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GenSights - Making Boomer Magic

Sharing generational insights to help businesses make magic with Baby Boomers

Preparing for Caregiving, Now and in the Future

Aging Conference PanelDiane Sargent, Director of Corporate Relations at South Shore Elder Services(SSES) was looking for an alternative to the usual speaker when she was planning the program for the

SSES’ "Aging is Everyone's Future” conference and dinner which was held on May 11th. She decided to ask four professionals to share their caregiving stories in hopes that their different perspectives on this highly emotional topic would provide inspiration to the over 120 attendees and help them to realize they are not alone in their struggles.

I was so honored that she asked me to be one of them. I’d gotten involved with the SSES a few years back when I met Diane at networking events. She’d asked me for some marketing guidance for the organization, which I was happy to provide. I suggested SSES shift its brand focus from the seniors themselves to the caregivers, usually their Boomer children, and add more emotional impact to its messaging.

The panel presentation, which was moderated by Kate Granigan of Overlook C.A.R.E., was therapeutic for both audience and panelists. Lynda Chuckran of Welch Healthcare and Retirement Group realized that, even though it had been a few years since her mother passed away, she had not really told her story before that evening. She talked about being an only child and the challenges of caregiving when you have no siblings to help out. Even though she works in the industry, she found it difficult to juggle her job and caregiving, along with her role as a single mother to a young daughter. She told the audience how important it was to be an advocate for our elders, especially when they no longer do that for themselves, and how to tap into help and support in community.

Susan Peters of Mount Vernon Mortgage shared her story about trying to do it all herself—even going back and forth to her mother’s house in the middle of the night when her mom called her in a panic. She told how she finally called upon her siblings when she realized she was at the breaking point, and how thankful she was when they stepped up to the plate and took turns staying with her mom. Her message was simple: ask for the help you need.Aging Conference Panelists

Harrison Stebbins' story was a bit different. When his older brother suffered a debilitating accident at age 16, 14-year-old Harrison became a caregiver, along with his parents. He continues to strive to help his brother be a productive citizen; recently, they purchased Amazing Grace Private Home Care together. Harrison’s caregiving role will continue for some time to come and could potentially become more complicated because his parents are aging, not only are they unable to care for his brother as they used to, they are beginning to need care themselves.

As for my own story, it was about becoming gradually aware of changes in my Dad’s condition after my mom passed. Thankfully my sister and I live nearby and are able to share responsibility in Dad's care, but it still wasn't easy. Initially we struggled to find in-home services for Dad, this was a number of years ago, when there weren’t as many options as there are now. Then it was making the hard decision to seek out an assisted living facility; having to be honest with ourselves that neither my sister nor I had a living situation that would work for Dad, and that he needed to be in a more social environment.

It's amazing that there are events like this now where people can get so much information. There was nothing of this magnitude just 6-7 years ago, when I was beginning my caregiving journey. I’ve become so passionate about the elder care industry, and want to spread the word about all the products and services that are there to make caregiving a little easier.

That’s one of the reasons that Gen-Sights had a booth at the conference. It was our opportunity to launch our brand on our booth banner and handouts, and to meet the other vendors who were participating in the event. We talked a lot about the importance of getting the word out to Baby Boomers, who are both taking care of their parents and moving toward the age where they will be starting to think about their own care.

Gen-Sights BoothSince Boomers don't really like to think about their own aging, it's a little tricky to communicate in a way that resonates with them. That’s why Gen-Sights is helping companies target Boomers with branding and messaging that’s compelling and differentiating.

All in all, it was a very satisfying evening. It reinforced what I tell my Boomer friends who are caring for elders: don't be afraid to talk about it, don't be afraid to seek help, and if you don't know where to start, contact your local agencies like South Shore Elder Services or Council on Aging. They can point you in the right direction. Or seek out groups like the Senior Service Network or find publications like the South Shore Senior News. These are great resources for caregiving needs. And as we Boomers start to age, there’s sure to be more in the future.

(Pictured in middle photo L to R: Ed Flynn of SSES, Lynda Chukran, Kate Granigan, Laura Willis, Susan Peters, Harrison Stebbins)

-posted by Laura Willis

Labels: Help for Baby Boomers Caring for Elders, Boomers as Caregivers, caregiving, caregiving resources, elder services, family support, future of caregiving

Boomers + Pets = A Full Nest

Tom with dogAs I prepare to send my first born off to college this fall, it occurred to me that my wife and I are now one child away from an empty nest. How will we Boomers ever cope? After 18 years centered around scout meetings, school recitals, horseback riding lessons, little league games, you get the picture, I can’t imagine life without my kids. But wait, I do have other kids…furry kids, the kind that never talk back, that always greet you with a lick, and love you unconditionally, my dogs.

For years I’ve not only been sharing pictures of my kids with friends but pictures of my dogs too. When I bump into friends at the market as I did the other day and ask them how their dog is, they show me a visual photo album on their i-Phone. The conversation begins to center around our dogs; how they’re getting on in age and what their favorite outings are. I think to myself, have we come so far that our pets have replaced our kids? On the contrary, they’ve only been elevated to a new position in the hierarchy of the family, courtesy of the Baby Boomer. Gone are the days when our parents relegated the family dog to a chain attached to a tree in the backyard. Poor Rover, he was lucky if he even received even a passing glance.

Today things have never been better for Rover. According to the American Pet Products Association, in 2010, U.S. pet spending will reach a whopping estimated $47.7 billion, up from $45.5 in 2009. Pretty impressive figures considering we are still struggling with a recession. It’s my guess no one told the dogs and cats we’re in one. Considering that Americans spent $23 billion on pets in 1998, we’ve more than doubled our spending in just 12 years. What a huge opportunity for a company marketing pet products to empty nest Boomers who’ll insist, nothing is too good for their Rover.

DonDiegoTraditional boomer product lines such as Harley Davidson, Paul Mitchell, Omaha Steaks and Origins, to name a few, have expanded their product lines to include dogs. After seeing a Harley guy stopped at a red light, with his pet Chihuahua along for the ride in a Harley dog seat, I know Harley Davidson gets it. In my imagination, I see this burly biker gently massaging Paul Mitchell into his Chihuahua’s coat; then applying Origins conditioner to keep its coat silky smooth. After the at-home spa treatment, they sit down to enjoy an Omaha Steak together. Sounds far-fetched? Guess again.

Consumer product companies have a huge opportunity to embrace the pet market the way they expanded into the children’s market when Boomers were raising their children. It wouldn’t be off the wall to see a Williams-Sonoma or Crate and Barrel come out with a line of pet products, if they haven’t already. The opportunities are endless, and if a company hasn’t thought about the pet market yet, they should consider that $47.7 billion market and all that discretionary money Boomers have to spend. Spending on our dogs has never been a question in my house; they are just another line item in my monthly budget.

As I think about my life as an aging Boomer approaching that empty nest stage, I can only say I have two furry kids that will never leave their pampered nest. While we wait for all those future grandkids, we have our dogs to spoil and spend on. My nest will always be full.

by Tom Gorski

(See a related article in Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2010.)

-posted by Laura Willis

Labels: Baby Boomers and Pets, dogs, Baby Boomers as empty-nesters