Author Archives: juliegorges

About juliegorges

Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

Baby Boomers Don’t Want to be Called Senior Citizens

Call me professional, call me nice, or call me the life of the party, but don’t you dare call me elderly. Call me a “sweet old lady” and you’re in even bigger trouble! Call me a “senior citizen” and I’m irritated. After all, we don’t refer to people under 50 as “junior citizens.”

There’s a lot of debate these days on what to call us aging baby boomers. Seniors? Elderly or elders? Mature? Or simply older people?

Words matter.

According to one report, 80 percent of older Americans have been subjected to ageist stereotypes. No wonder we baby boomers want words that describe us in a way that bears a sense of dignity, which isn’t always easy to come by in later years.

In fact, some boomers have become so sensitive to negative words that they don’t want to be called Grandma and Grandpa anymore, preferring something a bit hipper like “Nana” or “Papa” befitting a more youthful attitude toward life.

After all, think of some of the words used to describe older people – derogatory terms like old codger, geezer, biddy, coot, fossil, hag, fart, and fogey.

And don’t you hate it when a waitress or sales clerk calls you “dear” or “dearie” which is supposed to sound endearing but just sounds downright demeaning? Next Avenue readers reacted strongly to an article “The Negative Effects of Elderspeak,  emphasizing that they find words such as “honey,” “sweetie” and “young lady” to be at best, rude, and at worst, disrespectful.

Consider all the insulting terms like “a senior moment,” which suggests that normal forgetfulness that can happen at any age is somehow tied only to getting older. Or the phrase “still driving” as if this is some kind of a miraculous accomplishment for older adults.

Even the term “seniors” seems aimed at creating barriers, especially in the workplace.

So, the search for better words continues.

A survey by The Journalists Exchange on Aging interviewed journalists who write about retirement and aging to find out which words they prefer to use when describing those over 50. The top choice was “older,” followed by “seniors,” (but only to describe those older than 65). Age-specific references such as “those over 50” or “people 65 and up” also won approval among the journalists.

“Senior citizen” was on the list of “mostly disliked” terms which some considered dehumanizing. “Elderly” was the word that grated the most, coming under criticism for its “impersonal and stigmatizing manner” of grouping older people with images of frailty and decline.

The term “boomers” was fine with survey participants, but not “baby boomers.” “They’re not babies anymore,” one respondent noted. Some journalists in the survey criticized “mature” as one of those words so deliberately, self-consciously “correct” – striving for linguistic neutrality – that they seem silly.

Another media guide on reporting issued by The International Longevity Center and ageism campaign group Aging Services of California suggested using terms like “older people” or simply “man” or “woman” followed by his or her age if relevant to the story. The guide added that using positive terms was “an important step in overcoming ageist language and beliefs.”

Alex Juarez, Communications Director for AARP Arizona agreed that we need to get rid of the negative stigma attached to getting older. “In reality, aging gives us experience,” he said. “At AARP, we don’t think we should be defined by age. For a couple of years, we have been using the term 50 plus. That’s important because we don’t want people to be identified as seniors.”

Some staff members at AARP The Magazine, favor a more playful approach to language. “We use the word grown-ups a lot,” said editor and vice president of AARP Steven Slon. He points to  a feature called “Movies for Grownups” as an example. He adds that those who are older “don’t want to be marginalized and put off in a category of people who simply get discounts but are not to be taken seriously.”

Of course, the question of what to call those over 50 isn’t simply one for the media. The words that people in general use to describe us help define and shape attitudes about growing older. So, the debate continues.

What word do you prefer to describe us baby boomers? What word do you find insulting? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Sneak Peek: Excerpt from My New Book!

The exciting day is here! My new book, I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia is now available on Amazon.

This is the fourth book I’ve had published, but the one that I’m most proud of – dedicated to my Mom who bravely fought Lewy Body dementia and the 15 million noble unpaid caregivers – most of whom are family members – who care for a loved one with this horrible disease.

As a bonus for readers of my blog, I’m providing a sneak peek – an excerpt of the first chapter of my new book below.

So without further ado, here is the introduction chapter of I’m Your Daughter, Julie. If so inclined, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below. Hope you enjoy!

INTRODUCTION

My Story

My mother suffered from Lewy body dementia (LBD), a cruel combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s symptoms that rendered her helpless both physically and mentally toward the end of her life.

LBD is known for tormenting its victims with vivid hallucinations, delusions, and night terrors. Sometimes my mother was in a complete state of panic because she thought a bear was in the laundry room, a tiger was swimming in the pool, or baby lions were squirming in the bottom of her bed.

One time, Mom became hysterical because she saw her long dead step-father – a former boxer who physically abused her mother – standing in the hallway.

Watching Mom slowly lose her mind became a normal part of my life as her full-time caregiver. Sacrificing part of my life to care for a parent with dementia who I loved dearly was one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished. Caregiving was also the most challenging, demanding, and heartbreaking task I’ve ever undertaken.

Dementia not only changed my mother forever, it changed me in profound ways too.

I had never heard of this brutal disease before Mom’s diagnosis. However, LBD is not rare. According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association (LBDA) and the Mayo Clinic, it is the second most common type of dementia after Alzheimer’s. Thankfully, more people have become aware of this disease after it was discovered that actor and comedian Robin Williams suffered from LBD at the time of his death. Recently, CNN founder Ted Turner was also diagnosed with this disease.

Still, much remains to be done to raise awareness. As LBDA’s site points out, although LBD affects an estimated 1.4 million individuals and their families in the United States alone, it is currently widely under diagnosed. Although “many families are affected by this disease, few individuals and medical professionals are aware of the symptoms, diagnostic criteria, or even that LBD exists,” their site points out.

This certainly described me. When I began this journey with my mother, I had no idea what ordeal lay ahead. Dementia starts out in a seemingly non-threatening way with some memory loss and confusion. Even as the disease progressed, Mom had some good days when she wasn’t as confused, shuffled and trembled less, held her head a bit higher, and was more lucid and alert. Sometimes she’d go days without any hallucinations. This is typical for people with LBD whose symptoms often fluctuate drastically from day to day.

On good days, for a moment of denial, I could pretend she would get better. In fact, this is a belief my Mom often vocalized. “When I get better, it won’t be so hard,” she’d say optimistically to comfort me, as was her nature.

This statement always caused a pang of distress because I knew deep down that it wasn’t true.

As the disease took its inevitable path, I was often hit with that harsh reality. Mom knew who I was most the time. But then there would be days she thought I was a nurse or a professional caretaker and begin making friendly, polite small talk. One day she asked if I liked to sail.

“Yes, Mom,” I answered. “You know I love sailing. I’m your daughter, Julie.”

Our family has sailed for more than 30 years, so the question was unsettling. After she got sick, Mom would bravely maneuver down the docks with her walker and step into the boat flanked by family members on both sides until she was physically unable to do so. Everyone on the dock admired her for that.

“Oh yeah, I know you’re Julie,” she said, looking a little embarrassed.

A few moments later, she asked the name of my mother as if I were a stranger again. Trying to have a sense of humor, I said her name, Carmen Hacker. She looked confused and I felt bad.

“You’re my mother,” I explained sadly. “I’m your daughter, Julie.”

My Mom often told me about something I did in the past as if explaining an incident to a stranger.

“My Julie…” she’d begin the story and relate something that happened in my childhood. Or she would say, “My Julie takes good care of me.”

Her appreciation warmed my heart and made all the sacrifices seem worthwhile. At the same time, it broke my heart because my mother didn’t recognize me when she said it.

We tried to laugh at those moments when my Mom’s mind would come back, but painfully, deep down, I knew we’d been given a disturbing glimpse into the future. The day would come when my mother wouldn’t recognize me at all. Even though I would patiently explain who I was, she wouldn’t understand anymore.

Losing a Parent, a Little Bit at a Time

Sometimes you lose a parent in death suddenly. What you don’t realize until you have a parent with dementia is that sometimes you lose a parent excruciatingly – a little bit at a time. Grief takes many forms and it isn’t just for mourning someone who has died.

After my Mom lost her ruthless battle with LBD, many people encouraged me, as an author and professional writer, to pen a book to share my experiences and offer advice to other caregivers.

Although I had shared some of my story in my blog, Baby Boomer Bliss, I couldn’t immediately dive into an entire book on the subject. The heartbreaking experience of watching my Mom rapidly deteriorate both physically and mentally before my eyes, the difficulty of taking care of her at the end when she began to lose all bodily functions, as well as her death were all too painful to relive.

Telling my story still isn’t easy, but I’ve finally healed enough to put my feelings into words. I hope that my experiences, my successes, and my mistakes can help all you dear caregivers.

This book is a memoir of sorts sharing my intimate story, but it is also a practical guidebook. I want to help you cope with the many challenges that lie ahead, learn how to take care of yourself during this difficult time, and succeed with your noble and important role as a caregiver. By sharing my journey with you, I want to make the process a bit easier and provide some comfort to all of you who are losing your loved one a little bit at a time like I did.

Although this book is written specifically for those caring for a parent with dementia, it is also valuable for caregivers of spouses, relatives, or friends suffering with this disease. The information is meant to help you whether you’re a full-time caregiver, helping another family member or friend on a part-time basis, or looking after a parent who is living in an assisted living facility or nursing home. In fact, much of the book applies to caregiving in general, no matter what disease or disability your loved one may have.

To be clear, I’m not a health professional writing this book from a medical standpoint. Although I’ll briefly go over some of the different kinds of dementia along with general symptoms, so you’ll know what to expect, this is a deeply personal book written from my heart.

I’m reaching out to you as one who has traveled this difficult but, in the end, worthwhile journey you are already on or ready to embark. You’ll notice the book is short and to the point because I know from personal experience that as a caregiver your time is limited.

The Facts and Figures

If you’re caring for a parent with dementia, you are certainly not alone. The statistics are brutal. Shockingly, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about 15 million adult family caregivers care for someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia. They provide an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion.

The truth is that while the government spends an estimated $150 billion annually with Medicaid and Medicare to care for those with dementia and about $570 million on drug research to cure or slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, it does little to support those family caregivers whose loved ones suffer from dementia. Sadly, very few programs pay family members or friends on a regular basis to provide care.

Nearly 10 million people caring for aging parents are over the age of 50, according to a study conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute. Because life expectancy has increased during this past century, the number of caregivers has more than tripled over the past 15 years and it’s not unusual for retirees over the age of 65 to be caring for a parent. Most, but not all, caregivers are married, employed women.

Nearly half of family caregivers surveyed by The Home Alone said they performed medical and nursing tasks. More than 96% also helped their loved one with daily activities such as personal hygiene, dressing/undressing, getting in and out of bed, giving prescribed medications, shopping for groceries, and providing transportation. According to one Gallup poll, the majority of respondents had been caregiving for three years or more.

“Without caregivers, people with dementia would have a poorer quality of life and would need institutional care more quickly, and national economies would be swept away by the advancing demographic tidal wave,” a report from The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) states. The report adds that this support comes at a cost of caregiver distress.

Indeed, caring for a loved one with dementia takes an emotional toll. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA), a person who provides care for someone with dementia is twice as likely to suffer from depression as a person providing care for someone without dementia.

That’s because caring for a person with dementia presents extra challenges. “Dementia-related symptoms such as wandering, agitation, hoarding, embarrassing conduct, and resistance or non-cooperation from the loved one makes every day challenging and makes it harder for a caregiver to get rest or assistance in providing care,” FCA’s website points out. “The more severe the case of dementia, the more likely the caregiver is to experience depression.”

Other emotions are involved as well. Even the most capable and responsible caregivers can feel overwhelmed, anxious, frustrated, isolated, and exhausted – on top of feeling guilty for having these feelings.

Pros and Cons of Caregiving

My personal story matches many of the statistics I’ve listed above. I won’t sugarcoat this. Caregiving for someone with dementia is one of the most difficult jobs you’ll ever encounter. All the patience, courage, strength, and compassion you can muster will be needed. I say this even though I had a lot of support from my family. Not everyone has this kind of backing.

But I want to add that caregiving is a life-changing experience that is fulfilling and inspiring as well as difficult and painful. Essentially, you’re giving up part of your life to take care of someone you love during his or her darkest hours. That is certainly a worthwhile objective. For that reason, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of this difficult road.

Like many adult children, I had assured my mother repeatedly that she’d never be put in a nursing home, which was her biggest fear. Motivated by my intense love for her and a strong religious belief that children should care for their parents, I kept that promise. But to be perfectly honest, some days I didn’t know if I could continue for another minute.

Caring for someone with dementia is physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. In fact, if you’re unable to provide full-time caregiving for your loved one, don’t feel guilty. Our family ended up hiring in-home full-time professional help at the end of Mom’s life, but I wish we had done so sooner. By that time, I was experiencing symptoms of caregiver burnout. In Chapter 9, I discuss all the many options available to caregivers today whether you need part- or full-time help.

But here’s the thing for all of you who, like me, choose to take this path despite the tremendous challenges and sacrifices. Caregiving is a labor of love.

Taking care of my Mom allowed me to connect with her on a deeply emotional level. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give my mother the same kind of loving care she unselfishly gave me throughout her life. It was an opportunity to make the end of my Mom’s life as comfortable as possible in a loving atmosphere. I had to remind myself often of the reasons I undertook this task to overcome the anguish that comes with the territory. If you choose this course, you’ll need to do the same.

No doubt, the personal growth and life lessons experienced on this journey made me a better person. I’ve always been religious, but my faith was strengthened as I learned to rely on God like never before. During difficult moments, I found an inner strength, fortitude, and resilience that I didn’t know were there that makes me more confident about overcoming any future challenges. The experience also made me more empathetic and compassionate – not only toward other caregivers – but people facing all kinds of struggles and trials.

Caregiving can be a worthwhile experience, but only if you’re providing care for the right reasons. Your motives cannot be based purely on guilt, a reluctant sense of duty, or – even worse – performed with an eye on inheritance.  The report from NCBI referenced earlier adds that caregivers with the wrong incentives are “more likely to resent their role and suffer greater physiological distress than caregivers with more positive motivations.”

If you had a difficult relationship with your parent in the past, determine if you’re able to overcome the complex feelings involved to become a caregiver. Maybe your father abandoned or neglected you as a child and has come back because he needs care. Or your unkind and critical mother expects you to care for her. Some adult children can overcome their feelings to become a caregiver while others decide it’s too painful and investigate other options.

While I realize not everyone has a good relationship with their parents, this was not the case with my mother. She was my best friend and I loved her desperately. We were in this together – better or worse – to the very end. While I’m proud that I gave caregiving everything I had, could I have done better? Oh, yes. That’s one of the reasons I’m writing this book. I want to help you avoid some of my many mistakes.

Learning from My Mistakes

Let’s get real. Like many who care for family members, I was unprepared, inexperienced, and untrained when I was thrust into the role of full-time caregiving. Most of us are not nurses or professional caregivers.

At first, I didn’t know what to expect as the disease progressed. What was the best treatment? How could I communicate with my Mom when she became difficult and irrational? Many of the physical tasks also puzzled me such as how to lift my Mom from a chair or help her get dressed.

Unlike a professional caregiver, I was caring for my own mother which was complicated emotionally. I was by no means prepared for the strong fluctuating feelings that shifted wildly from day to day.

My emotions ranged from a yearning for the mother I once knew and loved, to anger and frustration with the inevitable and relentless progress of this disease, to helplessness as I watched symptoms worsen, to guilt when I lost my patience, to fear and worry of what lie ahead, to a deep and profound sadness.

During my lifetime, I relied heavily on my mother for advice, guidance, friendship, and support. Now, I had to adjust to her being totally dependent on me. I was mourning the loss of the mother I knew and trying to accept and love the person she had become.

I also grieved for the freedom I once took for granted. Although other family members gave me regular breaks, I could no longer leave the house without a “babysitter.” Often, I felt hopelessly trapped. Fortunately, as a freelance writer, I could work from home, but writing takes concentration and the constant interruptions and demands were frustrating. Eventually, I had to give up most of my larger clients.

Even though my Mom displayed childlike traits caused by her disease, she clearly was not a kid and deserved to be treated with respect and dignity. This made caregiving more difficult and confusing than caring for my children when they were young.

Prior to her disease, Mom always served herself last and patiently waited for what she wanted. As the dementia progressed, however, when my mother wanted something, she wanted it NOW like a toddler. Suddenly, my Mom preferred kid’s movies like Free Willy and children’s TV shows like Full House. As the disease progressed, she became increasingly stubborn and obstinate like a rebellious teenager.

At the same time, my mother was still an adult with decades of wisdom, experience, and independence behind her. I had to constantly remind myself that this wasn’t easy for her either. Most the time, I succeeded in treating her respectfully like an adult, but sadly, not always. When I failed, an enormous amount of guilt and remorse followed.

Sometimes, all these intense emotions overwhelmed me. Sometimes, I felt downright resentful. Sometimes, Mom and I bickered over stupid stuff. Sometimes, I was irritable instead of patient. Sometimes, I thought I would lose my mind along with my mother. Not pretty, but there it is.

My guilty list of “should haves” is long. I should have gotten an accurate diagnosis sooner. I should have been calmer when Mom was unreasonable. While Mom was in a rehabilitation center after surgery, I should have made sure the staff was checking for bedsores. Suffering from burnout, I should have gotten professional help sooner.

Although I tortured myself with all the “should haves” after Mom’s death, now that time has passed, I know deep in my heart that I did the best I could under the circumstances. If you decide to be a full-time caregiver for your parent, don’t beat yourself up if you’re not perfect. From talking to other caregivers and reading books and articles on the subject, I realize mistakes, frustrations, and struggles are part of the bargain.

However, it is my dearest hope that I can help you avoid making some of my mistakes. For example, by sharing how I handled all the emotions that come with this territory – and how I could have dealt with them better in hindsight – I hope you’ll be better able to cope with the emotional rollercoaster that lies ahead.

Along this journey, I learned about the different stages of dementia, available treatments, proper transferring techniques, how to improve communications, and ways to deal with disturbing behavioral changes. No less important, I discovered how to care for myself during this challenging time. These are just some of the topics I plan to tackle in this book.

The End of the Journey

Unlike some books on this subject, I’ll walk you through the entire process and take you to the end of the journey. By that, I mean that I’ll include information that will help you cope after your loved one dies.

When my Mom was first diagnosed, I didn’t want to accept that dementia is a fatal disease. As I mentioned before, early stages of dementia often start with memory problems which may seem somewhat insignificant. But I want you to be prepared.

Alzheimer’s, LBD, and other forms of dementia are diseases that progress over time and eventually lead to death. Life expectancy depends on age, severity of symptoms, and other medical conditions. However, on average, Alzheimer’s patients live between eight to 10 years and LBD patients between five to eight years after diagnosis. Consider that these diseases can go undiagnosed for months or even years.

Some with late-stage dementia die of a medical complication, such as pneumonia or some other infection. Others die from a fall as immobility issues arise. However, dementia itself can be lethal. Weight loss, malnutrition, swallowing difficulties, and dehydration are serious risks as the disease progresses.

If you prefer – and I would recommend this – read my final chapters after your loved one passes. When you’re ready, I want to share ways you can heal, reinvent yourself, and move forward to live a fulfilling and happy life.

Stay with me and we’ll get through this together.

But first, let’s start with the basics. What exactly is dementia, what are some of the early warning signs, how is it diagnosed, and what kind of treatments are available? The next section will answer these questions.

***Click here if you’d like to order a copy of my book. The Kindle edition is available for $2.99 and a paperback version for $9.99.

Six Ways Baby Boomers Can Improve Heart Health

Many people are focused on candy hearts with romantic messages and heart-shaped boxes of candy in February, but this month also happens to be American Heart Month. What better time for baby boomers to think about their hearts in a literal way, focusing on ways to prevent heart disease and develop heart-healthy habits?

Of course, we boomers are already focused on our health to some extent. In fact, nearly four times as many baby boomers worry about health than finances or outliving their money in retirement.

Our worries aren’t unfounded. Consider these sobering facts about heart disease, the most prevalent fatal chronic disease afflicting older Americans, according to a report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):

  • Heart disease accounts for 32 percent of all deaths and is the leading cause of death for both men and women age 65 and older.
  • Although many Americans do not perceive heart disease as a woman’s health issue, estimates indicate that from 40 to 50 percent of postmenopausal women will develop heart disease.
  • The American Heart Association estimates that 81% of people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 years old or older.

The good news is that even modest changes to your diet and lifestyle can improve your heart health and lower your risk by as much as 80 percent. Since February happens to be American Heart Month, let’s celebrate by taking a quick look at six ways to improve your heart health:

Here’s how to get started:

Control Your Risk Factors

Be proactive and know your numbers when it comes to your health. Regular check-ups are essential as we age. Type 2 Diabetes is at its highest level for those over 65. And baby boomers are more likely to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure than the previous generation. All three of these conditions increase the risk of heart disease. If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor about implementing an effective treatment plan.

Break Out Those Sneakers

Step away from the TV and get your heart rate up. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise. In other words, aim for about 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Not so bad, right? Moderate exercise is classified as walking, riding a bike, going for a swim, gardening, a game of basketball, or even washing the car. Pick an activity you love so you’ll stick with it.

Avoid Smoking

The good news is that baby boomers are less likely to smoke than previous generations. However, if you’re an exception to the rule, February is the perfect time to quit. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, smoking is a risk factor for heart disease, and causes one in five deaths each year in the United States. Need help? The American Lung Association offers tips and tools including a counselor-staffed phone line you can call for support. Get started!

Eat a Heart Healthy Diet

Ditch the processed and fast foods and eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and healthy fats and oils. We boomers love to eat out, but try and eat more home-cooked meals to have more control over your diet. Make it fun and have a potluck inviting your friends and family to bring a heart-healthy dish and share their recipes. Eat healthier and control portion size. And not just for February. Shoot for the long run. Maintain a healthy body weight and your heart will thank you.

Reduce Stress

Baby boomers often face stressful situations including caring for aging parents, retirement worries, loss of a loved one, and declining health. Nonetheless, as we age, it becomes imperative to find ways to reduce this silent killer that is a leading contributor to heart disease. Find healthy ways to relax whether it’s listening to soothing music, an evening stroll, deep breathing, or watching a funny movie.

Control Drinking

Last year, baby boomers received new warnings about alcohol as people aged 50-plus deaths linked to alcohol soared. Although studies have shown that moderate drinking – one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men – can reduce heart disease risk, those benefits quickly turn into health risks when you drink more than that amount. If you’re over-drinking, cut down the number of days you drink alcohol, reduce the amount of alcohol you drink at one sitting, and avoid people, places, things and activities that may trigger a drinking binge.

By making some small changes in your everyday life, you can make a big difference for your long-term health. Choose to make yourself a priority and ask your friends and family to join you in your efforts to become heart-healthy so you can have a long, fulfilling life – not only during American Heart Month, but every month of the year!

 

 

Baby Boomers Over 50 Pushed Out of Jobs

New data released last month was disturbing for the 85% of baby boomers still working. Many don’t have enough saved for retirement or simply aren’t ready to leave the working world behind. Some say they plan to continue working into their 70’s and even 80s, according to a 2017 report, America’s Aging Workforce.

Older workers being pushed out of jobs.

Unfortunately, new analysis by ProPublica and the Urban Institute published last month shows that the decision may not be up to them. Dismally, more than half of employees over the age of 50 are being pushed out of longtime jobs before they choose to retire. Most suffer financially and only one in 10 of these workers ever earns as much as they did before their employment setbacks.

Apparently, 50 is the new 65.

The analysis was based on data from the Health and Retirement Study that began tracking 20,000 people in 1992, from the time the participants turned 50 through the rest of their lives. The study focused on workers who entered their 50s with stable, full-time jobs, and who have been with the same employer for at least five years.

The results are sobering. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are currently 40 million Americans age 50 and older who are working. That means, according to this study, that as many as 22 million of these people have or will suffer a layoff, forced retirement, or other involuntary job separation. Of these, only a little over 2 million have recovered financially – or ever will.

Unfortunately, this problem could be worse than we think. Jeffrey Wenger, a senior labor economist with the RAND Corp., claims some older people are likely laid off, but cover it up by saying they retired. “There’s so much social stigma around being separated from work,” he says, “even people who are fired or let go will say they retired to save face.”

As a result, the steady earnings that many boomers count on in their 50s, 60s, and beyond to build up their retirement savings and ensure financial security often disappears.

“This isn’t how most people think they’re going to finish out their work lives,” said Richard Johnson, an Urban Institute economist and veteran scholar of the older labor force who worked on the analysis. “For the majority of older Americans, working after 50 is considerably riskier and more turbulent than we previously thought.”

What can older workers do?

You may be thinking, wait a minute. Isn’t it illegal under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act for employers to treat older workers differently than younger ones? Yes, but employers can be sneaky about the way they fire older employees, Often phrases like “layoff” and “job elimination” are used as an excuse for age discrimination. No matter. You may have legal recourse and an age discrimination claim if:

  • you experience a layoff and notice that less-qualified, younger employees at the same level are not being laid off.
  • your company claims to be eliminating a job, but simply changes the title and puts someone younger in the same position.
  • you’re being targeted for poor performance while younger employees doing the same things aren’t suffering any consequences.

In addition, there are some steps you can take to prevent being laid off. Although there are no guarantees, experts recommend the following strategies to enhance job security:

  • A common myth concerning older workers is that people over 50 are rigid. You can prove this disparaging idea wrong by remaining flexible, resilient, and adaptable.
  • Understand your company’s objectives and your boss’s priorities, and then align your work performance with them. In other words, find ways to make your boss’s job easier and make yourself indispensable.
  • Do not contribute to the false belief that all old people are cranky and difficult. Be friendly, cooperative, and helpful. Makes sure management likes you and be the kind of person others enjoy working with and hanging around.
  • Brag a little. Ensure that your boss knows about any improvements you’ve implemented, challenges you’ve overcome, and projects and goals you’ve completely successfully.
  • Be careful not to give the impression that you lack initiative and are simply coasting along until retirement, which can make you vulnerable during a layoff. Make a point of continuously updating your skills and expanding your knowledge. Read journals, take courses, attend conferences, or attain additional certifications in your field.

Finally, while it’s important for everyone to have emergency savings, if you’re 50 or older, it’s even more critical to have a strong financial safety net. Have enough savings on hand to ride out a potentially lengthy period of unemployment.

 

 

Baby Boomer Looks Forward to 2019 with Exciting Book Announcement

The start of a new year is like a blank slate. We don’t know what will be written upon it, but the exciting prospect is that there are loads of things we can engrave upon it!

I already have some thrilling plans put into motion for 2019. What else happens remains to be seen. My writerly pals and I are sharing our hopes – on the writing road and our personal lives – in our blog hop: “What I Want to Accomplish in 2019 Even if I Don’t Win the Lottery.”

Please have a read and then visit the other bloggers linked at the end of this post for more smiles and inspiration.

My Big Book Announcement!

I’m so proud to announce that my book, I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia, will be released March 2019. The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

This book is a memoir of sorts sharing my intimate story as primary caregiver for my mother who had Lewy Body dementia. But it is also a practical guidebook.

The statistics are brutal. Shockingly, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are about 15 million selfless and noble unpaid caregivers of loved ones suffering with dementia – the majority of which are family members.

They are the unsung heroes and my goal is to help them by sharing my journey, I want to make the process a bit easier and provide some comfort to all those who are losing their loved ones a little bit at a time like I did. It is my dearest hope that my experiences, my successes, and my mistakes can help others. I’m reaching out as one who has traveled this difficult but, in the end, worthwhile journey they are already on or ready to embark.

A Trip to Africa

My husband and I love to travel. We’ve been to all the continents with the exception of Africa and the Antarctica. The latter doesn’t appeal to me – WAY too cold – but I’ve learned to never say never.

But Africa…to step back in time to the pristine natural wilderness where animals still roam free. Those who have traveled around the world say that there is no other place that compares.

As my friends, family, and regular readers of this blog are aware, this has been my dream for decades. I’ve always been interested in seeing this country, but after reading Isak Dinesen’s lyrical book, Out of Africa, and seeing the magnificent scenery in the movie version during the 1980s, the allure of Africa began calling my name. I pined to see this vast, wild land with hauntingly beautiful scenery, golden savannas, and rolling grasslands with my own eyes.

I am a patient woman. Because if I want to do something bad enough, I know eventually it will happen. (On the flip side, if I don’t do it, I figure that I didn’t want it bad enough.) Now that I’m pushing 60, I wanted to make the long 21-hour flight before I get much older.

So, we saved the money and found a great deal and this is the year. In the fall, my husband, Scott, and I have booked a tour to see the famous white-sand beaches and breath-taking cliffs in Cape Town, the melting pot of cultures in Durban with a game viewing cruise, a safari in Kruger National Park, and the poignant Apartheid museum in Johannesburg.

On top of all that, hubby is trying to talk me into climbing into a cage plunged into the ocean so I can come face-to-face with a great white shark. We’ll see. Of course, I’ll be writing all about it in this blog, so stay tuned and you’ll see whether I gather up the courage.

Reinventing Myself

When something bad happens, it can be a potent and powerful influence. The experience can clarify priorities and redefine paths. This happened after my Mom died and my caregiving days were over.

My life had revolved around her care, so I felt a bit lost when she was gone. I wasn’t the same person and wasn’t sure what was “normal” anymore. Did I even want the same things? So, I took a step back to look at my life. A few changes were in order. I began focusing on my spiritual, emotional, and physical health, which had been neglected.

After my Mom died, I made it a goal to read something spiritual and inspirational each and every day. I am a regular Bible reader. Even so, admittedly I’d become sidetracked with work and the business of life and a day or two would slip by without any spiritual fortification. Because of challenges I was facing, my reliance on God and need for spiritual food required more deep reading, meditation, and prayer – yes, every single day. I keep that goal foremost in my mind for 2019.

I also want to continue my journey to reach a healthy weight this year. Oh, it’s an endless battle, especially at this age. I almost accomplished my goal weight last year, then gained some of it back. So, hubby and I have joined Weight Watchers (you can join for free with the purchase of certain subscription plans right now). Now that I’ve shared this goal with all of you, I’ll be held accountable, right? So, once I succeed – a positive attitude is essential – I plan to finish an eBook on losing weight and keeping it off after 50 to share my journey and tips I learn along the way. If this doesn’t give me motivation to make my goal this time – nothing will!

Some changes in the direction of my career were in order as well. Out of financial necessity, I went back to freelance writing after Mom’s death. But after decades of stressful deadlines, I wanted more creative control. Specifically, I wanted to decide what to write and how much time I spent doing it as I head toward my retirement years. So, I started my journey to independence with this blog and a few book projects.

With that in mind, now that my book on caregiving is finished, I’m going to focus on my manuscript aimed at helping those who dream of writing. I’ve had so many people tell me that they want to write a novel or memoir during their retirement years, but don’t know how to get started.

Author Joseph Epstein wrote in a New York Times article, “Eighty-one percent of Americans feel they have a book in them – and that they should write it.” That means about 200 million people dream about becoming an author in the U.S. alone. 

Unfortunately, most people don’t attempt to live out these cherished dreams. Why not? Many people don’t know where to start. Others allow self-doubt and a fear of failure to stop them from moving forward.

That’s where I come in. As a professional writer and author for over 30 years, I want to help those harboring a burning desire to write attain their goals. I’ll provide inspiration, motivation, and knowledge to help aspiring writers begin their writing journey.

The book will contain a wealth of information to help any aspiring writer. But, if you’re retired, this book is written specifically with you in mind. You finally have the time and freedom to pursue your passion. After years of keeping your nose to the grindstone to earn a living, haven’t you earned that luxury? Whether you want to write a memoir, start your own blog, write a how-to book, pen some poetry, or write the great American novel – this book is for you.

Now, it’s your turn. What are your goals and aspirations for 2019? What do you want to accomplish to tick off your bucket list this year? Please share in the comment section.

Thanks for stopping by! For more inspiration, be sure and visit my blogger pals below:

Sandra Bennett

Jacqui Letran

Shana Gorian

Rosie Russell

Carmela Dutra

Rebecca Lyndsey

Jim Milson

Cat Michaels

Corrina Holyoake

A Baby Boomer’s Ups, Downs, and In-Betweens in 2018

Was 2018 a crazy roller coaster ride for you? Smooth sailing? Milestone events?

My writerly pals and I are remembering the happy moments as well as lessons we learned from challenges this past year in our blog hop: “My Ups, Downs, and In-Betweens and Beyond in 2018.”

Check out our personal reveals, then visit the other #Gr8blogs linked at the end of the post for more shared recollections and lessons learned along the way. We hope you’ll be inspired to dive into your own special memories of 2018!

So, what important life lesson did I learn this past year? What exciting announcement do I have for next year? You’ll have to wait and see at the end of this blog. In the meantime, I’m fortunate that I had a lot of reasons to celebrate this past year. Here are four of them:

Celebrating a New Arrival

If you’re a grandparent, you know the instant connection you feel deep down in your soul when you hold a new grandchild for the first time.

Emily Paige, our fourth and newest member of the family, was born on January 26, 2018.

For the first time, I am a long-distance grandma. My newest grandchild lives about five hours away. Oh, I know it could be much worse. But the distance seems ginormous to me. After all, it robs me of the joy of seeing my new granddaughter on a daily or weekly basis. I’ve been spoiled since my other three grandchildren, now ages 11, 9, and 7, have always lived close by.

Our goal was to see Emily Paige once a month during her first year of life. We met that objective, but still, I’ve missed hearing her first word or watching her take that first tentative step in person (although the kids are great about sending me videos). And yes, at nine months, she is already walking!

But I won’t complain too much. Near or far, grandchildren are a true blessing. On those special occasions, when we’re all together and my grandchildren are sleeping nearby, curled up in little balls, a warm glow of satisfaction permeates my body. I quietly sip my coffee the next morning, eagerly anticipating the soft, sleepy-eyed snuggles soon to come my way.

To be needed and wanted by these delightful creatures is a wonderful treat! The rewards of family life only grow richer and more fulfilling when each new grandchild is born.

Celebrating Family Fun

Speaking of special occasions when our whole family is happily united, all nine of us were fortunate to take a family vacation to New York and Washington DC together this summer.

It was my oldest son and my grandchildren’s first trip to New York and none of us had been to DC before.

To hear the children’s squeals of delight when they saw the bright and gaudy lights of Times Square, viewed the spectacular city from the top of the Empire State Building, or saw the iconic Statue of Liberty from the ferry for the first time was magical.

Between visiting hectic NYC and DC, we rented a tranquil lake house in upstate New York. We paddled in kayaks, fished, and saw fire flies for the first time in our lives.

What beats traveling with the people you love?

 

Celebrating 40 Years of Marriage

Want to put some magic back into your marriage? Write down one reason you love your spouse for every year you’ve been married. Remember why you were first attracted to each other. Then share your list with your loved one.

The list was easy for me. Some of my reasons in my letter to my husband were serious: “Because you put God first in your life, because you gave me two wonderful sons, a great daughter-in-law, and four beautiful grandchildren, because you know what I need before I do, because you have a calm voice that soothes me, because you never leave the house without kissing me good-bye, because you kept proposing until I finally said yes, because you are thoughtful and a romantic at heart.”

Some were humorous: “Because you gave me the best last name ever (Gorges pronounced as ‘gorgeous’), because you still think I’m sexy and my butt looks great, because you make me pumpkin pancakes, because you rock Hawaiian shirts.”

Some were fun: “Because you’re always ready for our next adventure, because you love the ocean and sailing, because you make the best apple martinis, because you love to travel and dance.”

We celebrated our 40th year of marital bliss with a tropical anniversary party. We even performed a flash mob dance with our family to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.” Good times!

Celebrating Finishing My Book

On a more serious note, as some of you know, three years ago I lost my Mom. She suffered from Lewy Body dementia (LBD), a a cruel combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s symptoms that rendered her helpless both physically and mentally toward the end of her life. During the final years of her life, I was her full-time caregiver.

Sacrificing part of my life to care for a parent with dementia who I loved dearly was one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished. Caregiving was also the most challenging, demanding, and heartbreaking task I’ve ever undertaken – even with the support of my family. Dementia not only changed my mother forever, it changed me in profound ways too.

As I write in my soon-to-be published book, I’m Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia: “Sometimes you lose a parent in death suddenly. What you don’t realize until you have a parent with dementia is that sometimes you lose a parent excruciatingly – a little bit at a time. Grief takes many forms and it isn’t just for mourning someone who has died.”

After my Mom lost her ruthless battle with LBD, many people encouraged me to write a book to share my experiences and offer advice to other caregivers. Although I had shared some of my story in this blog, I couldn’t immediately dive into an entire book on the subject. The agonizing experience of watching my Mom rapidly deteriorate both physically and mentally before my eyes, the difficulty of taking care of her at the end when she began to lose all bodily functions, as well as her death were all too distressful to relive.

Even now, painful memories can take my breath away. Last week, I went to DMV to renew my driver’s license. The last time I was there was with my Mom. The disease was already taking its toll and she could no longer drive. I strongly suggested that she get a non-driver identification card. But Mom insisted on taking the written exam, saying it was a matter of pride. When asked for identification, she wanted to present an actual driver’s license not an “ID card for old people.” She wouldn’t change her mind.

So, Mom took the test and, of course, she didn’t pass. Not even close. But what was most pitiable was the confusion on her face when informed of the failure. Mom truly thought she had aced the exam. “I don’t understand,” she kept saying again and again. Her bewilderment and disappointment broke my heart.

You can see why detailing our journey during my Mom’s final years wasn’t easy. While writing the book, some of the memories were so painful, I’d have to set the manuscript aside for a time. Now that the book is finished, however, I know that writing about the heartbreak was a cathartic experience that, in the end, helped me heal and continue to move forward with my life. It is my utmost hope that my experiences, my successes, and my mistakes can help other caregivers. The exciting announcement I promised: This book that was written from my heart will be released early next year. Stay tuned for announcements regarding a publication date and pre-ordering options.

The most important lesson I learned in 2018? After healing from the loss of my mother and celebrating the arrival of a new member of the family, an awesome family vacation, and 40 years of marriage, I wholeheartedly agree with Michael J. Fox, who said simply and eloquently: “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” I couldn’t have said it better.

How was your year? What was your biggest accomplishment/event? Do you have an important lesson you learned in 2018? Please share in the comment section below!

For more Up, Down, and In-Between 2018 moments, visit the #Gr8blogs below:

Cat Michaels

Cat’s personal and honest blog shares how 2018 closes on a high note after turmoil from rightsizing and writer’s block.

Rosie Russell

Rosie looks back at 2018 fondly with the publication of her first hardback edition of one of her children’s books, a new website, a love for family and baseball, and a crafts fair that includes a special moment.

Rebecca Lyndsey

Author and teacher Rebecca’s busy year included the publication of a new book, an updated website, and read-aloud preview videos.

Carmela Dutra

Carmela shares her journey after she chose to walk away from the publishing house she had always known, publishing a new children’s book from start to finish on her own, winning two literary awards, and reaching her goal of becoming a full-time author.

Sandra Bennett

Sandra’s year included the birth of a new grandchild (I can relate to the joy of that!), her first contract with a traditional publishing house, launching and promoting her new book, along with a writing workshop and festival. Sandra shares four awesome life lessons we can all put to practice.

Auden Johnson

Auden shares her struggles in 2018 along with her many accomplishments: 1000 blogs, the release of a new book, a promo video, and 1 million monthly views on Pinterest. She also looks back fondly on the simple pleasures in life like a relaxing vacation with her dog and a trip to Comic Con.

Corrina Holyoake

In a year spent feeling lost and confused, Corrina’s life lessons include never stop believing, trust your inner voice, and being selfish to become selfless.

Thanks for stopping by! If you’re a blogger and want to join us on this hop, just add the family-friendly link to your blog in the comment section, and we’ll be happy to show you some blog love.

Five 2018 Black Friday Deals Perfect for Seniors

I don’t know about you, but I’m at the age that it’s just not fun to fight crowds to try and get a decent deal on Black Friday. Wouldn’t you rather shop from home? I would! Many Black Friday deals are available right now.

I’ve listed some bargains you baby boomers may want to check out. Click on the links below to find out more.

In the interest of full disclosure, please note that I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, which means if you click on a link and decide to buy the product or service, I will receive a small referral fee. There’s no difference in price for you. You get the same great deals. I’ve just done some homework for you and it helps cover the cost of publishing this website.

Fire HD 10

The latest Fire HD 8 has been recognized as the best ultra cheap tablet, delivering faster performance, a larger battery, and more internal storage than the previous version for almost half the price. It offers an 8-inch screen with over 2 million pixels, stereo speakers, Dolby Audio, and dual-band Wi-Fi, perfect for full HD widescreen entertainment, and up to 256 GB of expandable storage. Amazon Prime members can access tons of free video, music, and other content with their subscription. As of the time of this writing, you can save $50.

Fire Stick TV 4K

You can launch and control all your favorite movies and TV shows with the next-generation Alexa Voice Remote. The latest version offers new power, volume, and mute buttons to control your TV, sound bar, and receiver.

Microwave that Works with Alexa

Need a new microwave? Why not get a compact one that doesn’t take up much space and works with Alexa – for only $59.99 at the time of this writing? Defrosting vegetables, making popcorn, cooking potatoes, and reheating food has never been easier. Quick-cook voice presets and a simplified keypad allows you to simply ask Alexa to start microwaving.

Grocery Delivery

Have problems getting around or hate to go to the grocery store? Skip the trip and spend more time doing the things you love with AmazonFresh grocery delivery service. Amazon is offering unlimited grocery delivery for $14.99 a month with a free trial. A wide selection of fresh groceries is delivered right to your home at a time convenient to you. Shop Amazon’s specialty stores to fit your own lifestyle, featuring meals and snacks that are gluten-free, vegan, or organic. With a wide selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s easier than ever to eat healthy.

 

Fire TV Cube

Fire TV Cube is the first hands-free streaming media player with Alexa. From across the room, just ask Alexa to turn on the TV, dim the lights, and play what you want to watch.

 

Baby Boomer Women Wearing Hair Longer

Remember that old-fashioned rule? “Thou shalt not grow your hair past your shoulders after the age of 50.” In the past, if older women dared to hang on to their locks, they swept it into a dowdy granny bun.

No more! Have you noticed that baby boomer women – and I’m not just talking about celebrities – are bucking the idea that you must lop your hair off at a “certain age?”

 

Photo by Anderson Guerra from Pexels

I’m one of those boomers embracing longer locks. Turns out this is a new trend. Which is kind of funny. Usually, by the time I discover something is a fashion trend, it’s already over.

But I can see why times are a-changing. Boomers are discovering that long hair can look flattering. For one thing, it hides some of those unflattering problems that pop up as you age. You know, like a wrinkly turkey neck or a double chin.

Plus, I think women are tired of society telling them how they should look.

After I had my first child, I fell for the myth that you had to cut your hair short to look like a proper mother. Although I was only in my early 20’s, I suddenly felt old with my not-so-stylish pixie cut. Not to mention, a bit naked and awkward without my long hair. For decades afterwards, my hair was cut into a sensible bob and – as was popular at the time – permed like a poodle.

By the time I hit my 50’s, I was getting tired of the term “age-appropriate” and ready for a change.

Mind you, I’m not talking about clinging to the 60’s or 70’s with straight hair parted down the middle reaching my butt. But, as you can see in the photo below, my hair is a few inches past my shoulders.

 

A pic of my hair from the back.

If this is your preference, and you want long hair, I say go for it! Have you gone gray? No matter. Personally, I’ve seen some women look like gorgeous silver foxes with their long tresses. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a hairstyle:

  • A good haircut with a few layers around your face is flattering and can give some extra lift to your hair, making it look more modern and healthy.
  • Long, side-swept soft bangs can be a boomer’s best friend, drawing attention to your lovely eyes and away from a wrinkled forehead.
  • Avoid a formal coifed look and go for a more relaxed style – that goes for whatever length of hair you choose. According to hair stylist Sally Hershberger, best known for creating Meg Ryan’s iconic blond shag, “Once you get older, you have to get messier or you look like a newscaster or a real estate lady,” she says in an interview with Zoomer. “Conservative hairdos are aging. Hair needs movement.”

And, since hair grows slower, thins, and becomes more fragile as you age, here are a few hair care tips for longer locks:

  • Experts say you don’t need to wash your hair every single day, which can strip your scalp of essential oils. When you do jump in the shower, use quality shampoos and conditioners specially formulated to encourage growth and keep hair strong and healthy,
  • Use a wide tooth comb to minimize breakage.
  • Reduce drying time by allowing your hair to dry naturally for the most part. Use the coolest setting on your blow dryer. Avoid curling irons whenever possible.
  • Keep your hair healthy from the inside out by staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet.

One more thought: If you prefer short and sassy, more power to you. After all, how you wear your hair shouldn’t have anything to do with rules, what your husband, kids, or grandkids thinks looks best, or what’s trendy at the moment.

Instead, your hairstyle should make you feel beautiful, confident, match your personality and fit your lifestyle. Girls, it’s all about you!

What’s your verdict? Do you like long hair on women past the age of 50? Do you love your long or short hair?  Why or why not? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

 

More Baby Boomers Trying to Find Bliss with Marijuana

Recently, when I’ve attended concerts that tend to attract baby boomers, such as Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones, I’ve noticed a lot of boomers lighting up joints.

Turns out that’s no coincidence.

According to a recent report in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, more baby boomers are using weed and other cannabis products.

Nine percent of people aged 50 to 64 said they’ve used marijuana in the past year, doubling in the past decade, while three percent of those over 65 have done so, the research found.

Perhaps that’s not a big surprise, since the baby boomer generation has had more experience than other generations with marijuana, which surged in popularity during the 1960s and 1970s. More than half (almost 55%) of middle-age adults have used marijuana at some point in their lives, while over a fifth (about 22%) of older adults have done so, according to the study.

Those who used marijuana as teens were more likely to say they were still fans of the herb, the team at New York University found.

What accounts for marijuana’s big comeback with the older crowd?

Certainly, the stigma of using marijuana has decreased. I never used but, admittedly, weed was considered cool when I was in high school during the 70s. However, we made fun of “potheads” who smoked constantly and came to school fumbling around like fools in a fog bank. That seems to have changed in recent years with some boomers considering it cool to act like teenagers again and claiming the title, pothead, with pride, as if smoking marijuana was some kind of accomplishment.

Access has certainly been made easier with the legalization of marijuana for medical use in 29 states and D.C. and for recreational use in eight states and D.C., including here in California where I live. Pot farms are springing up everywhere including one of the nearby desert towns, Desert Hot Springs, which has been nicknamed Desert Pot Springs.

Some baby boomers use weed to ease aching joints or other ailments or to help them sleep.

Whatever the reasons for boomers lighting up, beware, there are some definite pitfalls. The survey indicated that users think marijuana is harmless. But the researchers were quick to point out that is clearly not the case.

“Acute adverse effects of marijuana use can include anxiety, dry mouth, tachycardia (racing heart rate), high blood pressure, palpitations, wheezing, confusion, and dizziness,” they warned. “Chronic use can lead to chronic respiratory conditions, depression, impaired memory, and reduced bone density.”

Researchers also reported that baby boomers using cannabis were more likely to smoke, drink alcohol, and abuse drugs. Marijuana users were also more likely to misuse prescription drugs such as opioids, sedatives, and tranquilizers than their peers.

Mixing substances is particularly dangerous for older adults with chronic diseases, the team advised. Marijuana may intensify symptoms and interact with prescribed medications.

In fact, physicians should ask older patients about whether they use marijuana because it can interact with prescription drugs, the team recommended, and it may point to substance abuse problems.

In other words, baby boomers would do well to find true bliss in healthier ways.

 

 

Baby Boomers Going Back to School

It’s that exciting time of year. Kids are heading off to school in their new duds with backpacks full of notebooks and lunch pails. But it turns out not only the young will be cracking books.
Plenty of baby boomers are going back to school as well. Some are enrolling to college for the first time.

“At 78 million strong, the baby boomer generation is bringing a surge of older students to campus,” states the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) in its report “Plus 50 Students: Tapping Into a Growing Market.

What are the reasons for this trend? Unlike younger college students, trail-blazing baby boomers aren’t driven by anyone’s expectations other than their own, according to a survey by Schools.com. And, perhaps surprisingly, regret doesn’t seem to be a big factor either. Only about 15 percent of students aged 50 to 59 said they went back to school to complete a degree they previously started.

So, just why are baby boomers heading back to school?

To Update Skills

Many boomers are working longer. Studies show that up to 80 percent of baby boomers plan to do some sort of paid work until age 70 to stay mentally sharp, keep engaged socially, and achieve financial security in retirement. That leaves a couple of decades after 50 to work.

Whether boomers are working because of financial needs or personal choice, many go back to college for additional training so they can stay marketable in the workforce or advance their careers. Some are laid off and having difficulty finding employment. Updating their skills by going back to school seems like a step in the right direction.

Aside from motivation, baby boomers stand out from younger students in other ways. For example, most don’t care about social activities, campus life, and extracurricular activities. Many enroll in online or hybrid degree programs because of the lower cost and flexibility.

Many colleges have taken note of older students’ unique needs as they search for fast and efficient ways to further their education and careers. In fact, The American Association of Community Colleges introduced the Plus 50 Initiative in 2008 to help colleges learn how to provide what older students want. As a result, those over 50 usually can find plenty of flexibility in terms of degree programs, online and weekend courses and accelerated classes.

To Change Careers

Some baby boomers are pursuing an “encore career” and go back to school to prepare for a new direction in life. Whether boomers are retired and want to try out another career part-time or are still working and want to change jobs, many want to pursue their interests and passions before it’s too late.

In addition, as people age, they tend to want a career that’s fulfilling and meaningful to help others. “Sometimes people may have been very successful in a career that they had and now they are retiring but they knew all along it wasn’t what they really wanted to be doing,” says Dawn Jones of the Office of Career and Transfer Services at Schenectady County Community College. “They want to be doing things that are more important to them.”

To Focus on Themselves

For those 50-59, the decision to return to school was often about finally having the freedom to explore a subject they love. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed in that age range said they enrolled in college to explore their passions. Compare that to those between 18 and 29 who were three times less likely to give that answer; they were more likely to say they enrolled in college as a logical next step in their lives.

The fact is that baby boomers are changing the way people age and many want to continue to grow and learn. Some become part of the continuing education department, taking classes to learn a new language or about astronomy. The idea is to learn for themselves rather than earn a degree. And why not? Many now have the freedom with less responsibilities to take advantage of opportunities.

Are you a baby boomer thinking about going back to college? Don’t let age stop you. It’s never too late to go back to school or try out a new career.

“It’s not about a number, it’s about a mindset,” Jones says. “If it’s something you want to do and have the energy to do and you’re passionate about it. We’ve had students in their 60s and 70s, and I think we’ve even had a few older than that, taking classes and enrolled in degree programs. There’s no age limit, there’s no limit to what you can do if you want to be doing it.”

“What I say often to my returning adults is ‘you’re never too old to decide what you want to be when you grow up.’” Jones adds.

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels