I feel this marginalization both as a prospect and as an influencer. But I also believe those twenty and thirty something leaders may be just as out of touch as their number-crunchers say that I am. I see a twenty-five year old CEO and I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t know much about me or my ilk—other than visiting his dad on his birthday or writing an article about how he learned something from his parents. Well, how about dad … now? Is he that marginalized? Are “older people” such a small part of the consumer demographic that they simply don’t matter? (The United Nations has agreed that 60+ years is usually denoted as old age.)
Tech innovators say that it’s millennials who get technology. Perhaps because they are exposed to it and are targeted by the technology producers. To think that a fifty-six (or seventy-eight) year old consumer can’t appreciate (and purchase) technology is shortsighted. Now, I’m not naïve. I get that from a lifetime customer value, eighteen to twenty-five year olds hold higher value. No dispute there. I also understand (but disagree with) the notion that if publishers believed older individuals were reading their magazines that the articles would be more “generation-appropriate.” I read many, subscribe to some, and have never once been asked or polled about my age, gender, income, or other personal data. I read because I am interested. But seeing an example of anyone over fifty being used in an article—other than being a perceived anomaly (“Hey look, grandpa is like a trained seal! You should watch him rock Google Glass!” Wink wink. Nudge-nudge.) is becoming rarer by the day.
If a magazine is called Strategies for Business Leaders Under Thirty, I wouldn’t expect to find a lot of ads or articles about retirement in Florida. If a publication is called Trends in Technology, I would expect to see a wide demographic of people portrayed and interviewed. “General-purpose” product advertisers (trash bags, call centers, auto services, et al), are consumer-savvy enough to depict a Caucasian, an African American, an Asian, and a Hispanic in their ads. But, the majority (not all) are under thirty years of age. Get older, become invisible?
Business mavens, remember this: Someday, it will be your turn. (Gen Xer’s – check the mirror, you’re in the on-deck circle.) Do you envision yourself sitting around watching Big Bang Theory reruns on a lousy HD TV waiting for the phone (yes, you’ll still have one of those, because you won’t matter nor be considered smart enough or relevant enough to use current technology) to ring so you can join a few buds for a cup of coffee and talk about old times? Or do you want to be relevant? To matter? Be a part of life? And, along the way—maybe think someone out there will care about that?
Maybe some older people don’t seem to give a shit because younger people often don’t seem to give a shit about them. Not everyone who’s over fifty reads about retirement destinations. Some look forward to the next issue of INC. or Wired or Fast Company. If for no other reason than to bitch about all the kids.
Now, my counterpoint. There’s also a lesson here for all you over-forty folks. You have experience. Check. You have a short ramp-up. Check. But (and here’s the rub), you have to do something with it. Don’t expect to get in the game based solely on your 1994 batting average. Don’t expect to play if you don’t show up for practice. Don’t tell folks you don’t need to attend those tedious team-building exercises because you have twenty or thirty or forty years of experience.
Rules change. It might still be baseball, but they’ve lowered the mound, use the designated hitter, and have interleague play with expanded play-offs. You want your chance at the plate in 2015? Know the 2015 rulebook, show up for practice, and prove you can still hit the 98 mph (90 was so last century) fastball. You have to prove yourself every day. On the plus side, those same rules apply to those twenty and thirty year old players too.
Okay old peoples. I’ve made your case. Go prove me right or wrong. Do something.
Millennials, do you disagree? Too bad. Go to your room. And while you’re there, send a comment, text, email, or smoke signal giving your opinion. That’s something old and young alike have—opinions. Let me hear yours.
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