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Posts Tagged ‘baby boomer’


Every Wednesday I head to my patient’s house for a few hours, though I spend very little time with her.  She’s bedridden and has been uncommunicative for many years, living our her last days with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Her husband sees to her every need while she receives hospice care.  He’s home day in and day out, leaving only when someone sits vigil in his stead.  That’s where I enter, to give him necessary time away.  There’s a lot to learn about living when spending time with the dying and with those who are charged with their assistance. What I’ve learned has certainly enhanced my appreciation for life and good health.

Frankly I’ve always marveled at how my life has unfolded over the years, starting with a rocky childhood and evolving into a stimulating career for 30 years, which allowed me to travel, meet intriguing people and do impactful work.  Three years ago I left my job and decided to stop working for a while, which might last for the rest of my life.  Who knows?  I do know that I’ve been using this newly created time for personal growth – spiritually, experientially and creatively.

The key is to pay attention along the way: notice the serendipity and how one experience, book or person begets another.   Dr. Lee Lipsenthal says to “enjoy every sandwich” in his book with the same title.  Make everything in life meaningful as though it was your last experience alive.  It’s an intriguing concept, one that dying people take to heart with each final day that ticks away.

I recently adapted a challenge posed in my discussion group.   The charge is to calculate the number of years I have left to live – using family history and lifestyle as consideration points.  Multiply that by months and gather that many stones in a bowl.  At the end of each month, remove a stone for the month that no longer remains and evaluate how I’ve spent that month.  Powerful stuff.  While I’m not prepared to commit to that exercise for the rest of my life, I am intrigued to try it for a year.

My bowl will be filled with 12 shells I’ve collected from my travels.  Each month I’ll pull one out and glue it to a frame that will surround a collage of photos, each one representing something important from that month.  In essence, it will be a scrapbook from a year of my life.

These pages will be filled with musings from those experiences.  My areas of concentration will include the very things that fill my life …

Healthy eating – I spent 16 months losing the 45 extra pounds on my small frame.  It’s a challenge to keep them off.

Exercise – usually in the form of walking, biking and hiking – where I’ve been, with whom and the adventures along the way.

Hospice work – experiences with my current patient and spouse or the next one – and the accompanying, inevitable deaths.

Animals – my five cats and dog as well as the rescue horses that I help to rehabilitate from abuse and neglect.  There’s always much to learn from animals when you listen and pay attention.

Relationships – with my husband, family and others with whom I’m involved, or met.

Adventures – however that’s defined.  It could be trips in our RV or by car.  Maybe it’s something else; time will tell.

The point is to live each month consciously while my life ticks away.  I’m curious to see how it unfolds and whether I can actually stay tuned in.

Ready, set … go.  September lived, coming up.  You’re welcomed to play along!

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English: Scanned image of author's US Social S...

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Next month my husband turns 65, an age that used to feel ancient to me.  That’s when people officially retire because they’ve reached old age, get their Medicare card to help with health care costs  and join the senior citizens’ club.  In fact, he became one of the 10,000 people each day who sign up to receive Social Security and Medicare.   Wow – think we’re experiencing a national entitlement crisis?

Meanwhile, where did all the years go?  He was 38 when we got married and somehow he’s still 38 to me.  He pretty much does everything now that he did then.  Come to think of it, I still feel 33, maybe 36, but certainly in my mid 30s even though the calendar year insists I’m 57.  57!

My mother always told me this would happen, that I’d feel like the same person inside regardless of the calendar year. Not everything’s the same though.  Back during my original 30s I worked constantly, spent a lot of down time shopping and enjoyed participating in the night scene.  These days I have very little interest in shopping and my drive to succeed has waned, making space for new interests to develop.

Sometimes I think I enjoy my life more now than back then, I feel more peaceful and comfortable with myself.  The thrilling highs come from different things now.  And I’m not talking drugs – then or now.  I’m talking about events that inspire euphoria.

Today’s baby boomers are yesterday’s hippy generation.  We’re still rebellious, forging new paths.  We don’t feel old at age 50.  We feel adventurous and highly conscious of good health.

Television shows don’t target the over 55 age group, but they’re behind the times.  We’re the demographic with the most expendable dollars and the adventurous spirit to try new things and go new places.  Travel companies are now recognizing that, so are magazines and beauty products.  Pay attention to greenways and notice the 50+ crowd on bicycles, roller blades, running and walking.  Advertisers are picking up on the trend and it’s high time.  Research finds that we’re exercising twice as much as earlier generations.

I’ve accepted that I’m getting older and the reality doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the anticipation did.  It’s still a little freaky that my husband will soon be 65, just like every one of his other age milestones stabbed me…. 50, 60, because he always hits the big number before I do, his age becomes my crisis.  So when it’s my turn, it’s no big deal.  Sort of like a dry run.

Here’s what we know… somebody turns 50 every 8 seconds.  People age 65 and older now exceed 35 million and growing.  Last January introduced the first of some 77 million baby boomers surging toward retirement.

America is growing older.

How do you feel about aging?

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A comment by Annie Liebowitz has really gained a foot hold in my psyche, naming the amorphous ramblings in my brain about what might be next for me.  She has a new photography book out called “Pilgrimage” and she was recently interviewed about it by Dominique Browning in the Times.  She wrote it to “save myself,” she told Browning, “to remind myself of what I like to do, what I can do.”

She was looking for a way to nurture her creativity in a new raw, rather primal testament to where she stands in her life now – and she photographed objects instead of people.

For some reason the thought of Annie Liebowitz experiencing a creative crisis is anathema to me.  She’s certainly among the most well-known photographers of this era, amassing a healthy livelihood along the way.  And yet she reached a point in her life where she questioned, what’s next?

Her talent is photography; more importantly, she’s able to communicate a mood, attitude of a subject that transcends the page and penetrates our soul.

What is this nebulous noun, talent, and how is it recognized and, ultimately, grown?  According to Liebowitz it can disappear.  “It needs to be nurtured, taken care of.”  And that’s why she’s forging experimental terrain with her “Pilgrimage” subject matter.

Winfrey on the first national broadcast of The...

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Oprah’s talent is communication and empathy.

Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

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Steve Jobs married intuition with innovation to realize his blazing talent.

Thomas Friedman, American journalist, columnis...

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Thomas Friedman blends the gift of writing with insight and intellect to manifest his talent.

What about the rest of us?  How do we grow our talent, help it to blossom and bear fruit?

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Sheet music to "Give My Regards"

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Lately I’ve started writing much more than years past (have you noticed this blog?) It feels like the right creative outlet especially as I explore this new period in my life, Act Three.

Creative expression has always been a driving force for me. When I was a kid I dreamed of singing and dancing on Broadway – heck, I’ll say it, I wanted to be a star.  My mother schlepped me to auditions all the time, each with the same heartbreaking result – CHORUS! Evidently my voice sounded great to me and had I been the casting director I’d have won the lead hands down.  But – c’est la vie.  As each heartbreak gave way to the next bout of courage and the next resounding NO THANKS I finally figured it out.  My future wasn’t going to be on stage.  Time to move on … and then I discovered… back stage!

Voila!  Back stage became the perfect fit — stage manager, show producer – change to radio producer, on to TV producer, then into management, and on to departmental leadership.  Once I set my new sights I started hearing yes yes yes yes, which is a lot more fun than a childhood filled with no’s.

A passion was ignited and my drive was born.  I couldn’t get enough of work – it’s all I wanted and the only thing I did.  Weekdays consisted of a minimum of 12 hour days and weekends were spent perusing magazines, newspapers, books or watching TV – all in search of the next great idea for a show or a promotion or a special or a series.  And I never got tired of it until … I did.   More than 30 years later.

Shockingly my drive has let me go.  It no longer consumes my waking hours, nor does it deprive me of sleep.  I’m blissfully free of its grasp.  And I don’t miss nor mourn it.  I’m enjoying the sense of freedom from the need to keep pushing.

Equally surprising is that my interest in making a creative contribution hasn’t waned.  In fact it’s starting to blossom again.  But it’s not associated with need to do.  It’s more like inspired to do.

Is it possible that I’ve actually kissed my drive goodbye?  I guess time will tell.

How about you?  What drives you?

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So far, my 50s are the best decade yet.  For a long time I’d been in denial of getting older.  Age 50 seemed light years away with plenty of living and achieving to accomplish before reaching that dreaded decade of my parents. My mother always told me that one day I’d get there and the only way I’d know would be to look in the mirror.  In other words, I’d feel exactly the same inside, just the outside would change with the years.  And you know what?  She was right on both counts.  Now that I’m facing the waning years of my 50s I still feel like 30 something, only happier and more at peace.  Recognize this age-old adage by George Bernard Shaw?

Anglo-Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw

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“Youth is wasted on the young.”        Now that I understand what it means, I couldn’t agree more!

When I was a kid, 50s was considered old age.  And old people didn’t care about experimenting with life anymore.  Their kids were grown, they’d become grandparents and life was spent in front of the TV or on the proverbial front porch swing.

That’s not even close to today’s reality.  What is true is that traditional advertisers don’t think we count anymore after age 54.  The sweet spot for TV advertisers is the demo 25 – 54.  After that they think we don’t buy as much and when we do we gravitate toward the same habitual brands.  Like kids do, they think we no longer experiment with life and products.  Well, in truth, many of those media buyers are kids themselves – of course those are their prevailing viewpoints!

What IS reality is a renewed vibrance for life.  And that includes experimentation of all kinds:  hair, clothes, weight, adventure, relationships, jobs, hobbies, houses – you name it, we’re open to it.  In most cases the kids are grown and have moved on with their own lives; we women are now free to rediscover ourselves.  In my case there were no kids, just a life consuming career that involved moving around the country and growing in new jobs.

Now with no job that demands my attention, each day offers new discoveries.  The stress has been lifted creating more room for free thinking and exploration.  I’m happier, calmer, feel more love and offer it more generously.  And the surprise is my new-found attitude that what people think about me doesn’t matter like it did during the first bout with my 30s.  I’m now healthier and more physically fit, read whatever I want and become ensconced in activities that appeal to me.  And I still feel sexy.  Plus I’m wiser and smarter than I was 20 years ago.  You know — “if I knew then what I know now…” kind of thing.

Most other women in their 50s feel the same way!  Many of us have disposable income regardless  of  what those young media buyers think.  And the smart advertisers are figuring it out.  Why there are now websites dedicated to boomers and they’re filled with ads.  Imagine that.  We’re actually avid internet users!

I love my 50s and embrace the peeking onset of the next decade.  Who knows – by then I may want to live in a green and purple house or maybe add some purple to my hair!  Love that color!

How do you feel about this so-called middle period of life?  Do share!

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just relax. take it all in. and live life unti...

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“just relax. take it all in. and live life until you burst at the seams.”  Casey Taylor

Life’s perspective changes on a bicycle, especially after age 50 as I rediscover the joys of pedaling. It used to be my transportation as a kid, a way to  see girlfriends who lived near by, or to the dreaded piano lessons (after a quick stop at the grocery to snatch the Tastykake 3 pack of chocolate cupcakes.  They were my favorite and eased the pain of an hour of scales at Mrs. Heston’s house).  I also rode my bike to the community pool down the street to see if the cute boy I adored was there that day.

A typical Mobil gas station. This one is locat...

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But all that seemed to stop when I got my license because then I could drive to all those places (except the pool, now the cute boy I adored worked at the gas station a couple miles away).

These days I experience freedom on my bike and I feel youthful and vibrant. The rides are no longer destination oriented, they’re experiential and offer a slice of life in the slower lane.  There’s plenty to see by moving more slowly; just like the freedom of the road offered by RV travel (which we also do) pedaling along greenways and through parks is like entering a world on the other side of a key hole.  Just step through the door, out of the to-do list mode and into the to-be-here mode instead.

There are wildflowers growing, creatures scurrying and children playing, each to their individual rhythms.

It’s a world that exists whether I ride by or not. And that’s what’s so magical about discovering it by bike.  Pedaling through the keyhole and landing here makes me realize there are hosts of other worlds just waiting to be explored. They’re invisible to cars and to planes.  But when life slows down they pop into view.

I started riding a bike, regularly, a little more than a year ago when I borrowed my sister-in-law’s up in Boston last summer.  It’s the perfect town; all thruways accommodate cyclists.  There are bike lanes on all the roads and a pathway that stretches along the Charles River on both the Boston and Cambridge sides. Because the area is flat just about everywhere, it’s a rider’s paradise.  Taking my bike out was as easy as going out the back door and down the Mass Ave bridge ramp onto the esplanade.  I was hooked.

A summer day on the Charles River Esplanade, B...

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In Tennessee I hook the bike to the back of my car and then take off to a number of greenways nearby.  And those I discovered because I had to find places to ride, away from the roads and steep hills in my neighborhood.  It offers a wonderful form of exercise and opportunities to be with friends.  Knoxville looks like a completely different city from the seat of a bicycle.

But the best part of all?

All of it.  Riding my bike makes me happy.  Seeing people and creatures live life reminds me what living is all about.  That we all have a finite number of years in this human form, and  one shot at it.  I don’t want to “wish I had.”  I want to do.

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My life is a story in progress.  That may be an obvious commentary to some  but it’s a revelation to me because I used to think I had it all figured out.  First I’d do my level best to leave home for college and get the mandatory degree so I could secure what I really wanted, a job to begin building my career.   Then I’d land a series of dream jobs, all of them contributing to the bank account that would make me financially independent.  And because I’d be in love with working, I’d continue that lifestyle until I dropped dead one day.  Done.  Finished.  The story of my life:  she strived, she worked, she achieved, she contributed, she died.  I never considered that some day I’d be in my fifties looking for different kinds of experiences besides going to work everyday.  That I’d be asking the question, “who am I without a fancy job?” Well – hello.  I’m here.

I’ve been living my life backwards from most women I know:  not really interested in marriage, children, friends, or a personal life separate from a professional one.  My jobs were so stimulating; a life in broadcasting (and later cable) meant working 10 – 12 hour days (at least) and most weekends and holidays. Creating shows from thin air required a lot of creative energy and the commensurate time to pull them off – day after day, project after project, city after city, year after year.  I traveled around the country, met hundreds of fascinating people, handfuls of celebrities and worked on projects that contributed to a lifetime of memories.  No question, I fell madly in love with an industry that fed my soul and beefed up my wallet.  I am a very fortunate woman and a highly satisfied professional achiever.  By all my definitions, I made it.  I accomplished my agenda.  And, though not in the plans, I got married and have kids, only ours are furry, four-legged ones who fill my heart every bit as much as human children, with much less expense and potential problems.

One day, much to my surprise (and pretty much everyone who knows the professional me) I decided to stop working.  There are a number of reasons why – things like fatigue, frustration and disappointment top the list.  But there was also something more.  Churning down in my gut somewhere was the understanding that there’s more to experience in this magnificent, finite life I have.  Different paths to explore and different methods of exploration.  Maybe that’s what our 50’s are about.  Maybe it’s a “female professional thing,” maybe it’s a mid-life thing.  But it’s a real thing – to be sure.  At least, for me.  My new life is a journey without a road map; it unfolds each day.  Sometimes it offers adventure and insights; other days it’s deliciously mundane.  But right now it’s where I want to be.  I’m enjoying friends, family, travel, a real personal life, books unrelated to my jobs and a continuing learning experience.  Most women did that early on – I saved it for Act three.  My Actthree.net blog is dedicated to musings from that journey.  Mine and, hopefully, yours.

Are you living a life of journey right now?  Tell me about it.  I’m particularly interested in hearing from fellow boomer women.  But, if you’re not yet among us, but have also decided to carve out the non-traditional life – join the fun.  Let’s all enjoy the journey together.  Please email your stories to me at joyceactthree@gmail.com.  I’ll assume I can share them on Actthree.net, and, maybe, compiled into a book farther along my journey.

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