Friday, June 24, 2022

Your Robotic Friends

I knew this day was coming. I joked about it years ago in a BoomSpeak post. Now it’s here. The robots have arrived in nursing homes. In Minnesota, 16 robots will soon be dispatched to 8 nursing homes around the state.

Before the pandemic, there wasn’t exactly a groundswell of interest. That was then. After 200,000 nursing home residents or workers died of the coronavirus, minds were changed. Three hundred nursing homes have closed. It’s harder and harder to hire caregivers to work in nursing homes. More than 400,000 workers at long-term care facilities have left the profession. People don’t want to work there and don’t want their elderly relatives to reside there.

Technology had already begun to fill the gap even before the pandemic arrived. Touchless meal delivery, video doctor consults, and home monitoring devices have grown in popularity. The next step is robots reminding us to take our meds, socialize with us, and pick us up when we fall. And don’t laugh –– smart toilets can monitor our meds and nutrition.

Japan is once again way ahead of us when it comes to the use of robots for assisted living environments. They had to be pioneers because they have the world’s oldest population and a limited labor pool.

While the robots will not replace human caregivers anytime soon, Covid-19 has opened our minds to the potential for robots to supplement the functions of human caregivers, and in some cases, perform these functions in a safer manner that prevents potentially deadly human contact.

I still have this image of a nursing home resident sitting in a robotic bathing conveyance that operates somewhat like an automatic brushless carwash. The suds come down and the gentle spray applies the water, then those floppy sponge things dance around a bit, followed by a gentle spray rinse, and then a warm blow dry. Pretty sweet when you think about it. Hardly any effort and you’re in and you’re out. Maybe not as personal as a human performing the service, but then again, maybe we’re not going to want personal bath services.

All I’m saying is that maybe Robby robot is about as personal as we’d like when it comes to some nursing home tasks.

Jay Harrison is a writer and creative consultant for DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.

Friday, June 10, 2022

The 2030 Problem

Hey everyone – they have named a new problem exclusively for baby boomers!

Oh, the excitement.

Demographers have projected that there will be a major eldercare bomb arriving in 2030. What to do, what to do?

First off, society needs to acknowledge that in a repeat of the original boom, there will be another boom coming that will impact eldercare.

How does society prepare for this boom? For starters, we need a payment and insurance system that can handle eldercare better than what we have now, because the numbers are going to be staggering. Two, we need to be proactive in keeping aging boomers as active and healthy as possible. Three, make sure eldercare is more easily accessed. And four, the tough one. Try to change the way our culture views the elderly, so that aging boomers are integrated into community life.

Something sounds very familiar about this scenario. That’s right! It’s similar to climate change. We are getting the early warnings that a storm is coming (I refrained from the term shitstorm, but there it is), and the question as always is will we do anything about it and will we react in time. Short answers: nope and nope.

The penalty for not acting is what some might call dire. A reduced workforce on top of higher costs for eldercare could force the economy to take a major hit, or an economic shock. In many first world countries where national health insurance programs are already in place, the social safety net will most likely be able to absorb the added costs associated with the 2030 problem. Not so in the U.S. Long term care costs in the year 2000 were $120 billion. In 2030, that figure is projected to be $270 billion.

The only note of optimism here is that generally speaking, boomers are in better health now compared to their parents when they were the same age. So maybe the analysts have not factored that into their calculations. Maybe.

Back to what to do. Take care of yourself, exercise, eat well and buy long-term care insurance. And support efforts to make eldercare more accessible. We’re all going to need it.

Jay Harrison is a writer and creative consultant for DesignConcept. You can also visit his author page here. His newest mystery novel, Rio Puerco Demise is available on Amazon here. His first mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Digital Natives Untie!


Yeah, I know. There’s a typo in the title. It’s an old cartoon joke. But digital natives really are united and that spells trouble for boomers.
Why trouble? Think about it. Who will be left knowing how to read a map? If Google Maps tells you turn by turn how to get someplace, a digital native will never know the joys (and frustrations) of reading a paper map. And figuring out how to fold the damn thing back up.

Who will be left knowing how to drive a stick shift? Not only drive one, but also know how to roll down a hill to jump start it when the battery is dead. See if a digital native can do that trick.

Ironing? Does anyone under 50 know how to use an iron to get the wrinkles out of a fine linen blouse? Hint: you need to own an iron and an ironing board. That’s why permanent press was invented. Besides, the wrinkled look is cool.

Writing a letter? Wouldn’t that be a shock if you received a letter written by a digital native. For one thing, they don’t really teach cursive writing, so if you did get a letter, it would be print lettering. Better yet, they would type it on their computer and then print it out and stick it in an envelope. Please DO NOT USE THE COMIC SANS FONT!

Spelling!! Don’t get us started. If you don’t know how to use a dictionary, I’m talking about a printed on paper bound book, then you might be a digital native that only knows how to ask Siri or Alexa how to spell a word. And texts? Who cares if some of the words don’t make sense. You get the general drift of what they are trying to tell you. Maybe.

If we thought spelling was a problem for digital natives, it pales when compared to what’s happened to proper grammar. I can imagine boomer professors laughing hysterically when they read college student essays and exams.

The good news for digital natives is that they can solve any problem with a computer or a smart phone. So why worry about any of these aforementioned arcane life skills?

Unless you can’t get WIFI.

Jay Harrison is a writer and creative consultant for DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Round and Round

She doesn’t have much pick-up but she gets everyone where they need to go. Round and round she goes, from the portico out front of the hotel down to the strip and back. Between the two vans, there’s a shuttle coming through every eight minutes.

You would think that would be enough to satisfy most guests. You never have to wait more than eight minutes to get underway. But people on vacation don’t seem to know how to relax. They board the shuttle van and make nervous chitchat for a few minutes and then get borderline belligerent if we don’t get moving right away. In a hurry to get down to the casino and lose their money, their sense of time, and in some cases, their minds.

“Just waiting for a few more guests before we head out. Want to give everyone a chance to get down to the strip.” What I really wanted to say is “Pipe down, asshole. We’ll get there when we get there.”

But semi-retired geezers can’t afford to be rude to the tourists. In our laughable three hours of training, they stressed to us how the shuttle drivers are just as representative of the hotel as the desk clerk or the concierge. “You’re the face of the hotel as much as any other employee,” were the exact words. If that’s true, the hotel is looking mighty tired.

We don’t earn tips like the airport shuttle drivers often do when they assist passengers with luggage. Just our ten bucks an hour and no real bennies to speak of. The choice of hefting heavy luggage or just doing the driving was easy for me. Why throw your back out for a few dollars in tips. I’ll just be polite and helpful to the guests and take my check.

I do have a reoccurring fantasy while I’m driving. I just keep driving past the strip and none of the passengers say anything. Mile after mile out into the desert I drive until you can no longer see the tall buildings or the bright lights at night. Finally I stop along a stretch of highway that is completely desolate. I open the door. “Okay folks, this is your stop. Remember, the shuttle runs every thirty days, so be sure you come back to this stop when you’re ready to return. Good luck and I hope everyone’s a winner.”

It’s not much, but this fantasy can keep a man happy for hour after hour of going round and round, and that means a lot when you’re semi-retired.

Jay Harrison is a writer and creative consultant for DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Giving them the business

Stop and think for a moment how many of your fellow baby boomers own their own businesses. They are designers, bakers, realtors, restauranteurs, farmers, nursery operators, landscapers, pet groomers, childcare operators, vintners, photographers, B&B owners, interior designers, and an almost endless list of various retail store operators.

Now stop and think for a moment about what happens to these businesses when the baby boomer retires. Is there a succession plan? Is there a family member in the wings ready to take over? Is there enough potential to offer the business for sale?

Starting to get the picture? Baby boomers account for about 40 percent of all small businesses. Now factor in the 10,000 boomers who are retiring EVERY DAY. There is about to be a seismic shift in the future of small business in this country.

Millennials and Gen Zers are skewing more to the tech sector when it comes to career choices, so what happens to these boomer businesses, which incidentally are profitable for the most part? We’re talking about 2.3 million businesses that employ around 25 million people. The supply of potential businesses is about to outstrip the demand for ownership.

There’s an unparalleled transfer of wealth happening now, as the boomer generation leaves its wealth in the form of inheritance. But what happens to the actual businesses that built that wealth? Boomers may wish to hand off the business to a family member, but if no one wants it, it either can be sold if there’s a buyer or it withers on the vine.

So what? So there may be fewer professionals, trades people and crafts people to cater to our needs. Fewer plumbers to fix your water heater, fewer unique restaurants that feature unique local entrepreneurs, and overall fewer options other than national chain stores and services. This may be one of those “you won’t know how much you miss us until we’re gone” situations. And there’s nothing on the horizon that would have the potential to change the trajectory of this trend.

The movement to support your local small business is more important than ever in our current economic climate. We just need to realize that many baby boomers will be the last small business owners, because operating a small business has gone out of style. RIP.

Jay Harrison is a writer and creative consultant for DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Leggo Your Money

Everyone laughs when the conversation turns to money and someone says, “Well you can’t take it with you.”

Yeah, no kidding. There are no ATM’s in heaven or hell (if you believe in either).

But boomers have been encouraged for years now to SAVE, SAVE, SAVE. According to recent surveys, many boomers are not drawing down their assets. Quite the contrary, they continue to accumulate and grow their wealth.

What’s holding them back? High on the list is the fact that they can live off social security and other incomes sources without touching their savings. Don’t need to tap it so leave it alone. OK, so you don’t want to be extravagant but you “could live it up a little,” eh?

Why else would you hold back? Maybe you want to leave it behind for offspring. So that they can put it in the bank and not spend it either? Mmm? Better to give some of it away NOW to some of the charities and causes that you know can really use it.

Then there is the notion that you need to keep the nest egg for those “unforeseen costs.” Such as getting old and wearing out. That’s right, we’re all going to wind down and check out. You could just as easily therefore make the argument that you ought to enjoy your money while you can.

Probably the biggest worry of all for boomers is that they will run out of money. I get it. We’re living longer. Most of our parents enjoyed 10 or 15 years of retirement leisure and then it was lights out (sorry if that sounds a bit harsh, but that was life expectancy for their generation). We’re exercising and eating well so that we can enjoy 25 or 30 years of retirement. I’m not quite sure what we will do with all those extra years, but damn it, we’re going for it.

I’m not advocating profligacy necessarily but I hate to think we’re going to hold ourselves captive to the other “P” word – parsimony. Pinching pennies down to the finish line isn’t really living. It’s more like barely eking it out.

I’m not sure I really know what it means, but my mother (one of the all-time, unparalleled penny pinchers) once said what I think she meant as advice, “Ladies and gentlemen take my advice. Pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”

Jay Harrison is a writer and creative consultant for DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Fear Transfer

It used to be we were only afraid of Covid. Now, what we fear most is that we have lost these precious retirement years all together. Boomers who were already retired when the pandemic began or those that retired as a direct result of the pandemic, were equally affected. Longtime plans for travel and family activities were put on hold. Initially, it was just one year. Then the one year extended to a second year. And now? No one really knows what the risks are, even if one is vaccinated. Chances of dying are lower? Great! What a relief! Wait a second! That’s the best-case scenario? There’s a fairly good chance we won’t die? Gee, thanks.

Almost everyone is vaccinated (let’s not even talk about why it’s not 100%) and yet we still have trepidation about eating indoors or flying somewhere on an airplane. What have we really lost? Time. Just time. But, it’s time that could have been spent with friends and family. Time to visit new places and try new hobbies and activities. Time for an in-person book club. Time to meet new people. Time to find a new love in your life.

The next thing to fear, thanks very much pandemic, is that we will make ourselves sick or crazy trying to make up for lost time. In our zeal to get back that lost time, we try to redouble our efforts to do everything and go everywhere. Perfect. Then we get sick because we’re so tired from trying to do too much.

It does appear at this moment in time that baby boomers are planning to break the metaphoric shackles that have been trapping us in our homes and hit the road. Fearful or not, we are ready to escape into the wide world. Be warned. Boomers are loose and they mean to have a good time, so woe to anyone who stands in their way.

But we will be as polite about it as we can, you can be sure.

Jay Harrison is a writer and creative consultant for DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.