A TV commercial featuring an elderly Jewish couple that cleans up our perceptions about aging — while selling us on a new cleaning product — is sweeping across America.
“Morty, are you listening?” features Morty Kaufman and his wife, Lee, as she puts an extendable-handled cleaning tool called a Swiffer Duster through its paces in their home in Valley Stream, N.Y.
Not only is Morty listening (despite the fact that at one point in the spot he seems to be dozing off), but many in America are watching too. In addition to network airplay, the video featuring this nonagenarian couple has received well over a million hits on YouTube (http://tinyurl.com/m69zuh2).
How did America come to discover this zekeinim couple of clean?
“A friend of our daughter who is involved with advertising contacted us,” said Lee Kaufman, 90, when I reached her and her husband at their home recently. “The response has amazed us,” she said.
When they go out to dinner, “We definitely have received local recognition,” said the retired elementary school teacher, who in the spot is perched precariously upon a rickety kitchen stool so she can dust the top of her refrigerator.
“Old friends from over 20 years ago have called,” added Morty, 91, a retired pharmacist. “You’ve got to be 90 years old before this falls into your lap,” he quipped.
According to Morty, the filming had a casual feeling, and their conversation (which apparently mirrors their real relationship) was “not at all scripted.” They’ve been married for 44 years.
“She tries to keep things orderly, and I try to mess things up,” Morty said.
The spot was filmed in their own home — the photos on the walls and fridge are their own; “You have to be a child or a pet to get on that door,” said Lee.
Why is this half-minute interruption devoted to dusting catching our attention? The Kaufmans are definitely a cute couple, and the commercial has a smile-inducing last line, but could it be that related to the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents, this senior couple, perhaps standing in for all our parents, is treated with respect?
The Kaufmans are presented as independent, engaged and prepared to adapt to new technology — an image of seniors we usually don’t see on TV.
Unfortunately, we are more accustomed to the more helpless “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” stereotype of senior life, and the response to the freshness of this commercial’s approach is represented in many of the online comments:
“I want a marriage like this,” says one.
“He said ‘be careful babe.’ That’s so cute!” reads another.
“Touches my heart,” says a third.
“It was amazing to see us dancing and singing in our own kitchen,” remarked Lee, speaking of a short promotional video, “The Everyday Effect,” Proctor & Gamble made (http://tinyurl.com/
kep7cqx) that provides some background about the couple.
“It’s mostly younger people in commercials,” observed Morty, who made it clear during our conversation that he is against discrimination towards seniors. Staying involved, he volunteers at a local community school administering a Senior Observers Program, designed to allow seniors free access to a wide range of classes.
Morty and Lee, who both enjoy a “fair” amount of entertaining and spending the holidays with their family —six children and five grandchildren — are happy about the opportunity that has “dropped into our lives,” said Lee.
“We are really enjoying this moment,” she said.