I have recently joined the Retirement Coaches Association, based in the US. But that is not the focus of this blog, more an introduction, as the RCA held its annual conference a couple of weeks back and there is interesting information stemming from the gathering. One topic that caught my eye is on the mindset of people looking for work round about retirement age. It was written by Richard Elsenberg for the Next Avenue website, on a paper delivered by Dorian Mintzer and Gillian Leithman.
What really drew me in was their belief that we tend to accept the stereotypes heaped on us as mid-lifers, the examples given are: we are tired, afraid to learn new things and are technologically challenged. The presenters believe we are adopting these stereotypical behaviours of ageing and damaging our prospects of employment.
That really got me thinking. I don’t see myself settling into the belief that I am too old to work, though when I started retirement at 60 I was tired, really tired and burned out. I have turned that around now. Perhaps I was fortunate that in my last job I was forced into exploring the use of social media to market the non profit that I was running, so, as I retired, forging ahead with technology was already part of my day to day world. As for being afraid to learn new things, well, I am the eternal student. Though, if you had told me as I left work that I would publish a book, and load it onto Amazon as an eBook in the next 5 years, I would have thought you were smoking cannabis. But I have a deeply ingrained belief that we are never too old to learn! Perhaps all the above demonstrate why I find myself as an entrepreneur and not an employee.
Are the presenters making a valid point about Boomers who are looking for 9-5 employment though? I definitely know people in my wider circle of friends who say they are afraid of technology, yet they are avid followers of Facebook, Netflix, and Youtube, so how afraid are they? There is also much being said and written about ageism in the workplace, with examples of older employees being side-lined to make way for the Gen-X-ers and millennials. Also, the awkward fit of Gen-X-ers managing Boomers. For me, what is important is that each generation remembers the value their generation brings. Are we simply forgetting our value-add, because we are anxious about being usurped by the following generations?
I haven’t even got to the recommendations that Mintzer and Leithman gave, but am realising that what I want to say is, I believe we Boomers still have much value to offer the economy and we should not hold back with self-doubt. Sure, there is a tendency to feel we are being shunted out at the top to make room for the youngsters coming in at the bottom, but we need to help employers understand they do not want to throw the baby out with the bath water.
As a post script, I also came across a new concept called ‘Senior Planet’ – a hub in New York where seniors gather to do courses on technology and to network their businesses. Tom Kamber, the founder of Senior Planet, talks of a tech-themed community centre, which prepares seniors to “hack” their way through a world he feels are side-lining them. On the door at the entrance, it says “Aging with Attitude”.
Is that perhaps what Mintzer and Leithman feel is missing? I would love to hear your feelings on this topic. Should we franchise the Senior Planet concept and spread it around the globe? Are we missing a business opportunity?
Please share your thoughts,