Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Pig In A Python?

Baby boomers have been called a lot of things (and many of them are not very nice), but a recent USA Today article referred to us as a pig, or more specifically “a pig in a python.”

So, metaphorically, the last 6 decades have seen our oversize boomer population being digested by the total population, and it hasn’t always been comfortble. In this description, we see that once again, boomers as individuals are blamed for the resulting indigestion of society at large. Did we ask to be born all at once after the war was over? No, we were never consulted. Does anyone ever blame our parents? No, of course not. They’re revered as The Greatest Generation. Am I the only one to suggest they might be called The Horniest Generation?

Cause and effect, people! We didn’t ask to be born, and even if we did, the births could have been spaced out a bit more instead of all packed into 1947 through 1958. Does anyone else find it ironic that we started out as war babies who would later vehemently protest what we considered a futile war?

The biggest knock on boomers appears to be that we were spoiled and pampered, which in turn is why we created so many entitlement programs. Let’s not forget that the entitlement programs were created well before boomers took over the levers of power. And we never suggested that a new level of permissiveness in child-rearing should be the order of the day. Dr. Spock layed that one on society all by himself.

No matter. We never get it right. No matter what we do, as individuals or as a group, we are doomed to be this demographic anomaly (the pig in the python). Let society and demographers do and say what they want -- can’t stop them anyway. But I would like to remind them that a meal is a meal. Maybe a pig doesn’t equate to a happy meal, but boomers have nourished society in a big way, so the complainers can just suck it 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.

Boomers Getting Social

Watching the flying thumbs of teens and 20-somethings as they text their brains out on tiny smart phone keyboards, it would be easy to assume that these whippersnappers (time to revive that expression, don’t you think?) are at the leading edge of social networking.

Easy to assume, but wrong. It turns out that boomers are much more likely to use social networking tools in the workplace. Anecdotally, you can see younger workers bailing on Facebook at the same time that boomers are turning to it in droves.

A Forrester Research study indicated that while Gen Y workers are using social tools, the rate is dropping. Workers age 55 and over have increased their use of social media by 79%.

A study done by iStrategyLabs in 2009 confirms the drop in high school and college users of Facebook and reported that the number of users 55 and over had increased 513% in a six-month period.

So what are all these baby boomers doing on Facebook? I have a theory to answer that one. I think many boomers joined Facebook so they could stay in touch with their children who had their own Facebook pages. But once scads of boomers joined up, their offspring decided that Facebook was no longer the cool place to be, thus abandoning their very uncool parents. Think back to when you were a teenager. Did you want to be a member of any club your parents joined?

In the meantime, boomers are using Facebook to reconnect with old classmates and friends and to find out what kind of shenanigans (need to revive that word too) the neighbors kids are up to (beer blasts and Extacy pills?). Facebook has high school almost become a digital reunion machine for boomers who are getting more nostalgic than ever and now have tool to feed this latest obsession. You can look up names from the past and gloat over the fact that someone who once snubbed you has been married and divorced four times, is totally bald, or has blown up big as a house.

I admit I would like to know what ever happened to X and Y that I went to school with, but the thought of joining Facebook and spending any amount of time looking backward does not appeal to me at all.

I find that looking forward and meeting new people is much more rewarding, but then I also think that my whole life’s in front of me, so I can happily go on with my Facebook-free 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.

Oh Thank Google!

That’s right -- thank Google. How else would you know for sure how to spell diarrhea? Or where to find the best dim sum in Tulsa (or if there is any dim sum in Tulsa). Or directions to your new dentist. Or reviews of your new dentist. Or if your new dentist has ever been arrested.

I mean what the hell would we do without Google? It’s become a daily part of all our lives. What did we do before Google? Sit in darkness and ignorance? I remember, many years ago (that would be in the 80s), when you could still call the local library in any large city and ask them questions. It might be that you had a bar bet riding on the answer or you were sitting around your office trying not to work and a discussion ensued with a difference of opinion. You picked up the phone and asked a librarian if Ulysses Grant is really buried in Grant’s Tomb. And how sick is this? I just Googled his name to make sure Ulysses is spelled correctly. And he really is buried there in New York. Again, thanks to Google, I can report:

Overlooking the Hudson River from the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan, General Grant National Memorial is the largest tomb in North America. Grant's Tomb (as it is commonly called) is not only the final resting place of the General but a memorial to his life and accomplishments.

Google has become the world’s largest depository of information -- it knows all, sees all. In particular, the Google engineers must watch in total fascination as the world beats a path to its portal. I think I read somewhere that in the Google headquarters lobby you could see the most popular search words popping up on a large screen. If it’s true, they must filter out all the sexual/porn references, but even that could still leave you with a lot of Lady Gaga’s and Kardashians.

Just how pervasive has Google become? The other day I heard myself say “Oh, thank Google,” instead of “Oh, thank God.”

Google vs God. Both are all knowing and apparently all seeing. This is serious.

...and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under Google, invisible, with information and facts for all.

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.

Hand Over the Keys, Pops

Boomers may not have to worry about it for a while, but their parents? That’s another story. Some states do not require elderly drivers to get retested, they just automatically renew their licenses. So when do you take away their car keys?

In a New York Times article, writer Kate Stone Lombardi looks at anecdotal evidence that some older drivers are crossing the line -- literally.

The children of these drivers have to decide when enough is enough. If the only factor was the wellbeing of the elderly driver, it might not be such a big deal, but the reality is that an unfit driver can kill someone else through their negligence (i.e. they can’t see!!).

The graph of the driver fatality rate is shaped like a U. Sixteen-year-olds for the peak on one end and drivers 85 and older max out the graph at the other end. The diminished health of the elderly driver is a big factor in whether they can survive even a minor car accident.

My own mother drove a car when she was in her 80s and I’m not sure why she finally hung up the keys. I also remember that I could not ride in a car that my father was driving when he was in his 80s. I only had to sit in the passenger seat once when he was trying to pull onto a larger highway from a side street. His estimation of how far away an oncoming car was or how fast it was coming toward him fell considerably short of reality. From that time on, I always drove him to where he wanted to go, but I dreaded the idea of him being on the road when I was not around.

No one wants to turn in their own parent and the freedom that the automobile represents is so attractive that it’s hard to bust them. Ultimately, it’s the liability that sobers up the players in this game. A big lawsuit for driver negligence can wipe out the estate your parents want to leave behind, which is of small consequence compared to the loss of life.

Think about the way your own reflexes and vision have changed over the years and then add 25-30 years to that for your parents. It may scare the hell out of you, but it may be time to go for a ride with Mom and Dad to see if they should still be on the road at all.

Happy motoring!

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.

Risky Frisky

Surprise!! The people having the riskiest sex are not teenagers and 20-somethings. It’s baby boomers who ought to know better.

A survey commissioned by the Canadian Liver Foundation found that newly single boomers are very naive about the risks of unprotected sex.Seventy per cent of the survey respondents said that they were telling their kids to practice safe sex, at the same time that 30 per cent of the unmarried boomers admited they’ve had unprotected sex with a new partner. And about the same percentage were unconcerned about the potential for contracting a sexually transmitted infection.

Some of the findings in the survey:

• 82 per cent of baby boomers believe it’s important to have an active sex life at every age.

• 57 per cent feel freer about sex.

• 81 per cent say it’s important their kids use protection during sex; 70 per cent have doled out such advice.

• 16 per cent admit they don’t always follow their own advice to practice safe sex.

• 30 per cent of unmarried boomers have had unprotected sex with a new partner.

• 33 per cent of unmarried boomers have done online dating.

• 40 per cent of men and five per cent of women are open to one-night stands.

Now if at this point you’re thinking, “But these are Canadians.” Yes, that’s true. But do you think American baby boomers do any better on the “do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do” quotient? I don’t think so.

Good or bad, it appears that boomers are inventing their own rules for sexuality after age 50. I could be wrong, but it sounds like we’re living out the 60s all over again.

Groovy, baby!

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.

Adult Sesame Street?

It could be that PBS ends up standing for Public Boomer Service if public broadcasters have their way. While commercial broadcasters will kill to reach the 20-something demographic, they rarely take an interest in boomers (except maybe to sell us Depends or Viagra). PBS, on the other hand, is poised to come after 45- to-65-year-olds in a big way.

They’re calling it Next Avenue (get it? there was Sesame Street for kids, but now they want us geezers next) and it’s going to be a web site that aggregates all sorts of PBS programming that centers on health and wellness, money and finances, and living and learning.

Already being dubbed "Adult Sesame Street," it’s supposed to launch this April and will include familiar programming such as “Rick Steves’ Europe,” “America’s Test Kitchen” and “Live From the Artists Den,” along with some new programming created specifically for Next Avenue.

I guess we should get used to being the “it girl/boy” but after so many years of being ignored by advertisers it’s difficult to forget the shabby treatment. And they only like us now because we’re sitting on a tidy pile of equity/money (even after the economic melt-down put a big dent in it). It’s a little bit like being popular at lunch time in grade school because your mom packed some great goodies and then being totally ignored on the playground (I’m not working through this particular issue....I’m just saying).

The popularity game has always been a double-edged sword. Do they like us for what we can do for them, or do they like us for who we are? I’d have to go with cynical answer, but I don’t feel bad about it.

In the not quoted often enough words of Big Bird, “bad days happens to everyone, but when one happens to you, just keep doing your best and never let a bad day make you feel bad about yourself." Right on brother.

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, October 5, 2010

Learning to Retire?

Yearning may be more like it, but no, I mean “learning” to retire. Some boomers can’t figure out how to retire or what to do in retirement, so they are going back to college.

Specifically, to a workshop at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. It’s called the Center for Creative Retirement and if I start to sound a little cynical about it, you must forgive me. Firstly, anyone who can retire now in this horrible economic climate is pretty damn lucky. Secondly, I have to wonder if there’s a university-sponsored workshop for every major life decision, or does UNC just look at dazed and confused boomers as the next cash cow.

The Center’s goal is to see its members “thrive” in life’s second half. Okay. So far so good. Our motto at BoomSpeak is that your whole life’s in front of you, so it turns out that we’re even more optimistic than they are by one half.

One 60-something participant in the Crative Retirement Exploration Weekend said that she had worn herself out trying to figure out what to do and just wanted somebody to “tell me how to do this retirement thing.” And for that, she was willing to shell out $850. You read that right. $850.

But surprise-- that’s now how it works. The wonderful folks at CREW (get it?) help you “examine your issues, concerns and possibilities to gain insights and pose questions that you may not have thought to ask. Facilitated discussions help prepare you for decisions ahead. Presenters and other participants inspire Retirement for dummies coverrisk-taking, planning and areas for further exploration.”

In other words, they don’t have the answer either. I get that retirement is a big step, but somehow it sounds ridiculous to me that boomers will pay big bucks to have other retirees guide through the decision process. Resorts and corporations are ramping up programs that will appeal to delirious pre-retirees. Kripalu Center for Yoga and health in Stockbridge, Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, and MetLife, to name a few, are moving into the retirement planning business.

Are we that helpless or are we just a big, tempting target for people with something to sell? And why shouldn’t they try to get us to buy a workshop? There’s 70 million boomers and if you multiply that times $800 or so it comes out to a number so big it won’t fit on my cheesy calculator.

Not me. I’m going to write the book, Retirement for Dummies instead. Oops--someone’s already written it.

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.

Dimension or Dementia

I was amused to read Neil Genzlinger’s article in the Television section of the New York Times last week

He was licking his chops over the discomfort that some 20-somethings are soon going to feel as their progeny insists that their world must be 3-D or nothing. Genzlinger was going to take pleasure seeing them inducted into the Dinosaur Club.

There is a big change coming to television and the generational faultlines are already starting to groan. We all remember when TV went from black and white to color what a seismic shift that was. More recently, we moved to high-definition and that has helped us realize that everyone has bad skin. We just couldn’t see it until high-def came along.

Now, it would appear that everyone over 18 or 19 years old will be scratching their heads trying to figure out why we can’t get along with out 3-D TV. Never mind that constant viewing in 3-D gives most people a headache, it’s new,Retirement for Dummies book cover it’s here, it’s now, so we gotta have it.

If we needed something to drive the final nails into to the coffin of smart, dialog driven drama or comedies, 3-D is the perfect vehicle (or should I say villain). It’s made for action sequences where things fly off the wall or better yet, coming flying toward you so that the bowl of popcorn resting in your lap is tossed all over the sofa. Will it enhance the storyline? Doubtful. Is it the next big thing? Doubtless. Will you end up having to buy a 3-D TV in the next 5 years? Likely. Because there won’t be any 2-D TVs on the market anymore.

The only consolation in all this, is the same glee expressed by Genzlinger. The curtain is going to drop on generations that thought they were the cutting edge, only to wake up one day to realize that the edge has passed them by. You want to tell to cheer up. There will probably be a big catalog of 2-D programs that they can watch late at night when their 3-D kids have finally turned off all their high-tech toys and gone to bed.

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.

Time to Feel the Burn Again

Okay, let’s start with the photos on the box. Yes, Jane Fonda has been airbrushed out the wazoo to look like that (see a more current photo below). But what do you want? She’s 72 and just about to release two new workout DVDs, so baby boomers should rejoice. Let’s give credit where credit is due. I think she’s had a knee replacement and freely admits to a few nips here and tucks here and there, but she’s Jane Fonda, for crying out loud. She’s supposed to look good. In person and on the box.

When I hear the name Jane Fonda, I think Barbarella or Klute. Maybe Electric Horseman or Cat Ballou. The later movies like Monster-In-Law or Georgia Rule weren’t bad, but coming out of retirement, Fonda seemed to graviate toward the mouthy older woman roles. Maybe that’s the only roles female actresses of a certain age can get (see Leachman, Cloris or White, Betty).

Jane FondaA lot of women hear the name Jane Fonda and they think back to their first aerobics workout tape. The year was 1982 and the tape was such a hit that it sold 17 million copies and prompted a lot of people to go out and buy those new fangled VCR machines. Jane Fonda went on to put out another 23 workout videos. It was a major phenomenom and inspired countless exercise gurus to follow in her very successful footsteps. But let it be said that Jane Fonda really did kick off a fitness craze among baby boomers who were then approaching middle age and starting to experience the spread that came with age. For those boomers, these workout tapes were a godsend.

So here she is again in 2010 about to release two new DVDs (which is good because we’ve all given away our old VCRs to Goodwill). Jane Fonda: Prime Time Walkout and Jane Fonda: Prime Time Fit & Strong are due out Nov. 30 and are primarily aimed at boomers, but not exclusively. Fonda says she wants to inspire “people who think that they are too far unfit to get fit again.” Well, that could cover a lot of boomers if all the stats on American obesity are accurate.

Back in 1982, Fonda urged her legions of followers to “feel the burn.” Maybe now with the new DVDs it they can just go with “burn off the pounds.”

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.

Move Over Cottonheads!

I remember a family relative boasting that he drove from Pennsylvania to Florida in the left lane of Interstate 95 all the way ---- driving 60 miles per hour.

And without missing a beat, I exclaimed, “I think I was behind you!”

As I have grown older, I know that I am driving more conservatively, and that means I have probably lowered my speed as well. I no longer take the risks that I would have 20 years ago. Weaving through traffic at high speed to get somewhere ten minutes sooner is no longer a priority. The old joke really holds true: Anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, anyone driving faster than you is a maniac. Am I driving as slow as the cottonheads that I always disparaged? I don’t think so. But it turns out that older drivers may be safer than everyone else.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, older people are driving more and crashing less, and their fatal accident rate has dropped by 37 percent. Drivers over 80 had a 47 percent drop in their fatal accident rate.

Does this mean they have stopped annoying me by commandeering the left lane and driving slower than all the other traffic? I don’t think so, but maybe just as I have grown more cautious in my driving, so have they, and this accounts for their lower accident rate.

Researchers at the Insurance Institute compared the numbers for older drivers with a control group whose older drivermembers were between 35 and 54, an age group that is presumed to have less risky driving habits and is certainly less prone to age-related impairment.

The older drivers did far better than the control group.

So the data would indicate that as more of us baby boomers reach the age of 70 (that would be about 30 to 67 million of us over the next 40 years), we will be relatively safe drivers with a fatal accident rate than the general population.

Put another way, if we die on the highway, it will most likely be the result of some “whippersnapper” running a “cottonhead” off the road because he/she is in a hurry to get somewhere.

Doesn’t that make you feel 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, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

How Much Stuff Is Enough?

The subject of hoarding can never be too far from your consciousness--- after all, baby boomers have been collecting stuff since the 60s. For all I know, you’re still wearing it too.

But now it’s time to let go. Stop hoarding and start redistributing. To help you with your hoarding compulsion, you have your choice of Hoarders on A&E or Hoarding: Buried Alive on TLC.

What does it say about us that there are two shows devoted to hoarders? There’s even a Clutterers Anonymous organization plying the 12 step waters to find their way to recovery. Twelve steps seems like too many if you’re trying to reduce the clutter in your life. What about three steps? 1) Admit you’ve been making a mess of your home. 2) Get rid of all the crap you’ve been hoarding. 3) Apologize to anyone you’ve ever allowed/forced to be in your home. There—that was easy.

The International OCD Foundation (you read that right) even has a Hoarding Center. That sounds a little obsessive, but they would know more about that than me. You can go to the messy kitchen Hoarding In the News section and read about how too much “stuff” can cause grief.

Once I came across a Holmes on Holmes TV episode (make it right Mike) where contractor Mike Holmes was flabbergasted to find a couple who had so much crap in their home that the heating and ventilation system couldn’t work properly (the vents were all blocked!!!). It just got away from them and then snowballed to the point that they didn’t know where to start---so they didn’t. If Mike had not come along, they would probably be dead now---carbon dioxide poisoning. He and his crew carted off all the family’s junk in a convoy of four trucks.

Boomers, it’s time to get proactive. Learn to love the minimalist décor. Dump it on your kids, sell it on eBay or leave it in the street, but you’ve got to get rid of your excess stuff before the reality show producers come calling and you really make a fool out of yourself. Fifteen minutes of fame is a strong lure, but do you really want your friends and family to see you that way? There are lots of teenagers jonesin' for your cast-offs. Let someone else take care of your stuff the second time around.

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.

The Blame Game: Part 67

This just in from the “You Saw This Coming, Didn’t You?” department:

Will Baby Boomers Bankrupt Social Security?

It’s ripped directly from the web pages of CNBC, and why, you might ask, should we have seen this coming? Because baby boomers get the blame for everything. Our sheer mass makes us a target, and while we are certain that we are not a monolithic group by any means, that doesn’t stop journalists and pundits from placing the blame for everything at our feet.

Social Security will be paying out more than it collects in payroll taxes by 2017. By 2037, Social Security will be able to pay out only 75% of its benefits. Gen Xers are lined up to take shots at us, as though we conspired to create this problem. They seem to enjoy pitting one generation against another, as though that will somehow be a constructive way to solve the problem.

Is it our fault that there are so many of us? No. Our parents (you remember, the Greatest Generation) are to blame. In 1946, the war was over and Americans celebrated by having sex for many years. The result? In no time at all (between 1946 and 1964), love social security they had 78 million babies. So they may have had their fun, but in the words of Jimi Hendrix, we’re now the ones with “tire tracks all across our backs.”

While it’s true that Gen Xers have paid higher payroll taxes for most of their working lives, boomers paid in what was asked of us. You can’t blame us for the smaller size of succeeding generations. And remember, with so many of us paying those payroll taxes, there was a lot more money going in than coming out. Like a large health insurance pool, we helped to spread the retirement benefit costs out among the many rather than burden the few.

Keep in mind that with pensions almost extinct, most boomers are going to have to live off what they have saved, and even that isn’t going to take us too far. So we are going to continue to work as long as we can, whether it’s full-time or part-time, and that means we are going to keep paying into the Social Security fund.

Put another way, the fact remains that nothing is certain but death and payroll taxes.

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.

We Can’t Be That Bad – They Keep Coming Back!

I’m sure that if times were not so tough, the offspring of baby boomers would likely prefer any option to moving back home, but for some generations that often despise us, they sure find it easy to come back home.

By most objective accounts (and in a sweeping generalization), these are young adults whose every whim was catered to, who got used to pass/fail evaluations, who were told that everyone is a winner, and who received beaucoup largesse from very accommodating parents.

The same parents who left their own nests when it was their time and who hardly looked back. We were drafted, we went to Canada, joined communes, found whatever jobs we could get, and somehow survived. In fact, we survived so well that when we had our own children, we were able to indulge them in a way not seen before. We drove them to all their activities and showed up for every game, play, or recital. We paid, and paid, and paid.

So why should we wonder that they don’t want to leave home or keep returning to the nest? The “dependent déjà vu” phenomenon isn’t just a function of a tough economy. Boomer offspring have been trained from an early age to rely on their parents, and that imprinting has now come home to roost (if you can stand any more of the birds nest metaphor). You’re still feeding and clothing them, paying for the utilities they are using (including the cell phones they need to talk and talk when they’re not texting), baby birdsand giving them a roof over their heads.

According to a Pew Research Center study, nearly 1 in 7 parents with grown children say they had a ”boomerang kid” move back home in the past year. Roughly one-third, or 35 percent, of boomerang kids said they had lived independently at some point in their lives but had to move back in with their parents. About half of the grown children worked full- or part-time, while 25 percent were unemployed and 20 percent were full-time students. They even have their own acronym. NIKE. No Income Kids With Education.

About 20 million people ages 18 to 34 live at home with their parents — roughly 30 percent of that age group. That’s up from about 18 million, or 27 percent, in 2005.

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.
You wanted to be a big part of their lives. You have been granted your wish.