Musings

Is It Possible to be Happy Right Now?

Musings Kawin-harasai-2Ev2aUB8NJI-unsplashBoomers who have self-isolated over the past several months may have been just about ready to loosen up a little bit and start venturing out. Then the surge in COVID-19 cases hit many states. This is both troubling and discouraging. Add that to what seems to be national tumult and finding a way to be positive is a challenge, to say the least. In fact, some Boomers may be wondering if it is even possible to be happy right now.

While there is no magic formula for happiness, the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, recently published an article that might be helpful. The article discusses important new research that points to resilience as a key differentiator among people who are happy vs. those who are not. According to the article, "research has found that resilient people—people who handle life’s challenges especially well, and who quickly bounce back from setbacks—are better able to hold on to the good, even in the presence of the bad."

Thankfully, resilience is a trait that can be cultivated, according to researchers. Research data from the study indicated that there are a number of things that resilient people do to find happiness right now:

  1. They set aside time to take care of body, mind and spirit.
  2. They help others.
  3. They use social media properly.
  4. They find ways to occasionally meet face to face while observing social distancing.

Read the full article for details about each of these four elements.

All of us have endured pain and made sacrifices, some more than others, during this pandemic. Some Boomers have taken ill, some have lost jobs and some may even be facing eviction from their homes. One thing I really believe about our generation, though: It is our perspective on life -- knowing we have survived life's challenges before -- that contributes to our own resilience.

As this hopeful article reminds us, "...when faced with challenges, resilient people don’t avoid negative states, thinking everything is fine. Rather, even while feeling stress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression, the resilient among us continue feeling love, gratitude, joy, and hope. Accepting (not suppressing) negative emotion is part of what it means to be resilient."

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

Photo by Kawin Harasai on Unsplash

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The Double Whammy: COVID-19 and Ageism

Musings Vincent-van-zalinge-4Mu2bXIsn5Y-unsplashRight now, COVID-19 shows no signs of abating. This has many implications for the country and the world, but it is especially unsettling for Boomers. We are vulnerable in two ways: First, we're more prone to get seriously ill or die from the virus. Second, we take the brunt of society's implicit blame.

This is a double whammy. Those of us who work in a traditional office setting may well be concerned if not terrified to return to our job. Perhaps we have been fortunate enough to have an employer who encouraged us to telecommute, but that can only last so long. Your employer, like most others, is probably hurting financially because of the shutdown of the economy. Who do you think will be the most likely employees to be laid off first? That's right, Boomers. Which age group will most likely have the toughest time finding another job? Right again, Boomers -- because in our society, discrimination on the basis of age runs rampant.

A recent article in The New York Times confirms the seriousness of the situation. Tricia Neuman, Medicare policy program director at Kaiser tells writer Mark Miller, "It's double jeopardy for older workers as businesses open up. If they return to work, they risk getting seriously ill due to Covid, but if they stay home, they may forfeit their earnings." As for retaining a job, Laurie McCann, an AARP foundation senior attorney, adds, "Older workers already faced much longer periods of unemployment than younger workers before the pandemic. I think that will be on steroids this time -- employers will be more reticent to hire older workers who may be more vulnerable to illness."

It goes without saying that state and federal laws are weak at best when it comes to protecting Boomers. The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act is intended to protect workers who are 40 and older from being discriminated against by employers with 20 or more workers. Unfortunately, it is a difficult law to enforce, because the burden is on the employee to prove definitively that age discrimination was the reason for a layoff, not being reinstated at a job, or not being hired for a new position.

Health insurance is a big problem for Boomer workers as well. If you're under 65 and lose your full-time job, you will also lose the all-important benefit of health insurance provided by your employer. Your next job is likely to be part-time or temporary, so it won't offer health insurance as a benefit. To put it bluntly, you're screwed until you turn 65 and can apply for Medicare.

On the financial side, retirement savings are taking a hit, as they did in the 2008-2009 recession. If you need income from work and you can't get work, you may have to dip into savings and/or draw Social Security earlier than you thought. This is one reason it is so important to work with a financial adviser.

Hopefully, you've put enough away for "a rainy day," because it sure is pouring at the moment.  You'll need to keep that financial umbrella open over your head a while longer.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge on Unsplash

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Boomers and Race

Musings Demonstration-5267931_1920In this blog I habitually discuss retirement, but it is hard not to acknowledge the current furor surrounding race in America. 

As the generation associated with the civil rights movement of the Sixties, Boomers should be all too familiar with this painful time. Back then, many of us were filled with moral outrage over the inequities in our country. Today's social unrest reinforces the well-known saying, "The more things change, the more they remain the same."

Some of us may have found it heartening when Barack Obama was elected as the first black president -- a vindication of sorts. Even so, racial injustice did not abate; in fact, racial discrimination only grew, and now it has reached an explosive moment. The sobering reality is that it is deeply embedded in our society.

As a retired marketing professional, I look at this reality through another lens. I pay particular attention to how brands react in moments like these.

Four days after George Floyd’s death, Nike took a bold step, modifying its iconic “Just Do It” slogan to read, “For once, Don’t Do It” in an ad that urged, “Don’t turn your back on racism. … Don’t think you can’t be part of the change.” 

Nike’s ad is emblematic of businesses and organizations jumping on the bandwagon of the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Brand advertising campaigns in support of the movement are springing up everywhere. Most advertisers are adopting a mea culpa attitude, acknowledging their racist culpability and promising to make amends.

Edelman, a leading public relations firm, just conducted a flash poll of consumer attitudes. Sixty percent of respondents said brands must take a stand to publicly speak out against racial injustice. CEO Richard Edelman observed, "The results are unequivocal: Americans want brands to step up and play a central role in addressing systemic racism. This is a mandate for brands to act, because consumers will exercise brand democracy with their wallets."

Of course, it is easier to pay lip service, even with a powerful advertising message, than it is to make fundamental change within a business or organization. For example, some observers lauded the Nike campaign I referenced earlier. Others demurred, however, pointing out that the company has key relationships with black athletes and garners substantial business from the African American demographic yet has no blacks on its executive leadership team.

The compelling question for brands is whether they and the marketers behind them are being authentic and sincere in their public claims. Are they examining their own organizations and doing all they can to overcome racial bias and injustice and, for that matter, bias of any kind?

Come to think of it, all of us can ask ourselves the same question.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

Image: Pixabay.com

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Back to the Sixties

Musings
Psychedelic-1503541_1280In 1948, Winston Churchill, paraphrasing George Santayana, said, "Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it."

Boomers like me who lived through the Sixties can surely relate to that observation. Today, we watch a repeat performance of some of the most turbulent years of our lifetime. In particular, the similarities between this year (so far) and 1968 are startling.

In April 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down. This event led to spontaneous riots in cities across America, lasting for several days. Robert F. Kennedy, who extemporaneously and eloquently spoke after King's murder, was himself assassinated in June 1968. Riots also occurred at the Democratic National Convention in August.

In July 1968, a flu pandemic known as the "Hong Kong Flu" broke out. An unconfirmed report suggested it may have started in China. The flu spread first throughout Asia. By September, it had reached India, the Philippines, Australia and Europe. American troops returning from Vietnam brought the virus to California. By December, it had spread throughout the United States. The outbreak lessened in the winter of 1969 - 1970, but not before the Hong Kong Flu had killed 100,000 people in this country and around one million people worldwide.

The successful launch of two American astronauts last month on a SpaceX vehicle parallels the October 1968 launch of Apollo 7. At the same time, war continued to rage in Vietnam, much as it does in Syria and other hot spots today.

Boomers have lived through wars, space launches, pandemics and national riots in the Sixties. Perhaps some of us believe that, as before, "this too shall pass." Yet we must bear witness to a harsh reality. Many of the inequities and injustices that were true in 1968 seem to still be true in 2020. As a country, we still suffer from inequality when it comes to wealth, education, healthcare and job opportunities. We still suffer from unspeakable gun violence. We still suffer from systemic racism, demonstrated by the murder of King in 1968 and the murder of George Floyd in 2020, which spurred spontaneous national riots. Tragically, Floyd is just the latest in a long line of brutal deaths at the hands of police, public servants whose job it is to protect all Americans.

There are things about growing up in the Sixties I enjoyed. Watching the upheaval of 1968 playing out again today is not one of them.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

Image: Pixabay.com

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


The Three "Re's"

Musings Screen Shot 2020-05-20 at 1.49.46 PMI've been considering the breakneck speed at which things have changed. The fact is, we may never see what we thought of as "normal" again. At the risk of preaching to a Boomer choir, here's one way to plan for getting our lives back. I call it the three "re's."

Re-enter

Most of the states in our country are starting to re-open, so now is the time to consider how you will re-enter society. This is a very personal decision. Older Boomers and those with underlying conditions will likely be more conservative when thinking about getting back to everyday life outside the home. Should you go to the supermarket? Should you go to a dentist or doctor appointment? Should you go back into a work environment? You may be in a position to re-enter gradually and, over time, increase your external exposure. Every decision will take into account your health and the health of those living with you. You'll obviously consider the risks and rewards of what you do. For example, you may feel comfortable taking a short road trip, but you probably won't feel comfortable getting on an airplane for a long time.

Re-evaluate

As you plan your re-entry, you may also want to re-evaluate your whole situation. You need to consider all aspects of life -- health, job, volunteering, recreation, home, retirement, financial condition and so on -- in the context of a new normal. What short- and long-term consequences will the pandemic have on the way you live your life? What are the implications of the economic impact? What changes will you find it necessary to make? How has the pandemic affected how you think about your future plans?

Re-trench

Your re-evaluation may result in an unanticipated, unpleasant fact: You will be forced to re-trench. You may have to make new decisions about working, retiring, investing or just getting on with your life. You may have to modify some of your life goals or re-set your expectations. Some things may have to change just for a while and other things may change permanently. You'll probably have to find new ways to cope with a different reality.

The three "re's" is just one approach to facing adversity and rebuilding our lives. Those of us who see life's challenges as opportunities instead of problems will be in the best position to succeed.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

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


Something is NOT Rotten in the State of Denmark

Musings Flag-667467_1920In Shakespeare's Hamlet, a guard who sees the ghost of Hamlet's father proclaims, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." Something is definitely NOT rotten in the state of Denmark: That diminutive Scandinavian country puts America to shame in its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a recent Opinion piece for The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof does an admirable job of proving the point. Kristof wrote:

"Denmark lowered new infections so successfully that last month it reopened elementary schools and day care centers as well as barber shops and physical therapy centers. ... Moreover, Danes kept their jobs. ... America's unemployment rate last month was 14.7 percent, but Denmark's is hovering in the range of 4 percent to 5 percent."

How did Denmark accomplish what America could not? Detractors say it's because Denmark practices something evil known as "democratic socialism." But in Denmark's case, democratic socialism seems to create a government that is a lot more empathetic toward the population than the American government. For example:

  • Instead of allowing companies to lay off workers and throw everyone onto unemployment, as we did in the U.S., Denmark paid its employers to keep their workers on the payroll. The country reimbursed up to 90 percent of workers' wages to keep them employed.
  • Instead of instituting a terribly managed and inequitable business loan and grant system, as we did in the U.S., Denmark simply helped companies pay fixed costs such as their rent, as long as the companies agreed to suspend dividends, not buy back stock, and not use foreign tax havens to evade taxes.
  • Instead of low-wage workers suffering the catastrophic loss of wages and health insurance by being laid off in the U.S., Denmark, because of its democratic socialism, protected its workers: McDonald's workers in Denmark, for example, earn around $22 per hour, which includes pay supplements -- AND they get universal medical insurance, paid sick leave, six weeks of paid vacation annually, one year of paid maternity leave, life insurance and a pension plan.

Danes are generally regarded as some of the happiest people in the world. They should be, if even a McDonald's worker is treated so well. In fact, everyone in Danish society is treated well. About 80 percent of Danes ages 16 to 64 work (a higher percentage than in the U.S.) and they work an average of 22 percent fewer hours than Americans. More than 80 percent of Danish workers are under collective bargaining contracts because Danish unions are strong. This is the kind of system that can sustain itself during something as devastating as a pandemic. 

Danish Labor Minister Peter Hummelgaard told Kristof, "Danes love America, but there's no admiration for the level of inequality in America, for the lack of job security, for the lack of health security, for all those things that normally can create a good society."

Well, well. Maybe this pandemic should give us pause to seriously consider why a great country like ours cannot come close to the social safety net provided by a country like Denmark. It certainly doesn't seem "rotten" to me.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

Image: Pixabay.com

Reader Comment: Without getting political, I've written a few blogs on how Scandinavian countries - despite frigid arctic temperatures and months of darkness, have the happiest people on the planet. This fact has always fascinated me. After all, we all do well to learn from other cultures. They do have a better handle on the coronavirus and are well-known for providing basic necessities including free university education, social security, universal health care, efficient infrastructure, paid family leave, and at least a month of vacation a year. But I also think we can learn a few lessons from the Norwegians and the way they live. They practice "hygge" which requires being present in a moment – whether the moment is simple, soothing, or special – that brings comfort, contentment, or pleasure. Norwegians have proven to be less materialistic than other cultures, appreciating low-cost activities and simple things in life. Working overtime or on weekends? Unheard of! These countries have harsh weather, but these people are a hearty bunch who show their appreciation for nature and the great outdoors year round. In winter, most Norwegians aren’t sitting in their houses all depressed. They can be found skiing, dog-sledding, snowboarding, snow-shoeing, and enjoying the spectacular northern lights. During summer months, they take advantage of the warmer weather to hike, swim, cycle, and sail. I think these happiness reports confirm that happiness has less to do with money and success and more to do with spirituality, our relationship with others, gratitude, a giving attitude, and being present and mindful. And maybe adding a little more hygge to our lives.

- Julie Gorges, https://babyboomerbliss.net/

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


An Uncomfortable Reality

MusingsAs Boomers, we might very well be conflicted about reopening the country after what, for most of us, has been two months or less of staying at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Those of us who have been conscientious about self-isolation have probably figured out how to cope with a new way of carrying on our daily lives. Maybe it has involved lots more online ordering and grocery delivery, lots less face-to-face contact with family and friends, and lots of fun or frustration dealing with digital technologies such as Zoom.

No doubt we're feeling like we want to get back to something resembling "normal" behavior, especially with the advent of spring and summer weather. But I'm guessing you're cautiously optimistic, if not downright anxious, about what "reopening" will mean. You are not alone: A recent PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll shows a large majority of Americans are concerned about it. Check out the results of the poll below:

Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 12.17.21 PM

Clearly, we are all facing an uncomfortable reality. Thankfully, Boomers are wise enough to know that most choices in life have a risk/reward ratio associated with them. But this choice is a particularly difficult one: How long should we or can we cloister ourselves away, vs. when are we ready to take some risks and jump back into the stream of everyday life?

The decision may be more obvious for some of us than for others. For example, if you have health conditions that may compromise your immunity, or you take care of an elderly parent, you are far more likely to adopt a very conservative approach to reentry. If, on the other hand, you need to return to work and you cannot work from home, you may very well believe the reward is greater than the risk.

This is one of those times when no one has an easy answer. The decision will, in fact, be very different for everyone. Hopefully, each of us will make the right one.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

Image: PBS NewHour

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A Lesson in Resiliency

Musings Resilient-4899283_1920There are many notable stories emerging from the coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps an under-reported aspect is the remarkable resilience of some older citizens, as evidenced in this New York Times article, "Why So Many Older People Thrive in Lockdown."

Writer John Leland spoke with three New Yorkers, ages 99, 85 and 88. All of them were not only surviving the pandemic but finding ways to thrive during it.

  • The 99-year old Sterling Lord, a literary agent who once represented Jack Kerouac and today represents Lawrence Ferlinghetti, is able to work in relative isolation. He says the virus lockdown "has been an inconvenience" because Lord wants to start yet another literary agency and "he cannot hire assistants to get the new agency going."
  • Historian Janet Wasserman, 85, is doing research via the Internet. She has a healthy perspective on the situation, telling Leland, "If you haven't lived as long as I have you might think this was the worst thing that ever happened. But people who know history know the difference."
  • Theater professor and director Gordon Rogoff, 88, is happily catching up on his reading. He says, "I’m recovering some sense of space and time that’s been lost in the hectic arrangements in which we live on a daily basis."

In the article, Leland quotes Gary M. Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center and professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Kennedy says "pessimism and anxiety tend to abate with age. [Older people are] no longer striving for material achievements, so what matters to them now is what's emotionally satisfying. They're more likely to say, I've been through this before."

I find it encouraging that these elders have adopted such a positive outlook during a time of global crisis. While the pandemic has turned life upside down for all of us, they seem to be far better at coping with the effects of this virus than others. In contrast, younger folks are very anxious and upset. They are impatient to restart their lives. Of course, their anxiety is totally justified, but one gets the feeling that many of them may not take the social distancing precautions necessary when restrictions are eased. We've already seen a flagrant disregard by some people for guidelines intended to protect all of us.

Nothing can beat the wisdom of experience and the perspective of age. It's sad that our society generally derides elders instead of honoring them. Sterling Lord, Janet Wasserman and Gordon Rogoff offer us a much-needed lesson in resiliency.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

Image: Pixabay.com

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


Coronavirus Revelations

Musings Man-4957154_1920The coronavirus pandemic affects everyone on the planet one way or another. For one thing, many of us now have a lot of isolation-inspired time on our hands. In my case, it has given me time to ponder what this unprecedented event really means. It has made me see our own country's priorities and challenges through a very different lens.
 
I remember our country going through such trying times as President Kennedy's assassination, the war in Vietnam, Watergate/Nixon's resignation, 9/11 and the 2008 financial meltdown. As a nation, we have always managed to recover from adversity. Still, for decades, underlying chronic problems have lingered, and when we have an unimaginable crisis like this one, they become painfully obvious. For me, coronavirus has revealed three glaring weaknesses: 
 
The incompetence of our federal government. The pandemic has highlighted the fact that our political leaders have been emphasizing all the wrong priorities while failing to do the one basic thing for which they are responsible — protecting citizens. There is growing evidence that our government was unprepared for this pandemic even though it should have been. Important public health functions were eliminated, experts were let go and concerns that were raised were ignored or not taken seriously. Leadership at the national level is non-existent. The petty, combative, ignorant political leaders who "run the country" lack the empathy, honesty, cooperative spirit and moral fiber to intelligently deal with something of this magnitude. Fortunately, many governors have stepped up and done their best to fill the void.
 
The fragility of our systems. Only when such a crisis occurs can we see first-hand how inter-dependent we are. Local restaurants are just one small example. I took it for granted that we could walk into a restaurant any time we wanted and get great local cuisine served by friendly staff. Having them suddenly close made me understand what that means for restaurant owners who live on thin margins, for restaurant workers who struggle, and for the entire supply chain of farmers, fishermen, truck drivers and others whose livelihoods have been instantly obliterated. It is likely many small independently run restaurants will never re-open. This same scenario applies more broadly across many aspects of modern life in America. Every industry in the country, every product we buy and every service we use is inter-related on some level. When any part of our system fails, it’s like pulling out the Joker from a house of cards.
 
The inequity of our society. It is startling that a tiny virus can make so obvious the huge gap between the haves and have nots. Somehow the rich and famous manage to get tested and enjoy the very best care if they get sick. At the same time, others who are less fortunate are told to avoid getting tested and come to a hospital only if they are having trouble breathing. Everyone is told to stay at home; some of us can work for home, but others who cannot are abruptly laid off. As a result millions of people lose their jobs and have no health insurance and no savings. Here's how the federal government "fixes" the problem: It authorizes payments that cannot be made in a timely manner, unemployment benefits that are impossible to obtain because of overwhelmed state bureaucracies, and small business loans that banks are not prepared to fulfill. Once again, our systems fail the middle class and poor people who need the most help.
 
Front-line workers risk their lives to save others but are not provided the basic protective gear they need. The sobering fact is that these very dedicated people are paid less than a living wage and receive meager benefits. I saw one story about a poorly paid EMT worker in New York who was terrified because all of his emergency calls were related to coronavirus, yet he himself had no health insurance. Compare that with millionaire politicians who have the best health care in the country. How can we as a society allow that?
 
My apologies if I may have depressed you with my outrage, but a pandemic has a way of revealing the cracks in our country that we might otherwise ignore.
 

Coping with High Anxiety

Musings Covid-19-4939288_1920As a boomer blogger during this time of crisis, I'm sheltering in place as much as possible and trying not to obsess over the bleak news. I'm certain I am not alone -- everyone is surely having to cope with the high anxiety created by this unprecedented global event.

Still, I find it encouraging and inspiring to see what people and businesses are doing at a time like this. In the Asheville area where I live, clever and creative things are springing up. Some examples: The "Quarantine Concert Series," is a free series of nightly online concerts performed by local musicians in an empty venue (you can donate online to support your favorite musician). "Asheville Strong" is a website that allows any local restaurant or merchant to link to gift cards that can be purchased online and used later, since all restaurants and merchants are closed for now, except for delivery and pick-up. I would bet similar things are happening in your area, wherever you live.

Boomers are old and wise enough to know that challenges and crises are a part of life that tend to make us wiser and more resilient. In that spirit, I'm sharing a link below to one of the more helpful, positive resources I've found:

Greater Good's Guide to Well-Being During Coronavirus

This free online guide contains lots of practices, articles and resources, including "How to Keep the Greater Good in Mind During the Coronavirus Outbreak," "How Can We Stop Prejudice in a Pandemic?" and "Eight Acts of Goodness Amid the COVID-19 Outbreak."

Be smart and stay safe. We will prevail.

HappilyRewired.com is a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog.

Image: Pixabay.com

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