3 ideas for relevance in retirement

If you’ve heard the term “relevance deprivation” you may be older and possibly retired. Alternatively, you may be between jobs or a parent who has become an “empty nester”.  Regardless of your situation, remaining relevant is an individual responsibility.  And it can be challenging.

I’ve written before about my dislike of the word ‘retirement’. One of the many reasons for my preference to avoid the word is because it signals an endpoint. A time in our life when we’ll stop all the hard work and move to a life of leisure filled with choice. Our choice. Our way. No boss. Bliss!

What if …

We didn’t retire.  What if, instead of retiring we simply kept on living. Fully. Completely. Engaged.

Not thinking “I’m old” because old is equated with retirement.

What if, from a much younger age, we made choices and decisions knowing that life was long. Very long. Knowing that if we retire at 65 we’ll still live for 20 or more years.

What choices would we make? How differently would we live our life?

There’s work.  Then there’s retirement.

When working we remain relevant because we have purpose and meaning. There’s a reason to get up each day. At work people want us because of our knowledge, skill, or experience. We receive phone calls, emails, and invitations. Invitations to lunch. To Melbourne Cup events. To Christmas functions. Our birthday might be celebrated in the office with a cake. People notice when we’re away for an extended time and are usually grateful for our return. We’re valued. And all we have to do is show up to our workplace. Easy.

In retirement, this can all disappear. There is no office. The phone calls, emails, and invitations diminish. Whether or not we get up each day may not be noticed – by anyone.  Unless we’re in a relationship or we have adult children living with us. What happens in our day must be generated entirely by us. It requires energy, effort, and self-motivation. Less easy.

In a youth- focused culture, relevancy can feel even more challenging. Combined with an increasingly technology, digital driven world, becoming and remaining digital-savvy may also seem overwhelming.

Given this challenge, what are the options?

3 ideas for retirement relevance

In a recent podcast interview with SBS, I suggested that it was essential we all continue to learn and educate ourselves to remain relevant. Whilst the podcast was particularly focused on the disparities between millenials and older workers, those interviewed provided practical actions for reducing the gap. As I’ve said before, generational labelling was also suggested as divisive and not overly useful as a way of identifying groups of people.

Bridging a generational gap requires understanding and a willingness for both younger and older people to learn from each other. An openness and recognition that there is more than one way to do anything. And that attachment to “our way” or the “right way” limits the possibility for new ideas, innovation, and creativity.

Intergenerational relationships are crucial for us to age well. Consequently, building them into our lives is essential.

The 3 ideas?

  1. Continue learning. Whether that be through Open University, U3A, TAFE, University, free online MOOC’s, or by attending events at your local library. Foster a thirst for knowledge.
  2. Participate in community activities or hobbies where you’ll also meet and befriend younger people. Community gardens, bush regeneration, environmental or animal activist groups, book or film clubs. If there’s not one in your neighbourhood, create one.
  3. Be open. Say “yes”.

For inspiration on how to age we have role models in Judy Dench and Jane Goodall. One thing’s for sure. To remain relevant in retirement requires us to reject age stereotypes and embrace our whole life – from start to finish.

 

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

 

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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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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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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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