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Why Are All of the Older Adults on The X Factor Cringe Worthy?

By Margaret Manning September 21, 2016 Lifestyle

Ok, I’ll admit it – one of my guilty little pleasures is watching The X Factor. Sometimes, I watch it by myself. But, more often, I go over to my son’s house to watch it with his family.

I’m not completely sure why I love The X Factor. Maybe it’s the fact that I have always been fascinated by passionate people. Or, maybe it’s the emotion and drama that the show is able to create. Whatever the reason, it’s become one of my favorite Saturday night activities.

Why Are Older Adults Treated Like Punch Lines on TV?

This season, however, I’ve noticed something that really annoys me. All of the contestants in their 50s and older are being treated as punch lines rather than participants. Here’s an example of the kind of act that I’m talking about. He is by no means the most cringe-worthy older adult act from this season, by the way.


Or here’s another example: Cori Burns, age 60, who loves cockatoos.


In fairness, The X Factor is a show about finding the next big pop star. You could argue that few baby boomers have what it takes to achieve commercial success in the highly competitive music industry.

Personally, I don’t think that this is the case. There are 20-million people over 50 in the UK. Surely there must be thousands of us that are (or were) vocal coaches, singers, actors and other kinds of performers.

If I’m correct here, there are 1000s of people our age who could do well on a show like The X Factor. So, why do we only see older adults who are cringe-worthy?

Will the Next Silver Pop Star Please Stand Up?

In my mind, there are only 2 possible explanations.

The first explanation is that competent performers our age simply aren’t interested in participating on The X Factor. Yes, I know that Susan Boyle did well on the show Britain’s Got Talent, but, she was an exception. Even she was only able to manage second place, by the way. The oldest person to win The X Factor in the U.K. was Steve Brookstein, at age 36.

The second explanation is that there are at least a few talented older adults who audition for the show, but, only the most “entertaining” (obnoxiously bad) are shown on TV. The older adults who are “pretty good” simply disappear.

I’d actually be fascinated to know the answer to this question. Do we have a case of talented older singers and performers ignoring the show? Or, is the show ignoring talented older adults?

Personally, I’m just waiting for someone in their 60s or 70s to come along and smash some aging stereotypes. If you have what it takes, why not audition next year? You’ll have the entire Sixty and Me community voting for you!

Do you watch the X Factor or American Idol? Why do you think older adults are often used as punch lines on TV shows? Please join the conversation.  

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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