Intergenerational understanding

by Catherine Rickwood

intergenerational community

It’s well known that baby boomers often feel invisible.

Often ignored by marketers, Baby Boomers can also struggle to get jobs as employers consider them “too old”.

The perception tends to be that turning 50 is the start of a slippery slide downhill towards physical or cognitive decline. To being old.

Reality is quite different.

Baby boomers, and beyond, are an active, engaged, experienced, interested, interesting, technologically literate, and wise group of diverse individuals. Despite greying hair, wrinkles, and a slight slowing down, our own research reveals that baby boomers generally feel at least 3 years younger, and often 10-15 years younger than their chronological age.

Recently, I had the privilege of staying with my Aunt in a retirement village. She was thrilled. And because she knows my work is focused on people over 50, and she loves catering, I was treated to a fabulous dinner party with a group of women from their mid-80’s to 92 years old! All independent, active and with a great story to tell.

In my work, I am lucky to meet and talk with a wide range of older men and women. The more people I meet, the more grateful I am to have the privilege of their company and conversation.

The challenge is encouraging organisations, marketers, advertisers, and PR agencies to recognise this valuable cohort of people. Usually, marketing departments and agencies are filled with millennials who “don’t get us”.

The key is to educate, inform, and inspire a new understanding that changes the cultural conversation about becoming older.

It’s a significant segment of Australia’s population comprised of nearly 8 million people!

Time to change

It’s time to change so that ageism and age discrimination don’t remain into the future.

Lifespans are becoming longer.  The desire to remain an active part of the workforce and the community well beyond 50 will only grow. Considering ways to shift entrenched cultural and organisational attitudes and behaviour is key. One way to achieve change is to bring generations together.

Why Intergenerational Understanding

Hollywood did it in a light-hearted way with The Intern. I love this demonstration that shows how bringing younger and older people together to gain understanding – even for a few minutes – completely changes attitudes and perceptions of what “old” is.  NBC Universal introduced a ‘Bring-your-parents-work-day‘ as a way of mixing generations for greater understanding. It enables young people to show off what they do by bringing their parents into their business environment. In a world where parents and children don’t necessarily live in the same town, an extension of this idea could involve simply bringing an older person you know with you to work for that day. And, whilst it is only a day, it does change the age ratios momentarily and provides the opportunity for increased understanding.

The potential for what could be created and the contribution that each could provide the other is vast. At a minimum, it could bring generations together. And that could be the start of a conversation that creates the ripple for change.

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About the Author

Catherine Rickwood

An experienced researcher and business executive, Catherine's work is informed by academic knowledge and evidence to deliver practical actions with measurable outcomes. These combined skills create a powerful and useful ability to delve deep on issues, ask incisive questions, think laterally, and bring knowledge and insights to individuals, a team, and an organisation keen to engage with, and include the over 50's as a valuable part of their business strategy.



Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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