Forbes: Effort is needed to understand ‘nuances of age’

Generalizations of older people must be avoided to truly understand more seniors, writes an author in Forbes

People tend to generalize when it comes to speaking about demographics, and that is especially true of discussions about seniors. This is an attitude that must change in order to better connect with and understand the unique situations that seniors face as they progress through their years.

This is according to a column at Forbes by author Adi Gaskell.

“Earlier this year research from the University of Bath highlighted the level of discrimination that is present in retirement villages,” he writes. “At the heart of the study was the perception that retirees are a homogenous blob that can be treated identically purely because they’re all over 60 years of age. The reality is that residents can span several decades and therefore have very different needs.”

The concerns of those studied, for instance, varied based on their reasons for choosing to live in a retirement community, the column reads. Some wished to extend their midlife cycles, while others had safety concerns related to living alone with health issues.

“These very contrasting needs were often in conflict with one another, with those residents striving for a more active life often less than accepting and supportive of frailer residents who needed more assisted living,” he says. “Indeed, more active residents often complained that their older, frailer peers dragged them down and made them feel older themselves as they limited their own activity levels. Many, therefore, asked for a more selective recruitment process than is often the case in a sector in which the ability to pay is the main selection criterion.”

This disparity between perspectives between seniors living in the same space highlights the shortcomings of demography, Gaskell says, and proves that one size does not always fit all.

“Such findings underline what Susan Golden, the Director of dciX at the Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute, describes as the need to have a much more nuanced understanding of aging if we are to do so successfully as a society,” he says. “In her recent book STAGE (Not Age) she highlights 18 different stages of life (rather than the traditional three) that allow us to have a much more granular understanding of age and aging.”

The trend of demographics, however, does prove that older people will likely soon outnumber their younger counterparts, he says, which presents an opportunity to appeal to older people in a new way.

Read the column at Forbes.

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