Today’s seniors are redefining aging. Understanding their values, preferences and hopes is the best way to bring value and work with the elderly. Here’s how.
If sixty is the new forty, what’s eighty?
When working with the elderly, this is an important question.
What do seniors want and value?
The single best way to serve seniors and their families over time is to understand who today’s new seniors are and what they want. In fact, the greatest value-added you can offer is to understand what’s important by being tuned in to the senior’s values, preferences, desired outcomes and hopes rather than simply making assumptions.
Baby Boomers Are Redefining Old Age
Assumptions can really miss the mark: aging is not what it used to be. Gone are the days of senior citizen discounts, nursing homes with field trips, meal programs, and Bingo. Today’s seniors are members of the baby boomer generation. Boomers are accustomed to autonomy, engagement and a good deal of control over their lives. They would rather work out in the state-of-the-art gym, or log in at the cutting edge computer labs, offered by local senior centers. They’ll play games remotely with their grandkids or read the news on their iPads.
I recently visited a relatively new senior center in Los Angeles, and the music playing included the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Doors. As I looked around, I saw that folks were tapping their feet to the beat. It struck me — this group of seniors is redefining the aging process. Working with the elderly is now much different.
How? It all comes down to these three words:
“Connected, current and in control.”
What the New Senior Wants and Values
In my 30-plus years working with the aging population, I’ve noticed that today more than ever, seniors know what they want, which is why they:
- Demand control.
- Request to be included in processes and decisions.
- Are highly savvy consumers.
- Are well plugged-in, engaging with social media for example.
- Are vocal and adamant about what they want and will accept.
4 Tips For Understanding and Working With the Elderly
For you and your business, this means several things:
Offer your older clients control and choice.
When working with the elderly, rather than presenting a single option you see as most fitting, offer an array of solutions to discuss together. This will help them feel relaxed. For example, instead of saying, “I think an annuity would be best for you,” walk them through the pros and cons of the alternatives in the context of their specific circumstances, values, and desired outcomes. Point them toward articles where they can learn more about the details of each option. Take the time to have a conversation about the trade-offs and how these will affect their life and legacy, empowering them to reach the decision on their own thanks to your gentle guidance.
Bring technology into the picture.
It’s easy to assume that seniors will not want to use technology, or do not know how. But today’s generation of seniors is in an intermediary place within the technological revolution: many appreciate and embrace new technologies even as others may choose to avoid it. An easy way to suss this out is to ask them. And for the seniors you work with who are tech-savvy, teaching them new ways to use their gadgets will not only help them stay in touch but will also boost their sense of connectedness and thus their well-being. And it’ll make the job you do for them go more smoothly.
After years of living, the elderly individuals you’re working with know themselves and their needs well. Take the time to hear the stories that provide the context for their preferences. Maybe they are fiercely independent and would be crushed by any solution involving material or logistical help from their children. Or perhaps they have experienced the Great Depression and fear the risk and volatility of stocks. You will gain deeper insights from understanding their perspective, and they will value being heard.
Having listened, confirm that you have heard by recapping and reaffirming it: “If I understood correctly, the most important things to you in creating an estate plan are x, y, and z. Did I get that right?” By doing so, you will communicate that you have listened well. Importantly, you will also find out whether you heard correctly — which will help you do the best possible job when working with the elderly.
Talking with elderly clients through the lens of their wants, needs, and values will enable you to build a stronger, more productive and gratifying relationship with the seniors you work with.