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Memo to Amazon's Jeff Bezos: Old Is Cool, Too

A response to the superstar CEO's "Young is cool" proclamation — and his reply

By Carol LaChapelle | December 11, 2013
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Carol LaChapelle is a Chicago-based writer who conducts online writing workshops and blogs about the "Boomer and Beyond life". She is the author of Finding Your Voice, Telling Your Stories and is at work on a second book.

Dear Mr. Bezos,
 
In your recent in-house memo to your executives at Amazon, you list the reasons why (and how) your company remains loved by its customers. These are nicely summed up as “cool vs. not cool” company practices and attitudes.
 
Of the 24 items on the list, one especially caught my eye: “Young is cool.” 
 
As this maxim doesn’t seem quite as obvious as “Leadership is cool” or “Polite is cool,” I can only guess that it’s meant to be self-evident.
 
And I suppose if one is young, it is. 
 
But for those of us who are not young — including some of your Amazon employees — it may not seem so obvious.  In fact, we not-youngs might hope that you’d consider balancing a self-evident proposition with a more evident one: Old is cool.

(MORE: How Grown-Ups Can Keep Growing)
 
To wit, the evidence:
 
1. Old people understand the difference between real and virtual experiences. We use email and Facebook, love the Internet and happily “live chat” and pay our bills on line — all fun, all good. But we know that these are conveniences; they do not replace real-time sensory experiences such as the feel of a summer wind on our old, craggy faces, the scent of baby powder on a new grandchild or the unexpected sight of a burnt-orange sun at dusk.
 
2. We do not waste much angst on first-world problems, especially those related to technology. (Sorry, I know this is your game.) When our various geegaws go haywire — as they will — we don’t get our undies in quite the same bundle as do the young. 
 
We aren’t as dependent on gadgets, I guess. We still own real books, have newspapers delivered in blue plastic sleeves, watch TV on TV sets and talk to friends on landlines. And when we do get in some techno-glitch, we can rely on our neighbors — and, more likely, their kids — to help us out.

(MORE: How to Grow Old With Vitality and Gusto)

3. As Confucius advised, most of us have lived in interesting times, all of which translates to lots of good stories. I know, I know. Maybe you don’t want to hear any more about the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement, the street protests and assassinations, the financial blunders and political shenanigans. But maybe you should.
 
There is something useful in what George Santayna said about those who “cannot remember the past.”
 
4. We generally have more time to give back to our communities, including the young. While young people are busy reaping and sowing, spending and wasting (and tweeting and texting), we’re mentoring and volunteering in local hospitals, schools and libraries. 
 
We still protest and march in the streets, too, for and against the causes that matter most to us.

(MORE: An Expert's Tips on Starting a Business After 50)

5. And here’s maybe the best reason why old is cool: We put things in perspective. We’ve been around for so long, we really have no choice. Though we’ve accumulated and survived some pretty devastating losses — serious illnesses, career implosions, the countless deaths of loved ones — we’ve figured out how to keep moving on.
 
Still, it’s undeniable that, as you say, young is cool. I should know — been there, done that: sex, drugs, music, risk-taking, all the enthusiasm, strength and beauty of bodies in motion, of first-time loves and travels and job successes, of believing that all of it will not stop.
 
And then it does.  
 
But the stopping is not the end. Old is the end. And for that, I am grateful beyond measure.
 
Yours,
 
Carol LaChapelle
 
 
Coda
           
I emailed this to Mr. Bezos on Wednesday, November 6, at 7:02 pm. He responded 16 minutes later, saying:
 
It's clear you're young, despite what your birth year might tell you. In any event, you're certainly cool.

With love,

Jeff
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