Leading a revolt against ‘stock photos’ in aged care

Its true the old adage ‘a picture is worth a thousand words‘ and yet so often we resort to ‘stock photos’ to express those words.

As a manager of a not for profit in the aged care sector I was frustrated by the lack of suitable stock photo images of older people who are active, engaged and truly reflective of todays seniors. I wanted images that promoted and embraced wellness and active ageing – but alas I repeatedly found it very hard to find suitable pictures to use.

Mine is not a lone voice 

My frustration led me to commission a photographer to achieve the right image and message for our work. It seems I am not alone!
In a recent article a number of US aged care provider (Silvarado Care and Avanti Senior Living) have taken matters in their own hand and commissioned ‘real life’ photo’s for their marketing campaigns. Their reasoning is not dissimilar to my own.  They wanted to put their residents at the centre of their campaign and reflect their services. They also didn’t want to see stock photos they’ve used in their marketing turning up in other campaigns.

They argue that the use of ‘real’ photos of clients and services make the marketing ‘more authentic’ and in the words of Beth Abbot, Silverado’s vice president of marketing

“the photos have become a conversation starter for prospective residents and have boosted the referral program”

Remarkable Lives twitter
aged care residents; remarkable lives

Giving life to stories – making ageing and aged care images realistic

Others are using imagery in different ways, but still with the goal of presenting ‘a more real’ depiction of seniors and aged care.

Elders’ remakable lives need celebrating

Lilian Faithfull care homes in the UK are using photos of their residents to tell their story via social media “to highlight the achievements and histories of people living in the charity’s care homes” through a project titled ‘Remarkable lives’

Follow @LilianFaithfull

Others like Sun City in Arizona commissioned Kenrick Brinson to chronicle life in this unincorporated local community which houses 120 clubs and seven contemporary Recreation Centers. The results showcase a very different story of aging.

Retirement = the age of happiness

While the Age of Happiness project challenges our perception of retirement – showcasing new and exciting hobbies and pleasures enjoyed by people in their retirement.

There are many other such examples where through images we are being challenged to redefine our image of ageing



Emerging new ‘stock’ libraries

There has also been the rise of new ‘stock photo’ libraryies devoted to meeting the market for appropriate ‘senior’ or ‘elder’ photos and of broadening the images available – GreyStock is a new library that comes to mind. However a quick review/search of ‘aged care worker’ on other photo stock libraries will show staff in ‘white’ tunics or coats benevolently smiling or assisting older people.

These changes while, a step in the right direction, will always been limited and will not always hit the mark. Until more ‘stock photo’ libraries expand their content and really understand the ‘messaging’ needs of the aged care sector or the perception of seniors own self image or wishes they will be found lacking.

Get the picture right

The message from all of this is that we need to commission and promote the image and images of aged care and seniors that truly reflect the changing demographic, wishes and desires of seniors in our community. Choosing this path will speak more directly to the community and promote more positive stereotypes of aging in the community.

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