Personal Upgrade - Nov 2016

I used to really love new technology and what it could do to make my life easier. We had the fun electronic toys from Atari.  Spent many hours bouncing a square of a rectangle to break other rectangles. (Breakout)

We moved up to a small “personal computer” that could access the internet via a modem. It had an “i” in the name but I forgot what it was called, (not IBM, not iMac) and it was small and cheap. Visited a lot of bulletin boards in those days.

I advanced our family to a Commodore and then progressed through the Apple Macintosh lines to the iMac.

At work, there was a Radio Shack TRS 80 that the guy I replaced bought and let sit in the corner. I taught myself VisiCalc and wrote a spreadsheet to figure out commercial printing quotes and handle billing to put the computer to work.

Soon after personal computers were SOP in business and I marched through the Macintosh line because the owner of the newspaper LOVED Macs. Then Windows personal computers took over the business office. I loved it. I tried to learn as much as I could – or had time for- there was always somebody else that knew more than me, so I didn’t feel the pressure. As soon as it became a “chore” I just handed my problem off…

I learned HTML so I could “build” websites… I started this blog and changed the code in plugins and themes just for kicks.  I eventually screwed that up so bad, I got a guy in Ireland to hand off too.

I enjoyed new technology.

Until recently.

Now I don’t like technology – it’s too hard. I just want simple these days.

I’m using an old Dell desktop running Vista, a HP lap top running Windows 7 powers our tv and I have an Android phone. Nancy has a Apple iPad mini, Apple iPad, and Apple iPhone. I have two netbooks – one with Windows 10 installed that are just gathering dust.

I spend too much of my time updating operating systems and apps. Much of my frustration can be related to the sometimes painfully slow internet in Costa Rica – about 4 megs down, 1 meg up. And the age of the computers I’m on.

Yeah, it’s all related to age.

I’m ready for a personal upgrade.

Mark Van Patten writes a blog called Going Like Sixty and has been married to the same woman since 1968.


Uber Burbs - Oct 2016

You could easily get the impression that most baby boomers are downsizing, selling the house in the suburbs and moving to the city where all the action is. While this scenario does play out for many boomers, there may be just as many boomers who are content to stay right where they are.

Turns out that isn’t so easy. Many boomers live in multi-level homes with no bedrooms or bathrooms on the main floor. High-up kitchen cabinets are harder to access. Normal house maintenance chores are getting more and more difficult. Public transportation is not easily accessible.

You get the picture. Some of these boomers are trapping themselves in a continuing cycle of isolation. As they grow more uncomfortable driving, that leads to less socializing, less entertainment, and generally less contact with the outside world. It’s easy to fall into a sense of denial about your limitations until one day they wake up and realize they have not been out of the house in more than a week.

Retrofitting the home or moving to a one-story aging-friendly home may not be economically feasible. And even if boomers could pursue that option, the fact remains that suburbs are just not prepared to meet the needs of aging-in-place baby boomers. If the thinking is that suburbs are going to have to come around and prepare to meet the needs of aging-in-place boomers, that might be spitting into the wind. Ordering a car service 48 hours in advance is not exactly going to appease boomers who are used to coming and going at the drop of a hat.

Something has got to give. Around the year 2035 there are going to 77 million Americans over the age of 65. If there is a substantial portion of them living in their self-made suburban cocoons, then all of society is going to have to deal with that problem.

What can you do now? Start thinking about your options for where to live and how you picture yourself living as a participant of the world around you rather than someone caught in a web of your own making.

And get one of those cherry-picker gadgets to reach stuff on the high shelves.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Reverse Mentoring - Oct 2016

“Clear? Huh! Why a four-year-old child could understand this report. Run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can't make head or tail out of it.”

So spoke Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx in Duck Soup if you’re a fan).

But these days you do not have to be the leader of Freedonia to get some help. Turns out millennials are happy to teach baby boomers a thing or two about such things as the integration of social media and crowd sourcing. They call it reverse mentoring when 18 to 35 year-old employees are paired with baby boomers in order to educate one another on business topics and new tools.

I think it’s a great idea, but then every time I’ve been stuck with a computer issue I’m the first one to say “Run out and get me a 12 year-old!” You have to stop and realize every so often that almost every baby boomer can remember when there was no internet. Millennials on the other hand, for the most part, think the internet has been there for their entire lives – and they would be correct in that assumption.

Millennials will make up half the workforce by 2020 so I’m thinking I want to be on their good side. Not only do they have some good information and techniques to pass on, they will be footing my social security payments. Honestly, I feel capable of keeping up with most new developments in social media now, but 2, 3 or 4 years from now, it may be a much different story. You start to have visions of impatient youth trying to get technical concepts through to our brains. Remember trying to explain AOL’s modem and the concept of email to your own parents? That’s right. That could be you trying to understand how a microchip tattoo on your wrist is going to replace your watch, your mobile phone and your fitbit. And don’t even get me started on the retina implant that will project films or the Uber car that’s going to show up without a driver.

Fasten your seatbelts because things are going to change and you may want your own millennial to help you make it through the storm.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Forgiving Joey Simpson - Sept 2016

 “I want to stop here!” I insisted to my husband.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

Yes.  I recognized the house from seeing it through the school bus window hundreds of times. The man who stepped out to greet us looked to be about the right age, yet I didn’t gamble on calling him by name.

“I’m looking for Joe Simpson.” It was a quick mental adjustment to say “Joe” instead of “Joey”.

“Oh you are, are you?” he answered with the casual smile of a farmer.

Complete recognition came into his eyes as soon as I said my first name. I went over the memory of it later with my husband. “He knew me as soon as I said ‘Kathy’, didn’t he?  I didn’t even have to say ‘Pilcher’, did I?”

Joe and I talked more that afternoon than during the nine years we attended school together. We hadn’t been close friends, yet our parents, siblings and friends all knew each other. I played the flute. He played the drums.

I told Joe I had written about him in a story, about how he could use a slide rule at a ridiculously young age, and that he had a box of 64 crayons with built in sharpener which I could never dream of.  He seemed a little embarrassed by that.  I remarked I had been the smart, funny one. “That, I recall.” he said. What else did he recall? I didn’t ask. He didn’t offer. He had remained in his boyhood home, so perhaps he didn’t need to cling to childhood memories as much as I did.

I didn’t mean to upset him by telling him that he had said “Are you kidding?” when I asked him to dance in 8th grade. Joe wanted to deny that he had ever done such a thing. He took it rather hard! I assumed he would find the loutish behavior amusing, as I thought I had during all these years, but here he was apologizing.  I didn’t expect that.  If he believed I didn’t deserve to be treated in such a way, then I had to believe it too. I had no choice but to forgive us both.

As we were leaving, Joe said with a nervous smile that I would probably write about him. No Joey, there’s no story here. Who wants to hear about a decent man?

Kathy Brennan has organized information for a living as an educator, computer programmer and government policy writer. Now she is doing it for fun as a stand up comic and humorous writer. See more at


Silver into Gold - Sept 2016

Longevity market. That’s the term being tossed around for over-50 market. I like the sound of it. If only because it infers that boomers are going to be around for a while.

We know that entrepreneurs are going to profit off us by coming up with products and services that are specifically targeted to an aging population. And I’m okay with that. Whether it’s electric bicycles or stylish walking shoes or home care, I’m in.

According to AARP, this longevity market accounts for $7.6 trillion in economic activity. That’s a trillion pound elephant. What makes it interesting is that millennials are coming up with great product ideas out of personal experiences with parents or grandparents. Grandson sees how hard his parents are struggling with Grandpa’s care and he comes up with a new app for homecare providers. Daughter wants to help her parents continue to exercise and designs an electric bicycle.

Note to self: the next time I want to disparage a millennial, remember that she might be the one who invents an automated prescription pill dispenser.

New business ideas that cater to baby boomers are most likely going to be coming forth in a constant stream over the next decade. Ironically, that means that millennials who have been blaming boomers for everything wrong in our society may one day be thanking us for all the start-up opportunities that we have stimulated. Venture capitalists have taken notice and there are now numerous crowdfunding options for any startup that has targeted the longevity market.

What’s in it for boomers? Investment opportunities for one thing. I’ve been saying for years that I really should invest in whatever company makes the most advanced and barely visible hearing aid, because that should be a very profitable business. Just the fact that so many millennials are interested in creating products and services targeted to boomers bodes well.

Now we just have to worry about Social Security remaining solvent enough for us to pay for the new products and new apps. What am I thinking? Some millennial out there is working on a Social Security Management App at this very moment.


Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.



Cereal Killers - August 2016

I’m not feeling sorry for Kelloggs or General Mills, but cereal sales have fallen off sharply. Apparently baby boomers who grew up eating cereal for breakfast and snacking cannot make up for millennials who rarely go in for the milky crunch.

We had Rice Crispies, Corn Flakes, Frosted Flakes, Cheerios, Raisin Bran, Wheaties, Puffed Rice, Sugar Pops, and loads of other brands I can no longer remember. We ate them with milk and if they were covered with sugar, we ate them as snacks.

According to recent surveys, millennials forego the cereal habit because “it’s too much work.” Read that again. Too much work. You have to clean up the bowl and spoon afterward. Almost 40% of those surveyed gave that as the number one reason they prefer the convenience of protein bars or fast-food biscuits. I’ll grant you that some of the cereals we ate back then were just slick sugar delivery systems, but as we got older we turned to Wheat Chex, Rice Chex and other somewhat healthier alternatives. Then we added fresh fruits as well, all in the name of eating smarter.

Cereal makers have not given up on trying to attract millennials and the inducement of healthier offerings is still being used as a lure. Kellogg has come out with a variation that has quinoa in it. Can Kale Bran be far behind?

If it’s too much trouble to get out a bowl, spoon and milk, can we count on these people when we’re no longer able to feed ourselves? Are they going to put us on protein IV drips for breakfast? That may be the same way they get their morning nutrients, but for folks who grew up listening to their Rice Crispies making snap, crackle and pop noises it’s going to be a real downer.

Convenience is a great selling point for just about anything. Internet access, cruise control, electronic bill paying, ATMs, and more have made our lives easier and more pleasurable. But the pleasure of cold milk hitting a bowl of crunchy grains and scarfing it all up while the cereal is still crunchy – that may be an indulgence that future generations (thinking about the Matrix here) never get to experience.

Sugar Pops are Tops!

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


That Was Then - July 2016

Remember when people worked for the same company for years and years until they were ready to retire? Well then you must be a baby boomer for sure because that doesn’t happen much anymore. Millennials change jobs the way some people change cars…at least once every three years.

A recent poll by Associated Press-Center for Public Affairs Research showed that among workers over 50, 41 percent had spent two decades with the same company. Eighteen percent stayed with the same employer for at least 30 years. That last group includes me. This year will mark the 30th anniversary of working for the same company and with the same business partner, and no one is more surprised about this than me.

At the beginning of my working life it seemed like I was destined to move from one career to the next, trying my hand at different tasks to see what appealed to me. It didn’t take very long to figure out what I wanted to do based on what I thought my strongest talents were. Likewise, I didn’t expect to team up with a business partner whose skills and ethos integrated so well with mine.

Hitting the 30 year mark seems like a good time to look back and wonder if we missed anything by not exploring more employers and careers as so many workers do now. I doubt that I would have been comfortable with the stress of swinging on the jungle vines, leaping from one job to the next and trying to fit into a new work culture every few years. We tend to think that would have been hard to pull off, but would it have been any less stressful than managing to keep our small business going through good times and very tough times? The range of different experiences might have been very appealing as well but so was the ability to create a career with so much longevity.

Worklife has changed so much in our lifetimes that it’s hard to predict the trends for coming years. Global strategies, outsourcing, the end of pensions and the overall coarsening of the employer-employee relationship all have contributed to a general sense of workplace instability. There’s not much loyalty to go around when workers think their employers care more about their stock price or their image than their employees, and employers believe their workers are not as productive as they should be.

It would appear that we were lucky (most of the time) to find a career that’s still going strong with the same company. Future generations of workers may marvel at that feat.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


You Dig? - July 2016

In the category of We Should Have Seen This Coming, it is now apparent that baby boomers are to blame for the lost generation of gardeners. Seriously. Seriously?

Well, seriously in Britain. Folks in their twenties, thirties and forties were never taught to garden by boomer parents according to the Royal Horticultural Society.

Come on. Just because boomers did not encourage their kids to play in the dirt (too many germs there), their offspring have rejected any interest in gardening. I call bullshit. My parents were not gardeners but I still jumped on the Mother Earth bandwagon in my late twenties and ended up with three zucchini mounds that produced 100 pounds of zukes per week (I may be exaggerating). It was a 20 foot by 70 foot garden with corn, tomatoes, peppers and strawberries surrounded by an eight foot fence that deer easily leaped right over for breakfast. We thought we were getting back to the land and earning self-sufficiency merit badge. No parent involvement whatsoever. They marveled over the fact that we had any interest in growing our own food but they certainly knew that it had nothing to do with any example that they set for us.

If millennials and GenXers really have a yen to garden, lack of parental guidance or childhood experience is not going to stop them. In fact, I would posit that all the interest in organic food and veganism would be all the encouragement these deprived folks would need to get motivated to get dirt under their fingernails and grow their own food in their own gardens. Younger generations can go online now and get 100 times more information on gardening than we had access to almost 50 years ago. Our wellworn Mother Earth News magazines were the go-to resource back then and we learned by doing and from our mistakes (3 zucchini mounds will feed a family of 30. I know that now).

Don’t have your own home with space for a garden? That might have been an impediment back in our day but not anymore. Community gardens are everywhere now, so you can till your own patch along with like-minded gardeners and bring home the bounty.

So no, we’re not taking the blame for this one. And that’s final.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


The Laws - July 2016

Some years ago, I suggested some "laws" I'd derived over the course of many years' experience. I further suggested they might be universal and they may still be.

They were not, however, viral, and I continue to labor in perpetual obscurity.

Which may not be entirely bad.

Anyway, this was the original list of Curmudgeon's Laws:

1. These laws will never be more popular or well known than Murphy's.

2. The farther away one gets from a problem, the easier the problem is to solve. (This is why, for example, bloggers and presidential candidates know exactly what to do about the budget, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, immigration,etc., etc., etc. and why presidents seem to have such a difficult time of it. This is also why I can solve every problem but those on my own plate.)

3. You can't do anything without doing three other things first.

4. By the time you've done the three other things, you will most likely forget what you set out to do in the first place. (This is why you often feel as if you've worked hard all day and have still done nothing.)

5. The piece of paper that you had in your hand five minutes ago and that you need right now will invariably be impossible to find.

I subsequently added to the list with these winners --

6. It costs more to be poor in America than it does to be rich.

7. Expenses do not follow when income falls. (Originally, I said that "Expenses do not fall easily when income drops," but this sounds more pithy and Poor Man's Almanac-esque.)

To this perhaps not-nearly-so-distinguished-list-as-I-imagine I add the following:

8. If you have a dentist's appointment tomorrow, someone will offer you popcorn today.

I don't have to tell you that this is an offer you must refuse, right? Dental hygienists are, for the most part, lovely people. But they work with sharp, pointed objects and they can, and probably will, make you pay in a million ways for your pre-appointment popcorn consumption.

And there's no insurance in the world that will cover it.

Curmudgeon is a self-described dinosaur -- an Ozzie and Harriet person living in an Ozzy and Sharon world. And sometimes it confuses the heck out of him. He writes a very amusing blog at Second Effort.


What Shortage? - June 2016

Haven’t they run out of baby boomers in the workplace yet? I keep reading articles about how thousands of boomers are leaving their jobs and there will be severe shortages of knowledgeable workers to carry on the business of business when those folks retire.

Only I’m not seeing it. Looks like plenty of gray hairs (eminence grisers as I like to call them) are still on the job, still standing in the way of GenXers and Millennials waiting to take their jobs. With the promise of 10,000 retirees per day, I thought we were going to see a dramatic denigration in the quality of worker output. Is it possible that worker output already sucks because everyone is shopping online for half the workday?

Admit it. If you’re a boomer, there’s a part of your psyche that wants to see the entire economy come screeching to a halt as the boomers take their leave. They need us, they really, really need us. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe we’ve done such a great job training our replacements that the transition to the next generation will proceed in a calm and orderly way.

One fly in the ointment. There are not enough replacements. Boomers are such a big cohort that only the milennials can match us for sheer numbers. Unless you think we can throw a twenty year-old into the breech to replace the sixty-five year-old worker, we’re all kind of screwed. And that means you too boomers. What kind of service do you think we’re going to get down at the doctor’s office, the motor vehicle department or the social security office if these places are all run by kids that just got out of college?

Stop shaking, it’s going to be okay. Everything will be computerized. We will just complete the forms on the website and then robots will process our request. If the robot screws up, you just complete the form again until the robot gets it right. Sure, it could take three or four tries before you get what you need, but we’ll have time. We’ll be retired and there won’t be any rush to get anything done or go anywhere.

Feel better? I know I do.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Spot Us - May 2016

I get that Millennials have surpassed baby boomer as the largest generational demographic but that doesn’t mean we’re going extinct. I saw a list the other day entitled Five Ways to Spot a Baby Boomer. It made me think that perhaps we’ve evolved into some kind of exotic pileated woodpecker.

The 5 ways you ask? #1 - We hand out business cards. That’s right, we’re so digitally disadvantaged that we still rely on dead tree editions. Is that so wrong? Sure, we could text the contact info or email it, but why not promote more human contact….shake my hand, take my card.

#2 - Boomers can read maps. OK, this is one where boomers best millennials who are so GPS-reliant that they will never find the buried treasure without that insane voice constantly telling them that it’s recalculating. And we know which direction is North by the moss on the trees, so there!

#3 - A Boomer carries a pen, maybe several. Dictation is wonderful (except when it insists you want a different word when you really don’t want that word), but sometimes you just want to write it down. Plus, it’s a scientific fact that writing out information is one of the best ways to commit it to memory. And if you’re having trouble remembering your own name…

#4 - Boomers think millennials are slackers. I’m not feeling this one at all. Because millennials want a good balance between work and leisure, that makes them slackers? I think they have the right idea. Boomers spent way too much time climbing the ladder only to arrive at the top feeling disappointed and maybe cheated out of time that could have been better used.

# 5 - Boomers think millennials are tech-savvy. Actually, I’m fairly certain they don’t know much more about the latest technology than I do. They just plan to be much earlier adopters than boomers. They are willing to run right off the cliff, crash, burn and respawn. Not having grown up with video games, boomers have little faith in respawning. We’re not installing that operating system upgrade until lots of millennials have vetted it for us. Clever, eh?

So boomers are not exactly exotic or going extinct, but we are a little more cautious about totally giving up on some old school tools that still work. I can live with that. In fact, I have been living just like that.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Deal With It - May 2016

I read an op-ed recently about how millennials should deal with baby boomers at work that was so patronizing that at first I thought it was meant to be humor.

Here are some phrases that stood out:

What are the best practices for handling their [baby boomers] Luddism and fragile egos?

And don't talk to boomers as if their methods (even the ancient ones) are stupid.

… don't mock their clueless questions.

Recognize that baby boomers have a lot of fear and anger about technology, and tread gently.

…baby boomers love to be heard and admired.

If you are tempted to roll your eyes, carefully fix your gaze on your computer until the feeling has passed.

Seriously? It’s that hard to work with baby boomers. Fragile egos? More fragile than a millennial’s?

This whole business of the generations coexisting in the workplace is getting tired. Young people have been working for and with older workers since forever. The only thing that’s really changed in the last 10 years or so is the large number of tech start-up businesses that were founded and run by twenty-somethings. Unlike generations past, we now have twenty-five year-olds in charge of large corporate entities and they tend to hire employees who are the same age or younger. The products are cutting edge apps for social media or entirely new software products. Once these businesses are up and running, there is often a need for more experienced or seasoned employees to handle certain aspects of the business (e.g. financial, distribution, marketing). Enter the boomers.

To be fair, the author of the op-ed was addressing how millennials in more conventional workplaces with boomer dominated cultures should make an effort to get along with their overlords. But as already noted, this is not a new “problem” that requires advanced training in socialization. Sons and daughters have been working for mothers and fathers without internecine warfare for quite some time now. It has not always been friction free, but on balance, it has managed to sort itself out with few casualties. Soon millennials will be in charge and the next generation will be writing op-eds on how to manage the fogies.

And so it goes.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Keep Boomers on the Job - April 2016

Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Yep, that’s us. At least those of us who are still Boy Scouts. But is this any reason to keep us on the job?

It doesn’t hurt to have a bunch of merit badges, but there are some other more compelling reasons for employers to hang on to their baby boomers as long as they can.

Let’s take the most obvious reasons first. Boomers have experience. We’ve been working at some of these jobs for 30 to 40 years. Not trying to be mean here, but the 21 year-old new hire does not have a clue about how to do the job a boomer can do.

Next, we’ve got leadership skills. We’ve worked our way up the ladder because we know how to direct and motivate people. We may not have been natural leaders but we learned how to grow into that role and make it our own.

Perspective? Check. We’ve seen a lot of change, ideas that came and went. It’s not that we’re going to stand in your way, but we can tell you what happened when we tried a new idea and it didn’t work. We’re open to new possibilities without going all in for the first idea that someone has proposed.

How about credibility? A boomer with 30 years or more of experience can talk to clients or customers with the kind of gravitas that younger employees only wish they had. A little gray hair can command respect as well as give off confidence.

Then there’s the fact that boomers have some serious interpersonal skills. We’re talking person to person, not text to text or email to email. Getting face to face to resolve a conflict, negotiate an agreement or persuade someone to try something new….boomers have had lots of time to perfect those skills in real time with real people.

Lastly, but almost more important than any other quality, boomers are adaptable. We may not know what social media platform is going red hot at the moment --- Snapchat, Vine, Instagram, whatever --- we have managed to learn about loads of apps and technologies just to keep up. So while you may not see us as early adopters we are definitely constant adapters.

All that and we can light a fire with 2 pieces of wood.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.



Get On the Bus Gus - March 2016

Uber may be giving the taxi biz a run for its money, but seriously, how often can you call Uber when you need a ride? The cost of that door-to-door service can add up fast.

Maybe that’s why public transit companies are betting that aging boomers are going to be their next best friends. Take LA for example (I know, the cute answer to that one is, “no, you take LA”). They expect to see a huge increase in ridership by boomers. Right now, only 6 percent of its riders are over 65, even though seniors make up 12 percent of the county’s population.

Will it take longer to get where you want to go? Yes. Is that still a viable option when you no longer can or want to drive your own car? Yes.

And they really are aiming to please. They have more elevators in their stations, more priority seating on the buses, and offer training to seniors on how to use the system. There’s even a book with detailed directions for how to go on 24 sightseeing adventures using only public transit.

So if you’re still driving now and will be for the foreseeable future, do you really think that when the time comes, you’ll take the bus? I have to think about that. But when I think about it long enough, my answer is yes. Paying a car service every time is going to rack up quite a bill and if the bus is filled with other aging boomers who can no longer drive, how bad can it be? Okay, it won’t be like Ken Kesey’s Magic Bus (or if we are all vaping the ganja, maybe it will), but if you can get to the grocery, the doctor or the movie theater for a low relative cost, that may not be so bad. Listening to the guy who talks to himself for the entire ride might be enlightening, if not entertaining.

You’ve got plenty of time to think this through, but when the time does come, you might as well hop on the bus Gus.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.



Rebranding - March 2016

The latest trend in the senior center biz is an effort to rebrand these centers so that they will be more attractive to aging boomers. First thing to go? The word “senior.” Boomers are avoiding anything with that name attached to it except when it comes to grabbing discounts at restaurants and movie theaters.

What else is in store for these hubs formerly known as “senior centers?” How about bistro-style cafes, Zumba classes, cooking classes, power yoga and fitness programs. These activities lead the list of add-ons meant to appeal to boomers.

Is it working? Sort of. More boomers are checking out the offerings but the over 70 crowd that makes up the bulk of users isn’t so happy about the changes. They’ve been called seniors for a long time and really don’t have a problem with that label. In fact, they are often proud to be considered “senior citizens.” And they like being driven in vans to movies and plays, playing cards and other social activity mainstays.

When name changes for the centers are proposed in some instances, the current “senior” population revolts and fights to keep the word “senior” in the name. Some of those 80-year olds can get kind of testy when they’re feeling oppressed. Calling boomers the Silver Tsunami and using the Latin word for silver (argentum) doesn’t sit well with the older patrons who resent being pushed to perimeter to make room for the crop of boomers these centers hope to attract.

While I can appreciate that senior centers and assisted living facilities want to lure us boomers in, they might end up between a rock and a hard place. Seventy-somethings have much different priorities than eighty-somethings. Maybe senior centers just need to remain senior centers and boomers get their own satellite Starbucks-like meeting places where they can hang with their tablets, smart phones and gadgets while they ponder whether or not they want to join a Zumba class going on in the back room or take a cooking class.

And then again, maybe we can just starting calling them Friction Centers.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


DIY Is Going DIFM - Feb 2016

The big-box retailers who counted on baby boomers to do it themselves are seeing a change among their boomer customers. There might have been a time when boomers relished the thought of doing their own bathroom make-over or kitchen cabinet refinishing. We were all over that backsplash replacement and ceiling fan installation. Firepit for the backyard? Sure. Building our own deck? Why not?

Boomers still make up the largest percentage of customers at Home Depot and Lowes, and with millennials still struggling to buy their own homes, that demographic profile is unlikely to change soon. What is changing is the boomer population’s lack of motivation to continue taking on these DIY tasks. We’ve got better things to do, places to go, people to see. Enter DIFM --- Do-It-For-Me.

Look for this trend to manifest itself in many retail categories. Boomers may want someone to buy their clothing, collect their groceries and pick out their office supplies. We sure as hell are going to need someone to set up our home theater and our content streaming devices because those gadgets are heading way north of our comprehension at this point. Same goes for our smart phones and tablets (visit a Verizon Wireless store and count the number of helpless boomers who are stuck there for hours trying to figure out how to get their email).

With internet-based industries offering grocery delivery and car services, there is less and less need for baby boomers to lift a finger – except maybe to dictate a request to their smart phone. Drone deliveries are sure to be in our near future, which could mean that everything from a 3-ring notebook to a pizza can be in the front yard in less than 30 minutes.

When I think about it, this propensity to allow others to make our purchases and installations for us will mesh perfectly for the day when we need assisted living arrangements. Once you get used to concierge shopping and home repairs, it’s not much of a leap to someone bathing you and preparing your meals.

Maybe we’re rushing this DIFM thing.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


TGIF? Maybe Long Ago - Jan 2016

Actually, I used to love Fridays, just like we're supposed to.

The week was over, the weekend was nigh... the Eagle flies on Friday, right? Flush with cash, we could head to our favorite gin mill and commune with our fellows, try possibly to meet a few persons who were not fellows, preferably of the friendly variety, and not worry about having to answer the alarm clock in the morning.

Friday was pinball night, if nothing else. Listening to live music....

In law school I used to get up to Rogers Park in the mid-afternoon, around the time Ron the Bartender (I loved the man, but never did learn his last name) was opening up his place. I could down a couple of scotches at a leisurely pace while others in my group drifted in. We'd eventually fire up the jukebox. Ron would go out to get his dinner and I'd cover the bar in his absence. No, I was never employed there.

Those were the days.

Today, I'd probably be shot.

When I got out of school, Fridays quickly became just another damn day.

Mandatory Saturdays immediately took the happy glow off Friday nights. But my bosses at my first firm were insistent on it. Not that they came in themselves, of course. Not often. They had lives. But they might come in. And we'd better be there, in good functioning order, if they did. So there I was, working, or pretending to....

Marriage and children put the final nail in the coffin of Friday night nightclubbing. We might visit other couples similarly situated... that was a substitute for our former whoop-dee-doo for awhile... but we soon found that visits worked better on Saturdays than Fridays, because on Fridays we were all tired.

We didn't know the half of it.

Now, Long Suffering Spouse and I stagger to the finish on Fridays. We have pizza. We fall asleep.

No clients ever call on Friday because they like what you're doing and want to thank you for your efforts. No, they call because they're mad about something, or they've just received something in the mail -- emergency motions emerge like toxic spills late on Friday afternoons. If there is to be a crisis in the office during the week, it will almost surely erupt on Friday.

I've got three crises brewing already this morning. I'm going to try and work efficiently and head home in the mid-afternoon.

No, I don't really think it will work either. But, what the heck? I'll give it a shot.

Curmudgeon is a self-described dinosaur -- an Ozzie and Harriet person living in an Ozzy and Sharon world. And sometimes it confuses the heck out of him. He writes a very amusing blog at Second Effort.


Coincidence - Jan 2016

Lois and I were excited. Our first exchange student was about to step off the plane in Jackson, Mississippi. One of our sons, Eddie, had lived with her family in Meppen, Germany, during his senior high school year, and this was our show of gratitude for their hospitality.

She was everything we expected from the photos we had seen, and more. She was definitely Nordic: tall for her age, with short, very blond hair, piercing blue eyes, and a confident smile. We loved her instantly.

We quickly learned more about this bundle of personality. Her English was perfect, but she was eager to learn new words and phrases. She loved rock music. She wore loose-fitting, stylish clothes. She liked to try our Southern foods, especially catfish, turnip greens, peas, and cornbread. She drank orange juice with every meal. Her room was always in perfect order. She was a good student at St. Joseph High, where she went each day with our youngest son Jason. She made friends quickly, was a good student, and was active in her gym class.

Five months after Indy's arrival, her dad Helmut Pante called and told us that he and Indy's older sister Marin would like to come to Mississippi for a two-week visit. This was unexpected but very welcome news. So in early February, Lois and Indy and I left Jackson for New Orleans to meet their plane. We spent the night on the way with friends in Laurel, MS, where I had practiced pediatrics for 8 years, and talked late into the night.

Lois and I left late the next afternoon for the airport. Indy decided against the trip. She said that she felt a little queasy. When we returned with Helmut and Marin at about midnight, the three Pantes hugged each other. Helmut called home to tell his wife Irmhilde that the trip had gone well and that Indy looked healthy and happy. We all went to bed.

At about 7 the next morning, Helmut came downstairs where I was reading, and said "Clinton, Indy has a bad stomach ache. You need to come up and look at her." I briefly...all too briefly...put my hand on her abdomen that felt as hard as a watermelon. Pain in her eyes. Not good. Something bad going on. Maybe she has pancreatitis. Maybe a ruptured colon.

I got Indy and her father into my car and headed for the hospital emergency room. Shortly afterwards, Bill Green, my OB-GYN friend entered and looked at Indy from across the room. "About 38 weeks?" he asked with an all-knowing grin. I said "No, Bill. She's been in our house for 5 months, and she's not pregnant." Bill looked more closely, frowned, and said, "That may be. But right now her baby's head in showing, and we have about 4 minutes to get to the delivery room."

And exactly four minutes later, little Sammy came into the world weighing 8.5 pounds.

I left the delivery room to give the good news to Helmut. He said, "Thank God. From the look on your face before I thought Indy was going to die. I need to call Irmhilde."

"Irmhilde", he bravely spoke. "I need to update you on Indy. You and I are now grandparents."

Irmhilde called her friends and threw a beer party to celebrate. I asked Helmut if he wanted anything to drink. "Yes, I would like a scotch and vodka." Marin said "Indy has always been full of surprises." My reaction: this child had no prenatal care. Jason thought the whole thing was "just embarrassing." Eddie, in college in Chapel Hill, NC got the news by telephone, said he couldn't deal with it, and would call back. He did not.

Who dunnit? The suspects were lined up. My dearly beloved nurse friends in the ER, with whom I had labored for 8 years, all thought that Sammy was Dr. Smith's love child. Without thinking, my chief suspect was son Jason. He and Indy rode to and from school together every day on their own schedule. After thinking, this was very unlikely, since Sammy weighed 8.5 pounds, and his mother had only arrived in Mississippi 5 months earlier. Eddie had not seen Indy in over a year.

After Indy and her father had a long, private talk, the culprit was determined to be Wolfgang, her boyfriend in Germany. Indy was 3 months pregnant when she came to Mississippi. No one would have known, as she progressed, from looking at her. Even Helmut and Marin did not know when they embraced her earlier 8 hours before delivery. Indy has always denied afterwards that she knew she was pregnant. She did drink a lot of orange juice. Maybe that should have been the tipoff. If only it had been pickle juice. I think she had a bad case of denial.

The Smith and the Pante families spent several hours convincing each other that neither knew about the pregnancy. How else could the Smiths explain the impromptu visit from her family? How could the Pantes believe that Indy lived in a pediatrician's house whose wife had been pregnant five times, yet neither knew. Was it Providence or was it serendipity that her father and sister arrived in the United States from Germany, 5000 miles distant, 8 hours before little Sammy was born? It was odd. Very odd.

Clinton Smith is a recently-retired Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. He and his wife, Lois, have seven children: his, hers, and theirs.


My Mother  – My Coach - Jan 2016

When I was ten I had a batting slump. No matter how hard I tried I was not able to hit a rubber Spalding ball with a wooden stickball bat. I became an easy out for the pitcher and as a result I was the last person chosen to be on a team in the street pick-up games that my friends and I looked forward to after school each day.

Stickball was the most important part of my life at that time, and my poor performance made me miserable. I couldn’t concentrate on my schoolwork, I couldn’t enjoy TV, I couldn’t eat. I thought myself a totally worthless human being.

One day, as I lay sobbing on my bed thinking about my failed athletic prowess, my mother walked through the door and asked, “What’s the matter?” I could barely get the words out through my tears. “I’m in a batting slump. No one wants me on their side. I wish I was dead.”

She gave me a “mother will make it all better” look and then she said, “Everyone has slumps. Your father is sometimes not very effective at the office. I have weeks when it’s tough for me to accomplish what I want to do. Even God isn’t perfect. The trick is to keep on going and not get down on yourself.”

Her supportive words boosted my sagging spirits but her offer to pitch sock balls to me across the living room floor saved my life. For one week, in the late afternoon before my father came home from work, my mother threw rolled up balls of socks to me in the living room, which I tried to hit with my stickball bat. To my surprise, I was able to smash those sock balls with complete authority. Lamps fell, the aerial was knocked off the TV, and knick-knacks went flying every which way, as my batted sock balls found their marks. My self-confidence soared. By the following the week I was once again slamming two-sewer blasts.

Some adults have fond memories of the toys their parents gave them or the trips they took them on. I barely remember those things. My fondest childhood memory is my 5’2” mother, who knew next to nothing about sports, pitching easy to hit sock balls and encouraging words to a distraught, stressed-out kid in a cramped, pre-war Brooklyn apartment building.

Martin H. Levinson brings over 40 years of experience in general semantics, counseling, administration, and education, to his teaching, writing, and international consulting work. He is president of the Institute of General Semantics, so he says what he means.


Drive - Dec 2015

It may seem like a long way off, but have you thought about the day when you won’t be able to drive your own car anymore? A lot of boomers are already avoiding night driving because of the discomfort they feel about fading vision and headlight glare. Most of us have read about children taking away granddad’s car keys after he’s gotten into 4 or 5 minor accidents, and we think, that poor bastard hates not being able to drive anywhere whenever he wants to -- bummer!

Now put yourself in the poor bastard’s place. Someone (a relative, the motor vehicle department, etc.) tells you that it’s no longer safe for you to be behind the wheel. You’ve been driving since you were 16 or 17 years old.…maybe 50 plus years. The sense that you’ve lost all mobility (the 4-wheeled kind) must be a royal freak out. Sure, you can get friends, family, neighbors and car services to take you where you need/want to go. But it’s not the same as sliding behind the wheel and flooring it down the highway.

Here’s a comforting thought. Fatal crash rates are higher for older drivers. Mostly because they don’t heal as well as younger drivers. The older drivers that do give up the keys voluntarily are afraid to get in a car with a driver who’s over 75 or 80, and who can blame them. You might as well get in a car with a teenager who’s texting the whole time. For those who do give up their keys voluntarily, they are twice as likely to suffer from depression as a result. Can’t we catch a break!

It’s ironic that many boomers are looking forward to retirement as a time to travel and enjoy life, but if that includes driving a massive RV off the side of a mountain on a moonless night, maybe staying on the job and taking the bus is a better option.

Perhaps driverless cars will advance to the point where older drivers can depend on them to go where they want, when they want. We can hobble out to the garage, get a teenaged neighbor to figure out how to program the GPS controller (or tell Siri) and boogie down to Walmart at midnight. Then we get in one of those motorized shopping carts and cruise the aisles all night long. Even if we buy nothing and go home, it will be a great evening of independent living.

I may be ready now.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Stop Dancing-By-Numbers - Nov 2015

These days I’m all about extolling the benefits of aging rather than pissing and moaning about its drawbacks. I mean, why bother? Whining doesn’t change anything and we can’t fight the inevitable, can we? Why throw away what time we have left by focusing on the negatives about anything? Everything in life has its good and bad points. We all grow older if we’re lucky and, as I always say, it’s better than the alternative. But I wasn’t always this forgiving of life’s natural process. Back when I was in the midst of my personal midlife crisis, I faced each birthday with as much screaming and crying as I did the doctor’s syringe when I was a kid.

One of the things I really like about our younger generation these days is that, despite their own issues about getting older, they don’t age discriminate socially. At least not the young people I’ve met. When I was in my twenties I liked older people, but a lot of my counterparts didn’t. “Don’t trust anyone over 30!” and all that crap. But I still didn’t socialize with older people. These days, many of my friends are much younger than I am, just starting out, building careers and having babies, but when we’re together I sense no demarcation line between us in either their attitudes, their speech, or their actions based on age. I’m treated as if I’m one of them. And I am, actually.

What have numbers got to do with anything, really? It’s our experiences that set us apart, not how many times we’ve orbited the sun. Say what you will, but it has been my experience that today’s youth are much more gracious than we were when it comes to this. Generation Gap? I’ve never run into that with my younger friends. If anything, I’m the one that’s hung up about the years that lie between us. I find myself thinking things like, “Oh, they don’t want an old fart like me at their party,” but in every single instance that I’ve told this voice to shut-up and have gone to a party, a restaurant, or a bar to be with these friends I’ve had a great time. And I get to feel 26 again, but without the mating dance. These days, that spells a fun, relaxing evening. They don’t pull the age card on me and I don’t pull it on them. And this, I believe, is the secret of eternal youth: don’t go through life being numbers obsessed. Drop that BS and just get on with living! What we focus on is what we get; I’ll take that kind of attraction any day.

Steph Waller is an author and composer. Books One and Two (With A Dream and With A Bullet) of her rock and roll series, Beyond The Bridge,  takes places in late 70s London. Read more at Bucksnort Chronicles and


Reinventioners? - Oct 2015

Ha! Boomers are supposed to be reinvention experts. Why? Because instead of riding off into the golden years sunset, we continue to work, start new business ventures or change careers. Somehow that makes us experts?

Not buying it. Just like millennials who are struggling to deal with the cards they’ve been dealt, baby boomers too are adjusting to the reality of their situation. If the company you work for wants you to retire but you still need the income, you become a teacher. Or start that business you always dreamed of owning. Or drive a school bus. Or become a big box store greeter.

Boomers are not so much reinventing themselves as they are recalibrating their expectations of what the aging experience is going to be for them. The percentage of people 55 and older in the workforce back in 1993 was 29%. Fast forward to 2013 and that number has jumped to more than 40%. Sure, the big wave of the oldest boomers has a lot to do with that increase, but changing attitudes towards retirement may be an even bigger factor.

The whole gold watch send-off seems so anachronistic now, and it might have something to do with the changing attitudes toward work itself. The parents of baby boomers may have felt like they were marking time until the day that they could quit and hit the shuffleboard courts. Work wasn’t their passion as much as it was a means to an end. I’m generalizing (as always), but most boomers enjoyed their careers and liked the idea that they were really good at it or that they made a valuable contribution. You don’t just shut that off one day and hang up your toolbelt.

I like to think that what boomers are going to do in the years ahead is redefine rather reinvent. And that makes sense when you think about it, because baby boomers have been redefining things since the day we came into the world. Education, music, art, communication, politics, you name it --- there is no field or endeavor that has not felt the effect of the baby boomer revolution. We were – we are – products of our time. The prosperous years after WWII afforded us the opportunity to make a unique mark on society, so it should be no surprise that we continue to exhibit that behavior. Just don’t make us out to be reinvention experts. We’re just reacting to the times the same way we always have.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.



Elder Orphans? - Sept 2015

Circle the wagons pioneers, elder orphans are coming!

Is this now a thing? Baby boomers who are childless and unmarried are going to become “elder orphans” who have no one to care for them in old age. The fact that we’re living longer and have fragmented families puts us at risk of being all alone in our not so golden years…orphaned.

The case of the 81-year-old cancer patient who called 911 because he needed someone to buy him food has put a lot of folks on notice that this elder orphan thing is real. As more boomers fall into this demographic, it’s not just a matter of struggling with isolation and depression. It’s going to put a strain on the health care system. Who will make decisions for these orphans when no family member or caregiver is available? When health issues turn into crises, the elder orphans end up in the emergency room, which we all know is not the ideal way to receive healthcare. Ideally, these elder orphans would have some sort of healthcare plan that would prevent the health crisis in the first place.

According to the latest census, one-third of Americans currently between the ages of 45 to 63 are single. That represents a 50 per cent increase from 1980. Lots of them may have children who will look out for their care, but a large number of them may have no clue to their vulnerability (or just don’t want to think about it).

So what should you do to prevent becoming an elder orphan? Number one, get yourself an advanced directive so it’s clear how you want to be treated. Number two, find and designate an advocate who will make decisions if you are unable to. Number three, and the not so easiest part, create a strategy. A distant relative, a younger friend, or someone you trust needs to know what your plan is.

And one more thing. Start living for today because tomorrow may not be nearly as much fun.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Urban Boomers - August 2015

The numbers tell the story. Baby boomers are moving to the big city for the good life. Well, maybe not the bigger cities, but cities nonetheless. According to research from Zipcar, millennials may be the dominant force in urban centers, but boomers aged 50-69 are closing fast.

Why so many boomers in the city? They’re empty-nesters for sure, or they are downsizing, but many are just motivated by the desire to have more fun and activities in their lives, so the city is the place to be. 90% say they are looking for more cultural experiences, outdoor activities, as well as access to restaurants, shopping and fitness facilities. Only 32% are retired, so they must be loving the shorter commute times. And no big surprise, 57% are single.

And the move seems to be working. 55% of urban boomers say that their life is more carefree and exciting. 61% say they feel closer to their significant other. 69% say that they use mobile apps to make their lives easier. And this stat either scares you or comforts you --- 81% of urban boomers use Facebook.

They are taking clasess (22%), starting new hobbies (23%), attending local events/gatherings (42%), and volunteering in their community (22%).

I’m starting to see a trend here. Millennials finally start to assume the jobs of retiring or scaling-back boomers. Then they finally can afford to get married and buy homes---- like those being sold by boomers who are ready to move to the city. It’s like a giant migratory transfer---boomers move out, millennials move in. Maybe in time they can all just do housing swaps. You take my loft condo and I’ll take the rancher in the burbs. In no time at all, it will be millennials making the trip to the city to visit their parents.

If this whole cycle sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Many of us started off our careers living in the city because that’s where the action was. Some of us renovated houses, worked different jobs, dined at all the trendy restaurants, hung out at the cool bars, and shopped at the hippest stores until it was time for us to grow into the next phase of our lives. Now, like salmon swimming back to their spawning grounds, here we are again.

Good to be back home.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.



Dear Guilt, I Quit! - July 2015

Maybe I’ve finally reached an age where I just can’t be bothered by shit anymore. Maybe I’ve finally reached that magical place where the opinions of people—even my own inner bitch—just don’t matter to me. And believe me, I tell my inner voice to shut up all the time, although I never say that to people. With them, I just tune it out until I can walk away. See that vacuous little half-smile? That’s me thinking, “I really don’t care and I wish you’d shut up.”

I didn’t use to be like this. I’d grown accustomed to the voices of guilt haranguing me about nearly everything I did. All those little nagging accusations: you can’t, you should, you shouldn’t, you must, you mustn’t, etc.,etc. My biggest beef (pun intended) is the whole food obsession that plagues the country. Don’t eat meat, don’t eat gluten, don’t eat sugar, don’t drink, don’t, don’t, don’t. I’m over it! I quit! Look. I know I’ll never have the 105-pound figure I had until I was about 37. That’s not even reasonable and what’s more, it would be damned unhealthy at my age. Sure, I’ve gained a little weight, but it stabilized  years ago. I eat healthily enough, but I don’t obsess.

Personally, I’m just sick and tired of all the labels. I don’t want to label myself by what I believe, eat, wear, drive, listen to, or who I love. I’m a human and I eat food, not nutrients. I like food, my diet is balanced, I’m not gaining weight, so leave me the hell alone. Go eat your tofurkey and have a happy life. Why is what I eat any of your business, anyway? I’m tired of food being a religion with all its sects and denominations, and the ensuing arguments and pontifications that always arise. If I want ribs, that’s my business and if I want that teaspoon of sugar in my coffee every morning, that’s my business as well.

The real issue is balance, of course. We’re surrounded by extremes and extremists on all sides. How about a little common sense? It’s a hell of a lot easier than reading every freaking label on every single item in the supermarket. No one gets out alive anyway, and life is meant to be enjoyed. Unfortunately, we live in a society where enjoyment is now defined by how exciting something is, how loud it can be, how big we can make it, and by how much adrenaline can be released. I’m too old for that shite. For me, enjoyment is about the gentle pleasing of each of the senses and the company of like-minded friends and family. So you and your selfie chums go make duck lips, strike the chicken arm pose, strive for the thigh gap and the 6-pack abs, and go deaf in your boom cars, from movie explosions and from concert PA systems. My friends and I shall be sitting here enjoying wine and these yummy bacon-wrapped shrimp.

Steph Waller is an author and composer. Books One and Two (With A Dream and With A Bullet) of her rock and roll series, Beyond The Bridge,  takes places in late 70s London. Read more at Bucksnort Chronicles and


Numbers Game - July 2015

So here’s a statistic that won’t surprise you. According to an AARP study, baby boomers account for half of all consumer spending. Right. We’re buying cars, boats, houses, everything that isn’t nailed down. Now put that together with the other half of the picture…only 10% of total marketing dollars are directed at us.

What? Huh? How’s that? If you’re saying to yourself that doesn’t make any sense, join the club. Researchers, pollsters and consultants have pointed out the obvious imbalance, but advertisers have not seen the light. Boomers are the biggest consumers but advertisers virtually ignore us in order to capture younger consumers because they still believe some old BS theory that if you get them when they’re young, you will have them as customers for life. We’re talking about millennials who switch social media platforms faster than a speeding bullet and advertisers think they can hold on to this demo? That’s totally cray (or cray-cray if you really want to sound current).

We control about 70% of the nation’s disposable income, but like Rodney Dangerfield, we can’t get any respect. The only ads directed at us are for reverse mortgages (talk about cray!), denture cleaners, and incontinence products. Did I forget hearing aids? Is loss of memory one of the side effects? Many (notice I didn’t imply all) boomers have ample savings, homes with a ton of equity and are not living from paycheck to paycheck, so we have some amazing discretionary spending power.

You would think that advertisers would see this equation for what it is and come at us with all they’ve got. But no, they still chase the elusive butterflies (i.e. millennials). What’s a boomer to do? Keep spending my friend. Want to finally buy that luxury car? Do it. Want to take that long awaited trip to New Zealand? Book it. Worried that you don’t have enough savings for retirement? Spend it. Want to try that fancy new restaurant? Eat it. Want to tell those advertisers who ignore us what they can do? Suck it.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Baby Talk - June 2015

I recently visited my daughter and I realized on these outings that people are prone to making inappropriate comments to babies they have never met and/or the adults who are with them. Since I am 65, I was somewhat dismayed to discover that frequently these well meaning  (I’m trying so hard to give them the benefit of the doubt here), strangers are often my contemporaries. These encounters were a revelation to me. Because two of the things I most like in the world are venting about inappropriate behavior and offering free advice, I have taken it upon myself to compile a handy list for my contemporaries to tuck into a wallet next to their AARP card for easy access.

The Top Five Things a Stranger Should Not Say to the Mother of an Eight Month Boy When Meeting for the First Time in a Public Place

1. Day Brightener #1~Elderly lady, clearly bitter, to baby’s mother: “Aaaahhhh…a beautiful baby! But enjoy him now; he will grow up, get married, and he’ll never pay attention to you again. He will only want to be with his wife!” You have now not only fulfilled the mother’s worst neurotic fear, you have also managed to ruin what was previously a pleasant outing at Ikea.

2. Day Brightener #2 (variation on #1)~Elderly, kindly looking gentleman: “Your boy is very cute, but I really like girls better. A boy will grow up and won’t pay any attention to you. A girl will take care of you when you get sick.” And once again, the baby’s mother is sent into a blue funk, picturing unreturned calls when her son grows up, marries, and moves out of her life….forever!

3. Creepy elderly man (see above), not satisfied with lobbing only one depressing comment, has circled the thrift shop to swoop in for another too familiar encounter with the baby. This time, in a move that is clearly inappropriate and ill advised, he offers the baby not one, but two pieces of wrapped hard candy. While he seems to understand that my grandson can’t actually eat the treats yet (lack of  teeth and the fact that the candy is, you know, from a stranger tend to put the kibosh on such a gift), he nonetheless gives it to him.

4. Grandmotherly type, looking at what is clearly a small birthmark: “Oooh!!! What happened?! Did you get a boo boo, pretty  girl?!” No, no he did not….

5. We have finally made it to the check out line; perhaps we can exit without any further baby comments and/or advice. Nope.This time, a 65 year old woman is the culprit. I know she is 65 because she has asked me to guess her age. This, after muscling her way into the long line and ending up directly behind us. Before I can guess, she has announced her age and modestly asked, “Don’t I look good?! I take care of myself, and inherited good genes.” Thank you so much for sharing. As the line crawls forward, she announces that she wants to carry “that sweet baby” everywhere. It is at this point that my daughter makes  a hasty retreat, muttering a few choice words under her breath. I stare straight ahead, make my $5.75 purchase, and join the family outside the store, clutching the baby and tossing the candy as we head for the car.

There you have it; just a few choice examples for people of any age (but mostly my generation) of what not to say, should they encounter a baby in the course of their daily errands. You don’t have to thank me; but I will have to insist that from now on you stay the heck away from my grandson.

Barbara Tulli is an elementary school librarian in Virginia. She is crossing days off her Beatles calendar until her retirement, when she hopes to devote more time to writing, reading, traveling, and sleeping past 5:15 AM each morning. Read lots more at her blog -- Just Beyond the Tracks.


Social Media Won't Save Us But the Longevity Economy Might - May 2015

If you thought tech start-ups have nothing to do with your life or your future, think again. Silicon Valley just might be making the lives of aging baby boomers a whole lot more comfortable (or bearable) than we thought.

There’s gold in them thar hills. Only the hills is us, and it’s beginning to look like some very smart entrepreneurs are recognizing that the silver tsunami could mean gold for them, and greater comfort for us. Health and wellness technology is creating what’s been coined as the “longevity economy” and we should probably jump on the train as investors as well as beneficiaries.

Silver Tech is another name for it, but whatever you call it, competition and profit are going to drive tech companies to make products that allow us to live longer in our own homes and independently. From wearable fitness devices to treadmill desks, new products are coming on line every day. Then there’s the video link-ups that let you talk to a real doctor from your computer (without putting on one of those funny gowns!). Or the geolocation devices that will help find dementia patients. There’s even an airbag device that can be worn around the waist and it deploys when the wearer falls over, preventing the dreaded broken hip accident that often becomes the beginning of the end for elderly patients.

There’s a treadmill desk for those of us still working (although I have visions of becoming distracted by an incoming email and then thrown against the wall) and a raft of new health apps to put on your smart phone and/or strap to your wrist. These gadgets will monitor our heart rate, measure our steps, time our workouts, even tell us when we fell asleep. It’s not too hard to imagine a time when it will tell us when to eat, what to eat, and when to poop. That last alert could be really helpful when dementia sets in.

Perhaps the most telling sentiment about aging among babyboomers is not the fear of death itself, but the fear of having a crummy, dehumanizing assisted living experience. When you’re dead and gone, you’re….well…dead and gone. But to exist as just one more helpless geezer, that’s what all of hope to avoid. If high-tech tools and gadgets will prevent that end, sign me up.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


The Road to China - May 2015

Middle Son is getting married at the end of May. (Thank you.)

Middle son and his fiancee, were at Macy's filling out their greed list. Middle Son called from the store in the course of his ordeal.

"I see what you meant when you said I'd want to shoot myself in the face rather than do this," Middle Son began. Actually, I think I said I would gnaw off my right arm in order to get out of such an adventure -- a sentiment which did not endear me to Long Suffering Spouse at the time I voiced it, but there you are.

I was wondering -- why would anybody need fine china?"

I used to work in the local jewelry store, back in Boondockia, over 40 years ago now -- and, among my duties was delivering china and crystal and flatware and the occasional sterling silver tea service to local brides. I even picked up four place settings of a beautiful, but discontinued, Hutschenreuther china pattern for my own 'hope chest' during the jewelry store's sidewalk sale in my senior year of high school. My grandmother helped find four more place settings and the survivors sit, right at this very moment, in my dining room gathering dust.

I pointed out that a wedding is the last time you can ever expect anyone to buy fancy stuff like this, stuff you will have forever, stuff you could never justify buying for yourself. I told him how, in my day, buying a place setting of someone's china as a wedding gift was a really good present, covering one's plate and then some at the reception. I went on in this vein, but Middle Son kept coming back to his original question... why would anyone need this stuff?

Well, I said, you might pull it out if you invite the boss and his wife over for a fancy dinner, or when you have a real, grown-up party with your close friends, or --

Middle Son cut me off. "You've never done any of those things."

"Well, no. But I could have." If the occasion ever arose.

Which it never has.

"Yes," said Middle Son, "but why would I want all that stuff I'll never use?"

And... slowly... I think slower and slower these days, I suppose... it began to dawn on me that the boy was right: The world has become an informal place. Sixteen-ounce red cups have replaced crystal goblets, paper plates have replaced china (on state occasions, perhaps, Chinet might be used).

I don't know if that's a net gain or a net loss for the world. I miss the thought that, occasionally, even middle class people could aspire to a little glamor.

But no one, I think, misses the obligation of polishing the silver.

Curmudgeon is a self-described dinosaur -- an Ozzie and Harriet person living in an Ozzy and Sharon world. And sometimes it confuses the heck out of him. He writes a very amusing blog at Second Effort.


How stupid do they think we are? - March 2015

I have been seeing commercials lately for a hair rejuvenation product. It’s targeted to women with thinning hair. After some of the usual mumbo jumbo about the efficacy of this miracle product, viewers are directed to call now – but only if your last name begins with A-N. If your last name begins with O-Z, you are directed to call after 9am tomorrow morning. Really? I mean really?

How stupid do they think we are? Demand for this product is so heavy, they have to cut the number of callers in half (that’s presuming there are half as many thin-haired women whose last name begins with A-N….or forget it, this is ridiculous). So let’s say your last name is Stupidovitz and you decide you can’t wait until tomorrow…you’re calling RIGHT NOW! Operators are standing by to take your call. Oh, sorry, your name begins with S. You’ll have to call after 9am tomorrow. But you have to order now. Can’t you make an exception? Okay, but don’t ever tell anyone that I let you order tonight instead of waiting until tomorrow. I could lose my fantastic job over this. Will that be MasterCard, Visa or American Express?

Do the makers or marketers of this product know something that we don’t? For example, is it possible that women with thinning hair are also beginning to experience thinning critical judgment? The hair loss is also a factor in brain cell loss?

I used to think that infomercials must have an ever shrinking audience of gullible buyers, but I now believe that commercials for products such as Keranique must be successful. Why else would they continue to buy airtime to hawk their product. Someone is buying it (either that very night or the next day after 9am). This apparent widespread gullibility may explain a lot of other aberrations of logic (take a look at voter referendums in this country if you want see the power of twisted persuasion).

And speaking of twisted and gullibility, don’t even get me started on Henry Winkler (The Fonz) peddling reverse mortgages.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.



Hey, Bungalow Bill - March 2015

I read somewhere that bungalows have fast become the “it” house for baby boomers who want to downsize and live on one level. You lose the stairs but still get a backyard and some green space. Makes sense. Who wants to climb stairs as you get older, or trip and break your hip…since we all know what that means…the end.

So the word comes from the Hindi word “bangla” which means belonging to Bengal. Maybe it was a one-story house for tigers? My dictionary defines it as a “low house, with a broad front porch, having either no upper floor or upper rooms set in the roof, typically with dormer windows.” There’s even a California bungalow that owes its name to its popularity in the Golden State, particularly after World War II. The Craftsman movement in this country often featured bungalow style homes, and they have been much sought after by renovators and house flippers.

So it seems everything has come full circle --- again. Baby boomers may have grown up in bungalow homes, only to move out into the world of cape cods, colonials, ranchers, tudors, mid-century moderns, split-levels, log cabins, A-frames, mediterraneans, McMansions, townhouses, and condos.

I would say that we’re taking a step up, but there will be no steps. The ideal home for us will be one level with nothing to trip us up. The bathroom will have all those handle thingies (okay, grab bars if you prefer) to keep us from falling on the radiant-heated floor. There will be no high cabinets in the kitchen. There will be automatic lights that come on when we enter a room and go off when we leave it. Lever-type handles will replace knobs on all our doors, and faucets as well. Slip-resistant flooring material will be used throughout the house – no more area rugs. Very low-pile carpeting will be the most likely choice.

For a generation that likes to have things their way, the bungalow sounds like an ideal fit. Spock’s Vulcan salute of “Live long and prosper” is going to be replaced by “Live longer by not tripping.”

As Chief Thunderthud used to say on Howdy Doody, “Kowabunga!” Bungalow houses here we come.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


But You Doesn't Hasta Call Me Johnson! - Feb 2015

If you don’t remember this line, check out this video:

There’s a war on words brewing for boomers. Maybe war is too strong. Let’s just say baby boomers are bucking labels such as “senior,” “senior citizen,” “mature adult,” or “older adult.” And they are not to happy with the sound of nursing home, assisted living facility, old-age home, or adult day care.

Something tells me this aversion to be labeled goes all the way back to be when we first got the tag “baby boomers.” Society has to keep labeling generations, so I doubt Gen Xers or millennials feel any better about the process, but at least they don’t have the word “baby” in their handle. How’s a baby boomer supposed to go from baby to geezer? Besides that fact that they are both wrinkled, what does a baby have in common with a geezer?

Being called “old” gets old, so what should we be called as we get around the bend? And what age qualifies as around the bend? We used to think the retirement age of 65 was old, but as retirement pushed back later and later, it seemed like maybe 75 was old. But if you talk to any 75 year olds, they will tell you, no, 75 isn’t old – 85 is old.

And to those who say, yeah, yeah, it’s just words, I say yes, but word labels can sting. It’s bad enough that we’re going to experience diminished faculties and lessened control of bodily functions. We don’t have to be further insulted with demeaning labels and warehoused in places that have names that sound just plain awful.

The reality of our situation is that no matter what they call us or where they store us, it may not be pretty. Normally I might say we should suck it up, keep calm and carry on. But for crying out loud (something we’re good at), we’re baby boomers! We don’t have to take this crap without a fight! There’s 77 million of us (but the number is going down by the day)! We can call the shots (I’m delirious with power now)!

Okay, maybe the sheer magnitude of our numbers can’t stop younger generations from referring to us as ‘old fogies” (whatever a fogey is). But that won’t stop a resistance movement (picture an underground network of rebel boomers).

Personally, I’m okay with being called “ripe.”

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Shade Tree Mechanic - Feb 2015

I found myself at the doctor’s office today getting scrips for some standard refills. The doctor was with another patient, but rather than sit in the reception area waiting, Jorge, Dra. Candy’s husband, asked me to follow him to his garage.

Inside sat one of the ambulances that was getting an engine rebuild by Jorge’s friends.

After chatting about what had been done and what needed to be done to the engine, Jorge asked me “How do you know so much about motors?”

Because I’m old, was my reply. I remember when cars were simple and easier to fix.

My brother had a car with an engine that had seven moving parts. It was a three cylinder two-stroke engine. That meant the only moving parts were the crankshaft, three connecting rods, and three pistons.

Seven parts.

It was a DKW… four speed on the column and front wheel drive, two door coupe hardtop.

Cool car… would lay rubber easily.

My first car, on the other hand was a very unsexy 1949 Studebaker Land Cruiser. The Studey (stoo-dee) that my grandfather gave to me rather than trade it in. (I think he bought a Nash Rambler!)

I didn’t have a driver’s license, so I drove around in a circle in a field behind the house. Of course, I ripped off the air cleaner so that one-barrel carb would make a better sound when I floored it. And the muffler came off quickly too for a “better sound.”

Among later cars I owned were – in no particular order:

• 1939 Pontiac Coupe (never ran)

• 1934 Plymouth Coupe (ran occasionally)

• 1968 Oldsmobile Convertible (ran into a tree)

I miss being a shade tree mechanic.

Mark Van Patten writes a blog called Going Like Sixty and has been married to the same woman since 1968.


Big 5-0 - Jan 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Great Chicago Fire? - Dec 2014

Having moved to the suburbs when I was about 10 or 11, out of Chicago, I discovered the defunct farmer’s fields that were now all sold for housing tracts were a great place to play, as did all the other kids whose parents participated in “white flight”.

Across the street from our newly built ranch house, behind just one row of other houses, there were acres and acres and acres of fallow, weeded fields, waiting for the bulldozer. The weeds had to be about four or five feet tall. They were dense and cool and we made forts and paths leading from one fort to another, virtually unseen by anyone and we’d run around in them all day, like idiots.

I was cleverly experimenting with matches then and thought I’d save a lot of work by burning down a little section of weeds instead of having to clear it by hand. The weeds were green and wet; they wouldn’t burn, I thought. Wrong. I set a small conflagration that was instantaneously out of control and when I realized I couldn’t stomp it out I ran like hell, with all the other kids, for home. I didn’t do it!

Huffing from the run, I sat in the kitchen window watching the pale smoke rise between the houses, desperately afraid our little two-street neighborhood would perish.

Mom: What are you doing inside, sweetie? It’s too nice outside to be in here.”

Me: “Nuthin’.”

Mom: “Are you okay? You look flushed.”

Me: “I’m okay.”

She looked unbelievingly at me at said “Okay”, and walked into her 1950’s living room and sat on her 1950’s furniture to watch the 1950’s TV: a Lawrence Welk rerun, I think. The fire raged.

I more or less hid in the basement, then the garage, then the basement again. Each time I moved I peeked out across the street, living in fear the doorbell would ring and it would be the cops (“You’ll never take me alive, you dirty coppers!”). Hours later, just before dinner, I ventured out. Casually, hands in pockets, a picture of innocence, I walked around the block to see what I could see. Think about that: an 11 year old kid walking around the block. Hmmm. Well, long story short, nothing had occurred. A contractor with some machine or another had pushed a big mound of dirt over the burn spot (it was all of about ten by fifteen feet; I was sure it was 25 acres), putting the fire out. No trace left. The big Chicago Fire redux was not to be and that was the last time I played with matches. Well…until I started to make this little bomb…..

Wayne Mikosz is an ex-restauranteur, writer, residential designer, collaborative painter with the love of his life and a Certified Appraiser of collectible automobiles, trucks and motorcycles. Visit Convergence Studios. Check out his new book, 10 Stories of Life, Love and Death at



Bucket List Conundrum - Nov 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Outward Mobility - Nov 2014

When my parents announced we’d be moving from our blue-collar industrial Chicago neighborhood to the safe and sunny suburbs I went through what emotions I had accumulated at that point, I was eleven, and said ‘okay’, not knowing what it was all about anyway.

How my parents, on my dad’s measly salary, built a new semi-custom home was beyond me. But, who cared. It was a new adventure and I’d finally be getting away from those nuns: another story.

Each week we’d jump in the old Hudson Hornet and head out to see the progress:

 First week: flat ground with weeds

 Second: hole in the ground filled with rain water

 Third: hole filled with concrete walls

 Fourth: concrete basement floor and a big pile of lumber

 Fifth: you get the idea. Semi-boring

Finally there were walls and a roof. The dirt had been leveled and we had a driveway. A driveway for God’s sake! Not an alley! Inside it was open 2 x 4’s with pipes sticking up. And insulation and windows. It smelled good. And then, at long last, it was painted and carpeted; and there were appliances and, finally, a move-in day, cleverly timed to coincide with the first week of my summer vacation. There was no lawn. Or trees. A Lawn? We came from the city; our lawn was cinders, our trees were telephone poles. But it wasn’t long before my dad jumped into that and we had all the green we could desire.

And I had my own room! And life was exciting. And I went to a new school I could ride my bike to instead of taking a bus. And that lasted for a whole three years when, all-of-a-sudden, upward mobility set in. And in less than five or so years my parents had built two more new houses, each one bigger than the last.

By the time I was in the third year of design school I needed to get out on my own. Since then, about 47 years, give or take, I’ve lived in maybe four apartments briefly and bought four houses during and between various marriages. I’m still in the fourth and will be until they drag me out by my heels. Downward mobility.

On the other hand, buying old cars and trucks…..

Wayne Mikosz is an ex-restauranteur, writer, residential designer, collaborative painter with the love of his life and a Certified Appraiser of collectible automobiles, trucks and motorcycles. Visit Convergence Studios. Check out his new book, 10 Stories of Life, Love and Death at


Say You're Sorry? - Oct 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.



One Nation, Under All - Sept 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Facebook Ruined! - August 2014

And I’ll give you three guesses who ruined it, and the first two guesses won’t count. Baby boomers is the correct answer, no more calls!

So this is old news right? Of course baby boomers ruined Facebook. Teenagers were all over it and then those creepy boomer stalkers had to get on Facebook to find our what their kids were up to, and now you can’t swing an internet cat without smacking into a cluster of obnoxious boomers. They’ve turned a good thing into a giant high school reunion suckhole.

So….if that’s the conventional wisdom of what happened, how about giving us some cred for making Zuckerberg the 16th richest guy in the world. The freakin’ world!! He may never catch up to Bill Gates, but it took Bill a lot more time to get to the top of the pile.

What is social media if it isn’t meant to be social? Did boomers ruin Facebook or was it already passé in the wake of Snapchat, WhatsApp, WeChat, Instagram, Vine and Yo? Maybe Facebook was ready for the takedown that every popular app must face eventually. They should really put a SELL BY DATE on every new app!

But back to Facebook. If millennials are steamed about the app being highjacked by their parents, they are missing out on the fun. Now that they have moved on to other social media apps, they should enjoy stalking their parents who have as much concept of privacy as their kids used to have. You want the ultimate voyeuristic experience, go on Facebook and check out the pages of other baby boomers you may know. It’s unfiltered chaos! They are still letting it all hang out, just like back in the day. Boomers are over-sharing on just about any topic….food, travel, politics…we’ll tell you everything. We’re an open book. Make that Open Facebook.

So Facebook is done. Stick a fork in it and leave the baby boomers alone. Find a new app. Maybe you’ll like that one where you just send friends the message – Yo. Is someone really making money by getting people to download an app that sends out Yo’s? Couldn’t you just do that with an email or a text? Oh, but Yo does it faster. That makes sense.

If your kids are mad at you for effing up Facebook, tell them to get over it. And tell them to invent a new app as idiotic as Yo so that they can pay your assisted living expenses.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


The Dating Game - August 2014

Wendy Wohler was from New Boston, Ohio, across the city limits east of my hometown, Portsmouth. Wendy and I had one date together, the summer after high school.

I was living at home in the summer of 1965. My partner in crime was Frank White. He drove a 1955 four-door Chrysler, the Black Rat. He was dating Judy Briggs, from New Boston, friend of Wendy.

Frank’s diabolical plan: I was to talk my parents into cooking a formal Saturday evening dinner for two couples, Frank and Judy, Greg and Wendy. Chuck and Marge agreed to help us. That Saturday afternoon, Frank and I drove north out of Portsmouth to the Holiday Inn. We paid for one night in Room 231, two queen size beds.

The evening began with the four of us sitting on the couches in my parents' living room. The girls wore cocktail dresses, the boys wore sport coats. My father's assignment was to make daiquiris.

There were four glasses on the coffee table. Chuck entered the room wearing a white sport coat, white tuxedo shirt and black slacks. He had a bar towel draped over his left forearm. In his right hand he carried a pitcher full of daiquiris, the second go-around. He and Marge drank the first batch while Frank and I picked up the girls in New Boston.

My father was tipsy. He poured Wendy's drink and forgot to stop pouring. Booze and crushed ice flowed across the coffee table. His bar towel fell short and three more towels were called into action. Chuck left the room and made his third batch of daiquiris.

The four of us sat at the dining room table. Chuck lit the candles. My mother served a rich vegetable soup, salad, au gratin potatoes and prime rib. Marge was wearing her faded blue bathrobe and her hair was up in curlers.

We had a small swimming pool in the back yard, 8x16, heated. At dark, in the pool, all lights off, Frank put the moves on Judy and I put the moves on Wendy. The boys didn't get very far and the mood remained playful.

Frank and I announced that we had a surprise waiting. We got dressed and the four of us drove around town, teasing and laughing. Frank turned onto Route 23 and drove north to the Holiday Inn. We pulled up in the Chrysler and parked in a space just below Room 231. Politely but adamantly, the girls went ballistic and demanded that we take them home.

That night Frank and I lay in our beds in Room 231, watching TV and drinking Jim Beam straight from the bottle.

In 1965, a high school girl with a male in a motel room was a huge no-no. That indiscretion was a one-way ticket to a ruined reputation.

I like to look back at the lengths we boys went to... to get the girls to do what we wanted.

Greg Leichner
won the First Annual (1995) Rocky Mountain Artists/Eccentric Book Competition for his 15-postcard series, Citizens For A Poodle-Free Montana. There's a t-shirt to prove it.


Everybody Looks Familiar - July 2014

At a certain point, everybody looks familiar

In the course of a typical day, I will wander back and forth or run to this bank or that one, there to pay a bill or (¡ojalá!) make an actual deposit.

Along the way I will see, and nod at, a great many men and women.

It wouldn't do to walk past someone with whom one is acquainted and ignore them entirely; that would be rude.

The problem is that in strolling quickly I really can't stop to scrutinize the faces of passers by and see if I really do know them. I would probably be arrested if I tried. Or slugged. So, rather than commit a serious social blunder, I nod courteously to anyone who looks familiar.

Problem is, these days, just about everyone looks familiar.

There are probably multiple reasons for this. One can't help but see many of the same people day in and day out when one works in the same place for long. And, of course, with the passage of so much time, I have become acquainted with more and more people each year. By this time, of course, many are dying off -- but there are more than enough new acquaintances to take their places.

Also, although the Irish are no longer dominant in most Chicago demographics, there are still a lot of us working in the Loop. Many of the Chicago Irish hail from a handful of villages in County Mayo, God help us, and we're pretty much all related somehow. And genetics is funny: Your good friend's fourth cousin twice removed may look an awful lot like your your good friend, at least at a distance, even if the two of them have never met.

But the biggest single reason that so many people look familiar to me is that, with each passing year, my eyesight gets worse and worse. Everyone has started to look the same -- in a blurry sort of way -- even when I wear my glasses.

I remember when I first realized this. I was in a Costco a few years back and I saw someone that -- from a distance at least -- looked like someone I knew from court. I put on my best lodge brother face and strode forward to greet this person only to realize, as I closed in, that this wasn't who I thought it was at all.

"You don't have the first clue who I am, do you?" said my quarry.

"No. Sorry. I thought you were someone else."

"It happens."

And it does -- to me at least -- more and more.

So, these days, I just nod and keep going, my purposeful stride discouraging any embarrassing conversations of the type I had that day in Costco.

But I notice, too, that, these days, a lot of people nod back. So I don't think I'm alone in this....

Curmudgeon is a self-described dinosaur -- an Ozzie and Harriet person living in an Ozzy and Sharon world. And sometimes it confuses the heck out of him. He writes a very amusing blog at Second Effort.


Time Shifters - July 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


You Dig? - June 2014

I mean are you interested in digging your own grave, and not figuratively. I’m talking literally. There’s a green trend that is gaining popularity when it comes to dying. At least when it comes to how to dispose of your body.

Eco-conscious boomers are looking at ways to be more environmentally sensitive in the afterlife (or wherever they plan to reside). Certified green cemeteries are promising boomers a place where mowing, fertilizing and the use of pesticides are banned. Likewise, metal caskets and concrete vaults are not used, as they emit carbon. The burial grounds themselves are maintained as permanent protected areas (sans wildlife one would hope). And get this – some cemeteries have no grave markers to mar the scenery. You get GPS coordinates to find your loved one. Seriously.

You would think cremation would be the most environmentally conscious choice, but some of these green cemeteries are concerned about the burning of fossil fuels.

Yikes! Where can a guy go to die in peace?

There’s even a movement to dig your own grave. Not YOU! You’re DEAD. I mean your family can dig the grave for you. Many find it to be a cathartic experience. I’m thinking that depending on the time of year,  it could be hot, sweaty and raise callouses on your hands.

Is this just another case of baby boomers taking their principled stands with them (e.g. who says you can’t take it with you?) or is this a larger trend that every generation is going to embrace? If you care about our planet and you believe that global warming is fact rather than fiction, than a “green” death is not over the top. Top, get it? We won’t be on top of anything.

Let’s agree right here, right now, to not blame boomers for the greening of death. The fact is the planet is getting crowded, so from a practical standpoint, we need to look at ways in which the dead will not be crowding out the living.

Get aboard the new mantra: It’s so mean, to not die green.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Seriously? Roommates? - June 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Silver Cribs - June 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Toothpaste --- Out of Control! - May 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Worker Bees - May 2014

My Sweet Irreplaceable You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.



Tattoos - April 2014

I blog, therefore I am.

Or, I am as I blog.

Pedantic philosophy or narrative theory,

take your pick.

Pick as well from a plethora of topics, since my curiosity--

and my opinions—are endless.

I’d have this tattooed on my inner arm…or maybe my wrist.

If I was the 22 year old today that I was back in the day, I absolutely would have tattoos. Not sleeves or twee ones like flowers and angels. Being that words are my métier, I would have sayings and quotes and hyroglyphic symbols. Because that’s the kind of 22 year old I was back in the day.

I had the shortest skirts, the wildest shoes and I brought Carnaby Street, or at least my vision of it, to the much more prosaic streets of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I thrived on pushing the envelope–and got in trouble a lot for doing so.

In college, I was on academic probation a lot (again). My idea of studying for an exam was to take uppers and pull an all-nighter memorizing someone else’s notes. It had to be someone else’s notes because even when I was in class, I was somewhere else in my mind.

Was I a bad kid? No.

I didn’t do drugs (okay, there was that brief experimentation with marijuana which ended badly).  I always threw up before I got too drunk (someone named me the IBM machine because I would drink beer until I couldn’t drink anymore, go to the ladies room, throw up, and return to drink some more). And I lost my virginity at 18 to the boy I then married at 23.

Still, I was often the bane of my mother’s existence. Her first daughter had been mild and shy and obedient so she wasn’t prepared for the likes of outspoken, adventurous, don’t-tell-me-I-can’t-unless-you-want-to-insure-I-will me.

I think of all the trouble I could get into today if I was 22, and I wonder if I would push the envelope as much, seeing as that envelope is so much larger. I probably would, but maybe the inherently nice girl my mother raised would protect me from a Lindsay Lohan life. Even at 22, there were certain avenues I didn’t venture down. I had a friend called Ricka, an artist, who was maybe a year older than I and light years more experienced. When I was with Ricka, I got a taste of the wild Bohemian life and, frankly, it scared me.

Thinking about that now, knowing what I do about myself, I see that my wild acts were born of curiosity and daring, not of an urge for self-destruction. I never wanted to go too far over the edge to where I couldn’t get back. I wanted to be bad-ish, but not dead.

Jane Gassner
authors Beyond MidLifeBloggers: The Other Side of Sixty, where she connects to all parts of herself: writer, editor, teacher, curator, innovator.



Oh Crap. We’re Quaint - April 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


How About Never? Is Never Good for You? - March 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


Maaarvelous! - Feb 2014

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

So said Billy Crystal in his Fernando Llamas persona.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.



Gray What? - Feb 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


10 Rules of Spectacular Failure - Jan 2014

Sure, you’ve got innumerable options to learn how to succeed in your professional life. But is anyone teaching you how to be a spectacular failure? I don’t think so.

Failure has become a lost art. Why, if it weren’t for Congress’ fine example, we might have not even have a role model for abject failure.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I can teach you how to be a successful failure. If you follow my 10 Rules of Spectacular Failure, I can practically guarantee you’ll end up unsuccessful, disappointed and lonely. And if you never bathe, you’ll smell bad, too.

So, if a lack of success and accomplishment sounds like a good career move to you, read on. Discover how the secrets of showing up late, banal thinking and lack of courage can lead to your utter downfall.

1.   Give up.

It was recently discovered Abe Lincoln was born in a log cabin made entirely of Lincoln Logs

This is the easiest Rule to master. There’s so little to do. Just give up. No matter how easy or hard the challenge, you just need a “That’s it, I quit” attitude. It may help to remember the motto of those who never made it to the top: “When the going gets tough, get the hell out of there fast!”

2.  Listen to others.

This one’s a little tricky. When others tell you you’ll never succeed, you may hear a voice inside your head that says, “Go on. Give it a shot. What have we got to lose?” Ignore the voice or you’ll end up like Walter Elias Disney, a newspaperman from Chicago.

Walt Disney was fired as a newspaper editor because he was told he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

3.  Believe you can’t.

If you want to be a successful failure, you’re going to have to ignore any signs of self-confidence. Cover over any potential you have with self-doubt, negativity and denial.

I’m warning you, if you don’t follow my advice, you could end up like little Albert from Ulm, Germany. Albert didn’t speak until he was four and he couldn’t read until he was seven.

When the world’s greatest scientists couldn’t understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, he reportedly stuck out his tongue out and said, “Na na na boo boo!”

4. Be afraid of failing.

Here’s a surefire way to become a failure. Just be afraid to fail. Let the challenge scare you so much, you give up and give in. Ignore the advice of media and motivational guru Seth Godin who said, “Failure isn’t fatal. You’ve got to fail to succeed.”

Henry Ford was a spectacular failure for much of his life. At 15, he dropped out of school and became a farmer. He failed at that and became a mechanic. He failed at that and started repairing clocks and watches. He failed at that and went back to farming. Even when he tried to invent a “horseless carriage,” he failed time and again, at one point losing all his investors’ money without producing a car.

5. Don’t be curious

Studies have shown that successful people seem to be curious about the world around them. They ask a lot of questions and explore everything. They love learning and live in a state of wonder, surprise and delight.

Conversely, many people who fail are not that interested in discovering or exploring all the world has to offer. So avoid exposure to new people, places and things, and find nothing that inspires you, and with any luck at all you’ll fall flat on your face and never be heard from again.

6. Be too old to succeed.

If you’re 50 or above, why not just admit your productive working days are over. They’re kaput. Finito! Stick a fork in you, you’re done! Use your time to complain about those young whippersnappers who have texted your career into oblivion and get in line early for the 4 p.m. blue plate special.

At the age of 40, Colonel Harland Sanders cooked chicken dishes for people who stopped at his little service station in Corbin, Kentucky. Fifteen years later, that business failed too when Interstate 95 rerouted traffic. Did  Sanders give up? Was he too old to succeed? Nope, at age 64, he took his secret recipe for “finger-lickin’ chicken” and, with a $105 check he had from Social Security, he started selling franchises in Kentucky Fried Chicken.

7. Don’t stretch your limits.

Why challenge yourself? If you want to fail, just accept the hand nature has dealt you. If you continually challenge yourself, you’re liable to succeed in spite of yourself. The world is full of successful people who refused to follow this sage advice.

Michael Jordan gave up Knock Hockey to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team because of a lack of athletic talent.

8. Let a disability hold you back.

Nobody’s perfect, but many people suffer from severe disabilities that should, for all intents and purposes, threaten their ability to succeed. If you’ve got a physical or mental illness, no one would blame you for  giving in and giving up.

Alexander Graham Bell had a learning disability, Cher has dyslexia, President Franklin Roosevelt had polio and Ludwig Van Beethoven was deaf in the latter part of his life.

9.  Be the problem. Not the solution.

A lot of people have mastered this Rule. You probably work with some of them. You know the type. They bitch and complain all day long, but never offer up a suggested solution. What a perfect way to fail.

If you want to fail and see others fail around you, identify the problem, complain out it, then do absolutely nothing to solve it.

10.  Oh, Damn! I’ve failed to come up with the 10th Rule of Spectacular Failure.

What can I say? Sure, I wanted to come up with 10 Rules of Spectacular Failure, but I just gave up. Anyway, it’s not my fault, it’s somebody else’s. It was too hard, too difficult and I just didn’t think I had what it takes to get the job done. Besides some people told me I’d never come up with Rule #10. Guess I proved them right. At least I’m successful at something.

Jack Goldenberg is a prolific Copywriter, innovative Creative Director and consummate, strategic marketer. Read his blog at  10 minutes of brilliance. With all he’s done, he still believes his best efforts are ahead of him.


That Guy - Jan 2014

I was "that guy" as in, "look at that guy. What a jerk!"

You know, when you're driving, and the sign says left lane closed ahead? You can count on "that guy" staying in the left lane -- maybe even moving into it because "that guy" is sooooooooo much more important than you are. As "that guy" passes you, you say something like, "That guy thinks he can just zoom past everyone waiting in line and cut right in -- the #$%@!!"

Well... this morning... not too far from my house... after dropping Long Suffering Spouse off at school, I had to head for the Kennedy, planning to jump on the Tollway and head out to court in Geneva.

It's a hike, but I had plenty of time... I thought. I knew there was construction at Cumberland and Higgins. They're rebuilding Cumberland where it crosses the Kennedy and there have been various lane closures in the vicinity -- and consequently slowed traffic -- on the few recent occasions I've had to head that way. I had to turn left from Higgins onto Cumberland.

So, yes, the sign said left lane closed ahead, but I figured, well, that must be the left lane, not the left turn lane. People still have to turn left. The sign doesn't say road closed or detour.

So I stayed in the left lane. I figured that this was the way to get to the left turn lane.

I was absolutely, totally wrong.

In my defense, I will say I didn't zoom past anyone. No one was moving in front of me. No one was moving to my right. Cars were turning out of hotels and restaurants and other parking lots trying to get in line with me. The fastest I moved was when a couple of cars in front of me gave up and made U-turns trying to get away from the gridlock.

It took me 35 minutes -- by the dashboard clock -- to go about one-half mile.

So I was punished for my foolishness -- and I was late to court besides. But, punished or not, today, I was "that guy." I'm truly sorry.

Curmudgeon is a self-described dinosaur -- an Ozzie and Harriet person living in an Ozzy and Sharon world. And sometimes it confuses the heck out of him. He writes a very amusing blog at Second Effort.


Twitter Is Dead - Dec 2013

You heard me. Well maybe you didn’t. When you’re over 50, the hearing can start to deteriorate. I SAID, TWITTER IS DEAD.

How do I know? Because I recently saw a statistic from a Pew Research report, and it indicated that Twitter usage among 50-64 year olds doubled over the past 2 years. It is now probably the fastest growing demo for this social media behemoth.

So…in a repeat performance of how baby boomers killed facebook, it’s easy to see that Twitter will be dead in no time. Not only do they not have a clue about how to monetize it --- now they’re faced with the kiss of death stranglehold exerted by baby boomers. Like giant Anacondas, our demo can squeeze the life out of anything, whether it’s the latest social media fad or a new television show. If baby boomers actively like it, you can easily predict its demise.

Face it. If we like something, our enthusiasm and sheer numbers eventually make it unpalatable to everyone else. The landscape is littered with the fads we’ve destroyed. Acid-washed jeans, cocaine, Angry Birds, water beds, Ford Thunderbird, new age anything, etc., etc. If we’re all over it, then it’s all over.

We can turn a popular program or product into toast overnight. We may not kill it completely, but we can easily turn it into a niche product that only appeals to our demographic and is reviled by everyone else.

If only we could learn to use our powers for the good of the planet. Want to end global warming? Harness the power of baby boomers by getting us to deny it exists. Bam! Overnight everyone else will accept the truth of global warming research. It’s the same reverse psychology our parents used some fifty or more years ago. They didn’t want us to smoke, so they handed us the cigarettes and matches. Wait a second – that didn’t always work out the way they thought it would.

No matter. The dictum stands. Boomers like it. Boomers kill it. Remember, you read it here first. After we’ve killed Twitter, we may move on to Snapchat.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


True Grit - Dec 2013

John Glenn, Gene Autry, Tommy Dorsey, even Loretta Lynn and I have a common background.

We all learned responsibility and rewards are not easy.

And that cash flow doesn’t mean you are wealthy.

And that swindling a newspaper can be profitable – for a while.

I sold Grit newspapers when I was a pup. I’m pretty sure I was seduced by one of their ubiquitous ads appearing in the comic books I always was buying.

That kid in the image could have been me, right down to the plaid shirt and toe-head with buzz cut. Aside: Tommy was the only barber in Allen and he knew two haircuts: long or buzz.

I checked with Mother and Dad and they were OK with me taking on the task of peddling papers. And like the ad says, there were over 30,000 boys and girls going door-to-door selling the Saturday-only tabloid.

To earn the NEAT prizes FREE a saleskid had to PURCHASE a bunch of Grits. The more you PURCHASED over a longer time, the NEATer the prize   Never mind about sales… this was the newspaper model. The newspaper wholesales to the carriers who were retailers. Still true today for the most part.

The newspapers arrived rolled in a tight bundle covered with brown kraft paper and tied with twine. They were delivered by Greyhound Bus. The bus would slow down on U.S. 12, the door would swoosh open and out the bundle would fly, rolling to a stop. They delivered to Johnny’s Supermarket and Johnny would fetch the bundle for me a tote it inside.

I would claim the papers, head home and read Grit, and sometime between Thursday afternoon and Saturday (the dateline) head out to peddle my papers.

Going door-to-door was the sales model. No subscriptions. But I soon developed a route of loyal customers and would from time to time make some cold calls when a customer died.

Didn’t take me long to realize that Grit didn’t really care if they got paid or not. “Legitimate” daily newspapers belong to an organization that audits their circulation so that advertisers can be persuaded that the numbers are “real.”

Not sure Grit ever belonged to that organization. I soon started ordering 5-10 more copies a week than I knew I could sell – made those NEAT prizes a little easier to get. I also realized that if I skipped a payment every once in a while, Grit didn’t seem to mind. They sent out nice little letters, but Guido didn’t show up at my door to break my kneecaps.

I was living on cash flow. Take in $5 a week from sales, spend $3 a week on Coke and Butterfingers, and send $3 to Grit.

$5 – $3 – $3 = oops!!!

To keep Grit from not busing the papers to me, I would take some extra cash – from a car wash job, or cashing in pop bottles to get the deposit back, or from stealing from my brother’s wallet, I would make an extra payment toward my “balance due.”

Eventually my laziness got the best of me and I stopped “selling” Grit. I took what I thought was a better and easier job: working for my dad… that’s a whole ‘nother story. Hardest job I ever had.

10 yeas later I started what turned out to be my career – daily newspaper.

I paid very close attention to the circulation audits.

Mark Van Patten writes a blog called Going Like Sixty and has been married to the same woman since 1968.


Internet Junkies - Nov 2013

That would be you…you’re an internet junkie. That is if you’re a baby boomer. According to a recent McAfee study  Americans age 50 and older are online an average of five hours per day. What the hell are we doing online for five hours? Facebooking and tweeting most likely. The study indicates that 80% of the survey respondents were using social media and 36% logged in to their social media sites on a daily basis.

The scariest stat is that 75% of the respondents did not know that social networking makes them vulnerable to identity theft and fraud. DUH! Double DUH! We’ve been oversharing since we were babies, so why would we stop now?

Now stop and think a moment. Why did McAfee commission this study? Remember, this is a company that sells anti-virus software and it’s owned by Intel. The survey found that 57% of the respondents shared or posted personal information online, and that excludes the normal info you supply when shopping online. And when they tell you that 24% of respondents have sent personal or intimate messages on their mobile devices, but a third have no password protection on them, what they are also doing is hyping the need for us to buy their antivirus protection products.

Hey, we may be internet junkies but we can see through the haze when someone tries to scare us into buying their products. Oh sure, they give you some tips on protecting yourself like not giving out your address, phone number or social security number online. We knew that. Change your passwords often? Easy to say but hard to do. Can’t remember the ones we have now. Turn off the GPS feature on your phone camera so people don’t know where you are. Not a bad idea or you could wait until you got home to send the pictures anyway.

It’s one thing when the American Heart Association does a study about diet and draws some conclusions in the form of advice to helps us all eat healthier. But it’s another thing when a for-profit company conducts a study for the purpose of encouraging us to buy their product. Something tells me we will be seeing more of this kind of covert marketing. The sheer size of our demographic continues to make us a target – for the identity thieves and the antivirus software makers.

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.


High Jinks - Nov 2013

It’s not really a surprise to most boomers, but maybe some millenials are scratching their heads when they read that marijuana use among baby boomers is on the rise. The latest stats from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health indicate that people 50-years-old and up are discovering (maybe make that rediscovering) marijuana at a pretty good clip.

    “For adults aged 50 to 54, the rate increased from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 7.2 percent in 2012. Among those aged 55 to 59, the rate of current illicit drug use increased from 1.9 percent in 2002 to 6.6 percent in 2012,” the federal survey said.

    “Among those aged 60 to 64, the rate increased from 1.1 percent in 2003 to 3.6 percent in 2012. These trends partially reflect the aging … of members of the baby boom cohort (i.e., persons born between 1946 and 1964), whose rates of illicit drug use have been higher than those of older cohorts.”

One can only hope that the dramatic increase is not related to medical conditions that can be remediated by smoking the ganja. I like to think that it’s just pure lust for that old feeling of euphoria that’s driving the spike in usage.

Seriously, what baby boomer isn’t nostalgic for that time when friends passed around the bong and listened to Jimi Hendrix play Crosstown Traffic? Wow, that stereo sound was something special and being high made it even more special. The fact that it was illegal upped the ante in terms of excitement.

As boomers aged, they either gave it up for fear that the law would come bursting in the door at any moment or it gave way to legal highs from throwing back a couple of martinis. Some boomers kept on puffing, and for them, a joint at the end of the day was their martini.

Now that twenty states have made medical marijuana legal and you can smoke dope hassle-free in Washington state and Colorado, plenty of boomers are starting to remember the pleasure they got from a good marijuana buzz. It feels like a big wheel turning and coming back around to the place where you got off some 40-plus years ago.

I’m picturing the snack aisle in the grocery store in a few years, and it’s a vision of boomers shuffling along with their wheeled walkers, eyes glazed over from a blast of Bubba Kush, picking out some savory chips to ease the munchies.

Is that such a bad way to spend your golden years?

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.