When we hosted our first Next For Me Meetup last year we had a 23 year old, a 42 year old, a 63 year old and a 65 year old. We didn’t tell them too much in advance and introduced topics and just let them go.
We’re conducting the get-togethers across the country to understand the issues around work, community and purpose for our 50+ generation. If you’re interested in attending or hosting a meetup, you can sign-up here.
Below are excerpts from the gathering.
Jade: 65,Women’s Health Physician Assistant
I still have a lot to give. I don’t plan to retire anytime soon. Right now I’m working because I want to, not because I have to and I think as long as I’m physically comfortable working and I have a positive working environment I’ll continue. At this point I would never work in a place I didn’t like or that I didn’t like the people or the structure of the organization.
I make a point of telling young women my age on purpose because I want them to know that 50 or 55 or 60 or whatever is okay. To young people those ages seem so old. So I want them to see you can still be in good shape and can still accomplish things.
(At my job) There’s a woman who’s the manager in her late twenties. She just gravitated to me as the person to be her mentor, even though we have completely different jobs. I like that I have this position of wisdom. She doesn’t see me as being too old to trust or to think I wouldn’t understand her needs.
There are so many of us baby boomers and were living so much longer. Our expectations about quality of life as an older person have completely changed from what it was a generation ago. There are little pieces of a movement happening here and there. We are recognizing that it’s going too slowly and it started too late.
The Injustice is that old people have very little power. I’m hoping that we get back to some sort of norm and that social security and medicare don’t disappear. I think that we need to understand that there will come a time when we will need to be dependent on others. I do everything I can to sort of prepare, think, and understand how we can create communities to do that.
I’m very big into health and a healthy lifestyle. I think that’s a focus that older people have to have because we find out our friends have cancer or have to have a hip replacement or have had a stroke.This is the time when all of this starts to happen and that’s pretty freaky because we all are young at heart. I think the hippies, sixties sort of thing is why.
Margot: 42, Entrepreneur
Because I work with very small emerging companies, if someone is in their fifties or sixties, I really don’t see them any differently than myself because they’re taking the same risk. They’re jumping into the same deep end of the pool that someone who’s 20 is. They’re right at the beginning, just like we are, like everyone is. There’s not that hierarchy.
I look at my parents who were self-employed dentists. My mother didn’t want to stop working. My father did, but then that lasted less than all of about two months and now he’s driving for Uber.
The concept of the gig economy is very, very easy to understand for the young generation. It’s totally acceptable, but I don’t think it’s very easy or acceptable for the older generation. An idea would be letting them know that they may have a very special skill that will allow them to work 10 hours a week for example. And they don’t have to have a full time job or build a resume in the traditional sense. Find what you’re good at and there wIll be someone who needs that service.
This idea of entrepreneurialism, starting your own thing and reinventing yourself all the time. It’s spreading and becoming the norm. I tell my kids whenever somebody asks them what do you want to be when you grow up you better have 15 answers to that question. You’re going to live so long that you were going to be 15 to 20 different things prepared.’ There’s no one thing anymore.
I’ve never really known anyone that went 25, 30 years in a career. And then that’s done. That was our parents’ generation. It ended. We were the first generation that approached work differently.
Katrina: 23, Software Engineer, Entrepreneur
I’ve only worked at startups. I don’t think we’ve had any employees over 60 or consultants, the industries I’ve been in have been in tech it’s kind of more of a rarity. In college. I had some over 60 professors. The older the professor, the more they were adherent to actual textbooks that were very structured too. Not much flexibility
My mom gives me a lot of advice. She has been an engineer for 25 years. We’re pretty close when we talk about like all the processes that she had to manage, things like that and she’s taught me a lot about like building teams as well as processes that I can apply it to my own business.
We don’t know where to look for mentors. Our generation realizes that our network is still very small and the people that we do know are not the people that are going to get us to the places that will bring us to better careers. We’re all kind of stuck. That’s the problem, to actually find elders to guide us to the next big thing.
I think my perspective is that I don’t want to have kids. I don’t plan on making any large purchases. My plan is reinvesting my money into something that’s going to make any more money. I don’t think the stock market is going to be sustainable in the long run for our generation. I don’t think social security is going to be there. All of these factors together is the reason why my generation, it’s not just me, it’s all of my friends as well, are not having kids is because we know we’re probably going to have to take care of our parents. We’re more than willing to welcome them back into our homes because family is important. Yes we’re moving away, but we’re doing that so that we have the money we need so that we can support our families in the future.
Jasmine: 63, Part-time teacher
When I was younger I thought that 60 year olds we’re not able to make changes or did not understand the process of change and that they saw that as something negative. I saw upper management take 60 year olds, even 50 year olds and (figuratively) moved them to a little corner. The thinking went “Let them do that little job, don’t get them involved in anything else, that’s all they know.” Then, the young ones come in and they don’t get that mentoring and support because of the dynamics that have been going on in many corporations.
I don’t tell younger people at work my age. When I tell them I’m 50 or 60, then they change. They think they have to behave a certain way or can’t say certain things when I’m around.
I learn a lot from younger people that I mentor. It makes me think about how different it was for me when I was their age and how they think. The political and religious views are so foreign to me. They’ve taught me how to listen more and speak less and accept the differences that I would have never had an inability to share if I didn’t do the mentoring.
I’m also learning that they are confused about what it means to be an elder, what it means to be 50 and older. I may be wrong about this but I think the reason they don’t is because life changed. Culture has changed. When I was growing up families stayed together, even working together sometimes in factories, or on the farm, etc.
Growing up we never talked about money. We weren’t thinking about retirement or pensions. I didn’t know I had a pension until about three years ago and I didn’t even know what it was, or retirement, or social security. It was just not something that I was really aware of or even considering for the future.
Not knowing these things is costing us as a group. There are emotional and mental issues and stresses because we don’t know where to go. Pride is one of the words you hear, but it’s more than pride. We weren’t taught about Meals on Wheels. We weren’t, we were always taught to be self-sufficient.
Today, what is being brought to the forefront is a discussion about retirement finally. What we could have had if we saved for a certain time. I’m hoping that this education will carry into colleges and high schools.
I don’t have a vision for aging for myself. I’m not even sure I’m supposed to have one and if I’m supposed to have one, what should it look like?
A lot of senIors do not have computers. They will go to a program in their community, like the one I teach at, that is talking about the issues we’re talking about. They know they’re going to be surrounded by other people their age. There’s this thing about unity–having somebody else with you that doesn’t have the information. How awesome that is, you should see at the end of the six week program how they all get together and they feel empowered and they start dreamIng again.