Crabby Complains (Again)
How Medicare Funds are Wasted

The End of Myths About Older Workers?

[EDITORIAL NOTE NO. 1: I will be in New York City tomorrow, 2 April, for an appearance on the Brian Lehrer Live show at 7:30PM ET to discuss elderblogging. New Yorkers can watch on Time Warner CUNY-TV channel 75. Everyone else who is interested can catch the live, online, video feed here. There is a list of television rebroadcast times on the website where the program video will also be archived.]

[EDITORIAL NOTE NO. 2: Tonight at 10PM ET on ABC-TV, there is a Barbara Walters Special titled “Live To Be 150 – Can You Do It?” Find out more here.]

Listen to this young, technology worker in his self-assured assessment of boomer and elder workers as he discusses the shift from office-based employment to increased telecommuting within communities and among far-flung corners of the world:

“Having recently ‘pitched’ a room full of senior citizens on new technology trends, I can assure you that they are disinclined to buy a computer (if they do not already have one), much less create an avatar. They are comfortable with the traditional workplace metaphor...with autonomous-work/shared-environment, so any tools that are developed for them must be painfully easy-to-use and consistent with their ingrained habits.”
- Christian Renaud’s Weblog, 28 March 2008

Apparently, Mr. Renaud is unaware that most boomers are still active in the workforce (the oldest are 62, youngest 44) with a probable majority familiar with computers and the distances they cover. He probably doesn’t know, either, that people 65 and older are going online in record numbers which does, necessarily, involve use of a computer.

As to creating an avatar, when did that minor technique, hardly difficult, become a benchmark of technology competency?

Some questions come to mind from Renaud’s commentary: How old were these “senior citizens” – 50, 70, 80? How long have they been retired? How many of them were there – 10, 20, 100? – for Mr. Renaud to be so certain they are representative?

Elder workers are regularly admonished by career counselors to be patient with inexperienced young managers to whom they report and to not be know-it-alls. Good advice. But a functioning and successful workplace also requires that young workers shed their prejudices and learn the value of elders:

  • Elders take fewer sick days than younger workers
  • Productivity does not decline with age
  • Elders are more loyal, dedicated and quality-conscious than younger workers
  • Motivation often increases with age
  • Old workers are at least as creative as young ones. Eighty percent of the most workable and worthwhile new production ideas are produced by employees older than 40.
  • Old workers are just as flexible as young workers when they understand the reasons, although they are more likely to ask why.

[Sources supplied upon request]

“Think you are a good presenter?" twittered Mr. Renaud. "Try a room full of Senior Citizens. Harder than my last keynote x 10."

Maybe he was annoyed that those senior citizens were asking why?

Certainly, there are elders who are stuck in their ways, but if Mr. Renaud is as representative of his age group as he believes his room full of senior citizens is, then he too is inflexible.

The good news is that all of the above may become moot with the growth of telecommuting. No one knows your age from an email message or your avatar.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, in A Bad Ending, Marvin Wildman tells of a conversation with his father that includes a surprise that if not quite an April Fool's joke, is still in the spirit of the day.]


Comments

I read it and then I read it again..."so any tools that are developed for them must be painfully easy-to-use and consistent with their ingrained habits.”

And what's wrong with that? Difficult is better?

As a former instructor (computers) it was my goal to make the tools easy to use; for any age.

Good point, Steven...

As I was reading this I was shaking my head.
If I had been in the audience listening to this I would have probably got up and walked out.

Rather than vomiting them into a blog, Renaud should take his obviously unresolved Mommy issues to a shrink.

Query: Why did he have trouble presenting to a an older crowd?

Perhaps they were actually listening to what he was saying.

Ronni,

Thanks for your post and reference.

I am glad that you posted the entire relevant paragraph of my larger blogpost in your blog versus selectively quoting, so thank you for that.

The group of people I spoke with (the majority of which were >70 years of age) and were by their own admission not computer-savvy. The conversation I was having with them, regarding how to best help them communicate with remote children and grandchildren, was a non-starter if it had a strong computer component. Avatars and Second Life were not an option.

The reason we met was to figure out if existing technology could be brought to bear in helping them connect to each other better. Pete, yes they were great listeners and asked great questions, which is the reason I had requested time to sit down and speak with them at their senior center. The difficulty, as I expressed in my Twitter, derived from trying to articulate complex technology options (skype videoconferencing, avatar mediated communication) to a non-technical audience.

The basis of my blogpost, as pointed out by Steven, is that we've let technology dictate to us and complicate things, versus using technology make our lives (and by extension, workplaces) easier and more productive. My premise about the future of the workspace is that we have a lot of work to do to simplify the tools greatly if we hope to enable the widest (and wisest) possible workforce.

I welcome your constructive comments back on my blog at http://xianrenaud.typepad.com.

Christian

Dear Christian--Forgive my pointing out the obvious, but you failed to observe a basic rule of presentation--to tailor the message to the audience. If you knew that the audience was not computer literate, why oh why did you throw in extraneous stuff that was superfluous to your basic message? Shame on you!

As one who has, over the years, pursued academic work beyond a Master of Science in Engineering Mechanics, and who has used "cutting edge" mathematical tools, including computers (analog, digital, hybrid analog/digital, main frames, PCs, PDAs, you name it) since 1959 (obviously, I am not young enough to be a Boomer), I have a long-preached message for you and other technologists: Make the technology more user friendly. There is no reason for techologists to make things difficult for others. There are only two excuses for it: 1) so that one may feel superior or 2) illogical thinking. 'Nuff said.

Elder workers also don't go off on maternity leave.

The presenter is probably right when he assesses the present status of MOST older boomers. That's why it is urgent now for Boomers to leave the work force and use their traditional values in more productive ways eg. being a seniorpreneur.

Have a great time at the broadcast!

I have a good frient who is 62 and has been working as a consultant at a successful
company. He does a good job and works a lot of overtime to make sure that the job is done right. He just found out this week that there is an ad in the newspaper for his job. This company has used this dispicable and cowardly way to get rid of other employees before.
In today's world, it's the jerks who are successful and good, honest people who are sh!t on.
I know this doesn't have a lot to do with the subject, except for the reference to older workers, but, I am just enraged.

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