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Considering their status as upholders of Indian culture, portrayals of the elderly appear in Indian content like clockwork. Such portrayals cover a wide spectrum of narratives and values. While some stick to the archetype of the elderly as treasure troves of traditional wisdom, some highlight their continuing relevance, and some show them as an independent minded demographic. We decode the first category today with examples from brands such as Parle-G, HelpAge India, and Whatsapp, etc. and contrast it with others.

You are my Parle-G | Parle-G

Centred around a mother-son relationship, this short film by Parle-G reminiscences about the times gone by through a mother’s lens. This in turn helps in highlighting the lacuna of lost value that now occupies her life. As the narrative moves along, the son realises his mother’s worth that is and shall remain undiminished.

Cultural codes such as a mother’s care and sacrifice are used for the messaging. New lifestyle methods (cooking with less amount of oil, for instance) are used to show that traditional methods used by the mother are now on the sidelines.

Parle-G strikes a common ground with the value of an entity staying unchanged over the years. Just like one’s mother, Parle-G (once an essential part of many Indian lives) deserves renewed and sustained recognition.

Dadu Ki Kahaani | HelpAge India

Visible in the title itself, this video by HelpAge India uses one of the most popular symbols associated with seniors, which is ‘storytelling’. Stories by grandparents, whether fictional or real, are a seminal part of Indian culture with tales passing from one generation to another.

Set in a hospital ward, the video shows a reticent grandpa, who is able to gradually open up in order to tell a story.

Thus the process of storytelling is employed to reinforce the need for engagement with the elderly. The video’s message is to focus as much on conversation as on care.

Caregiver #ItsBetweenYou | WhatsApp India

In a similar tradition as HelpAge India’s video above, this one-minute clip by WhatsApp shows an old lady who receives constant support from her nurse or caregiver. The clip where both people exchange texts, pictures, and videos was especially relevant in the context of the pandemic. Communication and support played a crucial role with several people left in the isolation of their homes.

WhatsApp’s video used the feeling of loneliness and dying hope for its messaging. Like HelpAge India, this video also focused on the conversation plus care for elder care.

#KhamoshiKhatam | Nokia and HelpAge India

Putting its own messaging into practice, HelpAge India collaborated with Nokia (HMD Global) to organise a concert for the elderly who stay in old-age homes. The concept revolved around the recurrent theme of loneliness — and hence a concert and chat by singer Alka Yagnik were put up to dispel the same.

The tropes of being sidelined, forgotten, and isolated feature in large parts in all the above pieces. While care and communication are the most obvious remedies to these issues, a concert signifies a step ahead. The notion of enjoying and having a good time is automatically codified into a concert. Thus, this campaign makes a subtle shift from the residual narrative to the emergent one.

Let’s now take a look at branded content and campaigns that are more invested in the aforementioned shift:

Food Tasting Session | Figaro Olive Oil

In Food Tasting Session, Figaro Olive Oil invites a bunch of grandmothers and presents dishes such as Rasam, Undhiyu, Chicken Kosha, etc., for them to taste. It is later revealed as a plot twist that the dishes are prepared via grandmothers’ recipes by their own grandkids. The only difference, however, is the use of olive oil instead of traditional mustard or coconut oil.

This branded content video by Figaro amalgamates the traditional with the modern. It highlights the continued relevance of grandma’s recipes but with a modern twist. It thus works out well for both generations. Importantly, grandmothers’ recipes are not represented as antiquated or outdated but as timeless classics that will always be a part of the now.

E for Elderly | CarDekho

As we talked about in an earlier piece (, CarDekho’s E for Elderly campaign clearly goes for a narrative that is disruptive. The codes of lost worth, loneliness, care, etc., used to signify the elderly are all replaced by confidence, independence, and an element of joy. What is usually represented as support in the old narrative is presented in a new light as ‘enablement’. So, a son enables his father who wants to resume medical practice by buying him a new car. The shift from care and support to enablement is not a minor change but signals a major shift of cultural perspective when it comes to parents and elders.

The Way Forward

The emergent narrative positions elders as a group of people who are very much independent, leading a life of their own, though they may need a nudge of support every now and then. More examples in the same category include recent campaigns by Columbia Pacific Community and Noble Hygiene. Columbia Pacific Community had Ruskin Bond deliver a message in favour of community living for the old:

While Noble Hygiene collaborated with senior-age influencers to produce content on Instagram that promoted Adult Diapers:

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The new narrative around the elderly in branded content goes well with the dictum of “old enough to retire, young enough to enjoy.” It is a welcome change from the old storylines that relied upon emotions and flashbacks.

In representing the elderly as part of their branded content, brands can use them as part of the storyline or as a target demographic with products and services designed for them.  A demographic of over a hundred million people cannot be catered to through standardised narrative tropes drawing from age-old cultural values. There is a need to bring in emergent narratives about senior citizens/silvers as well. Ageing need not be a pitiful lived experience, although the symbolism of Elders is venerated. An often found challenge in Indian cultural codes is the gap between the lived reality for a segment of people vis-a-vis their veneration at a symbolic level.  

It is heartening to find brands that bridge that gap of symbolism vs. reality with an emergent narrative around Elders as real people leading independent lives.