Tuesday, April 24, 2012


WILL BOOMERS CHANGE WORDS, PERCEPTIONS OR REALITY? Real changes are in store with the next generation of older adults. The quantifiable stuff is well documented: There will be more of them; they will live longer, and they will benefit from better medicine and healthcare. 

But there’s also the inevitable, yet to be resolved changes: How will Boomers refer to themselves; where and what will they call “home”; will they “retire”; and what about “care”?

With history as a guide, change will be reflected through an amalgam of words, perceptions and reality. (i.e. Individuals are no longer referred to as “handicapped,” but rather as “disabled” or with “developmental differences.”)

But it often starts with words, and several that are on the verge of being replaced, redefined or reinvented include: seniors, home, care, retirement and community.

The word “Seniors” will continue to be replaced by “older adults,” which qualifies rather than labels our more experienced years. In this vein, the more contemporary “longevity” will gradually replace “aging.”

“Home” is a dicey proposition. Aging services providers are a little schizophrenic here. Rest home is an antiquated description along the lines of convalescent, old folks’ home and institution. In marketing, however, home, homey, homelike still resonate with prospective residents. The solution might be to redefine “home” by its essence, such as “comfort.”

“Care” is in jeopardy, too. It is a perfectly good word that may be discarded because its perception conflicts with a generation that prides itself on independence. Maybe care and independence intersect at “inter-dependence.” Or, perhaps reality will simply trump ego on this one.

“Retirement” may be retired and work may be repurposed as “purpose.”  Many Boomers aspire to do something more interesting and less demanding than work. “Encore careers” is a term most often referenced to define a new professional purpose.

“Community” is especially ambiguous. For this word to have real value, more consistent geographic or demographic distinctions need to be assigned. Can aging services providers have communities within walls and naturally occurring retirements communities exists on the outside?

Combine the later three, as in “continuing care retirement community” (and “CCRCs without walls”), and it’s literally obvious why the aging services profession is on the verge of an identity crisis.

Professionals in the field of longevity have the opportunity to either defend or redefine such words. And as a result, positively influence perceptions and, eventually, reality as well. Check out Media Takes: On Aging, co-published by the International Longevity Center and Aging Services of California, for more information.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


SEE THE FOREST FOR THE TREES. The political process can make it difficult to “see the forest for the trees.” Too often, special interests overshadow public interest. And rhetoric obscures facts.

A classic example of this myopia can be witnessed with a piece of legislation currently before the California State Legislature, the so-called “Continuing Care at Home” bill.

The forest in this scenario is us, everyone who is aging. More specifically and urgently, the forest is the older adult population who will soon need some level of assistance either at home or in a care community setting. The facts are our population is living longer, in greater numbers than ever. Ten thousand Americans are turning 65 every day. It is clearly in the public interest to prepare for the increasing demand for affordable aging services.

“Continuing Care at Home” -- or “CCRCs without walls” -- describes a promising new movement. The idea is to offer people who want to age in their own homes some of the benefits available to residents of continuing care retirement communities (or CCRCs). This includes access to experienced care management; home care and home healthcare; skilled nursing and rehabilitation; and hospice, among other services.

Best of all, this innovative connection (Eskaton refers to a similar program as “your home, our experience”) has potential to be a long-term solution; and one that acknowledges rather than disregards the extraordinary accomplishment of our extended life expectancy.

Legislators need to see the forest for the trees ... and see the writing on the “walls” around CCRCs. On both sides live older adults, including 78 million Boomers, their constituents.


YOU ARE WHAT YOU DO. The Sacramento Kings rank last or near the bottom among NBA teams in most defensive categories. The competition exploits the weakness routinely. The Kings players complain about it when interviewed after each loss. Not so ironically, while there isn’t a good defender on the squad, each player directs his frustration toward “we,” the team, rather than ever addressing his own deficiencies. Remarkably these guys have managed to discredit the concept of “no ‘I’ in team.”

The phenomenon of group blame to obscure individual accountability is as pervasive in business (and politics and life, for that matter) as it is in sports. “We have a problem” is the default position to avoid personal accountability.

It becomes a contest to see who can point the finger first, who can protest the loudest, whose indignation is most palpable. In some delusional lack of insight, this outward perspective somehow absolves any one individual of accountability.

To identify something as everyone’s problem too often translates to someone else’s problem. The only way to confront this denial by misdirection is to reinforce the ultimate equalizer: You are what you do, not what you say.

Problem solving needs to focus on actions: “What did you do? What are you doing? What do you plan to do?” To be more effective, we (each one of us) could try doing more and saying less.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


MOYER TURNS THE PAIGE. Jamie Moyer made history this month as the oldest opening day starting pitcher in a major league ballgame. The 49-year-old took the mound for the Colorado Rockies in a rare feat of longevity and curiosity, considering his 80 mph fastball resembles most pitchers’ change-up. Like Satchel Paige, who nearly a half-century earlier pitched three innings for the Kansas City A’s at 59, Moyer’s actions speak louder than words. No doubt he would agree with Paige’s advice, “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.” (photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Thursday, April 5, 2012


AN AGE-OLD STORY WITH A FUTURISTIC TWIST. Themes like trust, community and wisdom might not sound thrilling on the surface. But mix them with a post-apocalyptic scenario of tyranny, totalitarian power and a fight to restore humanity and you’ve got a book that destroys stereotypes faster than “The Hunger Games” breaks box office records. “Tribes of Eden is a classic thriller ... that people of all ages can enjoy,” says author William Thomas. Thomas’ storytelling relies heavily on inspiration from his transformative work in aging services and his efforts to change the way society views aging. The coming-of-age story features a young girl who must lead an alliance of young and old, working together, to restore humanity. The paperback edition of Tribes of Eden was released April 2.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


BETTY WHITE “JUMPS THE SHARK.” To avoid stereotyping Betty White and her new show, “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers,” let’s say it is inappropriate for viewers of all ages. Not because of language, sex or violence, but because it is awful. Its “shocking” vignettes (an older woman in an airport lounge propositioning a younger passenger to join the mile-high club with her; an older man asking for his photo to be taken as he runs around naked) are so contrived that they are uncomfortable to watch. And while the cast of “sassy seniors” and the show’s producers so deliberately attempt to break down stereotypes about older adults, they actually reinforce them: that you can be excused for being dimwitted or “irreverent” because you are old. Reality, not “reality TV,” is what is needed to help reverse stereotyping of the aging process and older adults.