Category Archives: Baby Boomer

A Baby Boomer Turns to Quirky, Dark Humor to Heal

“There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt,” Erma Bombeck wrote.

richard bell photoAuthor Richard Bell is proof of that as evidenced in his quirky book full of dark humor, Life Seemed Good, But…

Take his story about a huge mutant potato named Spud who takes over a man’s life, controlling all his thoughts and actions. Growing in the backyard, he demands to be fertilized and watered for hours at a time and to be addressed as “King Potato-Pants.”

The man loses his job and has to beg money from family and friends. He is instructed to install a widescreen TV on the side of the house so the mutant potato can learn more about humans with the ultimate goal of world domination.

King Potato Pants watches TV constantly with inquisitive eyes poking up through the ground. Daytime talk shows are his favorites. One summer, to the man’s dismay, Spud lifts himself free of the ground and walks unsteadily on his giant root feet. The man tries to call 911, but the potato punishes every hint of rebellion with severe headaches followed by an irrational urge to move to Alaska.

King Potato-Pants begins a path of destruction through several counties. No one dares to get close enough to read him his rights or thump him to see how ripe he is. While attempting to conquer the world, the mutant potato suddenly dies. The cause is unknown. Was it germs, pollution, or potato bugs? Or perhaps more likely, was he slowly poisoned by television from which his mind had no natural immunity?

PotatoAt any rate, the alien-like potato is cut up and made into chips and fries and sold to distribution centers across the country.

“Unfortunately, Spud got his final revenge. Everyone who ate of him turned into a permanent couch potato with an overwhelming appetite for daytime talk shows,” Richard writes in his humorously clever book.

I only quoted part of this quirky short story. You would have to read the fable in its entirety to appreciate Rich’s imaginative, funny, and insightful tale more fully. The short story is just one of many in his book that sprung from a dark place in Richard’s life. In fact, be forewarned. Spud is one of the more light-hearted characters in this book.

“You’re never too old to try to follow your dream, but make sure your dream is somewhat realistic,” says Richard. “Just because you wish upon a star doesn’t mean the star can hear you.”

Sage advice coming from a baby boomer who learned some tough lessons later in life. After searching for decades to find his true love, Richard finally married for the first time when he was almost 40. Happy at last, life suddenly took some strange and sad twists.

The mortgage company where Richard and his wife, Lorianne, worked began to downsize and they both lost their jobs. But that was nothing compared to the next blow that was delivered when the couple discovered Lorianne had leukemia. The thought of losing his wife after waiting so long to find her was terrifying.

Richard relied on his faith in God and turned to a lifelong love of writing and a warped, dark sense of humor to relieve some of the pain.

“I wrote a little story about a cow and a tiger and a rabbit, where the cow liked to eat rabbits,” Richard says. “All my stories are a bit on the tragic side. Only years later did I realize my first story was not as funny as I supposed, but rather was my mind’s way of relieving some of my stress without falling apart. It was mostly successful in that regard.”

More stories poured out of Richard’s soul as his wife almost died twice from chemo-caused pneumonia. If some of his stories seem outright mean and sad, Rich explains that cancer does that to a person. “I don’t know if it’s worse to have cancer or watch a loved one have it,” he says.

Nonetheless, his bizarre and colorful stories are also funny at the same time. “I also like to make people laugh,” says Richard, who describes himself as an average eccentric recluse with a warped sense of humor. “It’s just my personality.

To support them, Richard was forced to take on temp jobs to pay the bills in between unemployment. Influenced by some of his favorite comics like Jonathan Winters and Bob Hope, Richard continued writing short stories for his own therapy and amusement.

When he was almost 50, Richard saw a magazine, Wassup Local, with an ad looking for writers. As a lark, he answered the ad. The editor was impressed with his stories and Richard began writing a monthly column entitled Modern Fables.

life seemed good but cover artEventually, the collection of short stories evolved into his book, “Life Seemed Good, But… “I was originally going to title the book ‘Stupid Stories for Depressed People,’” Richard jokes. “But since I’m not a doctor or therapist, I didn’t want to be sued if someone read the book and then got worse.”

A percentage of the sales from his book are donated to cancer research.

Bizarre characters pop up in Richard’s humorous stories like the mutant potato I mentioned, a smelly and bald porcupine, and a mean clown.

But if you dig deeper, you’ll find the stories are based on Richard’s life experiences, frustrations, and fears. The fables, some of which are interrelated, include hidden life lessons, trivia references – and even allusions to song lyrics by Paul Simon and Frank Zappa along with a bit of Shakespeare thrown in.

Despite the cover art, Richard warns that this book is not meant for young children. This is a book of quirky and sometimes dark humor filled with deeper meaning.

For example, a short story entitled, “Laugh, Clown!” is an allegory for finding one’s identity during youth. “I was not a popular kid and never socialized well,” Richard admits. “School was like going to hell.” “Revenge” is about the temptations that come with freedom as a young adult. “Bed-Bears” represents a child’s fear of losing his parents which is followed by the story, “Going to the Airport” which symbolizes the fear of losing one’s self.

In another story, “Making New Friends,” a balloon thinks she’s a giraffe and is named after the Kayan tribe with women who elongate their necks. Aluminum foil which appears in several of Richard’s stories represents wishful thinking for a better life.

“Just think, if you buy my little eBook, you are in essence getting my life story for around four bucks, which is pretty cheap for a life nowadays,” Richard jokes. “And yet I am pretty sure that you will see some of your life in here as well.” A paperback edition is available as well.

Since the stories helped Richard deal with the enormous stress he was under, he hopes his quirky humor can help others in similar situations. “Sometimes humor is a healthy outlet when you feel that life’s problems are crushing you,” he says. “If life seems crazy, a short story that is even crazier helps bring one back down to earth and give perspective.”

Thankfully, Richard’s personal story has a happy ending. Lorraine recovered and is now in remission. Although Richard had difficulty finding another full time job for over a decade, he now has a career he loves, preparing class materials and exams at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.

His advice for other baby boomers who may be hitting some bumps in the road?

“Do something to brighten your little corner of the world and stay away from people who are negative,” he advises.

“If you’re going to write, keep editing until you have exactly what you want no matter how long it takes,” he continues. “Sometimes an idea will present itself from out of nowhere. Be open to these. Keep writing, if only for yourself. I wrote mainly to make myself laugh and if others find it funny also, more power to them!”

Good advise from a guy who writes in the “About the Author” section of his book: “He has not won any awards but used to be fairly good at table tennis.”

One more prudent piece of advice, as part of Richard’s words of wisdom from a turtle at the end of his book: “Always keep your mouth closed when cleaning the toilet.”

To purchase a copy of Richard’s book, click here.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Technology Leaves Baby Boomers’ Groovy Talents Behind

As a teen, I could play a mean game of pong. My handwriting was absolutely gorgeous and I wrote the best letters. I drove my Pinto with a stick shift like a pro. No one was faster at shorthand than me in high school.

Is writing letters an obsolete talent?

Is writing letters an obsolete talent?

I perfected licking stamps without swallowing them, surviving while riding a bike without a helmet, providing loving care for my pet rock, and finding a book at the library using a card catalog and the decimal system.

Cradling a phone for hours in the crook of my neck while I talked to friends? No problem. I created beautiful photo albums that included funny sayings I carefully cut out of magazines. I used a Polaroid camera, picked the right film, and reduced exposure time like an expert.

Forget Quicken, spellcheck, and a calculator. I balanced a checkbook beautifully in minutes, my spelling was impeccable, and I made change from cash in my head.

Alas, all these talents have gone to waste. Technology has sadly left me in the dust.

I’m not alone in grieving discarded past skills no longer needed. In Michael’s Kaplan’s article, Technology is Making Baby Boomers Total Losers published in the New York Post, he laments the invention of Telsa cars.

“A few weeks ago, I rode in a friend’s Tesla…my pal couldn’t wait to show me the sedan’s most mind-blowing feature: It parallel parks by itself — perfectly,” Kaplan writes. “I feigned amazement, but thought something else: This is one more skill of mine that has just become obsolete. I’m a below-average driver but an awesome parallel parker…Grown men stand curbside and marvel over my bumper-to-bumper artistry.”

He goes on to list other talents we boomers had that are no longer needed such as reading a map or remembering phone numbers. Oh, I hear you, Kaplan!

Remember sewing classes in Home-Ec ? I painfully learned how to make my own clothes pricking my fingers with those stupid sewing pins. And for what? Suddenly, it became cheaper to buy clothes than make your own. Who makes dresses from patterns, mends their clothes, or sews on a button anymore?

Have all my secretarial talents gone to waste?

Have all my secretarial talents gone to waste?

During my first job as a secretary at a bank, I developed an uncanny skill for using carbon copies (by the way, youngsters, where do you think the initials CC comes from when you send an email – yes, from this archaic tool) without making a smudgy mess. I also used typewriter erasers without tearing the paper.

And get this –  most impressive of all – I could paint precisely with whiteout to fix a typo, let it dry the exact right amount of time, and then realign the paper perfectly so the type was not too high or too low. It was genius!

All useless.

I made the cutest paper dolls from the Montgomery Ward catalog. My embroidered cutoffs and artful doodles of Snoopy on my Pee Chee folder made my schoolmates pee green with envy. I could skip a song on an album by picking up the needle and placing it at the exact spot of my favorite song without scratching the vinyl.

No one cares.

Doesn’t it make you yearn for public pay phones, grinding gears, and the sound of a dial up modem? Adjusting rabbit ears? Cleaning the head of a VCR? Lining up paper on a dot matrix paper? Fixing an 8-track by putting Vaseline on a Q-tip to lubricate the rubber wheel? Floppy disks?

Well, maybe not. But we can still mourn for all our awesome skills that are now useless. And who knows?

Maybe you’ll be in an old Jeep driving alongside a cliff when the driver has a heart attack. Yeah, and you must jump on his lap and take over before you plunge hundreds of feet below. I mean, you just never know. Good thing you know how to drive a stick shift!

Perhaps our expired skills aren’t so useless after all!

Images courtesy of Pixomar and Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Baby Boomer Bucket List Travel Destinations

Do you have a bucket list? What’s on it? Does it include an exotic travel destination?

TravelIt’s no secret that I love to travel, so a new survey from AARP that lists baby boomers choices for top bucket list travel destinations caught my eye.

Interestingly, it turns out that only about half of baby boomers even have a bucket list. In fact, Millennials and Generation Xers are more likely to have a bucket list than us boomers.

That was surprising, but maybe that’s because we boomers are getting older and the term “bucket list” conjures up the phrase “kicking the bucket.” Bucket lists seem to be made with the idea that death is just around the corner so we better hurry to check off the boxes on our list. Like the movie, The Bucket List, with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, about two terminally ill men on a road trip checking off a list of must-dos before they die. Was anyone else depressed by this movie?

However, bucket lists don’t have to be about dying, evidenced by the fact that younger people keep a bucket list more often than us older folk. A bucket list can inspire us to make the most of life and motivate us to experience new things. It can be a chance to write down our dreams to help remember what’s important to us. A way to bring more excitement and fulfillment to our lives. According to the survey, those baby boomers who had bucket lists said it also gives them something to look forward to which is always a good thing.

So let’s get back to that AARP survey. Are you curious what made the list of top travel destinations? Where do you dream about visiting? Does it agree with the survey’s findings?

According to the survey from AARP, half of boomers have domestic destinations on their bucket lists while the other half lists domestic locations.

Hawaii tops the list for a dream domestic destination followed by Alaska, California, Arizona, and Nevada. The top international destinations are Australia, followed by Italy, the United Kingdom/Ireland, France, and the Caribbean.

About 12,000 baby boomers were included in the survey.

Some other interesting findings:

  • On average, of those boomers who had travel bucket lists, they have already completed 25% of their trips. I like that! No time like the present.
  • Although only 11% of the trips have been booked, meaning boomers are still in the planning phase, almost 69% of boomers are optimistic their next bucket list trip will happen – most say within the next two to five years. Only 3% of boomers say their list is simply for dreaming.
  • Although many boomers continue to indicate a desire to travel more in 2017 than they did in 2016, a handful of barriers remain in the way; cost (43%), health (34%), and security concerns (28%) top the list.
  • That being said, 99% of boomers said they will take at least one leisure trip in 2017, with an average of five or more trips expected throughout the year. Most (51%) expect to only travel domestically, but a significant portion are hoping to travel both domestically and internationally (43%).
  • For boomers, bucket list trips are the most popular motivation for an international trip, while domestic trips are a combination of summer vacations, multi-generational trips, weekend getaways, and holiday travel.
  • Most boomers are looking for a laid back and relaxing trip to give them the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and family.
  • Boomers enjoy dreaming about the trip almost as much as experiencing the trip itself. Part of the fun is planning!

If you’re interested in learning more about baby boomer travel trends, you can check out a past blog I wrote on this subject.

Where do I want to travel? While I don’t have a written bucket list, I do dream a lot about seeing the world. Although I’m not traveling as much as I’d like these days, in the past I’ve been lucky enough to visit most of the top places listed on the survey. For inquiring minds, Africa (which came in 6th on the survey) and sailing the Caribbean (number 5) are my top picks.

So, where do you want to visit? What’s your top three picks for domestic and international destinations and why? Please share in the comments below!

Image courtesy of digital art at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ten Ways to Manage Baby Boomer Back Pain

As a famous Aunty Acid cartoon says: “It’s bad news when you get to the age where your back goes out more than you do.”

Back PainThat’s for sure. Fortunately, I haven’t had a lot of back issues during my lifetime, but recently that’s changed. My lower back pain has become chronic and can’t be ignored any longer.

Of course, I’m far from alone. According to statistics, four-fifths of Americans have back pain.

My back problems probably have something to do with my age. But I don’t want to accept that. Isn’t it cooler to think my lower back hurts because of my vicious racquetball games with hubby? Yeah, that’s it! (I swear, old age creeps up on you like underwear.)

If you’re in the same boat, what should you do?

According to research, people who don’t pursue extreme treatment have fewer complications. So before you rush out to get an MRI or x-ray, ask for epidural or cortisone shots, start popping pain pills, or thinking about surgery, try the following recommendations:

Be Patient

At this point, I’m not hopeful my back pain will resolve itself without taking some kind of action and I’m not very good at being patient. However, according to Prevention’s website, as many as 90% of back-pain episodes resolve within six weeks, whether they’re the result of an injury or due to a structural or nerve problem. It doesn’t hurt to give it some time to see if the back pain gets better on its own.

Use Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Oh, I hate to admit it, but me and hubby are both popping Aleve pills like Pez candy lately. We keep a huge bottle in our nightstand. But the fact is, ibuprofen (such as Motrin or Advil) or a naproxen (like Aleve) can help ease the pain. Research shows these types of drugs usually give you better relief than acetaminophen (Tylenol). The downside: Over long periods, NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal problems, so don’t take them for more than 10 days without consulting your doctor.

Stay Active

You may just want to give in to the pain and lie down, but the general advice is to keep moving. Studies show that people with short-term low-back pain who use bed rest to try and solve the problem may feel even more pain. Simple, low-impact exercises like walking, cycling, and swimming can be helpful. If you sit for long periods of time at a desk like me, experts suggest getting up every 20 minutes or so to walk around and stretch a bit. I just started trying some exercises I found on Mayo Clinic’s website to help gently stretch and strengthen my back and supporting muscles. I’ll let you know if it helps.

Improve Your Posture

Research shows that most people with poor posture put unnecessary strain on their backs. That means no slumping at your desk (guilty as charged) which makes it harder for your back to support your weight. Makes sense. I should have listened to my mother when she told me to stand up straight. Never too late to change, right? Also, be careful of your posture when lifting heavy objects. Never bend over from the waist. Instead, bend and straighten from the knees.

Use Ice and Heating Pads

You probably already know this, but it’s a good reminder. If your back hurts due to an injury or strain, use ice the first 48 hours for 20 minute sessions several times a day. This can reduce swelling and relieve pain. Then switch to 20 minutes with a heating pad which loosens tight muscles and increases circulation.

Focus On Your Feet

This was interesting to me. Women whose feet roll inward when they walk might be particularly susceptible to lower-back pain, according to a recent study in the journal Rheumatology. Inserts may help if this is a problem. Hey, honey, watch me walk. Am I strolling a bit wonky?

Get a Massage

See, it’s not all bad news. You now have a great excuse to get that relaxing massage. One study showed that people who had regular messages had substantially less pain and disability after 10 weeks. Osteopathic and chiropractic therapies have been shown to work too.

Try Acupuncture

I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat about the needles, but studies have shown many patients with low back pain found more pain relief with acupuncture than those receiving conventional care. I’ve heard from several people that this can help. Maybe one day I’ll get desperate enough to brave the needles!

Watch Your Weight

Oh, it had to be said. We all know it’s true. Being overweight puts excess stress on your spine and joints. So, try and keep your weight within a healthy range for your age and height. Okay, lecture over.

Stay Calm

Back pain becomes worse if you start stressing about it. Accept that you have pain and try taking some of the steps I’ve outlined above to help manage it. Deep breathing may help calm you. Resist delving into a sea of negativity and hopelessness. To make the pain more tolerable, try doing three things that make you feel good each day. In other words, find a bit of baby boomer bliss! Enjoy a soothing cup of tea or coffee, write in a journal, call an old friend, or enjoy a candlelit bath.

And take some comfort from a quote I saw from Joe Morgan: “If you don’t have a bad back by the time you’re 60, then you haven’t done anything in your life.”

Image courtesy of saphatthachat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Changing It Up After 50

Sometimes you need to change things up – especially after you hit the half-century mark.

When I turned 50, I was a bit unsure of what that meant for my life. That number didn’t represent anything exciting – just senior discounts, menopause, and colonoscopies.

ChangeLet’s face it, we women over 50 are often stereotyped as cranky and desperately focused on looking sexier and younger.

The media sometimes makes us feel like our time has passed. That we should just step aside for the younger, more beautiful millennial generation who are busy taking over the work force, shoving us baby boomers aside.

Well, I’m 56 now and saying phooey to all that! I’m proud – and appreciative – to be this age. True, we baby boomers are getting older which is inevitable and out of our control. But we can control how we age.

As Sophia Loren wisely said, “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”

Well said!

Sure, our 50’s can throw us some curve balls that can knock us down for a bit. But isn’t it far better to get back up, keep moving forward, embrace change, and tackle challenges head-on without fear? To take control of our destinies and maybe even take a few risks while we’re at it. Instead of getting stuck in a rut, create a little excitement by trying something different and unknown.

With that in mind, I’m going to be tacking some new and exciting writing projects. Curious? Although I’m keeping it under wraps for now, readers of Baby Boomer Bliss will be the first to know as I get closer to completion.

As a result, I’ll be posting a bit less on my blog. You’ll still see new blogs, but 1-2 times a month instead of every week. This will give me much needed time to concentrate on my new endeavors.

So stay tuned!

How about you? As you get older, does your view of aging change? Is there something new you are planning to try out for the first time? Are you ready to take your life in a new and different direction? Let me know in the comments below!

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Napping Makes Baby Boomers Happier

Call it a siesta, forty winks, or shut-eye. Or be cool and call it a micro or power nap.

NapWhatever name you use, it turns out a short nap can make baby boomers less cranky and more happy. We knew that all along, right?

I mean, there’s a reason my yoga mat fondly reminds me of the napping mat we had in kindergarten – so I always feel like ditching exercising for a quick snooze.

Recent research shows that taking naps of less than 30 minutes improves our sense of well-being, as well as boosting performance. More than 1,000 people took part in the study, conducted for the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

You don’t have to tell me twice. I’m so good at napping I can do it with my eyes closed!

Says Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire (who truly is a wise man like his name in my opinion): “Previous research has shown that naps of under 30 minutes make you more focused, productive and creative, and these new findings suggest … that you can also become happier by just taking a short nap.”

In other words, combine nap and happier – and let’s all get nappier!

nap businesswomanEmployers take note. Another study by NASA on sleepy military pilots found that taking a 26-minute nap while the co-pilot was in control boosted alertness by more than 50 percent. Doesn’t everyone want more productive and happier employees? So, if you catch us sleeping at the desk – leave us alone!

Actually, a lot of famous people have been known to nap.

Albert Einstein claimed he needed daytime naps to fuel his marvelous brain.

JFK enjoyed afternoon naps with his lovely wife by his side. Jackie even advised his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, to take up the habit.

And Leonardo DaVinci believed in 15 minute naps every four hours. On the other hand, DaVinci didn’t believe in sleeping much at night, claiming we all have lots of time to sleep after we die. Now that’s a depressing thought. Let’s move on.

In fact, there is a downside to this napping study. The research found that those who took longer naps were less happy than those who did not nap at all. Sorry to say, too much napping is associated with an 82 percent increase in the risk of heart disease.

Go ahead, pop my bubble.

As a Minion meme states: “Naps are tricky because you either wake up refreshed and relaxed or you have a headache, dry throat and you are unaware of what year you’re in.”

True, true. But still, I’m sticking with the main message of this study that shows a short power nap will make you happier. I’m a believer!

Images courtesy of FrameAngel and imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Oscar Mix-Up Proves Ageism Still Alive

Unless you’re on Mars, you’ve no doubt heard about the mix-up at the 2017 Academy Award show last night. Warren Beatty, 79, and Faye Dunaway, 76, accidentally announced the wrong movie for Best Picture.

oscarTwitter was immediately on fire, calling Beatty stupid, dim-witted, brain dead, senile, and blind. People completely blamed him – and his age – for the screw up and cruel and degrading name-calling ensued.

Later, it was announced that the incident wasn’t his fault after all. The Academy mistakenly gave him the wrong card for Best Actress. Apparently, Beatty saw La La Land’s name on the card and was confused as to why Emma Stone’s name was on it.

As Beatty explained on the show, probably sensing people were going to call him senile: “I want to tell you what happened. I opened the envelope and it said, ‘Emma Stone, ‘La La Land.’ That’s why I took such a long look at Faye, and at you. I wasn’t trying to be funny.”

Some people still blamed Beatty for passing the card to Dunaway to read, supposedly letting her take the fall. But, my reaction was different. I think he handed her the card looking for a second opinion. Dunaway thought he was joking (“You’re impossible, come on,” she said) and read the card.

This morning, some of the press, and people on social media, claimed that Beatty should have asked for help when he noticed there was a problem. Maybe, but I say, give the man a break. Could you think calmly with 37 million people watching? I would venture a guess that a lot of younger people would have done the same thing.

Besides, even the Academy admitted this whole thing wasn’t Beatty’s – or Dunaway’s – fault! And their age had nothing to do with the flub either. (By the way, even if Beatty was totally to blame, it wouldn’t justify all the mean-spirited mocking and name-calling that, in my opinion, was sadly based on people’s lack of respect for the elderly.)

Recently Humana invited me to watch and participate online in a panel discussion they sponsored, Over Sixty, Under Estimated: A Healthy Look at the “Silver” Screen at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles that included baby boomer actress Francis Fisher. During the discussion, the panel made a good point:

These days, if Hollywood ridiculed an ethnic group, the LGBT community, or the disabled in movies, people would be in an uproar. So why do people quietly tolerate the way movies make fun of older people? Older characters in movies have often been stereotyped as irritable, depressed, slow-witted, lonely, sickly, whiny, rude, horny, and foul-mouthed – as if that’s all they had to offer.

In a previous blog, I pointed out that several actors aged 50-plus were nominated in prestigious categories this year in strong roles (it should be noted, however, none of them won last night). I wrote that perhaps we, as active, vibrant baby boomers who have valuable knowledge, experience, and insight that only comes with age, were paving the way for a change in the way people view aging.

However, this faux pas at the Oscar Show and all the ridicule obviously based on Beatty’s and Dunaway’s age makes me think I was wrong. While some cultures honor the elderly, in general, Hollywood seems to be reflecting society’s ongoing disrespectful, negative view of aging.

I realize that during this divisive time in America, many of you stayed away from the Academy Award show because of its political viewpoints. But the one thing we all have in common is that we’re getting older. In fact, we living in a time when the population of people ages 65 and older is expected to triple to 1.5 billion by mid century.

This is a politically neutral blog, but I’d love to hear your opinion. Was Beatty unjustly called stupid because of his age? Do you think the increase in the aging population will change people’s opinions of the elderly? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Baby Boomers in 2017 Oscar Nominated Movies

Older characters in movies have often been stereotyped in insulting and degrading ways. The elderly have been shown as irritable, depressed, slow-witted, lonely, sickly, whiny, rude, horny, and foul-mouthed – as if that’s all they had to offer. Cinema has often reflected society’s attitudes toward the 50-plus crowd who in real life were often ridiculed or ignored.

oscarBut hopefully the times are a-changin’, as Bob Dylan famously sang.

This year, the Academy’s Oscar nominees include a notable number of people over 50, including Mel Gibson, for directing Hacksaw Ridge; Jeff Bridges, for Best Supporting Actor in Hell or High Water; Viggo Mortensen, for Best Actor in a Leading Role in Captain Fantastic; Meryl Streep for Best Actress in a Leading Role in Florence Foster Jenkins, and Isabelle Huppert for Best Actress in a Leading Role in Elle.

And they don’t happen to fit into the typical stereotypes. Jeff Bridges, 67, stars as a Texas Ranger tracking down a pair of bank-robbing brothers. Viggo Mortensen, 58, plays a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous education that challenges his philosophy about life. Meryl Streep, 67, once again proves older women can still steal scenes front and center. And Isabelle Huppert, 63, plays a woman who turns the tables on her attacker.

Maybe that’s a start. Perhaps Hollywood, and society at large, haven’t completely forgotten the value of the elderly with their knowledge, life experience, and insight.

As an article in the San Diego Tribune pointed out, we baby boomers “are reinventing society’s idea of what it means to grow old. Seniors today carry cell phones, not walkers. They sit on bicycles, not rocking chairs. Arts and crafts, bingo and checkers have been replaced with jogging, white-water rafting and skiing. Seniors are healthy, vibrant, influential members of our society.”

As the oldest of the 77 million baby boomers approach their 70s, the elderly and their concerns will inevitably be given more attention. As to whether ageism will worsen or get better is a matter of debate.

Erdman Palmore, a professor emeritus at Duke University who has written or edited more than a dozen books on aging, remains fairly optimistic. “One can say unequivocally that older people are getting smarter, richer and healthier as time goes on,” Palmore said. “I’ve dedicated most of my life to combating ageism, and it’s tempting for me to see it everywhere. … But I have faith that as science progresses, and reasonable people get educated about it, we will come to recognize ageism as the evil it is.”

Is Hollywood slowly adapting to reflect these changes as we baby boomers forge ahead refining the landscape of aging?

Hopefully. The movie industry has been complaining about ageism in Hollywood for a long time. According to AARP CEO JoAnn Jenkins at a movie industry roundtable discussion hosted by Variety, ageism is another diversity issue that Hollywood needs to consider more. “The truth is that 70 percent of the disposable income in this country is in the possession of people 50 and older,” Jenkins said. “And 25 percent of people who are moviegoers are people over the age of 50. They are actually putting butts in the seats in the movie theaters. Yet we see across the board that the marketing industry is spending 75 to 80 percent of their dollars focusing on people who are under the age of 30, and mostly young males.”

Jenkin’s opinion corresponds with two academic studies that showed 30-somethings were heavily over-represented in movies, 40-somethings did all right, while 50-somethings were significantly under-represented and the over-60s severely so.

Recently Humana invited me to watch and participate online in a panel discussion they sponsored, Over Sixty, Under Estimated: A Healthy Look at the “Silver” Screen at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles that included baby boomer actress Francis Fisher. During the discussion, the panel made a good point. These days, if Hollywood ridiculed an ethnic group, the LGBT community, or the disabled in movies, people would be in an uproar. So why do people quietly tolerate the way movies make fun of older people?

We’re not grumpy old codgers cussing up a storm. I’m over 50 and still consider myself an active, vibrant member of society. Let’s hope this year’s Academy nominees proves that Hollywood is catching up with the times.

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Baby Boomers: Are Your Millennial Children Worse Off Than You?

Parents typically want better lives for their children.

So, some baby boomers may be a bit dismayed by the latest study last week from the Federal Reserve data reporting that millennials actually make less money than we did at the same age.

ResearchThe research shows that our millennial children earn 20 percent less than we did at the same stage of life with a median household income of $40, 581, despite being better educated. In fact, the median college-educated millennial with student debt is only earning slightly more than a baby boomer without a degree did in 1989.

There’s more. When we baby boomers were young, we owned more homes and had amassed assets worth twice as much as young people today.

The report spawned many articles claiming these figures presented a dire picture for the 75 million millennials struggling for a piece of the American Dream. No wonder so many millennials still live with their baby boomer parents, they pointed out.

So what can we take away from all this? Should we be depressed and worried for our children by this doom and gloom report?

Not in my opinion.

Tackling Student Loan Debt

According to this study, a good part of the reason millennials are worse off than we were at their age is crippling student loan debt.

Americans owe nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 44 million borrowers. In fact, the average Class of 2016 graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt, up six percent from last year.

debtTo make matters worse, this debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. As an article from Time states so well: “If you’re struggling to pay credit card debt, car loans or even gambling debt, you can wipe the slate clean in bankruptcy. Struggling to pay your student loans? Sorry, you’ll just have to figure that one out on your own.”

This was not always the case. Older baby boomers will remember that before 1976, all education loans were dischargeable in bankruptcy. Along with much lower college costs back in the day, this is one reason we boomers were better off financially when we were young adults than our children.

Nonetheless, not all is lost. If your millennial children are saddled with this heavy load, there’s some great information out there on how to pay off student loan debt faster. For example, there’s some good information in this article from BankRate you can check out.

In addition, I propose that in light of the times, perhaps it’s time we change our thinking about the value of an elite private institution. If we’re truly honest with ourselves, isn’t the motivation for attending expensive, elite schools often prestige? But is it worth it? The sluggish economy and rising costs of college have intensified questions about whether that fancy education is worth it. Are graduates more satisfied with their lives afterward or are they stressed out over the massive student debt they’ll carry for years?

If our children are thinking about taking out loans or co-signing student loans for their own children’s college education, these are questions they should consider. Parents need to make sure that this financial investment is indeed worthwhile and not made to the detriment of their own future well being.

An article from Wall Street Journal pointed out that “as student-loan default rates climb and college graduates fail to land jobs, an increasing number of students are betting they can get just as far with a degree from a less-expensive school as they can with a diploma from an elite school—without having to take on debt.”

Perhaps that’s why more students are choosing lower-cost public colleges, state schools, commuting to schools from home to save on housing expenses, as well as choosing a more practical career-oriented education.

Food for thought for our grandchildren as they approach college age.

Money Does Not Equal Happiness

So, maybe our children are earning less, haven’t purchased a home yet, and don’t have as much money as we did when we were their age.

MoneyDoes that mean they’re doomed to misery? Heck no!

As I wrote about in a previous blog, How the Recession Changed Our Viewpoint of Happiness, if this recession taught us anything, it’s that money, expensive houses, and things doesn’t equal happiness.

Maybe the American Dream has changed since we were young – and that’s not a bad thing.

Remember the 60’s, when many young people thought society had been corrupted by capitalism and the materialist atmosphere it created? They looked down on their parents, children of the Depression era who sought security in cookie-cutter houses in the suburbs, enjoying an economic boom after World War II ended. Their parents were “square” and “materialistic” in their youthful eyes, and had lost sight of the more meaningful experiences life had to offer.

Then they grew up.

Let’s get real. Many of those ideals were left behind. Ironically, many “hippies” became “yuppies.” Despite all the talk and protests, a lot of baby boomers began working around the clock at burgeoning careers, bought nice homes, enjoyed fancy vacations, chased success, and accumulated credit card debt. In the end, many boomers became much more materialistic than their parents.

Well, it seems the pendulum has swung once again. After the recession, many young people are feeling the same way we boomers did in the 60’s.

After all, many people bought extravagant homes they could not otherwise afford and lost them during the housing bubble burst. You know what? They learned life went on. Buying that home they always “dreamed of” turned into a nightmare and many discovered it wasn’t worth all the stress that resulted.

Turns out that dedicating yourself to a career and owning a fancy home wasn’t the answer to finding contentment, satisfaction, and joy after all. Many of our children took note.

In fact, home ownership rates are at their lowest since 1995. In the years since the housing bubble burst, many have come to the conclusion that home ownership isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be and are now renting a less expensive apartment instead. Others opted for home ownership, but decided to downsize. This idea spawned the whole tiny house movement.

So, maybe our millennial children don’t own a home and are renting an apartment instead. Is that such a tragedy? Without a huge mortgage debt hanging over their heads, they’ll have more time to concentrate on spiritual matters, their family and friends, volunteer work, and their health and well-being. Maybe our children don’t have a demanding cooperate job earning big bucks. Perhaps they’ll have more freedom for new experiences, adventures, and seeing the world.

Whose to say they can’t be happier without all the materialistic entrapment that the so-called American Dream entails?

Multi-Generational Living

Do you have millennial children living with you? You’re not alone. Statistics show that 21 percent of millennials live with their parents.

However, that doesn’t have to be a negative thing.

Multi generational livingShortly after my youngest son got married, he was forced to move back home. He was laid off during the recession and his wife was working at a dental facility that closed down. They lived with us for a few years until they got back on their feet and recently moved up north.

My oldest son doesn’t match the data from the Federal Reserve used for this latest study. He actually earns more than my husband and I. However, because of child support for his three children and substantial legal debt from from his recent divorce and custody battle, he is currently living in a casita on our property. This works well for us as well, since we share living expenses.

This is not an uncommon scenario in this recovering economy. According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, three in 10 parents of adult children report that the economy forced their grown child to move back in with them in the past few years.

Because of this phenomena, the term “boomerang kids” has been coined. To be clear, I’m not talking about kids who move back home and take advantage of you. Adult children who are lackadaisical about finding work, view your house as a permanent vacation spot, and use their earnings as disposable income to be used for going out, expensive trips, or sports cars. That’s a totally different situation.

However, if your children are living at home to pay off some student loan debt, are saving to buy a house, temporally out of work, or recovering financially from a divorce like my son, moving back home doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Helping your children regroup so they can live an independent life once again, if handled correctly, can be a rewarding experience. The fact is, studies show that people who live in multi-generational homes actually like it. Check out my blog, When Adult Children Move Back Home, for tips on how to make multi-generational living work.

In conclusion, baby boomers, let’s not cry a bucket of tears for our millennial children. Yes, they face some challenging times. But I have faith that, all in all, they’ll find their way and do just fine.

Images, in order of appearance, courtesy of jannoon028, renjith krishnan, Stuart Miles, and photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The Ten Best and Worst States to Retire

My childhood friend was visiting me last month when she asked me, “Where do you want to retire?”

retirementWe both turn 56 this month, an age where boomers typically start dreaming about where they’d like to retire. Interestingly, we both reside in places known to be pretty popular for retirees.

My friend is from Asheville, North Carolina. She enjoys mountain biking in the scenic Great Smoky Mountains, the robust arts community – and since her late husband was a musician – she loves the live music scene that ranges from bluegrass to classical. Asheville consistently receives great rankings as a great place to retire for those reasons as well as its typically mild weather (with the exception of this year!) and unique art deco architecture. In fact, recently US News & World Report named Asheville one of “10 Best Places to Retire.”

My friend is currently retired and active in her volunteer work and she likes living in Asheville. However, she is considering whether that’s the spot she wants to settle in for good.

Me – I’m from the Palm Springs, California area, which has long been one of the most famous retirement communities. Snowbirds love this place with over 300 days of sunshine a year. Golfing, casinos, hiking, and cycling are popular activities. Places to shop and dine abound. In addition, a fairly strong economy and low unemployment rate make the Palm Springs area a popular destination for baby boomers and retirees.

But do I want to retire here? Not especially. Some people love the heat, but I’m not a fan of the long, hot summers with temperatures that exceed 115 degrees. However, I have time to consider my options. Like many boomers, retirement is nowhere in sight for me at the time being.

But of course, a girl can dream, right?

That’s why I found Bankrate.com’s survey interesting. It used six criteria to determine which states are the best and worst for retirees that included cost of living, taxes, health care, weather, crime, and residents’ overall well-being.

The results were surprising. Traditional retirement spots like Florida and California didn’t make the top 10 while other states, not usually considered as premier places to retire, like South Dakota and Wyoming, made the top five.

So, exactly what are the ten best and worst places to retire according to the survey and why?

The Ten Best States

Colorado came in at #3 as one of the best states to retire.

Colorado came in at #3 as one of the best states to retire.

Wyoming: Low taxes, a low cost of living, and a low crime rate puts this state in the top ten. The sheer beauty of this state is appealing with seven national parks, including the famous Yellowstone National Park, and plenty of expansive land to roam. In fact, Wyoming is the least populated state in the nation. Maybe that’s why this state scores so high in the well-being of its residents and is considered a “happy” place to retire.

South Dakota: This state scores high for its low taxes, living costs, unemployment rates, and crime rates. South Dakota offers a rugged retirement destination to those looking for new adventures, affordable housing, and a sense of seclusion. Nonetheless, South Dakota scored low for the well-being of its residents. Perhaps that’s, in part, because of its typically brutal winters and hot summers.

Colorado: What’s not to love? Gorgeous scenery with low taxes and living costs. Compared to the two states above, Colorado has fairly mild weather with few rainy days that is conducive to lots of outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, and skiing. In fact, the latest U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Denver as the best place to live in the country. Colorado Springs ranked fifth.

Utah: This state made the list with its pleasant weather and abundance of natural attractions and activities for outdoor lovers. Housing costs, however, are higher in Utah than the national average as is the state’s overall tax rate. Utah has recently began  attracting retirees, mostly in the St. George and Park City areas.

Virginia: This state rated highest east of the Mississippi. A vibrant economy and plenty of historic destinations put it on Bankrate’s top five list. According to their study, Arlington is the best place to retire in the state and nearby Alexandria came in second.

These five states were followed by Montana for its temperate weather that ranks above the national average and residents reporting being happy with their gorgeous surroundings, 
Idaho
 for its affordable housing, low crime rate, and many natural treasures, Iowa for its quality health care system and low crime rates, Arizona for its great weather and high scores in well-being, and Nebraska with its relatively low cost of living and low crime rates.

It should be noted some of these states (South Dakota, Idaho, Arizona, and Utah) made the top 10 Kiplinger list which also included the states of Florida, Washington, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia on its top ten list of places to retire.

The Ten Worst States

New York was the worst state to retire in, according to Bankrate.com.

New York was the worst state to retire in, according to Bankrate.com.

New York: Known for its high cost of living and high taxes, this state also had the lowest well-being scores in the nation, especially on feeling a sense of satisfaction with their lives and where they live, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

West Virginia: While the state offers a low cost of living, natural beauty, and lots of activities, for the 6th straight year, West Virginia received the worst scores in the country for personal well-being by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. In addition, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality gave West Virginia its 7th lowest rating in the country for its high rates of hospitalizations for conditions such as hypertension, asthma and diabetes, as well as potentially avoidable hospitalizations for acute conditions.

Oregon: The state’s high cost of living and high taxes along with its stormy weather put this state as one of the worst places to retire according to Bankrate.com. However, it’s interesting to note that Portland, Oregon often tops lists of great places to retire with its beauty, ocean access, great food and wine, and lack of sales tax.

Arkansas: Arkansas received below-average marks for crime, health care and overall well-being. Arkansas has the 9th highest violent crime rate in the nation and the 6th lowest score for health care quality. The state struggles with hospital admissions for hypertension and diabetes, among other issues. Arkansas also received the 7th lowest happiness score in the nation among seniors, with especially low overall scores for physical and social health.

Louisiana: Unfortunately, one of the major problems with Louisiana, which also made last year’s list, is crime. The state recorded the 5th highest violent crime rate in the country in 2015, according to the FBI, and had a murder rate double the national average in 2014. In addition, The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality gave Louisiana the 2nd lowest score in the nation for health care quality.

Hawaii made number six. A lovely place to live except for the high cost of living. Honolulu is the 2nd most expensive place to live, ranking 2nd to New York City, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. Residents of Hawaii pay an individual income tax rate of 11% — the 2nd highest in the U.S. If you can afford it, however, this state ranks high for happiness and personal well-being.

That state was followed by Oklahoma whose state’s health care system ranked as the worst in the country, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Add a high crime rate and a low rating on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being index. Alaska made the list for it’s a high cost of living, frigid temperatures in much of the state, and high crime rate. Connecticut ranked number nine due to its state’s income tax rate and property tax rate which are both 2nd highest in the country. Maryland rounded out the 10 worst states for retirement for its high cost of living and lofty tax rate which makes it hard for retirees living on a fixed income.

Where Should You Retire?

Where to retire is a deeply personal decision and you may not agree with this list. There are many things to consider.

For most people, retirement means less income, but more time to do what they enjoy. That means typically they are looking for a place with lower housing and living costs, good weather, opportunities for outdoor physical activities, cultural offerings, and volunteer work.

But there are other factors to consider too, for example, nearly a quarter said in the survey that being close to family is the most important factor in deciding where to retire. Other interesting findings from the Bankrate survey:

  • Three in five Americans want to spend their golden years in another city or state, but the desire to move away from home fades with age.
  • Women value a cheap cost of living more highly than men (59% vs. 43%).
  • Four in 10 Americans say locales with access to mountains, rivers and other outdoor recreation would be most appealing, while 25% prefer living near a beach.

In the end, you’ll have to consider all those factors before you put down roots. As Bankrate.com research and statistics analyst Chris Kahn said: “Warm weather may be an initial draw, but all the sunny days in the world won’t make you happy if you’re constantly stretching your budget or don’t have access to quality health care.”

True, true. But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about retiring somewhere near an ocean with our sailboat docked in a marina. Or maybe some exotic land or a Caribbean island which are dancing around in my head. Why not? Like I said before, a girl can dream, right? And who knows where I’ll land? Only time will tell!

Where would you love to retire? Please share your dreams in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, J Frasse, and Troy Faulder at FreeDigitalPhotos.net