Life Lessons from the Oldest and Wisest – and How It Will Impact Your Business TODAY

3 Minute Read

By David Romanelli

The baby boomer population is 74 million strong and 10,000 boomers are turning 65 each day. The surge in the aging population is often called The Silver Tsunami.

What is your business’ perception of this aging population? Are they on your business’ radar? How do you incorporate them into your business’ strategy?

Over the past five years, I have been interviewing elder Americans to understand how their lessons and wisdom can benefit people building their careers, balancing work and life, and searching for health and happiness.

I have found that if you ask an elder to share their story, and if you are willing to spend some time and listen to their answer, they will teach you something that you cannot learn from even the most successful self-help gurus or the most high-impact business coaches.

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  1. It starts with slowing down and listening. 

One of my favorite moments over the past five years of interviewing elders came at the end of a talk with a 93-year-old. I asked if she could email me a photograph.

Anytime you spell out your email for someone and it takes more than 20 seconds, that’s 20 seconds too long. Well, it took over 5 long minutes for this 93-year-old to write down my email At first it was excruciatingly painful. I became anxious and impatient. 5 minutes later, I shared a great laugh with this 93-year-old. She called herself “an old fart “but truthfully the joke was on me!

The perception that taking five minutes to give someone your email address could have been five minutes appropriated for something more useful is a great chasm between the old and the young.

Younger generations are so focused on the fastest, most efficient way to get through the day. If you can do it on a screen, why bother leaving your desk? If you can learn something in a short video, why bother watching a long one?

But where does that lead us? In our pursuit of efficiency, what is becoming of our humanity?

  1. You Can ALWAYS Make A Comeback

When making time to slow down and listen to the elder generation, I heard one message more than any other. RESILIENCE against all odds.

The elder generation has endured impossible hardship. From Holocaust survivors to World War II veterans to African-Americans who grew up with oppressive racism, the elder generation saw the worst of times.

One 94 year old told me a story of losing both her parents in the Holocaust. She was a 14-year-old refugee, on the run from the Nazis, barely escaping from Germany to Belgium and then to England. She arrived a few days before the bombing blitz over London. 1.5 million Jewish children died in the Holocaust. She was one of the lucky ones. Nowadays, when her grandchildren are complaining about issues, she’ll remind them, “You don’t even know what an issue is.”

There are so many stories from this generation about endurance and resilience.  These elder survivors remind us that we can come back from our setbacks in business, health, or love. Their stories have the power to push you and inspire you and remind you… there are people who have come before you that have weathered similar problems, experienced similar hardships, fought similar struggles. They got through it. And so can you.

  1. Be Present As Best You Can, When You Can

I have spoken to so many elders who were single moms. They lost husbands in wars or from illness. They needed to raise 3 or 4 or 5 children…ON THEIR OWN. The advice I heard over and over…

”Be there for others as best you can, when you can.”

“I was strict. We had rules. But I never stopped telling my kids how much I loved them.”

“When someone you care about walks in the room, stop what you’re doing and look them in the eyes. Why is that so hard?”

In a world where everyone is so distracted, to receive even one moment of fullness and deep attention, rather than many moments of half-attention…cuts deep and stays with your children, clients, and co-workers.

This sounds like advice from the distant past. And yet, imagine the impact one impassioned moment of deep connection would have on an otherwise forgettable day.

This link to the aging population is not a company manifesto, or some massive shift in strategy. It’s about YOU and how YOU view the older person walking by you on the way to lunch or waiting behind you in line at the coffee shop.

Let’s come back to those questions. What is your business’ perception of the aging population?

Are they obsolete humans taking up space and resources? Or are they survivors with stories of resilience, hope, and love?

How you view others says much about how others view you.

How your business perceives the world says much about how the world perceives your business.