If the events of recent months have taught us anything it is that wellness is a complex beast, spanning everything from physical health to social connection; and mental health to financial wellbeing. Yet, there is another complexity that has come to the fore: that of the ageing population. Age is complicated, sometimes sensitive and always personal.

A 2018 McCann Truth Central study [Truth About Age] identified that 2/3s of those aged 70 and over believe healthcare professionals have the best understanding of the ageing population; and yet the response to this virus has shown that the same older population are prepared to flaunt the advice of those very healthcare professionals. This is largely down to the emergence of the ‘new old’, whereby older adults consider themselves much younger than their years might suggest.

A recent publication in The Lancet explained that there is “a substantially higher case fatality ratio in older populations”, jumping from 1.4% in those Under 60 to 4.5% in those Over 60. Consequently, governments across Europe have implemented policies with binary age-based restrictions; in Romania there are fewer reasons why those 65+ can legally venture out, as well as additional restrictions on their hours of movement (11:00-13:00). Yet across Europe we have seen older adults flouting the rules; bringing a new perspective to the notion that age is simultaneously binary and yet extremely complex.

The truth is whilst the age you are is linear, the age you feel is far more undulating. With many of those over 65 feeling much younger than their age it is no wonder they resist the restrictions imposed on those 65+. For many older adults ‘feeling fit and healthy’ has been their greatest strength, yet now it brings a false sense of invincibility that could be lethal. The challenge for governments, and brands aligning themselves to the fight against COVID19, is to ensure older adults identify with the guidance without resorting to outdated stereotypes. Simultaneously celebrating their youthful nature and acknowledging the serious health risk is the balance to be struck.

Of course, age is not just a construct of how we see ourselves, but also of how we see others. One changing dynamic in this new world is the way in which younger generations view the older members of their society. In many ways the cloak of invincibility older adults wear has fooled not only themselves but also their younger counterparts, so it is they too that must recalibrate their perspective on their elders. As we know despite being isolated people are connecting more than ever and this is particularly true of inter-generational networks. Brands must consider how this changing dynamic between the oldest and youngest groups in our society will impact their universe.