Not By The Hair Of Her Chinny Chin Chin. | Bruce Turkel

My grandmother was the most meticulous person I knew. Her nails and hair were always perfect and her house was immaculate. Which is why I never understood how come the knick-knacks in her curio cabinet were always dusty and she usually had one or two long white wiry hairs protruding from her chin.
Until Saturday morning.

I was doing my LSD (long slow distance) run and looked down at my watch to check my pace. Depending on the setting, my running watch displays two of the three figures I care about – distance covered, heart rate, and pace – and amazingly, they both read 140 (yes, there were some decimal points – don’t get ahead of me here). Did that mean I’d covered 14 miles or my heart rate was 140 beats per minute or I was running at a pace of 14-minute miles?

Hey, I’m slow but I’m not that slow so I knew my pace was about 10 minutes per mile, meaning my watch was showing me distance and heart rate. The point, though, was that I couldn’t tell what the information was because I couldn’t see the labels next to the data.

Suddenly, I knew why my Grandmother’s shelves were dusty and her chin was unkempt. I also remembered that when I used to speak to my other Grandmother, she’d say, “Let me put on my glasses so I can hear you.” And when I’d come home from school the woman who helped raise my brother, sister and me used to instruct me to “sit still so I can look at you.”

They were getting on in age and couldn’t see clearly.

Last week I wrote a blog post titled “The Boomers Shall Inherit the Earth” about the statistics of our aging population and the opportunities they will provide for savvy marketers. Perhaps the most important part of the article was the first paragraph.

“Between now and 2014, 10 Boomers will turn 50 years old every minute. By 2030, 20% of Americans will be 65+. What’s most remarkable is that most of them will live at least 25 years more, creating the largest and wealthiest generation in the history of the United States.”

Years ago, Atico Bank instituted a program to train their predominately young tellers on how to deal with the bank’s mostly aging customers. The tellers were outfitted for the training with kernels of hard corn in their shoes, Vaseline-smeared glasses over their eyes, cotton plugs in their ears and tight suspenders looped around their necks and fastened to their belts, causing them to hunch over. They were then instructed to walk around the sun-baked parking lot two or three times before they walked into the bank and tried to manage their accounts.

It was a great lesson to the impatient tellers who didn’t realize what their customers were dealing with.

It was also a great lesson to the young designer I was who often forgot that form follows function and thought that any type larger than seven point was “horsey.” Wonder why your elderly clients are cranky? There’s a clue.

Perhaps the bank’s methods were extreme, but it’s easy to see how awareness of – and empathy towards – aging customers can increase both sensitivity and profitability, regardless of what business you’re in. Senior Selling — creating products and services specifically designed to make purchasing easy and pleasant for the largest and wealthiest generation in history just has to be good business.

As for me, I’d just be happy if the labels on my running watch were a little bit bigger. IS that too much to ask?

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