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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intergenerational community

Intergenerational understanding

It’s well known that baby boomers often feel invisible.

Often ignored by marketers, Baby Boomers 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.

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 own research reveals that baby boomers generally feel at least 3 years younger, and often 10-15 years younger than their chronological age.

Recently, I had the privilege of staying with my Aunt in a retirement village. She was thrilled. And because she knows my work is focused on people over 50, and she loves catering, I was treated to a fabulous dinner party with a group of women from their mid-80’s to 92 years old! All independent, active and with a great story to tell.

In my work, I am lucky to meet and talk with a wide range of older men and women. The more people I meet, the more grateful I am to have the privilege of their company and conversation.

The challenge is encouraging organisations, marketers, advertisers, and PR agencies to recognise this valuable cohort of people. Usually, marketing departments and agencies are filled with millennials who “don’t get us”.

The key is to educate, inform, and inspire a new understanding that changes the cultural conversation about becoming older.

It’s a significant segment of Australia’s population comprised of nearly 8 million people!

Time to change

It’s time to change so that ageism and age discrimination don’t remain into the future.

Lifespans are becoming longer.  The desire to remain an active part of the workforce and the community well beyond 50 will only grow. Considering ways to shift entrenched cultural and organisational attitudes and behaviour is key. One way to achieve change is to bring generations together.

Why Intergenerational Understanding

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.  NBC Universal introduced a ‘Bring-your-parents-work-day‘ as a way of mixing generations for greater understanding. It 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 could involve simply bringing 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.

The potential for what could be created and the contribution that each could provide the other is vast. At a minimum, it could bring generations together. 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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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.

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

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I love long distance train travel.  I love the clickety clack of the wheels on the rails. I love the ever changing, spectacular scenery of the Australian countryside and coast. I enjoy the time to sit and relax. And, I enjoy the people that I meet. Recently I travelled from Sydney to Taree by train. On my return from Taree I met Gail. I was humbled and inspired by her story …

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