Aging in America: Where is the “We”?

My friend, Marcie Rogo is founder and CEO of ConnectAround, an online, customized, and safe arena for communicating and connecting within active adult communities. I asked her to author a guest blog exploring her reasons for creating a start-up company to serve older adults. Marcie is a smart and multi-talented young woman and here is what she wrote.

Being a newish gal working in the “Aging” space, I try to go to every affordable seminar or conference to teach myself about this market.  A year ago, at the Aging in America conference, I was an overwhelmed girl out of b-school trying to launch the first private social portal for 55+ active lifestyle communities. I met people there that have pointed me in the right direction to launch, expand, and get to the point ConnectAround has today.

Naturally, I was very excited for this year’s conference in Chicago! I could go on for days about the wonderful people I met, the things I learned, the insights I gained, but there is one thing that’s really been bugging me since I left the windy city. I didn’t hear the word “we” as often as I think I should have.

What in the world am I talking about?  Good question. Quite frankly, anyone under thirty sticks out at this conference like a sore thumb. The first day I was asked by a presenter if I was a student. Really? I don’t know why there aren’t many of us – perhaps it’s the overarching fear of getting near the fact we are not immortal, but more likely few of us have the ability to empathize with a different age group and are therefore at a disadvantage to launch a successful product for them.

In the startup scene, where I keep my other leg, anyone over 50 sticks out like a sore thumb. This is because most apps, hacks, codes, etc. are made for 20-somethings BY 20-somethings. At 27 I even feel like nothing new coming out is for me (see: SnapChat) – I don’t understand it and it’s very often over my head.

Disclaimer: I’m not normal. I like to think of myself as 20-something on the outside, 80-something on the inside, thus making the aging space my happy place.

So back to ASA, in all but very few sessions I attended, I watched people over 50 refer to the baby boomers and/or seniors as “they” or “them” or “seniors” or “boomers” or “elders” as if they are this distant science project that we are all studying to try to figure out. This only applies to the few of us (like me) that ARE trying to figure it out – at this conference, and through surveys, focus groups, subscribing to Oprah Magazine (ok maybe I did that before this business but still), reading HuffPost50 daily, and spending time talking to my users and over-50 community liaisons.

These people, the experts, the ones I have read about, are embarrassed? forgetful? scared of?  being in the age group they are targeting. While it would be pride in startup world, it’s shame in the Aging world. Moreover, the messages were that of, “letting these people age gracefully,” or “respecting this group,” or “targeting this market with ageless brands” rather than “target US”, “WE are the group that needs THIS product,” “WE aren’t like our grandparents.” It just seemed a bit, contradictory and confusing to me. It didn’t rub me the right way.

Be proud you are an employed and active senior or boomer! Use your age status as further verification that you know what you are talking about! Use it as a way to feel superior over my age group! Whatever it is I don’t care, but please (and again, there were several speakers who didn’t do this so please take it for what it is) but please, be proud, be loud, be the example for my generation of who we want to aspire to be one day! If I had your age, heck, I’d brag all day of why I know what I’m talking about!

For now, I have to send marketing examples and content suggestions to my 55+ community liaisons for their review, because yes, they know who they are, they know what they want, and they are my champions.

You may contact Marcie here and as always, learn more on Twitter @aginginchicago

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    Bruce Lederman has over 25 years experience in the senior care field as a direct care provider and thought leader. Bruce was CEO and president of his own firm that operated skilled nursing facilities in Illinois. He is a former nursing home administrator and has consulted to numerous elder care providers on planning for strategic growth as well as process improvement. Recently he served as board chair of CJE SeniorLife, a leading non-profit elder care provider in the Chicago area. Bruce is currently employed as chief strategy officer for a company providing skilled nursing services in communities throughout Illinois and Missouri.

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