Growing up in 1960s Brooklyn, TV watching was simple and predictable: Friday nights found us watching The Addams Family (accompanied by Swanson TV Dinners to round out the experience), and Sundays (our family's favorite TV night) featured Wild Kingdom followed by The Ed Sullivan Show. There were far fewer channels compared to today, but there was something -- it seemed -- for everyone.
One could argue that television programming is better now than it was "back then" and with so many channels (paid and free) to choose from, we certainly have more options.
Why, then, are we so sadly lacking in good programming specifically for post50 women?
The television programming industry, which is fueled by advertising dollars, should be all over this booming market, creating TV shows that speak directly to us. Post50 men and women are the most affluent and acquisitive demographic group in this country, and it's growing: every seven seconds someone in this country turns 50, and yet . . . we are ignored.
Do producers and marketers really think we care about the Kardashians? Don't they know we're weary of seeing experts and celebrities tell us how we can "look younger?" Do they not understand we want television programs that will celebrate life after 50, not ridicule it?
Fortunately, there are a few media groups who are talking directly to us, and I hope there will be more in the future. Growing Bolder, a series that now appears in almost 98% of the U.S. market (full disclosure: I'll be a regular contributor in Season Three, starting January 2012) highlights men and women who are eagerly embracing life after 50 with energy, enthusiasm and joy.
Wanting to know if other women over 50 felt the same lack of respect from the television industry as I do, I put this question out on Facebook: "If you had a magic wand, what would your ideal television program for post50 women look like?"
Not surprisingly, this query opened up a floodgate of opinions. Here's a small sampling of what readers had to say (I hope the television industry is reading), reprinted with their permission:
I have seen almost every topic I could imagine on one talk show or another, and all have been overtalked beyond belief. I want to see discussions about "real" topics with "real" people--not those who are paid or endorsing products or actors and actresses.
- Pat Stephens Mazzei
The theme of keeping it real is critically important. From the time we are girls, we are told that we can and should and must have and do it all! Our earliest media exposure brings us messages of self-loathing (be thinner! prepare for bathing suit season! why he's not calling you back!) rather than messages that build us up (The world won't come to an end because your laundry's not done, go play in the pack with your kids and have fun! Sing loud because you enjoy it; you don't have to be the next American Idol!). By the time we reach middle age, the noise (and that's all it is, noise) has reached a crescendo and is compounded by changing hormones and (dare I say it?) a shift in how we relate to our spouse... can anyone say avoidable existential crisis? With all this in mind, I'd love a show that focuses on how to enjoy OUR lives, our REAL lives, not our modeled-after-celebrity-lives. My magic wand would wave and a show would be created that focuses on what matters; a show that talks about trade-offs (because, indeed, we can't have and do and BE it all...something's always gotta give), and provides us with some tools and FUN to maximize enjoyment.
- Terri Bunofsky
Multi-generational feminists both on camera and behind scenes.
- Marti Sladek
I want a talk show just for women over 50, like a club with ONE relevant topic per episode. So many shows crowd the hour with too many topics that it is almost impossible to gain anything from it. And no silly, reality TV-like banter.
- Georgie Scarpato:
Something positive, not sensational. What are the good things people are doing, for themselves, families, communities, the world. We never hear about the good that is going on, or we hear it minimally while focusing on everything bad. Truth would be good too. I feel like we are bombarded with information that is either half true, or sometimes completely false. Less focus on celebrities and more focus on people who do real things and are making a difference.
- Robin Write Mccormick
I would like to see a show about the changing roles of women over 50 who are experiencing change in every aspect of their lives: aging parents, children leaving home, changes in our bodies, careers, relationships, everything. Advice from real people, not celebrities.
- Cindy Binns
I want a show that covers myriad topics featuring women who are real about our issues: self esteem, mean girls (or women), women doing amazing things with their lives to give back, women who overcame odds, and so on. I want to be inspired by television, not drained.
- Kathi DuTilly
I think Americans are far too insular, and would like a show, which talks about positive aging that includes information from other countries, and what they do or not do that is different and unique.
- Margaret Walther
If I had a magic wand, I would love to see a talk show that would focus on: 1. Women over 50 on the job market (the pros of hiring phenomenal 50's) 2. Starting over after divorce or death of a significant other (the true stories, not the "fake" stuff we see) 3. Flirty and fifty (showing the sex appeal one truly gains with wisdom and confidence). 4. Show the strength that is gained, the inner beauty, acceptance, wisdom that is achieved in our 50's, and please, no more harping on menopause, wrinkles and "fountain of youth" that we currently see all over the tube. 5. Women over 50 who are entrepreneurs, have gone for their goals and achieved them (not only in a monetary sense, but in every sense).
- Terry Giosia
Working with the elderly I often find they know very little about benefits available to them. Instead of talk shows and courtroom dramas that rant and rave about a lot of nothing, we need more informational shows about real life issues.
- Laura Magdalany Nyce
I want a show that is FUN. Just plain, good, clean fun. No crying or confessing or healing or counseling or advising. Just singing, dancing, laughing and generally having a good time. Fun!
- Carolyn Stephens
I don't want to hear from the abused woman who found a way out of it. Have heard it a thousand times. I would rather hear about women who are enjoying life and how they got there, and learn more about their journeys -- real, but not horrific, stuff. Most of us are "ordinary" women over 50 who have made subtle and not so subtle differences in our communities or our family's lives. Very often these life experiences go unnoticed, but I think they should be trumpeted! I would enjoy learning about "the moment", the catalyst of change, no matter how small it may seem. It's the little ripples in the waves that makes the ocean move!
- Carol Schroeder
I would love a show that talked about the REAL issues facing women over 40-50 such as overcoming sexism in looking for a job, the pros and cons of hormone therapy, sex after menopause, cooking real food. Not talking about "plus sized models" who are a size 8. No airbrushes. Wouldn't it be refreshing to see people talk about REAL issues? Financial advice that is REAL. Most women have fewer resources than men, and we need to address that. Help us think of ways we can be true to ourselves, feel actual JOY instead of self loathing, save for our futures, shot wisely, care for each other instead of competing with our sisters. I want to TV or put down a magazine and know that my concerns are being addressed.
- Joy Maheu
Content not focused on self-help, personal appearance, aging, sex, family, caring for aging parents, but content focused on how women can harness their talents to make change for good that begins with a topic like immigration, domestic violence, human trafficking or the environment, good discussion exploring the topic some interactive learning that could be done at home and a call to action for actually doing something in local communities to affect change for good around the topic. If women could take focus off distractions of becoming beautiful and acceptable imagine all the time we'd have to do something.
- Selby Ewing
Want to talk about REAL advice? Here's something very specific: I'd like to see a detailed study on how a group of low income, single/divorced/ widowed women can come together to make them all stronger, safer, more financially secure than they can be individually. What can this mini-community look like? How can it work? How--after 50--can we learn to give up this hard-fought independence and join together to ensure that we won't end up 20-30 years down the road alone.
- Lori Powell Akers
There must be a show specifically geared to men and women over 50. We are the segment of the US population with the most money, yet we are neither targeted nor respected by marketers. Sixty truly is the new forty; we have many more years ahead of us, and would benefit from advice from a panel of experts such as those who contributed to your book, "Best of Everything After 50." As a matter of fact, I believe that should be the name of the talk show: "Best of Everything After 50"!!!
- Karen McCullough Ray
What would you like to see in a program for post50 women? Tell us what you think. Who knows? Maybe a few television producers will be reading . . . and listening . . . finally.
For more information on living your best life after 50, check out The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More. Staying connected is a powerful tool: "Friend" me on Facebook and "Tweet" me on Twitter (BGrufferman)
Turning 50 is more than an age . . . it's a movement.