We're all Floridians now. First impressions from a week down south

As climate change threatens to replace tepid summers with scorchers, and the proportion of the West's population over 65 rises to one fifth within the next decade, many countries will arguably begin to look a lot like Florida.

But what does Florida look like now, and just what makes those Floridians tick, and will they want to use a social networking service? These questions, and many others, are making up the agenda for this week's activity as we explore Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

I'm making this trip as background to the Longevity Fund and for some ongoing consulting projects that Fordcastle has, together with my colleague Emily Lutzker, the force behind OpenInvo, who's also go some clients interested in launching products in this space. We've joined forces to meet, greet and extract data, insights and new ideas from some of the highly educated, opinionated and generally switched on folk who have made this year-round sunshine state their home.

The next couple of posts will include some tips and tricks that have come up from the trip, meanwhile, here are some nuggets from Day 1.

  • Seniors love to learn, and to teach. We gave a short presentation today to the Institute for Learning in Retirement (ILIR) in Boca Raton as a taster of what our session will be later in the week, and I was blown away by the enthusiasm and activity of all the seniors to learn more about a vast array of topics of the lessons that will be taught (by their peers) this semester, from China's foreign policy, through opera to car maintenance. There's lots of untapped knowledge and experience that is valuable and worth unlocking.

  • Retirement communities will be the norm. I can see people move into gated communities at an ever earlier age, as it's a rather easy way of life. The facilities we saw were tremendous, ranging from a 600-person auditorium through gym rooms and swimming pools, but the community interaction is the main draw.

  • There seem to be an opportunity for a local social network for elders. A social network for elders seems to make a lot of sense, but rather than a general one like Eons, there seems to be an opportunity to make if relevant with local information, and potentially could be sensitive, so private groups are the best. Announcements for the activities in the community would be a natural usage, as would pictures from friends and family.

  • Mixed age communities are important. One of the places we looked around was a very well organized housing association, started 20 years ago, but had seen demand for their facilities peak 10 years ago (e.g. was impossible to get a slot on the tennis court). Now, much fewer people were playing tennis or using the pool, so the investments in the facilities wasn't as efficient.

  • Lose the black on the HiFis. The seniors we spoke too were very upfront about their needs and desires, and someone pointed out that the black hifi boxes are annoyingly designed, with the small buttons hard to distinguish.

  • Workshops and tools are important. As people move into retirement communities they often leave behind their toolshed, and don't find much to replace it where they arrive. Having tools available for older men with time on their hands, for example to use in a program repairing toys for local schoolchildren (thanks Geri L), could be a win-win for all concerned.

More updates from what is already turning out to be a fascinating trip over the coming days.

[Update: Emily's post on her OpenInvo blog here]


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