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The Apple watch: Ageism – built-in

The new Apple watch has some cool features – thinner body, bigger screen, faster processor, a built-in electrocardiogram (EKG) for heart rate monitoring and a fall detection feature. Where’s the ageism? The fall detection feature. Why? Because for any Apple user over 65, it automatically switches on the fall detection feature when they start using their watch. Therefore, this assumes that everyone over 65 years old is frail, doddery and vulnerable to falls.

Avoiding ageism through universal design

Ageism is defined as discrimination against people on the basis of age; specifically, discrimination against, and prejudicial stereotyping of, older people” (Collins English Dictionary). It routinely occurs in workplaces and the broader community through discriminatory employment practices, lack of visibility in advertising, stereotypical portrayal of older people in the media, and in our language – e.g. “he/she is cute” or “he’s just a cranky old b****!”

As a result of the cultural pervasiveness of ageism, products and services rarely consider the needs and pain points of older people. Or, they’re designed based on age stereotypes. Universal design addresses this problem.

What is universal design?

The Centre for Universal Design Australia uses this definition from Canada:

“Design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference”.

However, according to the Research Institute for Consumer Affairs (RICA) in the U.K. (2016) there isn’t evidence of systematic inclusion of older people throughout the design process.

The #1 key to universal design

Essential to inclusive or universal (used interchangeably) design is understanding the customer or recipient of the product or service. The importance of this is recognised by many organisations, evidenced by the burgeoning dialogue on the concept of co-creation (a Google search provided 547 million results). The #1 key?

Customer insights.

In other words, understand the customers or users of the product – what are their needs, wants & pain points?

Beware: Ageism inhibits innovation

And when it comes to product or service co-creation and universal design for older people, beware of ageism and age stereotypes. These may be held by both the customer and/or internal staff. These stereotypes can inhibit truly better design. The opportunity is to design a car (not a faster horse), or a smart phone (not simply a better mobile phone).

“We’re always working with community members. They always come up with things that you would never think of.”

Rajna Ogrin, Senior Research Fellow at Bolton Clarke

With Australia’s population ageing, it’s essential that organisations include older people in their design processes. Moreover, as over 50% of the older age group are in rural and remote areas, it’s also important to consider the differences between rural, remote, and urban areas, as this short video with leading experts in the field affirms.

Contact us today to find out how your organisation can generate meaningful customer insights. Through our bespoke programs, we enable organisations to create, together with their customers, products and services that are unbound by ageism, age stereotypes and generational labelling.

If you’d like to find out the lessons we can learn from Apple when it comes to creating an age-inclusive workforce, read on here.

 

Photo by Tom The Photographer on Unsplash

Guest blog: Ageing. That’s life.

Popular culture would have us believe that once we are forty, we are more or less washed up and on a downhill trajectory. It’s easy to agree with this view if our thinking is aligned with cultural conditioning that sees age as a category (of young or old) rather than a continual process across the life course.

We live in a time where there is optimal knowledge, networks and shared experiences. This provides us with the opportunity to use a broader lens with which to view the world and ourselves. Paradigms are not only shifting but also morphing. Age categories have become blurred as we realise that this thing called ‘ageing’ is a life course matter.

We count no matter what our age is.

Things do not necessarily come to a screaming halt after our 50s or 60s. In fact many of us will live long active lives until our 80s or 90s. So why do the myths, attitudes and stereotypes about age persist?

It’s one thing to insist that we should not have stereotypical attitudes about age, but another to explore some of the factors that contribute to these pervasive ageist attitudes.

Ageism, culture & attitudes

Our individual worldview is arguably the combination of our personality, preferences and the internalised cultural layers that we grew up with. These are strong influences in our psyche. If we grow up in a culture that continually reveres youth, and diminishes the value of the old, we run the risk of internalising ageist views. This makes it hard for ourselves when we move from ‘in-group’ (young) to the ‘out-group’ (old, and “over the hill”). If we have adopted the view that age is a category of either ‘young’ or ‘old’ we become disheartened when we no longer belong to the ‘revered group’. This leaves us feeling diminished and irrelevant. Yet it is due to our own thinking.

Live longer: 5 ways to be positive about ageing

Studies have shown that those with more positive self-perceptions of ageing tend to live over 7 years longer than those with less positive attitudes. They also enjoy better functional health as they reach their senior years. So, start peeling back some of these cultural layers that hold negative messages about age with these five things:

  1. Understand that ageing commences from the time of conception and continues until death (not from an arbitrary number like 40, 50 or 60 etc).
  2. Ageing is a natural part of the life cycle.
  3. Be honest with yourself about your age. Embrace it, and flourish within your current stage of life instead of wishing for past stages (reminiscing is one thing, fixating on the past is another). Live in the present.
  4. Let go of ideas of wanting to look, seem, dress or act ‘younger’. Also, don’t give compliments by stating someone looks ‘younger’ than they are, or doesn’t ‘look’ their age.
  5. Live a full life. Be friends with people of all ages. Being younger is neither better nor worse than being older. Realise that no matter what your age, you will continue this journey, god willing, until you are at the age when you need the help of your great-grand kids to blow out your birthday candles!

If you’d like to know more, contact Three Sisters Group – specialists in providing knowledge and insights on the burgeoning over 50s market.

Photo by Lucas Gruwez on Unsplash

 

The over 50’s infographic to inspire inclusive business strategies

Are you looking for new growth and differentiation for your business? Are you looking for a low-risk and high reward customer to achieve that growth and differentiation? Look no further than the over 50’s market and our infographic below. Healthier, wealthier and more active online and offline than at any other time in history, the over 50’s are the chief drivers of Australia’s ‘longevity economy’.

Why are older Aussies ignored?

We are all living longer than at any other time in history. In the future, average lifespans will extend to our 90’s and beyond. And the proportion of centenarians will continue to increase. This is a future in which generational labels will no longer have a place; and older Aussies will become an integrated and integral part of the total population. However, few Australian companies have recognised the opportunity of the over 50’s – not only as a market but also as a productive workforce asset.

Why?

Because of the deeply entrenched stereotypes, assumptions and beliefs Aussies have about older Aussies. As a society, we generally consider older people as one homogenous group. This is reinforced by messages from the media, painting older people as a ‘grey tsunami’ – a group of people that will put pressure on our already overburdened pension, welfare and health systems. Consequently, this is rarely considered an attractive market.

However, as you will see in our infographic below, these ageist perceptions we have of older people are unfounded and outdated. They simply don’t belong in a world where people are routinely living to 80, 90 and beyond.

How do organisations innovate for the over 50’s?

Businesses need to start with understanding their older customers and employees to access the opportunities they represent. Our infographic below is a good place to begin. If all Aussies, younger and older, are to benefit from the gift of longer lives, businesses must start thinking about how to:

  1. Create more inclusive marketing campaigns;
  2. Iterate and innovate products and services that meet the needs and wants of the older demographic.
  3. Design inclusive HR policies and practices that harness and leverage the asset of older workers.

The key to success is evolution not revolution. An inclusive, integrated strategy that embraces the older customer and employee will remain relevant long into Australia’s much older future.  Take a look at our infographic for inspiration and insights on the longevity economy. 

Infographic: Mythbusting the over 50’s

If you’d like to better understand the over 50’s, the longevity economy and how your business can benefit from harnessing this burgeoning market, contact Three Sisters Group today to set up your complimentary one hour discussion.

 

Infographic sources:

 

Photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

 

Age-neutral customer service: Lessons from Apple

Have you ever been frustrated with a customer service representative – whether on the phone, via email or face-to-face?

Why the frustration?

Maybe you felt misunderstood. Or, perhaps the person was constrained by a script, process, system, or structure of their training program. Maybe the person you were speaking with hasn’t been empowered to make good decisions for the customer that leads to better outcomes for everyone.

Too often we hear stories of poor customer service. This is particularly true amongst older people who may not be as technologically literate as their younger counterparts – like ‘Mary’ in this article. Regardless of age, we all want to feel understood. And most importantly, if we’re contacting customer service, we want our problem resolved effortlessly, without stress or anxiety.

Apple’s age-neutral customer service

If you’ve ever walked into an Apple Store, you’ll know the experience of feeling immediately welcomed. From the environment to the staff we feel good; even happy. How do I know this? Because I’ve experienced it myself. I also feel confident that any problem, however trivial or complex, will be understood and solved – effortlessly and easefully. I haven’t felt quite the same way in any other retail store or customer service environment.

So what is it that makes Apple different?

  • Staff reflect the diversity of Apple customers.

Take a look next time you’re in an Apple Store and you’ll find a team of all ages (and cultures and genders).

  • Apple “starts with why”

Apple’s customer service culture – a legacy of Steve Jobs – is one of supporting customers to both use and enjoy their Apple technology. The company starts with the customer experience and then works backwards to the functionality of their technology.

In Simon Sinek’s popular talk, he suggests that Apple “starts with the why” rather than with the ’what’ (i.e. its products). The focus is to solve problems and “enrich lives”. Consequently, Apple’s interactions with its customers transcend age biases and stereotypes. Furthermore, there’s very little room for ageism when you’re driven by good customer outcomes rather than sales commissions.

The customer service imperative

The 2016 KPMG Global CEO Survey, revealed that 88 per cent of CEOs are concerned about the loyalty of their customers. The reason is because 82 percent of people will turn away from a business due to a bad experience. And disenfranchised, unhappy customers or ex-customers are highly likely to spread the word to others about their bad experience. Unfortunately, it’s bad experiences that remain with us much longer than good ones – a widely known quirk of the human psyche.

Conversely, a recent report showed that 8 in 10 customers are willing to pay more for a product or service when they experience good customer service. Clearly, good customer experience (CX) can drive business success and growth.

The age-neutral customer service imperative

A recent UK cross-industry study showed that the older people get, the less satisfied they are with customer service. Given the vast spending power of the baby boomer generation, ageist attitudes amongst a customer service team is likely affecting your bottom line.

Baby Boomers will be the single largest consumer of products in the future. Consequently, companies can’t afford poor interactions with this ever-growing, cashed up, technology literate market segment. Fail to integrate baby boomers into your customer service strategy at your peril.

The future of age-inclusive customer service

Given the value of the ageing population; the impact of negative customer experiences; the average age of customer service teams; and the poor experience of many older people, it’s essential that Chief Customer Officers:

  1. Create age-diverse customer service teams.
  2. Challenge age stereotypes amongst their staff.
  3. Understand the diversity of customers over 50 – they are not a single homogenous group with identical attitudes, beliefs, or technology literacy*.
  4. Include flexibility in scripts that accommodates a diverse customer base.
  5. Empower customer service representatives to make decisions that delivers a great outcome for the customer and the organisation.
  6. Ensure their customer service teams understand the “why” of the business and they are purpose-led rather than sales-led in their interactions with customers.

 

Three Sisters Group delivers expertise and research-driven consultancy services on the longevity economy. We provide knowledge, understanding, and workshops for customer-driven, strategic change. Contact us today to create an age-inclusive customer experience.

*I’m amazed at how often people assume that when I mention Three Sisters Group specialises in the over 50’s market, that they think I’m talking about aged care. A baby boomer (between 54 – 74 years old) is not generally in the market for aged care. They are in the same market for the goods and services you’re buying today. And whilst Three Sisters Group doesn’t specialise in aged care we do work with organisations seeking to enter or gain growth in this market.

Image source: Shutterstock

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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How old is old?

“I don’t feel my age.”

Old isn’t a number.
Old is an attitude.
Old is more likely to be associated with physical or cognitive decline.

Discussions we’ve held with baby boomers reveals that people often feel ten or twenty years (or more) younger than their actual age! Often, old was either someone else, or someone older.

For example, one 60+ male said:

“I still feel the same as when I was 25, but physically I can’t do the same things.”

A female between 50-60 said:

“I don’t think I feel any different to when I was 40. “

Along with feeling younger than their actual age, baby boomers also expressed a sense of confidence. They associate this with an internal sense of knowing themselves better. Women, in particular, feel more confident and declare a sense of freedom with becoming older. This is generally a result of either being empty-nesters or their children being older and more independent. The days of nappies, dressing small children, and Mum as taxi-driver are often behind them.

It was also common for baby boomers to express frustration at being ignored or labeled as “old”. A recurring story from a number of people was associated with a frustration and irritation with news stories about people 60 years old (for example) being reported as either an ‘old person’ or ‘old people’.

 

Males vs Females

Men and women seem to have an awareness that there’s a need to reinvent their life as they age. Awareness that this includes a good diet, exercise, creation of personal relationships, and a need to be doing something beyond travel and relaxation is understood. What we noticed in our face-to-face discussions is that women often embraced this enthusiastically. Whilst men had the same awareness, they could be more confronted as they considered the transition from full-time work to something else. Women had experienced flexible lifestyles associated with being the primary carer in the family and had reinvented themselves throughout their lives. Also, women often had stronger social networks beyond the workplace. For many men, creating a life beyond and outside of a full-time job was a first time experience.

Regardless of gender, everyone that participated in the discussions found a sense of reassurance in the conversation. Sharing stories and views about their lived experience of ageing were viewed as positive, enlightening, and stimulating.

 

Key Lessons

The most important lesson is that ageing is all about attitude.

Three other lessons:

  • Talk about becoming older with friends – share your experiences. Be open and honest.
  • Enjoy the sense of confidence and freedom that comes with ageing.
  • Ignore stereotypes and defy the ageist attitudes often peddled in the media and online.

Of course, ageing also comes with its difficulties. Financial concerns, caring responsibilities, and physical or cognitive decline pose challenges. These will be discussed in the future. Stay tuned. And, if there were anything you’d particularly like to learn more about or understand, please let us know.

 

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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

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?

Read more

Occupy age: The movement against ageism

I’m enjoying becoming older.  Not only am I enjoying my life today I’m looking forward to the years ahead as I become even older. I’m curious about what is yet to unfold, yet content to be living in this moment.  I meet many others who feel the same way and numerous others who see the future as one primarily of physical and potential cognitive decline with nothing really to look forward to or plan for in their lives. I believe that enjoying becoming older is something that’s possible for everyone providing we think differently. Needless to say I was delighted when I made this discovery.
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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?

Read more