Monday, February 9, 2009

the senior's market

I am increasingly appalled by the number, the extent and the range of advertising and propoganda, and blatant manipulation of seniors as businesses, and website managers, try to earn a buck.

An interesting series by Judy Steed writes about the reality of aging in Ontario. The Toronto Star advertised it heavily, supported by an Atkinson Fellowship grant. It is a great idea. Rather than having journalists touch on stories here and there, this foundation supports journalists in researching a story over time, incorporating some expertise. For a one-year period they are paid $75,000 to write and research a topic. (Great idea, BTW, paid for by a late, former Toronto Star publisher!) There is much information on real-life stories of real seniors coping with stress. These are valuable, as there are lessons from real-life experiences. I know. I wrote one!

You will find many articles in Ms. Steed's series. Unfortunately, you will find many ads, too. One person has posed a comment, a blatant ad for her heavily Google-advertised site, that rates Ontario LTC homes. I am opposed to such sites. I am appalled that the editors would allow the comment that includes a blatant ad for a web site rating LTC homes. This is an ineffective, unreliable and undependable source of information. After all of Judy Steed's work, it is an insult to her journalistic credibility. There is no valid information on such a site where readers can vent petty and serious complaints without evidence. It is biased, anonymous, and could be posted by any idiot with an agenda. For families desperately searching for LTC it could have a very negative impact.

Ads are everywhere. On sites where one thinks one can avoid them. Why does Oprah have them? Really. A whole new industry has sprung up around this. There is a web site that promotes the "Secrets of advertising to seniors". There are ads for sites that promote advertising and try to get you to sign up! There are ads for housing, home care, pharmaceuticals, and assistance with ADLs. Now, there is a new target audience. Family members, stressed with caring for ailing parents are encouraged to buy electronic devices to monitor their parents, much like interactive baby monitors. I think we are lulled into a false sense of security. Our failing seniors want adult care, the human touch, and caring caregivers who will provide them with social interaction.

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons (affiliated with the American AARP site - with BIG bucks and research dollars) has tons of ads, with little teeny articles that provide little information, and little credibility. The Vancouver-based: Association for Active Aging Professional, charges big bucks to sign up for their organization. Hundreds of dollars to keep abreast of current issues - logically a Canadian government responsibility, free of cost and supported by those committed to helping us all age gracefully.

There is a Vancouver-based site, which I will let be nameless, that has more content in their articles, but they are too long, and are freely reprinted from (the American) WebMD. They purport to offer up to date information, and they may do so, but let's get real, they are simply providing an advertising portal.

One WebMD post discusses dementia. If you read closely, they suggest that the correct response may be a particular dementia drug, with the drug advertised down below. They get around this unethical, transparent, highly biased article disguised as an ad, by a disclaimer that you should go to your doctor for more information, and "WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service, or treatment." The banner at the top, and one on the side bar, has more ads for this drug. They have a sponsorship explanation, and claim sponsors do not influence content. May I be skeptical?

I refuse to do advertising, despite offers, for example, to put ads on for incontinence products. You just have to draw the line somewhere. We don't know where the information has come from (different legislation and rules exist in the US regarding health) and should be skeptical about its content.

You have to be careful. I blogged about debt by seniors, since this is becoming an issue with more seniors on-line and accessible to those who will prey on them emotionally and financially. Be vigilant.

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