The baby boomer generation is fast becoming caregivers to one or both aging parents. This has become the new norm for some 45 million Americans, not to mention tens of millions more in the UK, Australia, and other English-speaking western countries.
The other remarkable fact about that is that it’s the women who, more often than not, do the heavy lifting, and with people living longer than ever, Baby Boomers comprise the first generation to care for its parents as long as it cared for its children, and this can be a very stressful time.
Three things you can count on when it comes to your aging parent(s):
That accounts for those times when the need for home care is slow in coming. In less fortunate cases, such as a cardiac incident, or a mom who suddenly can’t be left unattended—not even for a few minutes—you’ll have to drop everything and run to their side.
Here are but a few of the telltale signs that may alert you that something is amiss:
There are several elements to an effective strategy, starting with determining if it’s time to hire a caregiver—or “carer” in some countries.
Some of the decisions entailed in the above considerations can be quite traumatic for your aging parents. Put yourself in their shoes: how would you like it to suddenly have a stranger roaming in your kitchen and bedroom, or have to consider moving out of the home you’ve lived in for all those years?
The wise path is to tread gently while, at the same time, ensuring that your aging parents remain entirely involved in such momentous decision-making processes.
We all get stressed, and the tendency to get stressed can get worse as you get older, so it’s good to have some good stress relief strategies you can use when you need them.
Stress is like a heavy backpack that we lug around. It is our companion from the day we land on this planet, and it doesn’t ever let go. As newborns, we cry out loud when we are hungry or cold, only to then surrender to contentment when we are picked up, and to smiles when we are kept warm and fed. Stress follows the same up-and-down patterns, well past our prime.
Remember how you used to play and run around as a child? How the little things in life, such as molding houses out of twigs and clay, used to bring you the most joy? How running around barefoot on grass and mud used to feel? Remember how you used to chase friends and frolic all over, hollering, laughing, and sweating like crazy? You certainly didn’t need to consider stress relief strategies back then! What’s happened over the years? How did we ever let stress creep in and take hold?
Stress simply won’t go away, often times exacerbated by a relationship that isn’t going too well, mounting bills, a boss we’d love to throw under a bus, or perhaps even a sudden health issue. Left to its own devices, it keeps lurking in our mind, always threatening to degenerate and turn into full-fledged anxiety and/or depression. Both are serious issues that must be addressed with stress relief strategies.
It’s time to fight back, starting with a positive mindset that says that we’re not about to take our stress lying down. And while we know that there is no silver bullet—no magic wand—to rid us of stress, we sure as heck can do what we can to manage the beast.
We Boomers have a tendency to blame our genes—our parents and grandparents—for anything that goes wrong in our lives, including the level of stress that gets us down. When “neuroplasticity” came into the picture as of the second half of the 20thcentury, it showed that the brain is not as “set” as we had thought, that it is elastic (“plastic”) and can be made to change, particularly as we grow older. It has become clear that the makeup of brain circuitry can be invigorated as we factor in physical exercise, a nutritious diet and, most significantly, a regular routine of mind-stimulating practices. Making these stress relief strategies part of your everyday life is important to your overall health.
This science describes stress as a main factor in damaging “synapses”, or minute gaps between nerve cells through which brain impulses pass. The good news is that once the stress is mitigated, the synapses get replaced.
It’s time to bring back our zest for life—bring back the laughter of the past. The idea is to engage with peers who are outgoing and who know how to laugh. Following a considerable amount of research on the subject, a major study revealed that laughter is one of the best tonics to mitigate the insidious effects of the high-speed, high-stress world that we live in. Humor can reduce cortisol, a stress hormone. Chronic release of cortisol can damage hippocampus neurons, also leading to impairment of learning and memory.
This is also another quick and easy way to achieve a lessening of the tension in your mind and body, and you can put its basic principles to good use at any time of day and whether at home or at work.
First, focus on lowering the breathing from your upper chest down to your middle section: lie down comfortably on your back, layer your hands on your belly and experience each breath going consciously all the way down. By taking a deep breath and holding it briefly for a moment, you should be able to see your belly rise and stay inflated while in this position. Now exhale at a slow and deliberate pace, emptying your lungs “down to the last drop”.
From that point on, inhale to a count of 2 or 3, and then exhale backwards from a count of 4 or 5, all the way back down to 1.
Deep breathing is so easy to learn that we are going to leave it up to you to master this technique and get a breathing rhythm going that gives you the feeling that every time you exhale, you are in fact pushing all the day’s accumulated tensions out of your system.
Do Something That Gives You Joy: In the busy life that most of us lead it is easy to miss out on the activities you love to do, especially the activities that relieve your stress. Go for a walk in the countryside, enjoy an activity on the water, sing, read, visit a friend.Do whatever it is that makes your heart sing. And do the things that make your heart sing as often as you can. It makes stress melt away.
Just imagine what a few minutes of uninterrupted deep quiet within us would conjure up. In such instants, you would be able to attain amazing dimensions of energy, insight, sensory acuity, strides towards heightened awareness—and yes, love. The trick is to identify the stress factors in your life and fight back with appropriate stress-relief techniques for baby boomers.
Are you planning on living to 100? There are actually around 450,000 centenarians in the world, 72,000 of them in the US. Longevity, is about a whole slew of factors. Genes naturally play a role. So do the armies of free radical agents that rummage inside of us. Other factors include antioxidants, exercise and nutrition, negative attitudes, brain health, and mitigating stress.
Living to 100 relies on those thousands of mind-blowing parts and systems inside the body that operate in sync and keep us functioning harmoniously – homeostasis. The point about homeostasis is that any blockage to that glorious orchestration of cells, organs, and systems can throw us into disrepair—and a shortening of our lifespan.
The Free Radical Theory of Aging (FRTA) stipulates that aging is the continuous battle between oxidative stress (akin to what makes a piece of metal rust when left in the open) and antioxidants. In that raging “wear and tear” war, stress is a powerful enemy, and antioxidants (berries, leafy veggies, nuts, red wine, dark chocolate, etc.) fight back and support our longevity.
And although we conduct this battle gallantly day in and day out, the best we can is try to live as long as possible—perhaps living to 100 and beyond.
According to Thomas Perls, Associate Professor of Medicine at Boston University, 50% of those who make it to 100+ have in their ancestry people who also aged beyond the norms. In other studies, we learn that perhaps up to 25% of the longevity factor is due to our genes.
Although many other family studies associate longevity with both genetic and non-genetic factors, recent findings showed that even the offspring of those with abnormally long lifespans are likely to live long and less likely to suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. No need for alarm though, for there are hordes of centenarians whose parents only lived to their 70’s or 80’s.
In today’s fast-paced lifestyles, we are driven to multi-tasking on a number of fronts, including family, financial, and job-related trials and tribulations. Stress can then evolve, particularly when we begin to give in to the circumstances that test us—when, fearfully, we question whether we have the fortitude to handle the challenges. Stress conjures up toxic thought processes, making us view our issues through the prism of fear and uncertainty.
Some of us learn to cope with stress more effectively than others, mostly by staying fit and embracing other stress-relief strategies. We thus owe it to ourselves to not let stress evolve into depression and other mental issues, for those would turn into decisive barriers to healthy aging.
Our basic attitude to life has a lot to do with how we handle stress. We may bring stress upon us unknowingly by having a cynical viewpoint to most ideas we face, or by holding on to a pessimistic outlook and walking around dejected and with low self-esteem.
So, get rid ofthat destructive and incessant self-criticism that you entertain, and replace it instead with open-mindedness and recognition of who you are. Focus on your generous deeds towards others, on every time you exhibited kindness and compassion, for in the end, we all have it in us to be filled with compassion and to love and be loved. That would be a necessary step towards turning into a positive frame of mind.
The old adage still works wonders: strain your brain, your witts to retain. Moreover, if you’ve never stopped to wonder about the human brain, perhaps now would be a good time. This 3-lb. sensation spends 80, 90, 100+ years supervising, adjusting, and refining everything that goes on in your body, from the littlest cell, to your heart, respiratory and other major systems. It uses billions of “synapses” (nerve cells) to facilitate communications with every part of your body and maintain that state of harmony and balance so essential for long living.
The recipe from experts is to keep mental faculties working withthought-provoking mental activities that are both entertaining and engaging. If you want to be living to 100 with good health and vitality, keep your mind working. Naturally, crossword puzzles come to mind, as do chess, card games such as bridge and, especially, games that achieve both stimulating the mind as well as socialising.
Boomers, you know well what it takes, so the question is: are you going to make the necessary adjustments? It’s simple really: fight off stress, stay healthy, and you can be one of the people living to 100, no matter what your genetic inheritance consists of.
There is a great and hugely unsettling disconnect in the way advertisers and the media approach the over 50’s demographic, often painting Baby Boomers with such a broad brush that they become almost unrecognizable. “Senior”, “elderly”, and “unwired” are just a few of the terms that send Boomers up the wall.
Boomers, children of the free-spirited 60’s and 70’s, hardly ever fit into a plainly defined model. Some are married with small children, others with grandchildren, and yet others are in the double whammy, “sandwich” generation that looks after aging parents and college-age children—simultaneously. They date longer, marry more than once, and they’re into a hundred and one different activities, going about things in their own, highly impervious ways.
The truth is simple: if there is one thing people can take to the bank, it’s that Baby Boomers will go kicking and screaming till the day they die.
For a long time, the word “senior” was used to define the 50 plus demographic. Whilst it’s an easy handle, it has different connotations in different parts of the world. In Asia, for example, it is treated as a term that denotes respect and wisdom. In most English-speaking western countries however, age does not command the same respect and, on the contrary, terms such as elderly and senior irritate Boomers endlessly.
Why is that? Why are Boomers allergic to terms such as senior or elderly? It’s mostly because these labels come with a truckload of emotional baggage. While technically correct, for those of us over say 55, “senior” conjures up images of walkers, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes. “Boomers” on the other hand has a cool ring to it, reflecting back to how liberated and “anarchist” we were in the 60’s and 70’s.
“Senior as a term needs to be dropped off a cliff,”saysPhil Goodman, founder of the Boomer Marketing & Research Center in San Diego, USA, and Boomer guru to various US companies. “Boomers will never be like their parents and grandparents; in their mind, they’ll always be young.”
Echoing the same mindset and talking about the over-50 community in the US and other English-speaking countries, “They’re having a second middle age before becoming elderly,” says Ann Fishman, president of Generational Targeted Marketing, a New York-based marketing firm. “And they’re making it up as they go along, because it’s never been done before.”
Furthermore, Boomers are no longer “unwired”. People had better dump that term into the nearest sink hole. Baby Boomers no longer rely on snail mail, print media, and television for their information and news. Here are a few facts, courtesy of the Pew Research Center:
Another aspect of the Baby Boomer saga has to do with their longevity and aspirations. A few decades ago, most people had only a few years to live by the time they retired. Most workers retiring today can look forward to 15-20 years of free time and, thanks to medical advances and healthier living, remain active for most of it.
Lastly, Boomers have a huge impact as a consumer block. Across Australia, the UK, Canada and US, statistics on over 50’s reveal they purchase more than 40 percent of all new cars and over 80 percent of luxury new cars.They also represent more than 80 percent of leisure travel, and they buy 74 percent of all prescriptions and 51 percent of all over-the-counter drugs.
Will there ever again be sounds like those booming from the guitars and drums of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the BeeGees? or laments and lyrics like those of Bob Dylan? Truth be told, popular music and rock ‘n roll will never be the same after the 70’s. Artists and groups like that killed themselves producing harmonies and sounds that will live forever. Thank you, Baby Boomers!
Croatia is a country with a deep and turbulent history. We have walked in the paths of the Ancient Greeks, Romans, Corintians and Venetians. We met a guide whose parents, wife, and children were all born in the same village as himself, but each was born under a different ruling authority, and so each was officially born in a different country….AustroHungarian Empire, Italy, Serbia, Yugoslavia and Croatia.
The scenery is spectacular, especially the coastal villages on little islands that we'd never heard of until we booked the holiday.
Traveling by small boat is ideal because you can moor in the centre of the town, disembark and you are immediately able to start your exploration.
And the swimming! Forgive me if I do a little rave here but the water is just wonderful, cool but not too cold, salty and buoyant, calm and very lovely for just moving around in the water. I didn't try swimming because it was so delightful just paddling around, floating and watching the passing parade of Europeans on holidays.
As time is limited to write this blog post I'll finish here, because in a few minutes I'm heading off with others to explore a pretty little village on the island of Brac.
I am thrilled to have booked tickets to a concert that I really want to go to.
No, it's not Sting and Paul Simon. I really really wanted to go to that but my plans of a weekend with friends at the Pokolbin concert in a vineyard have fallen through. No, this concert is about creating memories with my granddaughter; about enjoying the privileges of being a grandmother.
It is not a concert that I would have even considered a year ago, in fact a year ago I'd barely heard of the main star of the show. But then Peppa Pig came into our lives. My granddaughter watches her avidly. She learns manners from her ("Nanna, this is my baby sister Charlie"). She plays with her Peppa Pig stuffed toy. She eats off a plate with Peppa's image on it. She draws and paints pictures of Peppa Pig. Peppa is as real to my granddaughter as most people she knows.
So when I heard Peppa Pig was going to be LIVE at a Brisbane theatre I immediately booked tickets. We are having a special date, just the two of us, to see Peppa in concert.
I realise that someone who is still a few months off turning three probably won't remember this concert, or even that we attended a concert together. But I will always be able to treasure the moments of joy and wonderment that I will see on her face. There will be aspects of theatre that she will never have seen before, experiences she won't have had, and then there will be the excitement of seeing Peppa and George (Peppa's baby brother who is always introduced politely…hence the introduction I mentioned before).
Being a grandparent is such a privilege; the opportunity to give unconditional love without having all the tiresome parts of parenthood. We've been there, done that. Now this is the truly fun part, the chance to enjoy the special times with the next generation, then hand them back to the parents when the outing is over.
Thank you, Peppa Pig, for bringing this joy into our lives.
I'm always delighted to hear of Baby Boomers who are creating the life they want through a clever business idea or by offering a great solution that enables others to create the life experiences they desire. The guest author of this blog post Marguerite McMahon has done just that, using her years of travel experience to provide a great tour of Italy for ladies who don't want to travel on their own.
Would you like to be part of the Thelma e Luisa Tour of Italy?
Why is this tour called the Thelma e Luisa Ladies Only Tour of Italy? Yes it is a pun on the title of the old Brad Pitt movie, but don’t worry…..we will not be driving off a cliff!
I am organising a small group departure for ladies who would like a holiday in Italy. There are many ladies…single for one reason or another, or with a partner who doesn’t want to travel…who do not want to travel in a large group, don’t want to have to pay single supplement, or perhaps would prefer the security and fun of being part of a friendly group when travelling.
The idea of this tour developed when joking with a couple of dear friends about how much fun it would be to do a "girls only" road trip touring Italy. Initially we were not seriously planning a holiday….but then the idea grew and grew.
So I am delighted to invite you to join our THELMA e LUISA LADIES ONLY TOUR of ITALY. The numbers who can come on this exciting tour are very limited and only three places are still available. If the idea of holidaying in Italy with a small group of like-minded ladies appeals to you, don’t delay. Give me a call – 0408 765954 – or email me today to find out all about our tour.
About Marguerite McMahon
I love to travel, and I love to share the joys of travel with other people. Some people are content to just stay around home. That life does not seem to keep me exhilarated. I’ve lived and worked in England, I have been a volunteer in Israel, have worked in NZ, worked in Vienna and another place close to my heart, bella Roma. They say if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain you will return. Each time I go to Rome I always throw a coin in the Trevi….and so I keep going back!
I have been working within the Travel Industry for the past 30 years. My business name is Marguerite McMahon Travel Services. I only work by appointments and if local, would go visit you at your favourite coffee shop. Otherwise I am still able to offer my personal service and attention via phone.
Images from previous tours organised by Marguerite McMahon Travel Services
Budapest is a beautiful city, well worth a visit. We were there during the Szygert Music Festival so the city was teeming with the youth of the world, all intent on having a great time. That brought a lovely youthful vibe to the city and attractions, where I expected the baby boomer generation to dominate, due to the large number of people who take the river boat cruises from Budapest to Amstedam or the reverse journey.
In mid August it was very hot and dry, and the sky seems to permanently have the haze that adds charm to photos, but is probably dust and pollution.
I put together these five tips for some friends who are visiting Budapest soon. I hope they contribute to your pleasure whilst in Budapest.
1. Bring a swimming cap or at least a shower cap to Gellert Spa or you can't go in the cold pool. My law-abiding husband broke two rules at once and was severely reprimanded by an officious man with a loud whistle, expressive hand gestures and no sense of humour! In his delight to find a cold pool he did a big jump in the deep end……
No jumping allowed!
Caps must be worn at all times!
No sir, we didn't read the signs!
At the other big mineral spa, Szechenyi Baths, the rule was similar but only enforced there if you are doing laps. They have a fun outside pool with a great massaging waterfall. They also have many hot pools but the day I was there they were all overrun with Szegert Music Festival participants.
2. The Hop on hop off bus is excellent but keep an eye on last bus time…It's a looonnnggwalk home if you miss it because you were too long at the mineral baths! We used Red/Yellow line (giraffe bus I think they are called) and that included boat rides and night buses & boats if you were still capable of doing something at night. (We weren't!)
3. The Castle coffee shop overlooking the city has stunning views, brilliant ambience and the iced coffee was the best ever (or maybe I was in desperately need of liquid, caffeine and sugar by then). We were serenaded by a violinist and enjoyed the music provided by him, a cellist and keyboard player.
5. We stayed at Palazzo Vichy Hotel and loved it. The only negative was the distance to the nearest hop on hop off bus stops as our feet got tired. The restaurant in the little square opposite the hotel, and it being in a local resident/ university area added to the charm.
6. Final, but most important, tip: Start walking training now in the shoes you will be wearing!
For the next five weeks Boomers Next Step blog posts will be focussed on Travel and all the wonderful lifestyle, cultural and historical issues that arise when you are travelling in fascinating parts of the world.
We have been briefly in Budapest and are now in Zagreb about to enjoy 3 weeks exploring Croatia. Paris then England will follow.
Somewhere in the skies, in the middle of a long and uncomfortable night, I commented that the effort of getting ready to travel, and then getting to your destination, was just not worth it! I admit I was sleep-deprived and feeling a little tired and crotchety at the time. Yes, it is an effort, but it is so so worth it!
As I looked around at the people boarding our flight, and again at the tourists we saw in Budapest, many of whom were about to join the Danube cruises, it reinforced to me how much travel is ingrained in the baby boomer generation as the "reward" we aspire to when many of the other responsibilities of life have lessened.
For those of us fortunate enough to be able to travel there are often two times in your life that you can freely do so….before your career gets underway and when you are either finished or nearly finished your traditional career path. Budapest, and flights into Budapest, were filled with both groups!
The Szigert Music Festival was on and around 40000 young people from around the world were there to enjoy it. I wish I could share with you a photo I took at the Szechenyi Baths two days ago, but it's on my camera and not yet downloaded. I think the 40000 music festival participants were all at the Mineral spa at the same time as me. But they were so full of the joy of living that I didn't mind the ridiculously crowded pools, instead enjoying their vibrancy and excitement.
But where were the baby boomer travellers? Not at the baths, that's for sure, but undoubtedly enjoying some of the many delights of Budapest. I just hope they didn't avoid the glorious Szechenyi Baths because the youth of the world had taken it over for a few days.
What did I gain from my sardine-like experience with the young and beautiful at the Szechenyi Baths? I was remindered to enjoy every moment of this travel experience, do everything we can, don't let age stop me from trying new things, and basically live life to the full.
If you love reading chances are you have been part of a Book Club at some time. I believe that the key to a great book club is the combination of insightful people with opinions reading books that stimulate interesting, challenging, thought-provoking discussion. But it seems no matter how hard you try to select great books for your book club it is difficult to decide on titles that lift your conversation from content and character to concepts and insights into the human condition.
If your book club is one where the members choose the books the big challenge is always how to decide on the books to be read. A great alternative to book store and radio/magazine/tv recommendations can be found at Rapunzel Reads, a new blog site written specifically for book club members by self-confessed book addict Kerry-Lynne Hamley.
Kerry-Lynne has been a member of many different book clubs not only in different cities, but also in remote parts of Australia and the Middle East. With a deep knowledge and appreciation of English literature, her reviews examine each book from the perspective of a book club member who may be considering what they should recommend to their book club. It is also invaluable for the person who loves reading and wants to expand their choices and their knowledge of contemporary "good reads".
This site is in its infancy but already there are some excellent recommendations for your book club or your own personal reading. Eventually there will also be brief guides to popular books so if life has overtaken your good intentions you can read the "cheat's guide" before you go to your book club meeting.
So visit and bookmark Rapunzel Reads, then next time your book club is considering what books to read next, or you are discussing books with your friends, you will be able to throw in some well considered comments about various books and impress them all with how well read you are!
The Guardian newspaper in England has just released their list of the best holiday destinations for 2015 and I'm delighted to see that Brisbane is on the list.
Once an overgrown country town, the Queensland capital has changed beyond recognition in recent years: Lonely Planet named it Australia’s hippest city last year. Alongside hotel and bar openings and the rise of riverside restaurants such as Pony Dining (which, in an act of gastronomic symbolism, replaced a McDonald’s at Eagle Street pier) and Stokehouse Q at Southbank, Brisvegas has a series of happening villages. Prime among them is Fortitude Valley, where the world’s first Tryp Hotel opened recently, as did Kwan Bros, a superb Japanese-fusion restaurant. Also on the north bank of the Brisbane river, once-seedy Caxton Street, near Paddington, is a new social hub, now home to the flamboyant Gambaro hotel and to Lefty’s Oldtime Music Hall, which has live bands, 100 rye whiskies, and was named Gourmet Traveller’s “best Australian bar 2014”. (Quoted directly from The Guardian's article.)
I don't know Brisbane as a tourist destination, but as a place to live I have found Brisbane wonderful. Small enough to make getting around easy, but large enough to have everything we want in a city. Certainly I still miss aspects of Sydney, and still get excited when I revisit that city and catch up with old friends there, but as a city to live in and a city in which to raise a family, Brisbane is a winner.
Croatia is also mentioned and we are booked to spend time travelling around Croatia later this year. I hadn't realised that Game of Thrones features Dubrovnik, but really every image you ever see of Croatia is quite beautiful. I'm looking forward to spending time there.
As for all the other places on that list….my travel bucket list is getting longer all the time!
Hannah Brencher – "Love Letters To Strangers"