Archive For: Daily inspirations

Three lessons from disrupting an industry

In relation to winning the FedEx Small Business Grand Prize, FedEx came to our office and interviewed our CEO Anders Berggreen. In this interview, he explains the beginning of byACRE and shares his top three lessons from disrupting an industry:

Three lessons from disrupting an industry

Going from producing film and TV series to designing innovative mobility aids might not seem like a logical career path, but that’s the move made by Anders Berggreen, CEO of byACRE.

The Copenhagen-based business, which was recently named the grand prize winner of the FedEx Small Business Grant 2021, was co-founded by Berggreen and COO Susanne Nørmark in 2015. However, it wasn’t until later that they came up with the idea for the design-led, carbon-fibre rollators – four-wheeled walking aids – that the company produces today.

The idea was the result of a chance meeting with the CEO of another rollator manufacturer at a product fair, where Berggreen was showing a different product. He soon found that he was seeing rollators everywhere he looked – but that they all looked the same.

“I thought about my father, who died of Parkinson’s. My grandma was 97 and she never felt old. [I thought] why can’t we make something cool for them? Let’s see if we can do something to reverse the perception of what a rollator is.”

He also spotted a business opportunity. The global mobility aid devices market was worth an estimated $7.8bn in 2020 and is set to increase to $9.9bn by 2028.1 But Berggreen argues that booming demand is also making existing businesses in the space lazy. “They’re growing like crazy, these stores. Turnover is going up and up,” he says.

Yet launching a new business with a product that disrupts the status quo comes with its share of challenges. A key hurdle is convincing people of the need to do things differently. Securing funding from the bank was a challenge, and persuading retailers to stock the products wasn’t easy either. “They didn’t believe in us,” he explains. “We tried to go through retailers, but they were very resistant.”

Despite the difficulties, Berggreen and Nørmark have built byACRE into a thriving global business. Here are some of the lessons they’ve learned about what it takes to be a disruptor.

1. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes

Once they started paying attention to the rollator market, Berggreen and Nørmark quickly realised where it was falling short.

“It was obvious there was a lack of design in this industry,” Berggreen explains. “We very quickly found out that was because the way [the existing companies] looked at users was as patients – not people with hopes and dreams.”

Berggreen and Nørmark saw there was a market for a rollator designed for consumers who needed mobility aids but still wanted to travel, go out with family and friends, and generally live an active life. “We simply took age out of the equation,” he explains.

 

Top tip

To find out what is most important to your customers, just ask them. Berggreen and his team took to the streets and asked people what they ideally wanted from a mobility device, or what they liked and disliked about the rollator they currently owned. “And then they opened up,” says Berggreen. “That discussion grew and [we became] able to paint a picture of what was needed.”

 

2. Look outside the industry for design inspiration

Rather than looking at existing rollator designs and finding ways to improve them, the byAcre team took a different approach to designing their prototype. Berggreen explains that he wanted byAcre’s rollator to communicate “activeness” so, as a starting point, he filled a wall with pictures of things that had an active appearance, from sharks and eagles to sports cars and fighter jets.

“When you looked at the wall you could see this organic shape, so we thought that we have to create something that has this organic shape. That’s how the design came out,” he explains. “It was a very good process; I could sit there with my engineers and say, ‘is it active?’”

 

Top tip

“For redesigning a product, don’t listen to the trade,” advises Berggreen. “Or if you do, remember there’s a lot of bias.” He explains how, in byAcre’s early days, retailers regularly told him that consumers weren’t interested in the type of product he was showing, or wouldn’t be prepared to pay its price point – which was the opposite of what the team was hearing from consumers. “If you want to innovate, doing it together with trade is difficult, almost impossible. You can deal with the trade later,” he says.

 

3. Find and nurture your early adopters

While a large proportion of customers that need a mobility device are older people, the byAcre team realised their products were also becoming popular with a younger – and social media savvy – demographic as well.

But developing a strong online presence was always an important part of byAcre’s strategy. “Buying a rollator is a very big decision and it’s very private. Our theory was that people would start doing their research on the net,” he says.

Berggreen says that disability advocates and bloggers who post pictures of themselves going about their lives with their byAcre rollators have been among the company’s most important ambassadors, with their enthusiasm for the brand helping to spread the word.

Building the byAcre name this way translated into real-world demand, too, with customers asking in stores for products they’d seen online, Berggreen says. “Then it started to spread.”

 

Top tip

When launching a disruptive product, Berggreen says, “just be extremely persistent”. Winning over core consumers early on helped the byAcre team to convince retailers to stock their rollators.

 

 

Source: FedEx – byACRE: Three lessons from disrupting an industry –  April 2022

 

Our Favourite Mobility Innovations of 2016

Now that we’ve had a few days to recover from hectic, food-and-family filled holiday schedules, it’s finally time to take a deep breath and look back at 2016. For us, that means thinking about the changes that took place in the field of mobility: the improvements, innovations and ideas that worked towards improving mobility for all kinds of people. Overall, 2016 saw a rapid transformation in the speed of mobility innovations: from smarter cars to GPS footwear, mobility products across many markets are becoming better, cheaper and more accessible. Thanks to the speed of development, more and more people can take advantage of game-changing mobility technology. Although there were many mobility innovations to pick from, here our top 6 from 2016.

1. Audi Fit Driver System

According to Audi, the Audi Fit Driver System’s goal is to “provide the optimal driving experience, custom-tailored to the current condition of the driver.” Sounds pretty generic—but in fact, Audi have come up with a unique solution that puts health and wellbeing first in a fluid, integrated way. A wearable watch tracks your vital parameters, such as heart rate, tension, tiredness level, and transmits that information to the car. In response, the car adjusts its functionality to best accommodate the driver’s current condition—whether that means reducing stress levels or improving concentration. Although meant for people of all ages, the Audi Fit Driver particularly holds positive implications for people with unstable mobility issues: no matter what problems you’re suffering from, the Fit Driver will respond to your body, so you can get you where you need to go.

So far, the Audi Fit Driver is only available in Germany—but considering the positive response Audi has gotten for it, we’ll probably be seeing this car in other countries soon.

2. Arctic Grip Footwear Technology

For most of us, stumbling over an icy sidewalk after a snow day is pretty annoying—but for people with mobility issues, a slip and fall can have serious health implications. That’s why Vibram’s Arctic Grip Footwear Technology is such a necessary innovation, especially for those of us who live in snowier areas: it makes walking on ice feel exactly like taking a walk on a sunny day. The shoes feature lugs with sole technology that’s grippy on ice as well as thermochromatic lugs, which sense when temperatures drop and change color to warn their wearers. It’s the most advanced grip technology on a walking shoe out there—and luckily, it’s already available for purchase.

3. The Genworth R70i Aging Experience

2016 saw the rise of virtual reality, with out-of-body experiences being used for everything from gaming to relationship building. However, it was also used specifically to generate understanding around mobility needs: The Genworth R70i Aging Experience makes you feel what it’ll be like to move around in the world when you’re a senior. By putting you in a sensory suit, the GRAE simulates what it’ll be like to walk, see, hear and speak when you’re aging and possible suffering from health issues, like blurred vision or muted hearing. By giving people an ‘aging experience’, Genworth aims to realistically prepare them for what’s to come in their futures—so they can start making smart decisions about their mobility earlier on in life.

4. Quell

When it comes to treating chronic pain, people generally think of three options: over-the-counter medicine, physiotherapy or even surgery. However, what if there was a solution that was less costly or life-changing, easy to use and free of side effects? Enter Quell—a new wearable from of pain relief that primarily treats back pain, arthritic pain, nerve pain and leg and foot pain. A band that you wear on your upper calf, Quell disrupts your body’s natural pain relief response by blocking the pain signals in your body through stimulation of sensory nerves. You can also download the app, which lets you monitor changes in your stress levels, sleep patterns etc. since using Quell—but even without the app, 81% of users report feeling pain significant pain reduction. Now that’s effective!

5. Al-Pro Framing Hammer

Few things are more frustrating than failing at hammering something into the wall. Whether the nails you’re using are wrong, the wall is too tough or the hammer is too heavy for you to use properly, it can be infuriating—and potentially impossible to master for those with arthritis or other physical issues affecting their upper body strength and grip. Luckily, the construction equipment company Estwing decided to solve this setback with their new AL-Pro Hammer. Made from forged aircraft aluminum alloy – a material much lighter than the regular Titanium – it’s easy for you to handle, but send a vibration dampening shot to nail heads so max force hits them every time. Plus, there’s a magnetic nail starter in the head to make aiming accurately a piece of cake. So whether you’re suffering from chronic hand pain or have failed at hanging up art on your walls one too many times, Estwing has finally made the solution for you.

6. ReSound Hearing Aids

When you think of hearing aids, a few stereotypes probably come to mind. Clunky, definitely; ineffective, perhaps; old-fashioned. However, ReSound’s latest hearing aids, LINX2, break those stereotypes with impressive elegance: the company’s new hearing aids are tiny, sleek, and integrated with the tech elements of your life. The aids themselves are made of ultra-durable technology that’s also water and dust resistant, but most excitingly, they connect to your gadgets. You can hook up your iphone or ipad to the hearing aids—so taking a phone call, listening to music and hearing the world when you’re out on a walk becomes a fluid experience for those with hearing difficulties. Best part: it’s all controlled by a smartwatch on your wrist which lets you control various elements, such as how much you can focus on someone talking, or how much wind you hear on a cold day at the beach. For hearing aids that actually aid all parts of your life, look no further.

 

Why Age is the New Black

byACRE has a lot to say about senior lifestyle and what we can do to enhance it—and no phrase captures our mindset better than “Age is the New Black”. It’s the motto that drives everything we do and communicates our core message: aging is a new and exciting transition of life, and it’s about time brands and products started to reflect that in their communications and design.

We aren’t saying this out of the blue. Recent trends have shown us that age really is the new black—and it’s pretty obvious why. For one, we’re all living longer: currently, there are way more boomers than millennials or generation x’ers—and since birth rates are falling in Europe and North America, there’ll be even more of them over the next decade compared to other generations. That means that brands and people are working towards making seniors’ lives better—especially by addressing mobility. Whether people are finding ways to improve senior mobility or addressing the barriers around it, brands and audiences are talking about seniors moving. How does this look on an everyday scale? For one, we’re seeing more considered and appealing products made with aging folks in mind—things that look fun and useful enough to reflect By ACRE’s mentality of empowering, celebrating and valuing seniors. More importantly, we’re seeing a shift in how aging people are portrayed by industries, especially in fashion.

Anita Kalero by Stefan Heinrichs for Kinfolk

There’s an inherent beauty in age. After all, you simply can’t match the grace of a woman with lines of experience on her face, or the body language of a man that communicates wisdom and confidence acquired over decades. The fashion industry has picked up on this knowledge, too, with a momentum around appreciating age and mobility. Instead of resorting to using cookie-cutter, youthful models in their campaigns, top fashion brands like Celine are turning their focus towards older people with stories to tell—like Joan Didion, Dame Helen Mirren or Charlotte Rampling. Even Hollywood has spent the past few years producing Blockbuster hits like Red, with a cast entirely made of boomers, and we’ve seen senior citizens take over the internet with things like The Betty White phenomenon. Brands from skincare to cars are hip to the trend too, considering that the most successful ad of the past few years was Volkswagen’s Epic Split starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. Yet it’s not just brands talking about it, either. The media industry has actively started addressing the change, too: everyone from FastCompany to Kinfolk to Elle Magazine is either writing about the sudden rise of the traditionally ‘old’, or helping perpetuate the trend themselves.

byACRE is among the variety of companies working on changing how we portray people society tends to consider ‘old’. Now, those people are celebrated as more culturally-relevant and powerful than they’ve been in decades. This message trickled down to the media, then to internet culture—and finally, to the mentality and mind of the average person. By recognizing the global influence of seniors and just how important it is to give those people the mobility tools they need to keep on living life to the fullest, brands and people came together to align with byACRE’s values and changed how society looks at aging for the better.

So what do we think about it all? Well, as we said before: Age is the New Black. Thanks to recent trends, this belief is spreading further and further. There’s no denying it anymore. Aging is full of opportunity—and we’re glad that other people and brands are seeing that, too.

 

How to Help People Fight Loneliness

If we think about common causes of mortality, a few things come to mind. Obesity, definitely; cancer; heart disease; guns and wars. However, you probably don’t immediately put loneliness on that list—but you should. According to experts – most recently, at Brigham Young University – loneliness is an epidemic that could potentially be as risky as obesity or substance abuse. Millennials in particular are dubbed “The Loneliness Generation”, but loneliness could affect anyone—including seniors. According to recent studies, 43 percent of seniors reporting feeling lonely on a daily basis.

A recent 2020 survey made by the community Sixty+Me indicates that the number might be even higher – especially in light of the covid19 pandemic, which has led people to become more isolated. Among Sixty+Me’s survey participants and entire 87% reports that they sometimes or often feel lonely. When they did the same survey in 2019 “only” 75% reported that they felt lonely.

One of the primary reasons for feeling lonely among the Sixty+Me community is the lack of a spouse/partner along with living alone, not having many friends and not having contact with family members.

(more…)

 

Our Top 8 Must-Have Apps for Seniors

These days, there’s an app for pretty much anything. Wanna find out what that cool-looking plant you passed on your walk in the park is? There’s an app for that. Wanna see what kind of meal you can make with the random stuff you have left in your fridge? There’s an app for that, too. According to statistics, over 1000 apps get released through the App Store each day, crossing ranges of interests and demographics—which means really, really useful apps specifically for seniors are out there more than ever.

Apps targeting seniors generally focus on improving their health and alleviating symptoms of illnesses—but it’s not all sadness and sickness in the app world, either. There are apps for catching up on what’s going on in the world, chatting with your granddaughter, getting out and about in your community—and all are senior-specific. To make it a bit easier for you to navigate the big, ever-expansive world of apps out there, we’ve compiled a list of our Top 8. Enjoy.

If you’ve got an avid audiobook fan in your family, this app will be a game changer for them. With over 180, 000 audiobooks of stories, novels, essays, radio shows and podcasts to listen to, the possibilities are literally endless—all at the decent price of $14.95 US per month, if you want to have unlimited access to audiobooks. Otherwise, you can get it for free, but you’ll have to pay per audiobook you download.

Bonus: the app also allows you to control its brightness and set timers on your audiobooks. So if you feel like falling asleep to a fascinating story or timing your audiobook for your walk to the grocery store, you can do that with the push of a button thanks to Audible.

Image via Lumosity

Lumosity is your key to keeping your brain perked and alert. An app with a simple-to-use and minimal interface, it creates customized brain-stimulating programs based on a quick survey defining your habits you submit upon signing up. The cognitive games, focusing on patterns and shapes, are designed by Lumosity’s in-house scientists and teams of researchers—so they’re made to stimulate your brain in ways with long-term benefits. Although Lumosity got in a bit of trouble earlier this year by overstating the benefits their app provides users, simple problem-solving apps are proven to strengthen your brain—as long as you use them on a daily basis.

Image via WIRED

Words With Friends is basically like Scrabble—but the interface is much more fun and colourful, and you have much more flexibility with how you play. You can play by yourself, or get your family members involved in ongoing games; you can participate in weekly challenges the app designs for you; you can switch languages; and you can even be paired with a stranger around you who plays at the same level as you do. So for all those wordsmiths out there – or even those who want to feel closer to their family and friends abroad – this handy little game will do the trick.

Fade: Fall Detector

Screenshot via YouTube

Everyone falls every once in awhile. It’s no biggie—depending on the person, that is. For many seniors, even a simple fall can lead to an array of icky health problems and worrisome aftereffects. However, if someone falls and gets help as soon as possible, it makes the outcome of the tumble a whole lot better—which is where Fade: Fall Detector comes in. An app built for Android, it detects your movement throughout your day; if it senses that you fall, it will contact the relative you identified as your emergency contact and send them your GPS information and time of fall. It’s simple, it’s effective—and a great way to make an accident a lot less stressful.

You know those cute, romantic, tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurants? All dimly lit and mysterious, with a lone candle illuminating the handwritten menu your waiter gives you? Oh, those places are lovely—but they sure aren’t that easy to actually read the menu in. That’s where EyeReader comes in: it’s an app that acts as a magnifying glass, using the LED light of the phone to at once illuminate and magnify whatever’s in front of you. You can zoom to your preference with your fingers on the screen and can even simply take photos by tapping your screen twice and clicking ‘save’. The concept is simple, alright—but a lifesaver in everyday situations for people whose eyes don’t work perfectly, especially in dark situations. It also links with your Apple Watch if you have one, so you can read whatever you need on your wrist if you prefer it.

Image via TechNews World

This app designed for iPads is the closest you can get to having a physiotherapist beside you at all times. Created by an American physiotherapist, it aims to help people avoid or identify motion injuries—and also functions as something physiotherapists can give their patients to let them take in-office learnings to their homes. Motion Doctor uses a combination of video and text to describe routines for strengthening and stretching your body while giving you the basic rationale behind each exercise as well as an overview of human anatomy. The app contains over 60 videos, and they come pre-downloaded on the app—so you don’t need an internet connection to see them. On top of that, the videos are sorted by activity, sport and profession and let you customize your routines; you can get really nitty gritty with this, if you feel like it. At $15 USD, this app is pricy—but considering how much information and help it packs in, we feel it’s worth a download.

Image via Pillboxie

For those of us who need to take a cocktail of pills on a daily basis, keeping track of it all can be a daunting task—which is why Pillboxie is such a simple yet necessary tool. Pillboxie is an app that lets you visually manage your meds: to schedule a reminder, you drop a render of a pill into a pillbox. Then, the app will send out reminders based on the information you put in—even if you’re sleeping or have your device on airplane mode. As you take your meds, you can check them off one by one, plus customize how it all looks with a range of shapes and colours. You don’t need wifi for this app, either—making Pillboxie a pretty much foolproof way of remembering to take your pills, no matter how many you have to. Plus, it’s designed and developed by a nurse—so you know it’s legit.

Image via Skype

Out of all the communication apps out there, Skype remains the best one. With a simple and easy to understand interface and a lot less lag time than other apps, Skype lets you take your friends and family with you wherever you go. Plus, you can share photos or links while in conversation with the simple tap of a button—and can always call someone’s landline if you prefer. Finally, Skype lets you fluidly switch from one-on-one conversation to a group chat thanks to an easy group conversation extension you can download alongside the app. Despite the many competitors out there, Skype is still leading the pack.

 

Our Top 8 Design Objects Changing Seniors’ Lives

When you think of products designed for seniors, what comes to mind? Most likely, you think of things that are grey, hospital-like and clunky—depressing stuff with seemingly minimal aesthetic consideration. That’s because product design for seniors had a bad rep for many years: up until recently, it was hard to learn about products made for seniors that didn’t fit under that cold and clammy aesthetic. Thankfully, the past few years have seen a boom in startups focusing on product innovation collide with a cultural interest in breaking the stereotypes around aging and what it means to be ‘old’. As a result, clunky and cold objects for seniors are becoming a thing of the past—making room for objects and tools that are fun, easy to use, aesthetically appealing and smartly designed.

To give you a quick overview of the range of innovative designs for seniors that are out there, we’ve compiled a list of our Top 8.

Exercising in water sounds great and all—but it can get a bit tiring, even for the fittest of folks. Luckily, innovation house IDEO’s Munich office came up with a solution called Sväv. Upon first glance, it’s a stylish and timeless swimsuit—but look closer, and it’s a powerhouse of support for all shapes and sizes. Sväv has pneumatic features fluidly integrated into the design: as you swim, they fill with air—so no matter what you’re doing in the water, you get lightness, lift and fashion points, too.

For people with dementia, appetite loss and dramatic weight loss are an unfortunate reality—and one that makes the disease much harder to keep under control. However, Ode is here to the rescue: it’s a subtle tool you can put in your home to regularly release appetite-stimulating fragrances—and according to Ode, it’s quite effective. Upon testing the product’s impact on 50 people living with dementia, their team found that 50% of the participants gained weight of an average of 2 kg over eleven weeks. It’s simple to install, too: simply plug it into an outlet and set the timer to release fragrances for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Image via WIRED

Much like us, the company behind Sabi Space was sick and tired of seeing products designed for seniors that screamed ‘old’ and ‘boring’. Enter Sabi Space: a collection of 13 bathroom accessories that primarily cater to aging people, yet could just as easily make their way into the homes of trendy millennials. The whole collection is based around pegs which you can mix and match for your comfort and visual taste: whether you want to install one of the Sabi Space towel racks, aluminum bathroom bars or mirrors, these pegs will let you do so without screws and without a struggle. The packaging has a true-to-size render of the product plus straightforward installation instructions, so you don’t have to give yourself a headache figuring out how to make these things work. Just don’t be surprised if your kids or grandkids want the same set in their bathrooms after seeing yours. It’s that stylish.

Image via ebay

The best thing about this product is you don’t have to have sore hands or muscles to relate to the problem it solves: almost everybody knows what it’s like to walk out of the grocery store after a particularly large shop, only to have to suffer through your walk home as you try to ignore the pain and discomfort caused by heavy grocery bags digging into your hands. The OneTrip Grocery Holder eliminates that problem for good: it’s basically a minimalistic, colourful hook you strap your grocery bags into. You can pick from a range of colours—and since they sell at $2.50 USD a pop, you can stock up on these lifesavers.

On first glance, this watch is, well, a functional-looking and unfussy watch. However, it holds far more power than that: Minneapolis-based startup Reemo developed it with seniors and their everyday needs in mind. So, this watch can let you control your lighting, thermostat or locks; receive reminders and alerts; contact your friends and family with a quick tap; and ask for help or assistance through a simple button whenever you need it. Now, we’re just waiting ‘til this thing hits the market!

Image via IDEO

No, we’re not talking about the big, wide-eyed bird kind of owl. OWL is an acronym for On the Wisdom of Life—which accurately represents the point of IDEO’s ‘elegant thought time capsule’. It’s basically a minimal and stylish shelf that would compliment any apartment—but it holds 80 glass tubes meant to represent 80 years of your life. Each year, you write down a reflection on the past year and a hope for the coming year and put it one of the vessels. The tubes that live at the top symbolize the wisdom you’ve earned, while the ones at the bottom symbolize potential for the future.

Image via IDEO

Another IDEO marvel – this time for the Shanghai office – Pit Stop Posts is a line of street furniture designed to help seniors and those who are slower in pace find a place to rest in busy urban areas. They look like minimal walking sticks placed strategically on the street—but really, they’re effective resting posts that can help you hang your shopping bags, lean on something sturdy or help you navigate public transportation.

Image via DesignBoom

You know that friend you have who just ‘gets’ you? Well, that’s what Omhu is to us. The NYC-based company’s “Aids for Daily Living” collection of objects is inspired by Scandinavian design, the fun yet stylish aesthetic of bicycles and a mentality very much like ours: just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to lose out on your personality. In particular, their ‘Omhu’ cane is a take on the traditional cane that turns it into a modern-looking and useful accessory. These canes are recyclable, designed with easy-to-grip handles, made of lightweight aluminum—and keep you lookin’ like the stylish kid on the block. Oh, and Omhu means ‘with great care’ in Danish—so yeah, this company’s pretty close to us at heart!

 

How Fashion Brands Are Redefining ‘Old’

Joan Didion for Celine

Over the past few years, older women have continued to pop up on the fashion world’s radar. We’ve seen French fashion house Celine cast American writing legend Joan Didion as the face of their campaign; Dame Helen Mirren as a primary ambassador for L’Oreal; Joni Mitchell as the driving force of Saint Laurent; Charlotte Rampling as the face of Nars. This trend of ditching blank-faced 20-somethings for women with stories and wisdom continues to be growing—and it’s not only fashion brands at the helm. On social media, the blog Advanced Style – featuring street-style photos of older men and women in New York with some sort of chutzpah about them – has over 300,000 views per month, its popularity spurring the much-loved documentary Advanced Style. Instagram accounts like Fashion Grandpas (stylish older men) and Oldushka (Russian seniors in Moscow) have thousands and thousands of followers. Cult style magazines like The Gentlewoman are putting older women on the cover, and magazine editors like Justine Picardie from Harper’s Bazaar happily admit that most of the stories they feature are about older people, not younger.

Of course, a lot of this comes back down to cold, hard finances. Fashion brands are well aware that people over 60 make up the fastest growing group of consumers in many countries: in the UK, example, 79% of disposable wealth in the UK is in the hands of people over 50. It makes sense that brands want to leverage that knowledge by showing their consumers people they’re more likely to relate to over yet another fresh-faced young thing. Even so, this financial motivation does lead to a positive outcome: it reflects and continues to impact a growing cultural shift around physical and lifestyle ideals. As The Observer writes, millennials as well as other generations want more than beautiful people to look at: they want people whose identities reflect stories, wisdom and confidence—and in many cases, the natural representations of those values are people who have lived longer lives and accumulated more knowledge on the way. So although Celine casting Joan Didion does exploit the shock value of portraying age in a traditionally youth-obsessed culture to be ‘edgy’, it also uses Didion’s personal history and reputation to equate brains and experience with beauty and desirability.

The Oldushka Project

Admittedly, there is something fishy about the rapidness of it all. It’s not as if we’ve seen a slow increase in the use of older men and women as the driving forces of brand campaigns: the majority of it happened in the last four years, seemingly one brand after the other. Although this makes it tempting to look at the sudden presence of older women in fashion and media as a vapid trend using shock value to sell things, it may also simply be a natural evolution of things. As Justine Picardie, EIC of Harper’s Bazaar, says, “the pendulum does sometimes swing – You look at the 1950s when they liked that very sophisticated, elegant, grown-up looking woman. And then there was the youth-quake of the 60s, when youth was fetishised. One shouldn’t over-simplify and say this is the first time we’ve ever had an industry where older women have been remarked upon … maybe we’re just seeing a natural shift.”

If we’re to side with Picardie on this one, it’s useful to look at the growing presence of older women in fashion in combination with other phenomenons. An accessible discussion around feminism is growing; the fashion industry is being forced to address and regulating unhealthy body standards; women are gaining more recognition and power to take over key global roles (if Hillary Clinton becomes president, for example, three of the world’s most influential countries will be run by women). All of this means that both younger and older women are cluing in to new standards of empowerment for themselves—a part of which is feeling confident, no matter what age you’re at. As 53 year old Rosie Arnold, deputy ECD at Advertising Agency BBH London, says, “What most people have failed to realise is it’s a fascinating time of our lives as a woman…. You are more solvent, more confident, and have – please God – your health. I’m aware that the kids have left home, and I’ve got money, I’ve got confidence…. I’ve actually got more time on my hands, or more money, and there isn’t a brand out there saying ‘this is cool’ or ‘you can have this’.”

Joni Mitchell for Yves Saint Laurent

So although the fashion world’s sudden fascination with older women is far from perfect – not everyone can be a cultural figure like Joan Didion, or have aged as gracefully as Dame Helen Mirren – we prefer to see it for its positives over its negatives. By continuously elevating the roles of older women in their campaigns, these brands are also elevating the roles of older women in overall culture. Every time a brand or magazine features an older women as its face or cover, the shock value of ‘age’ pushing ‘youth’ to the side slowly disappears. Instead, it’s slowly but surely replaced by a genuine comfort with seeing older women in roles of cultural importance—a comfort that trickles down to consumers of all genders and ages. So, as we like to say: Age is the New Black. Get with it.