many life-affirming activities that contribute to society, such as working or going back to work if they wish; gaining new knowledge; learning new activities; and being physically active. This simply is not true for most people.


Despite having years of job experience, older adults are not valued by the companies they work for; despite having high disposable incomes in many cases, they are not perceived as valuable to marketers. This means that companies are overlooking important human resources, wasting marketing dollars, and losing sales.


There is something seriously wrong with this picture. So why does it exist?


In many cases, society’s perceptions of aging focus on decline and diminished value. These negative views can create low expectations of aging that extend into all areas of life—from the workplace to healthcare to leisure activities—and have an impact on how society and older people view this stage of life. By changing views and expectations of aging, the ICAA campaign will help society manage population aging better, and promote a new, more vibrant and meaningful vision of aging. This is ICAA’s vision.


ICAA has been changing the way we age for the past 10 years, as this is ICAA’s mission. The new campaign represents an expansion of that mission with specific initiatives, guidelines and resources aimed at marketers, businesses, individuals and families—and in partnership with organizations committed to overturning aging stereotypes and demonstrating the value, at every level, of promoting active aging.


What are the components of the campaign?

ICAA’s Changing the Way We Age® Campaign is multipronged. This campaign has two streams: Rebranding aging, focused on the media and marketers; and ICAA Champions, focused on older adults and youth. The campaign’s objectives, and the steps to take to realize them, are as follows:


Media and marketers objective: Rebranding aging

We use the term “rebranding” because it resonates with marketers and the media. These professions, like many others, have been slow to respond to the needs, dreams, desires, capabilities and expectations of burgeoning numbers of older people. In fact, the majority of adults over age 55 feel that advertising does not reflect their current lifestyle, and they are turned off by marketing messages targeted to them. To address this issue, ICAA will:


Create an ongoing public relations campaign that highlights the untapped human potential of an aging population and the opportunities it represents for society—for example, volunteerism, intergenerational and peer education, new ideas and businesses.


Identify, create and share communications guidelines that more effectively reach people 50 years and older. The guidelines will encourage the media and marketers to provide a more realistic and complete picture of what it means to become and be old in North America.


Create a clearinghouse for best practices, guidelines, resources, images and references for use by the media and industry.


Provide presentations, best practices and research to show business leaders, associations and organizations that many older adults lead full lives. This reality has significant implications for a company’s bottom line and how it markets products and services to this population.


Older-adult objectives: Change expectations, increase societal participation

ICAA and partners will select a team of ICAA Champions from among their customers and staff who can take on the role of educator and role model in local communities.


These individuals will visit community-based organizations to educate and inform staff about how rethinking the way we age can help everyone age better. They will also inspire older adults and counter stereotyping by encouraging customers to live their lives to the fullest.


ICAA will create an information portal to support the outreach needs of ICAA Champions, from campaign how-to-guides and PowerPoint presentations and posters.


Youth objective: Add new meaning to “old school cool”

This campaign will give ICAA Champions and partners the opportunity to encourage more positive expectations of aging among youth through exposure to positive role models.


One of the ICAA Champions deliverables will be charging individuals to earn their Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA). ICAA Champions will also participate in support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move! initiative,” which provides opportunities for intergenerational events that build relationships between youth and older people. For more information on the PALA, please visit: www.millionpalachallenge.org


How can I get involved?

ICAA has several levels of involvement. If your organization is interested in becoming an ICAA’s Changing the Way We Age® Campaign partner, or you would like to learn more about the campaign, please email colinmilner@icaa.cc, or call 866-335-9777 (toll-free) or 604-734-4466. If you are interested in volunteering as an ICAA Champion, please email: champions@icaa.cc


I live outside the United States and Canada. Can I still participate?

Right now, ICAA is rolling out the campaign in North America. However, ICAA would also like to hear from potential partner organizations and champions from around the world. If you are interested in becoming an ICAA’s Changing the Way We Age® Campaign partner outside of North America, please email colinmilner@icaa.cc or call ICAA headquarters in Canada at 604-734-4466. If you are interested in volunteering as an ICAA Champion, please email: champions@icaa.cc. ICAA Champions from around the world may contribute through blogs, social media and other Web-based media.


Note: Members of the media can learn more by emailing ICAA CEO Colin Milner at colinmilner@icaa.cc, or calling 866-335-9777 (toll-free) or 604-734-4466. Please also visit the media section of the ICAA website, www.icaa.cc