Thursday, August 11, 2005

SeniorNet - Worthwhile yet Flawed

Everyone who has reached the point in life when they start thinking about retirement (not just worrying about how to pay for it, but thinking about what to do with the rest of their life) should get familiar with SeniorNet. Most of us want to have that first splurge and visit the Rockies, Las Vegas, Switzerland, one or all of the places we have dreamed of during our confined (working) years. But what to do with the rest of your allotted time? There is a very real possibility you are going to be retired for as many years as you worked. You won’t enjoy just “playing it by ear” for 40 or so years. If you go to you will find discussions (over 600 that you can sample) which will take you into the lives of diverse folks who have made diverse choices – or no choice at all. Think you would like to live overseas? Chances are you can find expatriots to give you a first-hand, live synopsis of their day in Timbuktu. Want to get seriously into quilting, you can find quilters galore.

But there is a flaw (a fly?) in the ointment.

SeniorNet made its mark by providing training centers around the world to teach elders how to use computers. It is a non-profit outfit and, hence, believes ardently in volunteerism. It has been wonderfully successful. The number of elderly in the population is about to spurt upward. Right now the the SeniorNet management is putting together recommendations for a conference. They have invited input from the membership. The title of the current endeavor is:
Independent Aging Agenda Forum to Prepare for 2005 White House Conference on Aging.

My sense of the 100 or so postings so far is that the end result will be a list of ways to spend government money. It will be written in stilted, government gobblely-dy-gook. So that obvious omissions can be claimed to be covered under Section III paragraph 16a. Or something that raises objections can be claimed to be a misunderstanding of another foggy, fussy Paragraph something or other. What seems to be the objective of all this is gobs of money and ten years to spend it.

No thought is apparently being given to given to getting the business community involved. Capitalism has solved many problems before. Let's lobby the high-tech product makers to expand into this tremendous and fast growing market sector. Computer makers design products for a youth market, advertise them to the youth market, then say, “See, seniors didn’t buy any!” The computer makers celebrate “Back to School” with special products and ad campaigns. But you never hear about a “Retirement Ready” computer aimed at an older target and supported by advertising offering reasons why purchasers should buy. Like it or not, good advertising works. Believe me, Seniors have buttons that can be pushed.

They will say the elders don’t have the money. This is, of course, plain myth and bunk. There is also the crowd that thinks that over-fifty people suddenly become stupid. Maybe the stupid ones are the marketing guys that can’t figure out how to convince the over-fifty crowd they should want to have, or to use computers. SeniorNet’s own success in teaching proves motivated students can learn at any age. Enough for this day. I’m really steamed and will come back with more of the notes I’ve scribbled on this subject.


Marilyn said...

Have you contacted SeniorNet about your ideas? Because they're good ones!

east village idiot said...

I couldn't agree with you more on this point. I spent many years working in fundraising. My greatest gift has been working with people over 60, 70 and 80. I have learned so much from them about life, about keeping perspective and about keeping my priorities straight. Why is this culture so youth obsessed? Why isn't the focus on keeping us all connected - and learning from each other? Technology can help us do that. Seniors make up a huge consumer group!