The Power of Mentoring

OntheHouseI've long believed in the power of mentoring. I remember mentors who helped me as I advanced in my career, some of whom were my bosses. I think back to when I ran a direct marketing agency and decided to bring on a partner with more experience than me. He, too, became a key mentor in my professional development.

When I retired from marketing, I wanted to mentor others in the same way. For ten years, I was a volunteer marketing counselor to small business owners, mostly one-person operations, through a local college's small business center.  While I had expertise in marketing, I had to keep up with current marketing practices, so mentoring forced me to stay on top of things and continue to learn. This is a part of mentoring that some people overlook -- mentoring can be as much a learning experience as a teaching experience. For me, mentoring was extremely gratifying, especially when I received the occasional thank you note from a person I helped. I got pretty pumped up when I saw how some local entrepreneurs were applying my advice to grow their businesses.

I have a feeling there is huge mentoring potential in retired and soon-to-be retired Boomers, and so does Marc Freedman, the founder of Encore.org. In his new book, How to Live Forever, Freedman discusses the value of an older generation mentoring younger generations. In an interview with Jane Brody of The New York Times, Freedman said, “Older people are uniquely suited for a mentoring role. The critical skills for nurturing relationships — emotional regulation and empathy — blossom as we age.” 

As for what it takes to be a mentor, Freedman commented that any Boomer could be good at it by following a few basic ground rules. “You don’t have to be a charismatic superhero," Freedman said. "You don’t need an advanced degree. It’s more about the relationship than imparting sage advice. The key is not being interesting. The real key is being interested — being present and paying attention.”

For Boomers who have special expertise in a particular discipline, as I did, mentoring through a small business center or through SCORE, the nation's largest network of business counselors, is the way to go. But there are many other types of mentoring opportunities that don't require a professional background, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, one of the country's largest youth mentoring organizations.

It turns out that mentoring, like volunteering, really does improve your quality of life in your later years. In her article, Brody cites research from a four-decade study that suggests "middle-aged and older people who invested in the well-being of the next generation were three times as likely to be happy as those who didn’t make such an effort. They also lived longer."

Mentoring worked for me, and it seems to work for many other Boomers. Maybe it can work for you.

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


An Interview with Boomer Author Julie Gorges

Books Book Cover I'm Your Daughter JulieA new memoir, I'm Your Daughter, Julie, explores the emotional experience of a baby boomer caring for her mother, who has been diagnosed with Lewy Body dementia. In reading this excellent, engaging book, I began to understand the enormous challenge of caring for elderly parents, and I also learned a great deal about the harsh realities of dementia.

Julie Gorges, the author of the book, was kind enough to answer my questions about her writing career, her new book, and her advice for boomers who face a dementia diagnosis.

You've had a wide variety of writing experience -- as a newspaper reporter, short story writer, and author of non-fiction and fiction books. How would you characterize the difference between writing non-fiction and fiction? Do you find one form of writing more appealing than another?

That’s a good question. Writing fiction and non-fiction are more alike than one may think. Penning a novel with a fascinating plot, compelling characters, and lyrical prose is a creative endeavor. But the process often involves using true personal experiences or factual events as a springboard into an author’s imagination. Non-fiction is based purely on accurate facts. But techniques used in fiction are often used to make articles and non-fiction books more compelling and dramatic.

Do I like one form of writing more than another? When I first started writing, I focused primarily on fiction. But as the years went by, I became increasingly drawn to non-fiction. Stories I wrote about people as a newspaper reporter were fascinating and inspiring. Plus, I discovered that writing non-fiction has the power to educate, motivate, solve problems, heal, offer hope, and even change lives. Writing about real life is a great way to share the wisdom you’ve gained over the years to help others.

While I’m writing non-fiction right now, I haven’t ruled out writing another novel someday. What I do know is that I will write until the day I die. I’m in love, captivated, and addicted to words. Words are powerful, sometimes even magical, evoke our imaginations, and create wondrous worlds to explore. I started down the path of becoming a writer 30 years ago and still love the endless possibilities that this career offers.

Why did you write your first novel for teenage girls? How difficult was it to adopt the persona of a teenage girl and write in the first person?

I started my first novel while in my early 20s when my teen years were still fresh on my mind. So, it was easy to channel my experiences and feelings into my novel. Thankfully, I kept diaries as a teen-ager and much of the story comes directly from journals – with some fabrication, embellishments, and imagination thrown in, of course.

The teen years are fascinating to write about since it’s a time of discovery, a time when decisions can change your life forever, and a time of intense emotions. That’s why we all remember our teen years so well. It’s a time of unforgettable firsts – your first love, your first betrayal, your first profound mistake, or your first heroic act – all happening within a short amount of time.

Since the main character had many facets of my personality, it was easy for me to adopt her persona and writing in first person seemed to come naturally. By the way, finishing and publishing my first novel came years later, which speaks to the tenacity and perseverance that this career demands.

Your new book, I'm Your Daughter, Julie: Caring for a Parent with Dementia, is a very personal story about caring for your mom, who had Lewy Body Dementia. What made you decide to write this memoir?

Although many people encouraged me to share my story, I couldn’t immediately immerse myself in the painful memories of watching Mom slowly lose her mind, deteriorate physically before my eyes, and take her last breath. Nevertheless, eventually, I felt compelled to write the book out of a desire to help others learn from my successes and mistakes as a caregiver. For example, when my Mom developed bedsores while in a rehabilitation center that contributed to her death, I knew it was important to warn other caregivers and family members so they might be able to prevent such a catastrophe. By sharing my intimate journey, I hoped to make the process of bit easier and provide comfort to those losing a loved one to dementia so they wouldn’t feel alone.

I also wanted to write the kind of book that I would have found beneficial during those difficult years. I tried to read a few books while caregiving, but they were so thick and overwhelming. Time was limited and I didn’t need to know all the science behind what causes Alzheimer’s or Lewy Body dementia or try to decipher essential information from fluff often used as filler to meet a publisher’s page requirement. In a short amount of time, I needed to know how to communicate with my Mom when she was being unreasonable, how to help her get dressed when she became immobile, and how to keep from going crazy. That’s why my concise book is under 100 pages and to the point.  

In addition, not all books of this nature take you to the end of this journey and beyond. The mourning process for a caregiver is somewhat different and I wanted to share ways that family caregivers can move forward after their loved ones die.

What advice do you have for boomers who are facing a dementia diagnosis, either for a loved one or for themselves?

Knowledge is power. Become informed. You’ll be better prepared to handle the wide variety of challenges that lie ahead if you know what to expect. Try and learn everything you can about the disease from your doctors, websites, books, and support groups. There are many things you can do to make life more dignified and enjoyable during this time. Once you become informed, you may need to help educate other family members and friends.

Also, keep in mind, there are several types of dementia. Try to get an accurate diagnosis so you can find the right treatment plan that can include medications and lifestyle changes to help with symptoms. Having an accurate diagnosis will also help you make informed medical decisions and make plans for the future.

Finally, face this disease one day at a time. If you are caring for a loved one with dementia, caregiving is a meaningful, worthwhile, and important undertaking. That being said, make sure you take care of your own needs, accept help when offered, and be aware of caregiving options to help you during later stages.

About Julie
Author Photo 2018-1Julie A. Gorges is an award-winning journalist, author, and freelance writer. She is also a blogger at Baby Boomer Bliss, recently recognized as one of the top baby boomer blogs on the web. Her latest book, I’m Your Daughter, Julie is available on Amazon. If you’d like to learn more about Julie, please visit her author’s website.


How Boomers Impact the Job Market

MusingsStatistically, Boomers are about to lose their position as the generation with the highest U.S. population, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2019, Millennials are expected to reach 73 million in number while Boomers will top out at 72 million.

Still, the number of Boomers in the job market is significant. According to an article in Forbes, workers age 55-plus accounted for around 23 percent of the labor market in 2018, up from about 18 percent in 2008, ten years earlier. In terms of the labor force participation rate, younger workers have either remained flat or declined from 1998 to 2018, while the 55-64 and 65-plus age groups have steadily increased.

Aparna Mathur, who authored the article, sees a number of reasons for this phenomenon. For one thing, many older workers need to work longer for financial reasons. For another, older workers are healthier and living longer, so they have the ability to remain in the work force longer than previous generations. Just as important, older workers want to remain in the workforce because work is rewarding for them.

The interesting side effect is that the current economy boasts a very low unemployment rate, which means it is more challenging for companies to find skilled workers. Guess what -- Boomers are skilled workers! Boomers can also offer employers flexibility in that they are willing and often want to work part-time, which turns out to be more cost-effective for the hiring companies.

So let's hope we are nearing a point at which the continuing desire of Boomers to work, and their resiliency in the labor market, intersects with the employment needs of companies. Only then will our society conquer age discrimination and realize the value that Boomers continue to bring to the table.

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?

 


Do Boomers Still Matter to Marketers?

MediaSadly, most of the advertising Boomers are exposed to seems to be squarely aimed at the Millennial, Gen X or younger generations. Increasingly, ads for just about any product feature consumers younger than Boomers. Advertising that does target Boomers (during television news shows, for example) is largely composed of pharmaceutical promotions.

The benign neglect exhibited by marketers toward Boomers doesn't really make good business sense. There are over 70 million Boomers in the U.S. The majority of the country's wealth is concentrated in our hands, and we are responsible for the lion's share of consumer spending. We continue to work longer and, as a result, spend more longer. 

Still, I've noticed a few things lately that suggest Boomers are not being completely ignored by marketers.

Remember Woodstock? (Of course you do.) Well get ready for Woodstock 50. Celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of Woodstock, a three-day festival (August 16, 17, 18, 2019) will be held in Watkins Glen, New York, according to Rolling Stone. In preparation for the event, a replica of the iconic Volkswagen "magic bus" will be making the rounds during the summer. The original VW van couldn't be found, so a replica was painstakingly created, in part with the support of Volkswagen. Smart marketers will use Woodstock 50 as an opportunity to appeal to Boomers.

The revitalization of "Boomer brands" also seems to be in vogue. Remember Hickory Farms? (Of course you do.) Created in 1951, this specialty foods brand is currently undergoing a makeover with the addition of such updated products as truffle salami and sriracha mustard. It's an effort to keep the brand fresh while maintaining its original reputation for quality. It's also an attempt to remind Boomers of a brand they grew up with while appealing to younger audiences.

Some television shows and movies have latched onto the Boomer era. The award-winning Amazon TV show, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," takes place in 1958, while "Green Book," the movie that won this year's Best Picture at the Academy Awards, was set in 1962.

Some marketers may continue to ignore Boomers, but wise marketers and media companies recognize that Boomers are still vital... and very capable of spending money.

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?

 

 

 


Retirement and Self-Discovery

OnaWhimA major study about retirement called the Retirement Transitions Study reveals that many retirees face a psychological battle for self-discovery. Harvard Business School professor Teresa Amabile, who conducted the research along with colleagues from other institutions, says that retirees are typically "searching for something to replace [their] work identity." Amabile's team cut a broad swath with their research, interviewing 120 professionals at three different companies located in separate geographic areas of the United States. They talked to Millennials, workers approaching retirement, late-career professionals entering retirement, and those who had already retired, all at the same companies.

Amabile saw a distinct pattern emerge from the research: Those who had retired seemed to be quite happy about it initially, but then, after several weeks or months, the novelty wore off. According to Amabile, “You go from [work] to having to be an architect of a new life structure and, often, a new identity, where you need to build a new life and explore new activities, relationships, and ways of thinking about yourself.”

One of the intriguing qualities uncovered in the research is something called building "identity bridges," which retirees use as a strategy for preserving continuity between their pre-and post-retirement selves. Some of these identity bridges include "activating a latent identity" (rediscovering a passion that could not be pursued due to the rigors of work), "maintaining a life philosophy" that helps an individual remain positive despite the challenges of retirement, and "finding a new source for valued affirmation" (establishing relationships that provide the positive feedback that work used to offer).

This is important research that may very well validate what you feel if you are thinking about retirement or have already retired. Read more about it here: https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/welcome-to-retirement-who-am-i-now

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


You Deserve a "Respectful Exit"

OntheClockGenerally I stay away from any kind of open endorsement in writing my blog posts, but I feel compelled to tell you about an organization called "Respectful Exits." Led by Paul Rupert, an expert in flexible scheduling and staffing, this nonprofit has initiated a national campaign with local affiliates. Their goal is to get employer practices "to catch up with the new longevity." The Respectful Exits "Longevity Agenda" has the following objectives:

  • End the 65 “sell-by” date as a mandatory or informal “retirement age”

  • Practice career-long development and training of all staff

  • Encourage robust flexible scheduling for employees of all ages

  • Provide ongoing, on-demand financial wellness counseling

  • Implement and promote flexible and phased retirement options.

Respectful Exits has just launched a free online tool called "The Phazer." Here's how the organization describes it:

The guidance in The Phazer™ is based on tools and processes we developed in the phased retirement programs of major companies. Hundreds have used them successfully. While no one can guarantee the success of a given proposal – and there are risks in stepping forward – two truisms apply here: “If you don’t ask, you won’t get” and “You don’t get what you deserve…you get what you negotiate.”

Think of this site as a GPS to the destination of your choice. 

Kudos to Respectful Exits for taking a proactive approach to age discrimination in the workplace. If you are in a situation with an employer where you are being phased out or terminated because of your age, even if you want to continue to work, you should definitely check out Respectful Exits in general and The Phazer specifically. Here are the links to their sites:

https://www.respectfulexits.org/

https://www.thephazer.org/

Have you heard about the new book, Boomer Brands?


Savor the Memories: The Brands You Loved as a Kid in a New Book

I am excited to announce the publication of my new book, written especially for Boomers!

Standup1Boomer Brands: Iconic Brands that Shaped Our Childhood is a unique book that celebrates the brands of the 50s and 60s. The book covers cereal, soft drink, snack food, fast food, toy, car, beauty brands and more, as well as rock ‘n’ roll, protest and environmental brands. I share “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, and WIFFLE Ball, to name a few. Plus, Boomers will gain rare insight into how these iconic brands shaped their childhood and have a lasting impact on their life.

Publishers Weekly says Boomer Brands is “a delightful journey through a time that saw the birth of the modern brand,” while Midwest Book Review calls it “a unique, entertaining, nostalgic, and impressively informative read from first page to last.”

 Boomers are already buzzing about Boomer Brands:

When was the last time you had your memory tickled over a long-forgotten but prized product that shaped your childhood? You’ll find a lot of those “Oh, yeah, I remember” moments in Barry Silverstein’s wonderful wander down Memory Lane. “Try it, you’ll like it.”
- Ron Schon, Retired Advertising Agency Executive and OLLI Instructor,
“The History of Advertising”

Boomer Brands is a delightful book filled with fun facts about our favorite childhood brands and memories. If you're over 50, you're sure to enjoy this nostalgic, entertaining and informative stroll down Memory Lane. 
- Nancy Collamer, Career/Retirement Coach and Author, Second-Act Careers

If you remember watching Saturday morning TV while slurping down a bowl of Frosted Flakes, or perhaps begged your parents to visit Disneyland after watching Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday night, you’ll want to read Boomer Brands. This enjoyable, easy read is chock full of fun facts about what made the brands we grew up with iconic.
- Anne Holmes, “Boomer in Chief,” National Association of Baby Boomer Women

Barry Silverstein offers a fun walk down Memory Lane for boomers, describing what made some of their favorite childhood brands so treasured then and now.
- Richard Eisenberg, Managing Editor, Nextavenue.org

Boomer Brands is meant to be read by Boomers, shared with Boomers, and savored for the memories! It is available from all major booksellers in print and eBook editions. Find out more about it, download a free chapter, or purchase a copy here:

http://www.boomerbrandsbook.com


Age Discrimination is Alive and Well

MusingsAge discrimination in the American workplace remains problematic for anyone over the age of 50. An ongoing study by Pro Publica and the Urban Institute, has followed since 1992 a nationally representative sample of about 20,000 people from the time they turn 50 through the rest of their lives. Through 2016, the study found that 56 percent of this sample were laid off at least once or left jobs under financially damaging circumstances. The analysis further showed that only 10 percent of these workers ever again earn as much as they did before their employment setbacks. Richard Johnson, an urban economist from the Urban Institute who worked on the study, concluded, “For the majority of older Americans, working after 50 is considerably riskier and more turbulent than we previously thought.”

There is strong evidence from the study that a majority of Americans over 50 with stable jobs are pushed out of work. The study showed that "28 percent of stable, longtime employees sustain at least one damaging layoff by their employers between turning 50 and leaving work for retirement... An additional 13 percent of workers who start their 50s in long-held positions unexpectedly retire under conditions that suggest they were forced out."

The bottom line: The data analysis conducted suggests "as many as 22 million of these people have or will suffer a layoff, forced retirement or other involuntary job separation. Of these, only a little over 2 million have recovered or will." In an excellent article on Pro Publica about age discrimination and the results of the study, Carl Van Horn, a Rutgers University professor and director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, commented, “There’s no safe haven in today’s labor market. Even older workers who have held jobs with the same employer for decades may be laid off without warning.”

This is not the first time I have reported on age discrimination in this blog. The more I read about age discrimination, the more I wonder if it is representative of a broader societal attitude toward aging. Employers routinely discriminate against older employees, hiring younger (i.e. less expensive) employees to take their place -- making the federal age discrimination law nothing more than a paper tiger. It is true that a few companies boast hiring older employees, but it is comparatively only a handful. 

Are we really at the stage where people over 50 can be thrown out of the workforce simply because of their age? Apparently, the answer is yes. Imagine the experience and knowledge base that is being tossed out as well. It's a sad commentary with no end in sight.


How Do You Define "Old"?

MusingsAs Boomers age, they are likely to redefine old age based on their own lives and perceptions. In a recent article for The New York Times, Steven Petrow asks the provocative question, "Am I 'Old'?" and discovers that the answer is entirely different based on who is being asked. Sergei Scherbov, a researcher on aging, answers the question with a broader definition, telling Petrow that "an old age threshold should not be fixed but depend on the characteristics of people.” He sees such factors as life expectancy, disability rates, cognitive function, and personal health as contributing to the definition of old age. Thankfully, says Scherbov, a 65-year old today is generally equivalent to a 55-year old from forty-five years ago.

It turns out that different generations define "old age" differently, too. According to Petrow, we Boomers generally regard 73 as the start of old age, while Gen Xers think it is more like 65 years of age. Meanwhile, Millennials believe 59 is "old."

Sadly, the negative perceptions of elders is a universal phenomenon: Well over half (almost two-thirds) of respondents to an international survey by the World Health Organization "did not respect older people," writes Petrow. In high-income countries such as the U.S., the lack of respect for older people was highest.

Ultimately, we all define old age in personal, subjective terms. Those of us who are spry, active and healthy at 65 or 70 probably perceive old age as far in the future, while Boomers afflicted with health issues or limited mobility may feel differently. Being engaged and vital, having a full and rich life, and feeling useful may all contribute to seeing aging in a positive light.

How do you define "old"? Maybe the best way to look at it is simply, "You're only as old as you think you are."


The Work Dilemma of the "Tweener"

MusingsI've noticed more and more reporting on the work dilemma of the "tweener" -- the 50s-something Boomer who finds himself or herself in that strange transitional role somewhere between full-time work and retirement. Many of these younger Boomers have come to the realization that they will need to work longer than they may have anticipated simply because they need to fund living longer. Others, even if financially secure, recognize that they need to work to feel fulfilled.

A recent article in The New York Times characterizes this time of life as one in which the Boomer needs to become a "modern elder," says Chip Conley who, after running his own company for twenty-four years, was asked to mentor executives in a technology company. It put him in the unusual position of an industry expert with very little in the way of technology experience or, as the article states, "he was often the oldest person in the room, learning from colleagues who were young enough to be his children."

In his new book, Wisdom at Work: The Making of a Modern Elder, Conley further details his own experience and explores the concept of the modern elder. He believes the modern elder 's role is "simultaneously sharing wisdom while embracing fresh ideas and ways of thinking." The article's author, Marci Alboher, was inspired by Conley to seek out other role models for the modern elder, and she says she found a lot of them, all in their 50s. She admits that she also learned, however, that "it helps to have a financial safety net" if you are going to consider a more non-traditional work role such as Conley discovered.

Boomers in their 50s are often faced with this kind of dilemma, either because they are summarily dismissed from the full-time job they had for decades, or they tire of it and want a new challenge. The fundamental problem in our society is people in their 50s, 60s and 70s are thrown on the scrapheap rather than offered employment opportunities that take advantage of their years of experience. Thankfully, some companies are enlightened and work with older employees to transition them out of a full-time job to a part-time or consultative role, but that is rare. Instead, Boomer employees are discriminated against because of age. They lose the jobs they have and then cannot get another position because they are overlooked in favor of younger employees. The sad fact is that a company that terminates a Boomer employee due to age is often losing the value of the employee's considerable knowledge base.

Perhaps the "modern elder" model will take hold, but in order for that to happen, employers have to acknowledge the value of contracting with Boomers, and Boomers have to be in a position to risk taking on non-traditional employment. Still, being a modern elder presents another novel option for Boomers who need to or want to work and are excluded from the job market.