When will organisations wake up to the silent revolution?
Clare Hall-Taylor argues that there are some fantastic opportunities here and companies that don’t make small and achievable adjustments now may risk losing touch with their older workers and customers.
Wang Deshun, the age-defying Chinese catwalk model, has made a huge splash across international media over the last year. Aged 80, the new face of Reebok has appeared in some of the world’s top catwalk shows. ‘Age disruption’, led by the fashion industry, challenges our traditional notions of age and shows that ageing doesn’t need to compromise lifestyle and vitality.
So why is it that many organisations are stuck on their focus on the young? Do employers and marketers believe that older people are “past it” as employees and already ‘in the bag’ as customers so don’t warrant a focus or are younger decision makers, managers and agency creatives somehow lacking a connection with a generation that is often generalised as self- orientated and self-indulgent?
Dr Ken Dychtwald, one of the world’s leading thought leaders on longevity, states that innovators tend to be young so do not necessarily understand the issues older people face. People in their 30’s, for instance, find it easier to design for twenty-somethings than for people whose age they have never experienced.
If you believe that your organisation needs to turn its attention on the opportunities of longevity, then how do we challenge such a deeply ingrained mentality? Taking steps to understand the complexity and granularity of this unpredictable generation would be a good start.
We recently set out to try and understand how New Zealand’s Baby Boomers are dealing with their longevity through both qualitative and quantitative research.
One of the most consistent findings across the study was that Baby Boomers felt younger than their years, even when suffering from ill health or physical deterioration. This is a group that has a strong disconnect between inner vitality and physical ageing. Age-related communication is strongly demotivating to this group. Their reaction to Wang Deshun? He was described as ‘pretentious’ and ‘conceited’ and his age defying achievements were seen as immaterial. ‘Good for your age’ can be immaterial to people who are disconnected from the advancement of years.
It feels a big ask for younger people to take this on as a challenge so it could be time for CEOs, many of whom may be closer to this age group, to take the lead here and reap the benefits longevity presents for their organisation in terms of knowledge retention and the commercial benefits from engaging with an ageing population. I look forward to discussing this with you in more detail at the Symposium.
Clare Hall-Taylor is a director of HT Group Ltd an Auckland based consultancy who help organisations adapt to social change.