AARP Shows How to Reach Boomers with Social Media

Compare the population pyramid of the USA whic...
Compare the population pyramid of the USA which was bulging until the 1960s and has steadily slimmed since. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Those 77 million Baby Boom kids (born 1947-1964) are marching steadily into their “golden years,” which so happens to be prime time for major donations. AARP has been in front of the curve as the Boomers swell its ranks. A case study by Direct Marketing News explains how AARP has parlayed research findings into new directions for its Facebook and YouTube sites.

#PROAGING: Technology Can Encourage Socialization & Longevity

Social contact makes everyone happierPerhaps the greatest gift of life is the ability to share many its aspects with others. We have communication skills and empathies that can enliven mundane tasks and reinforce the greater joys and tragedies of the human experience. As social beings, we seek out these shared experiences from our earliest infancy to our later golden years. For many aging citizens, though, physical limitations and technological impositions can reduce opportunities for socialization, which in turn has been shown to decrease both life quality and life expectancy.

Most aging Americans want to live in their own homes as they age, but that desire also increases the likelihood of growing isolation and falling life quality. How might recent technological innovations keep seniors connected to their peers and their younger family members?

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#PROAGING: Olympics & Social Media Suggest Shrinking Digital Divide

The Social Olympics in LondonNBC might have gotten some bad press for giving away results before showing them tape-delayed in the lucrative hours of prime time. These Olympics have both been the ‘first Social Olympics’ and the first to struggle to understand what such instantaneous communication can mean to corporate and sporting interests. And, as it turns out, most of the griping is coming from the world of social networks. According to the Pew Research Center, 76% of Americans find the NBC communications conglomerate’s coverage excellent or good.

What are the numbers when age is taken into consideration?

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#PROAGING: Majority Of Senior Citizens Online & Many More Using E-Readers

The Pew Internet and American Life ProjectThe fine folks at the Pew Internet and American Life Project marked a notable milestone in the history of electronic communications this past spring: “53% of American adults ages 65 and older use the internet or email. Though these adults are still less likely than all other age groups to use the internet, the latest data represent the first time that half of seniors are going online.” The crossing of the 50% mark means marketers and fundraisers really need to develop strategies to reach our retirees and senior citizens online. The percentages will only increase, of course, as ever more people who used the internet for work and/or play, and then those who grew up knowing few other means of communication, move toward 65. What else does the latest Pew report show us about Boomers and the internet?

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#COMMUNICATIONS: Is Your Organization Moving At The Speed Of Mobile?

Text messages are read within 15 minutes on smart phonesWith the rise of the smartphone and its ability to be the computer for millions of people around the world, mobile technology is becoming more powerful and less expensive every few months. And with those technological changes come changes of habit and expectation. One of the changes we and many others have commented on is the rise of text messaging as a medium not only to spread-the-word but also to raise funds for nonprofits and charities. The response to the American Red Cross’s texting campaign to deal with the horrors of the Haitian earthquake of 2010 is usually seen as the watershed event.

How has the nexus between cell-phone use and fundraising been strengthening over the last couple of years?

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#PROAGING: Technology Improves Exercise of Body And Brain

Exergaming improves physical and mental fitness - Photo from TheAtlantic.comLast week we introduced an AARP report encouraging the development of ‘Technology for All,’ namely, technology that includes the interests, expectations, and needs of Baby Boomers. Here is an example of how technology makes a common exercise machine that much more interesting and beneficial: a computer screen offering a virtual tour for a stationary biker.

Hans Villarica of presented a report found in The American Journal of Preventative Medicine that brings computer screens and visual stimuli to recumbent bikers in elder-care homes. The experiment was to encourage exercise among residents on incumbent bikes – some used bikes with screens that monitored their effort and presented a ‘tour’ while others simply rode the bikes for the same amount of time.

Not surprisingly, those who got a tour on what the study calls ‘exergaming’ found the experience of exercising more pleasurable. But the long-term study also showed added cognitive benefits of having the tour inspire/follow the exercisers who had the computer addition. As Hans summarizes the study’s medical/statistical conclusion: “Even though there was no difference in exercise frequency, intensity, or duration between the two groups, the cybercycle riders had significantly better executive function than those who used a plain stationary bike. They also experienced a 23 percent reduction in progression to dementia compared to the control group.”

The addition is simple, the technology is not expensive, and the user gets physical, mental, and emotional benefits. What’s not to like?


#PROAGING: AARP Explores Benefits & Challenges of ‘Technology For All’

Technology and social media enrich the experience of retirementWith much fanfare, the first babyboomers moved into the official era of retirement last year as they celebrated 65 years of life. They were the first ripples of a ‘Silver Tsunami’ of Boomer retirees who will bring changes to entertainment, to Social Security, medical services, to retirement life. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) released a report calling on entrepreneurs, developers, and service providers to take on the challenges of bringing the myriad technologies (some of which were built by the Boomers) to everyone – including those over 50 who want to use those technologies but might need them modified. Is your organization developing its strategy for the near future?

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#SocialNetwork: Senior Living Communities See ROI On Social Media

Seniors working on a laptopOutreach to older Americans through social media might have once seemed a bit like trying to create an oasis in a desert: a great deal of effort lost in the sand. But survey after survey has demonstrated how use of social media has become an important part of the lives of millions of seniors. Which means numerous businesses that target seniors and their families have begun to develop strategies to reach out to those ever-growing constituencies and markets.

The folks at Glynn Devins Marketing have shared a keynote address that traces a case study they did with a local (Kansas) retirement community demonstrating the success of a drive on Facebook to increase ‘Likes’ and to offer donations as ever more people share their contact with that retirement community.

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#ProAging: GAP Index Highlights Global Challenges Of Care For Aging

Global Aging Preparedness Index IconThe fact of the aging of the global population is something our readers are likely at least acquainted with. The phenomenon has arisen as life expectancy has lengthened even in developing countries and populations in developed countries often are not having enough children even to replace themselves. The result is that most national populations whose citizens or subjects are over 60 are quickly moving toward 30%. To put that number in historical perspective, The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) posits that, before the Twentieth Century, the percentage of inhabitants over 60 was 5-8%.

The CSIS released a sobering report earlier this year that measured the ‘Global Aging Preparedness’ (GAP) Index. The report stresses the demographic facts of the so-called ‘Silver Tsunami’ (a tide that can not now be turned, even if we all started having larger families) and the current economic situations of a number of countries both rich and poor, both developed and developing. So how did the US do?

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#ProAging: A Few Gift Ideas For Older Family Members

Earlier today we posted a story concerning’s drive, ‘Grandparents Gone Wired.’ In the process of working up that story we came across this brief list of gift ideas for some of those same grandparents: A Grandparents’ Tech Gift Guide. The blogger who is developing the list is Michele McGraw of northern Virginia, and her site, ‘Scraps of My Geek Life’, is one of the cuter and more engaging tech blogs we’ve come across.

The list for grandparents seems to be growing, and she also has Tech Gift Guides for Moms, young teens, and Bloggers (I’d like the iPhone 4S, please). All of these lists include her brief comments/reviews and she solicits reviews from her readers. Well worth a look, and it’s refreshing to see a site savvy to technology in its various guises with a fun and family-focused aura.

#ProAging: Spending Time With Grandparents This Holiday

Looking for a way to spend time with your (grand)parents this holiday season, whether you are seated in the same room or across the continent? The folks at are launching a new program for this holiday season: ‘Grandparents Gone Wired‘. The program is designed to encourage (grand)children to spend time with their elder family members by helping their (grand)parents get settled into a Facebook account or by setting up video chat via Skype.

The program has the added benefit of encouraging a little face-to-face-in-the-same-space time during the holiday season as you negotiate the accounts and tinker with the hardware together. Registration via email or mobile phone is all it takes, and DoSomething promises to start sharing ideas and stories beginning today (the program runs through the 30th). Participants with the best advice enjoy the opportunity to win a new iPad, iTunes Gift Cards, and even a $500 academic scholarship.

Though the pitch is clearly thrown toward teens and their grandparents, the program could be just as helpful for adults wanting to connect technologically with their parents. I have registered and will report on the first few notices. True, the use of social-networking platforms by older Americans has exploded in the last couple of years, but everyone can use some help honing skills or learning new tricks.

We’ll share some of our ideas and experiences at DoSomething, and we hope you do too. And we hope you will share them here as well. We’ll certainly share them over the next couple of weeks.



#ProAging: Celebrating The Senior Games As Winter Approaches

Doctors, teachers, and athletes encourage us all to get more exercise. For many of us, our springtime means the energy to start a program to get fit and overcome the initial discomforts. As we enter our summer months, the foundation of better health has been set, and we begin to push some of our boundaries. The shortening days of fall might dissuade some of us, but the weather remains warm enough to keep us moving. Besides, winter could prove a notable setback, so we better give an extra push now.

But what about the seasons of our lives? Are we building a solid foundation in our earlier decades to encourage an active and engaged senior life? Many seniors are even competing in an Olympic-style festival that can inspire us all.

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#ProAging: SM Savvy Encourages Cross-Generational Connection

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With Thanksgiving a mere 36+ hours away (30 of which might be spent in a ticket line or sitting on a runway or hoping the traffic finally gets moving), we are all thinking about re-connecting to family and old friends. That we do so via social networking platforms has become the assumption among the Millennials and the Gen-Xers, whether in the holiday season or not. The social networking demands of these generations encourage them to keep up with the latest technologies as well – not a bad thing for the economy.

What happens to the previous-generation phones and laptops as younger Americans buy the latest-and-greatest? One thing that happens to them is they become ‘hand-me-ups’.

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#Health: Study Shows Advantages Of Conversation No One Wants

Remember Obama’s Death Panels? No, they didn’t exist. But like ‘cooties,’ the scared and the immature just kept repeating that they were waiting to snatch us up. What the Healthcare Reform Bill wanted to institute was the opportunity – nay, the expectation – for families to have regular consultations with their doctors about end-of-life/palliative care that would per force be covered by insurance.

Healthcare Reform became law in the early days of 2010, and we have been litigating it ever since – and no one has found any mention of a death panel. But even requiring insurance companies to pay doctors for these end-of-life consultations has proven to be a political hot potato – even though evidence of their efficacy is mounting.

A report from a group of oncologists from Sweden is the latest study to show the benefits of having a frank discussion about what treatments are working, what are not working, and what options/opportunities the patient has. The abstract of the report, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, can be found here (a subscription to the Journal is required to read the full report).

Fortunately, Paula Span of The New York Times discusses the full report and talks with Dr. Gunilla Lundquist, a palliative care specialist at Umea University and lead author of the study. One of the hard truths of the report is that about 70% of people who have that tough conversation about their terminal conditions die at home and among loved ones, in contrast to under 40% who do not have that conversation yet do not die in a hospital.

Paula Span also steps into the cultural and political difficulties of getting such a study done in the US, or even discussing the Swedish report. Instead, we’ll invoke the Bogie Panel to ensure our freedom from everything, except fear.


#ProAging: AARP Busts Some Social Security Myths

As we enter ‘crazy time’ in the electoral calendar (a calendar that now runs from the Friday after the last election to the day of the next one), we will hear ever more about the desperate need to balance the federal budget and pay down the national debt. Few will strongly argue against these budget-balancing ambitions. The arguments are over just how to do that.

Social Security payouts make up some 20% of the federal budget, tied with national defense and one percentage point behind Medicare/Medicaid. Yet Social Security is usually singled out as one of the three federal line items that must be trimmed (Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and … um … oops.). The American Association of Retired Persons challenges five of the most commonly-stated myths about the state of Social Security, even in the midst of the economic malaise we continue to struggle with.

Myth Number One? Not surprisingly: Social Security is going bankrupt. According to AARP, that scary claim is untrue no matter how you divvy up the dollars. “Even in the unlikely event that nothing changes and the program’s entire surplus runs out in 2036, as projected, checks would keep coming. Payroll taxes at current rates would cover 77 percent of all the future benefits promised. That’s true for young and old alike, and includes inflation adjustments.”

Read the other four myths and the facts that refute them at AARP’s site. Then you can make an informed decision about how to vote in 2012, and how to plan for your retirement after that.


#ProAging: Bringing Ballots To Nursing Homes Via The iPad

iPad as Ballot in Oregon (Not Voting Machine)

When the people of Oregon needed to replace Congressional Representative David Wu this week, the state Board of Elections used the opportunity to develop means to get ballots to older citizens in nursing homes. The traditional means to do so were to send absentee ballots out, but such ballots waste a great deal of payer, any way – and many do not get returned anyway. As we have noted on this blog, the iPad is a convenient and stimulative way  for retired Americans to access information. And now it is being used as a way for retired Boomers and those of the GI Generation to cast their votes.

The iPad was used to present the ballot to the seniors, who could use the touch screen to enlarge sections if necessary and to mark their votes with a touch. When done, the iPad printed the ballot for the senior citizen to mail in or to stuff into a ballot box.

The idea came from local activists, and we see a rare moment of Apple contributing to a nonprofit’s efforts: Apple donated five iPads to the Congressional district, and $75,000 to help develop the software that presented and recorded the ballots.

As of now, the feedback on this small-scale election is largely positive. According to a report on CBS News, election officials stressed the fact that the iPad is not recording the vote, simply offering access to the ballot and assisting the elder Americans’ abilities to mark it appropriately. The question remains, nevertheless, as to how scalable the pilot program is. Oregon officials seem convinced it will work statewide, and they are investing in more iPads and printers: “At $500 each, the state could buy the iPads for about $36,000. Portable printers cost about $50 each, Trout said, or counties can use existing printers from their offices. The cost of software is still unknown. In the last two-year budget cycle, Oregon spent more than $325,000 to maintain accessible voting tools.”

The portability and touch-screen simplicity of the iPad makes it an idea technology to assist citizens cast votes. Perhaps as the technology rolls out to other districts and states, it will inspire greater electoral turnout among the rest of us.


#ProAging: How Might The 7 Billion Humans Age?

From the NIA/NIH report - Click to enlarge

Earlier this week, the human race passed the 7-billion mark, and continues to expand. Much of the attention given to that milestone as focused on the many thousands of births that take place each second all around the world, but especially in India and subsaharan Africa. Yet, the other side of the demographic story must also be taken into account: people live longer. They remain productive later into longer lives, and – as an aggregate – technology helps them live well beyond a few years of retirement.

Which means, despite the many births, the world’s population over 60 will be over 22 percent by 2050. Are we prepared?

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#ProAging: Which US Cities Offer The Best Lifestyle To Their Older Citizens?

Dave Letterman offers only a “Top 10” list, but Bankers Life and Casualty has just published its Top 50 “Best US Cities For Seniors 2011” and the list contains a few surprises – though, admittedly, not so many laughs.

The list was drawn up with an effort to establish some stable criteria that were, in turn, weighted to reflect the importance of each issue with older Americans. For example, healthcare opportunities are weighted to 10 at the top of the scale, whereas housing was weighted at 5, because many kinds of housing arrangements can be made for many kinds of seniors, whereas healthcare is a priority for all older people.

The good side about a weighted standard is that readers can judge for themselves if a certain concern outweighs other issues. For example, the city noted as having the lowest crime and the safest urban environment for seniors is Nassau-Suffolk County, New York (Long Island), yet the area did not quite crack the top 10. But if security/low crime is most important for you, you now know where to retire.

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#ProAging: Telestroke/Telemedicine Tests Show Excellent Cost & Health Benefits

For Stroke Victims, Time Is Of The EssenceIn a wonderful synthesis of health care needs, patient choice, cost effectiveness, and beneficial outcomes, a recent report from The Mayo Clinic‘s ‘Telestroke’ program demonstrates the payoff of the pilot program. Telestroke provides the communications means for rural doctors and hospitals to have online connections with neurological and brain specialists in urban research hospitals. The technology saves vital minutes (if not critical hours) by bringing the specialist virtually to the on-side doctor and patient, rather than trying to move the patient to the requisite hospital.

The technology involves more than simple network communication for referral or consultation. According to the Mayo Clinic’s site, “Doctors communicate using digital video cameras, Internet telecommunications, robots, smart phones and other technology. Having a prompt neurological evaluation increases the possibility that you may receive clot-dissolving therapies (thrombolytics) or other clot-retrieving treatments in time to reduce disability resulting from stroke.”

And the first tests offer the statistics of success.

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#ProAging: Social Security Recipients Enjoy COLA For First Time In Two Years

Social Security has built into its law and budgets a ‘Cost of Living Adjustment‘ (COLA) tied to inflation and/or rising prices. Those prices have, if anything, fallen during The Great Recession, so recipients have not seen a COLA since 2009. But the Social Security Administration published its formula this week to account for a 3.6% increase for most people who receive their checks, beginning in January 2012.

The adjustment can not come soon enough for many seniors. As reported in The Associated Press, though inflation did not move over the last two or three years, incomes that retirees depended upon to supplement their Social Security benefits collapsed over those same years. What does the equation come out to for seniors?

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#ProAging: Medicare’s Open Enrollment Opens – Save Elders From Poverty


Census Report on poverty rates among different age groups between 1959 and 2010
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Medicare’s open enrollment for next year begins on October 15th and runs through December 7th (an unfortunate date in the lives of many of the GI Generation). Information on Medicare’s medical plans can be found here. General information for those new to the process can be found here. Medicare was founded in 1965 in an effort to buttress the insurance that most Americans lost at 65 or at retirement. It was meant as another strand of a safety net first weaved with the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935, also meant to help the elderly avoid falling destitute.

Although Governor/Presidential Candidate Rick Perry (Rep., TX) stands by his assertion that such support as Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, it has helped – unlike Ponzi schemes – millions of older and retired Americans avoid poverty. A new Census study clearly demonstrates just how successful the programs have been.

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#Aging: iPad’s Technology Can Draw Out Memories And Skills For Elderly

One stereotype of the elderly and long retired is that they fear new technology. Yet many of the GI Generation and Silent Generation were, in fact, the ones who started the phenomenal research and development in the middle of the twentieth century that give us our hybrid cars and smart phones today. A recent report from the McClatchy-Tribune Information Services demonstrates how the caregivers of these generations are discovering how quickly and happily their clients and patients are responding to the latest mobile technology, the iPad.

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#Aging: Study Shows Americans Optimistic and Unprepared For Retirement (Part 1 of 2)

Snapshot of NPR/Harvard Health Survey about perceptions of happiness in retirement
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Over the last few days, National Public Radio (NPR) has been presenting the findings of an in-depth survey and study of how recent retirees and soon-to-be retirees (those over 50) view retirement. The report was conducted by NPR, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

The findings show a general optimism about retirement, though that general optimism is dampened by the credit crisis of the last three years. Yet that optimism is strongest among those who have not yet actually retired. Among the retirees themselves, optimism has been checked by the harsh realities of decimated IRAs, a credit crunch, and unexpected health issues.

What seems to be the state of retirement in the new millennium? The issue may be not that the state of retirement is so bad, but that expectations are strikingly high.

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#Aging: Small Ailments, Left Unchecked, Can Lead To Big Concerns

Older Couple Power-WalkingMost (post-)industrial western societies tend to see aging as a decline from the creativity and energy of young adulthood. The experiences and wisdom of longer life tend to be downplayed against the physical changes wrought by age. But older people tend to know better: they want the young to appreciate that the teens and early twenties are the difficult years, whereas the engaged peace of being over 50 is really where the action is.

That said, those moving beyond 50 can not – and do not – deny changes in the body that must be dealt with: quicker fatigue, joint and tooth aches, changes in eyesight and/or hearing… The AARP’s website is reporting a new study at that links the ongoing and unresolved physical discomforts help increase the likelihood of the onset of dementia as well.

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#Aging: Caregiving For Parents So Common Most Do Not Report It

Care for an elderly womanCaregiving among younger people as their Boomer parents move toward retirement is so common that they do not even consider it caregiving. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) considers any fairly regular activity, like taking a parent to the doctor or over-the-counter testing for blood sugars, as part of their ‘Caregiver’ category, though the person giving the care rarely notes such activity in surveys or tax forms.

But what is also happening, according to research by the AARP, is that many children in their middle age are giving fairly advanced care without the training required to do things like taking care of catheters or monitoring medications. What might this kind of off-the-books care mean for those giving it?

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