Etiquette For Boomers

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I’ve been asked to write a Miss Manners blog many times before, but have never got around to it. However, I did mention in my 2018 New Year Resolutions blog post that there should be an etiquette for baby boomers too. Just because we’re the rebellious demographic when we were younger and are still defying the aging process, that doesn’t mean we can do whatever we like that are inappropriate manners. So, in my humble opinion, here are the top five for consideration:

  1. Dress for the occasion: just because we used to be the flower children of the 60s, that does not mean we could dress as hippies now that we’re more mature. Nor should we become the slaves of today’s fashion and dress inappropriately for our age. Flip flops are for the beach and baseball caps are for ballgames or pubs. Even though smart casual is the dress code for the workplace of most companies, shorts, short-sleeved shirts, distressed jeans and plunging necklines are just inappropriate for the office. When in doubt, the best way is to think about the occasion and dress suitably to look presentable and make an impression on the people with whom you are going to interact. The golden rule that it’s always better to overdress than underdress still applies today. For boomer women, some makeup is better than a bare face and a heavily done-up complexion might not be too flattering and, even if applied well, should be saved for evening occasions.
  2. Communicate with a personal touch:: we should combine high-touch with high-tech when it comes to modern-day communications. As Associated Press recently mentioned, smartphone addiction kills manners and moods. At our age, constantly bending our heads to look at our devices adds to the physiological stress on our neck and might lead to incremental loss of the curve of the cervical spine. According to the U.S. Center for Biotechnology Information, posture has been proven to affect mood, behaviour and memory, and frequent slouching can make us depressed. Aside from the health consequences, if we’re head down, communication skills and manners are slumped, too. This is not just a youth problem. I see many boomers walking down the street with heads down checking their devices – this behaviour has increasingly caused more accidents on the road. We should make an effort to interact with people face to face with eye contact and pay full attention to the present. Try digital detoxes while you’re on vacation and collect all the smartphones of your dinner party guests before you break bread together. Start looking up and set a good example for your kids and grandkids.
  3. Be up-to-date on digital etiquette: boomers should also observe digital etiquette when communicating with our computers and smartphones in order to stay relevant either in the workplace or after retirement. Basic guidelines include don’t yell by using all caps; do not constantly forward internet jokes, videos or stories which you deem funny but may not be amusing to others; try not to hit reply all in emails unless absolutely necessary; consider using the blind copy option instead  of typing in a large number of email addresses; know when to send your message by email or text; be concise and to the point; and try to respond within 24 hours to an email or text which was only addressed to you.
  4. Practise what your mother taught you: this is just common sense even if you were not brought up this way. Do not talk with your mouth full; try not to eat or drink while you’re walking; when sitting at the dining table, do not slurp your soup or beverage nor spit on your plate; keep your personal hygiene at home or in the bathroom which includes brushing your hair; flossing or picking your teeth; filing your nails or applying cosmetics; and chewing or spitting out gum on the streets.
  5. Respect other people’s time: punctuality reflects a person’s respect for people and time. I would never hire any job candidates, suppliers, advisors, realtors, accountants, lawyers, contractors or cleaners who are tardy. People who show up late for meetings and appointments simply cannot be trusted to meet any deadlines. Latecomers will always come up with excuses – an impossible schedule,  a prolonged phone call, bad traffic, forgetfulness, etc. But the bottom line is that they have little respect for people’s time and this is a major character flaw.

Etiquette is important for boomers not only because we need to be respectful. Kids mimick adults and they emulate our actions and behaviours. If we don’t get this right, we cannot expect our children or grandchildren to learn proper manners from us.

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Celebrate Aging While Living Life

Photo Credit: US News Money

Photo Credit: US News Money

I seldom write book reviews on this blog. But when I come across a book that is aligned with my blog’s raison d’etre, I’m willing to make an exception. It took me two months to finish Joseph F. Coughlin’s new book, The Longevity Economy, but I remember the book’s subtitle, “Unlocking The World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market,” attracted me to purchase it on my Kindle in the first place. And having finished the book, I am more convinced that Coughlin’s rationale behind his book was similar to mine when I first started my blog in 2007.

Coughlin is the founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, upon which I relied for research behind a number of my blog posts. What I like about his book is that it’s not just one man’s or a small group’s opinion; but all the premises in the book were backed by science and research. The book describes how companies can prepare for an aging world and capitalize on the opportunity to tap the US$8 trillion market.

In the author’s interview with USA Today when the book first came out last November, Coughlin said that companies think they understand the aging market, but they really don’t. Companies often perceive that “older people are always takers, never givers; always consumers, never producers. And as a result, companies make products that, at their core, are designed for passive participants in society.” But older people are increasingly leading an active life and demand to be active participants. This is the major disconnect that makes so many companies unprepared for an aging world.

Like me, Coughlin also believes that the aging cohort is not homogeneous. He said that the set of “older adults” contains people of every conceivable kind: ethnicity, religion, sexuality, medical status, political affiliation – and anything else you could name, other than age. But even if we personally know older people who defy the stereotypes, most of us still paint the idea of “older people” with a single, insanely wide mental brushstroke. I’ve always said that the boomer demographic spans a 20-year age gap, and that alone implies that no one single formula would be able to apply in terms of marketing to boomers. Leading-edge (older) boomers have different needs from trailing-edge (younger) boomers and only customized solutions, also taking into account their ethnic, gender, sexual, medical and political backgrounds, work well and effectively.

Coughlin also said that a new generation of older adults is beginning to demand far more out of later life than ever before. They are not looking for passive consumerism, but the active pursuit of meaning in life. So companies and marketers should come up with products and services that are designed to support them on their journey.

When asked by USA Today about who will be the agents of change in the new world of longer life and older age, he pointed out that women, particularly those of middle age and above, are likely to be the leaders in identifying new wants and needs on the aging frontier. They will also be the ones to come up with demands in the form of products.  This is nothing new. We already know that women typically live longer than men. We also know that marketers and advertisers have always labelled women as the chief consumer officer or chief influencer of the home and they make purchasing decisions in key consumer categories including the automotive, health, and many other sectors. It’s also common knowledge that women provide more eldercare than men. What’s enlightening is that Coughlin pointed out that the research done by the MIT AgeLab suggests that women enter old age with a clearer, more detailed picture of what’s ahead. The firsthand knowledge that comes from being the primary buyer and caregiver gives them a unique vantage in understanding what products, services and experiences are effective as they respond to the challenges and demands of old age.

Coughlin said it’s a sad truth that women are often invisible to the investment and technology communities. That’s why the needs and wants they are responsible for go unanswered and the tools they deserve never get built. I’ve also pointed out many times that the advertising and marketing community keeps hiring young people to innovate for and advertise to the older market which is far from ideal. Coughlin mentioned in his book that when young people attempt to innovate for the older market, the same stuff comes up again and again: pill reminders, fall detectors, emergency response technologies. This is evidence that young people can’t get past the idea that older people are a medical problem to be solved. He said that smart venture capital companies, should instead, bet on older women’s ideas of what innovative products or services that would help older people lead a positive, meaningful life.

Seven years ago when I gave a keynote speech at the Digital Divas Conference in Toronto, I was advocating that companies should come up with innovative products and services that would focus on wellness and life enhancement solutions that would help improve boomers’ quality of life. It is, therefore, gratifying to see that Coughlin believes that there is a huge demand for products that will actively excite and delight older adults for decades to come. Marketers need to help the greying population “celebrate life in old age while they’re alive.” And may I add to that: make grey the new green!

 

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10 New Year Resolutions

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On a snowy third last day of 2017, what better things to do than to reflect upon this year and make new year resolutions for 2018?

  1. Pay More Attention To Your Health: There is nothing more important than our health. Whether you’re a retired boomer, or somebody who is still in the workforce, your health continues to be your number-one asset. So, in the new year, pay more attention to what you eat and drink; exercise regularly; know your blood pressure and cholesterol and blood sugar levels; and consult your physician when you notice any problems. Everything else in life will fall into place when you’re healthy.
  2. Spend Quality Time With Friends When They Are Alive And Well: Having just attended the funeral of a former business partner, I found myself telling ex-colleagues at the funeral that we should be getting together in the new year under happier circumstances. Why have a reunion at somebody’s funeral when we could catch up on happy occasions? I also have a problem with people just showing up at funerals instead of spending quality time with the deceased when he or she was alive and well. Should my friends not have time for me while I’m alive, I certainly don’t want them to be there when I’m gone.
  3. Make Hay While The Sun Shines: A lot of my friends have been saving for retirement and developing a long bucket list to travel to after hanging up their boots. But boomers should never delay enjoying our lives. Life is too short and there is no guarantee that tomorrow is going to be a better day. Boomers deserve to fulfill their dreams sooner rather than later – you’ve worked hard for what you want and you should live life to its fullest now.
  4. Do Not Just Complain, Do Something About It: I also hear a few boomer friends complaining about their jobs, the city they live in or about Canada. Identifying a problem is always the easy part, but we should always come up with a solution. If you’re not happy with your job, voice your grievances to your employer and develop better solutions. If you’re not satisfied with the government, let your opinions be known and become a consumer or political activist – communicate with your MP, MPP or City Councillor or even better, get involved in politics to improve people’s lives. If you have no solutions and are too skeptical to get involved, then shut up and stop whining.
  5. Respect Women And No Means No: 2017 was a “woke” year for sexual harassment. For all you male boomers out there, particularly the powerful ones, please respect women at home, in the workplace, and in the community. Teach your sons and grandsons to do the same and they will thank you for that. And for you fellow women boomers, stop being complicit in the future – if you know that a “sister” is being mistreated, don’t be quiet and do nothing.
  6. Practise Boomer Etiquette: Yes, we boomers have our etiquette too. Respect people’s time and don’t be late for any appointments or occasions in the new year. Always respond to emails and texts from your friends no matter how busy you are or how insignificant in content you think they are. Remember your good friends’ and loved ones’ birthdays – nobody is expecting a birthday present, but cherish your friendships by showing them you remember and care. Should you have a failing memory like mine, you can always rely on your iPhone which records birthdays on your contact list. Last, but not least, put away your electronic devices while breaking bread with your friends and focus on the lunch/dinner conversations. We boomers should be role models for our children and grandchildren – it is simply rude to read and respond to emails/texts at the dinner table unless you have an emergency, in which case you should always apologize and seek permission.
  7. Don’t Forget High-Touch In A High-Tech World: That’s why I’m one of those dinosaurs who still send Christmas cards by snail mail – taking the time to put pen to paper is still the most personalized way to send your love and best wishes. Every now and then, particularly during momentous occasions, pick up the phone and call to say “I love you”  or “I’m thinking of you.” No emails or texts or emojis can ever replace your voice on the other end of the phone.
  8. Reduce Your Consumerism: At our age, boomers should really cut down on materialistic objects of desire – we’ve been there, done that. Do not acquire new things unless absolutely necessary. Every time you’ve purchased something new, try part ways with an old piece of clothing or household item and donate them to the poor. Hoarding is a mental condition for older people and minimalism is best for boomers and seniors. Still not convinced? Please read The New York Times‘s opinion piece: “My Year Of No Shopping.
  9. Be Grateful And Count Your Blessings: We should be grateful for what we have every day but particularly during Christmas and New Year when we are donating to the homeless and the poor. The happiest people are those who are content. Start counting your blessings and try to write a gratitude journal every day in the new year.
  10. Continue To Give Back To The Community: The best way to show gratitude is to give back to the community. Boomers are keen volunteers – whether it’s volunteering in your church parish, helping out the poor and homeless, or for a charitable cause, volunteering and giving back are never enough. It is my intention in the new year to aim higher with my efforts and I hope you will do the same.

Thank you for your support of my blog and Happy New Year!

 

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Rebranding and Redesigning Retirement Communities

Photo Courtesy: Forrec

Photo Courtesy: Forrec

The real estate sector has been gradually capitalizing on the opportunity presented by the greying population in North America. The New York Times today reported how Long Island witnesses the growth of country-club-style living in communities for people 55 and older. Resort-like active adult lifestyle communities are increasingly becoming popular. Developer Beechwood Homes is building the largest resort-like community, Country Pointe Plainview, on Long Island featuring an 80-acre property that includes an adjacent shopping centre, an amenity-laden clubhouse, two heated pools, tennis courts and a walking trail. According to the company’s Founder and Chief Executive Michael Dubb, just don’t call it a retirement community. “People are going there to feel young and act young,” he said. The 750 age-restricted condo flats and townhomes  all have first-floor master bedrooms.

With many boomers now in their 60s and 70s, the surge in senior housing is happening everywhere as many older adults and empty nesters move from single-family houses into multifamily developments and condos. They are healthy enough not to need assisted living yet, and they thrive in a community with a lot of social interaction and plenty to do – indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness centre, a billiard room and space for card games, fitness and yoga and other activities.

According to the U.S. National Association of Home Builders, by 2019, households headed by someone 55 or older will constitute more than 45 percent of all American households. Developers nationwide hope to appeal to those greying boomers as they downsize.

The same trend in real estate is also taking place in Canada. As reported by Canadian Business last year, the 114-acre site of St. Elizabeth Village, Hamilton, is a successful independent-living retirement living complex with 900 residents actively participating in classes, social events and recreational activities everyday. The developer, NovaCore Communities Corp., recently announced an $800-million renovation that will transform the site into a themed lifestyle community with a population increase to 3,000. They’ve hired Toronto-based Forrec which is best known for designing and building theme parks in 30 countries outside Canada, including Germany’s Legoland, Universal Studios Florida, and a massive water park in Beijing, China. Forrec has also designed a retirement community in the U.S. similar to the vision planned for St. Elizabeth Village – The Villages in Sumter Landing, Florida – which offers daily entertainment, sports and other activities for its population of 160,000. The U.S. Census ranked The Villages as the fastest growing American city two years in a row.

“We don’t like to call it a retirement community,” says Gordon Donett, Forrec’s CEO. “As soon as you say that, you think it’s a bunch of old people sitting on couches watching TV. And that’s the exact opposite of what we’re working on.” Forrec will remake St. Elizabeth into a pastoral mill town, complete with a spinning water wheel and old-time windmill, and carry the aesthetic throughout the development. The company says the theme will imbue St. Elizabeth with a sense of history, strengthen community ties and emphasize that the site is a real town, not merely a collection of homes for people living out their final years. The entire expansion plan for St. Elizabeth will take approximately a decade to finish.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, by 2051, retirees are expected to represent a quarter of Canada’s entire population and by 2030, roughly 80 percent of new housing demand will come from people entering retirement. There are nearly 300 independent-living, adult-lifestyle communities in Ontario alone. Branding and differentiation are key in marketing retirement living. Forrec focuses on creative themes and storytelling and tries to debunk the myth of aging – it’s not necessarily true that older people will withdraw in their twilight years. Instead of the usual gated retirement communities, St. Elizabeth, with its town square and retailers, could actually entice outsiders to visit. In that way, it’s much more integrated with surrounding towns, encouraging socialization and preventing residents from feeling isolated.

Only time will tell whether the success of The Villages in Florida can be replicated here in Hamilton. I certainly want to see more of such developments in Toronto as well. Retirement homes and communities have been around for a long time, but until now, there had not been a focus on creating a lifestyle for baby boomers. As I’ve mentioned many times before, we boomers defy the ageing process – it’s high time that developers understand our mentality and create age-restricted housing that is unique and caters to our needs.

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One Standard For Sexual Harassment Please

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Ever since the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal broke, new similar accusations have been emerging everyday around powerful men in entertainment, politics, journalism and the corporate world. Whether it’s on Twitter at  #MeToo, or at tell-all press conferences, a lot of successful, powerful men were caught and shamed.

In the U.S., however, where every person seems to be either a Democrat or Republican, the discussion has gone awry – Republicans would immediately condemn Democrat offenders such as Senator Al Franken while Democrats were relentless with Alabama’s former state judge and Senate candidate Roy Moore. So, even the sexual harassment discussions have become a part of partisan politics. But people are missing a very important point – there should only be one standard for sexual harassment: the behaviour is just plainly wrong and it doesn’t matter which political party does the predator belong to!

So when columnist Michelle Goldberg of The New York Times said that she spent all weekend feeling guilty that she had called for Senator Al Franken’s resignation because she considered him an “otherwise decent man,” my reaction was why? Why would anybody and any woman have a different standard for a politician who’s an ally when he, like all the other accused sexual predators of the opposition party, made equally deplorable mistakes? No sexual predator or harasser can, in any way, be considered as decent and he should rightly be asked to resign. In fact, calling for the resignation of Al Franken is as important as barring Roy Moore from being admitted into the Senate.

We all tend to defend men we like. I used to adore Kevin Spacey because of his acting skills and Shakespearean knowledge. But his behaviour towards young men in the last three decades should really put him in a different light among his fans. Defenders of the various offenders started to put predatory behaviours into different categories – Weinstein’s sadistic serial predation is not comparable to Louis C.K.’s exhibitionism; the groping Franken has been accused of is not in the same moral universe as Moore’s alleged sexual abuse of minors.Unfortunately, there really is no difference and we should not judge them according to the severity of their offences. They were all wrong, plain and simple.

I further disagree with Kate Harding who made this case in The Washington Post last week. She wrote that Democratic sexual offenders may be flawed, but they are the men who “regularly vote to protect women’s rights and freedoms.” But if feminists are asking  for the pardon of sexual predators so that those men could remain in the pool of people who could keep on protecting women’s rights, they are simply enabling these men to continue to be hypocrites.

Maureen Dowd of The New York Times was never my favourite journalist, but she does have a point when she said that the Democrats and the world should never have forgiven Bill Clinton for his sexual misdeeds when he was President. She asked in her article last Sunday, “The Hillary Effect“: “Would feminists and liberals make the same Faustian bargain they made in 1998: protect Bill on his regressive behavior toward women because the Clintons have progressive policies toward women?” She went on to say that both the left and the right rushed in to twist the sex scandals for their own ideological ends. Unfortunately, the stench of hypocrisy still overpowers the perfume of justice after all these years.

In fact, without any proof, I would venture to say that one of the reasons why Hillary Clinton failed to get as many women’s votes in the elections last year was because of Bill Clinton’s constant lies about never having had sexual relationships with women from Monica Lewinsky to Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick and Kathleen Willey; and Hillary’s efforts to stand by her man and discredit the women accusers. Hillary’s latest book “What Happened” blamed a lot of people in addition to herself for why she lost the Presidential campaign. But what she did not mention in the book was that her unwavering love for her husband had made her a hypocritical defender of women’s rights. Many women voters, therefore, did not trust her.

Most of the men accused of sexual harassment, so far, have been predominantly baby boomers. I don’t buy the argument that boomer men do not understand the proper behaviour towards women because they are of an older generation. Nor do I agree with Canada’s former interim Leader of the Opposition, Rona Ambrose’s recommendation that all judges should be given a sexual sensitivity training. The proposed JUST Act, which would ensure that any judge who presided over a sexual assault case would receive proper training in the law and also in rape mythology, stereotypes and bias, might eventually be passed as law in the Senate. But I believe that if judges, like former Calgary judge Robin Camp, did not know that the derogatory comments he made to a complainant  (“Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?”) while questioning her during a sexual assault trial last year were wrong, then he should not be reinstated no matter how much subsequent sensitivity training he has received. It is also important for boomer parents to get this right before they can educate their sons and grandsons on how to respect women and their rights.

All in all, we should be pleased that we’re having a moment of awakening on sexual harassment, and it is possible that this will turn out to have been a turning point. However, when it comes to the standard for upholding women’s rights against sexual harassment, it is important to bear in mind that there should only be one, same standard for all men, no matter what their political affiliations, religions, races or age demographics are.

 

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