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This chapter is from the book

Spirituality

My first enterprise, SeniorNet, was a success partly because its members had a sense of spiritual efficacy. By engaging with computers while participating as volunteer learners and leaders, SeniorNet's members felt they were making a contribution. In this book, we define spirituality as building community and a culture of caring. At midlife, spirituality often arises when people take on the hard questions surrounding longevity and life-changing events, questions such as, "What is worthy of me now?" and "Did I give enough?"

How is a person's spirit unleashed? What satisfies his or her soul? More than likely, the answer will involve an experience—a vacation, a worship service, a pleasant time with grandchildren, a moment of joy and relaxation exploring a passion, or a morning walk with friends. One reason is that marketers have been selling "peak experiences" to boomers throughout their lives, and the boomers have listened. As a result, they demand authentic brands that free their spirits and respect their intelligence and creativity. If you can leave your customers with their spirits soaring when they talk about your product or use your service, you will win.

Spirituality also appears in the workplace in the forms of value creation and leadership. I often hear stories of midlife professionals who left their jobs because their boss made them feel as if they were not worth much. We have an opportunity to create a new generation of business leaders who will build teams that respect the spirit and dynamic contribution of all members of their companies. We have a chance to create business environments in which all members are respected for their ideas and contributions and challenges are dealt with openly and fairly. What the boomers won't stand for are environments that kill their spirit. So the best business lesson is to create companies that unleash the talent and inspire the spirit to let it shine each day.

This book explores eight key areas in which active older boomers will spend their money during their bonus round. The areas are health; travel; passion and play; sexuality and romance; fashion and beauty; housing; family; and eldercare. The good news is that the smallest entrepreneur and the largest corporation can both go after this market. This book outlines ways in which businesses large and small have leveraged these trends and made a footprint.

This book distills the business acumen and strategies of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, corporate leaders, and nonprofits. Its goal is to inspire by telling stories of brand managers, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and non-profit executives who combined in-house and outside experts to invent new products and services for the boomer market. It reveals how the largest companies on the planet bring in teams of experts to help plot an innovation strategy around this segment. It shows how companies reposition themselves in an entirely new space. It teaches how new brands are launched to help solve social issues such as the need boomers' parents have for accessible housing with a neighborhood feel. It also tells about energetic entrepreneurs who have created winning business plans, raised funding, and dealt with the ups and downs of launching a product or service.

This book's purpose is to give you the tools and resources necessary to help shape a business idea. I hope you will be inspired to take out a piece of paper and begin to plot your own business strategy as you go along. It's best to try this with four or five ideas and then toss them around with friends until you find the one that seems most promising.

There is also a "how-to" section that provides news you can use about reaching reporters who cover the "age beat," sales and marketing tips for creating a digital strategy, and advice from venture capitalists, business leaders, and nonprofits on ways to finance your dream.

Still, my intention for Turning Silver into Gold is greater than just assisting a business revolution. I also believe in the social mandate that boomers have carried since the Kennedy administration. Especially at midlife, when we are returning to these ideals of creating a better world, boomers want to embrace businesses that make a difference. They like the fact that IBM and Home Depot value older workers. They appreciate that JetBlue saves them money by having customers and employees clean the airplanes. They like brands that have a sense of social purpose as well as business purpose. They like companies that value them and don't marginalize them for turning gray. They buy products and services that help them age well. Companies that understand these sensibilities can do good while winning big.

This book is therefore partly a business guide and partly a social manifesto. It proclaims that a wealth of new businesses, new brands, and new funds can change what it means to grow older, and that this can be the catalyst for what author and boomer advocate Theodore Roszak calls "the longevity revolution." This third act of life is a time of opportunity. It is another chance for the exploration of both inner and outer lives. Ultimately, it is a time of generativity and making a contribution to others. It's about intimacy, creativity, and spirituality. This is where the real social and business revolution lies.

Businesses that combine doing good with doing well will capture market share in the aging boomer marketplace. They will understand the boomers' need for creativity and lifelong learning; their need for authentic and intimate relationships; their need for spiritual growth and personal expression; their need for adventure as well as cocooning; their need for connectivity, family, comfort, beauty, and security. They will understand that boomers want to make a life of their own choosing now, and that they are willing to pay for good value in the products and services that help them achieve these dreams.

For the past 25 years, the underlying theme of my work has been the restoration of the role of older adults as leaders in society. The industrial society marginalized elders because they had few ways to contribute to it. Today, our information society gives the opportunity to keep them connected, contributing, vital, and productive throughout their longer lives. As we speak of "turning silver into gold," then, the "silver" can be seen as a way to think about the money the boomers have or will inherit, as well as the color of their hair. The "gold" is a way to describe not just the wealth this generation will have to spend, but also the wisdom they have accumulated and how they will translate their financial worth into good works.

Once again, members of the baby boomer generation are acting as trailblazers, and the new ways they find to age will be the road map for generations to come. Now that boomers are in leadership roles, they have the opportunity to grow older in a different way. They can summon the same passion they had in youth, but now they have the time, money, experience, and desire to make a big difference.

Let's begin.

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