I “Old Age. A Beginner’s Guide” by Michael Kinsley
The title grabbed my attention but with full disclosure I admit I have not read his latest book. I was a little amazed that someone in his 60’s was experienced enough to write a book about aging despite his literary credentials, and brush with an early diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. I inserted my recent shot of a tortoise taken on the Galapagos this winter as a symbol of aging — slowly but well! Hope you find it humorous!
Kinsley maintains in a book review that baby boomers will be living longer and will be churning out more and more memoirs as we age, and become afflicted with the diseases of older age. I guess he wanted to be among the first or be a trail blazer in this category.
The book is described as short, funny and packaged in a way to make it an excellent impulse purchase. I will be sure to check it out the next time I am at an airport!
Helpful or Humorous?
The review of this book will have us believe that the book is more funny than informative. This is a good thing. A sense of humor will get us far and with Kingley’s diagnosis this is a must have quality. He points out a fellow boomer, Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle who apparently is well invested in living forever, and has spent a fortune to figure out a way. He is quoted as saying, ” Death has never made any sense to me.” Kingsley’s reaction is to retort: “Actually the question is not whether death makes sense to Larry Ellison but whether Ellison makes sense to death.”
He is also pragmatic in his attitude towards losing ones memory as we age. He predicts that one out of three boomers will eventually suffer from some form of dementia. Colorfully he describes his position by saying, ” They are jogging everyday, but will get Alzheimer’s anyway.”
The book apparently is not about old age. See first paragraph above! Kingsley makes a point of powerfully using this book as a way of possibly engaging boomers to think about their legacy. He suggests they try to eradicate the national debt by having their money taxed after death in a way that would accomplish something equivalent to the Greatest Generation’s achievement in World War II.
He’s a good writer and some of his essays are from the New Yorker and The Atlantic. This could just be my next impulse buy!
Baby Boomers And The Evolving Type Of Healthcare Living Situation
Do you cringe when you hear the term “Nursing Home’? I know that I do, and it is substantiated by witnessing older members of my family ending up in one. Some of the finest are not where I or apparently any of my peers would like to end up.
The baby boomers power has resulted in nursing homes realizing they need to restructure and reinvent themselves. Nursing homes that are trying to appeal to this segment of the market are changing but why not change their name? Some of the reinvention includes features like big screen TV’s, larger beds, Wi-Fi, and making the dining areas look less institutional. A new term has cropped up and its being called “transitional care”. This is where people go to heal when they can’t go directly home. The endpoint is that this is not a permanent stay but rather a place to feel better and go home. Medical professionals due to insurance constraints are being forced to work more closely with these centers to ensure that they don’t return to the hospital. It’s safe to assume that someone recovering from knee replacement surgery would not want to be living among older people.
Transitional facilities are trying to bridge hospitality and healthcare by bringing on specialists in these fields to keep on track. Rooms can have private bathrooms, food is more interesting and there are therapy gyms.
It seems that these transitional facilities can pave the way for baby boomers as we grow older. How nice it would be if we reach the point where independent living is no longer feasible that we have an option that does not resemble the nursing homes of our grandparents.
Now — we need to come up with a name that is uplifting – not off putting. Any ideas?
Positive Memories Are Nice To Have?
I think we all agree that focusing on the good things in life tends to be more productive or is it? Apparently, not when it comes to our investment portfolio. A recent WSJ article poses the question: How well do you recall the recent financial crisis? Most people, understandably want to move on, and conveniently forget unpleasant memories. This article points out that this feeling of optimism can be costly to us.
They compare our memories in our brains to a computer. Our brains operate totally differently than a computer. We most likely can’t recall how much the market dropped between 2007-2009. Research has shown that as we age there are “gaps and distortions” that can promote our taking risks that we would be better off not taking.
The Perspective Of the Older Adult
We assume that with age comes wisdom. This is true but older people also develop biases that can play with the details of their memories. There was an interesting study led by a Dr. Castel where he paired a series of faces with financial gains and losses. One example is the paring of a dark haired woman with a loss of $100 and a man with a beard with a gain of $50. Younger and older people in the study remembered the pairings associated with a financial gain more often! Additionally, younger participants more likely recalled big losses while the older group with an average age of 78 recalled people more when they incurred financial gains. Seniors were the group that were 25% more likely to forget the largest losses! These findings support other research that has been conducted that shows older adults pay far more attention to positive information.
What is The Impact On Our Financial Decisions?
This recent research may predict that older people will be blinded by a bull market. Their bias towards the positive and the gains in the market leads them to a sense of forgetfulness of the last bear market. This article suggests that ways of circumventing losses as we age is to set up a “financial autopilot” program. This program sets up target date fund for accumulating asset. For those already drawing money down – annuities can provide an autopilot for a paycheck.. They advise getting help with this as annuities can be tricky.
These autopilot defense programs can counteract any confusion on what our memories recall and distort which can lead to poor financial decisions.
Always nice to recall the good memories but not at the expense of our portfolio’s.
A Ted Talk — Not To Be Missed
We were out to dinner this past weekend when a friend brought up a question based on a TED Talk she had recently heard. Her question she posed to us was — What makes for overall life happiness? The answer was not totally unexpected, but it aroused my interest and so I listened to the TED Talk. I strongly encourage you to take a listen and I will list the name if and a link at the end of this post.
A Bit About The 70 Year Old Study
70 years ago at Harvard University a study was initiated among several hundred participants beginning with people aged 18. Some were college students at Harvard, but the study encompassed a spectrum of people from all walks of life.
They were asked what they thought(at that time) would make for a happy life. Their answers typically were becoming rich or becoming famous. The study continued for 70 years with many participants now in their 90’s. The change in their answer may surprise some of you. The current director of this study gave a TED Talk and I think you would enjoy listening to it. It’s not that long and it will give you lots to think about!
Here is the information for listening to it:
Robert Waldinger: What Makes A Good Life? Lessons from the Largest Study on Happiness
Where To Go When The Spirit Moves You
I have been lucky in life and have been able to explore many parts of the world that I dreamed about in my thirties and forties. I had been around the United States many, many times for both business and pleasure. I must admit I always enjoyed my travels in the U.S. and would look for something new and different every time I visited the same place.
Marrying my soul mate meant we both had the yearning for world travel and so off we went on various explorations. My favorite place so far has been South Africa. A close second would be Turkey; Istanbul was the most exotic city I’ve ever seen. Sydney, Australia was also a favorite place to explore and one I’d like to visit again. Can you guess where this picture was taken? A hint: not a place mentioned in this post!
The Harsh Reality
Gerald Marzorati, author of an upcoming book, “Late To The Ball,” wants us to realize that those of us who are exercising our minds and bodies in hopes of erasing 20 years are merely deluding ourselves. He points out that as we age our eyesight, our fast twitch fibers that give us power and speed will recede, and our balance is not what it was at 40!
Marzorati gives us a suggestion for a way in which we can feel like we did when we are 60+ and want to feel like we are 40. He maintains, “Find something new, something different to immerse yourself in and improve at it.” He is referring to improving at something that demands a new skill set. For example, he mentions trying a new musical instrument or sport. We all remember learning to read and how we worked at getting better at speed and comprehension. He believes that same mind set could set us free — in a sense! He gives the example of how he took up playing tennis in his 50’s. What was great and helped was the end result. Not that he was Wilt Chamberlain, but that the road there was helpful in
strengthening his skill set. A neuroscientist at the University of Texas took 200 people and randomly assigned them new activities to do for 15 hours a week. The results showed that those learning a complicated new skill improved their memory.
Coming To Terms With Reality
The activities you plan will of course help, but many people who study the aging process admit that the aging process still remains a mystery. Marzorati relates that while he got better at tennis he still plays like he is in his 60’s. What’s most important to him is what he learned along the way. Self improvement takes time, but you make it your own. He found himself immersed in the present and what can be in the future. I have to quote his exact words because I found them the most meaningful of his comments.
“In this new pursuit of yours, practice is your practice: it continues to determine the way you eat and sleep and shape your days. It is not your life, but one of the lives that make up your life, and the only onw for which looking ahead, at least for a little while longer, is something done without wistfulness or a flinch.”