“Is It Real, Or Is It Memorex?”

“Is it real or is it Memorex?” was a popular advertising slogan from the early 80s – some 35 years ago! – for cassette recording tapes that Millennials may not recognize or identify with, but Baby Boomers likely remember this. The brand of audio recording tapes known as Memorex claimed to offer such an authentic capture, representation, and playback experience that the listener would not be able to tell if they were listening to the actual conversation or performance or it was simply being played back for them on audio tape.

What does this have to do with our marketing and sales for aging in place? Ever hear of PhotoShop? This is essentially the same principle but applied differently to trick our visual senses.

Sometimes retouching or “doctoring” a photo has real aesthetic necessity – to remove blemishes in the photo or unfortunate objects such as a tree seemingly protruding from someone’s head or a signpost blocking part of the exterior of a home. Sometimes on a particularly gloomy, overcast day, we want to brighten the mood with a lighter sky.

Aside from little cosmetic helps that we can do in retouching photos – and we used to do this in the darkroom anyway so it’s not a new concept at all – we need to be careful both from a spectator standpoint (viewing the photos) and in showing such photos to our clients that we are not mistaken in what we see or perceive.

Clients may find a photo online or in a magazine that has been airbrushed or photoshopped (using any of several editing software programs) of how the image may have been changed. They are showing it to us as an example of the look they are wanting us to achieve for them. In reality, the finished look may vary from what they are seeing, and we need to be prepared to have this discussion with them. For older clients, they may not be aware of editing software and are following the adage they’ve used for years: “a picture doesn’t lie.” In fact, a picture can lie extensively in this sense. It may contain very little of the original image. It can be softened, enhanced in contrast or color, have an object or image inserted as if it was part of the original photo, and more. How many unicorns have actually been photographed, yet they can appear in an image as if they have been captured by the lens.
We may find ourselves telling someone that the image we are showing them is “an actual photograph,” when in bygone years, this qualification would have been redundant. They could see that it was a photo and would accept it as such – unretouched or unmodified, although this wasn’t always the case. Nevertheless, widespread enhancements to photos (except those done in a studio setting for publicity photos) was not done until recently. People really could believe their eyes and rely on what they were seeing as a fair representation of what had been captured on film (and currently, with digital media).
We need to be especially mindful, as we are working with older audiences, that our clients generally are unaware of some of the digital tricks that can be done and will accept what we are showing them, what they see on a website (if they have access to them), or what they see in a magazine as being an accurate and true rendition of what it purports to show.

As we establish a level of trust with our clients, they need to be able to believe what we are telling and showing them and that we have their interests in mind when we create a plan to help them. We must never do anything to violate this trust.

Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the “Aging & Accessibility” groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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