Friday, February 25, 2011

Do We Have To Call It A Senior Center?

They’re waiting for us down at the Senior Center. That’s right, I said Senior Center. An article in the Sacramento Bee helped me see the emerging trend.

Aging experts point out that not every boomer will be able to travel the globe or drive off into the sunset with a fancy RV. Thanks to the recession and mutilated savings/pensions, many boomers are going to be looking to the senior center (damn, I wish there was another name for it) to provide stimulating activities and networking opportunities.

But revising the senior center to fit the needs of the baby boomers in the pipeline is not going to be just a matter of replacing bingo with Pilates. They might also want to provide career counseling to boomers who find they still need a source of income from part-time employment.

There are about 11,000 senior centers around the country serving around a million people a day, and their average age is 75. Fast forward a few years to when the oldest boomers start hitting 70, and you can see where this is all going. Senior centers are going to get hit with this giant tsunami wave of boomers and they will need to adapt quickly, not only to the vast increase in clients, but also to a change in the type of services provided.

Boomers will most likely be looking for something more challenging than quilting.The trend is for clients to come to the centers for specific programs-- from classes in quantum physics to information on basic computing. Bottom line, boomers are not likely to turn to the senior center as a social center as their parents did. Resource Center might be a better name for a place where you can go to take a yoga class, use the job placement service, or attend a lecture on 20th century American poets.

Not surprisingly, boomers will once again influence a sea change in the way that we view retirement and the support system that will needed to accommodate our needs. Senior -- make that Resource Centers should start to ramp up their programs now, because the boomers will soon be on their doorstep. And they won’t be signing up for square dancing.

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.

No Worse Curse

This just in from the Not So Good News Department. A new report tells us that Alzheimer's will be the "defining disease" of the baby boomer generation. Want to know your odds? The report indicates that one in eight boomers will eventually develop this progressive brain disorder.

The "Generation Alzheimer's," analysis predicts that as boomers begin to turn age 65, their risk doubles every five years. Up to 10 million boomers can expect to develop the disease, for which there is no prevention or cure.

If that statistic isn’t the ultimate downer for you, consider this. It’s very likely that many baby boomers will spend their retirement years either suffierng with Alzheimer’s or caring for someone who has it.

Crikey! I’m doing as many crossword puzzles as I can. I’ll count backwards from 100, finally learn Spanish, and walk and chew gum at the same time! What more can I do?

The real question should be what more can WE do? The Alzheimer's Association, the group that released this latest report, chastizes the lack of federal funding for research. The report points out that the National Institutes of Health spends more than $6 billion a year on cancer research and $3 billion on HIV, but only about $480 million goes to Alzheimer's.

This is already shaping up to be a classic “pay me now or pay me more later” proposition. If research and science are not ramped up to meet this challenge sooner rather than later, the eventual tab for nursing care, along with the loss of savings and the mental stress, make the initial outlay look miniscule.

If you want to do something now (before we’ve lost our minds for good), it just might be the right time to pressure our elected officials to put a greater emphasis on a cure or prevention.

I can laugh about it all now, because I still have a mind that can find the humor in almost anything. But you have to wonder what things will be like if nothing is funny.

What’s a 6-letter word for mental capacity for retaining facts? I know 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, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

You Think You’re Tired

According to a USA Today article, some generations are getting just a little bit tired of the spotlight that always seems to be shining on baby boomers.

Guess what? We’re a little tired of the target that’s been painted on our backs for all these years. Still, it hurts when Me Gens wonder if “baby boomers will ever leave.” As in die? Is that what you want? Really? Really?

Or saying that boomers “have sucked up a lot of oxygen.” What? We can’t even breathe?

Or declaring that boomers are "always examining themselves and their feelings." Spoken like a true member of the silent generation. Better to sit silently and show no emotion to your friends and family. That has to be a good life.

How about at work? Things are no better there. Younger employees think boomers take their jobs too seriously, and “are too wrapped up in this thing called 'career' ...The world is kind of a mess for this new generation to pick up the pieces." Okay then, you pick up the pieces and fix it all up and then see what your kids think of your mess. Does every generation think they can make the world a better place than the way they found it? Good luck with that world view.

But the situation is not all gloom and doom. A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll of 1,011 adults found that boomer influence earned high marks:

• 52% say Baby Boomers have made things better for the generations that came after them; 39% say they've made it worse.

• 57% describe Baby Boomers as "giving," while 37% describe them as "selfish."

• 54% say the better word to describe the generation is "practical," 41% say "idealistic."

And if that doesn’t make you feel better, how about this end quote from one of the interviewees.

"There are so many differences in this group of people. The only thing we have in common is we think we're fascinating.”

In the words of Harvey Fierstein, “Is that so wrong?”

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.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Who Can You Believe?

It should be clear to anyone that life is filled with contradictions, but this is ridiculous. On the same day that a Pew Research study comes out and reveals that boomers are in a funk, AARP releases the results of their survey showing that boomers are content with their lives.

Dueling surveys at sunrise, eh? A remarkable 82% of the AARP crowd is optimistic about the next five years. Seven in 10 said they had achieved all or most of what they wanted in life. 40 percent of those still working plan to keep working until they drop.

Back over to Pew Research Center, 80% of the respondents ages 46-64 were dissatisfied with the direction of the country. Maybe the Pew sample of 1,500 people were all having a bad day last month, while the AARPers were having all the fun. One Pew researcher posited that maybe boomers set themselves up for disappointment by being so idealistic back in the 60s. If that’s true, how do you explain the disturbing fact that boomers were less accepting of alternative lifesytles such as same-sex couples raising children or unmarried couples living together? We protested for civil rights but now we are getting choosy about who deserves them? Not cool.

AARP surveyed 800 people who are turning 65 this year. Almost half plan to take classes or learn something new and 60% want to travel more. Researchers say this reflects the notion that boomers think they are younger than they are, and they always have. I ask you, is that so wrong? The “tune in, turn on, drop out” crowd is in no hurry to take on the last part, according to AARP researchers.

The Pew survey did not probe too deeply into the reasons for boomer pessimism, but the speculation is that boomers have hit middle age during a record-breaking recession and they have always faced tremendous competition because of the sheer size of the demographic. Bummer.

To me, the real message from both surveys is that boomers are in a state of flux. One day we’re up and think that the world is getting better and the next day we think it’s all going to hell in a handbasket. This may all come down to whether or not you’re a born optimist or pessimist. Since I fall into the “nothing is ever as bad as it seems” camp and despite my penchant for bitching about how boomers are always getting the blame for everything, put me down as an optimist. We have a pretty good life and it could well be that the best is yet to come.

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.