A LinkedIn connection recently messaged me saying “this may be of interest to you and relevant to your situation”. The link was to an article on retirement.
Really? She thinks this sort of message is going to sell anything to a baby boomer?
In case you need reminding, baby boomers are those of us born between 1946 and 1964, so about half are at retirement age, which is currently 65 in the UK.
Referring to a baby boomer as old is hardly a winning approach. Here are 6 reasons why not.
Baby boomers are a generation that never intended to get old. As Roger Daltry of the Who evocatively puts it in the song ‘My generation’, he hopes to die before he gets old. Hence why he is still going strong at 75, performing and singing, while Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones also 75 still tours, and is back dancing after his recent heart surgery.
Music invariably reflects the culture of its time and this refusal to become old is a characteristic of many baby boomers I know. The generation is non-conformist, and entrepreneurial. It has traditionally gone against social norms.
Unsurprisingly many baby boomers are not retiring, in the sense of ceasing to be economically active.
There are countless examples of high-profile baby boomers such as Oprah Winfrey, and Richard Branson who are continuing to work long after traditional thinking would expect them to stop. Like Warren Buffet, who at nearly 90, is well beyond baby boomer age, many baby boomers will continue working for some time yet. They continue to work because their work gives them purpose in life. Warren Buffet’s business is investment management so of course it’s about making money. But that doesn’t mean he’s continuing his work because he wants to make more money. Indeed he is giving away at least half his wealth to the Bill Gates Foundation. So, it’s not necessarily about money, although many baby boomers want the extra income in case they live beyond average ages.
Given the scientific and technical developments and advancements in society, people’s chronological age bears little comparison to what those ages signified 50 or a 100 years ago. Society’s attitude to age is behind the times.
Now that we can forge new ground and explore alternative lifestyles that were impossible for past generations, many of us don’t choose traditional retirement. After all, we have many options open to us in how and where we spend our time.
For example, Julia Peyton Jones, a high flyer in the art world, and former boss of the Serpentine Galleries gave birth to her first child at age 64. And Inge Ginsberg, at 96 is the lead singer of a new band - Death Metal.
Of course, the fact that we all live longer brings up many issues, including that many people either can’t afford to retire or simply prefer to continue working.
Society’s approach to age needs to catch up with the reality of our changed world. Attitudes towards work and retirement should be re-examined given that we’re fitter, and healthier at the ages where society traditionally expected us to retire.
My husband’s decision to retire a few years ago to focus on his passion for art prompted me to re-evaluate my life. He was keen to move out of London, somewhere near the sea and suggested I retire too.
At the time I had an office in London filled with staff so had to ask myself some searching questions. Did I want to retire? Could I continue working even if we moved? How would I want to spend my time if I were to retire? What truly inspires me? What value do I want to add, and what do I want my legacy to be?
Unlike my husband, I have no consuming interests. My work gives me purpose. It’s what inspires me to constantly grow, improve and develop. Far from wanting to retire, I realised I wanted to work for a long time – maybe till my 80s and beyond.
To pave the way for our move out of London I had to make various changes to the business such as moving out of our physical offices. It’s taken about 4 years, and now we’ve moved out of London to Hastings, this is a new beginning for me.
In the process of making these changes the Azrights business has been transformed. It is totally paperless, and has transitioned from being a team located in London offices, to one headquartered in Hastings with a presence in London. The plan is to have future employees based in Hastings, while various non-core roles will continue to be filled by remote team members. And we will carry on using solicitor consultants as the primary way to offer legal skills. This is a well-established model in the legal industry.
Which leads me back to the topic I started this piece with. Far from retiring baby boomers comprise around half the entrepreneur market.
As mentioned in a recent blog I wrote the evidence from an Institute of Directors report and the Financial Times is that baby boomers are the new start up generation. Whether they’re starting new ventures or continuing in existing ones, this generation are going to be economically active for another 10-30 years. So, it’s misguided to target boomers with products designed for their age in stereotypical ways, effectively telling them they’re oldies because they’ve reached their 50s, 60s or 70s.
The reality is that baby boomers are continuing in entrepreneurship, setting up new businesses, are a significant force in the economy, and will continue to be for quite a while yet. Many of the articles I saw in my research are quite negative about baby boomers, envious and certainly show a marked lack of understanding of them.
I do understand why so many millennials fall into the trap of assuming the baby boomer generation are as good as retired, or even wish they’d die off. I too thought that anyone past 50 was at death’s door when I was in my twenties and thirties. But age has an uncanny way of seeming vast when you’re looking at it from a younger age group’s perspective, but you soon realise it isn’t actually as old as you thought once you pass the sort of ages that seemed old to you. You feel much the same person even though externally you’ve aged.
There are many misconceptions about baby boomers which I’ll be discussing in future pieces. For example, according to this Forbes article stereotypes of boomers as technophobes is plain wrong. They are avid tech users, spending more time on technology than any other generation, and account for roughly one-third of all online and social media share.
Technology is increasingly a part of baby boomers’ sense of self because technology is what gives this generation the freedom to enjoy working in new ways.
In conclusion, the 50+ audience is much more tech-savvy than many marketers give it credit for. Baby boomers have a wealth of knowledge and skills and many of them have a lot more they want to contribute to society. They are choosing to remain economically active. So, it’s high time marketers recognise this instead of perpetuating the many myths about baby boomers that I’ve touched on here.
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