Fun Archives – Varsity Branding

Tag: Fun

It’s no secret — I love comic books. I collect everything Batman-themed and find myself inspired by the art and the story of superhero fiction. If you’ve participated in one of our branding presentations, you’ve experienced my passion, as we use Superman and Batman as examples of brand archetypes. I proudly take credit for that analogy!

“But, Rob, what do comic books have to do with aging?” you may ask.

Our favorite superheroes are timeless and never seem to age. Batman and Superman have managed to stay young forever, even though they debuted when my grandparents were children. Recently, however, some comic book writers have begun toying with the idea of what would happen if some of the most well-known superheroes got older.

Let’s start with my favorite superhero of all time: Batman. In “The Dark Knight Returns,” Frank Miller’s classic four-part miniseries, we meet a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne, who comes out of retirement to fight crime. The story may seem a little familiar, as the writers admit to being inspired by the “Dirty Harry” film “Sudden Impact,” released in 1983. Frank Miller has also noted that the story is a reflection of his own experiences with aging. In the book, Batman has to deal with the limitations that aging have caused, all while trying to guide and mentor younger heroes looking to take up a mantle similar to his. So influential was “The Dark Knight Returns” that it has been credited as one of the driving forces that created the Dark Age of Comic Books, characterized by a grim, seedy version of comic realism.

Another hero that everyone knows — and that I enjoy — is Wolverine, of X-Men fame. In 2008, he got his very own aging story, entitled “Old Man Logan.” In this tale, superheroes have been wiped out, and Logan has remained under the radar, hiding his famous claws and superpowers. But, after some urging from Hawkeye, who is now blind, Logan sets out on a cross-country adventure to deliver a package to the new capital of the United States, under the rule of the Red Skull. Throughout the series, Logan and Hawkeye encounter other aged superheroes, struggling to find their place in a world that is only looking to destroy them. It’s another gritty tale that weaves the aging process into a broader story.

The previous two stories posit the question, “What if a superhero aged?” But, in 1996, DC Comics asked a much larger question — one that is suddenly pertinent to the aging services space: What is the “succession plan” for superheroes? The story starts with the Justice League stepping down from their roles as superheroes after the general public endorses a new hero named Magog. Magog isn’t afraid to kill in the name of justice, thus violating the unwritten superhero code of ethics up to this point. This blurring of morality leads to “heroes” causing wonton destruction. Superman and the Justice League return to service to corral the out-of-control heroes, putting the team in conflict with Batman. During Superman’s decade-long absence, Batman has been training the next generation of heroes. The manner in which the now aging Batman and Superman go about training the next generation is a focal point of the story, with both sides making blunders along the way. If you’re going to pick up one comic book series to read, I highly recommend snagging the collected edition of “Kingdom Come.” It’s a fantastic story, with truly outstanding art.

At Varsity, we pride ourselves on having a fresh perspective on aging. Personally, I find it fascinating when unexpected mediums deal with the topic of aging. Yes, sometimes their depictions can be a little cliché, but other times — such as in the comics I mentioned — we get a different look. All of these varied viewpoints keep me refreshed and excited as I take on the challenge of creative development for our clients across the country.


When you think of LEGOs, what comes to mind?

You probably conjure up an image of small, multicolored plastic pieces that are used by children to build structures and vehicles for play. Perhaps you also remember trying to pick the tiny parts out of the carpet or stepping on an errant brick in the middle of the night, causing much more pain than one would expect. LEGOs have become an integral part of childhood for most American children. It’s a product that crosses social barriers and provides a unique play experience for kids of all ages.

We say “all ages” because the LEGO company has been embracing a new market, called “AFOLs” — adult fans of LEGOs. If you were to do a quick internet search, you would find a large and growing community of adults that are passionate about LEGOs; they dream up and construct magnificent and complex models, all built of LEGO bricks. Seeing the dedication of this community, and the potential for revenue, LEGO has been creating and marketing very advanced building kits, sometimes branded with pop culture properties, that appeal specifically to adults. Recent products have included TRON, The Beatles, the original Ghostbusters, architectural marvels from around the world and more. It truly is a golden age for the little LEGO brick.

However, the idea of “adult fans” isn’t just limited to younger adults. Increasingly, we’re seeing older adults that show a passion for LEGOs. From a purely objective standpoint, LEGO is a fantastic way for adults to keep working their fine motor skills, utilize spatial reasoning and engage in a creative exercise for the mind. Around the world, people are beginning to realize that spending a little time playing with LEGOs can be great for any age.

Lori Burdoo used to curate a Facebook Page called “Good Gifts for Senior Citizens.” On her Page, someone suggested LEGOs. This inspired her to look at the product from a whole new angle. She was especially interested in how LEGOs could benefit people challenged with memory loss. She notes that nearly anyone can use LEGOs, as the bricks come in multiple sizes. Even those with arthritis or other motor impairments can manipulate the larger bricks. Then, Lori discovered some of the more adult-focused sets LEGO had created in recent years, such as the Birds set, the more finely detailed LEGO Architecture series and the LEGO Ideas collection.

LEGO Ideas started in 2008 as a way for users to submit their own LEGO designs to the company in an effort to get LEGO to sell their creation officially. The platform works much a like a petition page, with people able to signify their support for specific builds. If a user-submitted build reaches 10,000 supporters, LEGO will officially review the product for creation. Currently, 23 entries have been turned into official LEGO products. Sadly, however, one product did not generate enough support — “Senior Builds.”

Senior Builds posited the ability of LEGO to have a creative impact on an older audience. It cites the brain stimulation that others have discovered, along with the ability to hone manual dexterity. To be fair, the project was not well-fleshed out, but the germ of an idea is there. Could LEGO design a set to be specifically marketed to older adults, challenging them appropriately? It does seem like a very interesting idea!

At Varsity, we live the idea of “fresh perspective.” As a creative director, I value the lessons that can be learned from creative play, no matter the age. My desk is home to many toys from my favorite pop culture properties. I know that I will continue to enjoy creative experiences for the rest of my life, so I can only imagine that the current generation of community residents feels the same way.

LEGO: It could just be the next big thing in senior living activities!


Many of us have fond memories of going to summer camp as children. Hiking through mountains, boating on a lake, shooting archery and learning crafts are all a part of the common memories that many share. But, as we age, we leave those summer days behind, letting them create a bygone era in our mind, when summers were carefree and fun — fortunately, though, that no longer needs to be the case.

Take, for instance, Camp Meraki. Marketed as a retirement camp for seniors, the program runs in the early fall at John Knox Ranch, in Wimberley, Texas. During the hot summer months, the camp runs activities for children, but as the cooler fall temperatures approach, it welcomes a different crowd of those 60+. The activities, however, are largely the same, including canoeing, archery, crafts, stargazing, sing-alongs and more! Oh, and don’t forget the one activity you won’t find at a kids camp — happy hour! The camp runs for three days and two nights, letting campers relive their childhood memories in a fun and safe environment.

Now we’re sure you’re thinking something along the lines of, “That’s all well and good, but my community isn’t in Texas, so this doesn’t really apply to me.” Au contraire! This is an opportunity for your community to do something new and intriguing.

First, you could work with your life enrichment/therapeutic recreation staff to create a camp experience right at your community. While it wouldn’t necessarily be as involved as the Camp Meraki, it could make for a unique program that sets you apart from your local competition. Make sure to include all of the important camp activities — s’more making, campfire sings and arts and crafts!

For those who want to take this one step further, how about contacting your local youth camp and consider setting up a senior camp of your own? You could invite not only your residents, but also prospective residents. It would be a great way for them to get to know your community and could easily provide three days of marketing opportunities for your sales staff. Now that’s a quality program that will differentiate you from your competition!

We love the idea of Camp Meraki here at Varsity. It shows that older adults can enjoy activities that are more commonly attributed to youth. It also helps with memory care and brain stimulation by bringing back those thoughts of childhood and reconnecting people with skills they otherwise might have lost. It’s truly a win-win for everyone involved.

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