Monday, December 17, 2018

Attention Shoppers

Shopping these days is certainly becoming a novel experience for baby boomers. We grew up with a whole host of brick and mortar stores, from Sears and J.C. Penney, to E.J. Korvette and Kaufmann’s. Shopping meant putting on decent clothes and getting in the car to go downtown. Ladies supposedly wore white gloves to have lunch in the tea room at Hutzler’s in Baltimore. Urban renewals across the country killed off a lot of downtown shopping but the stores just moved to the shopping centers and malls on the edge of town. New locale, same stores and brands.

Small independent stores used to make up the bulk of the retail landscape. Around sixty per cent in the 1960s with chains accounting for twenty-nine per cent. Now, independents barely account for seven per cent. Mergers of chain stores happened so fast that the change barely registered. But look around now. Sears is in bankruptcy, Macy’s is failing, and many other department stores are struggling to hang on in the face of online shopping.

Now we don’t have to get out of our pajamas to buy whatever we want from Amazon Prime and have it the next day, or soon in an hour via drone. Groceries can be ordered online and delivered to your door. We do our own product research via customer reviews and probably know more than the sales person on the store floor. Sixty-seven per cent of millennials prefer to shop online. Forty-one per cent of baby boomers do as well, while only 28 per cent of seniors prefer that method. Those seniors may not be able to fight the trend much longer.

One type of shopping that has prevailed is catalog sales. Around holiday time our mailboxes are filled with pages plastered with delights. Food, clothes, gear and toys are still be hawked the old fashioned way in a catalog. The ordering, payment and delivery options have all been updated with quick and easy online systems, but the wishful thinking still begins with a paper presentation. It’s amazing that consumers still enjoy shopping that way.

What’s next? Drone delivery has already been mentioned but trips to a live entertainment driven retail venue could also make a comeback. Going to the mall is still a form of entertainment, so perhaps creative retailers can draw us back to a physical marketplace. Some place where you can feel the cashmere, sit on the bicycle, taste the brie or try out the fishing rod. Just maybe.

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.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Hang in There

The workplace is still a gray place as baby boomers hang on to jobs and careers. How long can they hold out? That depends upon their ability to change and adapt.

Over 40% of baby boomers stayed with the same job for more than 20 years. And 18% stayed at least 39 years. And you thought the days of working for the same employer for your entire work life went out with your parents’ generation.

But now everything has changed. There is no loyalty to an employer. Millennials make up 35% of the workforce and they are mobile. Not only do they work from anywhere, they may well work for six or seven employers during their worklife. Five years might be considered a long stint with the same employer. They are less focused on making a product and more focused on being part of a team that solves problems. Bottom line: boomers are not in Kansas any more.

Many companies now consider age a disadvantage and an obstacle to rising talent. Ouch. What happened to the eminence gris thing? We were supposed to be the knowledge base that could be tapped when you needed that whole “experience thing.” Now days, not so much. It would appear that experience has lost its cache and maybe boomers were just kidding themselves when they thought that corporations really needed that understanding of solutions that used to work.

Boomers who are kicked to the curb have only a few choices if they want to keep working. Some are getting the training they lack to be competitive with younger workers, a reboot if you will. Many more boomers are going to work for themselves. About 16% of seniors are now self-employed. Not only they happier, they also say they have more job satisfaction than they did when the worked for “the man” in the corporate world.

As the title of this post says, our only option now is to hang in there. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer noted that “once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.” Of course that could mean we are moving faster toward our own demise, but I’ll take the more positive spin on this one.

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, October 31, 2018


Any day now, if you are still working, there’s a good chance a robot will do your job. Really? – you’re saying to yourself. Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming and there’s not much we can do to stop it (maybe pulling the plug or removing the batteries?).

If your job involves making simple decisions and repetitive tasks, a robot may be doing it in two to three years. They (I’m using pronouns to talk about robots…what does that tell you) will do payroll, review contracts, copy data to storage and handle simple insurance claims. They are already building cars so what did you expect? You just have to hope motor vehicle departments are not staffed by robots. On second thought, robots don’t need coffee breaks and have no incentive to slow down in order to convince supervisors that the job cannot be done any faster. Bring on the bots!

The upside, if you want to look up, is that AI has the potential to greatly enhance the lives of those of us whose work involves a lot of human interaction and judgement. We can continue to interact with other humans while robots reduce the drudgery of repetitive tasks (now we’re back to payroll and basic computer tasks). Imagine how much more productive you could be if you didn’t have update software, organize files, and make breakfast. AI will in fact add new jobs as more people will need to get involved in programming the robots to add more capabilities. Lots of job openings for bot wranglers coming soon.

The other promising factor is that when push comes to shove, humans prefer humans. It’s very unlikely that any of us will want to meet with a robotic therapist, CPA or dentist. Deep down, we crave human interaction even though there are an awful lot of humans who are just plain awful. Most of us would still opt for the human interaction over the robotic one.

So what do you do if your job is threatened by AI? Start thinking about moving into careers that call for skills such as selling, negotiating, strategic thinking, and creative design. And soon. Those bots are persistent. They don’t know how to behave any other way.

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, October 15, 2018


I ran into Leonardo da Vinci the other day. He was coming out of Home Depot with a shopping cart filled with baling wire, plastic sheeting and what looked like copper flashing.

Leo, come stai? Have not seen you in ages. Are you working on a new painting or building some kind of new flying machine? Last time we met you were still not happy with the smile on that Lisa woman.

Art is never finished, only abandoned.

Well I know you’ll get it right, you always do. So what’s the latest on the flying machines?

When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.

You amaze me Leo. You’re always tinkering and experimenting.

Learning never exhausts the mind.

Maybe so, but your curiosity is relentless. I don’t know how you do it.

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.

Hey, don’t go all dark on me. You paint, you invent, you write, you’re into astronomy, botany and cartography. You’re a true Renaissance Man, don’t you think?

The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.

That’s very true but you seem to be a whirlwind when it comes to inventions and dreaming up new gadgets. I wish I had your inspiration and your diligence.

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

And do you do. You never were one to rest on your laurels.

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

Hey, are you still hanging with that art patron, Isabella d’Este? She’s a looker, maybe marriage material.

Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.

Whoa! It’s not for you, I get it. I just hope you take some time out to enjoy yourself, some me time.

It’s easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.

And that is why you’re the genius and I’m just another blogger. Good to see you Leo. Keep it real.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

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, October 2, 2018

Flight of the Boomers

When people move to a new state it’s typically for a new job. But baby boomers are retiring and they don’t care about jobs (unless they have to work forever, but we’ll come back to that). So where are boomers moving? That’s the question that United Van Lines asks every year, and this year baby boomers are confounding the typical migration pattern.

Southern states and Florida used to be the go to retirement venues, but now the mountain states and the Pacific northwest are bucking the trend. Go West ye boomers! Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are seeing a 55% uptick to in-bound migration. Fifty-two percent of the movement in the Pacific northwest was in-bound.

So if boomers are not heading for Florida, where are they going? In order, here’s the top ten list of states: Vermont, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, South Dakota, Washington, South Carolina, North Carolina, Colorado and Alabama.

And where are they moving from? New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts top the list. It’s interesting to note however, that the largest exodus due to finding jobs elsewhere was the South. The number one reason to move is still for a new job, followed by one in five families who chose to move in 2017 to be closer to family. In third spot was retirement.

And for those looking to retire, the top ten destinations were: Florida, Nevada, South Carolina, Arizona, Maine, Vermont, Wyoming, Delaware, Arkansas, and New Mexico.

More fun facts: The average person moves 5 times in their lifetime. It takes on average 182 days before you unpack the last box from the move.

Now to get back to who is not moving. There is no flight for boomers who find themselves still on the job, not by choice but of necessity. There’s no escape to a warm clime for those who are holding on to the same job in order to try and save enough for a decent retirement. Sorry to end on that sad note, but we need to recognize that many of our fellow boomers won’t be counted in next year’s United Van Lines survey, or the year after that. No flight. More like fight. To survive in retirement on Social Security alone. The big reckoning is coming for them and for all of us who will need to help them age in place with some dignity.

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, 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.