ELDER MUSIC: Some Lesser Known Jazz Musicians
A 27-Year-Old Takes on the World of Elders – Part 2

A 27-Year-Old Takes on the World of Elders – Part 1

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.)


THE PARANOIA

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.

[Part 2 is here.]


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Susan Gulliford: 'Tis (Still) the Season

Comments

Hi, Marcie--You struck a nerve in me. I would use my "real" name, online, except: Within my own family, my elder brother and Hunky Husband (both 77, this year) and my daughters (early 50s) encourage me to protect my identity. Like you, I tell them (and whoever listens) that my name/address/phone number are easily available to anyone who lets their "...Fingers Do the Walking".

Having worked in the LA and SF Bay areas, I appreciate that the dress codes are different in diverse places. (It seemed to me that the admin staff were dressing for a party!) As my mom always said, "As long as you're clean, you are acceptably dressed."

Ronni--Thanks for bringing Marcie to us.

At the risk of sounding like one of Marcie's "paranoid" elders, I will say that her naive belief in a "free lunch" is quite unsettling. I think to be really informative she needs to expound on the "annoying emails" and why her access (and sale, I presume) of my "data" would be a good thing for ME. This is not paranoia, it is rather a fundamental difference between the notion of privacy amoung her generation and mine. I am but 65 by the way and quite computer-savvy. I have also made many decisions to give up information on line to utilize the internet to my benefit but I may be the only person who at least skims privacy agreements, and I do realize that it is not a "free lunch". I hope I do not sound harsh, because I believe dialogue between cultures is always good but please realize that this is a cultural difference more than anything.

Marcie does not sell anyone's data. It might have been nicer to ask rather than immediately "presume" and accuse.

In addition, she is an invited guest here. Readers are welcome to question and take issue with anything writers say but at this blog, courtesy counts.

Fascinating. I am always interested in how people see each other...culturally, based on generation or gender-based. Looking forward to Part II.

Sorry,Ronnie, I didn't really mean to be so harsh sounding. I do apologize for my presumption. I sensed (perhaps wrongly) some condescension in her words and responded defensively. I guess I just need to wait for installment II. I would really like to help her communicate with the elder community because I think her product sounds great! But I think elders need to know what the trade-off is up front not be told there is a "free lunch". I appreciate her reaching out, but does she want honest feedback? Namaste.

The community in which I live
is a group of seniors living
in their RV's part of the year. We travel the other part of the year.

We are members of the Escapees RV Club. There are a growing number of RV parks all over our country who are
internet connected individually and park to park.

Personally, I am not in any phone book as a result of using TracFone and a phone card...both prepaid.

Good luck to Marcie...Her idea
seems worthy and workable.

I love Marcie's idea and hope her service becomes available in the Boston area. I don't share many elders' reservations about using the Internet because I worked for high tech companies for decades and have been using the Web almost since it was developed.
Marcie, I do have a suggestion about your demo site: Speak more slowly and insert some pauses!
I was a corporate speechwriter and coach, and this was the first advice I had to give nearly all execs.
It will be even more important for elders.

Lots of presumptions. She could clarify things a bit. Mad Men? I consider myself tech savy but never heard of Mad Men. Run things by an elder before exposing things to the elder world. That might help.

Thanks both of you.

Thanks, Ronnie, for sharing Marcie's idea with us. I read a book recently about the Safeway shootings in Tucson that suggess that the weather and architecture here in Arizona contribute to a particular kind of isolation of neighbors.Many of our tract homes do not have "porches" or outdoor entryways that we use often, we just push a button to open our garage door, drive in, then close it. Any time outside is in our high-walled yards/pool areas and not in our front yard or walking around outside where we might meet and talk with neighbors. In addition, many people live here just part of the year, which makes it difficult to connect. I love Marcie's idea and wonder how it would work here!

I carry personal business cards with me all the time, and when I meet someone interesting, I give them my card! How else to meet people when you are no longer working?

If you are looking for elders who fit into all the stereotypes, Rossmoor and Summerset should fill the bill. But the majority of us elders don't live in such places.

Uh, Mage, I published this, I AM an elder, I did actually read it first and Mad Men is so widely and wildly popular on television for the past five years or so that I made the choice (and would have done so even if this were not Marcie's story) to publish the reference to it without a long explanation that would detract from the story.

This is great, and especially helpful to this 60-something who is still working.

Well I used to be the sharpest tool in the box, but that has definitely changed with age. There are a lot of seniors who get "taken" especially on the internet. There is good reason to be wary when your senses aren't top notch anymore. I have gotten taken especially in the "fine print" area of some sites.

It's great that Marcie did not quit the project due to the hesitation she received from some of the elders. Good luck to her. Interesting project.

Our retirement community on the East Coast just installed something for us like Marcie is offering. Too early to evaluate. However, I manage our little library and it looks like we can use this for sharing information about books in our collection.

http://www.touchtown.us/welcome/


I'm not one bit offened by Marci's letter, I find it refreshing. Haven't many all said, "OOOh Mom, Dad, things have changed". I jumped on the internet train years ago, I like to be current; Iphone, IPad. I wonder, if elders are their own worse enemies at times. Society views me as an elder, but I don't have to cave to every stereotype that has ever been said. Thx Ronnie for sharing....

As someone young I heard said: "Your generation presumes privacy and shares what they choose and my generation presumes sharing and chooses what to keep private." It made sense to me to explain the difference. I think Marci's platform for sharing is fascinating.

I think Marcie has a great idea. I feel isolated in my community because we all tend to stay inside our own little worlds. Kathleen has described our architecture perfectly. High walled back yards and small front yards. We isolate ourselves for privacy but there is a price to pay. Southern Arizona weather is not conducive to being outside. It is too hot half of the year and, being desert rats, it is too cold for us most of the rest of the time.

Some neighborhoods try to change this with a Neighborhood Watch program. When I lived in my other house I organized parties for that program and I knew all the neighbors in my block. Now, in a predominately elder neighborhood, I don't know who lives two doors down from me after living here nearly 13 years. A venue to change this situation would be welcome.

People that walk their dogs stop and chat, but those of us without a dog are isolated. Some of it is by choice, but not all.

Many of my neighbors that I do know do not use the computer so what about them?

Google has a program that you can view to see the names of all of your neighbors. That would be a helpful site to use.

All I can say is 'good for Marcie'. Both generations are guilty of stereotyping. By the way, Marcie, I think Mad Men was supposed to be taking place in the sixties. I doubt that any elder would be caught dead with that hair style now.

When I got on Google.com today, the image there was of birthday cakes because today is my birthday and Google knows it. Marcie is right about giving up certain kinds of information to get some perks. I do a lot of my shopping online, and every year at this time I get flooded with discount offers because they all have my birth date. This generation lives in a much different world than we did -- and many of us still think we do. As elders, we have to find a comfortable way to deal with this technology. As for me, I can't survive with my Iphone and all of the stuff I have programmed into it. But that's just me, and I'm 73.

Wow I am so incredibly grateful for all of your comments! It's been a long road and your words inspire me even more to help people connect safely so that they can take advantage of all the opportunities this stage in life has to offer!

@Hattie, getting out of gated communities is a definite goal, such as RV parks like @Elizabeth mentioned. We'd like to go to cities like Boston so people like @Jean can connect! We just have to find a way to keep it safe and peer-to-peer in a non-gated space. All and any suggestions are welcome!

Please do also Request Your Community, gated or not, on our site connectaround.com! We are going through one by one and your community could be next!

@Peg I do want to say I'm sorry if I offended anyone out there! The piece was meant to highlight differences (vs. similarities) and I am well aware that there are many 55+ year olds that can out tech me any day!! The last thing I want to be is condescending since this experience has humbled me and made me so grateful for the advice I get and lessons I am taught by my amazing and brilliant users and community liaisons every day.

@MageB, As far as Mad Men, I referenced it because I adore that 60s hair and think it looks so neat and perfect. But alas, I do not have those skills!

@Mary that quote is SO, SO true!!

@Faith I'm glad to hear your community is taking steps to have connection and would love to know how it goes with a tablet!

@Darlene, @Elaine, @Kate thank you for the kind words you really touched my heart.

Finally, thanks to those who reached out via our website. I will reply to each of you today!

Privacy is and should be a legitimate concern for elders since they are a high-targeted population for scams.

I appreciate what Marcie is doing and for those who feel less informed about e-mail and social media services I would think her service would be right up someone's alley who comes from another generation where certain things are still considered taboo for public consumption.

But I encourage Marcie to continue promoting this and just be patient with a population that was also treated suspiciously by their elders.

It is the natural course for people to slow down as they age and she too will find this has value when she lapses into middle age and beyond. We've been around a while longer and have learned through trial and error, getting burned on occasion.

I find making new friends at 78 quite challenging. It's true that I've always been "selectively gregarious" bur it was a lot easier at eight or eighteen than now. People that live in communities are probably drawn to them because they feel the need for social interaction that I don't find so important.
Anyway, ot's interesting to read about Marcie's project and particularly elders' reactions.

I just finished reading a novel that made me laugh out loud when a character said, "I hate young people. They confuse me." The character was being sardonic, but hyperbole generally arises from a truth.

Not to get too hung up on hairstyles, but my mother wouldn't have expected me to wear my hair in the elaborate pompadour of the 1940s as a gesture of respect. Marcie's assumption that we'd like to see her in teased bouffants seems strangely defensive and demonstrates an inability to connect across generations, a failure I think all of us have experienced at some time or other. We are different! I congratulate Marcie on her efforts to understand elder culture and wish more younger folks did the same.

But while I'm on the subject, I can't resist: Wouldn't those barrel curls young women wear look nicer if they ran a hairbrush through them?

What an interesting post today - not so much a problem of intergenerational but intercultural difficulties - we do live in different worlds and it is so good to have some insight into the others - I think Marcie hit the mark when she mentioned "limited incomes" there is also the matter of "limited time" - so basically what we have is what we've got whereas for a 27 year old time and money are 'almost' limitless - 'if this doesn't work out there's always tomorrow and another pay day'. Thanks Ronnie and Marcie - really stimulating.

I like your concept, Marcie. Just wondering how a business that gives away its product earns money. I suspect there's advertisers involved.

In the RV park where I hang out in the Winter, someone set up a private Facebook page for members only. It's been a useful communication tool but mostly for semi personal stuff and not much for organizing, though that could easily happen. I have no idea how much of our individual info is available to outsiders, though. I guess I'm an old lady (77) who understands that to enjoy the benefits of communication technology, there's going to be a price to pay : less privacy but more connection and stimulation. Could FB be the modern equivalent to the party line of my parent's time? Rumors can spread like wildfire!

Great idea, Ronni. Am eager for chapter 2.

I enjoyed reading Marcie's take on the differences between younger and older Americans. I kind of agree with Marcie's take on "free lunch", although I think it is more a matter of what you are prepared to pay. She feels her generation is quite prepared to pay the price for a "free lunch" while an older generation is very suspicious of that price. I think it was ever thus.

We elders have our prejudices against young people, kind of like our own grandparents did when we were kids. I think it is useful to see that for what it is and to see how we look to those young people. We have our experience and acquired wisdom, but we also have our paranoia and prejudices too. We do well to keep an eye on that.

I look forward to Part 2.

Sorry Ronni...I guess my head was stuck in a book. :)

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