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How To Get Seniors Interested In Sustainability

First Posted: Mar 25, 2019 09:32 PM EDT
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The looming specter of global climate change has made it quite obvious that an international sustainability movement is needed to preserve the future of our planet. While many young people around the world are tugging at the leash to become a greener society that focuses more on sustainability, however, many seniors are disinterested and uninformed when it comes to living a sustainable lifestyle.

Can you blame them? After all, most of today's seniors were never properly educated about sustainability and environmental preservation to begin with. Rather than rage against their elders, today's climate crusaders should focus on getting seniors interested in sustainability. Here's how.

Seniors don't want to foot the bill

Most of the conversation to date on climate change has been centered around the immense costs associated with sustainability and establishing a greener future. It's become quite clear that most Americans now believe in global warming, for instance, but precious few of them are willing to pony up the needed money to fight it. By and large, seniors and middle-aged Americans are disinterested in sustainability because the initial costs of green initiatives turn them away from the idea altogether. If young people are committed to enacting realistic reform that can prepare us for a rapidly changing climate, a more persuasive case must be made on behalf of sustainability.

This is no easy feat, because sustainability isn't something that can be achieved overnight or at a small cost. Walmart's efforts to embrace corporate sustainability and offer low-budget consumers green products produced relatively mixed results, for instance, and we need such endeavors by large companies to succeed to combat global climate change. With seniors frequently finding themselves constrained by the budget of a retiree, they need sustainable options that are also affordable and trustworthy. If we can't get customers on board with greener initiatives, our companies and market structure will never change, thereby mitigating our sustainability efforts.

One unpleasant fact we have to contend with is that Americans see their support for environmentalism decline as they age. This is likely because older people simply don't have to deal with the negative aspects of pollution over a long period of time in the same fashion younger people do. If seniors are ever to be convinced of sustainability, we need low-cost, low-effort ways to rope everyday people into environmentalist initiatives. Championing local preservation and conservation efforts is a great way to start, as voters (who tend to be older) pay particular attention to things that occur nearby.

We need to make pollution unaffordable

The only real way to get seniors interested in sustainability is to incentivize a greener lifestyle while punishing polluters more harshly. Older Americans simply face no penalty for destroying the environment; as the Baby Boomers learned, destroying the planet is really a problem that will confront their children more than it will them, just like work place injury is not something for them to worry about. Until modern political and economic systems adjust to this reality and start to penalize pollution and unsustainable practices, we'll never see the society-wide effort needed to mitigate global climate change.

Such efforts are sorely needed, too. After all, NASA has made it clear that the detrimental effects of global climate change and unsustainable production methods are changing the planet to a nearly irreversible extent. If seniors are to become interested in sustainability, the level of forthcoming damage must be accurately and fervently conveyed to them through reliable messaging channels that they trust. This means that modern media outlets, especially ones catering to older audiences, need to tackle the issue of climate change with a renewed fervor and stress the urgency of the situation to older viewers.

Enlisting the help of nostalgia

If young people have learned anything over the past few years, it's that seniors are largely going to ignore their impassioned pleas for change in order to save the environment. This is why climate crusaders need to enlist the powerful help of nostalgia, which has an immense sway over the way older folks in particular view the world. Research has demonstrated that the nostalgia effect is very real, with consumers literally spending more money when making a purchase if they're thinking about the past and overcome with nostalgia.

To get seniors interested in sustainability, we need to harken back to the days of the creation of the EPA and the birth of modern environmentalism. We need to remind seniors of the age-old tradition of handing down a better world to your children and convince them that environmentalism is the only surefire way to establish a positive legacy for themselves in the face of global climate change. More than anything else, we need to remind seniors of the time in their lives when they actually felt a civic responsibility to do good by their country and their children.

Global climate change is already impacting the world, but the fight isn't over yet. Seniors need to become interested in sustainability for this effort to be won, and young people around the world shouldn't hesitate to guide them on the path towards a greener future.

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