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We’re still here: Older Americans vs. boomer travel

According to “AARP the Magazine,” residents of Ikaria, a mountainous, 99-square-mile Greek island, outlive just about everyone else in the world. “An amazing one in three Ikarians reaches 90. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only one in nine baby boomers will,” the magazine stated.

According to the AARP’s research, these island natives are known for relentless optimism and a propensity for partying, both of which reduce stress. The study also states, “Ikarians go to bed well after midnight, sleep late and take daily naps. Based on our interviews, we have reason to believe that most Ikarians over 90 are sexually active.”

Before bank directors clamor to book a trip to Ikaria, it is important to note that the study claims that the aging benefits are a result of many lifelong habits, including a regular diet of Mediterranean food, sipping local teas and no wristwatches. The reality in our country is that although most of us can point to a few 80-year-old club members who are regulars at the gym and never miss an international tour, older members tend to disappear from the travel — and the party — roster.

Tender-hearted Christine Detrick, longtime director of BancFirst Status Club at BancFirst in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is wisely mindful of those missing faces, and she makes it her mission to do her part in keeping club members emotionally healthy as much as she can.

“It is so important that groups recognize and continue to include people who are unable to travel,” she said. “At this point in their lives, they live vicariously through newsletters and hearing about our trips. They are still proud that they are part of this prestigious group.

“Not only do I feel a moral obligation to include these people who at this point are my friends and extended family — some who have sat at my Thanksgiving dinner table — but I also know that if they feel cut out, they will take their money elsewhere.”

No texting or Facebook allowed  

The current buzz in bank travel seems to be all about anything but this older generation: We’re constantly talking about being technically savvy, taking more adventurous and physically demanding excursions and even changing our group’s name to reflect a cooler and younger image.

Detrick, who is also a spokeswoman on innovative ideas for attracting bank customers in their 30s to bank loyalty programs, makes determined efforts to include her older friends. Although the Status Club has more than 900 members, Detrick never neglects to personally write a handwritten message on top of each of her newsletters.

“These newsletters mean so much, especially to those members who no longer travel and perhaps don’t visit as much as I’d like. It may be just a sentence like ‘Hope we can see you soon’ or ‘We miss you,’ but it only takes a few hours of my time, and the rewards are many. I just received a note from an 83-year-old woman stating how much she appreciates those notes,” said Detrick.

In addition to handwritten greetings, bank directors can also make sure that they plan at least one annual event that nearly anyone can attend.  Sandy Green, director of the Pineapple Gold Club at Franklin Synergy Bank in Franklin, Tennessee, knows that her free lunchtime seminars are her best bet to draw those folks she hasn’t seen for a while.

“You have to choose your seminar topic wisely,” she said. “We’re all under tight budgets, and though a financial adviser may offer to foot the bill for your lunch, how many 80-year-olds need a financial adviser?

“On the other hand, those clothing stores in town may also offer to buy lunch or hors d’oeuvres for your gang in order to show off their clothing line. Now, a fashion show is fashionable at any age.”
Green added that her local hospital has also participated in her Lunch and Learn events, offering blood pressure checks, grief counseling and more.

Another director mentioned that upscale retirement communities that many of her club members call home have also offered to host her luncheon events, giving her members not only food, fun and entertainment, but also the opportunity to tour their facilities.

“My members are under no obligation at these events, but the communities are thrilled that I’ve delivered prequalified potential residents to their doorsteps. And they offer valet parking, an important component in any event where you want your older seniors to attend,” she said.

The sound of music

Detrick sees great success drawing older members of her Status Club on her regular theater outings. She has a nearby performing-arts center that offers not only classic Broadway musicals but entertainment appealing to the older generation.

“I think quality community entertainment at a discounted price is available to most everyone. You don’t need to go to New York to see ‘The Lion King’ or ‘Beauty and the Beast’ — these beloved productions are often right around the corner,” she said. “While our younger members sometimes choose to do these sorts of things on their own, it’s the people who can’t or won’t drive, and [who] appreciate the door-to-door service that relish these bank activities.”

Detrick also has wisely made great friends with her local sales office at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. “You really want good seats. I pick out a matinee, and thanks to a good rapport with that ticket office, I often get 80 or even 120 orchestra seats. I also encourage people to bring the grandchildren. These are grand opportunities to bring families together,” she said.

Bringing families and friends together are important in every culture, even in Ikaria. The AARP study showed that in addition to a practice of walking for transportation over mountainous terrain, drinking goat’s milk and grazing on the more than 150 varieties of wild greens, family and village support has been a key to survival on this remarkable island.

“Strong social connections are proven to lower depression, mortality and even weight,” the study said.

The research even suggested that to do our part in promoting longevity, we should all choose today to phone a friend. In the case of bank directors, today might be the day to phone an older friend.