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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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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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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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