Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Big 5-0

5. 0. Fifty. Five. Zero. That can’t be right.

We’ll be hearing that a lot in the coming years. Actually, you may be saying it to yourself already. It’s been 50 years since you graduated (hopefully) from high school. People used to stay married that long. It’s half a century. Five decades. A lotta years.

If they were the best years of your life, then there’s a lot to look back on. If they were the worst years of your life, it’s easy to forget them. Some boomers are finding it easy to dive into this big, steaming bowl of nostalgia. Others would rather stay close to shore, watching from a distance but not diving into the reveries.

It’s easy to remember those high school years as carefree, but that’s only because we were able to ignore the history that was happening all around us. The Cuban missile crisis, school desegregation, assassinations, civil rights marches, urban riots, and the war in Vietnam marked the first half of the 1960s but I suspect most boomers in high school still did not understand just how scary the world could/would be. Our teachers, parents and relatives probably tried to tell us and pass on their wisdom honed from years of experience – but why would we be listening to old people? We knew everything.

Here we are 50 years later, and just as we redefined what it meant to be a baby boom teenager, now we are redefining what it means to be old, or make that older. Who is old? When should we stop working? Why should we stop working? Who are we to tell Mick Jagger, that’s enough? If you stop and think about the fact that we’re living longer and working longer than our parents, the 50 year thing begins to look more like a glass half-full or half-empty proposition.

I think it’s great that boomers are getting all reflective about those high school years, but as we like to remind you on our masthead, your whole life’s in front of you. You can spend some quality time looking back, but I’d rather work on making some quality time in the years ahead.

Oh, and one other thing. We will never look as good as we did in 1965.

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.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Bucket List Conundrum

A relatively recent fad, the bucket list appears to be growing more and more relevant to baby boomers. Naturally, that’s because we are on the downside of our life span so it’s time to get some things done before we kick the bucket.

And therein lies the problem for me. Making a list of things to do/places to go before you die is an inherently pessimistic proposition. Would I like to travel to some destinations that have always interested me? Yes, definitely. But do I want to get to these places because time is running out, the clock is ticking, it won’t be long now, and just about all the sand has fallen through the hour glass? Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got things I want to do but I hate the idea that I’m supposed to play beat the clock. I’m no procrastinator but I don’t like being pressured to do something before I think it’s time or I have the time to do it. I have to catch myself when tempted to say I’m doing something or going somewhere because it’s on my bucket list. Rather, I like to think I’m self-publishing that book or visiting that country because I'm lucky that I have the time/money to do it…and dying before I get to it does not enter into the equation.

A bucket list is almost like saying to yourself that you should be nicer to friends and family now. After all, your days are numbered and you want to be remembered as the kind person you think you are (or wish you could be). It’s a cynical gesture to make friends and family think you are (or were) a better person than you really are. And it’s all about getting it done before you buy the farm, check into the Horizontal Hilton, take a dirt nap, leave the building, play the harp or sleep with the fishes (more on that later).

Still, from the number of times I’m hearing people mention their bucket list, I may be the salmon swimming upstream on this one. Which reminds me, I’ve always wanted to swim upstream with the salmon. It’s on my net list.

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.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Say You're Sorry?

You want an apology for what? For fannypacks? For disco? For Neil Diamond? Platform shoes? To millennials and GenXers who want to blame baby boomers for practically everything wrong in the world, I say give me a break!

Every generation has its stuff and not all of it was germinated by the participants themselves – you think a young baby boomer fashion designer came up with the white patent leather belt?

We were marketed to by our fine capitalist system and we often bought what they were selling. Hippies may have sewn the first bellbottom jeans, but the clothing industry jumped on the trend and soon a whole generation had to have those wild pants. Same goes for disco music, mood rings, lava lamps and pet rocks. We often ended buying what someone else was selling but that doesn’t make us responsible for the original sin.

So I say again, sorry for what? PBS is running a documentary program called The Boomer List in order to tell the story of the boomer generation through the lives of 19 iconic baby boomers. Check out some of the names on the list and tell me why we should be sorry. Samuel L. Jackson, Deepak Chopra, Billy Joel, Steve Wozniak, Amy Tan, Eve Ensler, Erin Brokovich. No slackers there.

If you want to pull out some kind of balance sheet with the good things on one side and the bad things on the other side, I am certain that the positive contributions of baby boomers such as those featured in The Boomer List would far outstrip the goofy stuff for which you could say we’re responsible.

History will be the final arbiter on the good/bad scale, but I think I can safely predict that baby boomers will be seen as a generation that had a profound and mostly positive impact on our world. So put that in your fannypack!

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, August 20, 2014

The Debtors

Ned and Carol, where are you? The reason I ask is that we keep getting calls for you. It’s been five years since we moved here and signed up for landline phone service. They gave us a number that must have once belonged to you.

But you two – you little imps – you two must have run up some mighty big debts, because not a day goes by that we don’t get a call from a collection service looking for you kids.

“If you are Ned Street or you know how we might locate Ned Street, please call yada-yada-yada.”

Now, when I see the collection agency name come up on caller ID, I pick up the call for two seconds and then disconnect. They are such wearisome calls after five years of hearing the same recorded message. And if I were Ned, would I really call the number for the collection agency? I hardly think so.

And not just one collection service is looking for you. There are several that would be interested in knowing your whereabouts. You and Carol must have racked up some serious debt. I imagine that it all started with some profligate spending on the credit cards and perhaps some gambling. The next thing you knew, it spiraled into a second mortgage and then maybe foreclosure on the house. The banks must have come after you too, but by then you and Carol had split town. Speaking of splitting, my guess is that the stress of your indebtedness drove a wedge between you and Carol, and the marriage folded. I could be wrong, but it seems unlikely that a marriage could survive the such a tremendous fall so far down the rabbit hole. I imagine you’ve gone your separate ways and tried to disappear into the cracks somewhere new, but it must be hard to try to rebuild a decent credit history with the collectors breathing down your neck.

I don’t know when the calls will stop. Maybe never. You would think the statue of patience limitations would have run out after five years, but hope springs eternal in the collection biz. I guess my own hope that the calls would finally stop demonstrates that I too have unrealistic expectations. Anyway, Ned and Carol, I hope you’ve landed on your feet somehow and find a way to rebuild your lives. If you’re ever feeling nostalgic, call your old phone number and let us know how you’re doing.
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.

One Nation, Under All

Underpants, panties, unders, underwear….whatever you call them, they are about to get a makeover. Our good friends at Proctor and Gamble (a test monitor and a high risk? I don’t get it.) will soon be unleashing $150 million worth of marketing for incontinence products according to AdAge.

With brand names like Envive and Discreet, P&G is going to show us that the future is now, and the future is incontinence. We can hardly wait.

A whole gaggle of celebrities are already pitching incontinence products --- our favorite stars (okay, I don’t know who some of them are – or care) Whoopi Goldberg, Kris Jenner, Marie Osmond, Lisa Rinna, and Kirstie Alley. This must be the baby boomer encore career that people keep talking about! It’s hard to gauge which is worse – the onset of incontinence or the idiotic celebrity ads that are designed to get us to buy the products.

I’m all for frank discussions of some of the ailments boomers are going to face in their later years, but I’m guessing that this onslaught of TV and social media prompts is going to get real annoying, real fast. I doubt that the fact that we are “sharing” our incontinence with the stars we/some of us have come to know and love make the realization that we need these products any less “uncomfortable.” Following the Tweets of Marie Osmond when she shares that she just peed in her pants but it’s OK --- she has on a pair of PeeStoppers --- that’s going to make us all feel better about ourselves.

There’s sharing and then there’s oversharing. If P&G is really going to spend $150 million for incontinence product ads and social media, then it’s a good bet there will be a lot of oversharing. How can a celebrity endorsement make us feel better that we’re losing control of a basic bodily function? Can’t. That’s the short answer. The slightly longer answer is that I don’t care who else is incontinent. I just hope it isn’t me or that it’s many years off. The ailment is embarrassing enough without having to watch famous people embarrass themselves.

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, July 22, 2014

The Way We Were

I woke up this morning and said, “Today’s the day. The day I write my memoir.”

Sounds easy but the truth is that I don’t remember much. I remember the song…Memories. Maybe that wasn’t the title but I can sing you the first line. Or maybe not. Memories, light the something something something. That’s all I remember. Oh, and Streisand sang it, I remember that. And she couldn’t or wouldn’t spell Barbara the right way.

That nice young lady who comes to see me sometimes, she can sing the song. I think she’s related to me but I’m not really sure. She looks a lot like me. Like a family resemblance. She told me who she is but then I forget right after she tells me.

Just thought of a joke. That doesn’t happen often. I say, “I think I lost my brafour and you say. ‘What’s a bra for?’ Get it. Funny. Ha, ha. Not sure why I remember that one.

Maybe the young lady will help me with my memoir. I could get her to write the things down so that someone will read it some day and they will know who I was, that I had a life, that I did things and went places. Like that. I hope I remember to ask her when she comes today or tomorrow. Or whenever she comes back.

I remember being outside and playing all day and when the cousins came and we would play hide and seek and games with a ball. I remember trying to show off and run faster and hide where no one could find me. Giant steps…that was some kind of game we played and you had to stand on the front porch. Something about a red light and a green light. Or you had to count to 20 and then go look for someone. I was better at hiding than looking.

We played until dark, until the fireflies came out and we chased them all over the yard. Sometimes we tried to trap them in a jar. And it had holes in the lid.

Where is that lady? Why isn’t she here today. When I’m not looking for her, then she shows up. When I need her to help me remember things, she’s not here.

The Way We Were….that’s it, that’s the song. That’s my 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.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Time Shifters

There was a time when advertising reflected the nostalgia of our demographic and all was well in the kingdom of baby boomers. Maybe you’ve already noticed, but our nostalgia ain’t what it used to be. Someone has pushed up the timeline for what’s considered nostalgic and it’s going to be an adjustment for aging boomers.

You can still hear some soundtracks from our youth, whether it’s the Kinks hawking yogurt (All Day and All of the Night), the Ronettes’ Be My Baby standing up for erectile drugs, or Shake Your Booty (KC and the Sunshine Band) for Fidelity Investments. You gotta like the nerve of Burger King using Walk of Life (Dire Straits) to sell fast food. Or Google using Hall and Oates’ Maneater. Car Wash Blues for Delta Faucets? But for a real leap back in time, Nationwide used Love Is Strange (Mickey and Sylvia).

But if you listen closely, the music used to target a generation has shifted forward to sounds of the late 70s, 80s and 90s. And to another generation other than ours. Auto Trader is using the stars of the Dukes of Hazzard. Budweiser is using What I Like About You. Swiffer used Devo’s Whip It (Whip It Good). Cadillac used Stacey’s Mom (Fountains of Wayne) to sell Escalades….this is the one where the Dads in the school drop-off lane are either ogling the mom or the car, or both. The crazy pistachios ads have used many songs but went straight to new material when they utilized Psy’s Gangman Style. But the prize for tapping the most current music scene for its commercials has to go to Volkswagon. From artists such as The Jesus and Mary Chain (Just Like Honey) and Wave Machine (Keep the Lights On), VW seems to have a knack for finding the newest songs to hook you into their message. And as a bonus, it must be cheaper to use not-yet-famous artists.

It was fun to hear the soundtrack of our youth when we watched a car commercial, but things change, and we might have to get used to being left out of the musical mix. Maybe the occasional adult diaper ad will hit a familiar note (the Beatles – Don’t Let Me Down?).

Looks like what we called nostalgia is soon going to be relegated to just plain old stuff for old people. And where’s the romance in that?

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, June 3, 2014

Seriously? Roommates?

Remember the show Golden Girls? Housing experts predict that it’s coming back – for real. What happens when aging boomers run low on cheddar (sorry – too much Breaking Bad – I meant money)? If they are single adults, they will start looking for roommates to lower their living expenses. The theory being that 3 or 4 Social Security checks combined will go a lot further, as will the weekly groceries.

There are already groups set up to help boomers find each other and more are organizing every day. Affordable Living for the Aging reports that about 130,000 senior-partnership households already exist and that number is expected to increase rapidly.

And we’re not talking about adult partners who are shacking up (the forerunner of hooking up). We’re talking about adults with no familial or romantic connection. It’s a pure “shared economy” arrangement where roommates contribute something valuable to the deal. Maybe you own a house but are cash-strapped. The roommate can buy the groceries and help with the utility bills, or drive you to doctor appointments, or whatever, all in exchange for a rent-free roof over their heads. You put 3 or 4 roommates under one roof and you really have some economy of scale.

And it sure beats living in a refrigerator box. When you look at the statistics about how little money some boomers have put away for retirement, it makes you think that homelessness among the aging could grow into a massive scale problem. Roommate exchanges offers a far better prospect than seeing homeless seniors living rough.

By 2030, 1 in 5 Americans will be a senior (over 65). Rather than stacking seniors up like cordwood in warehouse-style housing, the roommate plan could be a bright spot in an otherwise dismal formula for end-of-life housing. Is having one or more roommates the ideal, dream scenario, the arrangement that each of us always dreamed of? Not really, not even close. But it beats a lot of dreadful alternatives that one could imagine.

And think of all the great sit-com potential that could come from it. Everyone loves cranky seniors (spitfires, if you please). It could be like the show Friends, but with old people. You could be Monica and I could be Joey!

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.

Silver Cribs

If you’ve ever watched the TV show Cribs (it’s on MTV, and if that’s not a good reason to miss it, I don’t know what is), you get to see how the other half (or 1% anyway) lives. Do I want to know how rich athletes, rappers, actors, wrestlers, sextape participants and various miscreants live? HELL NO!

I’m a little more focused on how I’m living and will continue to live in the fast looming future. And it turns out that Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate was also curious, so they conducted a survey. Now I picture you panting with anticipation, so here goes….your future awaits.

39% of boomers surveyed want to retire to small towns and farms, 27% prefer retirement communities, 26% want urban centers, and 8% picked “lifestyle” communities (which apparently has something to do with golf). If this doesn’t add up to 100%, blame Better Homes, not me.

These stats are somewhat confusing when 4 out of 10 of the same respondents say they plan to stay in their current homes in retirement. And if they do move, it won’t be far. Seventy-two percent are going to remain in the same state where they currently reside.

And bad news for elderly parents or kids…83 percent of boomer respondents plan to ditch any family members who are trying to mooch off them. There are no multi-generational abodes in their future. What they do want is diversity. Age-restricted communities are falling out of favor for their lack of variety. Boomers don’t want to be around a lot of other older people who remind them that they are old as well. So they like the idea of being around younger people, just not their own offspring.

About two-thirds of these boomers plan to renovate their current homes to accommodate future needs. I guess that’s really great news for the makers of stair lifts and walk-in tubs. Also high on the list of wants is low-maintenance. Boomers are looking for what’s known as “lock and leave” homes. We got places to go and things to do. We can’t be cleaning gutters, mowing the lawn, and painting the garage.

It occurs to me that surveys like this one bring out the wishful thinking in people. Boomers say this is what they want, but the reality may turn out to be quite different. But who wants to think that we’re going to end up warehoused in some shoebox apartment with a bunch of other bitter boomers. Wait…that’s the next Cribs concept for MTV. Old people in boxes! No more calls, we have a winner.

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.

Toothpaste --- Out of Control!

Gone into a supermarket to purchase toothpaste lately? Good luck. If you know your brand and type you might get out of the dental products aisle in less than 10 minutes. Even if you do know your brand and type, it’s a devilish task to find it. Colgate alone has more than 40 variations….some whiten, some don’t, some protect enamel, some don’t, some have baking soda and peroxide, some don’t, some have tartar protection, some don’t. Then there’s the whole flavor spectrum to deal with --- crystal mint, clean mint, cool mint, original (what the hell is that?) etc. Do you favor gel or paste? And let’s not get started on the package sizes.

Something has gone wrong with toothpaste merchandising, that’s obvious. It should not be that hard to choose a brand and type. The manufacturers (all of them, Crest, Colgate, Arm and Hammer, etc.) all play the game and the goal is to totally bewilder the consumer, and on that front, they have achieved total victory. According to some estimates there are around 350 distinct types and sizes of toothpaste available for retail sale.

Pricing too is insane. A 4.5 ounce tube can cost as much as 6 ounce tube and you have this suspicion that toothpaste has a lot in common with lipstick. It’s cheap to produce and expensive to market. Supposedly, Colgate and Crest control 70% of the market but they spend millions on advertising non-stop to hold on to that brand loyalty. So the ingredients and packaging may account for 10% of the costs with the rest going to marketing. As I said, it may be a lot like lipstick.

Dentists will tell you to just make sure it has the ADA seal and contains fluoride to help prevent decay and subsequent cavities. Some take it a step further and tell you to stay away from whitening products that they deem not very beneficial, borderline harmful.

My latest idea is to take a photo of the toothpaste package at home with my smartphone so that I can try to find the same package on the shelf. It beats coming home with a new brand/type that you did not intend to purchase. Supposedly, the manufacturers know that they have too many brand variations and they are trying to scale back the options to curtail some of the sensory overload that consumers get in the toothpaste aisle. I haven’t seen any improvement at our grocery store, but I can only hope that it gets easier. Otherwise I’m considering converting to the chew stick. It’s cheap, you don’t need toothpaste, and it combats bad breath. Oh yeah, and you can grow your own chew stick tree and never visit the toothpaste aisle again.

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.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Worker Bees

My Sweet Irreplaceable You

Final score….73 to 48. That’s 73 million baby boomers and 48 million GenXers. If all the baby boomers left the labor market at the same time, the American economy could not sustain itself.

Wow! Makes you want to quit tomorrow if it weren’t for the negative consequences. But seriously, this is serious. It’s not a question of experience or competence, it’s just plain arithmetic. As large numbers of boomers leave the workforce, there are not enough employees to take their place.

Employers may have to reach down to the farm team level to tap Gen Yers (born between 1980 and 2000), but there’s a big concern about whether they are ready and whether their work culture will clash big time with the remaining boomers.

While boomers are typically obsessed with their work, Gen Yers generally seek a greater balance between work and life interests. Often characterized as high performance and high maintenance, they lack the experience of even Gen Xers. Bottom line, the Yers will have a tough time filling the shoes of the more seasoned baby boomers.

Experts are telling employers that the next 10 years could be a very rocky road if they are unable to hold onto the talent they already have. The successful businesses will find a way to keep employees engaged and committed to the company’s goals, but after years of downsizing and merger-acquisition frenzies, that’s easier said than done. Plus, the burgeoning start-ups are looking to poach the Gen Xer talent from more established businesses, making the remaining baby boomers even more valuable workers.

Articles about boomers staying on the job well past conventional retirement age are now a weekly staple. Just recently I read about an 81 year-old bartender and an 82 year-old waiter working at the same restaurant. They didn’t want to sit around at home and get fat and they liked coming to work, even if it was only part-time. Youthful workers at the other end of the spectrum just don’t see it that way, and if you think that’s not your problem, remember, we need them to cover our social security benefits.

In any case, I’m beginning to feel a little bit like Sally Field when she accepted her Oscar. “You like me. You really like me.”

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.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Oh Crap. We’re Quaint

Or at least millennials and maybe your own children are starting to look at you that way. It’s not quite on the order of the “I had to walk barefoot 3 miles to school” syndrome, but it’s close.

Dare you to mention that you used to play records on a turntable, the wild-eyed stares come out. Sure, we now get our music from iTunes and listen to it with earbuds on our smartphones or tablets, but tell me you’ve forgotten playing 45s on a record player --- maybe with one of those plastic inserts so that it would fit on a 33rpm spindle. Am I right? You do remember? You’re still going to deny it?

As they say in the infomercials, “But that’s not all!” If you’re going to get into the wayback machine (thanks Mr. Peabody), how about 8-tracks and cassettes. How can you forget them, never mind explain them to someone younger than age 20?

Just to keep this game going a little longer, try to remember what telephones used to look like. Ugly black cords that lost their springiness, clear plastic disks for rotary dialing, and analog bases that look totally ridiculous when you put them side by side with a contemporary cordless handset or a smartphone.

Now we take photographs on our smartphones and see them instantly. But there was a time when instant photographs meant getting out the Polaroid camera and loading film that had its own chemistry set built into the box. Just wait 60 seconds, and shazzam, you’ve got a crude, oddly tinted photograph. The 60 second miracle it was called in a flash of marketing hyperbole. And by the way, it may startle you to know that it was invented 67 years ago!

I’m typing this on a wireless keyboard connected to a powerful computer while viewing the text on a cinema monitor. A great leap forward from my Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 200 (fondly referred to as the Trash 80). We actually connected it via a 28pin ribbon cable to a Royal typewriter when we wanted to print something. Amazing! Speaking of typewriters, who doesn’t have fond memories of watching that crazy ball jump around on an IBM Selectric?

So yes, this walk down memory lane certifies that baby boomers are getting pretty darn quaint. If you find yourself using phrases such as “in my day” or “back in the day,” then you’re beyond quaint. My advice is to just shut up about all these analog devices and jump on the next train to app town – wherever it’s going.

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 About Never? Is Never Good for You?

Nearly half of all baby boomers say they don’t expect to retire until age 66, or even later. But the stat that got my attention was that 1 in 10 say they will never retire. NEVER. You hear me, I’m NEVER going to retire. Going from the desk or wherever right to the grave.

Is it just about the money, or is something else going on here? No question, many boomers feel like they must keep working to boost their retirement income, but other boomers just want to stay engaged with the world and that means staying on the job. I get that. Most retirees that I know are treating retirement like a job. They have lists of things to do, projects to get done, and places to go. Not much golfing or shuffleboarding there, unlike their parents. The whole notion of what to do in retirement has been turned upside down.

And if I read one more article about how boomers can start their own business to work from home (or even while they travel the world!!), I’ll shoot myself. They make it sound so easy. Pick a skill or a service and off you go. It’s NOT that easy and that’s why smart boomers who can stay on the job are doing just that.

Will employers and customers recognize the value of baby boomer experience and talent? That’s the big question. Younger workers have much to offer with their enthusiasm and technical knowledge, but the maturity and wisdom of a highly engaged boomer who’s truly motivated to stay on the job should make them just as valuable, if not more so.

Bottom line, we’re going to try to keep our jobs, so employers, clients and customers might as well capitalize on what we’re offering. Putting workers out to pasture at age 60 or 62 is so old school. The world doesn’t work that way anymore and the news stories about aged 60+ individuals achieving fame for late-life achievements just goes to prove that there are many attractive options to retirement.

It’s time for us all to get used to seeing aged 70+ workers still pulling their weight and making a valuable contribution in the workplace. And don’t be surprised when you ask them when they’re going to retire, they are still insisting on NEVER.

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 19, 2014


It is better to look good than to feel good….and can I tell you something? You look maaarvelous!!

So said Billy Crystal in his Fernando Llamas persona.

And guess what? It’s become the mantra for aging boomers as well. We don’t mind taking the senior discount at the car rental counter or the museum ticket box office, we just don’t want to look like we’re seniors. We want to look maaarvelous!

The nicest thing waitstaff can say (and the smartest if they want a big tip) is “you don’t look like a senior.” No we don’t. And that’s because we’re spending night and day (plus a lot of dollars) doing whatever it takes to look younger.

We exercise, dye the hair, get dermabrasions (ouch, ouch), replace knees, sign up for brain training programs, get lasik eye surgery, eat healthier, try hormone replacement, take yoga classes, and meditate. We jump on every new social media app, as though being connected with younger users will make us feel younger (it doesn’t). Whatever it takes – sign us up.

In that respect, we’re nothing at all like our parents. They did not try to hold off the aging process. They accepted it gracefully, along with the gold watch and the shuffleboard court. Very few of them fought the good fight. Hair went gray and stayed that way. The beer bellies sagged and no one cared much about trying to arrest their failing health. It was all part of the inevitable march toward the end game of life.

Well boomers are having none of it. It’s just not good enough to age well, we insist on a full-court push-back of the aging process. The good news for our economy is that an entire anti-aging industry has sprung up to cater to baby boomers. Some of them are scammers and some can actually do us harm, but there are plenty of entrepreneurs who want to help us fight off old age.

Once again, the boomer generation is in the vanguard of a movement to change our notion of aging. Whether it’s remaining sexually active well into the 80s or continuing to work well beyond the conventional age for retirement, we are determined to redefine what it means to grow older.

Can I tell you something? We look maaarvelous! And you know who you are!

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, January 29, 2014

Gray What?

You know it’s trouble when they have a catchy name for it. I’m talking about “gray divorce” and that means over-50 marital splits. Apparently, divorce among the 50 and over crowd has doubled from 1990 to 2010. Must have been a rough decade. But the trend continues.

What accounts for this development? Get in line to spout your own theory: boomer self-centeredness? Sick and tired of your spouse? Endured a bad marriage long enough? Hanging on to your youthfulness? Whatever the reason, divorced boomers face an upside and a downside. The upside is the opportunity to stake out a new life, create new friendships, pursue new hobbies and interests, etc. The downside is when you split all the assets, someone gets the short end of the stick and both have less retirement income that can be shared. Being partnerless can make health issues more challenging as well.

And despite the fact that they often come out on the short end of the stick asset-wise, boomer women are more apt to initiate divorce than boomer men. The easy assumption there is that the men don’t want to give up an arrangement where someone cooks and cleans for them. But the truth may be that women are much less tolerant of an unfulfilling/bad relationship.

Some have speculated that boomers are divorce prone because we continue to invent ourselves and thus reinvent the institution of marriage. We changed premarital sex, we changed birth control, we expanded our sexual repertoire, and we made divorce acceptable, so it stands to reason we’re reinventing late-life marital options, and divorce is on top of that list.

It has also been said that our sense of duty (in sickness and in health, til death do us part?) and confidence in the sanctity of marriage is just not the same as what our parents expectations were. To that we say, whatever!

So in the end, the choice is self-fulfillment or loyalty. Tough choice. Especially when you were raised to think anything is possible and when you see something you want, go for it. If I were a demographer, I would be betting that we will be seeing a lot more single baby boomers in our future.

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, January 14, 2014

Easy Marks

A number of TV critics have recently lamented how dreadful the portrayals of over-50 characters are in current television fare. These boomer characters dwell on flatulence, use vulgar language, share TMI about their digestive tract functions, and seem helpless when it comes to being able to use contemporary technology.

The saddest aspect of this trend is that these are some very fine actors who have been compromised into playing roles that make any sane baby boomer wince at the awfulness of the characters. Beau Bridges, Allison Janney, Ellen Barkin, Kathy Bates, Ed Asner, Stacy Keach and Robin Williams, to name a few.

I’m not suggesting that we go back to the day when every older character was the wise oracle (e.g. Marcus Welby or Father Knows Best), but I think the writers (some of whom may be baby boomers as well – traitors!) could scale back a bit on the cringe worthiness of these current characters.

Do I have any hope that this trend will fade? Nope. Quite the contrary. I think it’s going to get a whole lot worse. Face it…we’re easy marks. Bumbling idiots who share too much information about how our bodies are failing us and that we don’t know what a Tweet is or what Snapchat does.

As baby boomers mature, TV show writers seem determined to make us look immature. Some critics think that this trend is some sort of karmic payback by millennials tired of listening to baby boomer crap about our music, movies and cultural dominance. Honestly, I don’t think it’s that malevolent. As always, it comes down to the fact that we’re such a massive demographic that it’s easy to take us down a notch or two, or three or four.

In any case, we should get used to being the butt of the joke. Remember how we laughed at our parents when they didn’t know what marijuana was or that we were smoking it? How we were so with it and they were so out of it? How we knew who Jimi Hendrix was while they were stuck on Lawrence Welk? How we knew that the Vietnam war was a foolish quagmire when they were still on the fence about it?

Talk about karmic payback. If we thought our parents were such dummies, what do you think boomer offspring make of their parents? If you don’t want to be insulted by the portrayals of boomers on current TV, your best bet may be to use that Netflix streaming thingie (more proof that we know nothing) to watch All in the Family, MASH, Happy Days, Mork and Mindy and Taxi. That would be the same head-in-the-sand thinking that our parents used when they were clinging to their entertainment icons.

And we thought we could do 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.