Monday, April 18, 2011

The Bright Side

Not a day goes by that you don’t see an article how baby boomers are going to have a detrimental effect on something or other. We influence healthcare, banking, employment trends, you name it. The trouble with being an 800 pound gorilla is that you end up being the gorilla that menaces everyone and everything.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. We didn’t ask for this role, so everyone needs to stop blaming us personally for being the 800 pound demographic.

We were not born to overburden social security (at least it was not my intent) or to increase the demand for assisted living facilities and Medicare. We were truly innocent bystanders. It was the “greatest generation” that decided to procreate all at once.

So, can we agree to depersonalize the rants? Baby boomers are not any more self-centered or selfish than any other demographic. It may look that way because of our demographic clout, but on a case by case basis, we’re as level-headed and sweet as any other generation.

In fact, lately we’re getting credit for having a positive impact on some industries. Today it was home remodelers. Last week it was home builders. It seems that because boomers are retiring and moving to downsized digs, it’s going to have a ripple effect in the home remodeling and construction sector. With retirement looming or already here, boomers are planning to see the world, so the travel sector should be thanking us soon as well. And what about the drug industry? You can’t tell me they’re eyeing the prospect of ballooning drug sales thanks to 70 million pill popping seniors. Hair color and salon services?Non-profits who rely on volunteers? Wine sales? Fitness and exercise programs? RV manufacturers? Nutritional products? And don’t forget the funeral business--we’re dying to help them.

So there is an upside to being a boomer (well maybe dying is more of a downside). Industries like us. They really like us.

For Monty Python’s Life of Brian fans, there’s a simple outlook on life to follow:

Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle,
And this'll help things turn out for the best, and...
always look on the bright side.

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 Exercise Guy

Jack LaLanneI have plenty of fond memories of watching TV in the 50s. Most of them have to do with Gabby Hayes, Hopalong Cassidy, Kookla, Fran and Ollie, or the Mickey Mouse Club. But there was also this strange man in a jumpsuit who was urging us to exercise -- Jack LaLanne was his name, and fitness was his game. He called it “trimnastics” and if you watch his first show, it’s so “fifties” you have to marvel that he made it into such a longlasting career.

It all seemed a little nutty and Jack was such a fervent advocate that it felt a bit like walking down the midway at the carnival. Little did we know then that this guy was way ahead of his time. He was preaching diet and exercise long before anyone else and opened the first modern health club, the kind that is now ubiquitous around the world.

When he encouraged older people to lift weights, medical experts said they might break bones, but now we know that weight exercise helps strengthen bones. He was among the first exercise gurus to recommend weight training for women as well.

Perhaps his most lasting contribution was that he gave people hope by reminding them that it was never too late to get in shape. Following his own advice to others, Jack cut out sugar and processed foods and ate only organic and natural foods. But he also reminded us that it was the combination of diet and exercise that would get results.

According to Jack, "There are so many health nuts out there who eat nothing but natural foods but they don't exercise and they look terrible. Then there are other people who exercise like a son-of-a-gun but eat a lot of junk ... Exercise is king. Nutrition is queen. Put them together and you've got a kingdom!"

While stunts such as swimming from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco while towing a 1,000 boat (and handcuffed!!) on his 60th birthday earned Jack a lot of publicity, it was also what made him seem eccentric. He claimed that all he wanted to prove is that his regimen for good health could work at any age.

When asked if he thought he'd live to be 100, he replied that "I don't care how old I live! I just want to be living while I am living! I have friends who are in their 80s, and now they're in wheelchairs or they're getting Alzheimer's. Who wants that? I want to be able to do things. I want to look good...I tell people, I can't afford to die. It would wreck my image."

Jack’s gone but his advice lives on.

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.