I hear a lot of talk about millennials. The generation after Gen-Y, who will be coming through into the world of work, social-networked up to their eyeballs. They will change the way in which we work, apparently.
Actually, I’m getting a bit bored of this cult of youth. Maybe it’s because I’m getting a bit older.
But here are some things to think about:
- there is nobody of “working age” (sub-65) in the UK today who hasn’t been in the world of “a PC on every desk” for at least 20 years (they might not have actually been using them – but the computerised office has been a reality for as long as the two decades I’ve been in work).
- almost everybody aged under 45 will have been at school in the era of the first micro-revolution: BBC, PET, RM 8-bit devices onwards
- because of that great drive around IT in the 80s, with BBCs, Commodore 64s and Sinclair Spectrums at home, many of us have a better understanding of the basic principals of how computers work than the millennials
- some of us in our forties have been “social networking” since our teens (if you count the BBS services in the 80s as social networks – which I do)
- and finally, teenagers do lots of things because they are teenagers. It doesn’t necessarily mean that teenage behaviour is then aped by adults
Now I’m obviously being a little extreme here, and much of it might be driven by my impending mid-life crisis. I’ll give you that a generation emerging that have known nothing but the Internet and smart devices and smart TV and the rest will mean that their expectations of work will be different. But there is another factor that I just don’t see getting the coverage: the impact of a technically literate, retired, older generation. The Baby Boomers are teched-up, retired, and (quite possibly) getting angry about how they are being ignored.
Every quarter, the YouGov research agency publish a Quarterly Tablet Survey, and in November 2012, 43% of tablet computers in the UK according to them were owned by the over-55s, a proportion that has grown steadily in the past 12 months. If you think of smart devices as a new media channel rather than a computer platform, it’s as if the only TV channel available is BBC3.
But what development is happening to provide a richer life experience to the older population? I’m sure there’s plenty to alleviate the “symptoms” of age, but surely there is space for apps and services that do more that treat age as a “condition”? Or might we start to see a new breed of older entrepreneur tapping this market that the younger Silicon Roundabout crew can’t get their heads around?