EDITORIAL: Shifting our rewards system to attract those we most desire

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
January 12th, 2011

Before I even get into this column I should start by saying a hearty thank you to the seniors in my life. Be it grandparents, friends or casual acquaintances around town, they have been nothing but good to me and I wholeheartedly appreciate the friendliness they’ve offered, knowledge passed down, veritable history lessons over beers and their contribution to society. That said, however, during the past several weeks there have been no less than five occasions on which I’ve paid more, received less or generally received poorer service for not being a senior. Ah, yes. I am in that fun yet difficult position of being a relatively young person in the early stages of starting a family where responsibility and expenses fast outpace growth in salary. Am I simply ranting (partially yes, but that’s part of my job) or do we perhaps need a shift in the way we view and reward different demographics?
Small towns like Rossland that are working hard to remain vibrant and sustainable would likely all agree that one of the most desirable demographics they’d like to see increase is that of the young family or roughly the 25 to 50 age group. As I’ve written about before, these are the folks that help populate our schools, volunteer to maintain our events and services, run, work at and hire employees to the businesses, coach kids sports and, in general, make things happen. That’s not to say other demographics don’t also do all of those things too, but the heart of that energy typically resides in the middle-class, young working family.
Purchasing lift tickets to Silverstar over the Christmas holidays I was somewhat dumfounded although not suprised and found myself questioning the logic behind the fact that my father, barely old enough to be called senior (and a well-off man in the twilight of a very successful working career), paid 30% less for his lift tickets than I, the young, emerging entrepreneur with a mortgage, car, and wedding to pay for–and with a bit of luck some Zwicker juniors soon running around too. 
In short, I like many others in my stage of life, have mountains of bills and responsibilities and have yet to come into my prime earning years. On the other hand, seniors typically have their housing paid for, kids moved out, cars that are paid for and a healthy sum of money in the bank along with perhaps a pension.
Sure, I can agree that seniors have put in their time and hopefully made the world a better place. They deserve credit for that and I’m in no way diminishing their contributions.  Does it really make sense, though, to offer discounts and privileges to folks who should, by all accounts, have the most money and least responsibilities of any adult demographic?
I would argue a better set up would be to support those most in need, those with the most difficult ratio of expenses and responsibility to income and those that towns such as Rossland most desire. Perhaps Rossland could be on the leading edge here.
A snowy town built on the side of a hill with few sidewalks to be seen–one could argue that we’re not likely to attract a lot of seniors to move to town. That’s not where our town’s growth is going to happen. We do, however, have a fantastic set of amenities to offer the young family who is after an adventurous, vibrant and safe small town culture. We’re not that cheap, though. Also, on the national or international scene, we’re not the most visible place for people looking for a new home.
Imagine for a moment if Rossland took the bold and certainly unique step of hanging up a banner announcing to the world that we’re ready to warmly embrace the young families around town or outside of town to move in. Indeed, the benefits for Rossland of this group moving to town would be many. What if we returned the favour and showed a little more love to these folks to thank them for what they bring to the table? Imagine if, while shopping, these folks received the discounts typically reserved for seniors? It would without a doubt be a unique approach, a marketable quirk for the Mountain Kingdom and something that quite likely would get picked up on by the media and generate some interest among people who might want to relocate here.
Now, I’m not saying we forget about our beloved seniors in all of this. They, too, deserve thanks and respect. They are the people who built this city into what it is and have lots to teach us. There could, however, be a shift in how we reward and thank them for their contributions to town. 
Perhaps it’s an appreciation day or celebration of what they’ve brought to town, perhaps it’s the younger generation volunteering more time to help out with different projects that benefit the senior population. It could be pitching in to lend our strength and skills to rebuild and repair the aging senior’s centre on 2nd Avenue, bringing fresh blood and young energy to groups like the Lions, The Legion or The Eagles and making sure their noble efforts continue.
Whatever forms that appreciation takes; it’ll be a worthy endeavor and count me in as the first to lend a hand. Perhaps, though, in addition, we should consider realigning the way we thank and reward the various groups that make up our city and make sure that the rewards we offer make sense for the people they’re offered to.

Categories: Op/Ed

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