Money & Business

AARP’s New Stock Photo Collection Looks to Fight Ageism

By / Oct 3, 2019 One of the images in AARP’s Disrupt Aging Collection. (vorDa/E+/Getty Images Plus)

With those over the age of 50 often portrayed in stereotypical visual contexts that don’t often match their modern-day realities, AARP is teaming with Getty Images on a proactive effort to fix that.

When it comes to highlighting different types of people, stock photos say a lot—and they often don’t show the full picture.

That problem of perception has created issues for diverse groups, including racial and ethnic minorities as well as trans and nonbinary people, who often may not show up in photos at all. This has led to efforts to create more diverse stock photos.

But even in cases where a group is generally well-represented, the pictures at times don’t shine an accurate light. That’s a problem that AARP hopes to solve with a new partnership with Getty Images. The association for older Americans is teaming with the stock photo giant on its Disrupt Aging Collection, which aims to show realistic, modern images of older adults that move past stereotypes that might appear in editorial or marketing contexts.

AARP Executive Vice President Martha Boudreau, who serves as the association’s chief communications and marketing officer, noted that the goal of the new collection was to help modernize the aging discussion—especially important given the fact that more than a third of Americans—110 million in total—are over the age of 50.

“This stereotype-shattering collection reflects the reality of what aging looks like today. The collection shows the 50-plus in the workplace, traveling, entertaining and living active, healthy lives,” she said in a news release.

Timed to the launch of the new program, AARP released an analysis [PDF] of how older individuals are portrayed in media images such as stock photos. The results found that those over the age of 50 were seven times more likely to be portrayed negatively than those under 50 (28 percent for older individuals, versus 4 percent for younger ones), while older individuals were more likely to be portrayed using physical characteristics such as gray hair or balding. Additionally, those over the age of 50 were more likely to be shown in situations in which they were either isolated or dependent on others, less dependent on technology, and less affluent than younger peers—despite the fact that, in the latter case, the opposite is often true.

The Disrupt Aging Collection, which will start with more than 1,400 photos, evokes similar projects, including a 2014 partnership between LeanIn.org and Getty Images that aimed to show women in more modern contexts.

“It’s definitely time for the creative industries to update their mind-set about the 50-plus demographic,” Boudreau added. “This age group drives our economy and makes new demands on product development and marketing in virtually every industry sector.”

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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