Archive for the ‘demographics’ Category

Holy Toledo, Batman: Elderly Life Begins At 50!

Last night I was inducted into the Hall of Elderly Citizens. At least that’s how I felt.

It happened while I was the guest lecturer at a business consulting class at Salisbury University. The instructor invites business people to share their real-life experiences about marketing, hiring consultants, economic trends and more. This is the fourth semester I’ve spoken to the class.

At last night’s class I spoke about how social media was really a revolution, changing the way business was done much like what happened during the Industrial Revolution more than a century ago. For these students, I truly believe the upheaval in the labor markets and economy will create new opportunities for those prepared and motivated to take advantage.

I had their attention for the moment and believed I had bridged a generation gap of nearly 40 years effortlessly. But I quickly learned that for some of these young adults, anyone over 50 is … not just old but elderly. Yes, 50 years old is elderly in the minds of our youth. For anyone who believes that 50 is the 30 or 60 is the 40 here’s a reality check.  To a 22 year old, 50 is still old!

The scene unfolded like this. One team of students is working on a marketing project to help a local community attract the “elderly.” More specifically the group asked me “if Facebook is a good option for the 50 and older demographic?” That’s when I polled the rest of the class. One student responded “no, I don’t think the elderly use Facebook.” Another agreed.

Elderly = 50 years and older.  Holy Toledo, Batman.  I must have missed that memo…or maybe I just don’t remember!

I suggested to the student team that most Baby Boomers would not likely be attracted to a marketing campaign that referred to them as elderly or senior citizens. Active adults, maybe. Elderly? No chance.

The question ignited an interesting discussion about “older people” using Facebook.  One student “just couldn’t imagine his Dad being on Facebook.”Another replied that her grandmother was on Facebook every day. Of course, I quickly realized that I could be as old as or older than her grandmother. Ouch!

Thankfully, several other students chimed in and validated my point that not all 50 year olds are over the hill and living the life of a fuddy-duddy. The truth is that the fastest growing segment of Facebook active subscribers are 55 and older and that Facebook could well be an important marketing strategy to attract the aging Baby Boomers.

My day of confronting generation gaps was not over. I left the class to meet with three Perdue School of Business students who started up a new online business.  The purpose?  They wanted help in developing an Internet marketing campaign and revenue model for their new venture.  Generation gap?  Hardly. This was a business opportunity and consulting meeting. Age never entered the conversation.

And moments after that meeting ended, I spoke with my 87 year old mother who was depressed because her Internet connection was down for almost a week. And when she finally resorted to walking to the library because “she just couldn’t stand [being unplugged from the Internet] anymore,” she found nearly 400 emails waiting for her. Even for the “elderly,” staying connected and doing business via the Internet is part of their daily lives.

For me, yesterday was the epitome and paradox of contrasting attitudes toward different generations. The day’s events offered an important lesson for all of us – do not pass judgment blindly. Most fifty year olds are not elderly and Gen Ys are not slackers, sloppy, and self-centered.  At least for a few minutes yesterday I was able to demonstrate how technology and especially social media can effectively disrupt generational stereotypes and bridge cohorts separated by over 65 years.

Fortunately for many, the gap is invisible.  For others, different generations live worlds apart. Hopefully, technology can bridge the gap and open communication.

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81 Percent Of Kids Have “Digital Footprint”; Boomers Delay Retirement

This Week’s Top Stories from the Geeks, Geezers, and Googlization Grapevine

Geeks

Working in a call center does not seem to be the Millennial’s generation cup of tea. According to a survey released by Sodexo Motivation Solutions, only 5 percent of the respondents regard working in a call center as exciting. More troubling for call center management is that only 55 percent consider call center work negatively. And the nail in the coffin is that one in three of those surveyed who are currently seeking work would rather claim unemployment benefits than work in a call center.

Geezers

Some 40 percent of U.S. workers say they’re going to have to delay retirement because they can’t afford to stop working, according to a survey released this week by consultants Towers Watson. The biggest reasons cited were the losses suffered in their retirement savings and the need to maintain company-sponsored health care coverage.

Googlization

They may not know how to use a computer yet, but a recent poll revealed that some children as young as six months already have an online presence, including their own email address. Antivirus maker AVG conducted a poll of mothers with children under two years old to see when they began uploading pictures of their kids to the web. According to the survey, the average age children acquire an online presence is six months, with more than 70 percent of mothers posting baby and toddler pictures online and sharing them through social networking sites. By the time they are two, 81 percent of kids have what AVG CEO J.R. Smith called a “digital footprint.” Other findings include:

  • 33 percent of children have had pictures posted online from birth.
  • 23 percent of parents uploaded their child’s pre-birth scan to the Internet.
  • 7 percent of babies even have an email address set up by their parents at birth.
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Report Paints Different Picture of Baby Boomer Job Hopping

The generation gap is growing. But a few recent studies are shattering some perceptions.

Gen Y has caught a lot of flack for job hopping and for having a bad case of employee disloyalty. Baby Boomer and Gen X managers claim it’s impossible to find good hires from amidst this young generation even with a shortage of jobs and a surplus of jobseekers.

But new data on who changes jobs frequently indicates that Baby Boomers might be the pot calling the kettle black.

The recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics may surprise many people.  The report shows that Late Boomers, born between 1957 and 1964, have been busy hopping between employers. In fact, between ages 18 and 44, the Late Boomers have had an average of 11 employers, which translates into a job change every 2.4 years.

Job hopping was even worse among Late Boomer men without a high school diploma. They held an average of 13.3 jobs, while men with at least a bachelor’s degree still had 11 jobs. In the case of women, uneducated ones, in fact, had fewer jobs (9.7) than their degreed counterparts (11.7 jobs).

During the time of life (ages of 18-22) when most people move between school and summer jobs, the Late Boomers held an average of 4.4 jobs. However, they kept moving even at more mature ages: they had 2.6 jobs between ages 28-32, and at ages 39-44 they still held an average of 2 jobs. Among the jobs that 39- to 44-year-olds started, one third ended in less than a year.

Job hopping isn’t simply a Gen Y problem, and any explanation that sites only the character and upbringing of young workers for perceived disloyalty doesn’t match up with the picture painted by the data.

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Cool Job Creation Heats Up Generation Tensions

While the economy sputters, tensions heats up between the generations.

Lost in the diversity of generational news last week was a common element – the generations are struggling to right themselves following the recession and going forward.

The just released cover story of October’s The Atlantic magazine talks about the Baby Boomers’ last chance to redeem themselves after what the writer Michael Kinsley describes as decades of self-absorbed and self-indulgent behavior.

The postwar generation is leaving a bitter legacy: crumbling infrastructure, crushing public debt, and a reflexive cynicism about all institutions, from churches to Congress to the media. It’s time for redemption…Kinsley urges fellow Boomers to cough up some cash—say, $14 trillion—to fix the mess they’re leaving.

That could be a problem.  Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research released a study last week too that exposed a retirement income deficit that few people likely found surprising. The gap between what Americans need for retirement and the amount they have saved is a staggering $6.6 trillion.

“The retirement income deficit is the gap between the pensions and retirement savings that American households have today and what they should have today to be on track to maintain their living standard in retirement,” said Karen Friedman, executive vice president and policy director of the Pension Rights Center. “The retirement income deficit shows just how bad the crisis has become.”

If Baby Boomers can’t maintain the lifestyle they’ve grown accustomed to, they will likely keep working.  An article in Fast Company last week offered harsh realities that have stymied Generation Y (also called Millennials). Topping the list was: The Baby Boomers are not voluntarily leaving the workplace! :

The Recession has decimated the Boomers’ opportunity to retire and left them with no choice but to continue to work for the foreseeable future. And, because Boomers are living during a period when medical science is going to continue to improve their ability to be healthy and work, that “foreseeable future” is a lot longer than anyone could have imagined!

As I’ve described in several articles in the past, that’s bad news for Generation X and Generation Y.  The Fast Company article goes on to describe several scenarios that will only feed the frustration felt by the jobless Gen Ys and career-stalled Gen X.

Not only are the Boomers going to remain in the workplace but they are also going to retain their positions of authority…If they are forced out of their current employment positions, Baby Boomers will actively compete with the Millennials for other jobs!

And despite being recognized as “digital natives” and the “Internet Generation,” the advantage these young Gen Y adults may be dissipating with time. The fourth harsh reality describes

“…how the Technological Edge the Millennials touted as the differentiator between them and the other Generations in the workplace is diminishing as the other Generations, faced with no choice, close the technological gap. Boomers may never be able to text as fast as Millennials but they will be able to text fast enough for the workplace! And Boomers have the interpersonal skill set to go with the texting skill set!”

Putting the shrinking technology gap into perspective, one group wonders if the technology gap is myth or reality.  The author says “I find that Millennial (Google Generation) students have the fastest thumbs in the west and can answer a cell phone call at the speed of light.  Beyond this, their technology related skills, from an academic perspective, seem quite limited.”

This was also the topic of conversation before and during a panel discussion last week at Harrisburg University. While all the panelists agree that Generation Y are the most comfortable generation using technology, they may not be the most skilled at applying it in the workplace.

Of course, the more imminent impact of the recession and delayed departure of Baby Boomers will be felt by Generation X.  Kinsley wrote in a forum response to his Atlantic article how “Gen-Xers are going to get screwed by [the entitlements and debt government is accumulating] even more than Boomers as the bills come in.”

And while the bills could be huge, the impact on society could be even bigger.

The U.S. Census Bureau released a report, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009, last week too. It revealed that that one in seven Americans are living in poverty.  It  also found that more than 8 percent of people between 25 and 34 (mostly Generation Y) are living with their parents.

Education is often prescribed as the solution to society’s ills and as the pathway to regaining our competitive position in the global marketplace.  If the prescription is correct, then the patient is dying based on a new report, Yes We Can: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males 2010. Calling it a “national crisis,” the report found that only 47 percent of black males graduated from high school in the 2007-2008 school year. And in New York City, the district with the nation’s highest enrollment in African American students, only 28% percent of its African American males students receive a high school diploma.

Poverty and poor graduation rates are unlikely to significantly increase tensions between generational gaps in the workforce.  But ignoring these problems will only add to the burden borne by future generations who will need to figure out ways to support millions of people who are unemployable.

In the short term, the longer unemployment remains high the more resentment will likely build between generations both in the workplace and in our communities.

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