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 Often there’s a chasm between outdated stereotypes of the over 50’s and their actual lived reality.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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Wonder Woman

I am woman: Hear me roar!

For many women turning 50 is a time of discovery. There’s a sense of freedom. Children are usually older or have left home. As a result, women have more time, feel more confident, and are often keen to reinvent their lives – particularly if they haven’t been working. It all adds up to women feeling powerful.

But what about the hot flushes I hear you say? The mood swings? The wrinkles? The grey hair? The sagging body bits? It’s true.  It happens. Responses to these natural processes varies. Some are unconcerned. Others hold onto youthful beauty – whether through the use of hair dye, botox, or plastic surgery. In the discussions I’ve had with women over 50, they are unperturbed about what other women choose to do. If one person chooses botox or plastic surgery and another doesn’t – both are considered fair choices.

I’m over 50. My work is focused on the over 50’s.  Consequently, I have a theory.

Women & menopause

My theory is that menopause and hot flushes are simply a reminder to us – women and men – that change is occurring. For women it’s the time to harness this energy. For men … a woman in her 50’s is a person to employ, date, or befriend. She’s powerful and interesting, seeking new challenges with a purpose that utilises her strengths and acknowledges her intelligence and ability.

I’ve spoken with many women over 50, and without exception, they all express a sense of confidence that they didn’t have in their younger years. Hence, they are either less concerned or unconcerned by what others think. They’re willing to be their own woman. At 50, women are less likely to be defined by stereotypical views about what they should be doing, how they should look, or how they should be. They’re adventurous, interesting, and interested.

What does this mean? What do they do?

Like so much of what happens over 50, regardless of gender, it varies. From changing careers, starting a business, working part time, or simply being more confident in their existing day-to-day lives, it’s a time of reinvention. Some of this re-creation is internal and some of it is obvious to all (such as career changes).

BUT … it’s not all a bed of roses.

Women as carers

Women over 50, whilst free of their children, often become carers for older parents. The journey can be long, emotionally challenging, and a difficult road to navigate – a path filled with tricky decisions because our parents are adults too. They’ve been independent, competent, and capable. Balancing a desire to care and love our parents whilst knowing that they are safe can become a delicate and complicated tightrope walk – a juggle between supporting not smothering, enabling not disabling, empowering not disempowering. Whilst this is a path most of us ultimately tread, it comes at a time when most women feel strong.

So, if you see a woman wearing a t-shirt and fanning herself with a fan or a magazine at a bus stop in winter … That is a powerful woman on her way to work or in the process of reinventing herself to be even greater than perhaps she imagines.

Wonder Woman …

If you’re seeking to develop products and services that appeal to these women through marketing and advertising campaigns, acknowledge their confidence and independence. Women in their 50’s are like Wonder Woman – feet hip-width apart with hands firmly placed on their hips ready to take on the world.

And of course, this isn’t what happens for all women.

If you’d like to know more, contact us:  livinginsights@threesistersgroup.com.au

In the meantime, we’d be interested to hear your experience.

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Three sisters group

3 reasons why Baby Boomers are ignored

Right now approximately 15% of Australia’s population is over 65.

By 2050, the number of people over 65 is forecast to increase to over 20% of the total population.

Furthermore, Baby Boomers will be the single largest consumer of products and services in the future according to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute released last year (2016). In their report, McKinsey suggests that any organisation that ignored this consumer, did so at their peril.

In fact, compared to previous generations, Baby Boomers are …
– cashed up;
– technology literate;
– fitter and healthier.

They are also bigger spenders than Millenials.

Given these facts, why are Baby Boomers ignored?

 

3 Reasons Why Baby Boomers are Ignored

  1. Lack of understanding.Young people dominate marketing departments, advertising, and PR agencies. They generally don’t understand Baby Boomers and simply aren’t aware of the opportunity they represent.
  2. Lack of insights.Organisations don’t know what they don’t know. There is a severe lack of knowledge and understanding of people in this age range if age brackets in surveys finish at 55, 60 or 65 – as outlined in our white paper.
  3. Legacy approaches to marketing.Market growth has historically come from younger generations. The Baby Boomers were those younger generations. They were the post-war boom for baby products, then young family products and services, then older family products and services and so on.  Baby boomers are now over 50.  They became older.  Not old.  Simply older.  Organisations seem to have ignored this fact.

 

Understanding Baby Boomers

The first step to understanding Baby Boomers is to let go of assumptions.

For example, in one conversation with older people recently, a gentleman in his 60’s said that he knew younger people would see him walking down the street and think “there goes an old codger”.  His problem with the label was that it wasn’t how he felt and therefore didn’t consider it relevant.  He considered himself fit, healthy, and actively engaged with the world – despite his grey hair, wrinkles, and slower pace of walking. How we may perceive a person with these characteristics probably differs significantly to how they perceive themselves.

Looking to dive deeper? Download our White Paper to get a deeper sense of Boomers.

Filled with facts gathered from around the world, and sharing insights from our own proprietary research, this Paper reveals the impact of ageism and the basis of the opportunity available to astute businesses that embrace this ever-growing age group.

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What does this mean for business?

Organisations seeking to reach this market must:

  1. Undertake relevant research to gain insights into the needs and wants of Baby Boomers for the products and services offered.
  2. Question possible assumptions and stereotypes of the over 50’s by internal staff and external suppliers.
  3. Educate staff about this generation.  Education can occur in a number of ways including training, reverse mentoring employment programs, intergenerational design teams, or ongoing engagement with older people through community groups.

To explore the potential of the over 50’s it is vital that an organisation investigates the market for insights.  Doing so identifies opportunities providing the knowledge and basis to innovate for success. Investigative techniques include bespoke research; customer journey maps; and key stakeholder interviews, to name a few.

The gap between older and younger generations is not necessarily as enormous as labels would suggest. And, when younger people meet older people their perceptions of old change.

If you’d like to know more, please contact us.

Baby Boomers & Millenials – Same or Different?

The advantage of generational labels is that they tell us when a group of people was born. The time period often has characteristics unique to that time in history.  The disadvantage?  Generational labels are potentially divisive.

For example, baby boomers are a generation born after the war. They were a population boom! Boomers experienced The Beatles, Elvis Presley, and the introduction of colour television. The millennials are characterized as a group that has grown up in an electronic and socially connected world. They’re often described as self-centered and indulged. Whilst it’s difficult to determine the music that defines them, one writer suggests popularisation of hip-hop, the creation of Boybands, and the prevalence of Indie are amongst the music trends that occurred with this generation.

However, this is not about the definitive characteristics of these two generations. Rather, the purpose of this piece is to suggest that perhaps there are more similarities than differences between the two age groups.

Based on my own work with baby boomers it seems to me there may be some important issues where we come together. Education. Housing affordability. Work.

And potentially, the similarities don’t stop with these big social issues.

 

Baby Boomers & Technology

Whilst boomers are ‘digital immigrants’ they do use and embrace technology. Let’s face it: Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are baby boomers! Boomers may not have been born with an iPhone in hand or access to the Internet, but they do know how to use it. And do.

They’re big on Facebook and active users of Google to seek information. And who do you think might be traveling the world using Airbnb and home exchange sites?

Beware though. Whilst boomers are active users of technology they are not all the same (in the same way that there are differences amongst millennials). After all, it’s a 20-year age span. Our conversations revealed that older boomers tend to be more reluctant to either use or have some of the technology available – including mobile phones. You’re also less likely to find an older boomer on social media. And, when I say older, I mean someone in their late 60’s or early 70’s.

 

So. Boomers and millennials. – same or different?

 

Both. And that’s important. There are enough similarities to bring these large and significant groups together on topics that matter, as was demonstrated in this debate.

 

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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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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

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