How old is old?

“I don’t feel my age.”

Old isn’t a number.
Old is an attitude.
Old is more likely to be associated with physical or cognitive decline.

Discussions we’ve held with baby boomers reveals that people often feel ten or twenty years (or more) younger than their actual age! Often, old was either someone else, or someone older.

For example, one 60+ male said:

“I still feel the same as when I was 25, but physically I can’t do the same things.”

A female between 50-60 said:

“I don’t think I feel any different to when I was 40. “

Along with feeling younger than their actual age, baby boomers also expressed a sense of confidence. They associate this with an internal sense of knowing themselves better. Women, in particular, feel more confident and declare a sense of freedom with becoming older. This is generally a result of either being empty-nesters or their children being older and more independent. The days of nappies, dressing small children, and Mum as taxi-driver are often behind them.

It was also common for baby boomers to express frustration at being ignored or labeled as “old”. A recurring story from a number of people was associated with a frustration and irritation with news stories about people 60 years old (for example) being reported as either an ‘old person’ or ‘old people’.

 

Males vs Females

Men and women seem to have an awareness that there’s a need to reinvent their life as they age. Awareness that this includes a good diet, exercise, creation of personal relationships, and a need to be doing something beyond travel and relaxation is understood. What we noticed in our face-to-face discussions is that women often embraced this enthusiastically. Whilst men had the same awareness, they could be more confronted as they considered the transition from full-time work to something else. Women had experienced flexible lifestyles associated with being the primary carer in the family and had reinvented themselves throughout their lives. Also, women often had stronger social networks beyond the workplace. For many men, creating a life beyond and outside of a full-time job was a first time experience.

Regardless of gender, everyone that participated in the discussions found a sense of reassurance in the conversation. Sharing stories and views about their lived experience of ageing were viewed as positive, enlightening, and stimulating.

 

Key Lessons

The most important lesson is that ageing is all about attitude.

Three other lessons:

  • Talk about becoming older with friends – share your experiences. Be open and honest.
  • Enjoy the sense of confidence and freedom that comes with ageing.
  • Ignore stereotypes and defy the ageist attitudes often peddled in the media and online.

Of course, ageing also comes with its difficulties. Financial concerns, caring responsibilities, and physical or cognitive decline pose challenges. These will be discussed in the future. Stay tuned. And, if there were anything you’d particularly like to learn more about or understand, please let us know.

 

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three sisters group who is the 50 plus market

Who are the over 50’s in Australia?

The over 50’s are a third of Australia’s population.

In this 4 part series, we provide insights on baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) encompassing a range of topics from work and health to attitudes and technology. As a burgeoning market, it’s worthwhile investing time to gaining understanding as knowledge is necessary for new markets. This first part provides a brief introduction and then talks about work.

Abolish assumptions about the over 50’s

What do baby boomers need and want?

It varies.

In the first instance, it’s important to recognise the diversity within this age group. In fact as we age, we become more different rather than similar. Assuming a 50-year-old is the same as a 70-year-old is like assuming that a 20-year-old is the same as a 40-year-old. There’s as much variability amongst baby boomers or those 50+ as there is with any age group (in fact more so).

Overall baby boomers seek to be recognised and not ignored.

What about work?

One of the challenges for people as they age, particularly for the over 50’s, is that either retaining a job or getting a job becomes more difficult. However, even in employment, there’s diversity.

Often younger baby boomers don’t want to give up work. They’d like to continue to contribute in a workplace. Some seek to work full-time. Others would prefer to work part-time with a level of flexibility that accommodates volunteering, mentorship, or caring responsibilities (baby boomers are also part of the ‘sandwich generation’ – a topic I’ll explore in the future).

It’s also possible a baby boomer would like to remain working part-time in a role that carries less responsibility. The movie ‘The Intern’ is a great example of employing an older person.

Reverse mentoring” is also an emerging trend that some organisations are embracing and something that can go both ways. There’s also an opportunity for intergenerational job-sharing.

Simultaneously, older baby boomers are ready to finish work and seek other ways of being involved with community and remaining engaged and mentally stimulated.

Confused?

Don’t be. Given the increasing move to flexible workplaces, baby boomers could conceivably be the perfect fit for organisations willing to think laterally. The first step is to gain insights for understanding. Understanding potentially reveals opportunity, and ultimately, with imagination and desire, leads to innovation.

 

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Jane Goodall on Ageing: Living a Full Life

Have you ever watched a toddler learning a new skill like walking? The single-minded determination, though they often fall and stumble, is an amazing thing to see. A child has no doubt in their young mind that they will not succeed. They are steadfast in their pursuit of success and failure is just another reason to get right back up again.

Jane Goodall is an inspiring example of someone who has harnessed this tenacity and strength of spirit to pursue her dreams and spread her message of hope. At 83, she travels over 300 days a year and spreads awareness about chimpanzees and other environmental crises that are affecting our planet. At a recent interview hosted by Business Chicks, I was struck by her calm confidence and the obvious inspiration she took from the younger people in our society. “Because young people, when they understand the problems and are empowered to take action, when we listen to their voices, when we encourage them to roll up their sleeves and find ways to tackle the injustices and problems that they care about, are my greatest hope for the future.[1]” Through the creation of The Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots initiative, she seeks to teach young people that they matter and we all have a role to play.

Given the scope of her life and work, her response when asked about what she’s learned about how we age is not surprising. “Well, it’s a question I can’t really answer because I don’t think about it. It’s a question I’m often asked. What keeps you going? Well, I’ve given you my reasons for hope. I’m an obstinate person.”

In the face of huge corporations and politicians who refuse to admit we have an obligation to take care of our planet, or that our environment is facing a crisis, she stands fast. It takes amazing fortitude and strength of character to push back against a seemingly immovable force. “And when people say well this is something you can never change. I say, well, dammit I will!”

Jane Goodall seems to effortlessly ignore the struggles many of us face at various stages in our lives. By dedicating her life to the service of others and the world around us, she has strived to push boundaries and explore the possibilities life has to offer rather than focusing on possible limitations. “So, I don’t think about ageing, I haven’t got time to think about ageing.”

Inevitably, time will march on. But the future doesn’t seem to hold any fear but rather, a new adventure to be conquered. “And you know, the next thing will be death. And death is either the end of everything, in which case, so what? Or else it’s something else … in which case that will be the greatest adventure. And I think there is something else. So, I don’t look forward to the dying, but I’m not afraid of death.”

If we could all pursue our lives and purpose with such dogged determination and refuse to dwell on our perceived limitations, imagine what we could accomplish.

 

[1] Champ, Nicky. “17 Rapid-fire Questions with Dr. Jane Goodall.” Business Chicks. Business Chicks, 09 May 2017. Web. 29 June 2017.

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Retirement: Recreation or Re-creation?

Around 500,000 Australians will retire this year. What are you looking forward to in retirement? Maybe some travel? Catching up on reading all those books you always planned to get through? More time on the golf course?

With lifespans longer than at any other time in history, the reality is, if we retire at 65, or even earlier at 55 or 60, travel, reading, and leisure doesn’t necessarily sustain us for a healthy, happy later life of up to 20+ years.

Recreation plays a big part in the hopes and dreams of the pre-retired. However, the aftermath of an extended European vacation or a move to the countryside, can present retirees with a host of new emotional challenges they hadn’t anticipated.

 

Post-retirement blues?

The unexpected loss of purpose that can strike retirees is often a challenge. The euphoria of the daily grind of work now replaced with the lack of stimulation, interaction with colleagues – of all ages, and relatively mundane routine with friends of the same age or older. A sense of emptiness that can ensue as a result of being an empty nester and simply remaining at home with you and your partner can be both confronting and testing.

Those who choose a sea change, tree change or downsize from a house to an apartment, or move to over 55’s living or a retirement village, have a new set of challenges associated with becoming established in a new community as this couple discovered.

So what’s retirement then if not travel, relaxation, and not working (yay!)?

Retirement is more than recreation.  It’s a time for re-creation.

 

The Third Phase

Whether lonely or bored or neither, retirement is a time for recreating ourselves and maximising this Third Phase of life.

Volunteering and being involved with community activities are essential for healthy ageing, as is physical exercise and healthy eating. Expanding existing interests such as joining a book club (from being a casual book-reader) and resurrecting past hobbies (I’m finally going to restore that old bike that’s been sitting in the garage…and go riding again) are a great place to start. However, discovering new interests (I’m going to take up French lessons), hobbies (tai-chi, University of the 3rd Age, piano playing, dancing), and even re-training (go back to uni as this 93-year-old did, or qualify as a personal trainer or yoga teacher) are all possibilities for our re-creation.

 

Re-creation & dementia

Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians (aged 65 years or older)[1]. Throwing yourself into completely new hobbies, interests, and learning not only keeps you busy, but by forcing the brain to learn new things, it staves off cognitive decline. It is imperative that a concerted effort be made to keep the brain stimulated with active learning and ‘doing’, otherwise we raise our likelihood of becoming part of the dementia epidemic.

So … with potentially 20 or 30 years (or more) of life to live after retirement, how will you re-create yourself when you retire? What are your plans?

Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

 

This article is part of a series by Three Sisters Group on changing attitudes to marketing to the over-50s. It calls attention to the need to challenge our stereotypes about getting older and seeks to build understanding about how attitudes to ageing impact all aspects of our lives – from research, to workplace practices, marketing activity, community services, planning and housing.

[1] 1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012) Dementia in Australia.

 
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What if we acknowledged people older than us in our own culture

Does the Australian culture respect older people? 5 questions worth asking.

I love the welcome usually given prior to a conference, school occasion, or other event in Australia. We’re asked to do two things: acknowledge the traditional landowners as the custodians of this land AND pay respect to Elders past and present. But, has this practice spilled over into a cultural tendency to respect all Elders regardless of our heritage? Read more

Happy holidays

This is a brief note to thank you for your readership and support throughout 2016. In my last piece for this year these are my reflections and highlights of the year that’s been …

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Forget Generation X, Y, Z, and Baby Boomers

Generational labels that divide.

Population divisions based on the year we are born.

What if we removed the labels and simply met each other as people, with a variety of wants, needs and challenges that span age?

What would happen to the smashed avocado debate then?

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Shades of white

White is white.

Until you try to choose white paint.

If you’ve ever tried to choose white paint you’ll know just how tricky it is to choose the shade of white you’d like to paint a room or a house.

Ageing is the same.  Here’s why.

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Innovating ageing. Together.

5 hours.

That’s how much our life expectancy increases every day.

Thus, our lifespans are longer today than at any other time in history. So what does this mean for us?

Innovating ageing. Together.

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2 reminders about ageing

“Age is just an abstraction not a straight-jacket.”

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