boomerwatch is a blog by Lina Ko providing Canadian and North American insights on marketing to baby boomers. boomerwatch blog has been serving as a forum where users can access all kinds of relevant information on the baby-boomer audience.
I’ve been asked to write a Miss Manners blog many times before, but have never got around to it. However, I did mention in my 2018 New Year Resolutions blog post that there should be an etiquette for baby boomers too. Just because we’re the rebellious demographic when we were younger and are still defying the aging process, that doesn’t mean we can do whatever we like that are inappropriate manners. So, in my humble opinion, here are the top five for consideration:
Dress for the occasion: just because we used to be the flower children of the 60s, that does not mean we could dress as hippies now that we’re more mature. Nor should we become the slaves of today’s fashion and dress inappropriately for our age. Flip flops are for the beach and baseball caps are for ballgames or pubs. Even though smart casual is the dress code for the workplace of most companies, shorts, short-sleeved shirts, distressed jeans and plunging necklines are just inappropriate for the office. When in doubt, the best way is to think about the occasion and dress suitably to look presentable and make an impression on the people with whom you are going to interact. The golden rule that it’s always better to overdress than underdress still applies today. For boomer women, some makeup is better than a bare face and a heavily done-up complexion might not be too flattering and, even if applied well, should be saved for evening occasions.
Communicate with a personal touch:: we should combine high-touch with high-tech when it comes to modern-day communications. As Associated Press recently mentioned, smartphone addiction kills manners and moods. At our age, constantly bending our heads to look at our devices adds to the physiological stress on our neck and might lead to incremental loss of the curve of the cervical spine. According to the U.S. Center for Biotechnology Information, posture has been proven to affect mood, behaviour and memory, and frequent slouching can make us depressed. Aside from the health consequences, if we’re head down, communication skills and manners are slumped, too. This is not just a youth problem. I see many boomers walking down the street with heads down checking their devices – this behaviour has increasingly caused more accidents on the road. We should make an effort to interact with people face to face with eye contact and pay full attention to the present. Try digital detoxes while you’re on vacation and collect all the smartphones of your dinner party guests before you break bread together. Start looking up and set a good example for your kids and grandkids.
Be up-to-date on digital etiquette: boomers should also observe digital etiquette when communicating with our computers and smartphones in order to stay relevant either in the workplace or after retirement. Basic guidelines include don’t yell by using all caps; do not constantly forward internet jokes, videos or stories which you deem funny but may not be amusing to others; try not to hit reply all in emails unless absolutely necessary; consider using the blind copy option instead of typing in a large number of email addresses; know when to send your message by email or text; be concise and to the point; and try to respond within 24 hours to an email or text which was only addressed to you.
Practise what your mother taught you: this is just common sense even if you were not brought up this way. Do not talk with your mouth full; try not to eat or drink while you’re walking; when sitting at the dining table, do not slurp your soup or beverage nor spit on your plate; keep your personal hygiene at home or in the bathroom which includes brushing your hair; flossing or picking your teeth; filing your nails or applying cosmetics; and chewing or spitting out gum on the streets.
Respect other people’s time: punctuality reflects a person’s respect for people and time. I would never hire any job candidates, suppliers, advisors, realtors, accountants, lawyers, contractors or cleaners who are tardy. People who show up late for meetings and appointments simply cannot be trusted to meet any deadlines. Latecomers will always come up with excuses – an impossible schedule, a prolonged phone call, bad traffic, forgetfulness, etc. But the bottom line is that they have little respect for people’s time and this is a major character flaw.
Etiquette is important for boomers not only because we need to be respectful. Kids mimick adults and they emulate our actions and behaviours. If we don’t get this right, we cannot expect our children or grandchildren to learn proper manners from us.
I seldom write book reviews on this blog. But when I come across a book that is aligned with my blog’s raison d’etre, I’m willing to make an exception. It took me two months to finish Joseph F. Coughlin’s new book, The Longevity Economy, but I remember the book’s subtitle, “Unlocking The World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market,” attracted me to purchase it on my Kindle in the first place. And having finished the book, I am more convinced that Coughlin’s rationale behind his book was similar to mine when I first started my blog in 2007.
Coughlin is the founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, upon which I relied for research behind a number of my blog posts. What I like about his book is that it’s not just one man’s or a small group’s opinion; but all the premises in the book were backed by science and research. The book describes how companies can prepare for an aging world and capitalize on the opportunity to tap the US$8 trillion market.
In the author’s interview with USA Today when the book first came out last November, Coughlin said that companies think they understand the aging market, but they really don’t. Companies often perceive that “older people are always takers, never givers; always consumers, never producers. And as a result, companies make products that, at their core, are designed for passive participants in society.” But older people are increasingly leading an active life and demand to be active participants. This is the major disconnect that makes so many companies unprepared for an aging world.
Like me, Coughlin also believes that the aging cohort is not homogeneous. He said that the set of “older adults” contains people of every conceivable kind: ethnicity, religion, sexuality, medical status, political affiliation – and anything else you could name, other than age. But even if we personally know older people who defy the stereotypes, most of us still paint the idea of “older people” with a single, insanely wide mental brushstroke. I’ve always said that the boomer demographic spans a 20-year age gap, and that alone implies that no one single formula would be able to apply in terms of marketing to boomers. Leading-edge (older) boomers have different needs from trailing-edge (younger) boomers and only customized solutions, also taking into account their ethnic, gender, sexual, medical and political backgrounds, work well and effectively.
Coughlin also said that a new generation of older adults is beginning to demand far more out of later life than ever before. They are not looking for passive consumerism, but the active pursuit of meaning in life. So companies and marketers should come up with products and services that are designed to support them on their journey.
When asked by USA Today about who will be the agents of change in the new world of longer life and older age, he pointed out that women, particularly those of middle age and above, are likely to be the leaders in identifying new wants and needs on the aging frontier. They will also be the ones to come up with demands in the form of products. This is nothing new. We already know that women typically live longer than men. We also know that marketers and advertisers have always labelled women as the chief consumer officer or chief influencer of the home and they make purchasing decisions in key consumer categories including the automotive, health, and many other sectors. It’s also common knowledge that women provide more eldercare than men. What’s enlightening is that Coughlin pointed out that the research done by the MIT AgeLab suggests that women enter old age with a clearer, more detailed picture of what’s ahead. The firsthand knowledge that comes from being the primary buyer and caregiver gives them a unique vantage in understanding what products, services and experiences are effective as they respond to the challenges and demands of old age.
Coughlin said it’s a sad truth that women are often invisible to the investment and technology communities. That’s why the needs and wants they are responsible for go unanswered and the tools they deserve never get built. I’ve also pointed out many times that the advertising and marketing community keeps hiring young people to innovate for and advertise to the older market which is far from ideal. Coughlin mentioned in his book that when young people attempt to innovate for the older market, the same stuff comes up again and again: pill reminders, fall detectors, emergency response technologies. This is evidence that young people can’t get past the idea that older people are a medical problem to be solved. He said that smart venture capital companies, should instead, bet on older women’s ideas of what innovative products or services that would help older people lead a positive, meaningful life.
Seven years ago when I gave a keynote speech at the Digital Divas Conference in Toronto, I was advocating that companies should come up with innovative products and services that would focus on wellness and life enhancement solutions that would help improve boomers’ quality of life. It is, therefore, gratifying to see that Coughlin believes that there is a huge demand for products that will actively excite and delight older adults for decades to come. Marketers need to help the greying population “celebrate life in old age while they’re alive.” And may I add to that: make grey the new green!
On a snowy third last day of 2017, what better things to do than to reflect upon this year and make new year resolutions for 2018?
Pay More Attention To Your Health: There is nothing more important than our health. Whether you’re a retired boomer, or somebody who is still in the workforce, your health continues to be your number-one asset. So, in the new year, pay more attention to what you eat and drink; exercise regularly; know your blood pressure and cholesterol and blood sugar levels; and consult your physician when you notice any problems. Everything else in life will fall into place when you’re healthy.
Spend Quality Time With Friends When They Are Alive And Well: Having just attended the funeral of a former business partner, I found myself telling ex-colleagues at the funeral that we should be getting together in the new year under happier circumstances. Why have a reunion at somebody’s funeral when we could catch up on happy occasions? I also have a problem with people just showing up at funerals instead of spending quality time with the deceased when he or she was alive and well. Should my friends not have time for me while I’m alive, I certainly don’t want them to be there when I’m gone.
Make Hay While The Sun Shines: A lot of my friends have been saving for retirement and developing a long bucket list to travel to after hanging up their boots. But boomers should never delay enjoying our lives. Life is too short and there is no guarantee that tomorrow is going to be a better day. Boomers deserve to fulfill their dreams sooner rather than later – you’ve worked hard for what you want and you should live life to its fullest now.
Do Not Just Complain, Do Something About It: I also hear a few boomer friends complaining about their jobs, the city they live in or about Canada. Identifying a problem is always the easy part, but we should always come up with a solution. If you’re not happy with your job, voice your grievances to your employer and develop better solutions. If you’re not satisfied with the government, let your opinions be known and become a consumer or political activist – communicate with your MP, MPP or City Councillor or even better, get involved in politics to improve people’s lives. If you have no solutions and are too skeptical to get involved, then shut up and stop whining.
Respect Women And No Means No: 2017 was a “woke” year for sexual harassment. For all you male boomers out there, particularly the powerful ones, please respect women at home, in the workplace, and in the community. Teach your sons and grandsons to do the same and they will thank you for that. And for you fellow women boomers, stop being complicit in the future – if you know that a “sister” is being mistreated, don’t be quiet and do nothing.
Practise Boomer Etiquette: Yes, we boomers have our etiquette too. Respect people’s time and don’t be late for any appointments or occasions in the new year. Always respond to emails and texts from your friends no matter how busy you are or how insignificant in content you think they are. Remember your good friends’ and loved ones’ birthdays – nobody is expecting a birthday present, but cherish your friendships by showing them you remember and care. Should you have a failing memory like mine, you can always rely on your iPhone which records birthdays on your contact list. Last, but not least, put away your electronic devices while breaking bread with your friends and focus on the lunch/dinner conversations. We boomers should be role models for our children and grandchildren – it is simply rude to read and respond to emails/texts at the dinner table unless you have an emergency, in which case you should always apologize and seek permission.
Don’t Forget High-Touch In A High-Tech World: That’s why I’m one of those dinosaurs who still send Christmas cards by snail mail – taking the time to put pen to paper is still the most personalized way to send your love and best wishes. Every now and then, particularly during momentous occasions, pick up the phone and call to say “I love you” or “I’m thinking of you.” No emails or texts or emojis can ever replace your voice on the other end of the phone.
Reduce Your Consumerism: At our age, boomers should really cut down on materialistic objects of desire – we’ve been there, done that. Do not acquire new things unless absolutely necessary. Every time you’ve purchased something new, try part ways with an old piece of clothing or household item and donate them to the poor. Hoarding is a mental condition for older people and minimalism is best for boomers and seniors. Still not convinced? Please read The New York Times‘s opinion piece: “My Year Of No Shopping.“
Be Grateful And Count Your Blessings: We should be grateful for what we have every day but particularly during Christmas and New Year when we are donating to the homeless and the poor. The happiest people are those who are content. Start counting your blessings and try to write a gratitude journal every day in the new year.
Continue To Give Back To The Community: The best way to show gratitude is to give back to the community. Boomers are keen volunteers – whether it’s volunteering in your church parish, helping out the poor and homeless, or for a charitable cause, volunteering and giving back are never enough. It is my intention in the new year to aim higher with my efforts and I hope you will do the same.
Thank you for your support of my blog and Happy New Year!
The real estate sector has been gradually capitalizing on the opportunity presented by the greying population in North America. The New York Times today reported how Long Island witnesses the growth of country-club-style living in communities for people 55 and older. Resort-like active adult lifestyle communities are increasingly becoming popular. Developer Beechwood Homes is building the largest resort-like community, Country Pointe Plainview, on Long Island featuring an 80-acre property that includes an adjacent shopping centre, an amenity-laden clubhouse, two heated pools, tennis courts and a walking trail. According to the company’s Founder and Chief Executive Michael Dubb, just don’t call it a retirement community. “People are going there to feel young and act young,” he said. The 750 age-restricted condo flats and townhomes all have first-floor master bedrooms.
With many boomers now in their 60s and 70s, the surge in senior housing is happening everywhere as many older adults and empty nesters move from single-family houses into multifamily developments and condos. They are healthy enough not to need assisted living yet, and they thrive in a community with a lot of social interaction and plenty to do – indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness centre, a billiard room and space for card games, fitness and yoga and other activities.
According to the U.S. National Association of Home Builders, by 2019, households headed by someone 55 or older will constitute more than 45 percent of all American households. Developers nationwide hope to appeal to those greying boomers as they downsize.
The same trend in real estate is also taking place in Canada. As reported by Canadian Business last year, the 114-acre site of St. Elizabeth Village, Hamilton, is a successful independent-living retirement living complex with 900 residents actively participating in classes, social events and recreational activities everyday. The developer, NovaCore Communities Corp., recently announced an $800-million renovation that will transform the site into a themed lifestyle community with a population increase to 3,000. They’ve hired Toronto-based Forrec which is best known for designing and building theme parks in 30 countries outside Canada, including Germany’s Legoland, Universal Studios Florida, and a massive water park in Beijing, China. Forrec has also designed a retirement community in the U.S. similar to the vision planned for St. Elizabeth Village – The Villages in Sumter Landing, Florida – which offers daily entertainment, sports and other activities for its population of 160,000. The U.S. Census ranked The Villages as the fastest growing American city two years in a row.
“We don’t like to call it a retirement community,” says Gordon Donett, Forrec’s CEO. “As soon as you say that, you think it’s a bunch of old people sitting on couches watching TV. And that’s the exact opposite of what we’re working on.” Forrec will remake St. Elizabeth into a pastoral mill town, complete with a spinning water wheel and old-time windmill, and carry the aesthetic throughout the development. The company says the theme will imbue St. Elizabeth with a sense of history, strengthen community ties and emphasize that the site is a real town, not merely a collection of homes for people living out their final years. The entire expansion plan for St. Elizabeth will take approximately a decade to finish.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, by 2051, retirees are expected to represent a quarter of Canada’s entire population and by 2030, roughly 80 percent of new housing demand will come from people entering retirement. There are nearly 300 independent-living, adult-lifestyle communities in Ontario alone. Branding and differentiation are key in marketing retirement living. Forrec focuses on creative themes and storytelling and tries to debunk the myth of aging – it’s not necessarily true that older people will withdraw in their twilight years. Instead of the usual gated retirement communities, St. Elizabeth, with its town square and retailers, could actually entice outsiders to visit. In that way, it’s much more integrated with surrounding towns, encouraging socialization and preventing residents from feeling isolated.
Only time will tell whether the success of The Villages in Florida can be replicated here in Hamilton. I certainly want to see more of such developments in Toronto as well. Retirement homes and communities have been around for a long time, but until now, there had not been a focus on creating a lifestyle for baby boomers. As I’ve mentioned many times before, we boomers defy the ageing process – it’s high time that developers understand our mentality and create age-restricted housing that is unique and caters to our needs.
Ever since the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal broke, new similar accusations have been emerging everyday around powerful men in entertainment, politics, journalism and the corporate world. Whether it’s on Twitter at #MeToo, or at tell-all press conferences, a lot of successful, powerful men were caught and shamed.
In the U.S., however, where every person seems to be either a Democrat or Republican, the discussion has gone awry – Republicans would immediately condemn Democrat offenders such as Senator Al Franken while Democrats were relentless with Alabama’s former state judge and Senate candidate Roy Moore. So, even the sexual harassment discussions have become a part of partisan politics. But people are missing a very important point – there should only be one standard for sexual harassment: the behaviour is just plainly wrong and it doesn’t matter which political party does the predator belong to!
So when columnist Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times said that she spent all weekend feeling guilty that she had called for Senator Al Franken’s resignation because she considered him an “otherwise decent man,” my reaction was why? Why would anybody and any woman have a different standard for a politician who’s an ally when he, like all the other accused sexual predators of the opposition party, made equally deplorable mistakes? No sexual predator or harasser can, in any way, be considered as decent and he should rightly be asked to resign. In fact, calling for the resignation of Al Franken is as important as barring Roy Moore from being admitted into the Senate.
We all tend to defend men we like. I used to adore Kevin Spacey because of his acting skills and Shakespearean knowledge. But his behaviour towards young men in the last three decades should really put him in a different light among his fans. Defenders of the various offenders started to put predatory behaviours into different categories – Weinstein’s sadistic serial predation is not comparable to Louis C.K.’s exhibitionism; the groping Franken has been accused of is not in the same moral universe as Moore’s alleged sexual abuse of minors.Unfortunately, there really is no difference and we should not judge them according to the severity of their offences. They were all wrong, plain and simple.
I further disagree with Kate Harding who made this case in The Washington Post last week. She wrote that Democratic sexual offenders may be flawed, but they are the men who “regularly vote to protect women’s rights and freedoms.” But if feminists are asking for the pardon of sexual predators so that those men could remain in the pool of people who could keep on protecting women’s rights, they are simply enabling these men to continue to be hypocrites.
Maureen Dowd of The New York Times was never my favourite journalist, but she does have a point when she said that the Democrats and the world should never have forgiven Bill Clinton for his sexual misdeeds when he was President. She asked in her article last Sunday, “The Hillary Effect“: “Would feminists and liberals make the same Faustian bargain they made in 1998: protect Bill on his regressive behavior toward women because the Clintons have progressive policies toward women?” She went on to say that both the left and the right rushed in to twist the sex scandals for their own ideological ends. Unfortunately, the stench of hypocrisy still overpowers the perfume of justice after all these years.
In fact, without any proof, I would venture to say that one of the reasons why Hillary Clinton failed to get as many women’s votes in the elections last year was because of Bill Clinton’s constant lies about never having had sexual relationships with women from Monica Lewinsky to Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey; and Hillary’s efforts to stand by her man and discredit the women accusers. Hillary’s latest book “What Happened” blamed a lot of people in addition to herself for why she lost the Presidential campaign. But what she did not mention in the book was that her unwavering love for her husband had made her a hypocritical defender of women’s rights. Many women voters, therefore, did not trust her.
Most of the men accused of sexual harassment, so far, have been predominantly baby boomers. I don’t buy the argument that boomer men do not understand the proper behaviour towards women because they are of an older generation. Nor do I agree with Canada’s former interim Leader of the Opposition, Rona Ambrose’s recommendation that all judges should be given a sexual sensitivity training. The proposed JUST Act, which would ensure that any judge who presided over a sexual assault case would receive proper training in the law and also in rape mythology, stereotypes and bias, might eventually be passed as law in the Senate. But I believe that if judges, like former Calgary judge Robin Camp, did not know that the derogatory comments he made to a complainant (“Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”) while questioning her during a sexual assault trial last year were wrong, then he should not be reinstated no matter how much subsequent sensitivity training he has received. It is also important for boomer parents to get this right before they can educate their sons and grandsons on how to respect women and their rights.
All in all, we should be pleased that we’re having a moment of awakening on sexual harassment, and it is possible that this will turn out to have been a turning point. However, when it comes to the standard for upholding women’s rights against sexual harassment, it is important to bear in mind that there should only be one, same standard for all men, no matter what their political affiliations, religions, races or age demographics are.
I fully support Ontario MPP Yvan Baker’s recommendation to ban people from looking at their phones while crossing the road even though there is widespread criticism that such legislation is equivalent to blaming pedestrians for being hit by drivers. But both drivers and pedestrians have an equal responsibility to keep our roads safe. If drivers are being fined for distracted driving, then pedestrians should also undergo the same discipline to focus on what’s ahead of them when crossing the road.
Although there is not enough research to measure how dangerous it is to walk while looking at a phone or other device, some research suggests that distracted pedestrians put themselves at greater risk. Other analysis says the problem is very small. According to NDP transportation critic Cheri DiNovo, most of the pedestrians that have been killed on the road have been seniors who are not known for talking on their cellphones while walking across the street. But I have seen too many pedestrians – boomers, seniors and millennials alike – looking at their devices and not paying attention to traffic when crossing the road. I have also heard many horror stories how distracted pedestrians accidentally fell into a manhole and seriously hurt themselves because they were not paying attention. A friend’s mother also got killed by a car on a narrow suburban street in the dark while crossing the road.
The Globe and Mail reported that Baker’s recommendation came less than a week after Honolulu enacted a similar law, raising the ire of pedestrian advocates around the world. Baker’s private member’s bill, which is not scheduled for debate until March, generated a lukewarm response from Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca. The minister stressed that people should be cautious when walking, and that doing it while distracted is unwise, but noted that legislation addressing this was not included in a road safety bill recently unveiled by the government.
Baker is proposing fines for crossing the road while using a phone or “electronic entertainment device.” The penalties would start at $50, for a first offence, and rise to $125 by a third offence. Municipalities would be allowed to opt out. The bill would not cover people who have started a phone call before they began crossing the road which I thought is a loophole in itself – why not ask all pedestrians to NOT cross the road if they are already on the phone? The MPP was backed at this recent announcement by the Ontario Safety League and pointed to reports by the provincial coroner and Toronto Public Health that suggested a greater risk for pedestrians who are distracted. In a 2012 report, the coroner stated that approximately 20 percent of pedestrians killed may have had some form of distraction, such as using a cell phone, an MP3 player, a mobile device, pushing a shopping cart, walking a dog, or riding a skateboard.
In 2016, Toronto had its deadliest year for pedestrians in more than a decade. According to a Globe and Mail tally, 46 pedestrians were killed that year and the majority of these victims were 65 and older, in spite of this group representing only 14 percent of the population. In most cases, the driver was deemed at fault. But prevention is always better than cure – Toronto should follow Honolulu’s example before this becomes a real problem.
Honolulu’s law, which has just taken effect, allows the police to fine pedestrians up to U.S.$35 for viewing their electronic devices while crossing streets in the city and surrounding county. Honolulu is the first major city to enact such a ban. According to the City Council member who proposed the bill, pedestrians will share the responsibility for their safety with motorists. In the U.S., pedestrian deaths in 2016 spiked nine percent from the year before, rising to 5,987, the highest toll on American roads since 1990, according to federal data. A report by the Governors Highway Safety Association found that one reason may be the sharp rise in smartphone use. Even a lot of people know it’s risky, they still use the time walking to and from meetings and business lunches to catch up on calls, texts and emails. They convince themselves that this text is important.
There is a dearth of data directly linking distracted walking to pedestrian injuries and deaths, but it seems to be a global problem too. According to the World Health Organization’s Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, preliminary studies gave a hint to unsafe behaviour. People who text and walk, for example, are nearly four times as likely to engage in at least one dangerous action, like jaywalking or not looking both ways, and take 18 percent more time to cross a street than undistracted pedestrians. Other U.S. cities are also taking similar measures. In September, San Mateo County, California, passed a resolution prohibiting pedestrians’ use of cellphones while crossing streets. The resolution is expected to go to the California Legislature for statewide consideration in January. Also in September, New York passed a law that directs New York City to study its efforts to educate the public on the dangers of distracted walking.
The Europeans have the same problem but are taking a different approach. The Globe and Mail reported that Bodegraven, a small town near Amsterdam, embedded LED-illuminated strips in the crosswalk at a busy intersection – right in the sight of people staring at their phones. When the traffic lights turn red or green, so do the lights at ground level, alerting pedestrians when it’s safe to cross. If it’s successful, the town hopes to install the lights at more intersections and on bike lanes, and offer them to other cities.
In Augsburg, Germany, similar lights were installed last year after a teenager using her smartphone was struck and seriously injured by a tram when she walked onto the tracks. Other transportation experts recommended focusing on proven strategies like vehicle speed reduction, which is one of the most effective ways to reduce deaths, as survival rates are higher in low-speed collisions. But this, once again, shifts the responsibilities to drivers, instead of pedestrians.
The strongest opposition to new laws banning pedestrians from using their electronic devices while crossing the road revolves around government overreach and concerns about personal freedom. But I believe that people will eventually understand the value of public safety, and concerns about Big Brotherish intervention will lessen with time. Just look at the laws requiring seat-belt use or restricting smoking initially met resistance but are now widely accepted. The pending Toronto legislation is practical, good common sense and will save lives – it should be approved when it comes up for debate next spring.
There has recently been a lot of interest in how millennials and boomers can better get along with one another. In fact, rather than working alongside one another, the two demographic groups are often known to blame the other for their dissatisfaction with life. Boomers often complain about the millennials’ lack of loyalty and work ethics; while the millennials usually perceive the older group as dinosaurs whose reluctance to retire accounts for the high percentage of youth unemployment.
As a recent Globe and Mail article commented, young people are regularly maligned for being self absorbed and entitled; not willing to “pay their dues;” and impatient to get the promotions and compensation they feel they deserve. Consequently, the widely held sentiment is that they cannot be counted on to stay in one company for long, nor ever be loyal to the company. However, boomers’ definition of loyalty may, perhaps, need to be redefined. Take me, for an example – I’ve worked with only two firms in my professional consultancy career: one for 12 years and the other for close to 18 years. The first one is a global leader in my field and offered me a one-year training program in New York City when I first started out in my career. Thereafter, it had been a vertical trajectory in my career path within that organization in Asia and North America. The second organization, from which I retired, is a national pioneer and leader in Canada. I was made a partner in its largest office in Toronto – the first woman and the first Asian Canadian – after three years with the firm. There were lots of temptations during my 18-year tenure there to move elsewhere or to start my own business. But, the firm always gave me opportunities to grow and learn, and to take up new challenges just at the time when I might feel bored and itchy to move. So when I was working there, loyalty meant a “lifer” with the company.
But the millennials’ frame of reference is very different – they think of being tied to an organization in terms of months, not years. Career employees are no longer dreaming of the day they retire with gold watches at the age of 65 or even younger. Today’s millennial employees are probably thinking of themselves more as free agents. They get bored easily and are always looking for variety and exciting opportunities. They do not want to be stuck with only one-track responsibilities. They want plenty of opportunities to learn and have fun at the same time. While boomers are, very often, workaholics, millennials want more work-life balance instead. Employers need to showcase a work-hard, play-hard environment, and flexibility is key. Even then, you can’t expect your employees to be with you forever because most of them won’t. If you do all the right things to motivate your millennial employees, you might get them for at best three years.
A major TV news outlet recently contacted me to gauge my interest in joining a millennial-boomer duo panel on a weekly basis to discuss topics such as the purchase of a home in your 30s or when is the right age to get married. The TV program is still work in progress, but I think the media outlet understands that this would generate interest among both demographics. Points of view will, of course, differ between the two generations and, at times, there might even be a showdown.
The best approach, however, is to create opportunities for boomers and millennials to work harmoniously with and learn from one another. The Hollywood movie, The Intern, featuring Robert De Niro as the intern and Anne Hathaway as the millennial boss, has now become reality. According to The New York Times, a few enlightened U.S. companies have already paired older executives with junior workers so that the latter could mentor the former. Millennial mentors, as many companies call them, are being pulled into formal corporate programs to give advice to the top ranks of their companies. Some executives want the views of young people on catering to new markets and developing new products; while others are simply looking for glorified tech support – Snapchat 101, Twitter tutorials and emoji lessons.
Renowned companies such as Mastercard, Cisco Systems and Mars Inc. have experimented with these mentoring programs. The same New York Times article reported that the chief executive of insurer Lloyd’s of London has said that her 19-year-old junior mentor has a totally different perspective and leaves her inspired. Even Gen-Xer managers are catching on. David Watson, 38, a managing director at Deutsche Bank, who has been mentored by a 29-year-old engineer in the Wall Street bank’s global markets technology division, said that he’s been given good tips for retaining young employees, like giving them more flexible work-from-home arrangements, and with helping him spot trends in the financial tech industry.
Reverse mentoring – younger people training older workers – is apparently not a brand new concept. In the 1990s, Jack Welch, the then chief executive of General Electric, required 500 of his top managers to pair up with junior workers to learn how to use the internet. Boomer executives are now obsessed with better understanding millennials. It was reported that millennial consultants now advise companies like Oracle, Estee Lauder and HBO, charging as much as U.S.$20,000 per hour to give executives advice on marketing their products to young people. Overall, American organizations spent about U.S.$80 million on “generational consulting” last year, according to Source Global Research, a firm that studies the consulting industry.
Rather than hiring outside young consultants, many companies prefer to use the young people already on the payroll. Instead of a top-down management hierarchy, mature senior executives find sitting down with someone who’s on the org chart six levels down an educational experience. The traditional mentoring benefit remains in place so that millennials continue to learn from more experienced corporate leaders. But mentoring in both directions helps improve relationships and encourage collaboration within the organization. Instead of a showdown or a blame game, millennials and boomers can definitely co-exist in the workplace in harmony.
About two-and-a-half years ago, I have posted an article on this blog lauding two luxury brands featuring older models – Joni Mitchell for Yves Saint Laurent and Joan Didion for Celine. The excitement about the then 71-year-old Mitchell and 80-year-old Didion emerging as the newest fashion faces generated a lot of buzz and attention in the media. I questioned at that time whether it was really a marketing campaign acknowledging diversification or just a promotional gimmick. It looks like the fashion and beauty industries are really waking up and embracing mature women and models.
Nobody made bigger news recently than iconic actresses Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren making their debut appearances on the fashion runway for LOreal during the Paris Fashion Week this year. The 79-year-old Fonda and 72-year-old Mirren have been trailblazers all their lives, and now they are brand ambassadors for a leading beauty and cosmetics brand. Fonda has always been comfortable in her own skin in spite of her age. In 2016, she told the Daily Mail that after she turned 60, she began to understand who she was and she became young again. She said she is feeling pretty good about life now that she is in sight of her 80th birthday. She repeated the same observations in a recent TV interview with Megyn Kelly on NBC.
These septuagenarian brand ambassadors are not the only ones walking the runway with the hottest young models such as Gigi Hadid. Last month,it was announced that Maye Musk, 69, was the new face of CoverGirl, making her one of the oldest ambassadors for the brand. Having been modelling since she was 15, Musk is, of course, no stranger to the world of beauty and fashion. What is noticeable is her continued success, as she ages, as a brand ambassador in an industry which has traditionally been perceived as skin-deep superficial. In an interview with Vogue last year, Musk said: I hope my success gives other women hope that they can look good and feel good when they are past 60. I was on a shoot yesterday, and the young models were so excited to see me because they say it gives them hope, too, that they can carry on.
The accomplishments of Musk are, of course, beyond the fashion runway and photo shoots. She is the mother of three successful adult children including Elon Musk, Founder, CEO and CTO of SpaceX and co-founder and CEO of Tesla Inc. This Regina-born grandmother, with 10 grandkids and also a successful business as a dietitian, perfectly exemplifies brains and timeless beauty.
The list of mature models does not stop here. Versace also featured former supermodels of the 1990s – Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christensen, Claudia Schiffer and Carla Bruni – in its latest runway show. These mature women walked the runway alongside the new guard, including the daughter of Crawford, Kaia Gerber, and the current reigning supermodels Gigi and Bella Hadid.
Even Zara, the Spanish fast-fashion brand popular among young women around the world, is using three veteran models over 40 to showcase its new Timeless Fall and Winter Collection. In marketing campaign materials and on its website, the three beautiful women – Malgosia Bela (40), Yasmin Warsame (41) and Kristina de Connick (53) – discuss the effect of aging on their personal style. The ladies have collectively walked for Dior, Valentino, Givenchy and Dries van Noten.
Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, and Loewe have also followed suit in recent years, hiring older Hollywood stars, such as Vanessa Redgrave, Sophia Loren and Charlotte Rampling, as brand ambassadors. Age diversity seems to be increasingly in vogue now on fashion runways for the past few seasons: Amber Valleta walked the runway for Tom Ford; Stella Tennant for Ralph Lauren; and Carolyn Murphy for Michael Kors.
Perhaps everything old is really new again! As I have said before on this blog, the fashion and beauty industries are finally realizing that the consumers buying their products are no longer just spring chickens, but mature women with more disposable income. Let us hope that this awakening to the aging reality is not simply a fad and mature women and men will no longer become invisible as they age.
About this time last year, my blog post titled, It Is Time To Criminalize Distracted Driving, advocated that more severe legislation should be introduced to punish distracted drivers who text or talk on the cell phone and take their eyes off the road. Federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau has said last September that distracted driving is a big problem and promised to raise the issue with his provincial counterparts.
Yesterday, the Transportation Minister of Ontario, Steven Del Duca, announced at a news conference that the Ontario government will bring in higher fines for distracted drivers and drivers who do not yield to pedestrians. It will also introduce a new offence of careless driving causing bodily harm, with penalties that would include a licence suspension of up to five years, a fine of up to $50,000 and even jail time of as much as two years. This is very good news because even though it may still not be severe enough to a lot of people who have lost their loved ones in accidents involving distracted drivers, at least, it will send a loud message to motorists about the need to be alert at all times when they are in charge behind the wheel.
Other changes in the Ontario government proposal included drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians will face a maximum $1,000 fine and four demerit points. Distracted drivers will face a licence suspension of three days – a first in Canada – and a maximum fine of $1,000 and escalating penalties for further offences. Minister Del Duca said the plan will reach the legislature for approval some time in the fall.
Upon approval, the new Ontario law against distracted driving would be one of the strictest in the entire country. With the exception of Nunavut, every province and territory in Canada has legislation against using a cell phone while driving. Penalties range from three to five demerit points and fines from $100 to $1,000, depending on the province or the territory.
However, according to CTV News, a majority of Canadians believe that technology is the best way to stop drivers from being distracted by the phones in a new poll conducted by insurance company Aviva Canada. The poll found that 78 percent of Canadians believe only technology that stops people from texting and using other phone functions while driving will make our roads safer, not police crackdowns or peer pressure. Such technology would look like the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature on the newest Apple mobile device operating system iOS 11.
Today, more people die on Canadian roads from distracted driving than impaired driving. According to the RCMP, four out of five collisions occur when a driver has their eyes off the road for just three seconds. According to a Globe and Mail report by Oliver Moore, over the past five years, more than 450 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed in motor vehicle collisions in five most populous cities of Ontario and on roads patrolled by the Ontario Provincial Police. Last year, Moore calculated that the number of pedestrians killed in Toronto from 2011 to 2016 was greater than the number of fatal shootings. The Ontario Transportation Ministry says in its news release that on average, one person is killed on the roads of Ontario every 17 hours. In 2014, pedestrians and cyclists made up approximately 25 percent of road fatalities in the province. Many of these deaths are, of course, avoidable.
Kudos to the Ontario government for taking prompt action, but I still believe that the province needs to adopt the textalizer tests as proposed by the New York State legislature to have police digitally scan the phone of distracted drivers to see whether they were texting or posting on Facebook while driving. Most of the victims run down by motorists were older pedestrians or cyclists. As a society, we need to protect the most vulnerable by introducing more severe laws such as permanently suspending the licences of distracted drivers and longer jail terms. But the recent proposed legislation by the Ontario Transport Minister is a solid first step to change the attitudes of drivers.
I recently conducted an interview with a freelance journalist who was drafting an article on the latest boomer-travel trends for publication in a newsletter for Manulife Financial. I told her that wellness and slow travel will become a major trend for this demographic for the next decade or so.
According to the Canadian Tourism Research Institute (CTRI), an offshoot of the not-for-profit Conference Board of Canada, baby boomers will be the main pleasure-travel market over the next 10 years, spending more than CDN$35 billion annually. Because boomers are healthier and living longer than their parents, they want to maintain their good health to enjoy life and their new-found freedom after retirement. This explains why they want wellness and fitness programs, not only in their daily lives, but also when they travel.
Research by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) confirms that wellness is one of the world`s fastest-growing, most resilient markets – clocking double-digit growth while the global economy shrank by -3.6 percent. According to data released by GWI in October 2016, the global wellness industry grew 10.6 percent in the last two years, from a US$3.36 trillion market in 2013 to US$3.72 trillion in 2015. Among the 10 wellness sectors analyzed, fitness and mind-body (+21 percent), and wellness tourism (+14 percent) were among the top five fastest-growing from 2013 to 2015. Wellness tourism now accounts for 15.6 percent of total tourism revenues – amounting to almost one in six of total tourist dollars spent. One of the major contributors to this growth is the baby boomers who are seeking experiences rooted in meaning, purpose, authenticity and nature.
Wellness incorporates fitness, mental and physical health improvement, as well as eating healthy. Over the past decade, boomers are looking for healthy hotels, wholistic cruises, hiking, cycling, mindfulness and yoga retreats, medical tourism and more. Everyday commitments, particularly for those who are still working, prevent boomers from participating in fitness activities or attaining health goals. So, vacations focusing on wellness – adventure, exercise, self-improvement or volunteerism – become more and more compelling.
I always remind people that due to the almost 20-year-gap between the youngest Canadian boomers born in 1966 to the oldest ones born in 1947, we cannot lump all boomers together. For the younger boomers, who are probably still working, exercise, fitness and cycling vacations may be more appealing. According to Forbes Magazine, slow-travel programs that bring people to national parks and forests for one- or two-week guided backpacking adventures seem to be an ideal exercise and fitness vacation for younger boomers who want to unplug, de-stress and recharge. Canada`s Fitz and Fowell based in Montreal and Cycle Treks in Victoria, B.C., also offer cycling tours, whale watching, culinary tours or a seaside trek.
For the older boomers, also called leading-edge boomers, mindfulness or yoga retreats may be the way to go. The Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California, which also houses the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, helps groups incorporate wellness into their workplace and personal lives. Mindfulness, offered by Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona, includes programs that cover healthy lifestyle changes, self-discovery and transformation. Apart from spas, more and more hotels are joining the wellness bandwagon. Westin Hotels recently launched a US$15 million well-being campaign for both employees and guests to smile and listen more, worry less and sleep better.
Although cruise lines have recently begun to lure millennial travellers, boomers remain their most stalwart customers. Celebrity Cruises emphasizes on well-being centred on mind, body and spirit. The cruise line has a special program dedicated to seven different types of yoga. Passengers can also enjoy other fitness classes such as Pilates, indoor cycling as well as personal training focusing on blood pressure, bone health and more. With the current huge interest in ballroom dancing, cruise lines such as Cunard and Crystal receive accolades on their devotion to ballroom dancing. Professionals teach waltz, tango, samba and other dances during the day, and passengers can practice their moves at themed formal balls held in the evenings. Crystal also provides gentlemen hosts present on every cruise to make sure single ladies do not turn into wallflowers.
Oceania, Regent Seven Seas and Cunard`s Queen Mary 2 all integrate the Canyon Ranch Spa dining menu on board. Each cruise line offers the specialty spa cuisines in select restaurants throughout their ships. The menu includes organic foods and dishes high in protein, fibre and healthy fats, as well as vegetarian options.
In addition to ocean cruise vacations, leading-edge boomers are also increasingly attracted to river cruises which offer slow and leisurely travel. A Rhine or Danube river cruise offers passengers cycling tours through the countryside and cities, or even encourages cruisers to ride along the river, catching up with the ship in the next port. River cruises also offer culinary cooking classes which can include a visit to the local market with the chef, shopping for fresh seafood and produce at ports of call.
Last, but not least, solo travel has become a growing trend. Whether they have just lost a loved one or going through a divorce, boomers refuse to stop travelling. According to Visa`s Global Travel Intention Study 2015, the number of affluent adults, who vacation on their own, has more than doubled to 32 percent, up from 14 percent in 2013. Travel companies, cruise lines and the wellness industry are already adjusting their travel offers to better accommodate solo travellers.
With longer lifespans and a greater emphasis on health and fitness, boomers will continue to be interested in wellness travel for many more years to come. Marketers and the travel industry stand to win big if they pay greater attention to and focus more efforts on offering new and meaningful experiences for this affluent demographic.
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