Coming soon: disruptive Granny hackathons
Commentators and talking heads are belatedly realizing what real-world businesses have known for years: Baby Boomers are America’s most valuable workforce – the Atlas upon whose shoulders the nation’s economy rests.
In fact, futurists are urging companies and government to incentivize Boomers to delay retirement; far-sighted GM is already encouraging key older workers to stay on and/or join a mentoring program to transfer knowledge to Millennials.
They are also following encore careers in record numbers – not just as employees. As we have written previously, the Kaufmann Foundation reports the greatest growth rate in new business startups 2000-2013 was among entrepreneurs aged 55-64 (25%). The startup share accounted for by the 25-34 age group declined by 14% over the same period.
In the July 27th, 2015, issue of Forbes Magazine, contributor Chris Farrell urges incentives to keep Boomers working. Noting that many “want, and often need, to earn a paycheck well into the traditional retirement years” he describes the benefits when workers stay on beyond 65; they generate income and remain active, organizations retain invaluable experience, younger employees are mentored, governments collect more taxes and boost the Social Security fund.
Following the axiom that bad news sells more newspapers (and clicks) than good news, typical stories list a litany of woes while studiously avoiding the fact that Americans over fifty own 80% of U.S. household net worth.
Technology entrepreneur, futurist, distinguished academician and Washington Post columnist Vivek Wadhwa is far out in front on the issue of postponing Boomer retirement.
In Why Teaching Grandmothers To Code Isn’t A Crazy Idea (Washington Post, August 15, 2014) he takes the discussion to the next level.
Advocating second career tech training for retired workers and venture capital funding of older entrepreneurs, Professor Wadhwa explains that while talented “kids in dorm rooms” design great social media and mobile apps, solving bigger problems requires entrepreneurs “to have a world view and to be able to see the big picture.”
He feels older, experienced workers have these skills and that writing computer code isn’t very hard “anyone can learn and many (older workers) can excel.”
Among his recommendations: tech incubator firms should hold hackathons for grandmas so older people can build more socially useful apps than those created by the young.
America’s most valuable workforce vs. yesterday thinking
It’s not just the experience and know-how of workers and entrepreneurs over fifty that make them America’s most valuable workforce, they also own the vast majority of the nation’s spending power. The Boomer-Plus Generation™ – Baby Boomers plus their slightly older sisters/brothers born 1940 to 1945 – will fuel the enormous Longevity Economy (AARP) for decades to come.
However, we wonder when conservative Madison Avenue will get the message. Its solons have enshrined obsolete 18-49 demographic dogma for so long that it’s difficult for them to imagine ad campaigns targeting the 50+ space.
Fortunately, at least a few adland Millennial outliers are open to learning how to engage the 93 million Boomer-Plus Generation members. As owners of 70+% of American household wealth, the world’s third largest economy behind the U.S. itself and China, it’s just plain silly not to compete for their business.
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