Sixty-five Can’t be the New Forty-five — Until Respect for Time Aligns

ClockMix2From our mother’s first contraction and throughout our working lives, time is sacrosanct. Weekdays are a series of tightly coiled con calls and meetings with minimal buffers for overage or bio breaks. We even send our spouse outlook invites to book date nights, as we may never see them without the electronic reminder.

But when we cross the abyss at 65, we’re supposed to drop all these conventions. You see, time shouldn’t matter to seniors. At least I think that’s what service providers and our culture leads us to believe.

For example, when my active 88-year-old mother had a tumble, I learned:

  • The physiotherapist assigned to her senior’s complex would “show up” randomly for her  appointments with no advance notice. (Aside from the inconvenience, this could be privately disruptive should she feel under the weather or have company.)
  • The personal support worker might show up a half hour late for her scheduled home visit and expect mom to wait without being advised of the delay. (Mom waited 25 minutes once and then, thinking she’d been forgotten, left for her scheduled art class.)

I’ve also seen a wheel trans service show up and cart a devoted gentleman off midway through his Sunday church service. This happened on several occasions even though service times were carefully communicated at the time of booking, which was days in advance.

With scenarios like these, how can a fit 65-year-old live a 45-year-old lifestyle? How can they plan ahead or commit to any set time with confidence?

Certainly I’m grateful for the tightly stretched, high quality of care available in Ontario (and elsewhere) for an aging population and others with healthcare challenges. Asking for seniors and their time to also be given the same respect as others may be a luxury — or is it?

If we want to strive for fulfilling and productive lives well into our golden years, we need more than good health and marketing. Likely it will take more funding, resources and innovation to bring timing for seniors more in line with the rest of the world.

For those of us at the end of the baby boom, now may be the time to change perceptions and address challenges because arriving late for your performance, plane or sky diving class just won’t work in a 24/7 world.

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Education Boosted By Integrated Campaign

I hope the 2011 Effie Worldwide Awards, which close this week, honor a campaign that matches or exceeds last year’s Grand Effie winner: the Detroit Public Schools’ (DPS), which epitomizes what I think of as integrity2impact.

When you work in communications, which not everyone ‘gets,’ it’s gratifying to hear of a program that exceeds objectives and links to cost savings or profits. Even better, if it shifts perceptions to the positive, like this school board’s “I’m In” campaign did.

This initiative was prompted by a $305 million deficit and school closures, driven by declining enrollment due to lack of public confidence. Years ago, I served as a communications officer for a large Canadian school board that faced similar issues. We offered a wealth of positives but I suspect like many school boards had to counter the fallacy that government-run or public sector programs are inferior to privately run initiatives.

Like the board I worked for, DPS honestly had many successes, but they were likely eclipsed by urban school crises, from virus outbreaks to fatal fights on school turf.

Leo Burnett and the board countered this with an integrated paid and earned media campaign that used appreciative inquiry, guerrilla-like tactics and the classic bandwagon principle. They created 172 blue doors to represent its 172 schools and the great opportunities behind them and placed them at community events and a downtown plaza. Each door showcased a school’s benefit to local neighbourhoods. Teachers, students, parents and celebrities used each door as a platform to showcase a school’s benefit to local neighbourhoods. Residents were encouraged to show their commitment with “I’m In” yard signs among other tactics. The impact? Enrolment rose by 6,500 and $49 million in funding was raised. [To read about this in more detail, see HBR’s article on it.]

With the explosion of social media tools and steady growth of cause marketing, I think other public sector organizations could potentially adapt this approach and take it even further.