As a 56 year-old boomer, I know unequivocally that my generation will not be content to retire to age segregated manicured golf courses or to live out their final years playing Bingo in assisted living. We have no intention of quietly drifting off into the sunset. Fear not; we’ll create an aging tsunami that will revolutionize the way people age forever.
We boomers want things now and on our own terms. We need a new template for elder care. The current retirement communities and assisted living facilities just won’t cut it. It seems to me that the model already exists and it is Starbucks.
Your immediate reaction is probably similar to Ricky’s favorite reprimand to Lucy: “You’ve got “some ‘splaining’ to do.” Here goes!
When our parents grew up in small towns, communal gatherings took place in the local town square. Today we hang out at Starbucks. It’s not just about buying an overpriced cup o’ joe or a Chocolate Cookie Crumble Crème Frappuccino. We go there because that ubiquitous green and white Siren cup holds a mini-indulgence we know we deserve.
Want a Venti Mocha with Half Soy and Half 2% Milk? Or would you prefer a half-caf, half-decaf Grande Cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso brewed to exactly 106 degrees? Either way, Starbucks is happy to oblige. If you’re a regular, as soon as you walk in, Barista John gets to work brewing your idiosyncratic concoction. Does life get any better than this?
Starbucks is to coffee what Kleenex is to facial tissue. Toting the green and white mermaid cup wrapped in the Eco-Friendly coffee sleeve invariably elicits “where’s the closest Starbucks?” from sleep deprived passersby. The office water cooler is old school. When that late afternoon energy slump hits, the designee of the day collects drink orders and makes the “Starbucks run.”
Not only can you tailor your beverage to your heart’s content, you can use your Starbucks store anyway you’d like. Place your order, retrieve your custom made drink, lighten and sweeten it and be on your way. Or, if you prefer, sit down and nurse your Iced Vanilla Latte like a guilty pleasure for hours.
If you own a small business, Starbucks is the premiere venue for business meetings and job interviews. It’s also a popular choice for students cramming for finals who just need to be in the company of other humans for a few hours. You’re welcome to run in just to use the restroom. And don’t overlook Starbucks for that Internet date. It offers a safe environment and a chance for a quick getaway if the person who shows up turns out to be the typical Match.com charlatan.
If, like me, you don’t have a real office, Starbucks offers rent-free digs complete with Wi-Fi. Some of us languish in our favorite store most of the day, quietly tapping away on or laptops, while periodically texting on our smartphones. There seems to be some psychic benefit in being around other people, even if we never speak to them.
With 19,555 worldwide locations at last count, Starbucks must be on to something. The company never intended to be just another gourmet coffee house; it has much loftier goals: “to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” The physical appearance of your average Starbucks belies its noble aspiration to “become a haven, a break from the worries outside, a place where you can meet with friends.” Sound good? It gets better: “It’s about enjoyment at the speed of life – sometimes slow and savored, sometimes faster. Always full of humanity.”
Don’t those words encapsulate our boomer desires? And don’t they succinctly describe our expectations as we enter our 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond?
Starbucks’ business model has never been limited to the lowly coffee bean. Hungry? Enjoy a wrap or a cake pop. Forget to buy your sweetie a birthday gift? A fancy espresso maker will do the trick. Know a music lover? “Hear Music” has got you covered. Don’t have time to make a trip to Starbucks? No problem. Just go to any grocery store.
Starbucks is on an expansion tear. A wine bar, live music, poetry concept is in beta testing. An Evolution Fresh juice bar just opened, and a Tazo Tea store, featuring a blending bar where you can create your signature drink from 80 varieties of tea, is slated for the fall.
Since boomers control over 80% of personal financial assets and more than 50% of discretionary spending, is there any doubt that Starbucks next venture will be “Starbucks Boomer Care?” What am I thinking? It’s probably being tested in focus groups right now. At least we know Starbucks will get it right ;-)
Lorie Eber, JD is a Gerontologist and Certified Personal Trainer, who teaches Gerontology at Coastline Community College. She is also a Boomer Blogger, writer and a Keynote Speaker on Healthy Living, Healthy Aging and Elder Care issues. Lorie’s Dad is 93 years-old and suffers from vascular dementia. Visit her website: www.AgingBeatsTheAlternative.com.