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The Intergenerational Imperative: A New Narrative

We must end the conversations pitting generation against generation. It’s ageist and supports generational stereotypes that don’t value the best that young and older people have to offer – especially to each other. It’s time for a new narrative that highlights the importance of the unprecedented shifts every generation is experiencing, one that reflects the commonalities as opposed to differences.

We’ve added more than three decades to our lives since 1900. But contrary to the way many people think about those years, they are not simply tacked onto to the end life. These extra years are an expansion of every stage of life. We see it when young people take a gap year before starting college or are waiting until later in life to leave home, marry and start their own families. Midlife is expanding, as people work longer, return to school, and create new careers. And certainly old age is longer as well, as the number of Americans living into their nineties is expected to quadruple by 2050.

Work

Daily headlines perpetuate a myth of generational angst between Boomers and Millennials in the workplace, when the reality is they have much more in common than simply coping with a stretched out life map. Younger generations believe that they alone seek purpose and meaning in their work. The Workplace Purpose indicates that more than 25% do; but that number is 39% for 55-64 year olds and rises 47% after 65.

The baby boomer generation says they’ve felt the need to compete since they started working – there were so many people entering the job market at the same time, and over a long period. Younger generations say they aren’t sure how to compete; or as one person recently told me, “When you get participation trophies for everything, you have no idea what you are good — or bad — at. It can be paralyzing.”

Debt Load

Student loan debt has topped $1.4 trillion. Research by Citizens Bank found that 60% of those under 35 will be paying off these debts far into their 40s, with the rest of the burden falling to boomer parents. Boomers are paying off loans at the risk of their own retirement savings. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York research shows that 2.8 million borrowers are over 60.

Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping by and Get Your Financial Life Together, says,”Millennials get a lot of the press when it comes to the student loan crisis and how it will affect our futures, but there are boomers who are of retirement age and still dealing with student loans, many of which were probably taken out for a millennial child. Concerns about paying off debt and being able to retire comfortably transcends generational divides.”

Homeownership — And Finding Roommates

Last year, home ownership rates fell to an historic low – partly because millennials can’t buy or don’t value homeownership in the same way as previous generations; boomers value their homes as a significant retirement asset, as 50% have less than $100,000 saved. Reverse mortgage products have become more attractive as boomers can’t sell to younger buyers.

The growing interest among boomers to rent rather than own shouldn’t be discounted in low rates of ownership. A 2015 study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard found that people 45 – 64 accounted for twice the share of rental growth as those under 35. In major cities, boomers are dominating the rental market, making it even harder for younger people to find affordable housing. People of all ages are turning to new sites like Silvernest and SpareRoom, which help connect homeowners with roommates.

Multigenerational Living

In 2014, a record 60.6 million people, or 19% of the U.S. population, lived with multiple generations under one roof, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data. Young adults have replaced older people as the second adult generation in the household. Among people 25 – 29, 31% are residents of multigenerational households. Nearly half of all multigenerational households are comprised of grandparents, parents and grandchildren. This is one reason why the rate of older Americans living alone has dropped since 1990.

Caregiving

The average age of a family caregiver is now 49.2 years old and trending younger. Forty-eight percent of caregivers are 18 – 49 years old. With more generations under the same roof, caregiving is becoming a family affair. Seven percent of grandchildren are taking of their grandparents.

Still, there is a looming crisis of care. In 2010, the ratio of caregivers to people needing care was 7:1; in 2030, it will be 4:1. The 80+ population will increase by 44% between 2030 and 2040; the number of caregivers available will only increase by 10%. The situation completely bottoms out in the 2040s as the boomers are in old, old age. For the next 25 years we will need to attract young people to the field of aging services in huge numbers. Right now, these types of jobs aren’t even on their radar.

The generational interdependencies are clear. The issues are magnified because of the size of the boomer and millennial generations, but the issues of today will surely be repeated as the millennials begin to age, many past the age of 100 — the gift of new longevity.

The Un-Stuffing Of America: The #1 Business Opportunity Serving The Boomer Population

Reprinted from MediaPost Engage Boomers

It isn’t a technology solution. It is decidedly low-tech. It’s not a medical device, but it does ease suffering. And while we sometimes joke about hoarding, older adults are buried in stuff — the accumulation of a lifetime (or two). The resistance to letting go of it is an enormous issue for caregivers, senior living providers and aging in place experts. Of all of the issues of caregiving, this one is the gift that literally keeps on giving.

I profess my expertise. 

I come from a long line of near-hoarders. My grandmother, who passed away at 98 on our family farm, was a collector — antique furniture, dishes, books, family photographs, recipes … she had my grandfather’s college report cards squirreled away! And I had the task of helping to empty her home and prepare for her estate sale. (Read that as two truckloads of stuff making its way from Missouri to my very small Bay-area home — including her restored Victorian baby carriage — because who doesn’t need one of those?)

My mother, whose basement was nearly at intervention stage, had a fire and her house burned down. She lost everything, but continues to joke that she saved us from the work of going through that stuff. The positive outcome was that she and my stepfather moved to a very livable, beautiful home in an age-targeted community with plenty of features for aging in their home.

Caregivers & Professionals

In our research with family caregivers, it isn’t medication management or fall prevention that keeps them up at night, though they care deeply about those things. It is their worry over what to do with all of their parents’ stuff. The conversations with their parents can be as precarious as the “time to give up the car keys” talk. At a time in their life when seniors are losing friends, giving up hobbies and freedoms, their treasures are very important. The irony is that seniors believe staying in their homes as long as possible is easing a burden on their children. The reality is that it shifts the burden from the finances of long-term care to extended time and expense of wrapping up their affairs after death.

Senior housing professionals know that stuff keeps older adults from moving to homes that are better designed for their needs — both physical and social. Aging-in-place professionals and occupational therapists know the dangers all of the stuff creates in the home. Caregivers tell us that the aftermath of losing a loved one is so complicated by the dispensation of stuff that their mourning and grief is put on hold sometimes for several years.

The data is the stuff that companies are built on

Two-thirds of 18-34 year olds value experiences over possessions. They don’t value or want the stuff. And if HGTV is any indication, they are buying tiny houses with the storage capacity of a file drawer. That’s if they can afford to buy a home at all. Perhaps it’s growing up with the stuff that has created this desire for a simpler existence.

I work with smart entrepreneurs who have brilliant ideas for apps and devices that serve older consumers, some more scalable than others. You want scale, consider this:

  • There are 50,000 storage facilities in the U.S. — five times the number of Starbucks. That’s 2.3 billion square feet.
  • 50% of storage renters are simply storing what won’t fit in their homes even though the average home size has doubled in that last 50 years.
  • Currently there are 7.3 square feet of self-storage for every man, woman and child in the nation. One in 10 Americans rents offsite storage. It’s the fastest-growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades (New York Times Magazine)
  • 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them; 32% have room for only one car (U.S. Department of Energy)
  • The home organization industry, valued at $8 billion, has more than doubled since 2000 at a rate of 10% each year (Uppercase)

Services like moving, packing, estate sales and auction sites are fragmented and require time, trust, and oversight. Rarely are there services of social workers, gerontologists or care managers to start the conversations, provide resources or support family caregivers. But everyday there are millions of families are trying to figure this out. This is a service worth figuring out. (After I figure out which key goes to which storage unit.)

*Data aggregated by becomingminimalist.com 

MediaPost Engage Boomers-The Psychology of Marketing to Grandparents

The Psychology of Marketing to Grandparents

Let’s face it. Psychologist Abraham Maslow never wanted to be a marketer. In his work Toward a Psychology of Being he describes the 13 personality attributes of the self-actualizing person. Often depicted as the top of the pyramid on the Hierarchy of Needs, “Self-actualization” is the realization of one’s full potential, with a focus outside of self. Learn More →

Reaching the Mature Audience

header-engageboomers

I have always loved the concept of AARP’s “Movies for Grown-ups.” Mature adults are different. Developmentally, as we age, we connect more with great stories and complex, layered characters; in many ways we process our own lives through the stories of others. Praise for the movie, The Intern, with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway resonates with older adults navigating the intergenerational workplace. Learn More →

MediaPost EngageBoomer blog: Move Beyond Age – Let’s Talk Better Design

Lori’s latest blog post for MediaPost Communications Engage Boomer blog, discusses the drumbeat of the ‘Move Beyond Age’ movement has grown louder throughout this year, with conversations ranging from how to “re-tool” senior products for Boomers, to how to appeal to the largest demographic in today’s marketplace. Friends and partners are shining a light on human-centered design and the aging population.

Read Lori’s MediaPost Communications Engage Boomer blog post Move Beyond Age – Let’s Talk Better Design here.

Building With Multiple Generations In Mind

The recently released MetLife Report on American Grandparents revealed that 1 in 10 households is headed by a grandparent with at least one grandchild living there. The study reports that part of the reason for this is high rates of unemployment among the children’s parents. Interestingly, in 1980 there were only 28 million Americans living in a household that included two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation. By 2008 the number was 49 million Americans living inter-generationally.

In a recent New York Times story about this trend, Kermit Baker, a senior fellow at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard and the chief economist of the American Institute of Architects, said, “Immigrants are a source of growing demand (for intergenerational homes), and their household composition is different in fundamental ways from the domestic-born.”

Learn More →

Looking At Lucrative Lifestages: Engaging American Grandparents

The recent release of “The MetLife Report on American Grandparents,” by Peter Francese with MetLife Mature Market Institute, reveals the changing face of grandparents in the United States. It also provides a roadmap for companies with products and services for children. Increasingly, grandparents are helping young families financially navigate in this tough economic climate, paying for items essential to day-to-day life, and also looking forward to big-ticket items like tuition, cars, and college.

In 2010, there were an estimated 65 million grandparents in the United States alone; households headed by someone over the age of 45 accounts for 60% of the nation’s income. One in four adults in this country is a grandparent.

Today, a grandparent is the head of almost one in ten households and has a grandchild in residence. In spite of recent economic events, consumer spending in households 55+ has risen faster than any other age category, outpacing inflation. By 2020, projections reveal an increase to 80 million grandparents, one in three adults in the U.S.

Booming Grands: Younger, hipper more diverse grandparents

The majority of today’s grandparents are from the Baby Boomer generation; they appear more youthful, vital and active than grandparents of previous generations. In reality…

Learn More →