Recently I went looking online for information about one of my favorite television programs, “Longmire,” one of those cable channel productions presented in short bursts, followed by a long hiatus. I was curious whether it had been renewed and when it was scheduled to return.
Well, the contemporary Western about a low-key Wyoming sheriff will be back sometime this year, but the story that provided this information was written by someone who obviously isn’t a fan, someone who wondered why “Longmire” had been renewed when “The Glades” had been canceled. “Longmire,” after all, has its greatest appeal among “retirees,” as the writer put it. As if anyone old enough to remember Dwight Eisenhower is too old to matter.
I admit that many years ago, when I wrote about television (and also had responsibility for my newspaper’s comic strips), I, too, raised questions about things that appealed mostly — often exclusively — to our older readers. They loved the comic strip “Marmaduke,” television’s “Lawrence Welk Show,” and were the reason I couldn’t cancel the daily bridge column and replace it with something with younger and wider appeal.
BUT THAT was then. Today I am deep in the oldest demographic and getting deeper each year. It’s partly rationalization, but mostly an obvious truth to say today’s retirees are different from yesterday’s. You could say 65 — the age, not the speed limit — is the new 45. (But don’t tell that to the Federal government, though it might help solve our budget woes if people couldn’t collect Social Security until they turned 86.)
I usually don’t think about my demographic affiliation, but it was on my mind a few days ago after I had my haircut and was waiting for the stylist (or whatever her designation) to finish trimming my wife’s locks. I picked up a People magazine — an old one, because that’s the way things are in this shop — and saw a list of the top television presentations of 2013, a list probably selected by someone who’s in the under-30 group.
Almost all were things I despise — “The Americans” and “Breaking Bad,” for example — but the one that floored me was HBO’s movie about Liberace, the one that stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.
It was a 10-minute story stretched to fill two hours, but that isn’t my point. I remember Liberace, I saw him perform. Most of his fans were blue-haired ladies on Social Security. What they saw in him, I don’t know. He was Carmen Cavallaro on steroids. (And if that name doesn’t ring a bell, look him up; you’ll see what I mean.)
Anyway, today’s retirees, I’m sure, would not be Liberace fans, but remain loyal to various 1960s rock groups. Most young people probably would be inclined to put such groups out to pasture, but I believe the gap between the old and young, when it comes to movies, music and television, has narrowed a bit. One thing today’s retirees and a lot of younger people share is worshipful admiration of Elvis Presley. (Count me out of that group, by the way.)
OF COURSE, it has always been the job of the young to separate themselves from their elders, and they usually succeed.
And it’s the job of the old to think each younger generation moves us closer and closer to hell and damnation. My reading of today’s youngest generation of trend-setters is they have the worst taste yet. Which, I guess, means they’re going a terrific job. All I know is I wouldn’t follow their lead if my life depended on it, but it’s in the best interest of old farts to keep our mouths shut.
However, when administered truth serum, we will admit that today’s music, movies, television and fashion, for the most part, really, really stink. Like a pissed off skunk. (What else can you say about the taste of a generation that has given us the Kardashians, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber?)
IN THE PAST most television programmers and advertisers ignored the oldest demographic group, a fact probably on the mind of the writer who made that snide remark about "Longmire’s" audience.
But today’s oldest demographic group is different from their counterparts from 20 years ago. We are more economically active than, say, my parents’ generation. The objection television networks had in the past was they couldn’t sell new things to older people. Instead sponsors targeted teenagers and young adults. One reason was younger people were more open-minded. Another reason, never admitted out loud, was that older people were smarter; they knew advertising was a lot of BS. They had learned the wisdom of that joke that twisted the tongue of George W. Bush, the one that starts, “Fool me once ... ” (My first such learning experience was ordering something that was sold through the "Jack Armstrong" radio program. It wasn't quite what young listeners were promised.)
However, today’s older people are good targets for electronic gadgets, phones and computer-related things that are needed to keep in touch with children and grandchildren. With these things older people are dumber than younger people, and more vulnerable. We buy things that come equipped with software that we never use. Nor should we, as far as I can see. If my iPad were a 30-room mansion, its no exaggeration to say I have visited only two of those rooms.
And like every other gadget I have purchased in the past 10 years, my iPad had a message for me the first time I used it — there were upgrades available.
Commercials for these products are almost always aimed at a younger audience. These commercials aren’t above taking cheap shots at older people who often are shown receiving instructions from a pre-school grandchild. ("Here, Grandma, let me prepare your income tax return!")
TODAY'S older people — call them members of the Julia Child Generation — also are more adventuresome eaters, compared with seniors from the past. Thus we are an under-appreciated market for the many new food items that flood super market shelves each year, causing customers, young and old, to pause several minutes by a display, trying to figure out which product is which.
My favorites among commercials exclusively aimed at older people are those that devote less time to the benefits provided by various products and more time listing possible harmful side effects. When one of those side effects is “sudden death,” that’s when you know it might not be a good idea to ask your doctor for a prescription — unless you’re planning to murder your mate.
My least favorite commercials for older people are those for adult diapers and seats that transport folks up a flight a stairs (and take all day doing it), but especially those for reverse mortgages and any investment or insurance plan. These commercials always show an old couple walking along a beach ...
Which makes me think that once the couple left their house and started walking, they became hopelessly lost.
Anyway, when retirement has you escaping Northern winters, you soon discover an awful truth about Southern summers — given the choice of walking on the beach or reclining in the air-conditioned comfort of your home, you’ll almost always choose the latter.