It may be the creaky knees or the stronger prescription in the glasses or maybe the moment when you can’t remember where you parked the car, but we all come
eventually to an awareness that we are not as young as we used to be. For many of us, it’s the receipt of the bus pass that is the turning point.
With the baby boomer generation reaching old age, it’s time to challenge the assumption that all the over 60s have to look forward to is free travel and dementia. We may hear much about the burden on our welfare and health services of the elderly and about the discrimination against older female (and some male) presenters on TV. Less noticed are the number of old people who are continuing to contribute to all aspects of society.
Only this week I was listening to Sir Neville Marriner, the 90 year old conductor, looking forward to his concert at this year’s Proms. Recently I went to an exhibition at the Tate of cut outs created by Matisse at the age of 80 which were among the most revolutionary art of the twentieth century. 79 year old Mary Berry has just started her brilliant contribution to the new series of The Great British Bake Off. They’re showing old age isn’t the end, the end is what comes after old age.
We may view as inevitable loss of memory and most other mental faculties as we move into old age but research shows this is far from the case. No question we change as we get older- we’ve accumulated a large amount of information our brains over the decades so it becomes difficult to organise and recall but that doesn’t mean we’re going senile. At the age of 11, I could tell you the name of every one of the 20 films I’d seen. Nowadays, I could tell you a few hundred but not all of them.
We oldies may not be aware of the latest pop stars but we have the perspective of time that says while some last, most aren’t worth spending the time getting to know. As a marketer, I can appreciate the excitement of new social media like Twitter and Pinterest but not get carried away because I remember that for the moment most sales come from more established media. And, yes, a six year old may know more than any of us about the technicalities of using an iPad but the older person’s experience tells them how to use it more effectively.
I’m not talking about physical ageing. It’s a personal decision whether you want to try to halt the inevitable journey south of our flesh with a nip and a tuck or a questionable elixir of youth like HRT or testosterone.
I’m talking about our minds which can continue to contribute- to businesses, art, society and our families. In an ideal world, younger people won’t assume an older generation is out of touch. Older people will stop thinking that their life is about retirement and resignation. It’s a matter of expectations or what is sometimes called baseline syndrome. We were born and brought up to expect to retire in our sixties. Then again, previous generations didn’t expect to live much beyond 70. So times change and we are in the process of changing the view of old age.
So let’s put all that experience towards new challenges and adventures. Celebrate your 60th birthday by remembering that Colonel Saunders started his first KFC at the age of 62.
This blog was written by Paul Lewis, owner of the Winchester based marketing consultancy Seven Experience. You can connect with him on Google+ and LinkedIn. A version appeared on the Daily Echo website