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A note from David on the tragedy in Japan and our own “tsunami”

It’s 2 am and I can’t sleep. Upon leaving work yesterday, Immersion Active’s social media guru, Ross Hollebon, suggested that I might want to address the inconvenient truth about the name of our weekly ebrief, Silver Tsunami, in light of the tragedy still unfolding in Japan.

But that’s not what has me awake.  I’m up because my phone has been vibrating throughout the night with updates and information from various colleagues from around the globe. Each time, I’m hopeful that I’ll see an update from Immersion Active’s friends, Hiro Murata and Florian Kohlbacher, in Japan, but, as of this posting, nothing yet.

So let me take this opportunity to explain the name of our newsletter.  To start, I make no apology for naming our newsletter after an event that has such profound implications for those in its wake. We were challenged on day-one about our use of the term “tsunami” in our masthead from an international reader who asked us if we knew that people in many countries shudder at the mere sound of a tsunami warning siren and that “real lives are lost.” Tsunamis are devastating indeed – in the days of YouTube Video and CNN iReports, one doesn’t need to experience a tsunami first hand to understand their impact.

In naming our enewsletter, we considered carefully what would “work” in both grabbing the attention of our would-be readers and in characterizing the editorial we were looking to share with the world’s marketing and business leaders. To the best of our knowledge, the term “silver tsunami” was actually coined by the U.S. government in a report from the National Institute of Health on the coming age wave and the impact it would have on our society and, more specifically, the U.S. healthcare system.

Over time, the term has been used by The Economist, Harvard University, and aging “experts” from around the globe. It has been used in the absence of any physical warning siren for aging societies who have all but forgotten their elderly and for societies in which the elderly are about to become the biggest liability they’ve ever incurred.

As the Baby Boomers in the U.S. began turning 65 this January, it was like a light went on. After years of trying to communicate the profound implications of the age wave, it seems that the realities are now upon us. In almost every area of life; politics, housing, the workplace, technology, finance and, of course, health care, the fact that we have more adults over the age of 40 than under, and the fact that we now have disproportionately more adults exiting the workforce than entering, has us all taking note.

In developing Silver Tsunami eBrief, Immersion Active set out to distinguish itself from other “marketing to baby boomer” newsletters by telling (via curation) the real story. You see, while we believe that our aging boomers and seniors (over 100 million strong) represent a great opportunity (i.e. they have money; they have time; they have needs; and so on and so on), we also think we miss the bigger opportunity if we fail to understand the real-world challenges they present.

Whether our nation’s elderly end up being a liability or an asset is up to us. But at Immersion Active, we see the size of the coming wave and it’s big.

Before deciding to get out of my warm bed and pen this post, I read a sad-turned-inspiring story in the New York Times, “For the Elderly, Echos of War’s Horrors. It tells, in graphic detail, of how the elderly on the northeastern coast of Japan were initially being trampled upon by the young in their efforts to get to higher ground and save their own lives. But, as the water began to rise, and the elderly put the lives of their younger generations before their own, the young adults ultimately came back to help as many of the old as they could.

For better and worse, the change that is before us is an opportunity the likes of which we have never known.  And the opportunity before us — one that gives Immersion Active a great sense of purpose — has less to do with dollars and cents and everything to do with who we are as humans.