AAA™ In the News January 2019 – Life Without Limits

Happy new year from all at the Agile Ageing Alliance. We’d like to kick off what we hope will be a great year by looking at the best recent articles from the world of ageing, including ‘booze, guitars, and boats’, 70 years of Human Rights and much more.

Thoroughly Modern Mentors

Our first article looks at an emerging concept introduced by businessman Chip Conley, who wrote his book ‘Wisdom at Work’ after being head-hunted by the then-31-year-old chief executive of Airbnb.

His book, explains the article’s author Marci Alboher, explains why Chip believes that more people should consider a role like the one he found himself in at Airbnb – that of a ‘modern elder’ – where he would share his years of experience running his own hotel company, while learning from colleagues “young enough to be his children”.

Inspired by Chip’s story and willingness to embrace new ways of thinking, Marci wanted to find more modern elders to see how possible it could be for those not head-hunted by a global phenomenon.

Very possible, she believes, after meeting people like Sharon Lewis who discovered a company’s new cultural apprentice program while doing scouting work for them. Explains Marci; “The apprenticeship was designed to bring together millennials and people with 30 years of professional experience to work on, among other things, a report on the future of work”.

Of her experience said Sharon; “The idea of working around so many younger people was exciting and invigorating. I feel wiser, more well-rounded and updated, and I’m almost in withdrawal now”.

Marci concludes that although it’s unlikely everyone will become a professional ‘modern elder’ - you’ll need a little financial cushion and a company with younger team members on board – we must recognise how essential it is in an age where we think everything can be Googled.

As she writes; "it’s important to remember that some things come only through lived experience. And there’s a certain magic when older and younger learn from, and with, each other". Wise words indeed.

Spending Power

One piece of advice modern elders might offer young start-ups is to make more cool stuff for older adults. Not out of respect for their elders, but to tap into a market with enviable spending power.

In this article from AAA favourite Joseph F. Coughlin, Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, he advises companies targeting the world's 65-plus population ("projected to hit a full billion by 2030"), to be complacent at their peril.

He warns that providers must respond to a market comparable to "a new continent rising from the sea" not by simply making more of the same, but by creating new products that acknowledge their education, spending power and ease around new technologies.

Joseph writes; "Companies worthy of investment will not try to solve their consumers, but rather their consumers’ problems—as those consumers define them. They will view older adults in a new light: as pioneers to be championed as they break new ground in our ever-evolving life span".

For example, he continues; "Jimmy Buffett’s Latitude Margaritaville retirement community in Daytona Beach, Fla., which opened in 2017, with an ethos built on booze, guitars, and boats, is reportedly selling units far faster than its developer originally anticipated".

So, the generation that invented rock and roll, won’t be going quietly into the night but instead keeping that spirit alive for as long as they can. And if our next article’s anything to go by, those new communities should be built to last...

Long-Term Thinking

The quest for immortality is gaining attention across generations, as seen by this article from hipster network Vice. They were reporting from RAADFest, a yearly event that brings together the $250 billion industry of antiaging products and services that aim to help people live longer, if not forever.

Now the casual observer may think there's the whiff of snake oil about some of the products on offer, with a crystal or too in sight, but what's in no doubt is the commitment of those involved to refuse that death is a certainty, or that ageing means fading into the background.

According to one attendee, Venezuelan Libny González; “For a woman it’s ‘oh now you’re 30, you need to get married, have children,’ blah blah blah. You need to be at 25 something, at 35 something, and at 45 you’re done, you cannot be beautiful, fall in love, have children. No way! I’m going to get everything I want because I don’t have limits. I know I’m not dying”.

It’s a great promise that if you want to live forever, science will find a way. And who doesn’t like good news? But we can’t help but feel that whatever life-extensions do become possible, they’ll only be available to those with deep pockets in parts of the world where you might expect to live long and well already. For the rest of us, we think it best to focus on living well in the years we have, and our final three articles explore just that.

In Other News

We begin with this piece from QZ, in which we learn how business is making working practices more flexible to respond to the needs of an ageing workforce.

It documents some of the many businesses now finding new working practices, as; "Older workers—or “perennials,” as this cohort has sometimes been called—are now the fastest-growing population of workers, with twice as many seniors as teenagers currently employed in the US”. Ignore at your peril.

Then we have this article celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in which we learn about the key challenges in preserving them in a world where (experts estimate that) "...over one-third of all babies born in wealthy countries in 2012 will live to celebrate their 100th birthday". Let’s hope we’re still talking about Human Rights on its 100th anniversary too.

And finally, we end with this touching interview by ABC Australia's Myf Warhurst asking guests at the International Arts and Health Conference to "share their thoughts on aging, the argument for thinking about our older selves now, and why we’ve got plenty to look forward to". A lovely listen.

That's it for now, next month we will be reporting on AAA’s forthcoming Neighbourhoods of the Future white paper to be launched at a House of Lords reception January 21st. Until then be sure to follow the Agile Ageing Alliance on twitter and #BeAgile!

Image used with permission. Copyright Mohamed Nohassi.