Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Surprise!

So much has been written about the impact of baby boomers exiting the labor force, it seems incomprehensible that employers would not be ready and have strategies in place to respond to this major change.

Guess again. It appears that the departure of boomers is taking employers by surprise. All the sudden, companies are realizing the challenge of replacing the knowledge and skills that boomers will be taking with them when they head for the exits.

Why am I not surprised by their surprise? When your generation has been the 800 pound gorilla/punching bag (demographically speaking) for so long, nothing surprises when it comes to the wild and crazy assumptions that society has thrown at us. We’re spoiled and self-centered. We caused global warming. We’re responsible for every economic bubble burst. We’ve run up the deficit. We’re sabotaging our children’s future. We’re sociopaths. And the topper – we’re going to drain the social security fund dry.

Feels like a communal “don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out” kind of moment we’re in right now. However, employers readily admit that in the next five years they will face a significant challenge due to boomer retirements. Now they are starting to worry more about the skills loss than the fact that boomers might be blocking the advancement of younger workers. Some employers are offering phased-in retirement options in order to avoid the inevitable “brain drain.” According to a study by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, 70% of the employers thought their workplace was aging-friendly but only half the workers thought that was accurate.

It’s hard to quantify what employers are losing when boomers begin leaving the workplace in large numbers because you can’t easily measure the value of their institutional knowledge and history. Add to that the fact that organizations don’t know when their older workers will want to retire. It used to be age 65 but now it’s trending closer to age 70.

Better late than never, the hope now is that organizations come up with a strategy to hold on to older workers or at least offer flexible work schedules that might keep some boomers on the job and passing along what they know.

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 3, 2019

Long Walk

Another adventure unfolded on our recent hike into the nooks and crannies (i.e. canyons and ravines) of New Mexico. After a 4.5 hour drive down to the Gila National Forest, we made our way to the Doggone trailhead. That’s right Doggone. So named when an early explorer to the area…you guessed it…lost his dog. If you are consulting the map, this would be just outside the town of Mud Stain.

We had hoped to enjoy cooler temperatures at the 8,800-foot elevation with some tree cover shade, but no. It was hot as hell with no relief and not as much shade as we hoped. The first 2.5 miles up Dead Horse (don’t ask) mountain were sheer torture as it involved about 1500 feet of elevation gain. The payoff was at the summit where we enjoyed a fine view looking across Dirty Bastard Valley.

Our exhilaration was short-lived as the Doggone trail went from a wide path to a narrow shoulder along a sheer 400-foot drop. This part of the trail is known as Foolish, Foolish Choice for obvious reasons. Incidentally, we have numerous classifications for hiking trails such as this. There’s FOAGBU (fall off and get back up), FOARD (fall off and roll down), and of course, FOAD (fall off and die). Foolish, Foolish Choice did not disappoint as it was clearly a FOAD kind of trail.

Thankfully we made it across the blade edge and dropped down (not literally) into Chipped Tooth Gulch. Local legend is that a cowboy named Larryme fell off his horse and chipped his tooth on some wicked granite that lines the gulch.­ We did not suffer the same fate although we did take the opportunity to floss.

The trail turned steep as we made our way out of the gulch into a glen known as Furry Maiden. Not much is known about the origin of this name but the dense shade and thick forest canopy above was most welcome. A small stream ran through the glen and our topo map indicated this was a small branch of the larger Knuckle Dragger River. It was the perfect place to stop for coffee and snacks and give the biting insects a decent shot at making us completely miserable.

Nourished and rested (along with bitten up real good), we got back on the trail to complete the long loop back to our starting point. This involved a hairy scary steep downward set of switchbacks on loose scree, where one false step could have you going ass over teakettle, which perversely was the name of this part of the trail. Only the topo spelled it Ass O’er Teakettle. Same difference.

Although it was level, the path back to the trailhead had a death march quality, as our legs were weakened by the strain of constant braking to make our way down Ass O’er Teakettle. We continued on this course which the topo labeled Mad Cow for another two miles. With the truck in sight and darkness about to come crashing down, we congratulated ourselves for having had another rewarding hike in the beautiful landscape that is New Mexico at its finest.

Note: Everything about this description is true except for the facts. And a shout-out to Geo’s Hiking blog for inspiration.

Total Distance: 8.30 miles Elevation: start 8,878 ft, maximum 10,667 ft, minimum 8,207 ft Gross gain: 1,789 ft. Aggregate ups & downs: ascending 2,256 ft, descending 2,359 ft Maximum slope: 47% ascending, 39% descending, 15% average Duration: 7:20

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, May 23, 2019

Be Right Back

You’ve probably heard the story of the man in New York City who told his wife he was just going out for a newspaper and it’s been twenty years since she last saw him. My reaction to the story has always hinged on the kind of people they were. I mean if he was a rotten bastard, then I say she’s been better off without him. On the other hand, if she was a shrew, then I say good on you mate, you’ve escaped.

But let’s look at this logically. Where the hell did he go? One theory that we can discount fairly quickly, is that he was abducted by aliens. We are certain that can’t be true, because aliens favor midwesterners and have almost no use for a jaded New Yorker.

Next theory is that he met up with friends, sat in on a poker game, and lost track of time. When he realized how late it was, he was too embarassed to call home or show up with his tail between his legs, so he started a new life in Albany with all the money he won at poker (good thing he had brought his wallet with him).

Speaking of wallets, another possibility is that he went down to the news stand with just a few dollars and no identification. He was then hit by a cab (happens all the time in New York city) and suffered amnesia. No one knew him and since there was no ID, the police had nothing to go on. Now here’s where it gets interesting. What if his wife didn’t miss him. I mean she knew that he didn’t come back, but she took it as a message from God that it was a good time to continue her life without him. Since he never went to a dentist in his life and worked from home, they had no way to identify him, and despite the repeated printing of his photo in the newspaper, no one could (or WOULD) identify him.

An interesting variation on this scenario is that he bought the paper and while reading it on the way back to his apartment, he stepped in an open manhole. It had been raining heavily all morning and the heavy current carried him to the East River (drowned by that point) and ultimately into Raritan Bay bound for the Jersey shore.

Another theory that many people like is that he had been planning this escape for quite some time. He had stashed away money in a separate bank account and had his passport and everything he needed to make his getaway. The plan was to take a cab to the Port Authority, get a bus to Newark, catch a flight to Buenos Aires, and from there he became a gaucho on a cattle ranch. I saved this theory for last because it is my personal favorite. Walking away from a life and a wife to become a gaucho? I like to think that one day he woke up and realized that herding cattle in Argentina was his destiny, and he had to heed the call. Vamos amigos!

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, May 1, 2019

Memory Aids

Why did I go into the living room? I was perfectly happy in my study behind the computer. Did I need something in the living room? Was it a thing, a coat, a sweater, a magazine? If I retrace my steps back to the study, maybe that will jog my memory. No, that didn’t work. Something in my mind told me to go to the living room, but on the way there, I forgot the reason.

The solution is to write it down before you leave on the fool’s errand of going after something you are going to forget on your way to get it. Now I find myself writing Post-Its that say “get newspaper,” “get out hammer,” “moves clothes from washer to dryer,” etc. The drawback with this system is that my scrawled printing is so pathetic that I often cannot read my own notes. I can stare at “hawg pc” for hours before remembering that I was supposed to put up a newly framed picture (“hang pic”).

So we make lists. We have grocery lists, task lists, gift lists, weekend lists, job lists, fix-it lists, wake up and do lists, and today lists. God help you if you go off without your list. Freelancing in the grocery store is not a great idea. Sure, you get some of the usual things that you know you always get, but you come home without the eggs that you needed for the baking you wanted to do, which is why you went there in the first place.

I know that it’s natural for short-term memory to degrade, but that doesn’t make me any more cheerful when I fail to pull a name from my random access memory (RAM), which is what I call the place where my brain stores everything I need to solve a crossword puzzle. There’s erg for unit of work, Oona for Charlie Chaplain’s wife, Erato for sister of Clio, √©lan for pizzazz, and literally thousands more. Unfortunately, the instant recall button doesn’t work as well as it once did, which means I’m leaving a dent in my forehead from where I slap it every time I say, “I knew that.”

It’s not unusual to waste my waking hours (and maybe a few of the ones when I’m sleeping) repeatedly trying to jog my memory so that I can think of someone’s name. I can picture them, maybe even remember the spouse’s name, but all else eludes me.

At this point, I would be happy to take a pill if it solved the problem, but I know that it will come with a list of side effects, such as headache; loss of appetite; stuffy or runny nose; and of course, the dreaded “loss of short-term memory.”

I know there is a reason why I shouldn’t take a pill like that, but I can’t remember what it is and I didn’t make a 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.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Not Going Quietly

Have you heard the one about the 100-year life? It’s not a joke. It’s a thing. It used to be a marvel when people lived to be 100. My own mother lived until she was 106. With advances in health care and technology, lots and lots of baby boomers are going to live to 100 and beyond.

Many businesses have been betting that there’s a way to cash in on all the baby boomers headed for retirement. They could sell more hearing aids, anti-wrinkle cream, incontinence products, cosmetic surgery, walk-in bathtubs, etc.

To be sure, there is a so-called longevity economy and it is turning into a huge emerging market. But one of the surefire bets was that boomers would want to move into senior-housing facilities that would cater to boomers, especially as they might require more care. Hasn’t worked out that way however. There’s a surplus of senior housing and boomers are passing for now. We’re staying put because we’re staying fit and value our independence. The latest demographic trend indicates that seniors are not moving to senior housing until they reach 82 years old. The oldest boomers will not turn 80 until the year 2026. Whoops.

Occupancy rates for assisted living facilities are at their lowest level since they started tracking this stat in 2006. The glut may also be attributed to an over estimation of how many seniors can pay anywhere from $3,000 to $8,000 per month.

At those prices, it’s no surprise that seniors over age 90 are trying to stay in their own homes and live independently for as long as they can.

Today’s 75-year-olds have the health profile of 65-year-olds. Fifty per cent of people ages 85 or older say they are healthy enough to work. And work is what they do. Have you noticed that it’s no longer unusual to see much older workers on the job? Fast food servers, hotel clerks, maintenance persons, teachers. Gray haired workers are showing up across the occupational spectrum and we hardly notice the difference.

So there you have it…an entire generation is morphing into an Energizer bunny that keeps going and going and going.

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, March 22, 2019

Foursomes

Not talking golf or sex. It’s almost too easy to miss the forest for the trees, but baby boomers are now part of 4 distinct generations in the workplace. If you are still working, it’s most likely alongside GenXers (1965-1980), GenYers (Millennials-1980-1996) and GenZers (1996-present).

This is a rare circumstance made stranger by the fact that it mixes digital immigrants (that would be us boomers) with digital natives (that would be millennials and GenZers who have been shaped by technology since birth).

The mixture of work traits is fascinating. Boomers can act as mentors which is something that millennials tend to want (praise and reassurance were hallmarks of helicopter parenting). On the downside, boomers may find it hard to keep up with the technology and there’s those pesky health-wellness issues. Younger workers tend to have greater respect for hierarchy and authority thanks to social media peer pressure (how many Facebook friends one has or how many likes your Instagram post gets has left an indelible impression on them). On the downside however, they can be prone to ghosting (i.e. just disappearing from the workplace rather than giving notice), which is something absolutely foreign to mature workers.

Younger workers exhibit more impatience and shorter attention spans. Technology has inured them to receive instant gratification and the workplace often cannot respond well to that.

For employers, the trick is to meld the 4 generations and tap into each’s strengths and skills. It sounds like it could be a 4-ring circus, but for those employers that get it right, they could have an incredibly productive multi-generational workforce that can best the competition.

You could worry about this and lose sleep over it, but the bigger concern is the wave of robots that’s going to replace old and young alike. By 2030, some 800 million workers worldwide are projected to have been replaced by artificial intelligence and robots. In other words, take the Alfred E. Neuman approach. What me worry?

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, March 6, 2019

Death Boom

Here’s the latest from the Not-So-Good-News Department: baby boomers are in for a death boom. Not surprising, but still. There was quite the boom when we came into this world so it stands to reason there’s going to be quite a boom in our demisals (did I just make up that word?).

We’ve gotten used to demographers and media people talking about 10,000 new retirees per day as boomers hit their late 60s and 70s. How are we going to feel when they start counting or estimating how many baby boomers can expect to die in a year, a month or a day?

Boomers are living longer thanks to better health habits and exercise (along with gritty determination) but all the same, we can’t opt out when the call comes. On the bright side (if there is one), there will be lots of expanded opportunities for hospices, funeral planners and grief counselors.

I don’t know why this news about a death boom should surprise any of us boomers, as our numbers have been thinning for a while now. Not a week goes by without us hearing about a classmate, colleague or neighbor who has crossed the great divide. Just in passing (ha…death sarcasm) there is a surprisingly large catalog of euphemisms for dying. Passed, slipped away, gave up the ghost, kicked the bucket, called to a better place, called home, permanent vacation, cashed in your chips, pushing up daisies, met the grim reaper, joined the choir, packed it in, bought the farm or just plain departed. Perhaps the most annoying one is “lost,” as in she lost her husband. He’s not lost because we know where he is, but we’re just skittish about saying he’s dead.

Well now, this has been an uplifting discussion of the impending death boom, and for that I’m truly sorry. But the good news is that you are reading this, so you have not yet “succumbed.” Good on you.

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.