An article in Fiscal Times, How Startups Art Profiting from Aging Boomers, describes how boomers and individuals in other age groups are creating new businesses and products that respond to the needs of people who are aging. Adult children may want to become acquainted with this business trend because products may pop up that are specially useful in the lives of elder parents. One product that I am considering for my family is CareZone (see right-hand illustration).
The April 4, 2013 piece, by Julie Halpert, points out that most boomers have a fair amount of money to spend on supportive devices if and when they are required. Moreover, it turns out that many of the people who are setting up aging-related businesses are themselves boomers.
I hope these businesses figure out a way to produce products that look like they are a part of “normal,” routine life for everyone, even if they are developed for elders. About a year ago I read about an especially interesting fact for product developers to keep in mind on Laurie Orlov’s Aging in Place Technology Watch. Orlov points out that people who are aging do not want to use products that look like they are for old people. Instead, they want products that look like anyone can use them but also have features that support a person as he or she ages. Read more »
In his recent post over at the Changing Aging blog, Kavan Peterson describes a short video, Forwarders. Intended as a parody of people who continuously forward e-mail, the video reinforces stereotypes about elders and aging. It’s sad that this short film focuses solely on one older adult, especially since so many people of all ages are extreme (and irritating) forwarders.
While it’s intended to be funny, the video’s other message is that old people with wrinkles are silly and inept — at least that’s my interpretation. I’ll bet that the video producer — I am guessing an adolescent or young adult — probably cherishes a fair number of lifelong relationships with elders. This parody promotes a stereotype that could have been alleviated simply by adding in a few younger characters who also need reforming. (I posit a guess about the creator/producer’s age after looking over other published web content.)
The video and others like it also raise a question. How do we help individuals who are Internet content “whizzes” to understand that everything uploaded is subject to interpretation?
As a teacher who concentrates on educational technology, I frequently hear the refrain, “But I did not mean to hurt that person,” usually after a student has created and uploaded what he or she considered to be amusing content. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t, and sometimes various readers or viewers interpret the message differently. What my students slowly learn is that digital content may be funny to one person, not funny to another, and for some individuals downright insulting.
In today’s connected society digital natives — born into a world of computers, cell phones, and various other gadgets — find it easy to create content, but sometimes they forget that what they do and say (and upload) circulates far and wide. Different people will watch and may reach different conclusions about the work. One person’s joke can unintentionally malign others. Humor that is appropriate for a person at one age is not so funny when it’s uploaded into the world at large for everyone to see. Digital natives need to learn and respect the ways that different people view the world through slightly different lenses. Most professional writers of parody think long and hard about every detail of a project, interchanging those lenses as they create.
Quartet is the perfect movie to see on Valentine’s Day. When I visit my parents this weekend, I will suggest that we all go and watch, and I can’t wait to see it for a second time.
The movie is about aging musicians, and the main characters are played by highly regarded and accomplished actors in their senior years. The story, about long retired musicians, is wonderfully touching, addressing in an artistic way all sorts of chronic problems and aging issues, including losing the ability to perform to the level they were used to as professional musicians. All of the extras are retired musicians — one man in his nineties — all of whom still love and enjoy their art. Dustin Hoffman, the director is 75. The credits recognize the more prominently featured elder musicians, explaining where and what they did professionally.
I cannot say enough about how good this movie is to watch, and the way it celebrates the elder years. It tackles the frustrating problems of ageism head on. Read this Quartet review in the Boston Globe.
At work do you ever feel especially old when teams or committees neglect to include veteran employees? Do you occasionally see younger colleagues roll their eyes or flaunt up-to-the-minute technology skills when an older colleague makes a suggestion or comment? Does this situation make you think defensively, sometimes making jokes about your senior moments or aging? We’ve all been there!
I’ve noticed that when a few people in their late fifties get together and talk about their jobs, it is not uncommon for them to mention how workplace environments, while building leadership skills in younger workers, forget emphasize how older employees continue to have much to share.
Two broad reasons that a variety of age groups work together well and produce better results are:
- Every generation has its blind spots so the different ages and perspective help to avoid problems and compensate for them.
- Each generation can shine based on individuals’ experience.
If you have ever had a stroke event in your family, you know — as we do — about the frustrating process of recovery and rehabilitation, as well as the constant bickering with benefits providers when it comes to whether a person is making “enough” progress to merit continuing rehab sessions.
If this is a familiar story, take a few minutes to read a stroke recovery article from the February 3, 2013 Washington Post, penned by United States Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). He writes about his stroke and the year-long road to recovery, including a description of how this dramatic health event has changed his perspective on his life and as a politician.
Yes, Senators have very good health benefits, but it is clear from the article that Senator Kirk, after interacting with many other stroke survivors during his post stroke rehabilitation, now has far more understanding of the need for better health care for everyone. More importantly, he reports that he now feels humbled as he goes about helping to govern. Humility, I believe, is in short supply these days.
As an adult daughter, not to mention an individual who is moving inexorably, but not unwelcomingly, toward retirement years, I read a lot of books about philosophy, aging, transitions, and mindfulness. I have plenty of books to choose from on all sorts of aging and life topics.
Ronni Bennett over at Time Goes By has just updated the books section of her blog. She lists her favorites — published over a 30 year time span – along with short quotes, and her selections offer thoughtful, realistic, and even a few downright literary portrayals of the aging process during our senior years.
As a group, Bennet explains, her favorite books offer “collected wisdom and knowledge of their superb writers – thinkers and activists who aim a bright, shining light onto the realities of getting old.” It’s a pretty cool list, one that steers determinedly away from pop culture and promises of wrinkle-free elderhood.
Two of the books, What Are Old People For?, by Dr Bill Thomas, and The Longevity Revolution, by Dr. Robert N. Butler, have inspired a number of posts here on As Our Parents Age, and I’ve been privileged to hear both of these gifted physician authors speak. Dr. Butler died in 2010. To find out how much I am influenced by Dr. Thomas’ book, please visit my Green House Homes page. Read more »
Adult children with a parent experiencing memory issues may want to listen to this July 2011 TED Talk, A Map of the Brain, by Allan Jones, the head of the Allen Institute for Brain Research. The lecture explores the brain’s structure, they way different parts function, and current research, and it and includes some amazing images.
I wrote more about the Institute in my March 2012 post, Paul Allen Donates Another $300 Mil to Brain Research. Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and not a noted philanthropist, was the primary founder and funder of the Allen Institute, and he continues to support its work. Allen’s mother had Alzheimer’s.
The Mission of the Allen Institute for Brain Research
Our mission is to accelerate the understanding of how the human brain works in health and disease. Using a big science approach, we generate useful public resources, drive technological and analytical advances, and discover fundamental brain properties through integration of experiments modeling and theory.
If you find yourself forgetting things (and taking more time to remember them than you want), read Dr. Bill Thomas’ post, Tip of the Tongue, over at his Changing Aging blog. He writes about the brain and presents a broad range of research findings that address memory, forgetting, remembering, age, and ageism. As we grow older and despite forgetting, Dr. Bill emphasizes, most of the information is still in our brain as we move toward elderhood, though we are a bit less efficient at retrieving it quickly.
Best Quote from this Changing Aging Blog Post
It turns out that younger brains are good at quickly recalling bits of information (like a name or where you put your car keys) because they have a relatively straightforward filing system. Older people, by dint of long experience, “store” memories within a more diffuse network of brain systems.
At least once a day I have a tip-of-the-tongue experience, and almost always, the thought that I was trying so hard to remember pops into my head sometime later in the day. My parents, age 89 and 85, have the same experience. I do not worry about it, and I encourage them not to worry too much about it, because we almost always remember the information in a relatively short time (or we know where to go to find it).
I stopped worrying about forgetting after I attended a parents’ weekend lecture some years ago at Brown University — in a large lecture hall, standing room only. The lecturer, a professor and brain researcher whose class my daughter was taking (and whose name I cannot remember just now), shared some interesting and reassuring facts using a metaphor of old-fashioned library card catalog.
Important Lecture Points With Some of My Editorial Notes Read more »