Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Solo Agers

It’s a thing. And a potential problem. Childless baby boomers who are aging without a spouse or a partner, or who have children more than 500 miles away account for almost 40% of adults over 65. Add the fact that there is a growing shortage of caregivers and you have the perfect storm for a perfect mess.

If solo agers continue to live at home, and most of us will try to do that rather than opt for residential care, we could be facing a variety of problems. It’s not a reassuring picture: medication mismanagement, improper treatment of wounds, isolation and loneliness, poor nutrition, susceptibility to scams are just some of the issues we might potentially face.

Many baby boomers who value their independence or who are not joiners by nature may turn up their noses at residential care. But what if senior living communities went out of their way to attract this population segment?

Experts suggest that they build communities with lots of common spaces and indoor-outdoor areas; lose the pastel look and go modern; create small areas that mimic cul-de-sacs; create units that can be shared by friends/roommates; create spaces for gardening and walking; partner with colleges/universities; provide choices in every arena; and make sure every resident has a health care directive, a will and an estate plan that is updated regularly.

Solo agers need to start thinking about future legal guardianship, to prepare for the day when they are unable to make decisions for themselves. Designating a friend, a relative or a private guardian now is key. The day may come when you’re unable to make that choice.

Boomers are optimists by nature and we’ve got that invulnerability chip on our shoulders. But the reality is we will face the same fates as previous generations…cancer, heart disease, falls, organ failure, dementia/Alzheimer’s, etc. Sorry this is such a downer of a topic, but for solo agers it doesn’t have to be. Making smart choices now and keeping an open mind when it comes to residential living could make living longer into an experience in which we’re living better.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

To-Do List?

I’ve heard that some baby boomers feel like they should be winding down things on their to-do list, and I just want to emphatically state that it’s not going to happen in my world.

What? Winding down because you don’t want to add any new tasks or goals to your life? You want to coast the rest of the way? You don’t need the distractions?

I call bullshit. You do what you want but I think it’s important to keep adding things to the list rather than letting it atrophy. I’ve got places to go, new things to learn, more books to read, people to meet. I want to expand the to-do list not shrink it. If you’re finally at a place where you can do some of the things you always wanted to do, winding down the to-do list is totally counterintuitive.

Make no mistake –– I’m not against occasionally sitting back and contemplating my navel. I’ve earned that privilege. Maybe an end-life of contemplation made sense when life expectancy was a lot lower age than it is today, but if you’re going to live to 100 do you really think it’s rational to loaf all the way there from age 65? That’s a lot of downtime.

I thought baby boomers were going to be different when it came to retirement. Golf and shuffleboard were on the way out and personal improvement and a more hyperactive lifestyle were on the way in. No gold watch after 30 years of service with the same company, and that was okay because our varied worklife was more interesting and rewarding. Once again, boomers were going to make different choices from what our parents did. Slowing down was not going to be the goal of our retirement.

While the idea of just wasting time may sound like a plus if you’ve been a striver all your life, this striver thinks it’s exactly what it sounds like. A waste of time. You could be trying to learn a new language, taking a welding course, fusing glass, or getting better at Scrabble. In fact, it’s time to create a bucket list, not time to shorten your to-do list

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

There’s a disturbing new trend among rich baby boomers. No, not that they are getting even richer. Apparently, according to architects and home builders, wealthy boomers are not downsizing. In fact, they are making their master bedrooms even larger so that they can live in one big room while the rest of the house remains vacant…waiting for the next party or set of house guests.

The kids are out of the house but these boomers just don’t want to part with their furnishings. The solution is to expand the master bedroom and rarely use the rest of the house. Builders of $10 million homes say that the buyers want wet bars, drawing rooms, dressing rooms and oversized bathrooms in their master suites. A 12,000 square-foot home in Aspen has an elevator that goes from the garage straight to the master bedroom that features an office, gym, fridge, sink and coffee maker. So a portable frig is no longer a big deal. Most of the house traffic is from the bedroom to the kitchen and back.

Which begs the question. Why not combine the kitchen and the master and just never leave that one big space. Nightstands could be replaced by beverage dispensers combined with convection ovens. The headboard could be a refrigerator-freezer combo. Groceries can be delivered by Peapod and with the help of Alexa opening the front door, the delivery person can bring everything straight into the master.

If the children and grandchildren show up, they can have the rest of the house, bedrooms and living room to themselves. The boomers can remain in their stand-alone apartment and only come out when the mood strikes.

Brokers are comparing this trend to the European penchant for closing off large parts of the baronial estate. Only the Europeans have to rent out their estates for weddings and tours in order to cover their annual upkeep. Not so wealthy boomers. They can afford to cocoon themselves in extravagant master suites without ever letting the rest of the world in.

When you think about it, even not so wealthy boomers can emulate this trend. Just move into a suite at a luxury hotel and when the kids come, make then rent their own rooms. Done.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.

Monday, August 13, 2018

People Persons

Anti-social or just getting more picky? Baby boomers are less socially engaged than people the same age 20 years ago according to a Stanford Center on Longevity study. How do you define social engagement you might be asking? The Center defined it as something measured by involvement with family, friends, neighbors, spouses, as well as work, volunteer or community activities.

Are we deliberately pulling back on social commitments or is it due to lack of time or other pressures. Baby boomers are the sandwich generation after all, and they may be caring for elderly parents while their children may still live under their roof. The need to continue working for financial considerations is also a factor. Boomers have also moved frequently during their careers and that has limited longer-term interpersonal relations.

I recently had a discussion where a group of baby boomers agreed that while face to face socialization and bonding over common interests might be desirable, the same connection via the internet might be more satisfying and even more efficient. A hypothetical group of stamp collectors might dislike each other’s politics if they met in person, but the internet interaction helps to keep the focus on stamps. So even polarization has been a factor in discouraging more face to face interactions.

Texting and email have definitely made it easier to stay in touch with “your people.” Is that a bad thing? I don’t believe it is, but some of the Stanford researchers are concerned about what’s lost when boomers back away from meaningful engagement. Keeping to ourselves may not be good for our communities that need volunteers, mentors and civic minded participants.

I don’t foresee boomers becoming so isolated that their communities suffer as a good percentage of them will continue to be socially engaged. We may be trying to find that happy medium where we maintain quality real time people interactions along with social media interactions. Bottom line, it’s too soon to label boomers and people who don’t need people. In fact, we need people more than ever but we’re redefining how we maintain those relationships.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.

Monday, July 23, 2018


I saw a promotion recently for a Netflix documentary about Bobby Kennedy. A black screen featured the overlay of large red numerals for 1968 and it struck me that I had forgotten what a tumultuous year that was. We think we are living in crazy times now, but in 1968 many baby boomers felt a loss of innocence that probably has stuck with us to this day.

The year began with the realization that the war in Vietnam was lost. Walter Cronkite of CBS news said so and we trusted him. Peace with honor was a bullshit way of saying stick a fork in it and the loss of life for this lost cause still boggles the mind, as does the after the fact realization that the war was prolonged for purely political gain.

Eugene McCarthy won the New Hampshire Democratic primary in March and LBJ announced his withdrawal from the race. Everyone was shocked.

More shocking still was the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April. The riots that followed underscored the simmering resentment and frustration that African Americans felt when it came to their civil rights in a country that prided itself on believing that all men are created equal.

Just a few months later, after Bobby Kennedy had won California’s Democratic primary, he was assassinated in Los Angeles. Young baby boomers who were drawn to the charismatic politician were devastated. He represented the hope that we could be a better more compassionate nation and it felt like someone had cruelly doused the flame. His final public words have some powerful resonance still, especially at this moment in our nation’s history: “What I think is quite clear is that we can work together… And that what has been going on with the United States over the period of the last three years, the divisions, the violence, the disenchantment with our society, the divisions — whether it’s between blacks and whites, between the poor and the more affluent, or between age groups, or in the war in Vietnam — that we can work together. We are a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country. And I intend to make that my basis for running.”

And lest you forget, this was all happening 50 years ago. Maybe the innocence is long gone, but I would like to think that the optimism and compassion are still there for millions of boomers.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

If I Had a Hammer

I’d hammer in the evening, all over this land.

News flash: Millennials are more apt to end up in the ER from a DIY home improvement project. More than whom? More than baby boomers, of course.

According to a study done by SoFi (a finance company I’ve never heard of before), millennials are 23% more likely than boomers to end up in the ER due to a home improvement mishap. And two times more likely to require stitches. And twice as likely to be injured by power tools. You can find the full study here.

Here’s the kicker. The reason millennials suffer more injuries is down to overzealousness…they are just too eager to show off their latest project on social media. So really it’s all Facebook’s fault.

Boomers are 22% more likely to finish their DIY projects, but millennials are 65% more likely to finish ahead of schedule (and that may include time spent in the ER). It’s also telling that millennials are more than four times more likely to hire a professional for their next home improvement project.

Not surprisingly, millennials are twice as likely to post photos of their project on social media just to “show off.” Doing it for the ‘gram (that’s short for Instagram if you’ve been living under a rock) comes naturally to this cohort.

What happened to improving something in your home just for the comfort and satisfaction of a job well done? You might as well ask why we no longer have rotary phone dials.

I’m not making social media out to be the monster in the closet. It’s the go to destination for figuring out how to do literally thousands of DIY tasks. From replacing solenoids and brake shoes, to repairing toaster ovens and drying out smart phones that fell in the toilet, the internet (and specifically Youtube) has significantly boosted the success rate of DIY projects. Long gone are the days when you had to go to the library for a how-to book or struggled to figure the problem out on your own. Now there are thousands of “experts” posting DIY videos that take you step by step through the project and that has given many of us the confidence to tackle some tricky tasks.

Therein may be the difference between boomers and millennials. We use it as a tool, they use it as a megaphone. Vive la difference and stay out of the ER.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Pig In A Python

How did it come to this? The term “baby boomer” is considered by some, if not many, to be a toxic phrase. Are we really synonymous with greed and selfishness? When did our cohort go from being groundbreakers to saboteurs? Anthropologist Helen Fisher describes the postwar baby boom, or bulge if you will, as “like a pig moving through a python.”

Yikes! That does not sound good, nor does it reflect well on us as a generation. For a long time being a boomer felt like it was a badge of honor. We were part of this unprecedentedly large generation that made its mark on culture, from music and entertainment to literature and language. We were a potent force in changing the way our society looked at war, sex and civil rights. It almost makes you want to hum Let the Sunshine In from the musical Hair.

Then somewhere around the time of the last economic downturn there began to emerge a chorus of naysayers who pointed the finger at boomers. “Look what you’ve done! You really have effed things up royally!” Really? They want to blame an entire generation for the failures of our governments and our leaders. I guess the flipside of taking credit for much of the cultural innovation of our era is that we also get saddled with the blame. It makes you want to go down the road of revisionist history. Were the generations that preceded us really that exemplary or did they have some serious faults as well. Our parents were part of the so called “greatest generation” because they met and beat back the bad guys in World War II. Should they get all the credit for the postwar boom that lit the fuse for an age of American prosperity? They also gave us the cold war, McCarthyism and a horrible record on civil rights.

The bad rap on baby boomers is just as much a generalization as the rap on millennials. They are not all selfie-taking, soft-in-the-middle, whiners still living with their parents. Like generations before them, they are a product of their place in time. In their case, that’s a post-9/11 America that seems to be at war all the time and ignoring climate change.

Let’s hope that the generations can move beyond the stereotyping, because one way or another we are going to be very dependent upon each other and it will benefit us all to give up this senseless blame game.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, Head Above Water which can be purchased on Amazon here. You can also visit his author page here.