A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a co-worker about aging. She will be 27 this fall and is holding on to 26 like it’s her lifeline, fearing that being 27 means she’s “old.” Another co-worker recently celebrated her 21st birthday—for the 5th time. Even being 25 seems too old for her. I’m 34, and I have no problem saying so. I’m a lot younger than many people I work and interact with, but I know I’m far from what many consider “old.” This preoccupation with age got me thinking about the way we talk about—or rather, the way we don’t talk about—the aging process.
As I thought about this, I learned that Pfizer is launching the next phase of its Getting Old campaign after it conducted a survey on aging and found that a whopping 87 percent of Americans have a fear of getting old—a particularly troubling statistic as life expectancy continues to increase. With the average American woman living to be age 81 and the average American man living to be 76, “getting old” is something most of us will be lucky enough to experience.
Pfizer’s newest iteration of the Getting Old campaign, which first launched in 2012,encourages honest conversations about the aging process and celebration of getting “old” no matter the stage of life. According to Pfizer, the point is that “People of all ages should start thinking about how they want to age, and turn fears into healthy actions.”
In addition to new content on the getold.com website, Pfizer is launching a social media component that includes a Facebook page and a Twitter account and associated #FOGO hashtag. The social media campaign is interesting to me, as it seems to recognize two important notions. On one hand, it recognizes that more and more “older” people are engaging on social media platforms. And on the other hand, it suggests that campaign isn’t just for middle-aged or elderly people. The intended audience for this new campaign includes people in their 20s and 30s (people like my co-workers!).
Pfizer is certainly not the only company using marketing and health communication campaigns to make us feel better about aging. The Getting Old campaign is unique in that rather than creating a campaign to make us feel more youthful, Pfizer has managed to help us feel perfectly and completely okay with getting older, and even uses the word “old,” which is often considered taboo by many marketers.
By directly facing the concerns that many people have about getting older—health and wellness, family and relationships, and love and sex—Pfizer wants to make it okay to talk about these topics. The campaign embraces aging as something wonderful, featuring videos, images, and quotes about aging, including this ditty from Jamie Lee Curtis, “There are plenty of things to be anti about: anti-discrimination, anti-oppression, anti-poverty, and anti-sickness; aging isn’t one of them.” Pfizer also uses humor, asking “experts” on aging to weigh in on the fear of getting weak (from aging).
One of the challenges we face as health communicators is sparking conversation about health, but it’s even harder to change the tone of a conversation that is already taking place. That’s what Pfizer is attempting to do—change the dialog around the aging process and it just may work.
Do you suffer with FOGO? Or are you embracing “getting old” with gusto? Tell us in the comments!