America is aging, and product design and marketing are
tracking this change. The way it is being handled is a
classic example of the way in which modern values --
especially those that may be only subtly evident and implied -
- can clash deeply with the Torah person's approach to the
Products are being designed to accommodate the huge market of
people whose eyesight is weakening, whose strength is waning
and who are not quite as supple as they once were. These are
natural, normal processes of aging.
A major soft drink company has designed a new shape for the
plastic bottles in which it sells its drinks. It is easier to
carry since it requires less hand strength to hold than the
Automobile designers are coming out with dials that are
larger, controls that are easier to hold and manipulate,
special panels to make loading easier and even power seats
that swivel to make getting in and out of the vehicle easier.
Thoughtful designers are even putting heating elements in the
Plumbing fixtures are getting new looks. Kitchen utensils are
given larger and thicker handles, making them easier to hold
and use by more people. Recreational vehicles are designed to
be more stable and slower, and even have heated hand grips.
Tennis rackets with extra-wide heads and golf clubs with
extra-large heads are now extremely popular.
This new approach has a name: universal design, suggesting
that the only motive is to have broad appeal. The marketing
experts say that it will not do to say that these changes
were made to accommodate the limitations of aging
"We don't mention the age word," said an associate product
manager for bathing products. Referring to shower stalls with
seats she says, "I tell the sales force they're smart
"It's a mistake to tell a client this is a product to
accommodate the frailties of age," said a marketing
consultant referring to recreational vehicles that are larger
and have special steps to make them easier to get onto. "It's
better to say that it makes the adventure more
That is the dirty secret. The millions of people who are
aging and have money to spend do not want to admit their
infirmities. They refuse to acknowledge that they are getting
older. They want to stay young forever.
How easy it is to simply read about these developments and
chuckle quietly, without paying any attention to the
wholesale acceptance and selling of such charming (and
lucrative) lies. How tragic it could be to absorb and accept
this approach in one's daily life.
It does not say explicitly in the Torah that one must or
should admit to age or physical limitations. On the other
hand an approach that propagates a refusal to confront
reality as it is and prefers a lie, no matter how benign and
charming it seems, is deeply inimical to the Torah approach
to the world.
What a contrast to the teachings of Kelm about strict
emes! Can anything be farther from the Torah behavior
of the Mashgiach, HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, zt"l,
who refrained from crying even during tefilla in his
old age since he could not be certain that his tears came
from genuine kavono and were not just the tears of old
The seal of HaKodosh Boruch Hu is emes, and He
will be hard to find if one is not completely truthful in
life. We can buy the new products, but we should not buy the
values that produced them.