BOOMERBROADcast

Baby Boomer's social commentary on life in OUR sixties for those who rocked life in THE sixties.


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Don’t get sick or hurt traveling outside of Canada

Boomers are taking out-of-country vacations in unprecedented numbers.

Now that baby boomers are reaching the age of retirement, many are choosing to escape Canada’s crappy winters and migrate to Florida, Arizona and other sunny climates for a few weeks or months each year. We’re taking boat cruises, visiting Europe and doing all the things we didn’t have the time or money for during our working years. Notwithstanding “pre-existing conditions”, we buy our out-of-country health insurance and off we go. Buyer beware. What happens when we’re in a car accident, develop intestinal problems or suffer a stroke or heart attack? That’s when we learn that insurance companies are in the business of making money for themselves, not serving the needs of policy holders. This realization should come as no surprise but it can make for some frustrating and inconvenient experiences. Not to mention the obstacles presented by health care provided in foreign countries.

Illness is one thing, but car accidents are another matter altogether when you’re travelling, In Florida and many other places, it’s still legal to use hand-held cell phones while driving, and dangerous texting drivers are commonplace. Compounding the bad driver issue is the age of so many of the drivers in the sunshine states as well as the preponderance of impaired drivers. I know more than one person who was run over when someone backed out of a parking spot without looking behind. That reinforces the argument that it’s always safer to back into a parking spot rather than backing out where it’s difficult to see obstacles.

Even minor issues can quickly rack up tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs.

The bottom line is out-of-country insurance is a must but be aware of the hazards inherent in insurance coverage. I once went to “Emergency” on Christmas day in Florida to remove the rubber tip from my hearing device that had become lodged deep inside my ear canal. I couldn’t fish it out. A trip to the hospital involved several hours of waiting before being seen by a doctor (after being triaged by a series of admin staffers). The procedure took five seconds using special forceps and because I had failed to notify my insurance company in advance and get their recommendation for a facility to do the procedure, I was out of pocket $1,750.00. Ouch. After that experience, I found the perfect forceps on Amazon for $25.00 and now take of the problem myself when it happens.

Be well, but more importantly, beware.

Friends were rear-ended in a car accident when they went for a coffee one evening in Florida. A trip to the hospital involving six hours of tests and treatment resulted in a total bill of $37,000.00 as well as a truckload of paperwork and legal followup after they returned to Canada. Fortunately their insurance covered it. Another friend had intestinal issues and a couple of quick trips to Emergency for tests and prescriptions cost $18,000.00. He’s worried this will affect his future insurability and premiums. Someone else had heart issues in Greece and was treated in a hospital that provided no towels or hot water no drinking water to take pills, no toilet paper and minimal care. After moving to a private clinic, he was presented with a bill for thousands of dollars when he checked out two days later. The clinic demanded immediate cash or bank transfer in payment. The clinic would absolutely not deal with the Canadian insurance provider and finally agreed to accept a Visa card payment. Then, he faced a fight with his insurance company for reimbursement when he returned home.

The bottom line is beware, be healthy and bee-line it home to Canada if you can. Even paying for an air ambulance trip at thirty or forty thousand dollars could be cheaper and safer than out-of-country medical care. Call your insurance company before seeking treatment. If possible, get your ass home immediately. The Canadian health care system may not be perfect, but it is relatively hassle-free and we don’t have to mortgage the mobile home to receive care like our American neighbours do. In the meantime, drive very defensively in the United States, assuming, under Trump you qualify for entry. But that’s another subject for another time.

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Fashion . . . are we in or are we out?

Diane Keaton. My style inspiration.

In my mind’s eye I have the quirky fashion panache of Diane Keaton, the adorable personality of Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, the casual savoir faire of the mature Lauren Hutton and the smarts of Samantha Bee. In reality, there’s a significant spread between what I am and what I would like to be. Let’s just say my fashion style is more aspirational than inspirational. In reality, I resemble the hapless middle-aged lady from the television commercial who falls off her exercise ball or crashes down from the pole as she attempts the latest dance moves. In my attempts to remain current and relevant, will I ever get it exactly right?

Perhaps my frequent missteps are the result of fashion magazine overload a.k.a. fake news for gullible boomers. In our efforts to remain au courant, we sometimes misinterpret what works and what doesn’t work. Obviously, no one since Caroline Bisset Kennedy (late wife of the late John Jr.) has been able to successfully pull off a slip dress. And now the fashionistas are telling me all I have to do is pop a saucy little tee shirt under it, pair it up with some strappy sandals and I’m all set to go? Or that a one-shouldered pin-striped blouse with acres of ruffles across the front and on the single sleeve will qualify me for the eternal hall of fashion shame? Both looks are too horrifying to even contemplate and I really don’t want my picture circulating on the internet’s “Seen shopping at Walmart”. . . again!

Some things that may look great on supermodels are not quite as successful on real-life boomers.

I don’t need to paint a picture of what boomer gals would look like in a spaghetti-strapped mini length sun dress or, conversely, an oversized chunky knit boyfriend sweater with a cowl neck the size of a tractor tire. Spare me the embarrassment of trying to wear wasp-waisted sailor pants, a tube dress or the agony of five-inch platform heels. It’ll be a frosty day in hell before I expose my saggy knees in ripped three-hundred dollar designer jeans or my sun-damaged décolletage in sheer, gauzy plunging necklines. Rompers and jumpsuits don’t even warrant discussion. I have a drawer full of fabulous leather belts that will never again see the light of day. But I hang on to them in case I get lucky and acquire a parasite that causes me to lose twenty pounds and the return of my long-departed waistline. Haircuts are predicated on making the most of a losing (literally) game.

Despite the challenges, I keep subscribing to fashion magazines and poring over their ridiculously Photoshopped glossy pages in the vain hope they might feature something boomer women can confidently strut out in. We may not be the chicest or the trendiest nor may we ever be short-listed for the Best Dressed list, but most of us have finally found our groove despite being a demographic that is completely ignored by the fashion industry. It’s more about personal style than wearing what’s the latest fashion.

I think the best we boomer gals can hope for is a little bit “in” and not too much “out” sprinkled with a dash of fun and originality. Walking a balanced line of fashionably stylish and stylishly comfortable suits me just fine. And if I manage to capture even a teeny slice of Diane Keaton’s style, then I’ll count myself “in”. In the meantime, I think I’m talking myself into those weird silver earrings I saw yesterday but didn’t have the nerve to buy. Yes?

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Boomer sex . . . what’s your position?

It was definitely the start of something big.

Remember the good old days when Boomers had sex like we were rewriting the Kama Sutra? During the sexual revolution in the sixties, we became convinced no one in the history of the world had enjoyed better sex than we did. In the days before worrying about Aids, herpes, HPV and other STDs, our mantra was “Make Love, Not War” and boy did we make our share of love, steaming up the inside of cars and enjoying the freedom of having our own apartment for the first time. Although we probably should have been more careful, our biggest worry was getting pregnant. The introduction of birth control pills eliminated that obstacle so we made the most of being young and free.

Then, we got married, had children or we may have divorced and changed partners, though not necessarily in that order. Life became more complicated. Many of us found ourselves dating again in middle age or even later. But the playing field had changed. We no longer had firm thighs and upper arms or just one chin. The days of freedom from self-consciousness were also gone. Lovemaking required pharmaceutical intervention and we needed our glasses to read the instructions. STDs have become a blight and a barrier to enjoyable sex for everyone, not just single boomers. As if those libido killers weren’t enough, we are also faced with . . . well, how to face it. We’re self-conscious about our backsides, unhappy with our muffin top middles and underarm jiggles. If we’re on top, gravity makes our face look like a basset hound. On the bottom, our boobs settle down under our arms like melting ice-cream.

But, it can be complicated.

Not that our partners fare much better. Oh dear, no. Although most males are completely oblivious. Remember the scene from the movie Terms of Endearment when Aurora and retired astronaut Garrett have their first intimate encounter? Shirley MacLaine’s no-longer-young character Aurora spends the entire afternoon prepping physically and psychologically. She experiments with negligees, hair and lighting, generally trying every trick in the book to present herself in the best possible light. Jack Nicholson’s character, on the other hand, spends the afternoon drinking without a thought to whether he’ll be able to rise to the occasion. When the big moment comes, she’s a bit nervous but ready. He prances in wearing a giant, lecherous smile and a dirty old bathrobe which he gallantly throws open to reveal a hairy beer belly. Men are so blessed with self-confidence.

So, what’s the best approach to boomer sex? Beats me.  Let’s try to recall the summer of love, 1967. Put on the oldies music, drink copious amounts of wine or other mood enhancers and relive the good old days. To paraphrase Timothy Leary’s famous quote in 1966, “Turn on, tune in and let the good times roll.” Put on some Everley Brothers, Roy Orbison or Tommy James and the Shondelles. Get lost in the fifties with Ronnie Milsap’s In the Still of the Night. Just turn out the lights and ignore the jiggles.

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It’s not easy being a trophy wife

We definitely earn our keep.

Just ask Melania Trump, our club founder and honorary chief about how difficult it is to always be viewed as nothing more than arm candy. In her wonderful book I Feel Bad About My Neck the late Nora Ephron lamented the exorbitant amount of time and money required to keep ourselves looking presentable as we age. She reckoned the time factor alone would total a full-time eight-hour-a-day job by the time we reach our eighties. Which isn’t that far off.

The rising cost of personal maintenance as we age is something that is becoming increasingly difficult to bear and definitely something our husbands/partners don’t need to know about. The price of keeping up my “natural” highlights and trim is locked in the vault; the costs of quality makeup, skin care products and body creams are just too scary and embarrassing to share with anyone; my electrolysis appointments are made and carried out in secret. The price of vitamin supplements, probiotics, fish oil and all the other potions required to keep our gears oiled is enough to bring on early cardiac arrest.

Massages can be designated as therapeutic health care in the same way chocolate and fashion magazines can be called groceries. They’re in the family budget and the costs are easy to hide. The other day as I was making an appointment for a mani-pedi, I recalled the days when I performed those tasks myself—for free. The results were generally reflective of my skill level at the time but at least they didn’t require the vast cash outlays I’m now forced to endure. I won’t even start on the price of quality fashion designed to camouflage our so-called figure flaws. Which brings me to the cost of Weight Watchers, gymn memberships, tennis lessons and yoga classes. Not to mention having to subscribe to every fashion and decorating magazine currently in publication to stay abreast of what’s in and what’s out. It’s a lot of time and a lot of money. The work never ends.

Will I ever not care?

I’ve often wondered if I’ll ever reach the point when I’m living in the “home” surrounded by the urns of ashes from all my dead dogs, that I won’t care what I look like. Imagine waking up in a comfy flannel teddy bear printed nightgown, brushing your inch-long “pixie” cut and putting on a fresh pink sweat suit over your soft cotton undershirt and grannie panties. Finish the ensemble with fuzzy warm socks inside Tender Tootsies and we’re set to go. Wouldn’t it be lovely if our daily makeup routine consisted of just a slash of clear lip balm to prevent scabs, a few drops of Systane to keep our dry old eyes from crusting over, and we’re ready to rock n’ roll. No more probing in a 10X magnifying mirror for stray chin hairs, new wrinkles, age spots or suspicious skin growths.

The work to stay beautiful never ends.

My husband is either discreetly grateful or sadly indifferent to what it takes to keep me looking so fabulous when he takes me out on the town to McDonald’s or for special occasions like my birthday to Swiss Chalet. When I ask how I look, his answer is always, “fine”. Good enough seems to be good enough. And we haven’t even ventured into such premium procedures as Botox, fillers and cosmetic surgery yet. Keep those pension cheques coming—it isn’t getting any easier.

That’s why we trophy wives have our own Visa cards and bank accounts. This allows us to make discreet lump sum transfers from the joint account into our own account to skillfully bury the high cost of maintenance. Life’s just easier if he doesn’t know the details. Although, considering what it costs him to golf, by my calculations, I’m still a bargain. And with his handicap, he’ll have to be content with me being his only trophy. But, I’m worth it.

To order  I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron from Amazon.com, click here.

You’ll love it and it’s only $6.52

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The Sense of an Ending ends with a twist

How would you react to receiving a letter or other communication from someone you were intimate with in the swinging sixties or early seventies and lost track of decades ago? And what if that communication required a face-to-face meeting, after all these years? Imagine the emotions that would be ignited. That intriguing premise is the basis for a book by Julian Barnes called The Sense of an Ending. What prompted me to read the book was a review in The New York Times. The reviewer was so impressed with the story that as soon as he finished, he immediately started at the beginning to read it again. I can’t say that was my response but I did enjoy it enormously.

At around two hundred pages, The Sense of an Ending is a quick, easy read. When I first started reading, the main character, Anthony Webster reminded me of Holden Caulfield. The story begins in the early sixties with the friendship of three schoolboys in England whose dynamic is altered by the later introduction of a fourth boy, Adrian. When they go off to different universities, they maintain a tentative friendship but their lives naturally begin to follow divergent paths. We follow Tony Webster’s journey through the changes generated early in the sexual revolution. We observe his struggles and confusion with “the meaning of life” which was a popular concern of boomers. Then, suddenly, he’s in his seventies and receives a solicitor’s letter informing him he’s been named as the beneficiary of a minor settlement in the will of the mother of an old girlfriend from university.

The emotional struggles, the mystery surrounding the endowment and the confrontations that result profoundly affect Tony Webster’s entire philosophy of life. I won’t divulge the plot and its twists as I really think you should experience the book first-hand. Baby boomers will relate to the subtleties of morals, ambitions and social relationships we experienced and will find the book particularly interesting. But it’s also a kind of mystery story with a plot twist that makes the entire book worth reading.

Click here to order The Sense of an Ending from Amazon.com

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Living the Golden Girls’ reality

Communal living Golden Girls’-style has its advantages.

As Boomers approach retirement, we’re circling our wagons, in search of a landing pad that is functional, safe, fulfilling and sustainable. Some of us have branched off to follow children and grandchildren only to find they’re too busy with their own lives to have much room for us. Many of us are colonizing with like-minded fellow Boomers who share our interests, value system, taste in music and social activities. We’re moving into retirement bungalow communities or affordable condos with activity centres and handy amenities. These communities are, however, in short supply.

What makes us different from earlier generations is that we’re demanding more creative approaches to retirement accommodation. One of the reasons our parents are so reluctant to move from their suburban split-level is the lack of viable options. The housing market doesn’t offer many in-between choices for that couple of decades between the big family home and the restrictions and finality of a “retirement home”. My friend MaryAnne sent me a link to a recent article in the Toronto Star about a group of Boomer ladies in Port Perry, Ontario who are living *Golden Girls-style. Four retired women pooled their resources, bought a large Victorian home in a lovely community on Lake Scugog northeast of Toronto and had it customized so they could live independently yet cooperatively in a shared home.

Boomers want specific housing to fill that gap between the big suburban family home and the retirement home.

My own circle of Boomer friends has talked endlessly about communal living. Perhaps it’s a throwback to our idealistic hippie days from the sixties but more realistically it’s just plain practicality. Our families are busy with their own lives and we want the support and social interaction offered by our circle of friends while remaining independent. There are so many options in addition to the Port Perry Golden Girls’ model. The one that appeals to us the most is the “colony”—where we each have our own separate unit but are part of a cluster of similar units forming a pod of lifestyle-sharing retired Boomers. It could be linked or detached one-storey homes. Florida is brimming with this type of accommodation. It could be a multi-unit, two or three-storey condo-style building comprising six or eight units with two units per floor sharing a common elevator/stairwell corridor. That configuration would provide windows for light and ventilation on three sides of each unit.

Retirement accommodation doesn’t have to be expensive . . . but we do have certain expectations.

Land prices are becoming prohibitively too expensive to build cost-effective retirement communities in large cities like Toronto and Vancouver but smaller urban centres could greatly enrich their tax base by marketing to us. Smaller towns and cities should encourage developers to build what we’re looking for. We want access to health care, shopping, theatre, libraries and sports facilities. The baby boomer generation is a huge demographic. It’s a mystery to me why developers, communities and investors aren’t capitalizing on this opportunity by providing what we’re looking for. Build it and we will come. Just call me.

For more on this issue, click on:

Build it and Boomers will come

It pays to listen to Boomers

Can we afford to go on living?

Where will you be in twenty years?

Grandparenting Boomer-style

*Meet a new generation of golden girls

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What did you do yesterday?

This is a test. To reassure me that I’m not losing my marbles. When I was out walking the dog the other day, I stopped to visit a friend who casually asked “What did you do yesterday?”. I drew a complete blank. At our age (Boomers) memory lapses are to be expected as some mental inventory gets rotated out to accommodate new material, but my off-loading is getting alarming. Just to test myself, I do remember what I did yesterday. I went grocery shopping, got my glasses adjusted and had lunch at Five Guys. Are you impressed?

Ask any Baby Boomer how they keep busy now that we’re retired and the answer is inevitably “I don’t know how I had time to work every day”. We fill our days with activities that we enjoy and even routine chores are no longer as onerous now that we have the luxury of controlling our own time. But not being able to remember what I did just yesterday is concerning me. That prompted me to dig up an earlier post from about three years ago on this issue. If you remember reading it—congratulations. If not, welcome to my world:

I’m not OK. Are you OK?

 

 

Was it something I did wrong in the sixties?

Could the once-brilliant minds of our entire Boomer generation be slowly slip-sliding away? Was it too much wine and other mood-enhancers we’ve used over the years?  Do we have late-onset brain damage from all those years of sleeping on brush rollers in high school? Or are we retiring too early and “losing it”? Perhaps the sins and excesses of our youth are coming home to haunt us. In a short 24-hour span this past weekend I experienced and witnessed enough lapses in cognition to cause major concern.

It began on Friday when I joined a girlfriend for lunch at her condo. The table was beautifully set with fine china, colourful, origami-folded napkins, a little gift bag at each place and large goblets for our flavoured mineral water (if we drink wine at lunch we fall asleep before dessert).  When I questioned the third place-setting and my hostess mentioned it was for so-and-so, I reminded her that so-and-so had e-mailed a week earlier that she couldn’t come. OMG. Hostess didn’t read the entire e-mail and just assumed the reply was an acceptance. On the positive side, that meant that I could gorge myself silly on extra finger sandwiches and fruit flan.

The second misadventure was a double-header. When my honey and I got married, the wedding date conveniently corresponded closely with his birthday so he’d have no excuse for forgetting our anniversary. Anniversary on the 12th. Birthday on the 16th. Simple. On the morning of the 12th I gave him his birthday present and cards and wished him a happy birthday. “But it’s not my birthday” he said. Second OMG. “Oh no. You’re right. Today’s not your birthday, it’s our anniversary” I yelled as I snatched the gift and cards from his hands. “It’s our anniversary?” he said. Emergency run to Superstore for flowers and card. We’d both screwed up. The honeymoon’s over.

 

 

About an hour later, we received a phone call from friends who’d gone to a cottage for the weekend. After taking a day off work on Friday and driving four hours to get to the cottage, they arrived to find no-one there—they’d got the date wrong and were a week early! Another four-hour drive and they’re back in the city and miraculously, still married. Some friends turned up a week early for a dinner date at an out-of-town restaurant with other friends. Hmmm.

Is it just me?

Finally, on Saturday we went to my husband’s birthday celebration (on our anniversary, in case you’re having trouble keeping all this straight) at his son’s place in London, Ontario. During late-afternoon cocktails, his grandson asked my husband what type of car he should buy. Puzzled by the question, said grandson produced a blank cheque I had written for said grandson’s birthday. In the course of writing a number of birthday and graduation gift cheques I had inadvertently neglected to fill in the amount. Thank God no one at Canada Post intercepted that one or we’d be living in our car and getting paper routes to keep us in Pinot Grigio.

Calendar confusion? Inattention to detail? What’s next? It wasn’t that long ago I used nail polish remover instead of toner on my face when I inadvertently picked up the wrong bottle. I’m a voracious reader and I also log every book I’ve read as soon as I finish it because as soon as I start a new one I can’t remember the last book I read. I can remember the words of every song from the sixties but not my cell phone number. How long will it be before I start hiding my own Easter eggs. Has the Mad Men/Mad Women era returned? I’m not OK with that. Are you?

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