What’s Your Bracket?

I rarely answer my phone when I know it’s a sales call or robo-call coming in. But after being hounded by Neilsen for weeks, I finally relented and picked up the phone. They were seeking volunteers for a survey on radio station listening and they asked if I’d participate. Since I skip broadcast stations in favor of satellite and Internet radio, I figured they wouldn’t be interested. But I was wrong.

Once he had my agreement, the caller asked a few demographic questions. When he got to age, I was perturbed. Having formerly taught marketing courses, I understood the need to know age groups for marketing research. But it was the age brackets he named that I took issue with. After listing four or five groups to cover people under 65, he gave the last category as 65 and older.

What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, lumping everyone who is 65 and up into a single category does not serve market research needs very well. We age at different rates and in general, the older we get, the more different from each other we become. So targeting 22-35-year-olds works. But putting 65-year-olds together with 85- and 95-year-olds makes far less sense.

Maybe that 65-plus category of age groups bugged me because I’m about to step into it. But looking at the women in my wellness workshops and the people in the Wisdom Circle group I belong to, I can see some vital differences being ignored.

I’ll go ahead and complete the week-long survey, but under protest. Something as simple as skewed age brackets is just another way society is taking people over 65 and pushing them over a figurative cliff. It’s further evidence of how our culture refuses to recognize the broad variations among people 65 and over. What’s it going to take to realize there’s a much richer diversity than a single age bracket allows?

It’s time we evolve to see past a mythical cut-off number. That’s when society stops seeing us. That’s when they refuse to judge us by our individual character. When looking at adults 65 and up, it’s the worst time to judge a book by its cover.

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