Age, Voting and Politics

Pexels-sora-shimazaki-5935742Older Americans tend to know that voting is a precious right. In the 2020 presidential election, for example, 76 percent of Americans ages 65 to 74 voted -- the highest of any age group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Age plays another role in our national political conversation. Joe Biden was the oldest man to take the oath of President at age 78. Twenty-five U.S. Senators are more than 70 years old, and seventy-six U.S. Representatives are at least 70 years old. Does that matter?

It shouldn't, according to Dr. Dilip Jeste, a University of California, San Diego psychiatry professor and past president of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry. Quoted in a NextAvenue article, Dr. Jeste says, "The media have often used derogatory terms like 'silver tsunami' to describe the rising numbers of seniors. This has led to greater scrutiny of older leaders in politics and elsewhere. Just as people should not be stereotyped and stigmatized because of their sex or race/ethnicity, they should not be discriminated due to their chronological age."

Jeste further points out that "Youth bring energy, excitement, ambition, and innovation, while older adults bring empathy, emotional regulation, self-reflection, and openness to diverse perspectives, which all are components of wisdom. Needless to add that not all the youth and all the seniors exhibit these traits, but many do."

Unfortunately, ageism is as prevalent in politics as it is in the American workplace. Just recently, in an interview on Sixty Minutes, Scott Pelley questioned Joe Biden about his age. Pelley said, "Mr. President, you are the oldest president ever. ...You are more aware of this than anyone. Some people ask whether you are fit for the job. And when you hear that, I wonder what you think." Pelley followed that up with this question: "How would you say your mental focus is?" While these may be legitimate concerns, it is interesting to note the manner in which the questions were asked -- by 65-year old Scott Pelley.

Hopefully, a voter is considering more important factors than age; in particular, whether the politician represents the voter's views and seems to be the best candidate for the job. Making age a determining factor in deciding for whom to vote is just one more example of ageism.

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How Serena Williams is Redefining "Retirement"

Pexels-cottonbro-5741051Watching Serena Williams play tennis in the first round of the U.S. Open on Monday night, August 29, was like watching an unstoppable force of nature. The 40-year-old Williams defeated a 27-year-old opponent, not easily but convincingly. Yet earlier in August, in Vogue magazine, Williams shocked the sports world by announcing her retirement from tennis.

Normally, when you hear the word "retirement," you think of the traditional meaning: older generations ending their work lives to move on to something else. But in the case of Serena Williams, she was making a different kind of life choice, announcing to the world that she wanted to grow her family rather than remain in the sport as arguably the best tennis player in the world. Here is the way she expressed it:

"I have never liked the word retirement. It doesn’t feel like a modern word to me. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition, but I want to be sensitive about how I use that word, which means something very specific and important to a community of people. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me. A few years ago I quietly started Serena Ventures, a venture capital firm. Soon after that, I started a family. I want to grow that family."

I think her use of the word "evolution" as a label for what Williams is feeling is very appropriate. In fact, it strikes me that the concept of evolution just as easily applies to Boomers on the brink of "retirement." Like Williams, I have never liked the word "retirement." For several years, I have used the word "rewirement" to describe a new way of looking at retirement (after all, "rewired" is in the header of my blog).

I think the concept of rewiring is still relevant, but I also think evolving is an apt description for the collective advancement of Boomers into the next phase of our lives. The reality is that we go through phases that are not hard and fast with defined beginnings and ends; rather we evolve. Recognizing that evolutionary process may make it easier to understand and accept the phases of life that have passed and are still to come.

So thank you, Serena, for redefining retirement. You are showing the world that you can be the best you can be in your career and love what you do -- but still acknowledge that there are indeed other things in life that may be of greater importance. That's something Boomers would do well to acknowledge. Life's challenges and choices are not always easy, but we continue to evolve.

Whether or not she wins the U.S. Open, Serena Williams is teaching all of us a lesson about competing at the highest level -- in both sports and in life.

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The Price You Pay for Being Grey

Screen Shot 2022-08-25 at 12.19.16 PMA current controversy in Canada dramatically highlights the potentially damaging effects of ageism.

Canada TV anchor Lisa LaFlamme has been removed as the anchor of CTV National News, a program she has hosted since 2011. The 58-year old LaFlamme claimed she was "blindsided" by the decision, which is believed to be related to her grey hair. LaFlamme stopped dyeing her hair during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing her hair to return to its natural grey color, telling viewers that it was "liberating."

It was reported by news sources that Michael Melling, a senior executive at CTV News, wanted to to know who approved the decision to "let Lisa's hair go grey." It appeared to be suspiciously coincidental that LaFlamme, who recently won Best News Anchor at the Canadian Screen Awards, was let go soon after she let her hair go grey. LaFlamme had been with the news organization for thirty-five years.

When furor erupted over the firing decision, Bell Media, the owner of CTV, said LaFlamme was terminated due to "changing viewer habits." The company did not comment on the hair color allegations, but said it regretted that the decision "may have left viewers with the wrong impression."

One company, Dove Canada, immediately responded by launching a campaign on social media. The company changed its gold logo to grey. While the campaign doesn't specifically mention LaFlamme, the timing is obvious. On Instagram, Dove said:

"Aging is beautiful. We should all be able to do it on our own terms, and without any consequences. That's why we're going grey, and donating $100,000 to Catalyst -- a Canadian nonprofit organization dedicated to helping build inclusive workplaces for all women. Join us by turning your profile picture greyscale, and tag #KeepTheGrey."

The Dove Canada campaign reinforced speculation that the firing was influenced by ageism. On Twitter, LaFlamme stated in a video, "I'm still shocked and saddened. At 58, I still thought I'd have a lot more time to tell more of the stories that impact our daily lives."

Image from Dove Canada social media campaign

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Riding Out Financial Ups and Downs if You're Retired

Pexels-olya-kobruseva-7873553Retirees tend to live on a few income streams, typically made up of (1) Social Security monthly payments (2) RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions) from deferred income retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, (3) pensions and other long-term investments and (4) savings accounts. Financial conditions affect all of these financial vehicles one way or the other, especially if retirement, pension or savings are invested in stocks or bonds. Last year, for example, the stock market probably rewarded most retirees with healthy gains, while so far this year, stocks haven't fared nearly as well.

Currently, there is another factor that more directly affects retirees: Inflation. As we've seen over the past several months, inflation has caused a spike in the prices we pay at the gas pump and in the grocery store. In fact, prices are broadly higher everywhere, and for those retirees living on a tight budget to begin with, that is not good news. A recent hike in Social Security benefits due to the higher cost of living didn't help so much because, at the same time, Medicare premiums went up.

So what can retirees do to ride out the financial ups and downs we're experiencing? A recent article in The New York Times by financial writer Tara Siegel Bernard cites a few sound strategies. Retirees who turn 72 must take RMDs from retirement accounts, so some of your options are limited, but you still have control over your other assets. Here are some suggestions from the article:

  • Reframing: Covering your needs is more important than spending money on wants. Think about how much of your basic living needs can be covered by such regular income as Social Security and pensions and keep withdrawals for other items to a minimum.
  • A Cash Bucket: Set aside cash to cover a year's worth of basic expenses not accounted for through Social Security and pension income. Use this "bucket" when necessary instead of withdrawing from investment accounts.
  • Guardrails: Consider being flexible with annual withdrawals from investment accounts instead of being locked in to the same percentage or withdrawal amount. Consider taking higher amounts when financial conditions are favorable and lower amounts when they are unfavorable.
  • Check up: Do periodic reality checks based on your retirement age and anticipated longevity. Look at your entire portfolio and, using the widely accepted withdrawal rate of 4 percent annually, estimate how long your money will last if you withdraw at that rate. You could also determine how higher or lower annual withdrawal rates will affect your overall picture.

Of course, none of these strategies should be applied in a vacuum. It is best to do your own evaluation in conjunction with a Certified Financial Planner, who can objectively assess your unique situation and help you determine which of these strategies, or others, will work best for you.

Read more about advice for handling retirement during a financial downturn here:
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/11/your-money/retiring-recession-financial-math.html?

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Helping a Loved One with Alzheimer's Disease Live Safely at Home

Guest Post by Carla Lopez

Pexels-matthias-zomer-339620If your loved one has Alzheimer’s Disease, you know that significant changes tend to come as the disease progresses. Not only can this make it difficult to get into a normal life routine, but it can also pose problems with home safety.

However, if you take certain measures and make the necessary home adaptations, you can keep up with the changes and ensure your loved one is able to live safely and comfortably in their own home. Check out this practical guide.

Understanding the Challenges     

Before you make any plans or modifications, it’s important to understand how your loved one’s disease impacts their safety. For example, Alzheimer’s can affect their judgment, which is why it is common for people with the disease to forget how to use certain appliances and devices.

Those with Alzheimer’s are also prone to wander and get lost around their home because their sense of time and place is not what it once was. Maintaining balance and problems with hearing, vision, and depth perception are common as well.

Assessing the Situation      

Evaluate your loved one’s home to get a plan together for the modifications you should arrange to accommodate their needs. First, discern whether their current home can be modified. Is the home adaptable, or will it cost too much time and money to make the necessary changes?

If you and your loved one decide that it isn’t practical for them to remain in their home, one option is to move them into yours, especially if you both want to put off a move to memory care just yet. Ask yourself a few questions first, however, so you know this is the right setup for you. How does this situation make you feel? Do you have time to take on a caregiving role? How will this affect your family? Will it affect me financially? If you decide that it’s the right move, you will want to put the pieces in place for a smooth transition with minimal stress.

If you decide to have your loved one move in with you, you’ll already be facing quite a bit of change, so one way to simplify the process and cut down on stress is by enlisting the help of professional movers. Luckily, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Simply search online for “moving companies near me” and browse ratings and reviews, then request a quote in advance. This will also free up your attention so that you can focus entirely on your loved one’s well-being, rather than fretting about and struggling with each box and piece of furniture.

While hiring professional movers is a justifiable and worthwhile expense, remember that with another person living in your home and another mouth to feed, you will likely have to find creative ways to cut down on monthly expenses. That could mean canceling subscriptions you never use, dining out less or tackling a bigger payment such as refinancing your mortgage. For example, by taking advantage of lower interest rates right now, you can quickly refinance your home and see a lower mortgage payment to help free up cash that you can put toward updates.

Precautions in the Kitchen

Perhaps the most useful step you can take to maintain a safe kitchen for your loved one with Alzheimer’s is to invest in appliances that come with an automatic shut-off feature. Adding stove knob covers or removing the knobs from the stove can also prevent your loved one from harm, as can securing any prescription drugs and sharp objects.

Precautions in the Bathroom

The bathroom is a common place for accidents for people experiencing cognitive decline and impaired balance. Consider installing grab bars, a walk-in tub, and/or a shower chair so that your loved one can maintain their personal hygiene and remain out of harm’s way.

Adding Extra Lighting   

Because people with Alzheimer’s often deal with vision problems, they can become disoriented when the levels of light in a home change. You can help your loved one stay safe and comfortable in their home by installing additional lighting in hallways, stairways, entries, and other areas where the lighting fluctuates. Also, consider putting in nightlights in the bathrooms, bedrooms, and hallways.

Upkeep in the Home

Finally, try to keep your loved one’s home clean and decluttered. And regularly check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and other safety devices to ensure that they are in proper working order. It’s best practice to replace the batteries at least twice a year. Furthermore, make sure you have access to fire extinguishers, and consider installing sprinklers to add an extra layer of protection.

As your loved one’s Alzheimer’s progresses, it’s essential that you make the changes necessary to their living environment. Learn about the challenges they are facing, and determine whether the best path forward is to modify their current home or move them into yours. Follow the tips above for creating a safe and comfortable home for your loved one, and keep researching other modifications and precautions that can make life easier and safer.

Carla Lopez retired a couple of years ago, but she didn’t lose her entrepreneurial spirit. She created Boomer Biz for retirees like herself who still have a desire to work and achieve. The site is a resource for people in their golden years who want to start their own business or go back to work doing what they love.

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Multigenerational Households: Choice or Circumstance?

Pexels-andrea-piacquadio-3768177The Pew Research Center recently reported that "young adults in [the] U.S. are much more likely than 50 years ago to be living in a multigenerational household." Pew Research Center indicated that "A quarter of U.S. adults ages 25 to 34 resided in a multigenerational family household in 2021, up from 9% in 1971. ... In 2021, 68% of 25- to 34-year-olds in a multigenerational home were living in the home of one or both of their parents."

Pew Research Center also notes the following: "The growth in multigenerational living among 25- to 34-year-olds has been especially pronounced among those without a college degree. Multigenerational living has tripled among these young adults, compared with doubling among young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree. ...financial issues are a major reason why adults live in multigenerational households."

From the research cited above, it seems pretty clear that young adults are not necessarily choosing to live with their parents; rather it is circumstance, i.e. financial reality, that drives them into the multigenerational household.

Now imagine if there were a silver lining in this perhaps forced co-habitation. Could it be that such living arrangements turn out to be beneficial for both parties? Is such a living situation conducive to a new kind of family closeness and harmony -- or does it result in unpleasant interactions?

Some Boomers may recall childhood memories of grandparents living under the same roof with them, or perhaps, very close by.  When I was very young, I had a grandmother who lived with us for a time, and I remember treasuring the feeling of being spoiled by her! Is this a bad thing for three generations to be integrated into one household?

The fact is, multigenerational living arrangements are far less common in the United States than they are in other parts of the world. The Japanese culture, for example, has long been known for its belief in multigenerational living. This also translates into a respect for older adults that we seem to lack in the United States.

Financial circumstances may present some families with what could be a challenging choice. It is interesting to think about the dynamic that occurs when parents and adult children live in the same household -- and whether they can forge a new kind of relationship that's different from their previous parent/young child interaction. Who knows? Maybe accepting this new reality and accommodating each other's needs and wants may end up being an unexpected benefit to everyone.

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Combatting Ageism Locally

Pexels-ron-lach-9830837My last post regarding "everyday ageism" got me thinking about the kinds of actions ordinary citizens could take to combat ageism on a local level. Turns out there are communities around the United States that have launched local campaigns for just that reason. I'm highlighting two such initiatives here as examples of what can be implemented locally.

Changing the Narrative

Changing the Narrative in Colorado builds on five years of national work initiated by eight leading aging organizations that recognized a shared challenge: that what they were seeking to communicate about aging and ageism, and the social challenges and opportunities posed by demographic change, was not getting through in the way intended to the general public. A core strategy of the Initiative is the use of Change AGEnts—trained volunteers of all ages who will “call-in” ageism, educate their networks in reframing aging, and recognize individuals and organizations that are advancing a positive view of aging and eliminating ageist practices.

Changing the Narrative sponsors numerous anti-aging campaigns, among them:

  • Anti-ageist birthday cards
    Changing the Narrative has selected a diverse group of Colorado artists to design anti-ageist birthday cards. The designs defy negative views of aging and celebrate the joys of getting older
  • Age-friendly workplaces
    Changing the Narrative encourages Colorado employers to become Certified Age Friendly Employers
  • Age-friendly healthcare
    Changing the Narrative created an age-friendly healthcare guide for both individuals and health care providers and offers a list of academic and other sources that go into deeper detail about topics related to ageism and healthcare
  • Intergenerational conversations
    Changing the Narrative partnered with the local PBS television station to produce "on the same pAGE," a series of facilitated intergenerational discussions; this was expanded through virtual conversations
  • Changing the Narrative partnered with organizations in Douglas County, Colorado to sponsor an "Every Age Counts" poetry contest to raise awareness about ageism and how it negatively affects everyone in the community.

End Ageism

The San Francisco Reframing Aging Campaign is a collaborative effort to increase public awareness of ageism, disrupt negative stereotypes of aging, and connect residents with supportive resources and services. The campaign is a partnership between the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS), the Community Living Campaign, the Metta Fund, and numerous community-based organizations and neighbors. Together, they are embarking on a multi-pronged approach to increase public awareness of ageism and help San Franciscans of all ages recognize implicit ageism, connect residents with valuable aging resources, and foster inter-generational connections.

A comprehensive website features capsule biographies of five older San Franciscans, offers the opportunity to take an anti-ageism pledge and become a volunteer, and provides links to resources, articles and videos.

These are two excellent examples of what can be accomplished on a local level when ageism is acknowledged as a serious community issue. Find out if your local area is doing something productive and join the fight against ageism!

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Everyday Ageism is No Small Problem

Pexels-andrea-piacquadio-3831634New research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined the prevalence of everyday ageism, demonstrating that exposures were "associated with multiple indicators of poor mental and physical health." The study employed a newly developed multidimensional "Everyday Ageism Scale" to measure exposures.

Among 2,035 adults ranging in age from 50 to 80 years old, most respondents in the study (93.4 percent) reported regularly experiencing one or more forms of everyday ageism. Internalized ageism was reported by 81.2 percent of respondents, ageist messages by 65.2 percent of respondents, and interpersonal ageism by 44.9 percent of respondents. Mean Everyday Ageism Scale scores were higher for several sociodemographic groups. For example, ages 65 to 80 experienced higher exposures than ages 50 to 64, women experienced higher exposures than men, and White and Hispanic adult respondents experienced higher exposures than Black adult respondents.

The study showed that everyday ageism was associated with poor physical and health across four outcomes examined: Fair or poor physical health, Chronic health conditions, Fair or poor mental health and Depressive symptoms. Odds of negative health outcomes increased and the associated number of chronic health conditions also increased. The researchers stated:

"Everyday ageism may affect health outcomes via multiple pathways. Ageism may hamper quality of older adults' interactions with health care clinicians. Ageist cues, beliefs and interpersonal interactions may serve as stereotype threats, primes for stereotype embodiment, and models of normative expectations for older adults, all of which have been associated with poor health outcomes. Accordingly, everyday ageism may be a chronic stressor in the lives of older adults. ... Older adults with poor health may experience more ageist messages and discrimination (and discrimination based on health and disability) and personally relevant evidence supporting negative beliefs associated age with health."

While major incidents of ageism have been shown to be associated with poorer health and well-being among older adults, this study is unique in its focus on routine types of age-based discrimination, prejudice, and stereotyping that older adults encounter in their day-to-day lives, known as everyday ageism.

We should all be vigilant in recognizing all forms of ageism, whether external or internal. As we age, we should speak up when we are confronted with ageist attitudes, not practice ageism toward others and not beat ourselves up for being old. As this study indicates, everyday ageism in all of these ways can negatively affect our physical and mental health.

If you are interested in the full report of this study, click on the PDF link below.

Download JAMA-Ageism

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July Half-Price Sale on eBooks for Boomers!

During the month of July only, a select group of eBooks written for Boomers will be on sale for half-price. This special promotion is only available at Smashwords.com, where you can select your choice of eBook format, including Kindle (mobi), EPUB and PDF.

To take advantage of this half-price sale, click on the eBook titles below that interest you. When you check out, simply use the code SSW50 to get the eBook of your choice at half price. Offer good through July 31.

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World War Brands: World War II and the Rise of the Modern American Brand
by Barry Silverstein
Regular price: $5.99 Sale price: $2.99

This book explores the interrelationship of World War II and American brands, showing how the war itself was "branded," how brand advertisers leveraged the war, and how the post-war economy helped birth the modern brand. Included are 38 vintage ads and scores of stories about some of the best-known brands of the '40s and '50s.

This unique book takes a fresh look at the impact of World War II on America from a marketing perspective. History and brand buffs alike will be enthralled by WORLD WAR BRANDS!

BB

Boomer Brands: Iconic Brands that Shaped Our Childhood
by Barry Silverstein
Regular price: $4.99 Sale price: $2.49

This unique book is a stroll down memory lane, reminiscing about the beloved brands Boomers first met in the 50s and 60s. Brand maven Barry Silverstein shares “Boomer Brand Cameos” of over fifty of the brands Boomers grew up with: Disney, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Good Humor, Howard Johnson, Hush Puppies, MAD, Ovaltine, Twinkies, WIFFLE Ball and many more. Most of these brands began during the Boomer era and are still around. Plus, Boomers will gain rare insight into how these iconic brands shaped their childhood and have a lasting impact on their life. BOOMER BRANDS is meant to be read by Boomers, shared with Boomers, and savored for the memories!

BBWL

Boomer Brand Winners & Losers: 156 Best & Worst Brands of the 50s and 60s
by Barry Silverstein
Regular price: $4.99 Sale price: $2.49

This remarkable book features fascinating stories of 156 best and worst brands of the Boomer era. Readers can relive the days of Cap’n Crunch and Cocoa Puffs, E-Z Pop and Pop-Tarts, cap guns and comic books. They can recall the time when automobiles ruled the road and a transistor radio was “advanced technology.” They will learn how television played a key role in brand advertising. They will discover which brands blossomed and which were a bust. BOOMER BRAND WINNERS & LOSERS is a wondrous walk down Memory Lane!

LMMH

Let’s Make Money, Honey: The Couple’s Guide to Starting a Service Business
by Barry Silverstein and Sharon Wood
Regular price: $6.99 Sale price: $3.49

By a baby boomer couple who start a small service business as a second career, this how-to guide covers planning, financing, outfitting, and launching a service business, as well as operations, marketing, sales, customer service, and managing growth. Included are useful tools to help couples assess their business interests and compatibility. LET'S MAKE MONEY, HONEY is a must-read for Boomer couples, especially those exploring encore careers. 


Take advantage of this limited time offer to get eBooks at half-price today!

 

 

 


5 Ways to "Spend Safely in Retirement"

Pexels-magda-ehlers-1329292Have you heard of the "Spend Safely in Retirement" strategy? It is a research-based approach developed by the Stanford Center on Longevity in collaboration with the Society of Actuaries to give the highest number of retirees the biggest amount of income possible that would last their lifetimes.

According to Stanford researchers:

"The spend safely in retirement strategy is designed to help middle income workers and retirees decide when to retire, how much to spend in retirement, and how to best deploy your financial resources. The main goal of the strategy is to help you turn your assets – Social Security, the ability to work, savings, and home equity – into the most retirement income possible."

These are the five components of the Spend Safely in Retirement strategy:

  1. Delay Social Security
    "Maximizing the value of this benefit means waiting to start until at least your full retirement date. The longer you wait to start Social Security, the greater your monthly benefit will be."
  2. Plan Your Withdrawals from Savings
    "The Stanford researchers recommend that your retirement savings be invested in low-cost mutual funds, target date funds, or index funds. And then, use the required minimum distribution (RMD) formula to determine your annual withdrawals from these savings."
  3. Get Detailed with Projected Expenses
    "You need to see if the income from the above sources – as well as a pension if you are lucky enough to have one – is adequate to cover all of your projected expenses. The more accurate you can be with projecting your expenses, the more reliable your plan will be."
  4. Explore Other Sources of Income to Fill Shortfalls
    "The spend safely in retirement strategy recommends you consider delaying retirement, reducing expenses, getting a retirement job, and/or tapping your home equity to fill in the gaps."
  5. Explore More Sophisticated Withdrawal Strategies if You Have a Lot of Savings
    You could consider "annuities, a bucket approach, varying your withdrawal amounts based on investment returns (applying floors and guardrails), setting up a bond ladder, or establishing a more sophisticated allocation for your assets."

You can read more about this plan here.

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