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February 2020

Retire? Not Me!

Musings Senior-2642041_1920We may soon have to ban the word "retirement" from the Boomer lexicon. In order to write this blog, I scan numerous other blogs, newsletters, websites and articles that deal with aging and retirement. A common theme across virtually all of them is how Boomers are completely redefining retirement, almost on a daily basis.

I've begun to think of the concept of retirement as the "instead of" time of life. Instead of retirement, Boomers are reinventing themselves through any number of second act pursuits. Some potential retirees volunteer, some travel, some start new ventures of their own, and some want to or have to continue to work.

Retirement and Its Discontents, a recent book by university professor Michelle Pannor Silver, draws from in-depth interviews she conducted with people whose departure from their life's work meant losing a core and fundamental component of their personal identity. In the Introduction to her book, Silver addresses an interesting paradox: "Although retirement is primarily thought of as a time to enjoy life without the burdens or work, some people can feel burdened by a life without work. For these people, retirement can feel deeply constraining and limiting. Retirement's freedom can create challenges for people whose life's work was closely associated with their sense of self-worth."

I think Silver's salient observation about the retiree's "sense of self-worth" is a central theme in the retirement dilemma for many Boomers. Professionals in particular may feel a real loss when they leave their careers because it may have been their careers that defined much of their lives. How do they resurrect the feeling that this next stage of their lives has meaning and purpose? How do they achieve fulfillment from something else -- something that may not be as all-encompassing and exhilarating as their work lives?

Of course, there is no uniform answer for every aging Boomer. Each of us finds our own unique path to what's next. This is the part of retirement that is both vexing and liberating. What's most important is that we do not let the concept of "retirement" close ourselves off from life -- rather it should represent a welcome new phase of life for all of us. is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.


Check out the new book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!

This Was "Hi Tech" in the 50s and 60s

The innovations of the current Digital Age are remarkable, but we sometimes forget that we enjoyed technological marvels in the 50s and 60s. I thought it might be fun to look back and consider the innovations we thought of as "hi tech" when we were growing up.

Technology was very much a part of the lives of Boomer kids – it was just different kinds of technology. The most enticing technological advancement was television (and eventually color television). However, there were other thrilling innovations, such as the 45 rpm records that created a market for “single” hits, and transistor radios, which made it possible for kids to carry around radio stations that played their favorite rock ‘n’ roll tunes.

Other technologies would become important to our young lives. For example, the push button (“Touch-Tone”) telephone replaced the rotary dial in 1963, heralding a new era of easier teen talk. The Polaroid Land camera amazed Boomer kids by producing instantly developed photographs. The microwave helped mom create almost-instant meals.

Magnetic tape came into its own, affecting Boomers in two ways: On the video side, television shows could be recorded on tape instead of film; by 1963, “instant replay” became a feature of sports events. On the audio side, the 8-track tape made it possible for teens to play their favorite albums in their cars (even if the tape jammed every now and then). That was followed by the equally unreliable cassette tape.

Technology was changing in the world around Boomer kids as well. In 1959, the first commercial plain paper copier introduced by Xerox revolutionized the duplication process. Also in 1959, two patents were granted for tiny electronic circuits known as “microchips,” the core of just about every technology device we use today. Jet airliners began to fly domestically and internationally in the 50s.  The 1957 launch of the first U.S. satellite ended in failure, but it would foreshadow future space successes, including astronauts landing on the moon in 1969.

Commercial computers appeared in the 50s, but the first personal computer did not come along until 1975 – and even then, it was in the form of a kit. The early 60s saw the introduction of the IBM Selectric typewriter, the invention of the laser, and the first use of a factory robot. The first computer mouse was invented in 1964 and the earliest version of video games appeared in 1966.

The Boomer era brought with it technological changes of great significance, even if the Information Age was still in its infancy. Here are just two hi tech examples -- one "winner" and one "loser" of the Boomer era.

Winner: Touch-Tone Telephone

13i-TouchToneTelephoneBoomer kids (and their moms) sure liked talking on the telephone. Not to be sexist, but it was largely adolescent and teenage girls who burned up the telephone lines, spending hours chatting with their friends. A prized birthday gift for a Boomer kid was getting his or her own phone (a land line phone with a physical cord was the only option back then). Of course, conversations with a boyfriend or girlfriend often had to be conducted in the privacy of a closet! Telephone technology kept up with our communication needs. In 1959, the Bell System’s “Princess,” brilliantly targeting women, featured a low-profile design, a light-up dial that functioned as a night light, and a remarkable range of colors. It was the perfect accessory for any bedroom. In 1963, a revolutionary technology known as “dual-tone multi-frequency” was introduced by Bell under the name, “Touch-Tone.” How exciting it was to push those buttons and here the different tones! It took twenty years for Touch-Tone technology to replace rotary or pulse dialing, but push-button phones eventually became a worldwide standard.

Image: Touch-Tone Keypad, Bill Bradford,, CC BY 2.0

Loser: View-Master

13h-ViewMasterDebuting in 1939, the “View-Master” was a stereoscope device that used cardboard reels with pairs of photographic images that appeared to be three-dimensional when viewed. It became popular with Boomer kids in the 50s after View-Master acquired a competitor and gained licensing rights to Walt Disney Studios. Throughout the 50s and 60s, newer, more streamlined versions of the View-Master were introduced, including the first plastic model in 1962, along with an ever-increasing line of reels. When GAF bought the company in 1966, the reels appealed to Boomer kids by relying on tie-ins with cartoon characters and television shows. However, the decades-old technology was aging; it could never really compete with color television and the movies. GAF tried to keep View-Master vibrant by introducing “talking” models and projectors in the 1970s and 1980s. In an effort to maintain brand relevance, Mattel, the current owner of View-Master, teamed with Google to produce a “View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer.” A movie based on View-Master is also being considered. Really?!

Image: View-Master, Deiby Chico,, CC BY 2.0

This post is an excerpt from the new book, Boomer Brand Winners & Losers by Barry Silverstein. Copyright 2020, Barry Silverstein. Publisher: GuideWords Publishing. Available in print, eBook and audiobook formats at all online booksellers. is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

Check out the new book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!

Age-Old Learning

Musings Glasses-272399_1920For many Boomers, learning is part of living. The aging process may cause aches and pains, sleepless nights and other irritations, but it is also a time when we can open up our minds to new things. Thankfully, opportunities to learn abound -- and increasingly, those opportunities are specifically targeting Boomers.

One great example of Boomer-oriented learning is the growing number of OLLIs across the country. About twenty years old, OLLIs -- Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes -- are educational programs for seniors that are associated with select colleges and universities. At present, there are 124 OLLIs nationally with at least one OLLI in each of the 50 states plus D.C. You can find a list of the institutes here:

Also encouraging is the growing number of undergraduate and graduate schools that offer free or reduced tuition to seniors. In addition, more colleges than ever are offering regular or continuing education courses that address some of the work and life challenges Boomers face as they age. Even programs designed to help Boomers pursue encore careers are starting to appear, as reported in Two such programs mentioned in the article are Notre Dame's Inspired Leadership Initiative and the University of Minnesota's Advanced Career Initiative.

The importance of educating seniors (as in older Americans, not high school seniors) should not be under-estimated, given increasing lifespans and the likelihood that Boomers will be working far beyond the traditional retirement age. According to an AARP report cited in the NextAvenue article, “With people living longer, more adults are turning to continued education for both personal enrichment and to learn new skills. Providing programs tailored to their interests and needs is a promising opportunity for both the public and private sectors, while updating the skillsets of the 50-plus cohort will give them added credibility in a competitive workplace.”

The age-old need for learning takes on new urgency when it becomes "old age learning." is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.


Check out the new book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!

"Oscar" isn't the Only One Who's Aging

Media Oscar-3200050_1920That famous little statue will be handed out at the 92nd annual Academy Award ceremony on February 9. Yes, "Oscar" is 92 years old.

This year, it's encouraging to see a whole host of "older" (i.e., over 50) actors and directors get nominated. As my colleague Julie Gorges writes in her blog, Baby Boomer Bliss, "I keep hoping that Hollywood, and society at large, haven’t completely forgotten the value of the older crowd with their knowledge, life experience, and insight. Maybe this is a step in the right direction."

I think it can be said with some degree of confidence that acting is a timeless art, and we are just as taken with outstanding performances from older actors as from younger ones. How can you be anything but impressed by the acting of Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce in "The Two Popes," or Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in "The Irishman." (It was, however, a bit unsettling and even spooky knowing that De Niro, Pacino and Pesci were digitally modified to look younger for most of the movie.)

Interestingly, both "The Two Popes" and "The Irishman" were produced by Netflix, so there appears to be a growing opportunity for older actors as the number of streaming options have increased. Companies such as Amazon and Netflix are producing numerous television series and movies featuring older actors, recognizing, perhaps, that the 50-plus crowd is a formidable demographic making up a solid portion of their streaming audiences.

This is positive for two reasons: First, it reinvigorates and extends the careers of aging actors. Second, it acknowledges that older characters can and should be represented prominently in television and films. Too often in the past (and even today), older characters have been relegated to minor roles or, worse, parodied and ridiculed in the media. It is refreshing to see Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin ("The Kominsky Method") and Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin ("Grace and Frankie") as headliners in two successful television series on Netflix. Sure, both shows poke fun at aging, but in a realistic and sometimes poignant manner.

Employing older actors and depicting older characters on screen is a more accurate representation of the real America. Let's hope the trend continues. is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.


Check out the new book featuring 156 best and worst brands of the 50s and 60s!