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Are smart homes the key to healthy ageing?

It’s time we scrapped the idea of smart homes as the province of the young and digitally savvy. Research shows that smart homes could be the cornerstone of healthy ageing. In fact, smart technologies enable older Australians to live longer, safely, and independently at home and in the community.

Baby boomers such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs made technology accessible to everyone. The internet came to market during the 70’s. This availability of computers, laptops, and information at our fingertips means that the majority of baby boomers are technology literate. So whilst considered ‘technology immigrants’, on the whole, this generation embraces technology.

Consequently, there is an unrealised opportunity to market smart home technologies to baby boomers. The boomers have larger purchasing power and higher levels of education than previous generations. They are also fitter, healthier, and more technology literate than their parents or grandparents. And, this generation want to remain in their own homes. Forever. Moreover, they expect to use intuitive and cost-effective technology, particularly if it promotes independence, quality of life and well-being.

As Dr Helen Meese from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers suggests:

“Creating a home which encourages its occupants to stay mobile and active as they age has the potential to keep them both mentally and physically fit for longer.” 

So what does the future hold for smart homes for older Australians?

The New Aged Home

A smart home is:

“a residence that uses internet-connected devices to enable the remote monitoring and management of appliances and systems, such as lighting and heating.” 

However, besides the image of the high tech ‘aware’ home, the wide range of smart home technologies available to support older adults to live at home and remain independent, is largely unknown. From passive and active sensors; monitoring systems to environmental control systems; and electronic aids to daily living – technology has the potential to transform our lives as we age. And let’s not forget Voice-First technology – a multilingual technology with enormous potential. 

Although as Laurie Orlov suggests there are still many questions and much research to be done to understand whether “Voice-First” is more hype than helpful.  

Australia is considered slow in the smart home technology uptake. However, this is predicted to radically change. In fact, the industry is forecast to grow from a $377million industry in 2016 to a $4.7billion industry in 2021. 

What’s the Impact?

Delivering enhanced customer experiences (CX) for business growth is the mantra amongst marketers today. Developers, architects, builders, and renovation specialists have the opportunity to innovate by meeting the needs of the burgeoning baby boomer market with smart home technology. Healthcare providers have the potential to improve the experience of their customers by introducing smart technology such as that available from Feros Care or eHomeCare.

Whilst technology does not replace human contact or reduce loneliness, it can contribute to providing individuals, carers, family, and loved ones with a sense of safety, security, and connection. With health and aged care costs predicted to balloon over the next couple of decades as the population ages, technology, is realistically, a practical part of the solution to reduce those costs.

Given that …

  1. Australia’s population is ageing – already one-third of us are over 50 years old.
  2. The majority of people want to age in their own homes.
  3. Attitudes of older people towards technology are not as stereotypes suggest. They’re surprisingly open to using technology. 

… what assumptions is your organisation making about the ability of older people to utilise and engage with technology? How can you establish a competitive difference or obtain growth by better understanding your current and potential customers?

If you would like to explore these questions and consider how your organisation might deliver products, services, or a better customer experience for the over 50’s, contact us.

 

Photo by Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash

Washed up jar of possibility with older workers

Are older workers considered washed up?

Few organisations have a strategic approach to managing their older workers. This issue persists despite research by Deloitte Access Economics that shows a 3 percent increase in the participation rate of workers over 55 could account for a $33 billion boost to Australia’s national economy.

The Challenge

Given the prevalence of age stereotypes in the workplace, there are some critical questions organisations need to ask:

  1. Do we understand the needs, hopes and aspirations of older workers?
  2. What are the attitudes and beliefs of younger workers towards ageing and older workers?
  3. What can we do to increase age diversity and meet the needs of all parties without negatively impacting the bottom line?

As Dr Rickwood suggests in her recent interview with Fran Kelly on Radio National, “HR policies and practices haven’t shifted to accommodate what is a burgeoning possibility in a workforce of older people”.

There are numerous examples of Australian companies that are already reaping the economic benefits of embracing an older workforce. The most well-known example being Bunnings Warehouse, which employs large numbers of older, highly-skilled tradespeople. No longer able to continue in physically demanding jobs, these people instead are offering a lifetime’s worth of expertise to Bunnings shoppers.

The Facts

According to the Age Discrimination Commissioner’s report ‘Willing to Work’, 12.7% of those aged 65 and over are in the labour force; however, this figure is expected to double by 2055.

Historically, we considered 60 or 65 to be the age at which we retired.  Or, for the financially savvy, we saw 55 years old to be “lucky”.

Unfortunately, this view of 65 as the age at which we retire largely remains. We dream of when the constraints of a workplace end, and travel and leisure beckon. However, increasingly, people are discovering that early retirement isn’t nearly as attractive as perceptions hold it to be. Indeed, many baby boomers see ‘retirement’ as a change of career.  It’s a time when they are able to enjoy more flexibility to pursue their passions and interests, whether paid or voluntary. For example, recent Australian of the Year, Graham Farquhar, revealed in an interview that he enjoyed being able to continue working in his area of expertise on an unpaid basis.  

According to research by MetLife (UK), 63% of over 50’s in their survey would consider re-training to stay working longer. There is also evidence to suggest that greater initiative is required by both older workers and businesses for training and re-skilling.

For example, organisations that invest in retention of their older, skilled workers are discovering higher organisational productivity. Similarly, it’s essential for all workers to continue to learn and educate themselves to remain relevant.

The Opportunity

Underpinning these burgeoning human resource issues is an absence of conversations with all staff – regardless of age – about their attitudes and beliefs towards ageing and remaining in the workforce beyond 50. It’s these conversations that can provide insights into how to create an open, all-age-friendly workplace environment and culture.

It is forecast that 85% of jobs in 2030 don’t yet exist. By the end of the next decade there is also a predicted shortage of workers. These two facts alone suggest that now is the time to reshape the workforce. Through their human resource policies, organisations have the opportunity to redesign work and jobs to promote flexibility. From phased or partial retirement, role transfers, blended work, bridge employment to intergenerational job sharing.

Ultimately, the Hon Dr Kay Patterson, Age Discrimination Commissioner, reminds us: “Intergenerational offices do a lot better than ones fixated on just one age group”.

Does your organisation have its finger on the pulse of the over 50’s in the office?

If you would like to better understand the over 50’s, contact us.

 

Photo by Andrew Bui on Unsplash

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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2 benefits of a big, hairy a** goal as we age

Goals have a significant impact on what we do each day, how we live, and how we feel about ourselves. They can be both motivating and disheartening. Motivating when we achieve the goal we set. Disheartening when we under-achieve or miss the goal altogether. Without goals we can become rudderless and life can lack real purpose and meaning.

What’s this got to do with becoming older?

The importance of goals

When thinking or planning for later life, setting goals is as important as our younger years when we often set goals associated with things such as sport, career, or money. Whilst establishing financial goals is important, money alone does not buy happiness.  Ease, comfort, and security perhaps.  But not happiness.  Goals about other aspects of our life give us something to get up for each day – to work towards so that there’s a sense of achievement in our lives.

As I’ve said previously, it would serve us all well if we eliminated the word ‘retirement’ from our vocabulary. Whilst most people do want to stop working at some point, setting ambitious personal goals to coincide with the event is not usually built into people’s thinking.

Crashing age stereotypes

Recently, I had the good fortune to meet a vibrant, active 65 year old woman, Astrid, who had walked the infamous Camino track – a walk of 780km from St Jean Pied de Port in the French Pyrenees to the stunning cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain.  The walk takes up to 5 weeks. Astrid shared how many people were either surprised she’d done it, or considered her “too old” to be embarking on such an adventure.

Clearly, age stereotypes and ageism contributed to people’s perceptions of what’s OK and what’s not OK for someone with grey hair and some wrinkles.

There’s more to this story.

Astrid, had a big goal with a plan.

First, she had to wait a year so that her foot surgery and hip injury could heal. Then Astrid worked with a trainer 3 times a week to align her body and strengthen her legs. She joined Weight Watchers to lose 15 pounds to reduce the load on her joints and made a deliberate decision to only carry a day pack for the duration of the walk.  Her heavier luggage was transported to her accommodation each day. And, throughout the walk, Astrid chose the road less travelled in order to enjoy the quieter paths and nature.

Astrid chose a big, hairy a** goal (BHAG).

Benefits of goals as we age

The benefits of a BHAG are twofold:

  1. Ambitious and less ambitious goals contribute to a more active and healthier life. Without them we risk falling into the trap of building our lives around meal times, coffee & cake breaks, TV viewing, holidays, and medical appointments.
  2. By setting goals that are challenging we defy ageism and age stereotypes. Attitudes and beliefs about what older people can or should do are outdated. Longer lifespans require us all to re-think what we do with our lives and be more ambitious and confident about what we can do in our later years.

SMART goals

These are the 5 keys to goal setting.  Make sure your goals are:

Specific: We’ve all heard of the bucket list. It’s a list of the things we want to do before we die. Interestingly, it’s become so much a part of our vernacular, even younger people talk about their bucket list! Goals can be a bucket list. However, the goals for living will influence what we do in our daily lives.  Whether that’s learning to fly a glider or volunteering. If volunteering is a goal, what type of organisation would you seek to work with? One associated with children, the environment, mental health, older people, the homeless, or refugees? The options are endless. Check that your goals match your current interests or are associated with an area you’d like to know more about.

Measurable: Ensure that you have a sense of achievement by putting measurable goals in place.  Simply thinking, ‘I’m going to volunteer’ is noble.  However, you may want to establish a goal of volunteering for a certain number of hours or days per week.  Alternatively, you may choose to work as a volunteer to raise money for a charity. Set a goal of how much money you’ll raise. When you’ve achieved the goal … reward yourself.

Achievable: Ambitious goals are great. And, they may take time to achieve. So, break the BHAG into smaller goals. Imagine trying to eat an elephant. The only way to successfully do that would be to eat it one bite at a time. Big BHAG’s are the same. One step at a time.

Realistic: Ensuring the goal is something that you can actually do is essential. Whilst you may have dreamt of flying to the moon, becoming an astronaut is probably unrealistic.  However, parachuting may not be. Going back to University may be something you’d like to do, however fees may make it prohibitive.  Look for a course via a free MOOC (massive online open community) or attend University of the Third Age instead.

Timely: Set a timeframe for taking action and then completion. All talk, no action leads to a lack of fulfilment and a sense of failure. The action may be as simple as researching which volunteer organisation you’d like to work with. When will you do this? By what date will you have made your decision? Then, when will you fill in the application or call to get on their list? When will you follow up? If not successful, which charity was #2 on your list? When will you fill in that application? And so on. Importantly, be realistic with setting timelines and deadlines.  Don’t make them too short, nor too long. Diarise the actions, or write a list and tick each item off once done. Each tick is another step towards achieving your goal. Another bite of the elephant.

Goal ideas

Ambitious goals might be:

  • Climbing to Everest base camp;
  • Hiking the Kokoda Track;
  • Sailing around the world;
  • Learning a new language;
  • Studying again.

Less ambitious goals, but equally valuable, could be as simple as:

  • Volunteering a certain number of days or hours per week;
  • Participating in a community-based activity such as walking or a cycling group;
  • Taking up a past hobby or interest such as a musical instrument or painting;
  • Ensuring that some time is spent with younger people each week/fortnight/month in order to benefit from the youthful energy and enthusiasm that those younger than us bring to a conversation and relationship.

By building on current interests, or exploring new activities, we expand our friendships, bring purpose and meaning into our lives, and increase our chances of a happier, healthier life – right up until the end. And surely, that can only be a good thing.

What are your BHAG’s?

 

Photo by Gautam Arora 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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Forget Generation X, Y, Z, and Baby Boomers

Generational labels that divide.

Population divisions based on the year we are born.

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

What would happen to the smashed avocado debate then?

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2 reminders about ageing

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

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Inspiration from Gloria Steinem

At 82 years of age Gloria Steinem remains optimistic, energetic, and still committed to being a leading advocate for women’s rights. I had the privilege of hearing her speak about her new book at the Sydney Writers Festival. I came away inspired and motivated. Why?

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One simple idea to disrupt ageism.

Getting older is potentially powerful. Nearly 8 million Australians are over 50 years of age – that’s one-third of the country’s population! Yet how we perceive getting older and how older people are treated influences employment opportunities, lifestyle choices, health management, and marketing campaigns. Here’s one simple way that we can all challenge and disrupt age stereotypes.

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What is the future of ageing?

I recently attended ‘The Future of Ageing’ conference run by the Arts Health Institute. It was an informative, action-packed, fun 2 days with a range of expert speakers intermingled with singing, comedy, films, and a dance performance written, choreographed, and designed by an inspiring 101 year old dancer who also performed in the show.  The underlying message and theme throughout the conference was …

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