Who’s the most interesting man in the world?
It isn’t Ryan Reynolds. It isn’t Robert Pattinson (whoever he is). Heck, it isn’t even George Clooney. Nope, the most interesting man in the world is Jonathan Goldsmith, and that’s official. And yes, you do know who Jonathan Goldsmith is. He’s that guy from Vermont who appears so cool in the Dos Equis television advertisements. And guess what? He’s 75 years old.
I mention that last fact only because I’m really getting tired of the people who oversee production and marketing campaigns pretending that people who are older don’t exist. Or don’t count.
My grievances have reached something of a peak this summer. I enjoy going to the movies, always have. As a youngster, I especially liked war movies. As an adult, I preferred films that had a story and characters and something to care about besides explosions. Maybe even the occasional fantasy. As an older adult, I want films that tell me interesting stories about people.
As an older adult, however, what Hollywood sends me are over-the-top, witless movies (i.e., Transformers, The Expendables III, any other sequel or prequel) written for children under the age of 18 with a mental age not exceeding 12. I’ve lost a lot of enthusiasm for going to the movies, not because I’m an immobile (I ride a bicycle twice daily and hike regularly) crank (I’m a grandfather addicted to the kids and grandkids) but because I still respect the virtue of good storytelling and find it conspicuously absent in the theaters. My money instead now goes to live theater and concerts.
And a lot of us older adults — I’m 74 — have some money. The AARP reports that there are 100 million Americans over the age of 50 who control about 70 per cent of the disposable income in this country. In fact, Americans over the age of 50 constitute the third largest economy in the world, surpassed only by the gross national product of the United states and China. And Hollywood can’t turn out more than a couple dozen or so movies for us each year?
Again, using an AARP factoid, almost everyone you see in a new car commercial these days apparently is between the ages of 18 and 24. And yet — people ages 75 to dead buy five times as many new cars as people 18 to 24. That’s worth repeating bluntly: if you’re close to shuffling off this mortal coil, you’re still more likely to buy a new car than your great grandchildren! Why haven’t the boneheads who market new car ads caught on to this by now?
Ironically, one group that does seem to have a scintilla of knowledge of these things is the justly beleaguered airline industry. Their ads — when they show you people and not clouds and baggage — focus on the first class or business cabins. And the people sitting in them are older. That’s because, of course, flying first class these days requires that you be a CEO (they tend to be older) or have a functioning annuity (again, most likely the property of someone older).
Everyone else on the flights is presumed by the airlines to be immobile, given that seating in coach — the “main cabin,” in airline-speak — is somewhere between really tight and really-really right, no kidding. if you’re flying coach, and you don’t or can’t pay increasing fees for upgraded seating, you will soon come to know what it feels like to be old and infirm. The worst I ever felt in my life came not after running a 6.2 mile road race but after I stepped off the plane following a coach class flight from Atlanta to Dallas. I would rather body surf from LA to Sydney than fly that trip in coach.
Another one of the industries which has a regrettable focus on older adults are the large drug manufacturers. In pursuit of ever-greater aggrandizement, they are constantly peddling their latest over-priced pills for a variety of problems that aren’t really problems (Low-T guys, I’m talking to you) and which generate more side effects than a bad bike crash. I wish they would go away. Or at least face some kind of control in the sale, advertisement and pricing of their pills.
So yes, sometimes I suppose I do sound more like a grump than a gramp. But you should also know that I occasionally sip one of those Dos Equis beers, and that at least makes me one of the most interesting men for a little while, doesn’t it?