IT’S A YOUNG WORLD
I was listening to the BBC on the radio in the car, and there was a mention of a 103-year-old Parisian pianist, Colette Maze, who had just released her fourth CD. I smiled and loved the fact that she lived by the motto, ‘once an entertainer always an entertainer’, saying that she feels younger now than at 15. This charming trivia coincided with an evening dinner with a 92-year-old family friend, who had earlier in the day gone for a conference on crypto currency. In conversation, what was also delightfully charming, was when he, with some winsome contempt, said of his hurting knee “I told my doctor, fix it- I don’t want all these old age problems.” The next morning, another 92-year-old was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Malaysia – Dr. Mahathir Mohamed. I discussed this briefly over breakfast with my visiting father-in-law and later asked him his plan for the day. He stated, he has fixed an appointment for a free class at the Apple Store to learn more about his iPhone camera and wished to learn more of his iWatch features too. He said “It’ll be fun to take a class at 74 and learn.” It was a wonderful coexistence of youthfulness of those born earlier and the zest for activity, education and leadership was great to observe. This youthfulness is sometimes lost in the headlines of the day which often say “50% of the UK will be above 50 by 2020.” Or that “Japan and Italy have the largest ageing population” and that “Singapore’s elderly will overcrowd the youth of the day.” This is then followed up with conversations, though relevant, on health care, taxes, immigration and social services. However, the fact that a generation of those in life’s later phase, are more energetic, healthier and wealthier, than a previous similar age-group, cannot be overlooked. Today’s 45 or 50-year-old, is way younger than yesterday’s 45 or 50-year-old. It’s interesting that Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lopez, Naomi Watts, Hugh Jackman, LL Cool J, Will Smith, Halle Berry, are some who are either at the threshold of 50 or more, but continue to be not much older than they were 15 years ago. Very often, when one speaks to marketing managers, one hears the term – “We need to tap the millennials”. This group typically gets defined by those in the age-group 18-34, however it may be better served to treat it as a mindset- a set of people who thirst for discoveries, prefer novel experiences, and a desire to be part of a community. A set of people who prefer transparency, customization and are ready to be coached. A set of people who are environmentally conscious, well-travelled and discerning. These characteristics can pan generations. It’s important for marketing managers to also look at those older to still be relevant to their products. A ‘millennial’ tends to reside in every age-proof person. The dress-code of my daughter and wife sometimes makes them look like twins separated by a generation. We live in a digital world, and often one equates digital to the young. However, it’s common knowledge that Facebook and Skype are more used by the ‘older’ than the ‘younger’ crop. I believe one reason maybe that, Facebook allows the older ones to reconnect with people and moments of the past, since they have a past, whilst the younger ones keep a digital record of moments of time in the present tense. As time has moved on in the digital age, the gap between the digital native and of the digital naive has narrowed, with things getting simpler and easier. Moreover, those digitally challenged shouldn’t be dismissed as redundant as their need for staying relatively adolescent has not. The medium to reach them can be different- a bit more traditional. In Singapore the median age is 40. Millennials make up about 22% of the population, but this does not mean the largest percentage of dollar spent. Over 75% of all UK and American wealth is owned by those over 65, many of them women. Brands need to connect better, serve aspirations of this segment and do away with the stereotype. Just recently I read that an 88-year-old was at the Justin Timberlake concert. There are more people inclined to grow, than to age and it’s lovely to just not be a part of small world but even a younger world.