Alphas will become the most intensely educated, wealthiest and dynamic generation that human society has yet seen
A close friend’s mother died this week. Born into the Silent Generation, she made 90. A Londoner, this impressive lady experienced WW2 both as an evacuee in the Cornish countryside, and then back in London where when was terrified by the flying V1 bombs, otherwise known as Doodlebugs with their distinctive intermittent buzzing sound.
A decade short of a century, this lady had been on the front row at the 20th century’s catwalk of technological and social change, but it is probably fair to say that the digital revolution passed her by.
Over in Washington DC right now at Smart Cities Week, a Smart Cities Consumer Research Study, conducted in partnership with Silver Spring Networks, Power Over Energy, and the US Department of Energy, found that only three-fifths of respondents aged 65+; half of all participants surveyed, expect smart city technology to directly impact their daily life within the next three years. In comparison, 83 per cent of millennials were the most positive about smart city technology.
The underlying premise of a smart city is connectivity: everyone having the means and the basic skills to do so. And rather than it being a choice, it will become a necessity as more public services, particularly health, begin to be delivered digitally.
There are community programmes out there to introduce seniors to the joys of the Internet and how to work with digital devices. We are also seeing devices coming onto the market specifically designed for older hands, eyes and someone who just isn’t at all au fait with a computing environment.
I thought I’d widen out and take a look at the relationship between senior citizens and digital communications technology.
According to a survey undertaken by the Pew Research Centre, (www.pewinternet.org/2017/05/17/tech-adoption-climbs-among-older-adults/) also in Washington DC, there are currently 46 million seniors in the US aged 65 and over, that account for 15 per cent of the population. While many of them remain removed from digital life, record numbers of this demographic now own smart phones and are connected to the Internet.
Now 42 per cent of 65+ own smartphones, up from 18 per cent in 2013, while 67 per cent of seniors use the Internet, a 55 per cent increase in less than two decades.
What the survey also found was that the younger seniors (65-69), who were better off and college-educated were more likely to adopt digital technology than those who had less income and had lower levels of formal education. Past 70, adoption rates slowed down, while the 80s and above, it gets slower still.
Children of the Generation Z (born between 1996-2010), the so-called Alpha Generation, or Generation Glass (born from 2010- 2025), won’t need transitional skill familiarisation help for digital technology, they will not only use it in every facet of their lives, but are set to become fully immersed in it. Born in the same year as the i-pad came into gleaming being, screens have been a defining part of their formative years.
In an upbeat, informative article by Joe Nellis, Professor of Global Economy at Cranford University, (www.cranfield.ac.uk/som/thought-leadership-list/what-does-the-future-hold-for-generation-alpha), he writes that Alphas will become the most intensely educated, wealthiest and dynamic generation that human society has yet seen. They will also enjoy greater longevity, will stay in education for longer, defer joining the workforce, and delay having children.
Nellis also believes that Alphas are better placed to deal with complexity, able to handle multiple inputs from digital sources and break this down into what’s simple and essential.
They will be doing jobs that don’t yet exist, and they are likely to flow between employed and self-employment status, periods of learning and leisure time.
Education, says Nellis, “will play a crucial role in preparing people and societies as a whole to be adaptable, open to learning and re-learning, dealing with risk, resilience, and the importance of communities and social interactions in this context.”
Alphas are set to benefit from the legacy of former generations, those that have gone before. They’ll never have it so good.