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The Greatest Generation? These days, they're more like the Forgotten Generation

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

It's all but impossible to read “The Greatest Generation” without being impressed by the people now residing in senior living settings. As Author Tom Brokaw points out, these folks dealt with many sacrifices caused by the Great Depression, fought in World War II and then helped revive a struggling national economy.

It would be bad enough if the rest of us didn't give these elders the credit they deserve. In fact, we're doing something far worse. We're often acting as if they don't exist.

Consider the actors who appear in movies and television: Most are young and good-looking. Same goes for those shilling products in the ads that pay for such fine entertainment opportunities. In the rare instances where old people are actually allowed to appear on screen, they too tend to be spry and good looking. They might as well be young actors wearing white wigs.

I was concerned that alluding to this obvious discrimination might make me sound like a curmudgeon. But a new survey from Nielsen suggests that when it comes to mentioning the indignities staring down the Forgotten Generation, I'm barely scratching the surface.

Among the study's findings:

• 38% of Americans say they don't see ads reflecting older consumers
• 50% of global consumers say product labels are hard to read
• 43% of global consumers say easy-open packaging is hard to find
• 34% of global consumers say it's hard to find products for older consumers
• 34% say they can't find smaller portion-sized food packaging.

Not exactly what you'd call giving esteemed seniors the red-carpet treatment.

Todd Hale, SVP of consumer and shopper insights at Nielsen, says that companies and others are passing up a golden opportunity.

“The findings should serve as a wake-up call to manufacturers, retailers and other marketers that need to bolster efforts to better reach and cater to an aging demographic. Improvements, such as using larger fonts on product labels and signage, arranging age-related products in one place and at arm's length for easier accessibility, and offering friendly customer service, can go a long way in building loyal patronage,” he noted.

But don't just blame vendors in the marketplace. How often have you seen adult children arrive for visits, and conduct conversations with each other as if the resident wasn't present?

If you are fortunate enough to live to a ripe old age, you will undoubtedly face many indignities in your later years. Being routinely ignored should not have to be counted among them.

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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