Mona Charen

Companies are quietly redesigning their products to accommodate the needs of (shh, don't say it aloud) aging baby boomers. So reports the Wall Street Journal: "The generation that sent diaper sales soaring in the 1960s, bought power suits in the 1980s and indulged in luxury cars in the 2000s is getting ready to retire: The oldest boomers turn 65 this year ... But there's a catch: Baby boomers, famously demanding and rebellious, don't want anyone suggesting they're old."

Marketers, always alert to the sensitivities of this most self-absorbed of cohorts, are developing products and shopping environments that will appeal to the needs of, let us say, ripening baby boomers without ever using the "o" word. "Surreptitiously, companies are making typefaces larger, lowering store shelves to make them more accessible and avoiding yellows and blues in packaging -- two colors that don't appear as sharply distinct to older eyes."

It may be autumn for the boomers, but it's springtime for the marketing euphemists. Bathroom fixture maker Kohler, the WSJ reports, set their wizards the task of renaming the "grab bar" -- a shower fixture for, shall we say, experienced bathers. They came up with "belay" (after the mountaineering term), and designed it to blend unobtrusively into the tile wall. Whether Kohler considered that mature eyes might not be able to find the subtle "belay" in an emergency, we don't know.

Maybe we should be grateful for euphemisms in a culture that is otherwise awash in vulgarity. But really -- "Low T"? You've seen the commercials, I'm sure. "Millions of men 45 and older just don't feel like they used to" it begins. "Remember when you had more energy for 18 holes with your buddies? More passion for the one you love?" Well, "don't blame it on aging" Abbott Laboratories advises. "Call your doctor," because what in other times and places was considered normal is now "a treatable condition called low testosterone or low T." If at 55 you don't feel 19, call your doctor and get a drug to fix it.

More tempered women present even greater challenges for marketers. Boomer women, a business website reminds readers, constitute 37 percent of those online, and women in general make 80 percent of household purchasing decisions. In order not to offend these potential customers, the site advises avoiding the words "senior," "older women," "silver surfers or silver anything," and particularly "grandma, grandmother, grandparents, grannies." Boomer gals, we learn, "are happy to lipo, pull, tighten, and do just about anything on earth to avoid being asked that dreaded question, 'Would you like the senior discount?'"


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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