Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Research and broadcasting about older people to amuse rather than inform

The picture says it all - older couple  - walking hand in hand along a beach. Both gazing into the far distance wondering how they are going to spend all of their retirement savings.

This pretty much set the scene for this BBC radio programme that was an enjoyment-fest for older people to call in and explain why they are having such a great time. The only dissenter was a caller explaining (at length) how they prefered to do good deeds in the community. I couldn't take any more after the 4-5th  call.

I had been invited to be on the programme but work commitments made this impossible.

The programme was based around research conducted by Nationwide Building Society. 

It was interesting to see how different media commentators interpreted the findings.  Most obsessed about the level of income (£3,000 less than a 30 year old). I didn't see or hear anybody quoting the fact that respondents had six times more debt than savings.

This was a classic bit of PR generation surveying. Linked to the relationship that Nationwide has with Ranulph Fiennes (the 72 year old explorer) it was survey of 2,000 respondents and just provided average values - almost next to useless. Now I am not blaming Nationwide, it is an effective form of PR but it is pretty much worthless as far as providing meaningful insights into older people.

So as long as we all realise that this type of research and broadcasting is primarily about entertainment and amusement, then we are all OK. Just don't take it seriously. Dick Stroud

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