ICAA’s communications guidelines show how to reach 50 plus


International Council on Active Aging CEO urges media, marketers, public relations and health professionals to promote a more realistic and comprehensive picture of older adults in North America


VANCOUVER, BC (June 22, 2011)--- Is there a single word, phrase, or image to describe the population of people 50 years and older? The short answer is, no. No single word, phrase, or image can possibly describe the diversity of the more than 55 million people ages 50-64 and the 40.2 million people ages 65 and older living in the United States, or the millions living in every other country.


However, some words and images are more appropriate than others. They are less likely to reinforce ageist stereotypes and more likely to appeal to educated consumers. “Instead of ‘geezer’ or ‘codger,’ think ‘people ages 50 and older’ or ‘people in midlife,’” advises International Council on Active Aging CEO Colin Milner. “Instead of trying to sell ‘slushies’ featuring a cartoonish, pejorative image of an older adult,* sell your product on its merits, and include older adults—in well-kept, contemporary attire—among the people who are enjoying it.”


Part one of ICAA’s communications guidelines are posted in the “Rebranding Aging” section of ICAA’s Changing the Way We Age® Campaign website at www.changingthewayweage.com. Aimed especially at media and marketers, the guidelines include  words and phrases to avoid and/or use sparingly, and appropriate substitutions; image recommendations; and strategies to use when preparing materials for older adults.


Among the key points:

  • Effective messages appeal to a life stage, need or interest—not a chronological age.

  • “Old” words (such as retirement) have new meanings that must be defined.

  • Avoid clichés and be careful with humor.

  • Forget “anti-aging”—since we start aging from the moment we’re born, the issue is not to oppose aging; it’s to live as well as possible through all the ages in a life span.

“Language and imagery evolve with society,” Milner observes. “Society is constantly changing as new knowledge, technologies and philosophies surface. Likewise, the concept of aging is expanding and changing as our current older population demonstrates its many facets and contributions. We need new words, phrases, and images to both attract this population as customers, and portray them accurately across media.”


The release of ICAA’s communications guidelines is part of the organization’s recently launched Changing the Way We Age® Campaign, which focuses on shifting society’s perceptions of aging, and taking action to overturn stereotypes and encourage more positive, realistic views of aging.


About the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA)
The International Council on Active Aging® is the professional association that leads, connects and defines the active-aging industry. ICAA supports professionals who develop wellness facilities, programs and services for adults over 50. The association is focused on active aging—an approach to aging that helps older adults live as fully as possible within all dimensions of wellness (i.e., physical, social, environmental, vocational, intellectual, emotional and spiritual)—and provides its members with education, information, resources and tools.


As an active-aging educator and advocate, ICAA has advised numerous organizations and governmental bodies, including the US Administration on Aging, the National Institute on Aging (one of the US National Institutes of Health), the US Department of Health and Human Services, Canada’s Special Senate Committee on Aging, European Commission, and the British Columbia ministries of Health, and Healthy Living and Sport.


* http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/story/2011/05/24/nb-geezeraid-campaign.html (accessed 6/20/11).


For interviews please contact:

Contact: Colin Milner, CEO, ICAA
Toll-free: 1-866-335-9777 (North America)
Telephone: 604-734-4466; cell: 604-763-4595


Contact: Marilynn Larkin
Communications Director, ICAA