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.