GenSights - Making Boomer Magic
Sharing generational insights to help businesses make magic with Baby Boomers
Aging in Place……are you ready?
We Boomers have always been a generation on the move. We went from childhood homes to college dorms; from first apartments, to starter homes, to family-size homes. Ultimately, some of us upgraded to even bigger homes. We’ve moved for jobs, to accommodate growing families, or changes in marital status; sometimes, we moved simply for a change of scenery. Compare this with our parents’ experience. Those members of “The Silent Generation” likely moved from their parents’ home to their first home as a married couple, put down roots and pretty much stayed there. I know this first hand: my 82-year-old mother, now a widow, has lived in the same house for 59 years—which isn’t too unusual among her circle of family and friends.
Recently, I attended a house party with 30 or so Boomer friends. To my surprise, the conversation strayed to a topic I never thought we Boomers would find ourselves discussing: retirement and downsizing. We talked about watching our parents struggle with living in homes that no longer suited them—whether it meant coping with stairs, dealing with getting into and out of bathtubs, or even having to get on ladders (or chairs!) to change light bulbs. When I mentioned “aging in place,” I found the term was not unfamiliar to my Boomer friends. We all agreed: unlike our parents, we want to plan ahead and “age in place” in a home that’s convenient and suitable to our needs. We especially don’t want the physical challenges of a home to make us feel old.
With the first wave of 78 million Boomers reaching 65 in 2011, helping Boomers adapt their existing homes or finding housing suitable for “aging in place” will become critical. Taking into consideration the uncertainty of retirement funds, Social Security, and healthcare costs, Boomers are realizing the importance of getting their “ducks in a row” now, in order to plan for an aging process that is seamless and carefree. With 89% of today’s seniors saying they want to “age in place” and live independently, you can bet it won’t be any different for Boomers, who have always prided themselves on their active, independent lifestyle.
That means there will be a plethora of opportunities for companies that market and sell lifestyle-enhancing home products, as cited in Marilynn Mobley’s Blog, BABY BOOMER INSIGHTS. The challenges will be for marketers to position these products in such a way that doesn’t insult the Boomer audience. We don’t mind change, after all we’ve moved enough over the years; we just don’t want the change to remind us we’re aging. Whether we downsize, upsize, remodel, adapt, retrofit or whatever you want to call it, we’re going to think of it as enhancing our lifestyle.
-posted by Laura Willis
Labels: aging in place, healthcare, independent lifestyle
Growing Up Without a Cell Phone
I received a pass-around e-mail last week targeted to the over-30 crowd, with some of those "when I was a kid" comparisons. You know, the ones that go:
– Instead of the Internet, we had the library
– Instead of e-mail, we actually wrote letters
– Instead of MP3's or iTunes, we had record stores
– Instead of cell phones, we had to find a phone booth when we were away from home.
Since I could relate to all of these myself, it got me thinking about the myth that "Boomers are technologically challenged". I realized that while that may be how I seem to my nieces and nephew, they don't realize that I've actually grown up with technology. And though I've felt challenged a bit along the way, there were many times, including now, when I choose to embrace technology and it actually turns out to be quite fun and amazing.
There's so much that can be said about Boomers and technology, that this is probably the first of a series of posts on the subject. I would agree with the research that says Boomers prefer technology that's useful. And according to a recent article about the aging brain on NPR.org it's not only useful for the brain to learn new things (like blogging!); it actually helps new brain cells to grow throughout life. So jump in any time!
Even though Boomers think they’ll never grow old, there are things that inevitably will happen to us physically as we age, whether we like it or not.
As my sister and I’ve accompanied our aging parents and relatives through a variety of transitions, there have been so many times we’ve found ourselves searching for technological solutions to a variety of issues. For instance, since we ARE in the age of cell phones, which seem to be getting smaller and more complicated, we’ve wondered why there can’t be a cell phone with simpler functions and larger numbers. (I know my husband already has to use his glasses to see who's calling, though my arms are still long enough to read without them.) Sure, there’s the Jitterbug, which works for elders. But as I suspect that many of us Boomers will still want the bells and whistles we’ve grown accustomed to, there's lots of room for more innovation in this area alone.
At Gen-Sights, we came across a video awhile back that Ronni Bennet (Her Blog: http://www.timegoesby.net/) posted on YouTube. She talks about technological gadgets, computers, and the web and some of the physical challenges they pose for the aging population. She offers some insight into the kinds of issues that we Boomers are sure to face as we continue to age. In my last post, I mentioned the MIT Age Lab, where researchers are looking for new ideas and creative technologies that offer practical solutions for "the quality of life of tomorrow". More companies really should be looking at their products this way and not just focusing on the teen-to-20-something set as they develop new technologies. There's huge opportunity with the largest segment of the population, the Boomers. The key is to make it useful, in order to make life better.
I also have to mention a cool company called MyWay Village that I’ve been very impressed with. They’ve developed a product called Connected Living, which enables seniors to keep in touch with family members and friends through a safe online community. By providing ambassadors to train the seniors, they’ve seen amazing results in how easily seniors take to the technology. In fact, the company has had so much success, they're now developing a special program for the memory impaired. What a great way to make it easy for Boomers to stay in touch with their elder parents or loved ones, and for children to connect with their grandparents. Again, something that’s not just useful, but life-enhancing.
Though we may have grown up without a cell phone, we certainly have them now and we'll continue to look for technologies to make our lives easier as we age. As I'm celebrating another birthday, I have to admit that yes, we'll age, whether we like it or not, and I want some great technology to go along for the ride.
-posted by Laura Willis
Labels: Boomers and Technology, boomer blogs, Boomers are technologically challenged
Wait! Don’t Shoot After All!
"Just shoot me!" In recent weeks, I've heard more than one person say this when, following a discussion of our parents coping with physical ailments like my 89-year-old dad with Parkinson's, we begin to contemplate our own aging. While Baby Boomers have grown up thinking they will be forever young, the fact is that some day, like it or not, most of us are going to find ourselves in our parents’ shoes.
This first hit me a couple of years ago. In the course of searching for the most appropriate living arrangements for our Dad after our Mom passed, my sister and I visited several facilities before narrowing down the choices for him to make. We couldn't help picturing ourselves in each facility, imagining if we would like it there. While all were wonderful places, with beautiful interior design and a staff committed to doing what they could to make it "feel like home", I couldn’t help but think that there had to be a better way.
Boomers have had an impact on the world at every stage of our lives, so it seems natural to assume that our later retirement years will be no different. I feel confident that there will be new types of living alternatives for us as we age. In fact, some interesting options are already starting to emerge. I've chatted with more than a few women who think the ideal arrangement would be to get a house with a number of friends and bring services in. Others are talking about the possibility of opening up their existing home to roommates.
In a recent blog entry on Disruptive Demographics, MIT Age Lab’s Director Joseph Coughlin writes that this aging-in-place mentality opens the door to opportunity for a wide range of businesses, including remodeling, modification, and maintenance companies, as well as home convenience and in-home care providers. There is even the potential for new and innovative financial services products. In addition, some of the concierge services popping up could turn into community cooperatives, which is already happening in some areas.
At the very least, existing facilities should consider updating their current offerings by adding a wider range of services. These could include everything from health and wellness programs like yoga, to alternative healing modalities, to accommodating the technologies that Boomers have grown accustomed to. I know of a few facilities that are starting to do this and I give them credit for their forward thinking, though I believe it will shift a lot more.
I can't help but laugh to myself a little when I'm sitting with my dad, listening to a performer at his facility singing the songs of his youth, and thinking that if I end up in a place like that, they're going to have to be playing rock music like Aerosmith! God willing, when I make it to Dad's age (he'll be 90 this month), there will be many options to choose from to suit my lifestyle and bring enough pleasure to my life, so you won't have to "just shoot me".
-posted by Laura Willis
Labels: Aging, Baby Boomers and aging, assisted living facilities