From the best smart tech to where to live and how to do it better.
A few years ago I pitched the idea of a blog dedicated to baby boomers, a fit and active generation usually treated by blogs as being ready for the nursing home. But when I tried to find fit and active boomers to contribute to it, they acted as if I was trying to make them join a club that they wanted no part of. In fact, studies have shown that most baby boomers look in the mirror and see someone 20 years younger (particularly men). Many don’t want to admit their age or, as is also said about children, to act their age.
I hope and believe that this is changing. It’s one reason that I asked to cover this topic on MNN over the last year, to talk about the issues that face baby boomers, many of whom are still looking after their own parents and supporting children and grandchildren, all at the same time. Here are my favorite posts on the subject from 2015:
When do you get to say ‘I’m too old for this’?
I’m too old for cycling in the rain. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)
This post really is a synopsis of the whole year, the question of when do you get to say you’re too old. Certainly as a 63 year old, I’m feeling the effects of aging; you can see it in my eyes and hear it when I talk. I thought it last spring when I did a 50K bike ride in the rain and last winter when I was on my snowboard. So this year I have a better bike with more gears, and I’m buying new bindings for my snowboard so that I don’t have to get down on my rear end every time I get off the chair lift. That’s why they make these things. (Read more: When do you get to say ‘I’m too old for this’?)
Latest hearables give me new super powers
Hearables and wearables together at last. (Photo: ReSound GN)
It’s like my hearables, as I like to call hearing aids. Boomers are embarrassed to admit that they need them and put it off, instead of turning them into the coolest tool, the best wearable on the market. They give me super powers that normal people don’t have.They connect to my iPhone, turning them into a fitness app, podcast player and Google map reader, but there’s much more. If they are an embarrassment, they are an embarrassment of riches. Read how the latest hearables give me new super powers. And then read about the ones that are even newer. They connect to my Apple Watch and do wonderful things.
I can imagine people being afraid of wearing them to work because they think that they make them look old; that is a big deal in the workplace today. In fact they offer real advantages to the older worker that the kids don’t have. Like the volume control on your head if you are working in crowded spaces, that you can turn it up when you want to hear everything going on around you. You’re not old, you’re bionic. Enhanced even. You are totally wired and they are not. Forget stigma, these are cool tools that give you an edge.
(Read more: New hearables sound better than headphones)
Boomer alert: Smartphones keep your brain young
Keep using that tablet! It will keep you young. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)
The late Nora Ephron nailed it:
I am living in the Google years, no question of that. And there are advantages to it. When you forget something, you can whip out your iPhone and go to Google. The Senior Moment has become the Google moment, and it has a much nicer, hipper, younger, more contemporary sound, doesn’t it? By handling the obligations of the search mechanism, you almost prove you can keep up.
It’s better than that. In fact, studies are showing that the use of smartphones and computers is having a significant effect in keeping cognitive functioning going in older people, making a difference of as much as four to eight years. So the next time my daughter tells me to put down my phone and talk to her, I have an answer. (Read more: Smartphones keep your brain young)
Boomer alert: Exercise keeps your brain young
The author, doing his best to prevent cognitive decline. (Photo: Kelly Rossiter)
Or, put down your phone and get out and exercise. Everybody knows that this is good for your body, but new research shows that it’s good for the brain too, probably because your brain gets more blood. “The message is pretty clear: If you’re a boomer still trying to compete in the workplace or a senior trying to keep up, sudoku and Scrabble are fine, but remember that physical exercise is as important as mental exercise.” (Read more: Exercise keeps your brain young)
Boomer alert: You need better lighting to compensate for aging eyes
Our Hue light fixture, set for my wife, not me. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)
Most people have thermostat wars. In our house we have lighting wars, especially since we converted all our bulbs to LEDs and our main fixtures to Hue RGB LEDs, which we can control on our phones. I am always turning up the light to the absolutely highest level and sitting right under the fixture; my wife keeps changing it to a more pleasing color temperature and lower intensity. Because it turns out, as you get older, that your eyes need a lot more light — by age 65 the amount of light is reduced to 33 percent compared to young people.
Fortunately, we are living in the best of times to deal with this, with LED lights that are adjustable, bright and don’t use very much power. I bought a cheap light meter app for my iPhone and have been measuring light levels where I am comfortable reading and where I find it too low, and am adding fixtures when I need them. Of all the problems that baby boomers face as they age, this is about the easiest and cheapest to solve, and you might even save money while you do it. Don’t fight it, bright it. (Read more: Hey boomers: You need better lighting to compensate for aging eyes)
Robots and virtual reality may transform life for aging boomers
Aging boomers will have robots and Roombas, right? (Photo: RCA)
Better lightbulbs and smartphones are not the only things making it easier for boomers; new technology could revolutionize their lives, if they can afford it. From self-driving cars to smart carpets to robots, our technology will follow us and take care of us. We might not ever have to get out of our Barcaloungers at all, as we put on our Oculus Rift headsets and tour the world. “Using video game technology, retirees can tour a Paris museum or feel the bumps of a jeep ride on African safari, all from their favourite chair.” Really! (Read more: Robots and virtual reality may transform life for aging boomers)
Are older cyclists endangering themselves?
There’s safety in numbers, not clothing (Photo: Lloyd Alter)
Are boomers taking their lives in their hands by getting on bikes? More and more of them are, and there has been an increase in the number of accidents. But in fact, if you look at the rate of accidents, it’s going down. That’s because so many more people are on bikes, getting exercise, which is healthy, not dangerous. We need more boomers on bikes, not fewer. (Read more: Are older cyclists endangering themselves?)
9 ways to redesign (and rethink) retirement
We need walkable cities, preferably with cherry blossoms. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)
I get in a lot of trouble for this, but if you look up any article about aging in place, it talks about people designing houses with big halls, wide garages that can accommodate big vans and giant bathrooms. Look at Houzz on aging in place and you will see 156,825 photos of bathrooms as big as some tiny houses. It’s what I call Senior Sprawl. But we have to design communities, not houses. We have to make it possible for people to walk to stores instead of having to fire up a giant van. “Isolation kills. Lack of exercise kills. Yet we seem to be designing our cities to maximize both. It’s time for a redesign.”
And that is just one of the issues. (Read more: 9 ways to redesign retirement)
In praise of the college town
Yummy food trucks gather in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)
If I were going to move out of my walkable neighborhood, or cash out of my valuable downtown property, I would head for a college town; you can usually find a good cappuccino, a second-run movie house, a decent bookstore and as I found in Durham, North Carolina, food trucks galore. If the university has a medical school, so much the better. It always was a thing, but is becoming more popular than ever. (Read more: In praise of the college town)
It won’t be pretty when boomers lose their cars
My mother-in-law’s house with that rusting Saturn in the driveway. (Photo: Google Maps)
Those boomers are going to need walkable communities, because a lot of us are going to have to hang up the keys at some point. And the fact is, if you don’t have a car in the suburbs, you are totally screwed. Many baby boomers are going through this now, taking care of seriously old parents. Many are also setting themselves up for the same problem in the not-too-distant future. (Read more: It won’t be pretty when boomers lose their cars)
Who will save our digital memories?
My mother-in-law photobombs family, circa 1935. (Photo: McLean family)
Finally, this is not just for boomers but something everyone should think about: In this era where we write everything on the computer and take our photos with digital cameras, what happens to it all? I have lost a few years of writing for a website that closed, and a few years of photos when I didn’t archive them properly. The records of my architectural career are shredded or on unreadable 5″ floppy disks. I now back everything up to the cloud, but it is like a storage locker in the sky:
I suppose that some day, I won’t make the monthly payment, my kids won’t know the password or maybe not care about it, and there will be a digital version of “Storage Wars” where they try and sell the contents of my locker and if that doesn’t work, dump it out into the virtual street.
Something to think about. (Read more: Who will save our digital memories?)