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GenSights - Making Boomer Magic

Sharing generational insights to help businesses make magic with Baby Boomers

Aging Means Business – Are You In?

the boom projectBefore the holidays set in, we were fortunate to attend the "Aging Means Business" Conference which was a subset of the Gerontological Society Annual conference on aging. Held in Boston this year, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of this unique gathering of thought-leaders, designers, architects, students, gerontologists, health care specialists, entrepreneurs and business professionals all focused on designing for a new age. We were excited, encouraged and inspired to meet some of the people we have both learned from and featured in previous blog articles, including Joseph Coughlin, founder and director of the MIT Age Lab and writer of the blog Disruptive Demographics, who moderated the event.

We’ve written about this topic ourselves in the past, and many of the speakers concurred that products designed for people who are aging, don’t necessarily need to focus on the “aging” itself but on good design that can benefit anyone or everyone.

We were fascinated by Matthias Holwich who spoke about the “BOOM” Project which focuses on a revolutionary new way of thinking about caring for people as they age, and moreso looking at a whole new way of living. (We hope to do a special post soon with information from our interview with Matthias.) We at Gen-Sights have stated previously that we believe Baby Boomers are going to change the world again as they have at every life stage, demanding new and different living arrangements as they age. The numbers alone will dictate it, but that’s not the only reason. Since we have already been and continue to care for elderly loved ones, we’ve gotten to see how things are now, and it has ignited us to give some thought to the idea of how we would want it to be different for ourselves.

With the simple fact that certain physical things happen to the body as it ages, healthy or not, a panel discussed the topic of designing the work environment for an aging workforce and new leadership techniques to handle multiple generations working together: better lighting, ergonomic office furniture, quiet working spaces to allow for better concentration and focus, and common areas to foster intergenerational collaboration. With a significant portion of the working public being in the 50+ category, now and into the future, businesses need to address these issues if they want to have a thriving workforce.
Mary Furlong (Mary Furlong & Associates, founder of SeniorNet and ThirdAge Media) was part of a panel that reviewed student entries for useful designs and conceptual ideas to make life easier for the aging population. It was exciting to know that young people are taking an interest. In fact, at my table during the lunch breakouts, there was a young college student involved in a project to design a bag that could be attached to a walker. The rest of the people at the table put in their two cents, telling her to look at it from a utilitarian perspective and see if it would be functional not only on a walker but a baby carriage as well and to be sure that designer fabrics and fun fashion would be incorporated. No stodgy or dowdy looking things for this crowd!

Changes in healthcare, transportation and service industries were also speaker topics that rounded out the packed, informative day. We walked away feeling that this room full of brilliant minds and interested learners may actually be able to have an impact on the needs of this ever growing segment of the population. Businesses are just beginning to scratch the surface in seeing the opportunity for growth by designing products and services to not only target the Baby Boomer and Senior audiences, but to design them for the greater good of all.

-posted by Laura Willis

Labels: Baby Boomers, Aging, Aging Means Business