But they’re smoothing the way for today’s elders
What happens when a Millennial becomes Entrepreneur-in-Residence at a retirement community? He gets the inside scoop on what daily life is really like for people who’ve lived most of their lives minus the technology 20- and 30-somethings take for granted. And the experience engenders a fresh appreciation for positive aging.
This unusual program originated out of a desire to develop technologies to address and improve physical, social and mental challenges for the very old — and immersion in their daily experience seemed like the smartest way to learn what might be needed.
Says Brookdale Senior Living Entrepreneur-in-Residence Andrew Smith, “People 80 and above are the fastest growing population, but for too long we’ve been designing products for everyone but this population. There’s a huge opportunity to enhance seniors’ lives with new technologies, services and products.”
Seniors: The Original Tech Innovators
This population is much more tech aware than Millennials might think at first blush, Smith reminds. “If you are 100 years old, you have lived without the web for 85% of your life. But I balk when people say seniors are resistant to technology, because they are the very inventors and consumers who drove all this innovation in the first place. Think about it: television (1927), microwaves (1947), putting a man on the moon (1969), home video game consoles (1972), mobile phones (1973), Sony Walkman (1979), and on and on.”
Smith’s 2-minute video shows how eager the residents were to share every aspect of their lives with him, knowing he was there on their behalf. It’s a heartwarming testament to the incredible value of simply listening and asking questions about elders’ lives, which is what the best reverse mortgage professionals do every day with their clients, prospects, and family members of the seniors they serve.
How Millennials are Transforming Death Discussions
Perhaps even more surprising is the way Millennials have stepped up to face the last taboo, many decades before it will become reality for most of them: death discussions. A Stanford medical postdoc who witnessed “how often we put patients through painful procedures without having a meaningful conversation about their health goals and all the potential outcomes,” co-founded Copilots in Care with his business school friend.
An app that connects patients to in-person social workers who help them reflect on their medical wishes and facilitate open discussions with family, Copilot asks the questions people might not have considered — or may have thought about, but refused to discuss.
Says Evy Schiffman, 65, whose husband was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer at 63, “Boomers have always been willing to speak about the unspeakable. We will transform the way society looks at, talks about and faces death. Because death is not optional.” She and husband Neil talked candidly about how Neil defined quality of life, and what he wanted his death to look like. Now innovative startups such as Copilots in Care will make it easier for everyone to have the essential discussions that allow them to have the end of life they deserve.