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Four Ways You Are Wrong About Boomers

I am very proud to have received this great review from the National Association of Realtors for my book, The Grandparent Economy: How Boomers Are Bridging the Generation Gap. Following is the blog:

It seems everywhere you turn these days there’s some new diatribe against the generational focus of commentaries on society. It’s boomers attacking millennials attacking boomers… Heck, we even played an April Fool’s joke based on the trend a couple of weeks ago.

As someone who’s always bristled at generational stereotypes, I’m cheering those who are finally agreeing we need to stop playing the millennials vs. boomers card in the media (as no one talks about generation x anymore, that needn’t be halted of course). But as I was working on the upcoming feature for our May/June issue about how brokers are attracting the next generation of real estate pros, I found myself unable to avoid the term “millennial.”

Is your image of grandparents woefully outdated? Photo: bandini, Morguefile.

Are your ideas of grandparents woefully outdated? Photo: bandini, Morguefile.

That’s when I realized it has nothing to do with the terms; it’s the inaccurate stereotypes everyone should be finished with. And that’s why I really liked Lori K. Bitter’s The Grandparent Economy: How Baby Boomers Are Bridging the Generation Gap (Paramount Market Publishing, Inc., 2015). Not only is she seeking to help business owners and marketers better understand the boomer generation through the lens of grandparenthood using actual data, but she also busts a fair amount myths about boomers and grandparents in the process. Among them:

  1. Age and aversion to technology: Bitter says if you do an image search on grandparents in Google you’ll likely see “cartoon caricatures of couples with gray buns, sagging bellies and boobs, and canes… In reality, only 20 percent of grandparents are 75 or older.” She also points out that grandparents not only outspend other generations in traditional shopping environments, but they also “are outspending younger consumers two to one online… and they account for one in four mobile transactions.”
  2. Multi-gen housing as a temporary reaction to recession. Bitter, who was raised by her grandparents, points out that humans have been living with several generations under one roof since the beginning of civilization, and in many cultures around the world, it’s more common than it currently is in the United States. But as we become increasingly multicultural, it’s important to examine our biases and look at the facts: 2.7 million grandparents are raising small children on their own, and that doesn’t encompass the many who are sharing the task of raising children with the kids’ biological parents. She also points out that, far from being temporary, the trend will probably grow as people are living longer, and notes that grandfamilies occur in every area of the country and represent all income levels, races, and ethnicities.
  3. Midlife crises. Rather than fearing their advancing age, boomers are becoming less concerned with numbers as they mature. Bitter says this is the beginning of wisdom, or “the centered sense of the timelessness of all things.” She suggests thinking of marketing in the same way you might universal design: If you create something that can be used by anyone, it will be appreciated by everyone.
  4. The “Me Generation.” Bitter shows how the common trope of younger generations being full of themselves goes astray: All young people project that sort of bravado to a certain extent. “The images of self-entitled, self-centered, and materialistic boomers do not sit well, and the majority of those surveyed believe advertisers and reporters frequently get it wrong. From a developmental perspective self-involvement and materialism are features of a striving lifestyle typical of younger adults, which would be accurate for any generation, not just the Baby Boom.”

Though this isn’t a book specifically about real estate, Bitter includes numerous examples of housing communities that are successfully meeting the needs of this new batch of grandparents. And she clearly thinks highly of REALTOR® outreach to consumers: “Has an ad ever brought a tear to your eye? …Fast forward to the recent ads by the National Association of REALTORS® about the ‘American Dream of home ownership’ featuring a grandfather and his grandson. Mature consumers appreciate the art of a story well told.”

Now that’s a stereotype I think we can all live with.

Meg White

Meg White is the multimedia web producer for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine’s Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]realtors.org.

 

The Boomer economy: Caring has its costs

A lot has been written about Baby Boomers, who are doing a lot more to boost the economy than they are given credit for — a lot more — says author Lori Bitter.

Bitter, author of “The Grandparent Economy: How Baby Boomers are Bridging the Generation Gap,” says Boomers are not only taking in their parents, but sometimes several generations of family members who have not recovered from the Great Recession.

The problem, she says, is that they are doing it all at great peril to their own retirement.

“The real story is they may have two or three generations of people living in their homes that they were working their butts off to support,” she says. “This generation just gets bashed. When you see what is really happening. It is more interesting that the headlines and misunderstood labels.

“They are literally holding up the economy by taking care of families who haven’t made it through the recession too well, taking care of their elders and grandchildren,” she says. “Even if they aren’t totally supporting them, they are contributing to all those households.”

Not only are they endangering their own retirement by supporting family members, but they are also doing it at the expense of their own health, she says.

“Fifty is typically is where you have your personal health concerns,” she says. You look at your health in a different way. Middle-age people are managing a number of chronic conditions of their own. While caring for people at the older end of the spectrum or younger end, they’re managing doctor appointments of others, and push their own health care needs to the bottom of the list. They can see the decline of person they are they are taking care and simultaneously ignore their own health. We urge this population to take care of their own health. If their health problems get worse, the whole system breaks down.”

13th ANNUAL WHAT’S NEXT BOOMER SUMMIT COMES TO THE NATION’S CAPITAL , MARCH 23, 2016

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Nation’s Leading Conference Brings Together Boomer Marketing Experts and Industry Leaders to Focus on “Seizing the Opportunity of the Longevity Economy”

Washington, D.C. plays host to the 2016 What’s Next Boomer Business Summit, the nation’s leading annual conference for the boomer and senior markets. Taking place on Wednesday, March 23rd at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, the upcoming summit shines a spotlight on “Seizing the Opportunity of the Longevity Economy” and includes a prestigious lineup of speakers, sessions, and exhibitors. Learn More →

Is Grandparenting the “ultimate do-over?”

Read Lori Bitter’s comments in the Huffington Post story:

Growing up, Ed White spent relatively little time with his father, who worked in a power plant, climbing from engineer to vice president. His dad put in long hours, leaving early in the morning and coming home late. After dinner, he would read the newspaper, then do more work.  Read more . . .

 

The Internet of Things: Big Thinking for Older Consumers in 2013

Lori’s latest blog post for MediaPost Communications Engage Boomer blog, discusses the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, and it’s relevancy to the mature consumer market. Many of the presentations focus on technology that monitors consumers, and much is focused on health care, caregiving and health-related reporting. To truly capture the imagination and marketshare of the lucrative boomer consumer market, we need to pull back to the larger concept of the “the Internet of things.” First coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, the concept recognized the issue of the computer — and the Internet — being dependent on human action for information. He recognized a more human environment where people have no time and little attention.

Read Lori’s MediaPost Communications Engage Boomer blog post Big Thinking for Older Consumers in 2013: The Internet of Things here.

Speaking in New York at The Senior Planet Exploration Center


Join me at OATS Senior Planet Exploration Center for the first talk in The Macquarie Speaker Series, titled “Online Communities for Older Adults: Lessons from the Eons Experience”on October 2nd, from 3-4 pm. The Senior Planet Exploration Center is located at 127 West 25th Street.

Based on the lessons learned from running the Eons site and working with clients to build community, I will share our insights on older adults and the nature of community. The talk with be live-streamed on SeniorPlanet.org. Learn more here.

The Business of…the Baby Boomer Traveler

For this week’s show we speak with Kathy Dragon, CEO of TravelDragon.com, owner of The Dragon’s Path, & VP of Dragon Consulting Inc. Kathy has spent the past two decades in the center of the active, adventure and sustainable travel industry. As a tour operator and guide she has personally escorted over 3000 guests on small group tours around the globe and created programs in conjunction with local guides and properties. Kathy is a frequent international speaker and consultant in the travel industry specifically focusing on authentic/responsible travel and the influence of the Boomer & Beyond market…those who expect and are willing to invest in this new type of travel. A contributing author of BOOM: Marketing to the Ultimate Power Consumer—The Baby Boomer Woman, Kathy is a frequent speaker and creator of content for industry blogs, newsletters, podcasts and articles.

Learn More →

Reaching the Seasoned Traveler at the Educational Travel Conference, Jan. 19-22 in Orlando, FL

Later this week I’ll be at the The Educational Travel Conference (ETC), Jan. 19-22 in Orlando, Florida. ETC is the founding conference for Alumni, Museum, Zoo, Conservation, and Nonprofit Educational Travel. It hosts 450 delegates who are a highly-qualified international group of nonprofit travel planners, suppliers, specialty tour operators and destinations. They assemble to focus on the development, operation and marketing of group educational, experiential and affinity travel worldwide.

I am looking forward joining Kathy Dragon, Doris Gallan and Heather Hardwick Rhodes for several agenda sessions there on Friday Jan. 20:

  • Going Past 40: How Today’s Baby Boomers are Traveling and Making their Buying Decisions, 9:30 – 10:50 a.m.
  • Boomer Product Development: Go Broader, Go Deeper by Appealing to Core Values of the 40+, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Prime Time Travelers: Diving Into The Digital/Social Component Of the Boomer Marketplace,  4:15 – 5:30 p.m

Learn more about The Educational Travel Conference (ETC) here.

Rise of the Silver Surfers: Silvers Summit at CES 2012 next week

No sooner do we begin the New Year, then we hit the ground running with the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next week (Jan. 10-13). As you create your agenda for the huge event, your must-attend ticket is the Silvers Summit.

The Silvers Summit will showcase the products and services that keep boomers engaged, entertained and connected. There they are assembling companies, distributors, journalists, research firms, think tanks, to demonstrate the products and services that will help mature consumers maintain their high quality of life. The Conference takes place on Jan 10, 2012, and features panels, presentations, and interactive demonstrations on products and services ranging from a unified health care format to home security, aging with technology and in-depth panels sessions.

During the workshop on Tuesday, Jan. 10, join me for Rise of the Silver Surfers:  How to Use Non-Traditional Marketing to Reach a Traditional Audience, #4458, 9:50 a.m. – 10:35 a.m. N250.

Along with co-panelists Karen KleinLori BitterPeter DeMarisPeter GreeneStephen Reily, we’ll explore in this session that “Boomers spend $7 billion online annually, they are the fastest growing group on Facebook and 55 percent of those age 55-64 watch online videos.  Silvers are dating, shopping, traveling, caregiving, reconnecting – all online.  Panelists will discuss how to tap into this huge boomer customer segment using online and social media marketing techniques.”

While you are at CES, be sure to check out Aging Technology Alliance (AgeTek) pavilion at North Hall booth 3209. AgeTek is a trade group of companies that develop and/or market technology-based products designed for the senior market. They are opening their annual meeting to non-members this year, and hosting a meet n’ greet for those who wish to learn more about this organization. CES attendees can enter to win a ClearSounds ClearBlue™ Bluetooth Mini-Speaker & TV/Audio Listening System, valued at $250, by getting an AgeTek CES Passport stamped at each of the AgeTek member booths at CES. AgeTek CES Passports are available inside the Silvers Summit program, and at the AgeTek Pavilion.

See you there!

The Business of…Brain Fitness

For this week’s show, The Business of… Brain Fitness, we have guest Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science, the leader in clinically proven brain fitness software. Their software is scientific brain training designed to improve memory and cognitive skills.

Learn More →