We Are Women, Hear Us Roar!

hillary clinton

Whether you like Hillary Clinton or not, June 7, 2016 was a significant day in North American history when she became the presumptive U.S. Presidential nominee for the Democratic Party and will become the first woman in the 240-year history of the U.S. to lead the presidential ticket of a major political party. Bernie Sanders’s supporters seem to think that her victory was a vast conspiracy perpetrated by the establishment and Wall Street, but ever since Hillary won the Californian primary, both Sanders and his followers have been very quiet. In fact, nobody talked about her win or his loss in California – I literally had to google it to find out what the final score was.

Even Hillary’s former critics, such as Senator Elisabeth Warren, finally came out and endorsed her. Obama also officially announced his own endorsement for his former Secretary of State and embarked on his national tour to campaign for her. Most white American men continue to intensely dislike Hillary. Many young men and women, particularly the millennials, support Sanders and see Hillary as “Killary,” “Shillary,” or “the witch.”

As Elisabeth Renzetti of The Globe and Mail said, female politicians must walk a narrow path between forcefulness and likeability. Hillary is distinctly qualified, decisive, smart, strong and tough. But these attributes do not make her likeable. In her endorsement of Hillary, Elisabeth Warren said that “for 25 years, Hillary’s been taking the incomings. The right wing has thrown everything they possibly can at her. Other people would have given up, but Hillary gets back up and she gets back in the fight.” Above all, she cares. And for many of us boomer women, her win represents all our hard work to get equal rights, equal pay and to express a strong opinion at the same table as powerful men in the board room.

I was bitterly disappointed eight years ago when Hillary had to cede the race to Barack Obama. In her concession speech, she lamented about her failure to crack “the highest, hardest glass ceiling.” But she got up, came back and keeps fighting. That’s what women should always do in a men’s world. Hillary is always among the smartest in any room, back in those Arkansas days when she became the first woman director on the board of Walmart – a position she held for six years. She is by no means perfect, but she has always inspired other women by the years of service she has devoted to her fellow Americans and her tenacity in spite of the many criticisms that came her way over the years.

I was relieved and gratified to see Hillary clinch the Democratic nomination. While watching her joyous victory speech on TV that historic night on June 7, I marveled at the numerous text messages I’ve received from other fellow boomer women, sharing their pride and excitement. But I’m waiting for the glorious moment on November 9 when we can truly celebrate this feminist icon’s victory as the first female President in the most powerful nation of the world. Only then can we tell our daughters and granddaughters that nothing is out of reach for women.

This has been, indeed, a good month for female politicians. In Europe, Rome has elected its first female mayor – 37-year-old lawyer Virginia Raggi of the 5-Star Movement – who won 67 percent of the vote in the second round. Her rival, Democrat Roberto Giachetti, who was backed by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, conceded defeat less than an hour after polls closed. Another 5-Star candidate, Chiara Appendino, also won the mayoral race in Turin with 55 percent of the vote. In a male-dominated, chauvinistic political environment in Italy, these two female leaders are trailblazers facing daunting tasks of trying to solve corruption, traffic and mafia problems.

The road ahead will be undeniably rocky for all these women politicians. The battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the general elections will be bloody, brutal and ugly. In Rome, cynics are already snubbing the newly elected Raggi, predicting her not-too-distant failure. But having worked my way up to become the first double-minority (female and visible minority) partner of Canada’s largest communications firm, I believe this is just the beginning of a new chapter for all women and am confident that the future can only be bright for us all.

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Importance Of End-Of-Life Care

Photo Credit: ehospice.com

Photo Credit: ehospice.com

While everybody has been debating about the pros and cons of the proposed Bill C-14 on the right to die in Canada, another important topic is being sidelined – the access to and the quality of palliative care.

Specialists believe that there is too much fear surrounding discussions about end-of-life care. They said it is not about what happens when all treatments have failed, but a team of people – such as doctors, nurses, social workers and others – helping make sure Canadians have what they need to continue fighting while relieving the severity of symptoms and improving quality of life. According to palliative care experts, part of the challenge is that there will be legislation around the right to assisted death but there is neither legislation nor enough clinicians to adequately provide end-of-life care across Canada.

Dr. Jeff Myers, the head of Palliative Care at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, believes end-of-life care should be provided by family doctors, specialists and many other health care professionals who are already treating people for disease. This includes basic symptom management, emotional and mental health support, and the ability to discuss advance care planning and goals of care. He said then we can be certain that people are making assisted dying requests having had access to the full spectrum of care, regardless of how long they have left to live and regardless of what challenging conditions they are living with.

Another end-of-life care expert, Harvey Max Chochinov, who is Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care and Director of the Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit, wrote in The Toronto Star last year that despite the impressive strides that palliative care has taken, physicians have been taught less about pain management than those graduating from veterinary medicine. Once in practice, most physicians have knowledge deficiencies that can significantly impair their ability to manage cancer pain. Doctors are also not generally well-trained to engage in end-of-life conversations, meaning that goals of care often remain unclear; and patients may not receive the care they want or the opportunity to live out their final days in the place they would want to die.

According to Professor Chochinov, it is unfortunate that for 70 to 80 percent of Canadians, palliative care is not available and, therefore, not a real choice. It is concerning that we might become a country that extends patients the right to a hastened death, but offers no legislative guarantees or assurances that they will be well looked after until they die.

Palliative care doctors are urging the Canadian government to improve and standardize end-of-life care across the country. According to Dr. David Henderson, President of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, there is a lack of palliative care service and it is unevenly distributed. In Canada, the federal government provides guidelines on health services and funding, but the provinces and territories manage them. Palliative care doctors would like to see one body set up to decide what are best practices in end-of-life care, how to mobilize them and set standards, and to collect data. Dr. Henderson said there needs to be palliative care training for new doctors and other health care workers as well as upgrading of skills for those already practicing. Fewer Canadians might opt for doctor-assisted death if palliative care services were improved.

Dr. Henderson also recently co-wrote in a Globe and Mail op-ed article with Dr. Susan MacDonald, Past President of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians, that while Bill C-14 is in the process of becoming law, palliative care units in Ontario are closing due to funding cuts, and there is no law on the table about the right to end-of-life care. Tragically, many people die at home, with no access to palliative care supports such as home care nursing or visits from a family doctor or, when needed, a palliative care team.

The two doctors strongly advocated that now is the time for a national palliative-care program. “Dying is a part of life,” they said. “We should not let our incomes, our postal codes or our family support networks determine how well or how poorly we die. We need to think about this, discuss it – and fix it. The time is right to insist that our health ministers address this issue in Canada’s new health accord.”

Too much focus has been placed on the June 6 deadline for passing Bill C-14, but not enough discussions have been made on understanding the urgency of universal access to quality palliative care in Canada. As the nation debates its response to the court’s decision, it is, perhaps, equally important for federal and provincial governments to make sizable investments in hospice and palliative care in order to offer patients and families choices that are fair, compassionate and real.


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Toronto Wins With Legalization Of Uber

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Photo Credit: Getty Images

As a staunch supporter of Uber, I was overjoyed to hear that Toronto finally joined Edmonton and Ottawa in legalizing Uber. Kudos to both Mayor John Tory and Uber’s own tireless efforts to rally all loyal supporters, riders and drivers. After months of protests, turmoil and, at times, violence, Toronto city council approved new rules in a marathon meeting last week that finally allowed a legal, regulated UberX to continue operating in Canada’s largest city.

Mayor Tory convinced council to vote 27-15 in favour of the following new rules:

  • Allow private transportation companies like Uber to operate in Toronto, booked only through a smartphone app, with a $3.25 minimum fare (Uber will pay $0.30 per trip as a “city fee”) and “surge” peak-time pricing.
  • Allow taxis to adopt a “surge” peak-time pricing for rides booked via smartphone app.
  • Uber cars are not allowed to be hailed on the street. Taxi rides that are hailed on the street, at a taxi stand or ordered over the phone, still face regulated rates set by the city with no “surge” pricing.
  • Taxis will continue to be required to have cameras, and flashing emergency lights, but not for Uber. Have city staff report back next year on whether private transportation companies like Uber need cameras.
  • Ensure Uber and taxis have insurance of at least $2 million on all drivers for bodily injury, death and damages to people or property.
  • Undo 2014 reforms that would have phased out ownership of “standard” plates as a commodity and ensure all cabs be accessible for disabled by 2014.
  • The city will eliminate its requirements for drivers to take training programs in order to get a licence; and taxi and limousine drivers will no longer have to take CPR and first-aid training.

As a consumer who frequently relies on taxi and Uber rides, I believe the city has struck a right balance. We continue to have value-for-money ride-sharing services and with the new rules, passengers’ safety is safeguarded with the stipulation of insurance for Uber. While most passengers do not like “surge pricing,” we still maintain the option of calling a cab by phone or hailing one on the street.

Of course, the new legislation is not perfect and grey areas continue to exist. I would prefer Uber vehicles to be mandated to install cameras in order to ensure safety for passengers. There does not seem to be tightened legislation on criminal background checks on Uber drivers and this still puts thousands of ride-sharing passengers in some sort of danger.

Taxi drivers are obviously not happy because they now officially face stiff competition. While Uber’s spokesperson in Canada said they can live with the new rules, they also expressed concern that higher expenses would discourage part-time drivers to join Uber as it would be challenging to maintain a sound livelihood with the new system.

But, all in all, this is a good, solid confirmation of democracy and a freedom of choice for the fourth largest city in North America. Mayor Tory and city council should be lauded for listening to consumers and embracing new technology; striking a reasonable balance between taxi companies and ride-sharing services; paving the road for the advent of more ride-hailing companies such as Lyft; and making a commitment to review and adapt the rules and legislation pertaining to ride-sharing in a year’s time.

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Marketers Gradually Understand Potential of Boomers

Photo Credit: southeastdiscovery.com

Photo Credit: southeastdiscovery.com

I was both frustrated and pleased to read the article Older Consumers Will Reshape The Business Landscape in the April 9th edition of The Economist. I was pleased because I was flattered that an esteemed publication like The Economist shares pretty much the same insights as mine some nine years ago when I first started this blog. In 2007 on this blog’s home page, I wrote, “Very few companies have fully realized the immense opportunity that baby boomers present for their businesses. As marketers, we must consider the needs of this demographic now, more than ever, as the aging population increasingly grows in importance.” The British magazine echoed the same sentiments: “Yet companies have been relatively slow to focus on this expanding market – certainly slower than they were to attend to the youth-quake (a term coined by Diana Vreeland, the editor-in-chief of Vogue in 1965, to describe how baby boomers were shaking up popular culture).”

The Economist now replaced this term with a “grey-quake” instead. The potential of baby boomers as a marketing target is huge, not just in Canada, but worldwide. According to the publication, those over 60 constitute the fastest-growing group in the populations of rich countries, with their number set to increase by more than a third by 2030, from 164m to 222m. Older consumers are also the wealthiest and the over-60s currently spend some $4 trillion a year and that number will grow.

But I was frustrated because it seems like marketers have made very little progress in targeting the greying population. The publication pointed out that The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) calculates that less than 15% of firms have developed a business strategy focused on the elderly. The magazine’s sister organization, The Economist Intelligence Unit, found that only 31 percent of firms it polled did take into account increased longevity when making plans for sales and marketing.

I’ve always said that one of the main reasons for this lacklustre progress is because marketing to older people is not perceived as sexy. The other reason, as pointed out by The Economist, is that young people dominate marketing departments and think that the best place for the old is out of sight and mind. Apparently, Britain is no different from North America. A study by fast.Map, a marketer, and Involve Millennium, a consultant, found 68 percent of British 65-74-year-olds “don’t relate” to advertising that they see on television.

Because most greying baby boomers consider themselves at least 10 years younger than their age, the surest way of alienating them is to talk down to them or treat them as old. When Procter & Gamble repackaged some of its dental products as “selected for aged 50-plus consumers,” its sales plunged. In the U.K., Bridgestone made a mistake by promoting a new line of golf clubs as one for pensioners, thus producing poor sales.

However, The Economist said that “change is in the air.” A report by the Mckinsey Global Institute (MGI) points out that older consumers are one of the few engines of growth in an otherwise sluggish global economy. While BRIC countries are drastically slowing down in growth and millennials around the world suffer from the twin burdens of student debt and the lingering impact of the 2008 financial crisis, the older demographic seems to be the only hope for despondent marketers. MGI calculates that pensioners in the developed world spend an average of $39,000 on consumption compared with $29,500 for the 30-44 age group. The publication pointed out that “the old are becoming the new new thing.”

In Japan, NTT DoCoMo not only produced a phone with large keys and a big display screen, but also redesigned its marketing, promoting the new phones during bus tours for pensioners and providing classes in shops to explain the ins-and-outs of apps. Electronics manufacturers are also producing devices that are designed specifically for old people. For instance, Independa, based in the U.S., manufactures a monitor that sends an alert if something goes south for an elderly person, making it easier for the frail senior citizen to stay in their own homes rather than to move to nursing homes.

New, innovative ideas appealing to older consumers also appear to be on the rise in Canada. I’ve posted on this blog on November 11, 2014 about the launch of a Canadian venture, Blaycation (www.blaycation.com), a bucket-list travel adventure company providing customized, curated luxury-focused travel for baby boomers. Since its launch, the company has been doing well as an online travel planner for baby boomers and mature adventure seekers. Its website features over 20 personally-designed tours that include many exotic travel destinations and bucket-list adventures including an Irish Castle Aristocratic Experience hosted by the 7th Earl of Erne.

Although I remain skeptical about how long it has taken marketers to focus on the mature population, it is encouraging to see that companies around the world are making an effort to take the older population more seriously. Marketers should really take heed when one of the most influential publications in the world is hopeful that baby boomers will continue to change everything they’ve touched, including retirement!

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In Praise Of Millennial Musicians

Photo Credit: noisey.vice.com

Photo Credit: noisey.vice.com

In spite of the many differences between the millennial and the baby boomer generations, there is the universal appeal of music that often crosses generations and influences both. Needless to say, millennial musicians dominate the Billboard Hot 100 – from Adele and Rihanna to The Weeknd to Justin Bieber to Drake, and the last three happen to be Canadians!

As a boomer who loves music, both old and new, I’ve recently added two millennial musicians to my most-favourites list: Danish pop/soul/funk group Lukas Graham and American singer and songwriter, Meghan Trainor.

I first heard Lukas Graham’s 7 Years on the radio while driving in Florida and fell in love immediately not only with the music, but the lyrics of the song. Originally an Internet sensation, the Danish group of four, all averaging 27-29 years old, has just released their first album in North America with Warner Brothers titled with the same name as the group. The 11 songs on the album not only dazzled me with the music, but also the poetry in the lyrics. From his tight bond with his late father and the wisdom of his mother while growing up, to the criminal company he kept and the love stories including the loss of his virginity to a stripper, group leader Lukas Graham Forchhammer sang about his poor upbringing in Copenhagen, his dark past and his gratitude to his parents for making him what he is now. 7 Years might be the band’s first worldwide hit, but I believe it’s their last track on their album, Funeral, which will make them a cross-cultural, inter-generational superstar.

Why would a millennial think about mortality? Shouldn’t this generation be fearless albeit disillusioned? Instead, the song that starts with the chiming of church bells, begins with: “When it’s my time, I know you’ll tailor a new suit for me, And buy a new tie, so I look this good; Boy, you were right, you said, “Only the good ones die young,” Never in my life, did I look this good…” and ends with a partying attitude, ” You’re all on my tab, Bartenders pour out the whiskeys on me, And don’t be so sad ’cause I lived this good. We’re all closer, now it’s over, But it doesn’t mean it’s closure, I see you and I love you, I’ll be watching out above you.” Next to Robbie Williams’s Angels, this is, by far, the best song about death and funerals that I’ve ever heard!

What I like about Graham is his ambition and focus. In an interview with The Huffington Post, he said, “I don’t want to be in the Hot 100 with a Hot 100 song. I want to be in the Hot 100 with 7 Years.” And he did – with a song on the themes of aging and growing up. Graham said that it’s the age that captures people first because everyone is getting older. “You can’t stop that,” he said. Sounded like a boomer talking?

Apart from Lukas Graham, I’m hooked on the music by 23-year-old American singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor. It’s not surprising that boomers like me would naturally love her first album Title because of its 1950s and 1960s rhythm and sound. But it’s once again the lyrics of Trainor’s songs that caught my attention. From the themes of modern womanhood, body image and female empowerment, emerged the success of a young woman whose debut album in 2015 won her numerous awards, produced four top 20 singles, and sold over one million copies just in the U.S. alone.

Her second release, Thank You, scheduled to release next month, already produces a lead single, No, which has reached the top three on the Billboard Hot 100. Instead of the retro-style R&B tunes so prominent in her first album, the song No is more hip-hop and rap. However, the lyrics remain feisty and feminist: “All my ladies, listen up, If that boy ain’t giving up, Lick your lips and swing your hips, Girl all you gotta say is – My name is no, My sign is no, My number is no, You need to let it go, You need to let it go, Need to let it go, Nah to the ah to the no, no no….” This is the perfect “no means no” song for college girls who are prone to sexual violence and date rapes on university campuses.

To Trainor, her winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist this year was both a breakthrough and an irony since she has already written, recorded, performed and produced three independently-released albums between the ages of 15 and 17. Nevertheless, she cried on stage when she received the award and the whole world was happy for her!

In this day and age of superficial celebrity culture around the likes of the Kardashians, it is gratifying to see the success of both Lukas Graham and Meghan Trainor who impress all generations with their confidence, talent, hard work and perseverance even though they may not initially appear as the most physically-attractive entertainers on stage. It is their music and individuality that make these young musicians beautiful, and inner beauty trumps it all!

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