Age-neutral customer service: Lessons from Apple

Have you ever been frustrated with a customer service representative – whether on the phone, via email or face-to-face?

Why the frustration?

Maybe you felt misunderstood. Or, perhaps the person was constrained by a script, process, system, or structure of their training program. Maybe the person you were speaking with hasn’t been empowered to make good decisions for the customer that leads to better outcomes for everyone.

Too often we hear stories of poor customer service. This is particularly true amongst older people who may not be as technologically literate as their younger counterparts – like ‘Mary’ in this article. Regardless of age, we all want to feel understood. And most importantly, if we’re contacting customer service, we want our problem resolved effortlessly, without stress or anxiety.

Apple’s age-neutral customer service

If you’ve ever walked into an Apple Store, you’ll know the experience of feeling immediately welcomed. From the environment to the staff we feel good; even happy. How do I know this? Because I’ve experienced it myself. I also feel confident that any problem, however trivial or complex, will be understood and solved – effortlessly and easefully. I haven’t felt quite the same way in any other retail store or customer service environment.

So what is it that makes Apple different?

  • Staff reflect the diversity of Apple customers.

Take a look next time you’re in an Apple Store and you’ll find a team of all ages (and cultures and genders).

  • Apple “starts with why”

Apple’s customer service culture – a legacy of Steve Jobs – is one of supporting customers to both use and enjoy their Apple technology. The company starts with the customer experience and then works backwards to the functionality of their technology.

In Simon Sinek’s popular talk, he suggests that Apple “starts with the why” rather than with the ’what’ (i.e. its products). The focus is to solve problems and “enrich lives”. Consequently, Apple’s interactions with its customers transcend age biases and stereotypes. Furthermore, there’s very little room for ageism when you’re driven by good customer outcomes rather than sales commissions.

The customer service imperative

The 2016 KPMG Global CEO Survey, revealed that 88 per cent of CEOs are concerned about the loyalty of their customers. The reason is because 82 percent of people will turn away from a business due to a bad experience. And disenfranchised, unhappy customers or ex-customers are highly likely to spread the word to others about their bad experience. Unfortunately, it’s bad experiences that remain with us much longer than good ones – a widely known quirk of the human psyche.

Conversely, a recent report showed that 8 in 10 customers are willing to pay more for a product or service when they experience good customer service. Clearly, good customer experience (CX) can drive business success and growth.

The age-neutral customer service imperative

A recent UK cross-industry study showed that the older people get, the less satisfied they are with customer service. Given the vast spending power of the baby boomer generation, ageist attitudes amongst a customer service team is likely affecting your bottom line.

Baby Boomers will be the single largest consumer of products in the future. Consequently, companies can’t afford poor interactions with this ever-growing, cashed up, technology literate market segment. Fail to integrate baby boomers into your customer service strategy at your peril.

The future of age-inclusive customer service

Given the value of the ageing population; the impact of negative customer experiences; the average age of customer service teams; and the poor experience of many older people, it’s essential that Chief Customer Officers:

  1. Create age-diverse customer service teams.
  2. Challenge age stereotypes amongst their staff.
  3. Understand the diversity of customers over 50 – they are not a single homogenous group with identical attitudes, beliefs, or technology literacy*.
  4. Include flexibility in scripts that accommodates a diverse customer base.
  5. Empower customer service representatives to make decisions that delivers a great outcome for the customer and the organisation.
  6. Ensure their customer service teams understand the “why” of the business and they are purpose-led rather than sales-led in their interactions with customers.

 

Three Sisters Group delivers expertise and research-driven consultancy services on the longevity economy. We provide knowledge, understanding, and workshops for customer-driven, strategic change. Contact us today to create an age-inclusive customer experience.

*I’m amazed at how often people assume that when I mention Three Sisters Group specialises in the over 50’s market, that they think I’m talking about aged care. A baby boomer (between 54 – 74 years old) is not generally in the market for aged care. They are in the same market for the goods and services you’re buying today. And whilst Three Sisters Group doesn’t specialise in aged care we do work with organisations seeking to enter or gain growth in this market.

Image source: Shutterstock

Mind the gap

Mind the gap: Does your organisation have the capability to deliver against the customer pain points of the over 50’s?

Mind the gap.

If you’ve ever caught the London Underground, this cautionary warning would be familiar. ‘Mind the gap’ is also a valuable analogy for customer pain points in business.

A desire to understand and focus on the customer experience (CX) or user experience (UX) is the language of marketers – online or offline. Simultaneously, customer journey mapping has become increasingly common. Yet, how often do we also seek to understand and investigate the challenges of key stakeholders and staff to provide an excellent customer experience – particularly for those customers over 50 years of age? What’s the gap between customer reality and employee empathy?

Whilst a customer focus enables us to better understand the decision-making process of people using or buying our products, stakeholder and staff insights provide greater understanding of what is required internally for improved service delivery. Knowing both is essential if customer pain points are truly to be resolved.

The pain points

Pain points will appear in various parts of the business – either online, on the phone, or in person. An example illustrates some of the issues.

Recently a woman in her 70’s, call her ‘Mary’, told me the difficulties of cancelling her subscription to a television service. After a lengthy conversation with a customer service operator, she was only passed to a supervisor after revealing that she was about to cry.

The pain points:

  1. The call centre staff member was bound by a script that didn’t accommodate a customer with limited technological ability;
  2. The process for cancellations was inflexible. Apparently, the only way a customer can cancel the service is online. Consequently, the operator was trained to “talk through” this process with customers who had difficulty;
  3. A solution was only sought when tears of frustration were imminent.

The result

Mary,

  1. Won’t have another pay television subscription service;
  2. Will never return to the telco provider who consistently lacked awareness and empathy;
  3. Tells her friends and anyone else who will listen about her experiences.

Whilst Mary has a mobile phone, uses an iPad, does online banking, and happily searches Google, she lacks confidence to do new tasks in the online world. The call centre staff member failed to understand Mary’s situation and was therefore unable to accommodate her needs.

Due to years of frustration and poor customer experience caused by a lack of understanding, Mary has also changed her phone provider. In one instance she was sold a plan that provided her with substantial download capacity. However, she had advised staff that her mobile phone was only used for texts and calls. When in the telcos retail stores she consistently observed people her age upset and angry due to lack of empathy by store staff.

Whilst this anecdote is a single sample, it’s a common story.

Gaps and the over 50s

Leading magazines, blogs, and newspapers consistently report on the ignored market of our ageing population.

A report by the Australian Services Union reveals that the average age of call centre staff is between 33 (men) and 37 (women). A report by PwC in 2016 revealed that the average media person is a 27 year old white male who only speaks one language – English. It’s likely that employees under 40 will either ignore or exacerbate stereotypes of consumers over 50. Why? Because they don’t identify with this older age group.

Gaps, facts, and 50’s+

Yet, in Australia, there are almost 6.5 million people between 50 and 74 years of age. That’s 27% of the total population!

The value of this age group is substantial. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2017 Census, the average age of middle wealth households is 54, and for high wealth households it’s 58. And, whilst a proportion of this wealth is associated with increased expenditure for medical care and health expenses, the ABS also reports that,

“Recreation, household furnishings and equipment, clothing and footwear, and miscellaneous goods and services also rose as net worth rose.”

Consequently, when we evaluate market size against wealth, it seems naive not to have a strategy to reach and effectively service this audience.

Nonetheless, despite these facts, age stereotypes and ageism negatively impact attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions about people over 50.

Finding the gap

A customer journey map is simply a framework that captures the customer experience. A customer journey map overlaid with either staff interviews or staff journey mapping reveals the gap. One without the other is interesting and informative. However, to optimize the opportunity, organisations must ‘Mind the Gap’. The gap is where true opportunity exists.

Given that almost one-third of Australia’s population are baby boomers, it’s remarkable that organisations are not more mindful of this market. After all, chances are that a proportion of most companies’ customers will be in this age bracket. Does your staff understand them? Or, do age stereotypes abound?

Speaking with staff potentially reveals unknown or unspoken age stereotypes. Internal pain points will reveal restrictions that limit market growth with this rapidly expanding segment of the population. Knowing staff attitudes and beliefs about becoming older, coupled with insights on customer pain points has the power to reap rewards – to plug ‘The Gap’.

Closing the Gap

Closing the gap requires guts. Consequently, it means addressing both customer and organisational pain points. For example, staff may need training, processes may need adapting, or organisational structures may constrain service. Change starts with these 4 questions:

  1. What proportion of your customer base is over 50 years old?
  2. What’s the impact to your business if they disappeared?
  3. What proportion of your workforce is under 50 years of age?
  4. What are their attitudes and beliefs about people over 50? Ask. Answers are usually associated with age-based stereotypes.

If a gap exists then business growth is inhibited.

 

Three Sisters Group specialises in the longevity economy. We provide expertise and research-based consultancy services for customer driven strategic change. To tap into this under-serviced, largely ignored market, contact us.

Can financial planners change the conversation about ageing and retirement?

Yes! In fact at the recent Professional Planners Post Retirement Conference I suggested that financial planners (FP’s) had both an opportunity and responsibility to dig deeper with their clients on understanding ‘retirement’. Typically, clients are seeking clarity about their financial situation. However, in digging deeper, FP’s are likely to discover that their clients haven’t considered the details of life after full-time employment. And herein lies the opportunity.

In 2015 Deloitte released a report – The Advice Based World – and suggested that the financial advisory industry had a bright future. With the shift to a fee-for-service remuneration model, financial planners are at a point where they can position themselves as Advisors – not solely financial planners. What does this mean?

Financial Planner vs Advisor

What is a financial planner?

According to the Australian Security and Investment Commission’s (ASIC) ‘MoneySmart’ website, a financial planner is: 

“a person or authorised representative of an organisation, licensed by ASIC, to provide advice on some or all of these areas of your finances: investing, superannuation, retirement planning, estate planning, risk management, insurance and taxation.”

Note the emphasis on finances.

What is an Advisor?

According to the English Oxford Dictionary an advisor is:

“A person who gives advice in a particular field.”

What if financial planners broadened their service offering beyond guiding their clients on money management and creating the nest egg for retirement?

What if financial planners became advisors to their clients? Advisors on preparing for life beyond full-time work, or the job their client may currently be doing. What possibilities would arise both for the advisor and their clients?

Changing the ageing conversation

Most of us will live into our 80’s and beyond. If we ‘retire’ at 65, are we really going to thrive and enjoy 15+ years of leisure? And for those planning an early ‘retirement’ at 55 or 60, that’s potentially 25+ years of … leisure? Really?

As an advisor specialising in ‘retirement transitioning’ or ‘life transitioning’, there’s an opportunity to introduce a range of products and services to challenge the idea of retirement. To not see it as an endpoint but rather as a time to reinvent ourselves. In fact, a planner recently told me that he’d renamed it ‘retyre’: finishing full-time work is an opportunity to change the wheels to ensure many more miles of activity.

If it’s not all about the money, what is a rich life?

We all know that money isn’t everything. For most of us, it’s a means to an end. It provides us with greater choice in our life.

One of the challenges often faced in retirement is relevance deprivation. To age well, and I mean really well, money ain’t enough. Individually, we must all continue to have intangible assets in our lives such as purpose and meaning; social relationships; and, physical exercise.

Because we’re living longer than at any other time in history, there is no model for how we age. In fact it’s our opportunity to innovate ageing. To age differently to our parents, grandparents, or great grandparents.

What does this mean for financial planners seeking to add value to their clients?

  1. Establish what is important for your clients – dig deep on their fears, uncertainties, and doubts about retiring.  
  2. Explore their hopes and aspirations.
  3. Coach clients to envisage and then create the next phase of their life. A life that could potentially be greater than they had previously imagined.

From financial planner to advisor

Financial planners are already subjected to changing educational requirements and standards. Particularly since the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority (FASEA) was established in April, 2017. Introducing a broader range of products and services that extends beyond financial advice requires planners to either:

  1. Undertake training as a coach, or
  2. Collaborate with a coach or organisation specialising in life transitions.

Clearly, it’s a commitment and not necessarily suited to all planners.

Fortunately, the shift to fee-for-service, introduced a number of years ago, assists with the transition. Clients are already aware that the days of financial planners earning their money from commissions are gone. Clients know that they pay for each service provided and the financial planning industry has restructured their pricing models accordingly. Consequently, financial planners who broaden their skill set could either:

  1. Build this into more comprehensive retirement planning products for added value; or
  2. Create new products and services offered at an additional cost.

3 benefits of being an advisor vs a financial planner

For planners prepared to make the investment and venture down this path, they could potentially deliver:

  1. Increased client satisfaction;  
  2. Improved client experiences;

And isn’t that what all service-based businesses seek?

However, there’s a third benefit:

  1. A healthier, happier, ‘retirement’ or next stage for clients aged 55+ who are ready to move on from the job or work they’ve done for most of their lives. And this contributes to changing the conversation about ageing.

Ultimately, a ‘rich’ life, a ‘wealthy’ life, is far greater than accumulated assets or money.

What does this mean for my financial planning business?

Over the next 15 years all baby boomers in Australia will reach the traditional retirement age of 65 years. Consequently, the time is ripe to start having these deeper and challenging conversations with your clients. There are numerous ways in which a planners might start to investigate the possibilities with their clients. This could include one-on-one conversations, small groups, or seminars. However, what’s essential is to ask open-ended questions, be genuinely curious, and unattached to outcomes.

Three Sisters Group specialises in providing expertise and research-driven consulting on the over 50’s. We deliver knowledge and understanding to create customer-driven strategic change.  

If you’d like to discover how Three Sisters Group can help to broaden your service offering to meet your clients’ changing needs, please contact us.

 

Dr Rickwood challenged the concept of retirement in her keynote address at the Professional Planner Post Retirement Conference. We’ll be sharing a video shortly with some of the key insights from the presentation. Stay tuned!

Are smart homes the key to healthy ageing?

It’s time we scrapped the idea of smart homes as the province of the young and digitally savvy. Research shows that smart homes could be the cornerstone of healthy ageing. In fact, smart technologies enable older Australians to live longer, safely, and independently at home and in the community.

Baby boomers such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs made technology accessible to everyone. The internet came to market during the 70’s. This availability of computers, laptops, and information at our fingertips means that the majority of baby boomers are technology literate. So whilst considered ‘technology immigrants’, on the whole, this generation embraces technology.

Consequently, there is an unrealised opportunity to market smart home technologies to baby boomers. The boomers have larger purchasing power and higher levels of education than previous generations. They are also fitter, healthier, and more technology literate than their parents or grandparents. And, this generation want to remain in their own homes. Forever. Moreover, they expect to use intuitive and cost-effective technology, particularly if it promotes independence, quality of life and well-being.

As Dr Helen Meese from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers suggests:

“Creating a home which encourages its occupants to stay mobile and active as they age has the potential to keep them both mentally and physically fit for longer.” 

So what does the future hold for smart homes for older Australians?

The New Aged Home

A smart home is:

“a residence that uses internet-connected devices to enable the remote monitoring and management of appliances and systems, such as lighting and heating.” 

However, besides the image of the high tech ‘aware’ home, the wide range of smart home technologies available to support older adults to live at home and remain independent, is largely unknown. From passive and active sensors; monitoring systems to environmental control systems; and electronic aids to daily living – technology has the potential to transform our lives as we age. And let’s not forget Voice-First technology – a multilingual technology with enormous potential. 

Although as Laurie Orlov suggests there are still many questions and much research to be done to understand whether “Voice-First” is more hype than helpful.  

Australia is considered slow in the smart home technology uptake. However, this is predicted to radically change. In fact, the industry is forecast to grow from a $377million industry in 2016 to a $4.7billion industry in 2021. 

What’s the Impact?

Delivering enhanced customer experiences (CX) for business growth is the mantra amongst marketers today. Developers, architects, builders, and renovation specialists have the opportunity to innovate by meeting the needs of the burgeoning baby boomer market with smart home technology. Healthcare providers have the potential to improve the experience of their customers by introducing smart technology such as that available from Feros Care or eHomeCare.

Whilst technology does not replace human contact or reduce loneliness, it can contribute to providing individuals, carers, family, and loved ones with a sense of safety, security, and connection. With health and aged care costs predicted to balloon over the next couple of decades as the population ages, technology, is realistically, a practical part of the solution to reduce those costs.

Given that …

  1. Australia’s population is ageing – already one-third of us are over 50 years old.
  2. The majority of people want to age in their own homes.
  3. Attitudes of older people towards technology are not as stereotypes suggest. They’re surprisingly open to using technology. 

… what assumptions is your organisation making about the ability of older people to utilise and engage with technology? How can you establish a competitive difference or obtain growth by better understanding your current and potential customers?

If you would like to explore these questions and consider how your organisation might deliver products, services, or a better customer experience for the over 50’s, contact us.

Photo by Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash

Is de-greying your workforce hurting customer experience?

Companies are adaptable, creative and profitable despite the age of their workforce. At least this is what a growing body of research is showing. So why do we have HR policies and practices that, however unintentionally, work to de-grey our workplaces? What are the impacts of our unconscious biases and ill-conceived stereotypes of older people on innovation and service delivery? Ultimately, what is the impact on the customer experience?

An Enormous Missed Opportunity

As author and activist, Ashton Applewhite, affirms,

“we live in a culture that tells us that getting older means shuffling off stage”.

Nowhere is this culture more pronounced, and damaging, than in the workplace. We’ve all heard stories of older customers (and workers) being treated less than favourably on the basis of their age or perceived age.

Baby boomers represent a vast, unprecedented, untapped market. In fact, they represent a quarter of the Australian population. And according to the Property Council of Australia (2015), almost 80% of baby boomers own their home, representing an enormous financial resource. Yet, this generation is often either ignored or neglected when it comes to customer experience. Engaging all staff to improve the customer experience of older customers is crucial to realising the potential of this market. To do this, organisations must create:

  1. An organisational culture and workforce of engaged employees committed to stopping ageism in its tracks.
  2. An environment that seeks opportunity amongst older customers by encouraging the development of new products and services and/or modifying existing offerings.

Why De-grey the workforce?

Already, McKinsey has revealed the bottom line benefits to companies offering an exceptional customer experience. The gross margins of these companies can exceed those of their competitors by more than 26 per cent. However, the recent Deloitte report Missing Out reveals the missed opportunity of capitalising on a diverse workforce – including older workers – to improve the experience diverse customers have with an organisation. For example, the report found that less than half (41%) of customers surveyed believe that organisations treat customers respectfully, regardless of their personal characteristics.

What’s Your Organisation’s Pulse?

Given the current and future size of the ageing population and workforce, it’s essential companies examine the attitudes and beliefs of their employees towards older people. Through an Ageing Attitudes Pulse Check, companies not only get a snapshot of the current mood of the workplace when it comes to older people, they potentially  have access to deep insights into how this could be affecting the quality of service delivery and levels of innovation among workers – both young and old.

The pulse check can provide companies with the opportunity to:

  1. Enhance the awareness of unconscious biases and stereotypes held about  older customers and workers.
  2. Educate their workforce on the value, diversity and capabilities of older customers and older workers.
  3. Explore options, through market research, to re-design or co-create products, services and business processes that are age friendly.
  4. Examine the role of older workers for enhancing the experience of older customers.

For a Hollywood example of how older workers can improve the customer experience of older customers. Take a look at this short scene from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel of Judi Dench training younger call centre staff.

If you’d like to know more about how an Ageing Attitudes Pulse Check will benefit your company, contact us.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

5 steps to housing innovation for the over 50’s

I want to stay at home. Forever. In fact, research by Three Sisters Group reveals that people are more afraid of going to a nursing home or a retirement village than dying. So what can architects, property developers, and the construction industry do to reimagine and reshape housing so that we can all remain at home, in our communities, forever?

The Housing Challenge

According to Ben Myers, Executive Director of the Property Council:

“Many existing homes just aren’t suitable for our seniors to ‘age in place’; often they are older, contain trip hazards and very difficult to maintain.”

Given the majority of older Australians are choosing to stay in their own homes, the housing sector clearly has the chance to re-imagine housing. In doing so, it will provide choice and facilitate us all to ‘age in place’. Whether that’s simple renovations, makeovers, or redesigning and re-thinking housing from the ground up.  Already, a number of Australian designers such as Happy Haus, Jigsaw, and Prebuilt have demonstrated innovation in design. These ready-made houses are affordable and attractive.

The next challenge and opportunity is to imagine and co-create affordable, equally clever design to adapt existing homes to accommodate the physical and cognitive difficulties encountered by many older people.

5 Steps to Innovation

Re-designing and re-imagining homes for older people to remain exactly where they are requires creativity and understanding. In fact, understanding the difficulties and desires of older people is key to creating housing that works. We use a co-design methodology to do this. The essential steps to success are:

  1. Research – Communicating with older people and gathering knowledge about their current experience of living at home.
  2. Key Stakeholder Engagement – Engaging all those involved in the design process and gathering their views on housing design for an ageing population.
  3. Co-creation – Bringing older people and designers together to co-create a design brief, prioritising essentials against “nice-to-have’s”.
  4. Co-design – Co-designing workshops provide a “hands-on” environment to imagine, draw, and make models of the possibilities.
  5. Testing – Testing housing design ideas in a virtual reality environment. Older people can “walk through” a home created from ideas generated during the co-design workshop. Doing so provides valuable feedback prior to pursuing the project.

Needless to say, affordability is crucial. Consequently, we can only realise success if the co-designed housing outcomes are reasonably priced. Of course, incorporating off-the-shelf products and technology where possible is essential. Creating a new ready-made product that’s specifically suited to home adaptation for older people is also conceivable.

The Result

Communities will change. And, older people will become woven into the fabric of what makes neighbourhoods great.

And what makes a neighbourhood great?

Lists abound, however, this Heart Foundation guide to ‘Creating Healthy Neighbourhoods’ neatly encapsulates the essentials: great open spaces; ability to walk and cycle; access to public transport; easy access to shops and transport; connected and safe streets; and, spaces where the community can meet – both in the open and in community centres.

The opportunity for Australian architects, designers, and builders to initiate and implement new ideas for housing so that we can stay at home forever is limitless.

Can Australia’s housing industry lead the way on housing for our ageing population? We know it’s possible.

If you’d like to unlock the growth potential for your business of housing for the over 50’s, contact us.

 

Photo by Stephen Crowley on Unsplash

Housing: On the edge of disruption?

It’s a well-known fact that Australia’s population is ageing. We’re living longer and healthier than at any other time in history. And increasingly, we’re choosing to stay in our own homes as we age.  So what does this mean for architects, builders, town planners, and developers? And how big is the opportunity really?

The Facts of the Matter

In 2056 approximately one in four Australians will be 65 years or older. By 2040 it’s predicted that 6.8 million people will be aged over 65 – compared to about half that in 2012 (3.2 million). With such a large number of people over 65, and increasingly living beyond 85, housing needs are a significant issue for us all to consider – governments, businesses, and individuals alike.

There is a view that suggests older people should “downsize” because they inefficiently occupy large homes and should free up housing stock. Whilst a large proportion of older people do have one or two spare rooms (over 40%), they don’t want to “downsize”. According to a report by the Productivity Commission, 76% of Australians 60+ consider their current home as the place they’d like to live out their retirement. ‘Home’ is also an asset that’s considered useful to assist with future difficult financial events.

Addressing the Fear: Nursing Homes

The majority of older Australians do not move to a nursing home or accommodation for the aged with common living and eating facilities. (5% or less of people between 75-84 and less than 30% 85+ move to cared accommodation). In fact, a large percentage of older people live in their own home in major urban areas either with a partner/spouse (61%) or alone (31%).

The Opportunity

Given the increasing size of the ageing population,  and the desire for people to remain at home and in community, there’s an opportunity for architects, builders, town planners, and developers to get creative in housing design and adaptations. Of course, governments, councils, and policy makers also have a role. Australians don’t downsize and government incentives to encourage downsizing is considered pointless. The solutions don’t necessarily lie in downsizing.  The solutions lie in adaptation because for older people:

  • Familiarity of their living environment is important.
  • Neighbourhood is important.
  • Caring for their home matters. It provides purpose and meaning in a day.
  • Community connection matters.

Home is after all home.

The Global Landscape

Examples of redesigned and reimagined housing exist globally. These new models enable people to continue living happily in their own homes and neighbourhoods as they grow older. Some of the ideas also encourage intergenerational living.

Examples include: Germany’s Baugruppe – a ‘group build’ approach for housing complexes involving future residents at both the planning and building stages; Co-housing – an alternative that adapts single-dwelling suburban blocks to accommodate two or three smaller dwellings with some shared spaces; and, the familiar granny flat or laneway housing.

Increasingly, build-to-rent has become an attractive building model as it provides the opportunity for much longer tenure and more control for renters. With private rental housing predicted to become a more dominant share of the housing market in the future, leading developers such as Mirvac are now entering this market.

Collaborate For Success

Redesigning and reimagining the future of housing requires research. Participatory research. Involving conversations with consumers – both younger and older generations alike. These conversations provide insights about consumers’ lives. By talking with people, the housing industry gets the necessary insights to make living at home forever a practical possibility.

The key is incorporating this understanding with design possibilities not imagined or known by the consumer. After all, who thought we’d all want a smartphone? And the classic example from Henry Ford, who didn’t train horses to go faster; he built a car.

What will the housing industry build to change the landscape of living so that we can all stay at home? Forever.

Contact us to unlock the growth potential for your business of housing the over 50s.

Photo by Cindy Tang on Unsplash

Washed up jar of possibility with older workers

Are older workers considered washed up?

Few organisations have a strategic approach to managing their older workers. This issue persists despite research by Deloitte Access Economics that shows a 3 percent increase in the participation rate of workers over 55 could account for a $33 billion boost to Australia’s national economy.

The Challenge

Given the prevalence of age stereotypes in the workplace, there are some critical questions organisations need to ask:

  1. Do we understand the needs, hopes and aspirations of older workers?
  2. What are the attitudes and beliefs of younger workers towards ageing and older workers?
  3. What can we do to increase age diversity and meet the needs of all parties without negatively impacting the bottom line?

As Dr Rickwood suggests in her recent interview with Fran Kelly on Radio National, “HR policies and practices haven’t shifted to accommodate what is a burgeoning possibility in a workforce of older people”.

There are numerous examples of Australian companies that are already reaping the economic benefits of embracing an older workforce. The most well-known example being Bunnings Warehouse, which employs large numbers of older, highly-skilled tradespeople. No longer able to continue in physically demanding jobs, these people instead are offering a lifetime’s worth of expertise to Bunnings shoppers.

The Facts

According to the Age Discrimination Commissioner’s report ‘Willing to Work’, 12.7% of those aged 65 and over are in the labour force; however, this figure is expected to double by 2055.

Historically, we considered 60 or 65 to be the age at which we retired.  Or, for the financially savvy, we saw 55 years old to be “lucky”.

Unfortunately, this view of 65 as the age at which we retire largely remains. We dream of when the constraints of a workplace end, and travel and leisure beckon. However, increasingly, people are discovering that early retirement isn’t nearly as attractive as perceptions hold it to be. Indeed, many baby boomers see ‘retirement’ as a change of career.  It’s a time when they are able to enjoy more flexibility to pursue their passions and interests, whether paid or voluntary. For example, recent Australian of the Year, Graham Farquhar, revealed in an interview that he enjoyed being able to continue working in his area of expertise on an unpaid basis.  

According to research by MetLife (UK), 63% of over 50’s in their survey would consider re-training to stay working longer. There is also evidence to suggest that greater initiative is required by both older workers and businesses for training and re-skilling.

For example, organisations that invest in retention of their older, skilled workers are discovering higher organisational productivity. Similarly, it’s essential for all workers to continue to learn and educate themselves to remain relevant.

The Opportunity

Underpinning these burgeoning human resource issues is an absence of conversations with all staff – regardless of age – about their attitudes and beliefs towards ageing and remaining in the workforce beyond 50. It’s these conversations that can provide insights into how to create an open, all-age-friendly workplace environment and culture.

It is forecast that 85% of jobs in 2030 don’t yet exist. By the end of the next decade there is also a predicted shortage of workers. These two facts alone suggest that now is the time to reshape the workforce. Through their human resource policies, organisations have the opportunity to redesign work and jobs to promote flexibility. From phased or partial retirement, role transfers, blended work, bridge employment to intergenerational job sharing.

Ultimately, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson, Age Discrimination Commissioner, reminds us: “Intergenerational offices do a lot better than ones fixated on just one age group”.

Does your organisation have its finger on the pulse of the over 50’s in the office?

If you would like to better understand the over 50’s, contact us.

Photo by Andrew Bui on Unsplash

3 ideas for relevance in retirement

If you’ve heard the term “relevance deprivation” you may be older and possibly retired. Alternatively, you may be between jobs or a parent who has become an “empty nester”.  Regardless of your situation, remaining relevant is an individual responsibility.  And it can be challenging.

I’ve written before about my dislike of the word ‘retirement’. One of the many reasons for my preference to avoid the word is because it signals an endpoint. A time in our life when we’ll stop all the hard work and move to a life of leisure filled with choice. Our choice. Our way. No boss. Bliss!

What if …

We didn’t retire.  What if, instead of retiring we simply kept on living. Fully. Completely. Engaged.

Not thinking “I’m old” because old is equated with retirement.

What if, from a much younger age, we made choices and decisions knowing that life was long. Very long. Knowing that if we retire at 65 we’ll still live for 20 or more years.

What choices would we make? How differently would we live our life?

There’s work.  Then there’s retirement.

When working we remain relevant because we have purpose and meaning. There’s a reason to get up each day. At work people want us because of our knowledge, skill, or experience. We receive phone calls, emails, and invitations. Invitations to lunch. To Melbourne Cup events. To Christmas functions. Our birthday might be celebrated in the office with a cake. People notice when we’re away for an extended time and are usually grateful for our return. We’re valued. And all we have to do is show up to our workplace. Easy.

In retirement, this can all disappear. There is no office. The phone calls, emails, and invitations diminish. Whether or not we get up each day may not be noticed – by anyone.  Unless we’re in a relationship or we have adult children living with us. What happens in our day must be generated entirely by us. It requires energy, effort, and self-motivation. Less easy.

In a youth- focused culture, relevancy can feel even more challenging. Combined with an increasingly technology, digital driven world, becoming and remaining digital-savvy may also seem overwhelming.

Given this challenge, what are the options?

3 ideas for retirement relevance

In a recent podcast interview with SBS, I suggested that it was essential we all continue to learn and educate ourselves to remain relevant. Whilst the podcast was particularly focused on the disparities between millenials and older workers, those interviewed provided practical actions for reducing the gap. As I’ve said before, generational labelling was also suggested as divisive and not overly useful as a way of identifying groups of people.

Bridging a generational gap requires understanding and a willingness for both younger and older people to learn from each other. An openness and recognition that there is more than one way to do anything. And that attachment to “our way” or the “right way” limits the possibility for new ideas, innovation, and creativity.

Intergenerational relationships are crucial for us to age well. Consequently, building them into our lives is essential.

The 3 ideas?

  1. Continue learning. Whether that be through Open University, U3A, TAFE, University, free online MOOC’s, or by attending events at your local library. Foster a thirst for knowledge.
  2. Participate in community activities or hobbies where you’ll also meet and befriend younger people. Community gardens, bush regeneration, environmental or animal activist groups, book or film clubs. If there’s not one in your neighbourhood, create one.
  3. Be open. Say “yes”.

For inspiration on how to age we have role models in Judy Dench and Jane Goodall. One thing’s for sure. To remain relevant in retirement requires us to reject age stereotypes and embrace our whole life – from start to finish.

 

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

 

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2 benefits of a big, hairy a** goal as we age

Goals have a significant impact on what we do each day, how we live, and how we feel about ourselves. They can be both motivating and disheartening. Motivating when we achieve the goal we set. Disheartening when we under-achieve or miss the goal altogether. Without goals we can become rudderless and life can lack real purpose and meaning.

What’s this got to do with becoming older?

The importance of goals

When thinking or planning for later life, setting goals is as important as our younger years when we often set goals associated with things such as sport, career, or money. Whilst establishing financial goals is important, money alone does not buy happiness.  Ease, comfort, and security perhaps.  But not happiness.  Goals about other aspects of our life give us something to get up for each day – to work towards so that there’s a sense of achievement in our lives.

As I’ve said previously, it would serve us all well if we eliminated the word ‘retirement’ from our vocabulary. Whilst most people do want to stop working at some point, setting ambitious personal goals to coincide with the event is not usually built into people’s thinking.

Crashing age stereotypes

Recently, I had the good fortune to meet a vibrant, active 65 year old woman, Astrid, who had walked the infamous Camino track – a walk of 780km from St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to the stunning cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  The walk takes up to 5 weeks. Astrid shared how many people were either surprised she’d done it, or considered her “too old” to be embarking on such an adventure.

Clearly, age stereotypes and ageism contributed to people’s perceptions of what’s OK and what’s not OK for someone with grey hair and some wrinkles.

There’s more to this story.

Astrid, had a big goal with a plan.

First, she had to wait a year so that her foot surgery and hip injury could heal. Then Astrid worked with a trainer 3 times a week to align her body and strengthen her legs. She joined Weight Watchers to lose 15 pounds to reduce the load on her joints and made a deliberate decision to only carry a day pack for the duration of the walk.  Her heavier luggage was transported to her accommodation each day. And, throughout the walk, Astrid chose the road less travelled in order to enjoy the quieter paths and nature.

Astrid chose a big, hairy a** goal (BHAG).

Benefits of goals as we age

The benefits of a BHAG are twofold:

  1. Ambitious and less ambitious goals contribute to a more active and healthier life. Without them we risk falling into the trap of building our lives around meal times, coffee & cake breaks, TV viewing, holidays, and medical appointments.
  2. By setting goals that are challenging we defy ageism and age stereotypes. Attitudes and beliefs about what older people can or should do are outdated. Longer lifespans require us all to re-think what we do with our lives and be more ambitious and confident about what we can do in our later years.

SMART goals

These are the 5 keys to goal setting.  Make sure your goals are:

Specific: We’ve all heard of the bucket list. It’s a list of the things we want to do before we die. Interestingly, it’s become so much a part of our vernacular, even younger people talk about their bucket list! Goals can be a bucket list. However, the goals for living will influence what we do in our daily lives.  Whether that’s learning to fly a glider or volunteering. If volunteering is a goal, what type of organisation would you seek to work with? One associated with children, the environment, mental health, older people, the homeless, or refugees? The options are endless. Check that your goals match your current interests or are associated with an area you’d like to know more about.

Measurable: Ensure that you have a sense of achievement by putting measurable goals in place.  Simply thinking, ‘I’m going to volunteer’ is noble.  However, you may want to establish a goal of volunteering for a certain number of hours or days per week.  Alternatively, you may choose to work as a volunteer to raise money for a charity. Set a goal of how much money you’ll raise. When you’ve achieved the goal … reward yourself.

Achievable: Ambitious goals are great. And, they may take time to achieve. So, break the BHAG into smaller goals. Imagine trying to eat an elephant. The only way to successfully do that would be to eat it one bite at a time. Big BHAG’s are the same. One step at a time.

Realistic: Ensuring the goal is something that you can actually do is essential. Whilst you may have dreamt of flying to the moon, becoming an astronaut is probably unrealistic.  However, parachuting may not be. Going back to University may be something you’d like to do, however fees may make it prohibitive.  Look for a course via a free MOOC (massive online open community) or attend University of the Third Age instead.

Timely: Set a timeframe for taking action and then completion. All talk, no action leads to a lack of fulfilment and a sense of failure. The action may be as simple as researching which volunteer organisation you’d like to work with. When will you do this? By what date will you have made your decision? Then, when will you fill in the application or call to get on their list? When will you follow up? If not successful, which charity was #2 on your list? When will you fill in that application? And so on. Importantly, be realistic with setting timelines and deadlines.  Don’t make them too short, nor too long. Diarise the actions, or write a list and tick each item off once done. Each tick is another step towards achieving your goal. Another bite of the elephant.

Goal ideas

Ambitious goals might be:

  • Climbing to Everest base camp;
  • Hiking the Kokoda Track;
  • Sailing around the world;
  • Learning a new language;
  • Studying again.

Less ambitious goals, but equally valuable, could be as simple as:

  • Volunteering a certain number of days or hours per week;
  • Participating in a community-based activity such as walking or a cycling group;
  • Taking up a past hobby or interest such as a musical instrument or painting;
  • Ensuring that some time is spent with younger people each week/fortnight/month in order to benefit from the youthful energy and enthusiasm that those younger than us bring to a conversation and relationship.

By building on current interests, or exploring new activities, we expand our friendships, bring purpose and meaning into our lives, and increase our chances of a happier, healthier life – right up until the end. And surely, that can only be a good thing.

What are your BHAG’s?

 

Photo by Gautam Arora on Unsplash

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