Paul H. Irving
Aging and Capital Markets and Health and Impact Investing and Philanthropy and Public Policy
Paul Irving is chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging and distinguished scholar in residence at the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology. Irving also serves as chairman of, a director of East West Bancorp, Inc.
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A new beat on aging from the Grammys

By: Paul H. Irving
February 13, 2015

And the Grammys didn’t stop with recognition of performers from a wide age range. Like a handful of leading companies in the U.S. and aging societies that realize the potential of intergenerational teams, the Grammys featured intergenerational artist matchups: Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga; Herbie Hancock, John Mayer, Questlove and Ed Sheeran; Jessie J and Tom Jones, and Paul McCartney, Rihanna & Kanye West. When 24-year-old millennial, Hozier, and 60-year-old powerhouse Eurythmics veteran Annie Lennox took the stage, the crowd — and the Internet — went wild.

Intergenerational partnerships like this have been taking the music industry by storm – and surprise. After West’s “Only One” song featuring McCartney hit the airwaves, fans took to the twittersphere asking who “Paul McCartney" is and how West “discovered” him. Though it’s hard to image anyone not knowing the Beatles, the duet bridged a generational divide, providing a music education for younger fans who may have never ventured into the world of classic rock. 

The moving film, “Keep On Keepin' On”, the story of aging jazz trumpeter Clark Terry and his young protégé, pianist Justin Kauflin, is a nominee for this year’s the best documentary feature Oscar.

If intergenerational models can work so well in the music industry, they can certainly work in technology, manufacturing, healthcare, education, and in many other domains.

As the U.S. and other countries across the world confront a massive demographic shift resulting from lower birth rates and increasing longevity, we need new thinking about aging and the opportunity to purposefully engage older adults for their own benefit and the benefit of future generations. Research demonstrates the value of intergenerational working relationships for older and younger people — and for effectiveness. The creativity and innovation can inspire. The energy, learning, and mentorship flow both ways.

Not all older adults have the vitality of the 70-something Stones (turns out it wasn’t such a drag for them to get old; in some ways they just seem to get better). And not all younger people possess the talent of the up-and-coming stars of the music business. But the new beat from the Grammys is this: presented with the opportunity, people of all ages can contribute in their own important ways and can benefit together from a new understanding of the value of intergenerational engagement.