Saturday, May 20, 2017

"Putting Age Into Its Proper Perspective"

As aging in place professionals, we are interested in helping people of any age to stay where they are - for as long as they desire - at whatever age and ability they are presently.

We hear a lot of talk and focus on the Baby Boomer generation, and with good reason. Until recently, they were the largest market segment in America. That distinction now belongs to the Millennials, but the Boomers are commanding the attention of experts in insurance, health care, housing, lending, and so many other areas because of the size and buying power of this generation.

The Boomer generation is clearly defined, and all of the demographers, insurance actuaries, and others mostly agree on the parameters of this age group. Baby Boomers were born from 1946-1965 (although a few say the segment only extends until 1964). A generation is roughly a twenty-year (two-decade) grouping, but not always. The Boomers are the standard. Generations before it are measured around it, and the ones since are likewise configured, with much disagreement as to the years contained in each succeeding generation.

That said, Boomers are, as of today, age 71 or 72 at the oldest to age to age 50 or 51 for those in this segment who have not celebrated their birthday yet this year. We likely have seen it reported in many sources that Boomers are turning age 65 at the rate of 10,000 people each day.

The Boomer generation is largely targeted for aging in place products and services. The are nearing traditional retirement age, but as a generation they are redefining this aspect of aging also. They are continuing to work because they need the income to support the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed or they just like the idea of working. Many are professionals with their one practices or businesses.

Some of them have elderly parents they are responsible for. At a time in their lives when their adult children might normally be thinking about caring for them or looking after their needs as they age, they are doing this for their even older parents. This, in turn, is redefining aging in America and aging in place.

The parents or other relatives of the Boomers (cousins, aunts, uncles, or close family friends) are likely in their 90s or older. They could be as young as their early 70s (for those born in the World War II generation from 19271945), but most are probably much older. Some are even from the G/I generation (World War I era) born in 1926 or earlier. No one is thought to be alive that was born prior to 1901.

Each generation has its similarities. Those in their 70s or older largely do not use computers or email. They rely on the postal service for letters and other items that are mailed. They still have landlines rather than cell phones. Those with cell phones have the more traditional styles rather than the smartphones. They did not grow up with this type of technology, and unless they have consciously learned it, they are not using it. This must be factored into the way we market and sell to these age groups.

The older generations tend to be more formal in the way the dress and in the way the talk. They like to be afforded social courtesies in addressing and working with them. The Boomers are less formal.

Those who come after the Boomers - especially the Millennials due to their numbers - do not resemble previous generations in the way they make decisions, purchase property, form relationships, or communicate with each other. This must be factored into aging in place services. Many of them do not yet own their first home, and for them to even think of living in a home long-term is beyond their experience at this point. This is understandable.

Aging in place truly is for everyone, because everyone (regardless of their age or ability) deserves to live in a safe, comfortable, and easily accessible dwelling. It's just that the time they were born (their generation) will govern or suggest many of the decisions they will make about their housing and other lifestyle choices.

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.