Photos by Eliot Hess
Today was my maiden voyage as a guest speaker to senior groups around the country. The topic of the tour is “Why should seniors embrace technology?” My first stop was the Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Senior Center at Saint Peter’s Church, right next door to Citicorp Center in New York City.
Pardon the pun, but BINGO! Not only is this senior center one of the finest in the country, but the church that houses it is legendary. I really lucked out that they were one of the first to accept my offer.
I thought I was going to teach seniors who are in their 80s and 90s a thing or two about technology. I was so wrong. They taught me a thing or two about life.
If I want to be the champion of seniors delving into technology, then I better be ready to be thick skinned. This group was feisty and aggressive.
If they didn’t like something I said, they instantly demonstrated their displeasure: shallow weeping, holding heads in their hands, and, from one, a short nap. This is no different than some of the client presentations I have been involved in over the years.
Personally, I loved this group because it was a great indoctrination. My grandparents lived with us in tight apartment quarters for the first 22 years of my life. I wasn’t surprised by any of the abrupt reactions from some of the senior citizens or nasty remarks to each other.
While my talk was well received, I now know that future presentations will have to be spontaneous. Seniors don’t want prepared remarks. They want you to be ready to answer their questions immediately. There was zero tolerance for my agenda.
I really had a good attitude today before, during, and after the discussion, thanks to my entertainer friends Ron Abel and Chuck Steffan. Walk in prepared and play your heart out no matter if two or 200 people show up. I also spend a lot of time around Steve Greenberg, a TV personality. He has shared many war stories about last minute show biz changes.
Hanging out with them over the last few years has taught me that I shouldn’t have any pre-conceived notions about how things were going to go, and to expect anything.
Only a dozen participated in the discussion, even though there were 50 nearby in the main room which was occupied by other activities. It really didn’t matter to me because my only concern was what I was prepared to deliver. I was so ready that when they turned the tables on me, it was easy to be flexible.
My job was to get the senior citizens motivated. If that meant taking a few detours along the way, so be it. We were there to beat the clock.