A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a young woman inquiring about the possibility of a story at Time Goes By about her company.
I generally don't write about commercial enterprises but I was intrigued with the 27-year-old entrepreneur, Marcie Rogo, who has spent the past two years developing her idea for private, secure websites that connect neighbors within individual 55-plus communities.
”...this market was being ignored when it came to online networking services,” Marcie explained. “Furthermore, they weren't being listened to.
“They didn't want public websites that could open them up to scamming. So I made something that could help people connect just with their neighbors, so that they could make plans to get offline and get together.”
The websites for the first two communities, Summerset in Brentwood, California, and Rossmoor in Walnut Creek, California, were launched in 2012 and more are being added. The are funded by the communities' management companies and are free to residents.
Here's a short video from the main page of Marcie's website, ConnectAround:
Marcie and I spent more than hour on the telephone and she was patient with all my questions about how her company operates. But as we talked, I became more interested in what she has been learning about old people and how she has had to adapt to working primarily with elders.
So I asked her to write a story from her 20-something perspective for Time Goes By about some of the differences she has discovered between her generation and mine.
Here is Part 1 from Marcie. I have made only the most minor edits in her copy, mostly for clarity, the reason for which will become evident in her story. (Part 2 will follow tomorrow.)
This is the biggest and most startling difference I’ve seen and I believe it stems from a generation of war and fear of nuclear bombs but moreso, a lack of knowledge about technology.
Many of my users thought that by having their emails, I could somehow acquire their credit card information and steal their identities; however, they are more than happy to have their physical addresses and phone numbers in the public phone book.
People went to such extremes as to write negative and mean things about me on their Yahoo! chat board which is, ironically, open to the public saying that I was going to take advantage of them and “buyers beware!”
The funny thing is, I wasn’t charging anything! There was nothing to buy!
This paranoia has been consistent between both of our communities. Everyone is very protective over each other and a new technology or service is resisted versus my generation where it is sought after.
My generation wants to be on the cutting edge, wants to have the latest service that makes their lives easier. We want apps and we want our apartment hunting process to be easy, to find the cheapest hotel and get the latest private car service that is the same price as a taxi.
Whatever it is, all it takes is one legit article or a friend using it and then we adopt! There is very little hesitation. I guess we’re just used to the fact that our privacy is forever doomed, that our information is forever on the internet, and that if we want to use this free amazing service we have to give up a bit of our information to do so.
NO FREE LUNCH
In my generation, there is lots of free lunch! In the older generations, there is none.
Out of respect for the fact that people are on fixed incomes and this would limit adoption, I decided not to charge for my service.
This was a big marketing mistake! (We are still not charging but changed our marketing.) People thought I MUST be stealing something because nothing comes free. I must be scheming to take advantage of them, planning to sell their information or something of that nature.
The truth is, I’m jaded because basically all online services I use on a day-to-day basis are free or have a free version. I, like my peers, have come to expect this.
Now, starting a business myself, I wish this wasn’t the way the internet world worked, but it is – everything is free! There is a free lunch.
The only caveat is that you get annoying emails that you can put in your spam folder. That’s about it. So they have your birthday and gender. So what? This helps their data! To me, lunch is still free. To my users, it is definitely not.
PROFESSIONALISM AND DRESS
This is a fun one. I definitely believe in looking sharp but I don’t have the tools or skills to do my hair like they do in Mad Men. Literally none of my friends know how to do our hair like that, and frankly do not have the time.
Being from L.A., my hair being a little frazzled is kind of in style. Also, in the “startup world” and “internet world” the more homeless you look, the more successful people think you are! People are casual. It’s not about the clothes you wear but rather the websites you make.
When I visit my communities, I used to tend to defer to the casual side but my lovely 80-plus-year-old community liaison pointed out my hair or my outfit or something that was wrong, kind of like a mother.
But I’m glad she did because I needed a reminder that dressing for this generation is a bit different.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Susan Gulliford: 'Tis (Still) the Season