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Monday, November 24, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Well, relatively speaking. 

Alastair Mitchell is 37.  Following is an interview with him in Sunday’s New York Times, in the business section.  He’s the chief executive of Huddle, a software company that lives somewhere out on a cloud.

There are three things young Alastair has to say in this interview that makes him worthy of mention on this blog.

First, in response to the question about early influences on his entrepreneurial endeavors, he credits his grandfather.  We like it when young people acknowledge the guiding hand of the old.

Second, he’s quite open about professional mistakes he’s made, in fact, using the active voice when describing one: “I made the classic young-manager mistake…”  This is in stark contrast to the popular passive construction used by most bureaucracies and corporations:  “Mistakes were made.”

But my favorite comment from the little tikey-entrepreneur has to do with his Big Red Bus test.  A more incisive and visual version of the Bucket List metaphor, this one has special resonance for me.  I was almost run over by one of those big honking buses whilst in London last year.


Larking around South Kensington one beautiful November day, I was just about to step into the street when I saw a look of horror on a fellow pedestrian’s face.  I immediately lunged back onto the sidewalk just as a Big Red Bus made its turn.  

Now, I confess that no dramatic insights occurred to me as I barely escaped the rampaging bus, but the experience has made Alastair's test much more meaningful to me.

More at:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Aging By These Books

If you go on Amazon and search “books on aging,” here’s what comes up on the first page:  1-12 of 36,281 results.  Of the 12 listed, I own/have read/will be reading five of them; three are on the list I mentioned at last Friday’s Cathedral Counseling Center presentation.

If you keep going on Amazon’s list, you'll find on pages 2-5 lots of “anti”-aging titles, my favorite being The Aging Cure: Reverse 10 years in one week with the FAT-MELTING CARB SWAP, by Jorge Cruise.  (And btw, those CAPS aren’t my idea; they’re part of the title.)

And while I'm all for staying healthy as we age, my favored books on the topic are, not surprisingly, heavy on the arts and humanities.  Here's a very brief number of those, some with accompanying notes:

1.  Roman philosopher Cicero’s treatise, On Old Age (65 BCE)

2.  Travel with Epicurus: A Journey To A Greek Island In Search Of A Fulfilled Life, Daniel Klein (2012)

(The co-author of Plato and a Platypus describes how he journeyed to Greece with a suitcase full of philosophy books in order to learn how to achieve a fulfilling old age, explaining how he came to regard old age as a valuable life stage filled with simple and heady pleasures.)

3.  The Gift of Years, Joan Chittister

4.  The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond Sixty, Carolyn Heilbrun

5.  A Time To Be In Earnest, PD James

(The title is from Samuel Johnson's admonition that 77 is the time, i.e., the age, to be in earnest.)

6.  Aging as a Spiritual Practice: A Contemplative Guide to Growing Older & Wiser (2012)

7.  Lastingness: the Art of Old Age, Nicholas Delbanco (2012)

("In LASTINGNESS, Nicholas Delbanco, one of America's most celebrated men of letters, profiles great geniuses in the fields of visual art, literature, and music-Monet, Verdi, O'Keeffe, Yeats, among others - searching for the answers to why some artists' work diminishes with age, while others' reaches its peak. Both an intellectual inquiry into the essence of aging and creativity and a personal journey of discovery, this is a brilliant exploration of what determines what one needs to do to keep the habits of creation and achievement alive.")

8.  The Power of Experience: Great Writers over 50 on the Quest for a Lifetime of Meaning, Jeremy James (ed.)

9.  The Art of Growing Older: Writers on Living & Aging, Wayne Booth (ed)

10.  Michael Gurian’s The Wonder of Aging: A New Approach to Embracing Life after 50, 2013

Gurian divides the post-50 years into three stages, his Stages of Age, based on what he calls scientific and spiritual evidence):

Age of Transformation, approx. 50 – approx. 65
Age of Distinction, approx. 65 – late 70’s
Age of Completion, approx. 80 – 100 and beyond

He then goes on to describe the elements of each age.

11.  Finally, the novel Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, which won the Pulitzer for fiction in 2009.

Here’s an excerpt from the last page, where the title (and aging) character is bedding down with a new man in her life: 

“What young people didn’t know, she thought, lying down beside this man, his hand on her shoulder, her arm; oh, what young people did not know.  They did not know that lumpy, aged and wrinkled bodies were as needy as their own young, firm ones, that love was not to be tossed away carelessly, as if were a tart on a platter with others that got passed around again.  No, if love was available, one chose it, or didn’t choose it.”

Please note:  As I do every year, I’m offering a “holiday special” on one-on-one coaching, in both writing and journal writing.  If purchased by December 31, 2014, the hourly fee is $75, and sessions can be used through December 31, 2015.  Email me at for more info.

Monday, November 17, 2014

We're Old, We're Everywhere: Some Stats & Media

My apologies for not posting a second time last week—my basic minimum for weekly posts on this blog.  I’d planned to do so on Thursday, but instead was knee deep in prepping for my presentation on aging, which was at the Cathedral Counseling Center the next morning.

And I mean “knee deep,” mostly bits and pieces of unevenly ripped notes from the eight or 20 various-sized memo books I carry everywhere, scratching notes in while standing in the cereal aisle of the grocery store or waiting for the street light to change during one of my daily walks.  The notes are short—some four or six words—mostly stray thoughts on my latest writing or speaking project, several of which actually find their way into the finished copy.

I’d been thinking about this presentation ever since I was invited to participate in the Professional Development Workshop at the Center, the title of which was Aging: Much Wisdom, Much Grief, imagined as a conversation on the transition into older adulthood.

I'd decided that my best contribution to that conversation would be the transition part.  In some quarters, after all, I am known as the Transition Queen, having created and survived many of them over the years--some more ill-conceived than others.

I divided my presentation into three parts, the first of which I’d like to share here.  It establishes the context for what we were all doing at the workshop, both presenters and attendees alike.

And so, Part I:  

Part I:  We’re Old, We’re Everywhere:  The Stats & Media

Some Stats
(Note: The stats are from a variety of sources, including articles in the New York Times, on WBEZ’s The Morning Shift,  and in various other media.)

Life expectancy at birth in this country at the turn of the 20th century was nearly 50 years. According to the United States Census Bureau, it’s now over 78. And by 2050, it’ll be over 80. Others estimate it could be even higher.

The Census Bureau projects that the number of Americans over 65 will more than double by 2060.

 A 2009 study published in The Lancet predicts that more than half of babies born in 2000 in “countries with long life expectancies” will live past 100 years old.

70+ million Baby Boomers are currently making their way through middle age and beyond, sometimes way beyond.

Women between the ages of 44 and 65 are the largest demographic group.

Women’s lifespan has lengthened “from about 40 in 1900 to 80 in 2000 in the U.S.

One-quarter of divorces occur after age 58.

60% of people over 65 have full-time jobs.

One-quarter of adults who live to 65, will live to 90.

One-half of adults who live to 65, will live to 95.


Conclusion:  This historic increase of aging adults has many people alarmed, or at least gotten their attention—for all the obvious social, financial, and psychological implications. 

And so the word “tsunami” is not much of a metaphorical stretch when describing this wave of aging Americans mostly, people over 50 who will live longer healthier lives, and with more productive years ahead of them than any other generation in human history.

And so what follows from those numbers is all the ink spilled about those implications, both online & in print:

Some Media
Top 100 Senior & Boomer Blogs & Websites
By Michelle Seitzer / Posted on 10 March 2011

"Google returns 1,330,000 results when you type in “blogs about seniors” and 3,890,000 for “websites about seniors.” Of course, not all of these results are legitimate, useful, or applicable destinations for those seeking issues of interest about seniors, but even if half of them are, can we say information overload?"

"So here’s an updated version of our first Top 100 Senior and Boomer Blogs and Websites, to help you stay up-to-date on the latest advances in boomer blogs and senior sites spanning a colossal range of topics. Peruse and use this new list as your hitchhiker’s guide to the most interesting, engaging, helpful, and heartwarming offerings in the virtual galaxy today."

New Categories (updated in April 2012 and revised/refreshed in May 2014):
       Just for Boomers — This site promises “boomer news for all your boomer needs.” Head to the SharpSeniors blog to learn more. Writer Helen Hudson’s Aging Agelessly blog is a funny, bittersweet, down-to-earth and thought-provoking look at aging, which includes stories about her personal experiences in caring for her grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s, for 13 years (she was a newlywed at the time!).
       All About Alzheimer’s — Founded by Carlos Barrios, who lost his grandfather to the disease, helps charities raise donations, connects people, and offers valuable information about Alzheimer’s to those who need it. Also check out to learn more about clinical research and prevention education.
       Grandparents’ Corner – is a fun site for boomers who love their grandchildren and are learning to connect with them in a totally new, fully digital way.

Updates to Current Categories (updated April 2012 and revised/refreshed May 2014):
       Travel –  Check out for all things boomer and senior travel.
       Caregiving – is more than a blog for caregivers, it’s also your one-stop-shop for caregiving supplies. Shop for incontinence, mobility, vision/hearing and other related products at the site.
       All Things Aging — Learn about the spiritual aspects of aging at this enlightening site,, or visit for all things health, fitness and retirement.
       Rocking the Boat – Feeling feisty and full of life in your boomer and senior years is a thing of beauty, and it’s an approach that’s celebrated at the following sites:, and
       Senior Care & Services – Review blog posts and podcasts offering insights on caring for a senior relative or friend at
       Money & Finance – There are thousands of discounts just for seniors. Head to to take advantage of them today.


The New York Times blogs: Booming and the New Old Age, plus regular articles and essays about aging that I’ve written about previously on the blog, including David Brooks' & Gail Collins' shared column in 2013, “How to be Old.”

Then of course there’s the AARP magazine; HuffPost50;, where I’ve been published; and most recently—and perhaps controversially—the Atlantic, Ezekiel Emanuel’s article, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.”

Later this week, I’ll post several of the books I mentioned during my presentation.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Everything Old Is New Again: Stories Matter, Doctors Need Them.

This may be yet another one of those “art + science = a truer picture of reality” articles.  But however story makes a comeback in the medical profession, it’s critical that it does. 

Because without it, both patients and doctors are poorer for its absence.

I remember going into the hospital for surgery—this was years and years ago—and insisting that I have a one-on-one with the anesthesiologist before going under the knife.  I can still see him sitting in that brightly lit hospital room, me in the bed, he in a comfy chair opposite, while we spoke.  It wasn’t a long conversation, but long enough for him to hear my story: who I was, where I was from, what I did for a living.  And especially my concerns and fears about the surgery. 

It was not long after that, maybe a couple of months later, that I read some study that showed that when anesthesiologists knew who was on the table in the operating room —the person in front of them that they’d soon be rendering unconscious—fewer accidents occurred.

Well, yes.  Because now we know that person on the table.  She is not some anonymous slab of human being.  That’s Carol, the young woman from Rogers Park who is a caseworker at a half-way house, who’s really concerned about whether the breast biopsy will reveal the very disease that killed her mother.

So, of course, I’m all for it.  Let’s bring back story where it could really matter, where it may even be a matter of life and death.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

We're All Entrepreneurs Now

The following five “late bloomers” are featured in this past Sunday’s Parade magazine, in the article “Encore Entrepreneurs: How Five Late Bloomers Turned Big Ideas Into Sweet Success.”

“Encore,” by the way, is another one of those Boomer/Beyonder buzzwords, like unretirement and reinvention, though it’s a bit misused in this context.  The dictionary definition says that an encore is a “continuation of a performance,” which, in this instance, it is not.  It’s an entirely new performance.

Also, the original word involves an audience, one often on its feet, clapping wildly, insisting on an encore performance.  That is not what’s going on here, at least literally. 

But no matter what drives them, the following five entrepreneurs definitely represent a trend.  In the article’s introduction, we are told that “the share of U.S. entrepreneurs ages 55 to 64 grew from 14 to 23 percent between 1996 and 2012. This represents the largest gain of any age group, including 20- to 34-year-olds, whose share actually shrank from 35 to 26 percent.”

The link to the article follows my very short summary of the five, including their name/entrepreneurial project, and my favorite quote from each.

Anthony Full & His Ingenious Man Cave

Favorite quote:  “As I got older, I started thinking about what I wanted my legacy to be.”

Carol Gardner & Her Pooch, Zelda

Favorite quote:  “If I can accomplish all this just by dressing up my dog, imagine what you can do.”

Mark Britton & His 80-Somethings

Favorite quote:  “Angel investors are used to pumping money into 20-somethings in Silicon Valley and other high-tech sectors. But here I am on the East Coast in Mt. Kisco dealing with 80-somethings. But they’ll eventually come around. There are just too many 50-plus entrepreneurs to ignore.”

Jeffrey Nash & His Juppy Baby Walker

Favorite quote:  “To work for a corporation is to be at its mercy. When viewed that way, it’s really not a huge risk to start a business.”

Guadalupe Guerrero & Her Mexican War Hero

Favorite quote:  “I am happy because for the first time in my life, I am working for myself.”