The dream factory

If you want to have a vision of what life should be like in your retirement years, all you have to do is watch TV. Not the programs...the commercials.

Television commercials offer multiple visions of what life could be like for aging baby boomers: an active and healthy lifestyle, weight loss, carefree travel, gratification and happiness. It's dream fulfillment that can be inspiring, provided you can turn off the voice in your head that keeps saying, "That's not real. That's not the way life is... it's just a commercial, what a con job, etc."

But so what? A fantasy is a fantasy, and the important thing is recognizing it. Where would we be in life without dreams that we turn into plans that sometimes become reality? Watch the television messages targeting people in their 50s and older: cereals that promote good health, medication that offers freedom from pain and discomfort (arthritis medication, for example); a life of endless sexual satisfaction for both partners (Cialis, Viagra); luxury cars; vacation properties, and so on. It's not so much the content of the message that can be so beguiling, but the styling and the settings: sunny days, exotic locations, flowers and colour, great hotels; outdoor living, people on excursions, people riding bicycles, painting, swimming, hiking; smiling, happy beautiful seniors, and so on.

Marshall McLuhan, the communications theorist, speaking about newspapers , said that advertising is always good news. It balances the bad news in the daily stories and editorial sections. The same theory could be applied to television. Commercials give us hope for graceful and happy sunset years.

Of course, reality is often different, but it's nice to live these 30-second dreams. They may even inspire us to work toward that kind of retirement lifestyle, whether or not we buy the products.

Photograph is courtesy of Craig Jewell and the stock.xchng.

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