Listen up if you’re retired or heading for retirement; if you’ve spent a lifetime working, caring for kids, building things, knitting for grandbabies, practicing an art, wrapping your head around the intricacies of home buying or managing finances; in short, if you’re old or getting there. You are amazing.
In fact, you’re an Amazing – or could be if you wanted.
No, this isn’t some kind of motivational group-hug effort. The Amazings is a new and fast-growing venture out of the UK that gives the retired and almost-retired an opportunity to package their skills and knowledge into classes for anyone who wants a quick, cheap, informal learning experience. The Amazings website serves as an online marketplace for the classes, as well as a community hub for teachers and students.
It’s a reverse-model of your typical social service organization: Instead of being a way to help seniors, it’s a way for seniors to help everyone else and help themselves at the same time. And it’s proved immensely popular. The Amazings are set to expand across the UK, and a US outpost is on the roadmap.
“Lets stop thinking about what older people can’t do and think about what they can do.”
The brainchild of Sidekick Studios, an innovation lab that creates companies capable of effecting social change, the Amazings launched a year ago in January 2012. The idea came about when Sidekick was exploring new venture ideas. “We were looking at major problems in the world, and we thought about the aging population. We started thinking about services or projects that would help older people,” Adil Abrar, the founder and chairman of Sidekick Studios, told Senior Planet.
Their first idea was “Near Death Experiences” a tongue-in cheek name for a company that would help retired people have bucket list type adventures – interesting, out-of-the-ordinary activities.
“We started talking to people about it,” Abrar says, “and realized that it wasn’t about coming up with experiences for older people – it was about them coming up with experiences for us. The people we spoke with are full of life, full of energy, full of experiences, full of knowledge, and they should be offering these services to us. Lets stop thinking about what older people can’t do and think about what they can do.”
“Everybody knows an older person who has an amazing skill, amazing knowledge. And yet we project this idea that all older people are a burden on society.”
In the beginning, the folks at Sidekick reached out to seniors in the street and community groups. Twelve months later the site has more than 60 teachers, and some 300 to 400 seniors who want to share skills have hit the site’s “become an Amazing” button. The Sidekick staff will sort through their ideas, put them up for a community vote and then help the chosen ones package their ideas for the site, using video and audio to help bring the class description to life.
Courses and workshops run the gamut, from joinery and digital photography (taught by a 72-year-old veteran photographer), to the basics of perfume blending and gardening (taught by a former tour manager for the Beatles and the Stones). Many of the workshops have hipster cred (“Retro Hair Do’s” and “Upcycle Your Clothes”), and the packaging is smart and funny.
We asked Abrar if the Amazings model could play a part in combatting ageism. “We hope so,” he said. “Everybody knows an older person who has an amazing skill, amazing knowledge. We all know someone in our personal lives – a grandparent, an uncle, a teacher, a neighbor – and yet we project this idea that all older people are a burden on society. All we’re saying is that one day each of us will be an Amazing. If we can teach knowledge, that’s how we become better as a race of people.”
What do you think? Could something like the Amazings work in the US? Would you want to be a part of it? Share your thoughts in the comments box at the bottom of this page.