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.

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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. (5% or less of people between 75-84 and less than 30% 85+ move to cared accommodation.) However, for those in nursing homes, 33-45% of people 65+ and over 62% of those aged 85+ die in nursing homes each year. To avoid this frightening outcome, we all need to stop living the stereotype and change how we’re living. Through exercise, and by living a life full of purpose and meaning, we can increase the likelihood of leading a long healthy life without needing to go to a nursing home.

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.

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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.

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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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Do this ONE thing for a longer, healthier life

Longer, healthier lives already exist. However, we don’t necessarily all age well with few pains and no concern about our physical or mental wellbeing.  In fact, physical and cognitive decline are a significant worry for many as I wrote about here.

Now, we could wait for the miracle anti-ageing pill being researched and tested by Dr David Sinclair at Harvard University, however, it’s ten or more years away. And whilst billionaires such as Paul Allen and Sergey Brin co-founders of Microsoft and Google respectively, invest millions in anti-ageing research, there’s nothing available that will make a difference to our lives today.

Our lives are longer today than at any other time in history thanks to progress in medicine and healthcare. Although some seek to defy the natural physical processes of ageing with Botox, plastic surgery, or beauty products, others simply aspire to age well. The idea of occupying our bodies into decline via a nursing home to death appeals to … well, no one actually.

However, there is one thing that we can all do today that makes a significant difference to how we age.

That one thing?

Weight-bearing exercise.

The benefits

Of course some exercise is better than none. However, research undertaken by exercise physiologist Dr Tim Henwood with older adults, including one study that involved residents of an aged care facility with an average age of 86 years old, found that there were numerous advantages associated with a tailored weight bearing exercise program.

Benefits revealed in Dr Henwood’s research included:

  1. Improvement in overall health and wellbeing;
  2. Enhanced sleep;
  3. Reduced symptoms of disease associated with physical and/or mental decline;
  4. Better bone density;
  5. Reduced falls; and,
  6. Greater general strength and ability to be independent.

With falls a leading cause of injury for those aged over 65 years, it’s worthwhile considering what activities can reduce the likelihood of these occurring. Weight-bearing exercise is one proven way to make a difference and have an impact on falls prevention.

However, there’s another advantage. Social relationships and connection.

Bonus of weight-bearing exercise

Loneliness is a significant issue for people as they age and is now being equated to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. By undertaking a weight bearing exercise program with an exercise physiologist or suitably qualified personal trainer at a gym or facility that knows and understands older bodies, a person is able to informally meet and connect with others.

Another advantage of a gym is the opportunity to meet and speak with people of all ages. To build relationships inter-generationally.

3 tips for selecting a trainer and gym

When embarking on a new weight-bearing exercise program there are 3 essential factors to consider:

1.What qualifications do the exercise physiologists (EP) or personal trainers (PT) have to train older people? Ask.

Whilst working with a young, enthusiastic, optimistic young, good looking man/woman might appeal, if they don’t have the right training they could cause minor injuries such as strains or pains that are inconvenient and mean you can’t exercise at all for a period of time. This type of experience could also reduce your interest or desire to continue.

2. Who does the EP or PT currently work with who is older? Ask for references and speak to some existing clients.

3. What initial testing do they do to design the program? Is it free or does it cost money? How much?

4. How do they manage, monitor, and develop your program? If finances are a consideration, you could ask for a new program once a month. In between sessions you could work independently either at the gym or at home.

In the early stages you may not be lifting the types of weights these ladies seem to do with relative ease. Sometimes specific exercises utilise our own body weight and that’s challenging enough. Over time, who knows? We might become a weight-lifting champion.

In the meantime, it’s just about starting.

Make an enquiry.

Speak to friends.

Go to a gym.

Make it a social occasion and a regular part of the week. It really is one of the best things we can do to enable us to age well.

Note: If in doubt, seek medical advice prior to undertaking physical activity if you have health issues or any concerns about your ability to do this type of exercise

Image credit: Photo by Parvana Praveen on Unsplash

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3 reasons to take a parent or older person to work for a day

Taking a parent to work for a day sounds like something we did in primary school. Certainly not something we would do as adults. So, taking our parents to the office or our workplace for a day – really?

Invisible boomers

It’s well known that baby boomers often feel invisible. Ignored by marketers and advertisers they can also struggle to get jobs as employers consider them “too old”. The perception tends to be that turning 50 is the start of a slippery slide downhill towards physical or cognitive decline. To being old.

However, the reality is quite different. Baby boomers, and beyond, are an active, engaged, experienced, interested, interesting, technologically literate, and wise group of diverse individuals. Despite greying hair, wrinkles, and a slight slowing down.

Our challenge is to close the gap of understanding between younger people and baby boomers and beyond.

In her book The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan writes:

“When my daughter looks at me, she sees a small old lady. That is because she sees only with her outside eyes.” 

Oh to be seen beyond initial impressions formed by our outside eyes.

To be seen. To be understood. To be heard. To go beyond external appearances and first impressions requires a willingness to learn and understand.

3 reasons to bring a parent to work

The 3 reasons to bring a parent to work for a day:

  1. To remove the invisibility cloak. Baby boomers and beyond can and do contribute significantly to our communities and our lives. Invisibly. It’s time to create visibility.
  2. We’ll all be older one day. Now is the time to start changing cultural conversations about being 50 and beyond.
  3. As Lyndon Johnson suggested,

“If we are to live together in peace, we must come to know each other better.”

Why?

In a culture that seems to revere youth and millenials, why bother?

Because we’ll all be over 50 one day. Hence, the attitudes and beliefs we have about what we’ll be doing, and imagine life to be when we’re older influences how we age.  They also influence how we perceive those we may currently consider “old”. We fulfil our highest expectations. Equally, we place those expectations, those beliefs about being older, on others. As Bruce Lee so eloquently suggested,

“As you think, so shall you become.”

Given we all age, it’s time to change attitudes today so that ageism and age discrimination don’t remain into the future. After all, lifespans are becoming longer, so the desire to remain an active part of the workforce and the community well beyond 50 will only grow. Shifting entrenched cultural and organisational attitudes and behaviour is key. One way to achieve change is to bring generations together.

How?

Hollywood did it in a light-hearted way with The Intern. I love this demonstration that shows how bringing younger and older people together to gain understanding – even for a few minutes – completely changes attitudes and perceptions of what “old” is. However, this idea from NBC Universal for a ‘Bring-your-parents-work-day’ is a practical way of mixing generations for greater understanding.

This innovative idea enables young people to show off what they do by bringing their parents into their business environment. In a world where parents and children don’t necessarily live in the same town, an extension of this idea is to bring an older person you know with you to work for that day. And, whilst it is only a day, it does change the age ratios momentarily and provides the opportunity for increased understanding.

Done well, who knows what we could create or the contribution that each could make to the other? At a minimum, it would at least bring generations together as a community. And that could be the start of a conversation that creates the ripple for change.

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Judy Dench Exotic Marigold Hotel

Judy Dench rejects ageing. Do you?

I admit it.  I’m a Judy Dench fan – particularly in her recent movies of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and Victoria & Abdul.  My appreciation for Dench extends beyond her skill as an actor.  In this interview she suggests that ageing is “hideous”, and that the ‘ageing’ word isn’t allowed in her home.  What I particularly enjoy is that Dench re-frames ageing.

Re-framing ageing

In her interview, Dench feels 49 and says she likes to learn something new every day. Importantly, changes in her body and ability to do things have nothing to do with her, but rather with something else.  For example, if it takes her longer to get out of a chair it has nothing to do with her being old.  It’s all about the chair.  As my friend Eric said, “Think old and you become old“.

Unsurprisingly, Dench’s attitude towards ageing is one held by many.  Invariably, older people feel much younger than their chronological age.  Recently, I had the privilege of being at a dinner with a number of women ranging in age from their mid 70’s to 92 years old!  It was a lively discussion and fun evening with unanimous agreement that no one felt their age (with everyone feeling 10-20 years younger). All lived independently and were still active members of their community.

Age-appropriate. What is that, and according to whom?

Author of This Chair Rocks, Ashton Applewhite suggests that it’s up to us to figure out what’s us-appropriate at any point, not necessarily what biology predicts or an ageist culture ordains.  In fact, there’s no such thing as age-appropriate.

Whether fashion, leisure activities, holidays or work, it’s up to us to wear, do, be whatever is comfortable based on how we feel and what we believe is possible for ourselves. Not based on any idea that we’re “too old”.

Many younger people are disparaging about older people, but then older people aren’t generally positive about being older either! Hardly good role modelling. Yet as Applewhite says,

“Other groups that experience prejudice, like gays or people with autism, develop buffers that can reinforce group identity, and even pride, at belonging to what sociologists call an out-group.”

What are we older’s doing to ourselves?

5 questions to ask yourself.

Perhaps it’s time to turn a mirror on ourselves.  Whilst not everyone uses the older age card, it’s certainly a card that’s used more often than is healthy.

Try this quiz.

If you answer yes to one or all of these questions, then perhaps it’s time to stop embracing ageing and have a change in attitude.  Time to re-frame your idea of what it is to become older.

Do you say or think …

  1. “I don’t do that because I’m past it (i.e. too old).”
  2. “That’s simply what happens when you get old …”
  3. “Going to the doctors is just part of ageing.”
  4. “I’m way too old for that!”
  5. “My legs/eyes/body just aren’t what they used to be.” (Really? Compared to when – 18 months or 18 years old? And, who cares?)

For some final inspiration, watch this interview with 91 year old Sir David Attenborough.

Image source: Exotic Marigold Hotel – 2011

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5 things worse then dying

5 things more scary than dying 

It’s reasonably well-known that many people fear public speaking more than they fear dying.  However, as we age, a number of other fears enter our consciousness beyond the sense of foreboding, dread, or denial that can occur as we age.

A bonus of ageing is that we commonly celebrate another decade passing.  Whether that celebration involve a party, an adventure, or a quiet dinner at home with a loved one or friends. We’ve lived another 10 years!  However, the celebrations are usually for the life we’ve lived, not the life before us.

Who celebrates a 50th, 60th, 70th or 80th birthday because of what they’ve experienced and because of your enthusiasm for the next decade? Compare this feeling to the experience of celebrating an 18th or 21st.  Generally, these birthdays are celebrated as a milestone because they represent a turning point in our life.  A time when we can look forward to new and exciting experiences and adventures.  What can we possibly look forward to in our 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond?  Isn’t this a time when “it’s all downhill from here”?

No.

Well, it doesn’t have to be.

As this well known quote so succinctly states

“If it’s going to be.  It’s up to me.”   

With lifespans longer than at any other time in history, it’s time to re-think how we look forward to, think, and plan for our later years.

5 things scarier than dying

In a recent survey of baby boomers conducted by Three Sisters Group, we discovered that this age group found these 5 things more scary than dying:

1. Physical and/or cognitive decline

2. Nursing homes

3. Retirement villages

4. Loneliness

5. Being like our parents

The question is:  If we’re afraid of these things, what are we doing about it?

The reality is, physical exercise combined with good diet and a healthy lifestyle (not smoking, low alcohol intake) are the two things most likely to make the biggest difference to our lives.  Furthermore, just these two ideas could influence whether or not a nursing home becomes a reality or simply an unfounded fear.

There’s so much to look forward to as we become older.  In fact, one study (1) has shown that our life satisfaction in our 60’s and beyond is equivalent to when we were teenagers!  As a friend shared with me, being physically active and not playing the age card are essential to enjoying our later life.  And Jane Goodall simply doesn’t think about ageing.

Of course planning everything in our life isn’t necessary either.  It’s really about our level of enthusiasm for what we’re doing and what might happen in the future.  I’ll never forget my grandmother telling me that she always carried her passport with her wherever she was in Australia just in case a friend called asking her if she’d like to go overseas with them.

And if you’re wondering … there was a time she spontaneously went on a cruise and asked her friend in Perth to pack her bag for her and she’d meet her in Sydney at the cruise ship (she was in Darwin) .  Unfortunately she did end up in a nursing home – despite her best efforts to live a very full life. At least she maximised her able years to the best of her ability.

 

Source:

(1) Qu, L., & de Vsus, D. (2015). Life satisfaction across life course transitions (Australian Family Trends No.8). Melbourne: Australian Insitute of Family Studies.

 

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Over 50 paradox

The 5 paradoxes of ageing & stereotypes

Ageing is the opposite of the term WYSIWYG: ‘what you see is what you get’. What you see is not what you get. Often there’s a chasm between outdated stereotypes of the over 50’s and their actual lived reality.

Invariably, when we think of an older person we see grey hair, wrinkles, and a stack of stereotypes often associated with ageing. For example, people over 50 are often considered less capable with their technology use, less fit or able, or someone with a poor memory, or simply “past it” when it comes to working or being employable. In fact, being over 50 is often associated with loss: loss of hearing; loss of eyesight; and, loss of memory.

The reality of the over 50’s

People over 50 are fit, healthy, technology literate, and keen to maintain some type of either full-time or part-time employment. In a study we recently conducted comprising in-depth interviews, small group discussions, and a survey of 500 baby boomers technology was generally not an issue – particularly for the younger baby boomers (between 50-65 years).  In fact this generation use technology for news, movies, staying in touch with friends (they’re big Facebook users), emails, games, and messaging. However, there are paradoxes.

5 paradoxes of ageing

Our study,  revealed these paradoxes:

  1. Whilst we might see a person with grey hair and wrinkles, according to our survey, baby boomers consider themselves at least 3 years younger than their actual age. In conversations with this age group they often say that they feel 10-25 years younger!
  2. On working … the paradox is that baby boomers often want to work, however, they want greater flexibility (potentially part time), and potentially less responsibility.
  3. The greatest paradoxes exist in the area of health. For example, over two-thirds of respondents rated their health as good/excellent. Yet, the majority also suggested that they were slowing down and experiencing poorer eyesight.
  4. Over half of our sample reported arthritis and aching knees. Similarly about half of this sample stated that they experienced forgetfulness and were concerned about dementia/Alzheimer’s.

“The only thing I hate about getting older is that your health starts to deteriorate, and that to me is the most important thing – having good health.” (Female, 50-64)

  1. Nearly everyone in considers diet and exercise as essential for healthy ageing, yet:
  • Only 20% of respondents had a fitness monitor (representing a huge opportunity for                                       the fitness monitor market);
  • None indicated that they undertook resistance training or did weight-bearing exercise                                  (crucial to healthy ageing, particularly for bone density and strength).

Forget the age stereotypes

The lived experience of a baby boomer is generally quite different to perceptions. The opportunity lies in delivering products and services that meet the needs of the over 50’s. However, when it comes to marketing don’t sell to ‘old people’.  Outdated stereotypical views of the over 50’s limits thinking and stifles creativity (e.g. Cliched images of silver-haired couples on a yacht or a couple strolling hand-in-hand on a white sandy beach are over-used, corny and misleading).

This age-group is varied and interesting. Don’t miss the opportunity.

If you’d like to know or understand more, please drop us a note at livinginsights@threesistersgroup.com.au with your details.  We’ll get in touch to arrange a time for a discussion about your challenges in reaching this significant market segment. We’re committed to changing ageing. We look forward to speaking with you.

 

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