Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Social Media Won't Save Us But the Longevity Economy Might

If you thought tech start-ups have nothing to do with your life or your future, think again. Silicon Valley just might be making the lives of aging baby boomers a whole lot more comfortable (or bearable) than we thought.

There’s gold in them thar hills. Only the hills is us, and it’s beginning to look like some very smart entrepreneurs are recognizing that the silver tsunami could mean gold for them, and greater comfort for us. Health and wellness technology is creating what’s been coined as the “longevity economy” and we should probably jump on the train as investors as well as beneficiaries.

Silver Tech is another name for it, but whatever you call it, competition and profit are going to drive tech companies to make products that allow us to live longer in our own homes and independently. From wearable fitness devices to treadmill desks, new products are coming on line every day. Then there’s the video link-ups that let you talk to a real doctor from your computer (without putting on one of those funny gowns!). Or the geolocation devices that will help find dementia patients. There’s even an airbag device that can be worn around the waist and it deploys when the wearer falls over, preventing the dreaded broken hip accident that often becomes the beginning of the end for elderly patients.

There’s a treadmill desk for those of us still working (although I have visions of becoming distracted by an incoming email and then thrown against the wall) and a raft of new health apps to put on your smart phone and/or strap to your wrist. These gadgets will monitor our heart rate, measure our steps, time our workouts, even tell us when we fell asleep. It’s not too hard to imagine a time when it will tell us when to eat, what to eat, and when to poop. That last alert could be really helpful when dementia sets in.

Perhaps the most telling sentiment about aging among babyboomers is not the fear of death itself, but the fear of having a crummy, dehumanizing assisted living experience. When you’re dead and gone, you’re….well…dead and gone. But to exist as just one more helpless geezer, that’s what all of hope to avoid. If high-tech tools and gadgets will prevent that end, sign me up.


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How stupid do they think we are?

I have been seeing commercials lately for a hair rejuvenation product. It’s targeted to women with thinning hair. After some of the usual mumbo jumbo about the efficacy of this miracle product, viewers are directed to call now – but only if your last name begins with A-N. If your last name begins with O-Z, you are directed to call after 9am tomorrow morning. Really? I mean really?

How stupid do they think we are? Demand for this product is so heavy, they have to cut the number of callers in half (that’s presuming there are half as many thin-haired women whose last name begins with A-N….or forget it, this is ridiculous). So let’s say your last name is Stupidovitz and you decide you can’t wait until tomorrow…you’re calling RIGHT NOW! Operators are standing by to take your call. Oh, sorry, your name begins with S. You’ll have to call after 9am tomorrow. But you have to order now. Can’t you make an exception? Okay, but don’t ever tell anyone that I let you order tonight instead of waiting until tomorrow. I could lose my fantastic job over this. Will that be MasterCard, Visa or American Express?

Do the makers or marketers of this product know something that we don’t? For example, is it possible that women with thinning hair are also beginning to experience thinning critical judgment? The hair loss is also a factor in brain cell loss?

I used to think that infomercials must have an ever shrinking audience of gullible buyers, but I now believe that commercials for products such as Keranique must be successful. Why else would they continue to buy airtime to hawk their product. Someone is buying it (either that very night or the next day after 9am). This apparent widespread gullibility may explain a lot of other aberrations of logic (take a look at voter referendums in this country if you want see the power of twisted persuasion).

And speaking of twisted and gullibility, don’t even get me started on Henry Winkler (The Fonz) peddling reverse mortgages.


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Hey, Bungalow Bill

I read somewhere that bungalows have fast become the “it” house for baby boomers who want to downsize and live on one level. You lose the stairs but still get a backyard and some green space. Makes sense. Who wants to climb stairs as you get older, or trip and break your hip…since we all know what that means…the end.

So the word comes from the Hindi word “bangla” which means belonging to Bengal. Maybe it was a one-story house for tigers? My dictionary defines it as a “low house, with a broad front porch, having either no upper floor or upper rooms set in the roof, typically with dormer windows.” There’s even a California bungalow that owes its name to its popularity in the Golden State, particularly after World War II. The Craftsman movement in this country often featured bungalow style homes, and they have been much sought after by renovators and house flippers.

So it seems everything has come full circle --- again. Baby boomers may have grown up in bungalow homes, only to move out into the world of cape cods, colonials, ranchers, tudors, mid-century moderns, split-levels, log cabins, A-frames, mediterraneans, McMansions, townhouses, and condos.

I would say that we’re taking a step up, but there will be no steps. The ideal home for us will be one level with nothing to trip us up. The bathroom will have all those handle thingies (okay, grab bars if you prefer) to keep us from falling on the radiant-heated floor. There will be no high cabinets in the kitchen. There will be automatic lights that come on when we enter a room and go off when we leave it. Lever-type handles will replace knobs on all our doors, and faucets as well. Slip-resistant flooring material will be used throughout the house – no more area rugs. Very low-pile carpeting will be the most likely choice.

For a generation that likes to have things their way, the bungalow sounds like an ideal fit. Spock’s Vulcan salute of “Live long and prosper” is going to be replaced by “Live longer by not tripping.”

As Chief Thunderthud used to say on Howdy Doody, “Kowabunga!” Bungalow houses here we come.


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

But You Doesn't Hasta Call Me Johnson!

If you don’t remember this line, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoYsfbq3vMc

There’s a war on words brewing for boomers. Maybe war is too strong. Let’s just say baby boomers are bucking labels such as “senior,” “senior citizen,” “mature adult,” or “older adult.” And they are not to happy with the sound of nursing home, assisted living facility, old-age home, or adult day care.

Something tells me this aversion to be labeled goes all the way back to be when we first got the tag “baby boomers.” Society has to keep labeling generations, so I doubt Gen Xers or millennials feel any better about the process, but at least they don’t have the word “baby” in their handle. How’s a baby boomer supposed to go from baby to geezer? Besides that fact that they are both wrinkled, what does a baby have in common with a geezer?

Being called “old” gets old, so what should we be called as we get around the bend? And what age qualifies as around the bend? We used to think the retirement age of 65 was old, but as retirement pushed back later and later, it seemed like maybe 75 was old. But if you talk to any 75 year olds, they will tell you, no, 75 isn’t old – 85 is old.

And to those who say, yeah, yeah, it’s just words, I say yes, but word labels can sting. It’s bad enough that we’re going to experience diminished faculties and lessened control of bodily functions. We don’t have to be further insulted with demeaning labels and warehoused in places that have names that sound just plain awful.

The reality of our situation is that no matter what they call us or where they store us, it may not be pretty. Normally I might say we should suck it up, keep calm and carry on. But for crying out loud (something we’re good at), we’re baby boomers! We don’t have to take this crap without a fight! There’s 77 million of us (but the number is going down by the day)! We can call the shots (I’m delirious with power now)!

Okay, maybe the sheer magnitude of our numbers can’t stop younger generations from referring to us as ‘old fogies” (whatever a fogey is). But that won’t stop a resistance movement (picture an underground network of rebel boomers).

Personally, I’m okay with being called “ripe.”


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Big 5-0

5. 0. Fifty. Five. Zero. That can’t be right.

We’ll be hearing that a lot in the coming years. Actually, you may be saying it to yourself already. It’s been 50 years since you graduated (hopefully) from high school. People used to stay married that long. It’s half a century. Five decades. A lotta years.

If they were the best years of your life, then there’s a lot to look back on. If they were the worst years of your life, it’s easy to forget them. Some boomers are finding it easy to dive into this big, steaming bowl of nostalgia. Others would rather stay close to shore, watching from a distance but not diving into the reveries.

It’s easy to remember those high school years as carefree, but that’s only because we were able to ignore the history that was happening all around us. The Cuban missile crisis, school desegregation, assassinations, civil rights marches, urban riots, and the war in Vietnam marked the first half of the 1960s but I suspect most boomers in high school still did not understand just how scary the world could/would be. Our teachers, parents and relatives probably tried to tell us and pass on their wisdom honed from years of experience – but why would we be listening to old people? We knew everything.

Here we are 50 years later, and just as we redefined what it meant to be a baby boom teenager, now we are redefining what it means to be old, or make that older. Who is old? When should we stop working? Why should we stop working? Who are we to tell Mick Jagger, that’s enough? If you stop and think about the fact that we’re living longer and working longer than our parents, the 50 year thing begins to look more like a glass half-full or half-empty proposition.

I think it’s great that boomers are getting all reflective about those high school years, but as we like to remind you on our masthead, your whole life’s in front of you. You can spend some quality time looking back, but I’d rather work on making some quality time in the years ahead.

Oh, and one other thing. We will never look as good as we did in 1965.


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bucket List Conundrum

A relatively recent fad, the bucket list appears to be growing more and more relevant to baby boomers. Naturally, that’s because we are on the downside of our life span so it’s time to get some things done before we kick the bucket.

And therein lies the problem for me. Making a list of things to do/places to go before you die is an inherently pessimistic proposition. Would I like to travel to some destinations that have always interested me? Yes, definitely. But do I want to get to these places because time is running out, the clock is ticking, it won’t be long now, and just about all the sand has fallen through the hour glass? Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got things I want to do but I hate the idea that I’m supposed to play beat the clock. I’m no procrastinator but I don’t like being pressured to do something before I think it’s time or I have the time to do it. I have to catch myself when tempted to say I’m doing something or going somewhere because it’s on my bucket list. Rather, I like to think I’m self-publishing that book or visiting that country because I'm lucky that I have the time/money to do it…and dying before I get to it does not enter into the equation.

A bucket list is almost like saying to yourself that you should be nicer to friends and family now. After all, your days are numbered and you want to be remembered as the kind person you think you are (or wish you could be). It’s a cynical gesture to make friends and family think you are (or were) a better person than you really are. And it’s all about getting it done before you buy the farm, check into the Horizontal Hilton, take a dirt nap, leave the building, play the harp or sleep with the fishes (more on that later).

Still, from the number of times I’m hearing people mention their bucket list, I may be the salmon swimming upstream on this one. Which reminds me, I’ve always wanted to swim upstream with the salmon. It’s on my net 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, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Say You're Sorry?

You want an apology for what? For fannypacks? For disco? For Neil Diamond? Platform shoes? To millennials and GenXers who want to blame baby boomers for practically everything wrong in the world, I say give me a break!

Every generation has its stuff and not all of it was germinated by the participants themselves – you think a young baby boomer fashion designer came up with the white patent leather belt?

We were marketed to by our fine capitalist system and we often bought what they were selling. Hippies may have sewn the first bellbottom jeans, but the clothing industry jumped on the trend and soon a whole generation had to have those wild pants. Same goes for disco music, mood rings, lava lamps and pet rocks. We often ended buying what someone else was selling but that doesn’t make us responsible for the original sin.

So I say again, sorry for what? PBS is running a documentary program called The Boomer List in order to tell the story of the boomer generation through the lives of 19 iconic baby boomers. Check out some of the names on the list and tell me why we should be sorry. Samuel L. Jackson, Deepak Chopra, Billy Joel, Steve Wozniak, Amy Tan, Eve Ensler, Erin Brokovich. No slackers there.

If you want to pull out some kind of balance sheet with the good things on one side and the bad things on the other side, I am certain that the positive contributions of baby boomers such as those featured in The Boomer List would far outstrip the goofy stuff for which you could say we’re responsible.

History will be the final arbiter on the good/bad scale, but I think I can safely predict that baby boomers will be seen as a generation that had a profound and mostly positive impact on our world. So put that in your fannypack!


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Debtors

Ned and Carol, where are you? The reason I ask is that we keep getting calls for you. It’s been five years since we moved here and signed up for landline phone service. They gave us a number that must have once belonged to you.

But you two – you little imps – you two must have run up some mighty big debts, because not a day goes by that we don’t get a call from a collection service looking for you kids.

“If you are Ned Street or you know how we might locate Ned Street, please call yada-yada-yada.”

Now, when I see the collection agency name come up on caller ID, I pick up the call for two seconds and then disconnect. They are such wearisome calls after five years of hearing the same recorded message. And if I were Ned, would I really call the number for the collection agency? I hardly think so.

And not just one collection service is looking for you. There are several that would be interested in knowing your whereabouts. You and Carol must have racked up some serious debt. I imagine that it all started with some profligate spending on the credit cards and perhaps some gambling. The next thing you knew, it spiraled into a second mortgage and then maybe foreclosure on the house. The banks must have come after you too, but by then you and Carol had split town. Speaking of splitting, my guess is that the stress of your indebtedness drove a wedge between you and Carol, and the marriage folded. I could be wrong, but it seems unlikely that a marriage could survive the such a tremendous fall so far down the rabbit hole. I imagine you’ve gone your separate ways and tried to disappear into the cracks somewhere new, but it must be hard to try to rebuild a decent credit history with the collectors breathing down your neck.

I don’t know when the calls will stop. Maybe never. You would think the statue of patience limitations would have run out after five years, but hope springs eternal in the collection biz. I guess my own hope that the calls would finally stop demonstrates that I too have unrealistic expectations. Anyway, Ned and Carol, I hope you’ve landed on your feet somehow and find a way to rebuild your lives. If you’re ever feeling nostalgic, call your old phone number and let us know how you’re doing.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

One Nation, Under All

Underpants, panties, unders, underwear….whatever you call them, they are about to get a makeover. Our good friends at Proctor and Gamble (a test monitor and a high risk? I don’t get it.) will soon be unleashing $150 million worth of marketing for incontinence products according to AdAge.

With brand names like Envive and Discreet, P&G is going to show us that the future is now, and the future is incontinence. We can hardly wait.

A whole gaggle of celebrities are already pitching incontinence products --- our favorite stars (okay, I don’t know who some of them are – or care) Whoopi Goldberg, Kris Jenner, Marie Osmond, Lisa Rinna, and Kirstie Alley. This must be the baby boomer encore career that people keep talking about! It’s hard to gauge which is worse – the onset of incontinence or the idiotic celebrity ads that are designed to get us to buy the products.

I’m all for frank discussions of some of the ailments boomers are going to face in their later years, but I’m guessing that this onslaught of TV and social media prompts is going to get real annoying, real fast. I doubt that the fact that we are “sharing” our incontinence with the stars we/some of us have come to know and love make the realization that we need these products any less “uncomfortable.” Following the Tweets of Marie Osmond when she shares that she just peed in her pants but it’s OK --- she has on a pair of PeeStoppers --- that’s going to make us all feel better about ourselves.

There’s sharing and then there’s oversharing. If P&G is really going to spend $150 million for incontinence product ads and social media, then it’s a good bet there will be a lot of oversharing. How can a celebrity endorsement make us feel better that we’re losing control of a basic bodily function? Can’t. That’s the short answer. The slightly longer answer is that I don’t care who else is incontinent. I just hope it isn’t me or that it’s many years off. The ailment is embarrassing enough without having to watch famous people embarrass themselves.


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Way We Were

I woke up this morning and said, “Today’s the day. The day I write my memoir.”

Sounds easy but the truth is that I don’t remember much. I remember the song…Memories. Maybe that wasn’t the title but I can sing you the first line. Or maybe not. Memories, light the something something something. That’s all I remember. Oh, and Streisand sang it, I remember that. And she couldn’t or wouldn’t spell Barbara the right way.

That nice young lady who comes to see me sometimes, she can sing the song. I think she’s related to me but I’m not really sure. She looks a lot like me. Like a family resemblance. She told me who she is but then I forget right after she tells me.

Just thought of a joke. That doesn’t happen often. I say, “I think I lost my brafour and you say. ‘What’s a bra for?’ Get it. Funny. Ha, ha. Not sure why I remember that one.

Maybe the young lady will help me with my memoir. I could get her to write the things down so that someone will read it some day and they will know who I was, that I had a life, that I did things and went places. Like that. I hope I remember to ask her when she comes today or tomorrow. Or whenever she comes back.

I remember being outside and playing all day and when the cousins came and we would play hide and seek and games with a ball. I remember trying to show off and run faster and hide where no one could find me. Giant steps…that was some kind of game we played and you had to stand on the front porch. Something about a red light and a green light. Or you had to count to 20 and then go look for someone. I was better at hiding than looking.

We played until dark, until the fireflies came out and we chased them all over the yard. Sometimes we tried to trap them in a jar. And it had holes in the lid.

Where is that lady? Why isn’t she here today. When I’m not looking for her, then she shows up. When I need her to help me remember things, she’s not here.

The Way We Were….that’s it, that’s the song. That’s my life.


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Time Shifters

There was a time when advertising reflected the nostalgia of our demographic and all was well in the kingdom of baby boomers. Maybe you’ve already noticed, but our nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. Someone has pushed up the timeline for what’s considered nostalgic and it’s going to be an adjustment for aging boomers.

You can still hear some soundtracks from our youth, whether it’s the Kinks hawking yogurt (All Day and All of the Night), the Ronettes’ Be My Baby standing up for erectile drugs, or Shake Your Booty (KC and the Sunshine Band) for Fidelity Investments. You gotta like the nerve of Burger King using Walk of Life (Dire Straits) to sell fast food. Or Google using Hall and Oates’ Maneater. Car Wash Blues for Delta Faucets? But for a real leap back in time, Nationwide used Love Is Strange (Mickey and Sylvia).

But if you listen closely, the music used to target a generation has shifted forward to sounds of the late 70s, 80s and 90s. And to another generation other than ours. Auto Trader is using the stars of the Dukes of Hazzard. Budweiser is using What I Like About You. Swiffer used Devo’s Whip It (Whip It Good). Cadillac used Stacey’s Mom (Fountains of Wayne) to sell Escalades….this is the one where the Dads in the school drop-off lane are either ogling the mom or the car, or both. The crazy pistachios ads have used many songs but went straight to new material when they utilized Psy’s Gangman Style. But the prize for tapping the most current music scene for its commercials has to go to Volkswagon. From artists such as The Jesus and Mary Chain (Just Like Honey) and Wave Machine (Keep the Lights On), VW seems to have a knack for finding the newest songs to hook you into their message. And as a bonus, it must be cheaper to use not-yet-famous artists.

It was fun to hear the soundtrack of our youth when we watched a car commercial, but things change, and we might have to get used to being left out of the musical mix. Maybe the occasional adult diaper ad will hit a familiar note (the Beatles – Don’t Let Me Down?).

Looks like what we called nostalgia is soon going to be relegated to just plain old stuff for old people. And where’s the romance in that?


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Seriously? Roommates?

Remember the show Golden Girls? Housing experts predict that it’s coming back – for real. What happens when aging boomers run low on cheddar (sorry – too much Breaking Bad – I meant money)? If they are single adults, they will start looking for roommates to lower their living expenses. The theory being that 3 or 4 Social Security checks combined will go a lot further, as will the weekly groceries.

There are already groups set up to help boomers find each other and more are organizing every day. Affordable Living for the Aging reports that about 130,000 senior-partnership households already exist and that number is expected to increase rapidly.

And we’re not talking about adult partners who are shacking up (the forerunner of hooking up). We’re talking about adults with no familial or romantic connection. It’s a pure “shared economy” arrangement where roommates contribute something valuable to the deal. Maybe you own a house but are cash-strapped. The roommate can buy the groceries and help with the utility bills, or drive you to doctor appointments, or whatever, all in exchange for a rent-free roof over their heads. You put 3 or 4 roommates under one roof and you really have some economy of scale.

And it sure beats living in a refrigerator box. When you look at the statistics about how little money some boomers have put away for retirement, it makes you think that homelessness among the aging could grow into a massive scale problem. Roommate exchanges offers a far better prospect than seeing homeless seniors living rough.

By 2030, 1 in 5 Americans will be a senior (over 65). Rather than stacking seniors up like cordwood in warehouse-style housing, the roommate plan could be a bright spot in an otherwise dismal formula for end-of-life housing. Is having one or more roommates the ideal, dream scenario, the arrangement that each of us always dreamed of? Not really, not even close. But it beats a lot of dreadful alternatives that one could imagine.

And think of all the great sit-com potential that could come from it. Everyone loves cranky seniors (spitfires, if you please). It could be like the show Friends, but with old people. You could be Monica and I could be Joey!


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Silver Cribs

If you’ve ever watched the TV show Cribs (it’s on MTV, and if that’s not a good reason to miss it, I don’t know what is), you get to see how the other half (or 1% anyway) lives. Do I want to know how rich athletes, rappers, actors, wrestlers, sextape participants and various miscreants live? HELL NO!

I’m a little more focused on how I’m living and will continue to live in the fast looming future. And it turns out that Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate was also curious, so they conducted a survey. Now I picture you panting with anticipation, so here goes….your future awaits.

39% of boomers surveyed want to retire to small towns and farms, 27% prefer retirement communities, 26% want urban centers, and 8% picked “lifestyle” communities (which apparently has something to do with golf). If this doesn’t add up to 100%, blame Better Homes, not me.

These stats are somewhat confusing when 4 out of 10 of the same respondents say they plan to stay in their current homes in retirement. And if they do move, it won’t be far. Seventy-two percent are going to remain in the same state where they currently reside.

And bad news for elderly parents or kids…83 percent of boomer respondents plan to ditch any family members who are trying to mooch off them. There are no multi-generational abodes in their future. What they do want is diversity. Age-restricted communities are falling out of favor for their lack of variety. Boomers don’t want to be around a lot of other older people who remind them that they are old as well. So they like the idea of being around younger people, just not their own offspring.

About two-thirds of these boomers plan to renovate their current homes to accommodate future needs. I guess that’s really great news for the makers of stair lifts and walk-in tubs. Also high on the list of wants is low-maintenance. Boomers are looking for what’s known as “lock and leave” homes. We got places to go and things to do. We can’t be cleaning gutters, mowing the lawn, and painting the garage.

It occurs to me that surveys like this one bring out the wishful thinking in people. Boomers say this is what they want, but the reality may turn out to be quite different. But who wants to think that we’re going to end up warehoused in some shoebox apartment with a bunch of other bitter boomers. Wait…that’s the next Cribs concept for MTV. Old people in boxes! No more calls, we have a winner.


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Toothpaste --- Out of Control!

Gone into a supermarket to purchase toothpaste lately? Good luck. If you know your brand and type you might get out of the dental products aisle in less than 10 minutes. Even if you do know your brand and type, it’s a devilish task to find it. Colgate alone has more than 40 variations….some whiten, some don’t, some protect enamel, some don’t, some have baking soda and peroxide, some don’t, some have tartar protection, some don’t. Then there’s the whole flavor spectrum to deal with --- crystal mint, clean mint, cool mint, original (what the hell is that?) etc. Do you favor gel or paste? And let’s not get started on the package sizes.

Something has gone wrong with toothpaste merchandising, that’s obvious. It should not be that hard to choose a brand and type. The manufacturers (all of them, Crest, Colgate, Arm and Hammer, etc.) all play the game and the goal is to totally bewilder the consumer, and on that front, they have achieved total victory. According to some estimates there are around 350 distinct types and sizes of toothpaste available for retail sale.

Pricing too is insane. A 4.5 ounce tube can cost as much as 6 ounce tube and you have this suspicion that toothpaste has a lot in common with lipstick. It’s cheap to produce and expensive to market. Supposedly, Colgate and Crest control 70% of the market but they spend millions on advertising non-stop to hold on to that brand loyalty. So the ingredients and packaging may account for 10% of the costs with the rest going to marketing. As I said, it may be a lot like lipstick.

Dentists will tell you to just make sure it has the ADA seal and contains fluoride to help prevent decay and subsequent cavities. Some take it a step further and tell you to stay away from whitening products that they deem not very beneficial, borderline harmful.

My latest idea is to take a photo of the toothpaste package at home with my smartphone so that I can try to find the same package on the shelf. It beats coming home with a new brand/type that you did not intend to purchase. Supposedly, the manufacturers know that they have too many brand variations and they are trying to scale back the options to curtail some of the sensory overload that consumers get in the toothpaste aisle. I haven’t seen any improvement at our grocery store, but I can only hope that it gets easier. Otherwise I’m considering converting to the chew stick. It’s cheap, you don’t need toothpaste, and it combats bad breath. Oh yeah, and you can grow your own chew stick tree and never visit the toothpaste aisle again.


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Worker Bees

My Sweet Irreplaceable You

Final score….73 to 48. That’s 73 million baby boomers and 48 million GenXers. If all the baby boomers left the labor market at the same time, the American economy could not sustain itself.

Wow! Makes you want to quit tomorrow if it weren’t for the negative consequences. But seriously, this is serious. It’s not a question of experience or competence, it’s just plain arithmetic. As large numbers of boomers leave the workforce, there are not enough employees to take their place.

Employers may have to reach down to the farm team level to tap Gen Yers (born between 1980 and 2000), but there’s a big concern about whether they are ready and whether their work culture will clash big time with the remaining boomers.

While boomers are typically obsessed with their work, Gen Yers generally seek a greater balance between work and life interests. Often characterized as high performance and high maintenance, they lack the experience of even Gen Xers. Bottom line, the Yers will have a tough time filling the shoes of the more seasoned baby boomers.

Experts are telling employers that the next 10 years could be a very rocky road if they are unable to hold onto the talent they already have. The successful businesses will find a way to keep employees engaged and committed to the company’s goals, but after years of downsizing and merger-acquisition frenzies, that’s easier said than done. Plus, the burgeoning start-ups are looking to poach the Gen Xer talent from more established businesses, making the remaining baby boomers even more valuable workers.

Articles about boomers staying on the job well past conventional retirement age are now a weekly staple. Just recently I read about an 81 year-old bartender and an 82 year-old waiter working at the same restaurant. They didn’t want to sit around at home and get fat and they liked coming to work, even if it was only part-time. Youthful workers at the other end of the spectrum just don’t see it that way, and if you think that’s not your problem, remember, we need them to cover our social security benefits.

In any case, I’m beginning to feel a little bit like Sally Field when she accepted her Oscar. “You like me. You really like me.”


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.