Aging: The Next Piece of the Inclusivity Conversation

Collections / Our Collections
Rebecca Swift
Sep 24, 2019
You know the kinds of images I’m talking about. The caregiver walking alongside an elderly individual attempting to maneuver a walker. The elderly man sitting alone in an “easy” chair. The woman holding a flip phone with giant numbers on the dial.

These visuals are emblematic of the sort of stereotypical representations of aging that we come in contact with on a seemingly daily basis. And yet, they couldn’t be further from the reality of aging today.

That’s because adults 50+ are living increasingly full lives. They’re working longer, starting businesses later, raising children of all ages and serving as caregivers themselves. They’re physically active and embrace technology. In short, they enjoy—and do—many of the same things their younger counterparts do, from sipping coffee at a café to taking selfies to socializing with friends Their lives are multidimensional, in every sense of the word.

That’s why Getty Images partnered with AARP to build and launch The Disrupt Aging® Collection, a collection of more than 1,000 images that depict aging in an authentic, positive and more inclusive way.
"By conveying the everyday experiences, lifestyles, and relationships of adults aged 50 to 100+, we’ve committed to telling a multidimensional story of aging."
By conveying the everyday experiences, lifestyles and relationships of adults aged 50 to 100+, we're committed to telling a multidimensional story of aging, centered around everything from business and technology to caregiving, fun and fulfillment—across a wide range of age, gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic lines.

Armed with some of AARP’s diverse insights, we developed guidelines for our contributing photographers which emphasized the need for imagery highlighting positive ideas like fun, friendship, and success, while also factoring in multigenerational relationships and connectivity. All key facets which have historically not been emphasized enough in commercial imagery of this key demographic.

At the forefront, was a desire to provide authentic imagery which would allow brands and businesses to improve the way they communicate with potential customers in a visual sense because we know that better visual communications are both possible and needed in order to sell to this demographic. Thanks to AARP’s research, we know that two‑thirds of adults 50+ believe media images are ageist, and 80% of the same group said marketers assume their lifestyle based on stereotypes. Those surveyed simply didn’t feel heard or seen—with 51% of women aged 50+ stating they felt “invisible” in ads.

Given that there are 114 million Americans over the age of 50 contributing roughly $7.6 trillion in annual spending, brands can’t “afford” to miss an opportunity to communicate and resonate with this audience. At Getty Images we have found that visuals that authentically reflect and include the audiences they serve are more successful and relevant.
"Two‑thirds of adults 50+ believe media images are ageist, and 80% said marketers assume their lifestyle based on stereotypes."
How are we seeing this reflected in our own data? Demand for content featuring the “over 50s” is on the increase. We can see this in the changes in search data over the last year alone. Not just in people being more physically active, but also being more active in business, highlighting intellectual interaction and positive mental health. This is also reflected in the content that our customers choose to license.

In 2008 our top‑selling image of “seniors” was of a Caucasian couple looking fondly into the distance—a stereotypical, “go‑to” retirement image. What I’ll refer to as the “old” aspiration for older age.

But let’s fast‑forward to 2018, as our top‑selling image was of a group of senior female friends practicing yoga together… a group of older women socializing, demonstrating their physical fitness and also enjoying themselves. By tying into concepts related to friendship, activity, community, and fun, we achieved something more relevant to a modern audience. And our customers see that, too.

And that’s exactly what this Collection endeavors to do, in the long run. Dispel stereotypes. Combat ageist assumptions. Champion the idea that when all is said and done, age is just a number.
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