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Intergenerational Shift

 May 31, 2019 1:00 PM
by Helen Spence

I am, and always have been, positive about intergenerational connections, collaboration, living, learning, working, etc. A big component of our business is about helping organizations take advantage of their multi-generational workforces by turning them into productive, intergenerational teams. What I find disheartening is that we need a national day (Intergenerational Day) dedicated to raising awareness about the benefits of connecting across generations. 

As a culture, we have become so age-siloed (new word) that we typically don’t have as many connections with those who are differently aged as us. In fact, some research shows that cities are becoming divided by age. It’s a strange evolution of behaviour when you consider that grandparents today are spending far more time with grandchildren than previous generations. Could it be because grandparents are living longer, healthier lives?

The American Association for Retired People (AARP) also has research to show that grandparents contribute quite a bit financially to their grandchildren. The multigenerational divide seems to happen when we move beyond familial relationships and the generations in between. 

The problem doesn’t belong to any one generation. We have all grown up in a youth-obsessed culture where the experience and wisdom of an older generation aren’t valued and where media and tv images of the young reign supreme. These images accentuate the advantages of being young and youthful and view ageing as a disease to be conquered.

There is, however, a shift in the media industry; a slow and steady shift that is moving towards representing an older demographic in more positive ways. It makes sense. After all, which generation dominates demographically and which generation holds the purse strings? 

When working recently with a youth council in Kuujjuaq, the youth invited an “elder” as a full participant of the group. It was unheard of to not to do so. When questions arose, young people often turned to the elder to ask for their advice. It was natural and normal, respectful with the understanding that longer life means more experience. This belief is venerated in many indigenous cultures. When did we (westerners) begin to move away from seeing experience as an advantage?

Research has proven that children who have had exposure to grandparents and other older relatives tend to have a more favourable view of ageing than those who had little connection with older adults. Other findings show: involved grandparents remain more mentally sharp; grandchildren learn first-hand the historical perspective about how things worked and how lives were lived in the past; and both older and younger benefit from more stable, emotional relationships with reduced depressive symptoms. Intergenerational relationships are a win-win in the personal and professional realms. It’s a shame these realities are not as well-known or recognized as they might be.

Interestingly, the Encore movement in the US has been focused on these intergenerational relationships for many years. The interventions of older adults as volunteers in the lives of younger school children has been proven to show positive gains for kids academically and behaviorally. For older adults, these connections have given them purpose and meaning.

Intergenerational Day in Canada is a novelty but it might encourage future positive interactions among all generations. I am genuinely looking forward to participating with Connected Canadians at Qlik from 10-12 on Saturday, June 1st. If you are interested in learning some digital literacy skills or finding out about the Top Sixty Over Sixty, join us from 10-12 at Qlik, 290 March Road, Kanata. Bring your digital devices to get the help you need and check out the iGen events portal to find other interesting opportunities.  

I hope these new intergenerational interactions will provide the impetus to value all generations more equitably.

Ageism, Employers, Human Resources  

Boomer Business is Booming

 May 3, 2019 3:00 PM
by Helen Spence

If there is one thing I took away from the Aging in America conference and the Boomer Business Summit in New Orleans mid-April, it’s that Boomers are benefitting from the “longevity dividend” (the economic benefit of older adults remaining active in society).  They are demanding new ways of doing business, new ways to finance projects, new amenities and homes, new needs for transportation, new ageing in place services and the list goes on. This provides unique opportunities for Boomers to stay in the business game and/or become entrepreneurs.

Although these statistics are from the US, there is a parallel to Canada.  In 2017, Americans 55 and older contributed $78 billion in economic benefits; those 50 and over averaged $100 billion in charitable contributions according to the Gerontological Society of America (2018), “Longevity economics: Leveraging the advantages of an aging society”). The article also goes on to say that the “largest wealth transfer in American History” will take place between 2007 and 2061 amounting to $58.1 trillion.

This provides a compelling argument to keep older adults active and engaged and also to consult, work and play with them. They are definitely an audience that requires attention and they are still the largest cohort of voters!

But back to the conference. There were numerous presentations on caregiving, financial planning for seniors, elder fraud and abuse, policy conversations, the implications of loneliness and isolation, family and medical leaves. The sessions I chose to attend had more to do with the areas of interest to me and the Top Sixty---what is happening in the world of work for older adults. How are they being accommodated in the new age wave? Unfortunately, there were fewer of these sessions than I would have liked. Ageism was rarely touched upon. There was, however, an acknowledgement by Lisa Marsh Ryerson, President of the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Foundation, in her rousing call to action to combat ageism in the workplace which kicked off the conference. This appears to be an area for advocacy by both the AARP and its foundation.

The Boomer Business Summit was clearly focused on building a rich economy for and with Boomers. Mary Furlong and her associate, Lori Bitter, operate a well-oiled machine. The summit was well attended by exhibitors and participants and the sessions were oriented to launching and running a business. There were pitches, speakers and panels.

One excellent panel highlighted how to get into the new economy and stay there.  Examples were given by Kerry Hannon, a Next Avenue blogger, and author of Never too old to get rich: entrepreneurs in midlife, a book that will appear in June, 2019. She interviewed 20 midlifers who started businesses. From their stories, she pulls out common themes and presents what is needed to be successful.

Chip Conley, known for having been hired by the two young Air BnB cofounders to turn their business around, presented about his new creation, the Modern Elder Academy. He also provided some interesting stats about the workforce in the US today. Apparently, 38% of Americans have a boss that is younger than they are and by 2025, more than 50% of the working population will have to report to someone younger. He is an ardent advocate for mentorship and posited that 75% of Millennials say they’d like to have a mentor. According to his statistics, with a mentor 25% of Millennials will remain in their jobs for 5 years or longer.

The final speaker on this panel was Sharon Emek who described how she launched and grew her business, WAHVE (Work at Home Vintage Experts), from a very small company to one that is thriving and going international. WAHVE matches people over 50 who want to work from home, either part-time or full-time, with businesses who require experts in areas such as insurance, human resources and accounting. The companies have no idea how old her clients are and find their newly engaged employees as productive, tech-savvy and as fast as other employees, thereby disproving the common myths that older adults are less capable and less productive.

Every presentation or panel had inspiring messages. Charlotte Yeh, the Chief Medical Officer for AARP Services was passionate about disrupting ageing. She believes that we are changing what it means to be old and there’s a need for the narrative to change too. Her nuggets of wisdom are perfect. According to Charlotte, we need to change “senior moment to senior momentum” and instead of “ageing in place” we need to “thrive in motion”. Her message certainly resonates with our philosophy and the Top Sixty’s ambition to help older adults re-think their futures to include purpose, possibility and engagement with others.

Ageing Well, Entrepreneurs  


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