Wrinkled Wisdom: Then and Now

Remember rotary phones?  Love the recent video of two teenagers attempting to figure out how to use one to make a call.  They flunked!    Heck, remember party lines?  They were less expensive than a private line and promoted as patriotic during World War II because they required less copper used for ammunition cartridges.  

Hard to fathom today that between two and 20 families were willing to share the same phone line.  You knew a call was for you because each family had a specific ring—a mix of short and long rings.  No answering service, of course.  Our grandparents had one.  It was not unusual to pick up their phone and hear a voice on the line.  It was soooo tempting to eavesdrop.  But that was a definite no-no. 

Today, we all have cell phones.  Do we miss the old days?  Don’t miss busy signals.  Don’t miss memorizing friends’ and family members’ telephone numbers.  Now, they are right there in our cell phone contacts.  That’s sure a plus as we age…unless our phones crash!!  Don’t miss faxing stuff.  And, pay phone booths?  The kids just look at them and say…huh??  And, speaking of kids, we’re ticked off at the rash of robocalls!  Aren’t these young techies smart enough to figure out how to stop them?  

Remember when “overexposure” simply described exposing a roll of old camera film to too much light?  We sure use that word in numerous, negative contexts today!  And, no more trotting to the drug store to have that film developed.  We all ecstatically graduated to the Polaroid camera, which could produce a finished print in under a minute.  Then, digital cameras were invented.  Now, everyone simply uses their cell phone.  Instant gratification!

Remember when car makes and models were distinct, unique?  Not today.  Can’t tell a Chevy from a Jaguar.  Okay, we can spot a Mini Cooper.  Loved those old 50’s tail fins.  And, two-toned station wagons.  Station wagons???  Yes, we understand that certain shapes and features provide the best aerodynamics, which is why most cars look the same.  We support car designs that are fuel efficient and good for the environment.  But, can’t we be ecofriendly and creative?

It was tough to adapt to wearing seat belts back in 1968.  Today, the safety features on new cars have escalated and the constant alerts are both confusing and frustrating.  Love the blind spot warning system and the backup camera.  But, most drivers say they are annoyed by nanny-tech like the lane-keeping and centering systems and disable many features.  

Remember when we returned our used, glass soda bottles to the grocery store for a refund?  They were expensive to produce.  Bottlers wanted them back.  Then things changed dramatically.  Disposable containers appeared with the words “no deposit; no return.”  Early environmentalists were worried about littering.  No kidding!  We’ve all seen the photos of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the turtle with a straw stuck in its nose, and the pounds of plastic trash in the stomachs of dead whales and dolphins.  But, no one ever expected that we would be inadvertently eating and inhaling gobs of microplastics today.  Guess the Food and Drug Administration needs to get with it and require companies to list plastics on food ingredient labels!  

Remember our dance moves?  Our parents thought the Twist was scandalous.  Then came the Locomotion, the Mashed Potato, the Watusi, the Monkey, and the Frug.  Sometimes, we even wow the kids and do the Jitterbug.  Remember the first televisions?  No color—just black and white.  Programming stopped shortly after midnight with the playing of the national anthem. And, oh, only three channels.  

Adolescent fiction is a big business today.  Think Harry Potter.  Remember the reading habits of our youth?  Nancy Drew for the girls and the Hardy Boys for the…well…boys.  That was about it!

Our wrinkled wisdom for today:  Feel smug that we oldies can’t be beat on the dance floor, even if we are huffing and puffing to make it through the entire song.  Feel smug that we have adjusted to the surge in technology during our lifetime.  Buy a new car while you are still able to learn all the new safety features…and turn off the annoying stuff.  Here’s a fun quiz.  What album did you own as a LP, tape, and CD, and now stream on Spotify?  Let us all know in the comment section.  Finally, plastic litter will outweigh fish in the ocean in a couple of decades.  Think about the grandkids eating/inhaling microplastics throughout their lives.  Let’s get plastics out of our lives!

Old Is the New New

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No, we aren’t talking about consignment shops. We’re talking about the changing face of America.

The world’s older population continues to grow at an unprecedented rate.  There are now over 72 million boomers and another 50-odd million people who belong to the “silent” generation.  And, our growth is outpacing every other demographic group.  In fact, by 2030, one in five Americans will be 65 or older.  A virtual tsunami of oldies!

Old is the new new!  That should earn us a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T!  With this reference, we are broadening the feminist theme of Aretha Franklin’s 1967 hit.

Interestingly, speaking of respect, did you know we have our own government agency?  It’s called the National Institute on Aging (NIA).  It’s part of the National Institute of Health, which we all know as NIH, and is charged with studying aging and extending our healthy, active years of life.  Alzheimer’s disease is an important focus.  Oh, and testosterone therapy.

There is power in numbers.  Money talks.   Ah, sometimes adages and their general truths are apropos if a bit overused.  As a group, we oldies have tremendous economic clout.  Seniors control nearly a third of total U.S. net wealth.  Advertisers need to catch on!

And, marketers are wising up…albeit…slowly.  They are recognizing that we spend and it’s not just on cruises, medical alert systems, senior living facilities, and Depends.  Research underscores that we are significant buyers of cars and Apple products.   Hence the recent AARP headline:  Automakers Rediscover and Create for Boomers.

How propitious that self-driving cars are being developed just as we are aging!  How very thoughtful.  And, another fun headline: Self-driving Vehicles and Baby Boomers: A Budding Relationship.

Yet, advertisers have a long, long way to go.  Today, less than five percent of advertising targets the baby boomer market.  Most advertising dollars are spent catering to 18 to 34 year-olds.  Forbes magazine calls us the most neglected, wealthy group in the history of marketing.

And, important to advertisers, we Google.  We check our e-mail on our smartphones. We order stuff online.  We use social media.  We have Facebook pages.  We check out YouTube.  In fact, baby boomers describe themselves as heavy Internet users. The average broadcast media viewer is now over 50, which is really a profound change that will greatly impact television advertising.

Marketers, do the math!  Get over gerontophobia.  And, learn to talk to us in a way that reflects some reality.

And, wow, do they have a lot to learn.  Most seniors don’t like the advertising aimed at them.  It isn’t realistic or respectful, according to polls.  It’s stereotypic.  We want ads that capture our attention, entertain us, inform us, and respect us.

Okay, we all don’t look like Jane Fonda at 79.  Who can afford that much cosmetic surgery?  However, we do enjoy a beautiful oldie being featured in ads for L’Oreal skin cream aimed at women of all ages.  One of our favorites is an ad for Aldi, a German discount grocery chain with stores in the U.S.  It features an older woman, who, after pointing out the teas she buys for her husband, shares with the viewing audience: “I don’t like tea.  I like gin.”

As marketing changes and matures (is that a pun?), we hope to see an end to articles and discussions about ageism being the last politically correct prejudice.  We understand that mockery of older people masks fears of growing old.  We’re guilty.  Remember when we were in our 20s and dissed 30-year olds as over the hill?  Maybe that’s already changing.  A recent study shows that the younger generation’s greatest fear is their phone batteries running low.  We could create a fun analogy about aging, but won’t.

So our wrinkled wisdom for today?  Lift a glass.  Make a toast.  We’re not invisible anymore!  Give to the National Institute for Aging.  Yes, it’s a federal agency, but Congress made an exception and it can accept donations.  And, it’s OUR federal agency.  If an Aldi store comes to your area, shop there.  The management obviously has a great sense of humor.  When advertisements feature seniors in a fun and respectful manner, buy the product— after you Google the reviews, of course.

 

Bad Drivers

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Bad drivers are, well…driving us crazy!  This is a ubiquitous problem.  All ages are guilty.

Yes, there are tailgaters, drivers who let everyone merge in front of them, and people who go at a snail’s pace through lights so you get stuck waiting for the next green light.  Grrr!

We will ignore the issue of dogs in the back of pickups because we thought the hate mail might be more than we can handle.  Some other fools can point out that an estimated 100,000 dogs die each year riding in the back of trucks—flying out during an accident, falling out accidentally, or sliding out the back of an open tailgate.

No, we are talking behaviors that cause us to spew profanities, cause road rage, and are undeniably dangerous: driving through red lights—not amber, RED; cruising at or below posted speed limits in the left hand lane; texting or talking on cell phones; and…driving while old.

There is no law that says if you’ve been stopped at a light you have the right to go through the next one.  More and more drivers routinely go through red lights, especially turn lights.  We get it.  Some turn lanes have short green lights.  Cope!  Running a red light is insane, overworks middle fingers, and really dirties the crosswalk with all that glass from the accident.  Weigh patience with wildly increased insurance payments.  Red means…stop!!!

We just don’t get the cruising in the left lane thing.  Are people oblivious?   Arrogant?  Vision-impaired?  Paternalistic?  If I have to go the speed limit, so do you?  Nah…nah…nah.  It is not your job to patrol the roads and keep people at or below the posted limit.  Let those rabbits speed ahead and draw the traffic cop’s attention.  When there are five cars behind you and you are being tailgated, take a hint.  That’s what rearview mirrors are for.  Move right!  You are generating frustration, leading to outrageous behavior by other drivers who are looking for any chance to pass you on the right.  You might not be in an accident, but could you cause one??  Yup.

Left lane hogs came in third in a recent study of causes of road rage.  Tailgating came in second and, wait for it, texting topped the charts.

None of these annoying and dangerous behaviors have gotten the attention that texting while driving has instigated.  Have you seen those videos??  Death and destruction everywhere.  Heck, a safety organization has even deemed April “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”  April is an appropriate choice; texters are fools.

Texting is the culprit in 80 percent of all teen crashes.  A concerned group in Colorado, Texting Thumb Bands, posts these stats.  Texting while driving causes 6,000 deaths and 330,000 injuries per year, kills 11 teens every day, makes  “texters”  23 times more likely to have an accident, and is the same as driving after drinking four beers.

Another group has invented a new phrase: “driving while intexticated.”  Very clever.

So, texting is a no-no.  But, even using hands-free technologies to talk on the phone while driving apparently isn’t safe.  Estimates say that cell phone use is involved in 26 percent of all car crashes.  (We were surprised it was that low!)  Like everyone else, we thought that hands-free devices were the responsible choice.  Not true.  Our brains are distracted by the conversation.  Research shows that talking drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues, potentially resulting in drivers not seeing items right in front of them, including stop signs, pedestrians, and bicyclists.  Hands-free does not equal emotion-free.  Here’s a concept…if you want to text or talk…pull over!!!

Even our hi-tech dashboards are distracting…the radio, GPS, DVD player.  Car companies say these technologies—that increase car prices—are safe.  But, are they?  Nope.  Car makers are not particularly prone to the truth.  Think Volkswagen and GM for starters.

We will not get into DUIs and DWIs.  That’s easy.  Don’t drink and drive!!  Many of us have been lucky and not stopped; but, more importantly, we didn’t hurt anyone and learned our lesson.  Take designated drivers seriously.  Don’t even get on a bicycle!

Marijuana is an interesting contrast.  A new study finds that drivers who use marijuana are at a significantly lower risk for a crash than drivers who use alcohol.   What?????

Hmmm.  It could be that pot smokers who get behind the wheel tend to drive slower than the speed limit.  Driving stoned somehow makes 25 miles an hour feel like 50.  Totally entertained by the “Saturday Night Live” spoof—a billboard urging stoned drivers to “speed up.”   Still not a good idea.  Stoned drivers are twice as likely as an unimpaired driver to have an accident.

Lastly…the tough one.  When do you give up your car keys or take them away from mom or dad?  Driving is a key to many oldies’ independence.  This is a very individual issue.  Some oldies are fine.   But, most of us are going to outlive our ability to drive…by 10 years.  That’s a startling stat.

Clues are vision, hearing loss, dexterity, disease, and medications.  Okay…here’s an obvious one.  If you have dementia, don’t drive.  Our dad’s driver’s license was automatically renewed when he was 85.  Hey, at least make him take a driver’s test.  It’s hard to tell a parent it’s over.  If he failed his test…problem solved.  No family angst.

The “conversation” about the keys should emphasize that you care.  And, importantly, include research you’ve done on transportation that is available to them.  Options.  Options are always good.

We giggled over some online, last resort advice.  Disable the car by removing the battery cable or distributor cap.  Honesty is not always the best policy, apparently.

So, our wrinkled wisdom for today?  Get the message when your friends are silent when you say you are a good driver, or when they always insist on doing the driving, or when everyone is passing you on the right.  Save money for a self-driving car. (Although they may not be the panacea we are all hoping for!)  Remember that it is important to complete your personal hygiene at home.  And, also remember that not all states have laws that fine drivers for obviously dangerous behaviors.  Write your legislators and demand new or tougher laws/penalties for running lights, left-lane hogs, texting/cell phone use, and other dangerous driving behaviors.  Since we are old, we hate to push for mandatory driving tests for those of us over 70.  But, crap, probably a good idea.  And, PUT YOUR DAMN CELL PHONE AWAY WHEN YOU’RE BEHIND THE WHEEL!