This month’s Age Allies blog features a Christmas Quiz to try and challenge the assumptions we make about older people’s physical appearances!
Travelling to work this morning I boarded a very busy, rush hour bus. I was very surprised to have a young woman stand and offer me her seat. My response was to say “thank you but I am fine” and gesture for her to sit back down. Her reply was a rather forceful “SIT!”. I thanked her again and duly complied.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I have only been around the sun 56 times and I don’t consider myself “old”. I presume the young woman offered me the seat because of her perception of my age. She considered me old. Please don’t get me wrong, I did really appreciate being able to sit down. It was just a bit of a shock and challenged my self-perception.
We have a new exercise included in the Age Allies workshops which tries to help participants challenge the assumptions they make from people’s visual appearance. I won’t describe it here in detail – I don’t want to give the game away, after all you may well be part of a workshop in the near future. What we could do is modify it a little and have a Christmas quiz. Just for fun!
Take a look at the photographs below. What, if any, assumptions can you make about the person:
How old do you think they are?
What is their life like?
How do they spend their time?
All will be revealed further on in the post. Please don’t scroll down and cheat! Take your time…
The assumptions we make about people affect how we interact with them. In terms of customer service this can have a profound effect on the customer experience and the outcome of the encounter. My assumption is that you would want your customers to feel valued as individuals.
Okay. Let’s have a closer look at the eight individuals I asked you to think about earlier.
A. This is Doreen Fox from Dudley in the West Midlands. She loves nothing more than playing the ‘Call of Duty’ video game. In fact, she queued past midnight to get her hands on the latest release. She is 78.
B. Meet D.J. Derek who is still rocking the party at the age of 70.
C. This is Neal Unger, a 55 year old skateboarding fanatic.
D. Masako Wakamiya is 82. She spotted a gap in the games market and taught herself how to code. She created a very successful games app based on a traditional Japanese dolls festival.
E. Grace Brett, 104 year old yarn bomber, is thought to be the World’s oldest street artist.
F. Meet Paul Stone, 76 year old Natural Bodybuilder. He didn’t even start working out until well into his sixties but has competed more than 20 times.
G. Duan Tzinfu, 76, demonstrates his amazing flexibility. He only started training when he turned 60. Before he started training, 40 years of hard work at a glass production plant meant he could barely walk and was not flexible enough to reach his toes.
H. This is the original “Girl From Ipanema” who inspired the sixties hit. She is 63.
How did you do?
There is, of course, a serious point behind this fun little Christmas Quiz: As human beings we can’t help but make assumptions. Our brains are wired to do so. We unconsciously pick up on visual (and other sense) clues. It means we don’t have to start from zero in every new interaction. The quality of the interaction does depend on our store of assumptions however.
If our experience of older people has been limited then our assumptions will have a very narrow trajectory. It is useful to reassess our assumptions periodically.
While facilitating Age Allies workshops it has been remarkable to see the light bulbs coming on as participants question the assumptions they are holding. When minds open, light shines in!