Rethink. Reset. Move Ahead. EconomyFour on the Today Show.
Long life. A topic of our time. One you see all around you.
But it’s likely the words used to describe it are ‘aging’, ‘longevity’, ‘silver’, ‘boomer’, or ‘elder’ instead.
Try as you might to resist, it’s a fair bet that any one of those terms conjures up an unrecognized bias that shifts your mind to images, not of cool, contemporary people, but of folks somehow much, much less. It’s also safe to say you won’t even notice yourself doing it. And it’s entirely possible you’ll have the same reaction even when thinking about people somewhere near your own age!
As a social enterprise, EconomyFour works to bust that bias.
We focus on helping organizations get their emotional intelligence switched on and perceptions flipped to see long life in a modern context, so they innovate for individuals better categorized by stage than by age.
We often call out age-bias in media to bring make the point. A recent article in a prominent US newspaper comes to mind. The headline exclaimed a gold-rush of innovators chasing over-65 consumer spending power! The surprise was the content – a razor for use by caregivers of those who can no longer shave themselves and other items targeted better to disabilities than demographics.
Just a week before that, media outlets announced the opening of a new, Mexico City Starbucks staffed entirely by “seniors” over 55. Starbuck’s Mexico chief executive was quoted as saying that the company is “happy to help keep elderly people in the workforce.” How many 55, or even 65-year-olds, see themselves as seniors? Even in Mexico, 2016 life expectancy only trailed the US by one and a half years.
So, when NBC TODAY Show producers asked us for insights on a new segment called “Living Longer Today,” our goal was to offer a fresh look at long life that was more than growing old. We wanted to see TODAY focus on what a new, four-stage, life looks like and how we are all living it – or will.
We started by asking questions we often do. When talking with someone who might be a parent, we ask about other parents at the playground. Funny question? Think about it. Did you know that among developed, and even developing nations, there’s a trend toward families are having fewer children and having them later in life? It’s always fun to hear that ‘Aha!’ from one’s own experience.
We highlighted actual people TODAY Show viewers would recognize instantly who completely contradict the ‘old’ narrative. We added references that highlight identifiable groups of people on the ascent, not in decline.
On Wednesday, January 23th, EconomyFour co-founder, Bradley Schurman was invited to lead off the inaugural installment that hit the points we offered. TODAY Show hosts followed it up by ‘claiming’ their own number in a conversation with Dr. Oz, no less!
And there it was. Hoda Kotb, a new mom at 54, with her counterpart, Jenna Bush Hager, a 37-year-old mother of two toddlers. Both doing the same work, together. In contrast, Carson Daly claimed 45 years feeling “like crap” while Savannah Guthrie is 47, doing great and feeling great. But we’ll be honest. We were disappointed when the theme backtracked to low age – whether actual, or by virtue of behavior – as better than a higher one. Really? Anyone check the validity of that measuring stick lately? A lot has changed since the marks were etched on it.
Our goal had been to blow up that notion.
Oz was, of course, exactly right on all the things people can do, and are doing, to maintain a healthy life, and get even better as they add years. More sex is good! Yay! But isn’t that true for everybody at any age? Same goes for diet and exercise.
On the bright side, Oz made it easy to point out what our team talks about most; using a number just keeps people locked on that hard-to-identify bias. More and more, individuals are breaking the stereotypes by claiming their age and their stage to show that someone 62 and someone 26 can be doing, feeling, and pursuing virtually the same things.
The imperative is to move individuals, companies, and policy-makers to catch up with the real world today and prepare for the future. One where age isn’t a classifier. We congratulate the TODAY Show for taking an important step in a new way of talking about long life that makes it relevant for a broad audience. It is, after all, the future for everyone.
We, at EconomyFour, were truly humbled by the opportunity to contribute to the dialog on such a big stage to move that imperative further into the light of day.
Take a look for yourself. We’d love your comments!