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Guest Thinkers

Are You Innovating for Your Parents?

If you are 15 years old, 50 or 50 x 2 step away from the screen right now and go to a mirror and look….

Did you look carefully? Who did you see? Did you see your parents at the same age? My guess is no. You may have seen some familiar expressions, wrinkles or if you are like me a few family chins but you saw someone and something different. In nearly every country and culture you may have seen a person that is more youthful in attitude and behavior than their parents, uncles, and aunts at the same age. The face in the mirror is more familiar with or is at least not entirely shocked by the speed of change propelled by technology. The face looking back at you may have many of the same challenges as their parents but an even longer list of differences. So what does this have to do with innovation?

If you are in business, are you, your team and even your entire company thinking that innovation for an aging marketplace means selling your parent’s lifestyle to you? Even lazier still – does product innovation mean finding cheap ways to convince the 50-something customer that they want the same thing the 20-something consumer wants…just in a different color or price point? For example, if you work in healthcare are you innovating to standard measures developed around yesterday’s priority to treat disease at the expense of functional vitality? If you are in a financial services firm are you simply looking to recalibrate yesterday’s retirement products for tomorrow’s longevity needs?

If you are in public service ask yourself are you perpetuating policies and programs for yesterday’s old age? Do the people you serve and deliver services to today and tomorrow have the same needs, demands and expectations in the same proportion as the 50-plus population did 30, 40, 50 years ago?

And, as an individual do you really think the education, fitness and nutrition habits, savings and retirement planning, and even housing and transportation options that satisfied your parent’s will even approach your needs, let alone your expectations, for eight-plus decades?

Global aging is not just a story of ‘more’, that is, more older people wanting what older people have always wanted. The new older consumer expects and demands more. They are disruptive. They are a call to innovate. So when the day ends tomorrow, whether in business or government ask yourself — will I be able to look at that face in the mirror and say I exceeded your expectations today?


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