It’s The Life In Your Years That Count!

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This past summer marked one of my most memorable birthdays – I hosted a luncheon party for almost 30 of my closest friends from around the world at one of my favourite venues, Langdon Hall Country House, in Cambridge, Ontario.

I always believe in celebrating life when one is still alive, healthy and happy, and no matter how old one is. So what more to ask for than having a room full of good friends who have put aside their other priorities for one day, and chosen to celebrate my birthday with me all under one roof? Half of them have travelled very far from Hong Kong, Hangzhou, Singapore, San Francisco, New York and Vancouver in addition to my Canadian friends from Toronto and Collingwood. It was a beautiful Sunday in July and the marathon luncheon was close to perfection!

I have previously briefed the team at Langdon Hall during the preparation stage that if all else failed, the food could not be anything but great. Indeed, Executive Chef Jason Bangerter and his team knocked it out of the park for me and my guests! Chef Jason custom-designed a five-course luncheon menu  based on my theme of “inspiring influence.”

The meal began with Montfort CHEVRE whipped with honey from Langdon Hall’s own nine colonies of bees on its 75-acre estate. The bees feed on the estate’s garden flowers creating its unique honey with flavours of lavender, chamomile, marigold and basil, just to mention a few. Lemon jam, bronze fennel also from the garden, hazelnut crumb and fig jam completed this beautiful amuse-bouche.

This was followed by the West Coast Great Bear Scallop, with orchard apple gastrique, geranium, celery and yogurt. The scallops were hand harvested by First Nations farmers just outside Great Bear, British Columbia, only hours out of the water which gave us the freshest, best-quality and sustainable product one can ever get! When Chef Jason first presented this culinary design to me in April, he was suggesting that the scallops be done quite raw so that they would taste like sashimi. When it came to the final meal, the scallops were slightly poached instead to address my concern that some of my Canadian friends do not take raw food in any form. This was, by far, my most favourite dish from the entire luncheon.

From one coast to another came the East Coast Snow Crab with cured Quebec foie gras torchon grated over the top; pickled and raw Niagara grapes; foraged sumac and late harvest wine jelly.

The main course featured Roasted Ontario Beef with braised cheek, charred leek, wild mild mushrooms and Madeira sauce. Once again, when Chef Jason first presented this concept to me in the spring, my immediate reaction was that roast beef is a very common dish. But the chef explained that the beef is from a local farm called YU ranch in Cambridge, Ontario, while the breed is a true Texas Longhorn. The unique aspect of this beef is that it is not mass produced – the herd lives in a forest all year round and the farmer has to go looking for the herd! Only a small number of cattle are harvested a year, scrutinized by extremely high selection standards. I could tell that this was a favourite dish for all my guests as most of them emptied their plates very quickly.

The dessert is always the most memorable and the trickiest dish to prepare. Chef Jason, in conjunction with Pastry Chef Rachel Nicholson, developed a signature recipe for the Langdon Chocolate at Cacao Barry’s prestigious Or Noir in Paris, France. The dark chocolate had an ideal amount of bitterness and the milk chocolate was as creamy and shiny as you would want it to be.The chocolate was presented with Langdon Hall’s own garden garnishes, fresh berries and Rose ice cream.

In addition to the food being a great hit at the luncheon, Chef Jason himself became instantly very popular at my party. He gave a brief introduction of the customized menu in an intimate Chef’s Table style for all my guests prior to the food being served. Contrary to most chefs who focus on cooking and supervising in the kitchen, Chef Jason has a gifted flair for presentation and communication as well and managed to charm everybody even before they started eating! Since he joined Langdon Hall from Auberge du Pommier and Luma in 2013, Chef Jason has already garnered numerous culinary awards for Langdon Hall including The Good Food Innovation Award and the CAA/AAA Five Diamond Award.

Thanks to my friends and the staff at Langdon Hall, I had had a close-to-perfect birthday celebration this year. And should any skeptical baby boomer ask why birthdays are still such a big deal, I would respond by quoting Abraham Lincoln, “…in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Hear hear!

 

 

 

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Slowing Aging May Not Be That Bad

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Last month, The Economist‘s article, Cheating Death, conjured up the distant possibility of slowing, and even abolishing, aging all together with successful scientific research and breakthroughs. With the increase of average lifespans over the past century, the new extension of human life can be brought about by specific anti-senescence drugs, some of which may already exist.

The publication reported that life for many people could be extended to today’s ceiling of 120 or so. Centenarians might be less of a rarity as worn-out body parts will be repaired or replaced, DNA will be optimized for long life and more anti-aging drugs will be at work.

It seems like everybody wants longevity, but few have thought about how long life can exacerbate existing social and economic problems. Social inequity will become more of a problem if wealthy people are given preferential access to anti-senescence treatment which could be very expensive.

Already, a lot of millennials resent their boomer colleagues now because the latter are reluctant to retire and are, therefore, perceived to limit the careers of their younger subordinates. If older workers can live even longer, bosses might increasingly cling on to their senior positions and be reluctant to let go.

If you think boomers have been delaying retirement now for the lack of savings, retirement would even become a more distant option for most. People might want to expand their careers by going back to school in their 50s to learn how to do something completely different. The enviable professions such as accountants and lawyers might be less craved for just because people with longer lives could shift to a totally different profession in order to try out something new within their extra-long lifespan.

Longevity will also be detrimental to family life too. The feasibility of people tying the knot in their 20s and be expected with the same person 80 years later seems dismal. As The Economist said, “the one-partner life, already on the decline, could become rare, replaced by a series of relationships, each as long as what many today would consider a decent marital stretch.”

This is, of course, a pessimist’s point of view. An optimist would consider a longer life a happier life, provided that you’re still physically and mentally healthy! According to a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, older people tend to be happier than younger people, and their happiness increases with age.

The New York Times reported that researchers in the study contacted 1,546 people aged 21 to 99 via random telephone calls and found that older age was associated with higher levels of overall satisfaction, happiness and well-being, and lower levels of anxiety, depression and stress. The older the person, the study found, the better his or her mental health tended to be.

According to the senior author of the study, Dr. Dilip V. Jeste, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, “Brain studies show that the amygdala in older people responds less to stressful or negative images than in a younger person. We become wise. Peer pressure loses its sting. Better decision-making, more control of emotions, doing things that are not just for yourself, knowing oneself better, being more studious and yet more decisive.”

So, there you go – if we can combine an age-defying body with a contented mental state, longevity might be something to look forward to after all so long as you have the financial resources to sustain your long life as well!

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Increase In Start-Ups Targeting Boomers

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North American entrepreneurs are increasingly seeing the potential of the baby boomer market. According to The New York Times, many companies are plugging into a wealthy slice of the over-50 demographic called the longevity market, whose annual economic activity currently amounts to US$7.6 trillion as estimated by AARP. With an estimated US$74.9 million baby boomers, according to Pew Research Center, the biggest market opportunity for start-ups is older Americans rather than hip millennials.

The staggering size of the total longevity economy has been attracting more entrepreneurs, deep-pocketed financiers and places to pitch new ideas in the past few years. New business ideas that cater to boomers include chefs, online dating sites and yoga instructors for people with health issues. Evelo, for instance, is an electric bike company in the U.S. which aims at making and marketing such vehicles, including one that folds, for older customers. Other services include companies that offer home downsizing, gyms for the 55-and-older demographic and meal kits for people with diabetes or heart conditions.

The New York Times further reported that AARP now holds yearly pitch events for entrepreneurs and even has its own incubator, The Hatchery. Entrepreneurs are also showing up at other events like the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit and those held by Aging 2.0, a San Francisco innovation accelerator.

Many start-ups are trying new ways to reach their target audiences. Evelo, the bicycle company, uses a network of about 300 so-called brand ambassadors to market to potential customers. They have bought a bike, registered on the site to be ambassadors, and can opt to take prospective buyers on test rides. After a bike purchase, the ambassador gets a cash incentive.

CNBC also reported on the booming trend of baby boomer start-ups. Companies such as Honor, Stitch and even Amazon are trying to tap into the over-50 demographic with innovative technology, but more importantly products that are easy to use and provide a service to an aging population.

Stitch was only started two years ago to address social isolation among older adults. The site, which now has 50,000 members in 50 cities around the world, connects boomers and seniors so they can socialize, travel, make friends and find companions. It is based on a subscription service which costs US$80 per year or US$15 per month.

Another start-up success story in this category is Honor – a caregiving app that’s known as the Uber of home care. The company connects older adults with caregivers for short-term jobs.

Amazon’s Echo voice-recognition device, for example, is especially appealing to someone in the over-50 demographic with its “skills” and unique, hands-free capabilities. AARP believes that Amazon is leading the way for other start-ups to enter this market. According to Jody Holtzman, senior vice president of market innovation at AARP, voice recognition will take the friction out of issues of technology usage. “You add on Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, the connected home, autonomous vehicles… Amazon Echo is a great new entry point to this,” she said. Through AARP’s demonstrations to venture capital companies, American start-ups targeting baby boomers raised well over US$100 million within the last 18 months. The advocacy organization wants to get the venture capital community to recognize the scope and scale of the investment and business opportunities in this space.

In Canada, there is also an increase of start-ups targeting baby boomers but with less support from industry associations. As posted on this blog before, Canadian travel site www.blaycation.com focuses on helping boomers personalize and travel to their bucket- list destinations in style and appear to be doing well since inception about two years ago. Other budding Canadian entrepreneurial ideas seem to be sprouting up around caregiving for boomers’ elderly parents, taking care of boomers’ pets, and bricks-and-mortars as well as online fitness centres for the age-defying boomers themselves.

But what is lacking in Canada is a consistent industry-wide effort to provide advice and resources for business ventures targeting boomers. Apart from taking a booth at the annual zoomer shows in Toronto and Vancouver organized by Moses Znaimer’s Zoomer Media Group, there are hardly any well-organized initiatives that encourage business incubators in this sector. Perhaps, CARP in Canada should take a few lessons from AARP in the U.S. and provide a platform for start-ups aiming at the baby boomer demographic to pitch to the venture capital community.

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Boomers More Tech Savvy Than Perception

Photo Credit: mobile-commerce-press

Photo Credit: mobile-commerce-press

The furor over Hillary Clinton’s use of emails has subsided but will certainly continue to haunt her during the U.S. general elections, particularly in the upcoming Presidential candidates debates.

But I have to agree with The New York Times which mentioned, on July 24, 2016, that “in all the failings hurled at Mrs. Clinton at the Republic National Convention – venality, murder and reckless disregard for national security – there was no mention of her internet ignorance.” She was far more obsessed with protecting herself from prying reporters and Republicans than enemy hackers. According to the publication’s report, when a State Department deputy chief of staff for operations suggested in a 2010 email that she use the government system to avoid spam, she declined, writing, “I don’t want any risk of the personal being accessible.”

There was speculation that one of the personal secrets she was hiding was possibly her discomfort with the digital revolution. There were also tons of evidence if you buy this argument. On July 24, 2010, Hillary Clinton had trouble using her iPad. She wrote an email to a close aide, “I don’t know if I have WIFI. How do I find out?” On October 7, 2012, she again emailed that aide, “Do you know what channel on the TV in DC is the program listing? And specifically, what channel is Showtime?” She added that she wanted to watch Homeland. In fact, Clinton acknowledged her own weakness with what she wrote in the subject line of the Showtime email, “stupid question.”

There were also signs that Clinton acknowledged her weakness in technology and wanted to improve. She asked her former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, to lend her a book called “Send: Why People Email So Badly and How To Do It Better.” But would her admission of her technological ignorance lead to even more Republican attacks or mitigate the distrust in her by a huge number of Americans? I am not sure.

It is important to bear in mind that not every baby boomer or senior citizen is a Hillary Clinton. There is still a huge misconception out there that baby boomers are technologically challenged. But this is a myth that needs to be debunked. Contrary to popular belief, mature adults are incredibly active on social networks and more tech savvy than most younger people realize. A Forbes article on January 29, 2013 pointed out that while baby boomers are not always the first adopters of new technology, it’s more out of a sense of being thoughtful about purchases than about being unwilling to engage with the latest devices.

Also, boomers are interacting and shopping online at a rate that definitely outstrips most marketers’ conception of what they are doing. A Nielsen study of baby boomers in 2012, for example, found that baby boomers make up a third of all internet users, and that a third of those boomers describe themselves as “heavy internet users.”

According to Tech.Co, a media company focusing on tech and startups, while many people complain today about being tied to their phones, baby boomers have a different attitude about their smartphones. Eight-two percent of boomers and seniors who own a smartphone described their phones as representing freedom rather than a leash! Because boomers use their smartphones for tasks such as actually speaking to fellow human beings and sending some text messages, they are not on their phones as often as younger generations. Nowadays, God forbid that the Millennials will ever be caught talking on the phone! Constant texting and use of social media are the rigueur du jour for the younger generations.

Although the inventor of email, Ray Tomlinson, passed away in March 2016, emails will never die! According to another Nielsen study, while 38 percent of people aged 15 to 20 annoy their parents by staring at their phones while dining, 45 percent of GenXers and a whopping 52 percent of baby boomers engage in this behaviour as well. Different generations just use technology differently. For baby boomers, email may still be the way to go although most of my boomer friends text and What’sApp as often as I do (which is quite frequently)!

Coming back to Hillary Clinton’s traits of technological ignorance, at least she had admitted in private that she was having problems and was willing to learn. My advice to marketers targeting baby boomers is never to mock or talk down to them about their technological knowledge and savvy. Focus on customer service and quality content and treat them with respect. As older generations are more used to having one-on-one interaction with the people they are making purchases from, consider having a live chat on your website or encourage older customers to get in touch with you on Facebook with questions and concerns.

To my fellow baby boomers, I would encourage you to constantly learn how to better use technology. When would-be retirees ask me how they should spend their time after retirement, my first advice would be to encourage them to enroll in technology classes to upgrade their knowledge of the Internet and social media. People who have kids risk losing touch with the younger generation if they are ignorant in technology and become irrelevant to society. We will never be technologically savvier than the younger generations, but a better understanding of the use of technology will not only draw us closer to the rest of the world, but will, above all, help enrich our own lives.

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We Are Women, Hear Us Roar!

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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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