The Healthy Boomer Brain

Musings Jesse-martini-Iod3vdjKE1E-unsplashAn estimated 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer's dimentia, according to the Alzheimer's Association. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer's or another dimentia. Between 2000 and 2019, deaths due to Alzheimer's more than doubled, increasing 145 percent. There was a 16 percent increase in deaths from Alzheimer's in 2020 over the previous five years; the COVID-19 pandemic is believed to be at least partially responsible for the increase.

As sobering as these statistics are, they represent the most serious aspects of brain deterioration during aging. The fact is that millions of Boomers may suffer from other conditions that affect the brain. For example, 10 to 20 percent of those older than 65 are diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). The Mayo Clinic describes MCI as "the stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. It's characterized by problems with memory, language, thinking or judgment." MCI911.com is an excellent website started by a physician that offers a wealth of authoritative information about Mild Cognitive Impairment, including research and helpful resources.

The world of science is studying brain decline, and online tools are now becoming available to assess brain health. One example is the new Synaptitude Brain Health Lifestyle Assessment, developed by a Canadian team led by Dr. Max Cynader, founding director of the Djavad Mowafagian Center for Brain Health in British Columbia. This assessment evaluates brain health by asking questions in five areas: sleep, exercise, stress, nutrition and cognition. Synaptitude uses the assessment to determine if individuals can benefit from its "Brain Fitness" program.

As indicated above, a healthy brain is directly related to lifestyle factors. Experts recommend that brains be "exercised" just like bodies. Lots of information about improving brain health is available through various sources that address Boomer issues, such as AARP (https://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/), NextAvenue (https://www.nextavenue.org/best-way-improve-brain-health/) and the American Federation for Aging Research (https://www.afar.org/news/grantee-in-the-news-kristine-yaffe-on-lifestyle-tips-to-enhance-brain-healt).

Boomers need to be hyper-aware of maintaining a healthy brain, especially in stressful times like these. The brain is, after all, the most valuable asset we have.

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When It Comes to Hiring Boomers, Some Employers "Get It"

Krakenimages-8RXmc8pLX_I-unsplash OntheClockThere's a slowly growing phenomenon in the American workplace that represents some optimism for Boomers who want to keep working. While the pandemic has turned the workplace upside down for Boomers as well as other workers, some employers not only see the wisdom in retaining Boomer employees, they actually recruit them.

It is heartening to see journalists and job search sites reinforce this notion. In a recent article on Entrepreneur.com, for example, journalist John Boitnott (who appears to be younger than a Boomer) cites "5 Advantages Older Workers Have Over Other Job Candidates." Among the advantages Boitnott lists: "There's wisdom in experience," "They help create long-term organizational knowledge at your company," and "They're more technology-savvy than you think." Similarly, for recruitment service Recruiterbox, outreach manager Erin Engstrom positions hiring Boomers as increasing diversity. She writes, "When you hear 'hiring for diversity,' you likely think about efforts to hire more female employees, or members of underrepresented minority groups. Another important way to diversify your team, though, is through age." Engstrom offers "6 Reasons Baby Boomers are Great for Business" and discusses each in detail: Experience, Leadership, A Different Perspective, Credibility, Interpersonal Skills and Adaptability.

Granted, it remains a reality that Boomer workers are often discriminated against because of age, and that some employers are only too happy to dump a higher salaried Boomer during a downsizing. Still, enlightened employers recognize the value of the Boomer worker. Such efforts are boosted by initiatives like the "AARP Employer Pledge Program," which encourages employers to "stand with AARP in affirming the value of experienced workers." A list of over 1,000 Boomer-friendly companies who have signed the pledge can be found at https://www.aarp.org/work/job-search/employer-pledge-companies/ Increasingly, there are also other lists of companies that welcome Boomer workers, such as FORTUNE magazine's "20 Best Workplaces for Baby Boomers." We haven't yet reached the point at which every employer values and respects Boomer workers but we're slowly making progress.

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Your "Second Act"

OnaWhim Hands-1345059_1920One of the more popular phrases around the retirement circuit is "second act." It's a euphemistic way of acknowledging that an individual, typically a Boomer, is leaving a profession, career or long-standing job to embark on a new path. That new path may be entering an entirely different career, starting a business, volunteering for an organization or some combination thereof. Sometimes, a second act happens by choice, but it often occurs when an individual loses his or her job and the curtain involuntarily comes down. Sadly, ageism plays a leading role in such instances.

The pandemic has hit Boomers particularly hard. According to Bloomberg, some two million workers age 55 and older have left the workforce since March 2020. While about 2.7 million jobs have been created for workers under the age of 55 since August 2020, only 28,000 jobs were created for workers over 55 during the same period.

That's one of the reasons second acts are increasingly common right now among Boomers. Many times it is your second act that imbues you with a new passion, invigorating you with vitality that may have been waning in your first act. For over two years, Andy Levine has been cataloging second acts through his podcast, "Second Act Stories." By analyzing the stories of his guests, Levine has identified five "themes of successful second act entrepreneurs" that are worthy of mention:

  1. "Find what feeds you"
  2. "A successful second act is rarely a straight line"
  3. "There are planners and there are leapers"
  4. "The rise of the reluctant-preneur"
  5. "You're never too old to make a change."

I highly recommend you read Levine's article about these themes at NextAvenue.org, but for purposes of this post, I'd like to concentrate on the first and last of his themes.

The first theme, "Find what feeds you," gets to the heart of what drives a second act. Not surprisingly, writes Levine, those second acts that achieve the most success "involve finding meaning and purpose." What's striking about a second act is it may involve a radical departure from a person's previous path. Often, a second act is built around a childhood passion or hobby. For example, one former software executive I know was creative and liked working with his hands. After he spent his first career on the corporate side, he learned to become a wood sculptor for his second act.

The last theme, "You're never too old to make a change," is perhaps the most obvious theme, but it is an important one. This theme reinforces the reality that age is nothing more than a state of mind. There are countless stories of people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and even 90s beginning a second act.

You'll be well on your way to a satisfying second act if you embrace your passion and disregard your age.

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The Boomer's Gift: Giving Back

OntheHouse United-nations-covid-19-response-g4z85Zc-ZqI-unsplashAmerican poet Louis Ginsberg wrote, "The only things we ever keep, Are what we give away." I've always liked this quote because I think it suggests that giving back can do so much for the giver. It also reminds me that older Boomers who have left the traditional workforce have the gift of time -- a gift they can use, if they so choose, to give back. Those Boomers who have been fortunate enough to accumulate wealth, no matter how modest, might also choose to give back financially.

Not all Boomers are in a position to give back right now. The pandemic may have created a difficult health or financial situation that precludes generosity. For others, however, this is a time when Boomers recognize that the world is hurting and needs our help. Look around in your own community and you may see the ravages of the pandemic in food bank lines, closed schools and homelessness. If ever there was a time to give back, this is it.

For Boomers, "giving back" is also a way of showing gratitude for what we have accomplished in life. It could mean adopting a cause we feel passionate about, helping others less fortunate than us, getting involved with an alma mater, or doing something else for the good of society. Personally, I think the "what" is less important than the "why."

There are so many ways to give back that it may actually be somewhat intimidating. I think this article, "How to Help Make the World a Better Place This Year" from the Eblin Group is a good place to start. It does an excellent job of outlining some of the strategies for making a difference in your life, including picking a cause and leveraging what you have to offer.

There are those who believe the Boomer generation is defined by selfishness, but I believe the opposite is true. I think we are a generation that indisputably created positive change in our society, particularly through protesting against an unjust war, advocating for racial and gender equality and pursuing environmental justice. That passion remains with many of us today. Today, plenty of Boomers exhibit kindness to others and give back in any number of ways small and large -- through financial donations, volunteering, mentoring and more. Giving back is truly the Boomer's gift to society and the world.

Image: Kindness Contagion. Image created by Adam Niklewicz. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives - help stop the spread of COVID-19.

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Is It Wise for a Boomer to Start a Business Now?

Danielle-macinnes-IuLgi9PWETU-unsplash OnYourOwnIn my previous post, I noted that the number of Boomers who retired in 2020 dramatically increased. I also indicated that pandemic-related job losses, as well as ageism, contributed to many more Boomers leaving the workforce in 2020. These factors suggest that the U.S. job market won't be a particularly good one for Boomers this year.

At the same time, however, the U.S. Census Bureau is reporting a significant uptick in new business applications. For example, for the week ending October 3, 2020 -- while the pandemic continued to rage around the U.S. -- there was an increase in new business applications of 40 percent over the same period in 2019.

It turns out that Boomers play a major role in small business growth. According to Guidant Financial, a firm providing small business financing and a founding member of the Small Business Trends Alliance, "Boomers make up 41 percent of small business or franchise owners, second only to GenX at 44 percent." Even more encouraging, "Seventy-eight percent of boomer businesses are profitable, making them the most profitable age group of small business or franchise owners." Despite the current difficult economic and political environment, Guidant Financial found that 60 percent of Boomer business owners were "somewhat confident" or "very confident" about small business.

So is it wise to start a business now? As a Boomer, you are uniquely positioned to have a strong chance of success. Most Boomers bring a wealth of solid experience, in addition to maturity, to opening their own businesses. Just as important, many Boomers already have the kind of professional network that would serve them well as a "Boomer-preneur." In the marketing world, it is well known that companies who market their products and services during an economic downturn tend to come out of the downturn even stronger. The same could be said about entrepreneurs who start businesses during tough times.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce offers three reasons for starting a business now:

  1. "Bootstrapping know-how" - "When a downturn hits, savvy business owners learn how to bootstrap to survive. ...The bootstrap mentality -- a mixture of frugality, innovation and agility -- can be crucial not only in the startup stage but also as your business grows."
  2. "Business model changes" - "Across all industries, patience, ingenuity and adaptability were the ingredients needed for business survival and these new norms are here to stay. This is good news for startups."
  3. "Time of innovation" - "...smart business owners understand success depends on the ability to adapt to constantly changing consumer needs. Startups have the means to step in where big companies cannot necessarily fill the gaps (think food delivery services). After all, innovation is just problem-solving at its root and who better to problem solve than an entrepreneur bursting with new ideas."

The question of whether or not to start a business demands serious consideration. Obviously there are risks as well as rewards, and not everyone is suited to business ownership. But more than enough evidence exists for Boomers to feel confident that this may actually be an ideal time to start a business.

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Boomers in the Workforce in 2021

OntheClock Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 2.18.08 PMIt will come as no surprise that the number of Boomers who retired in 2020 increased dramatically. In the third quarter of 2020, 3.2 million more Boomers retired than in the third quarter of 2019, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center. In Q3 2020, 28.6 million Boomers said they were now retired.

Behind the sobering statistic is, of course, pandemic-related job losses. Just as important, however, is the continuing ageism that exists in the American workplace. In some ways, the pandemic has provided convenient cover for companies to practice age discrimination. It is completely acceptable and even desirable for companies to eliminate Boomers first when reducing their workforces. It's almost always a financial decision, but as I've written about many times in the past, this is largely a short-sighted strategy. Boomers are typically the most experienced and often the most loyal workers. If they have been at a company for several years, Boomers also represent an invaluable knowledge base. By eliminating Boomers, companies are discarding a brain trust that is not easily replicated. Replacing such talent and depth with less experienced, less expensive workers is downright senseless.

Still, it happens with alarming frequency. The problem is compounded by corporate hiring practices which, again, are discriminatory on the basis of age.

So what's a Boomer who wants to work in 2021 supposed to do? Many Boomers will be forced into full-time positions of lesser responsibility that pay far below what their earning history should command. Others will have to restart their career in another field, facing entry level work. Some Boomers will find part-time work more attractive, even if it's menial. A growing percentage of Boomers will go into contract work or start their own businesses. Sadly, some Boomers will simply give up and involuntarily retire from the workforce.

Thankfully, there are organizations and resources filling an important need in assisting Boomers who want to continue working. One of them is AARP, which offers a number of resources, including the following:

  • The Work Reimagined website, a central point of information for older workers
  • The Job Loss site, with information for those who have suffered job or income loss due to the pandemic
  • The AARP Job Board, listing jobs from employers pledged to hire older workers

Do an internet search to find additional resources for older workers.

On the positive side, America's population is gradually aging, so employers who need workers may find they have no choice but to consider Boomers for open positions. Hopefully, that means we'll see more Boomers in the workforce in 2021.

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Pandemic-Induced Thinking About Aging in Place

OnYourOwn Screen Shot 2021-01-18 at 1.15.38 PMAdjusting to the "new normal" of life during a pandemic can make you think about aging in place. Boomers who have been self-isolating or at least largely staying put while COVID-19 rages around them have already experienced what aging in place may feel like. The impact of the pandemic on assisted living and nursing home staff and residents only reinforces the desire of many Boomers to remain in their homes for as long as possible.

Research conducted by AARP suggests that an overwhelming percentage of aging seniors -- more than 90 percent -- want to stay in their current homes as they age. However, there are all kinds of things related to aging in place that should be taken into consideration. Aging in place can have both a positive and negative side when it comes to home safety, for example. On the positive side, wise Boomers are making a concerted effort to modify their existing homes so they are safer, more secure habitats. On the negative side, some Boomers adamantly refuse to make needed modifications if they do not want leave their homes, creating a situation that could easily result in tripping, falling, or severe personal injury.

Another area for serious consideration is caregiving. Aging in place means living independently, but the older you get, the more likely it is that you will need some form of help. According to the National Aging in Place Council, half of all men 65 and older and 60 percent of women will need a high level of personal care at some point. The Council indicates that three-quarters of seniors with long-term care needs live at home, and nearly two-thirds of them receive all of their help from family members and friends. If you need compensated care, more than half of the cost for that care is typically paid out-of-pocket -- unless you have long term care insurance.

While long term care insurance can be expensive, it may be a wise investment that ensures peace of mind for the future by covering assisted living care and services. Long term care insurance policies also may have additional benefits. Age Assured is one innovative example. According to Assured Allies, the provider, Age Assured is "a free, voluntary program for insurance policyholders who want help continuing to live at home while they age, made available through their long term care insurance provider. The program pairs people who want support with an 'Ally'- an experienced aging professional - who learns about their specific needs and coordinates a personalized aging plan. The program includes access to ongoing support from a trained Ally, services at home and support for caregivers. Aging specialists are able to pinpoint what’s needed, starting with the simplest and easiest fixes." 

An increasing number of products and services are rapidly coming to market as America's population grows older. If you're a Boomer who plans on aging in place, be sure to do some research and find out what's available to you. A good place to start is knowing what it costs to grow older. Below is a link to a PDF of a free comprehensive handbook, The Costs of Aging, from the National Aging in Place Council.

Download CostofAgingHandbook

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How to Navigate Post-Career "Retirement"

BooksI've long been a fan of the concept of "rewirement" instead of retirement. If 2020 taught Boomers nothing else, it is that the word "retirement" needs to be retired and thrown into the lexicon dustbin. There are two main reasons for this:

  1. The pandemic required many of us to reconsider our work lives. Our jobs may have ended prematurely, or the financial hit of the pandemic was severe enough to cause us to need to work beyond traditional retirement.
  2. Pandemic or not, many of us want to continue to work beyond traditional retirement because it gives us additional financial security and/or purpose in life.

Still, younger Boomers approaching that magical retirement age of 65 may be pondering exactly how they can navigate their post-career retirement years -- if indeed they retire at all. I've read several books that address this very subject. One of the more engaging ones is the new book, Retirement Heaven or Hell: 9 Principles for Designing Your Ideal Post-Career Lifestyle by Mike Drak.

When Mike involuntarily left a career after more than three decades in financial services, he entered what he calls "Retirement Hell." Through trial and error, he found his path to "Retirement Heaven" and decided to write a book about his experience to help others navigate this challenging transition. Typical of the wry wit in the book is Mike's pronouncement, "Think of me as a retirement crash test dummy." Mike shares some excellent advice, offering nine specific principles designed to help readers enjoy "an exceptional retirement." He discusses each principle in detail and lays out an action plan for how to move forward into new territory.

Interspersed throughout the book are Mike's salient observations about his own journey. He also includes numerous snippets concerning how the pandemic shaped his thinking and the impact it inevitably has on retirement planning. These elements make the book both personal and timely. In the end, Mike encourages us to strive to become "Retirement Rebels." Mike suggests these folks "are the trailblazers who have regained the curiosity and wonder of a child, traveling the world to see and experience new places, entering marathons in different cities, learning to use new technology, volunteering, starting new businesses, and posting all about it on social media."

Retirement Heaven or Hell is a worthwhile read for any Boomers about to take their next step or those who have already entered their post-careers and need some guidance and encouragement. If you want to order the book from Amazon, I've included a direct link below.

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Stay Informed in the New Year

OntheHouse Screen Shot 2020-12-22 at 11.32.49 AMOne of the best things Boomers can do in 2021 is stay informed about aging and longevity. Our generation is living longer than previous generations and the implications are significant. Probably the two most important aspects of increased longevity for Boomers are our health and our finances. Our primary concerns are remaining healthy and being able to live comfortably (i.e., without serious financial worries) in our later years. Some of us are likely to live well into our 90s, so these are of vital importance.

One very valuable source of information is the Longevity Project, whose mission is:
"We foster research and public conversation to build awareness of the implications of longer life, and bring together leaders from business, government, and the social sector to plan for the transitions in healthcare, retirement planning, the future of work and more. Together with our lead content collaborator, the Stanford Center on Longevity and other leading universities, think tanks and media organizations, our goal is to support a new awareness of the longevity challenge and support change so that people around the world can live healthier, more secure and more fulfilled lives."

This past December, the Longevity Project, in collaboration with Stanford Center on Longevity, sponsored the "2020 Century Summit," a four-day virtual symposium (free of charge) featuring world-class speakers who discussed "the implications of the 100-year life." Numerous panel discussions provided rare insight into longevity. The four days featured the following broad areas:

  • Rethinking Longevity in the Age of Pandemics
  • Longevity & the New Map of Life
  • Funding the 100-Year Life
  • Longevity Next

I attended several of the sessions and found them to be fascinating. The speakers were outstanding and in many cases they shared visionary ideas about aging and society, both in the United States and worldwide. Whether you are concerned about aging in place, working in your later years, financial security or what the "longevity economy" will look like globally, you are bound to benefit from the information that was shared during the 2020 Century Summit. All of the sessions were recorded and are available here: https://www.longevity-project.com/century-summit

The Longevity Project is a leading example of the kind of information gathering and sharing that will help our generation make better decisions and be able to live more successfully in our later years. As the world's population grows older, more research organizations are focusing on aging. In addition, more products and services will increasingly become available to Boomers. Staying informed is one of the best weapons we have as we age.

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eBooks for Boomers - Half Price, December 18, 2020 Through January 1, 2021

Books Year-5780050_1280Take advantage of this special year-end sale on books written especially for Boomers.

From December 18, 2020 through January 1, 2021, GuideWords Publishing is offering readers of Happily Rewired three great eBooks at half price!
 
Just go to any of the links for the books below to learn more about them. When you place your order, simply enter the code SEY50 at check out. You'll get the eBook in your choice of format (PDF, EPPUB or Kindle) at 50 percent off the regular price. Be sure to take advantage of this special offer by January 1, 2021.
 
Boomer Brands
Regularly $4.99, sale price $2.49
 
Boomer Brand Winners & Losers
Regularly $4.99, sale price $2.49
 
Let's Make Money, Honey:
The Couple's Guide to Starting a Service Business
Regularly $6.99, sale price $3.49
 
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