Thursday, 29 January 2009

Generations online in 2009

Internet users take part in different activities based on their age group. That's according to a report, "Generations Online in 2009" released by Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Each age group, whether it's Generation Y or Baby Boomers, are all active on the Internet but do different activities. Generation Y, those between ages 18 and 32, comprise 26 percent of the adult population and 30 percent of the Internet-using population. Among the generational age groups, this is the largest.

Generation Y is also the most social. This group is most likely to use the Internet to play games (50 percent); watch videos online (72 percent); send instant messages (59 percent); use a social networking site (67 percent); create a profile on a social networking site (60 percent); read a blog (43 percent); create a blog (20 percent); or visit a virtual world (10 percent).

"Generation Y is the most well-rounded," said Susannah Fox, associate director at Pew Internet. "They are the most likely to have access to the most online technologies most of their adult lives. That means they probably can't imagine a world without these online activities. They probably never had a chance to form habits like older generations, and probably seems natural."

Social networks are high on the list of activities of Generation Y, a trend cited in an earlier report released by Pew Internet.

Generation X, defined as those between the ages of 33 and 44, share some similarities with Gen Y. Like Gen Y, people in this age group are likely to play games online (38 percent); watch videos online (57 percent); get job information (55 percent); send instant messages (38 percent); use social networking sites (36 percent); create a social networking site profile (29 percent); read a blog (34 percent); and create a blog (10 percent). Where those in the 33 to 44 age group stand out is in research.

Yet, this cohort is more likely than Gen Y to get information on health (82 percent); buy online (80 percent); bank online (65 percent); or visit government Web sites (64 percent) than other groups.

"Generation Y is most likely to have sampled most of what's available online, but generation X seems to be in a life stage that gives them the opportunity to use the Internet experience that they have," Fox said. "They're a pretty wired generation, plus they're at the point online where they're starting to manage some capital."

The population between 70 and 75 years old has grown the most. In a 2005 Pew Internet study, 26 percent were online. At this time 45 percent of the age group is now online.

"People are aging into this group," Fox said. "People are hanging onto their Internet connection through their life stages. We see the saturation start to seep into our older populations."

E-mail is heavily used across all age groups, though Internet users ages 55 and older rely on the medium more heavily. Ninety percent of younger Boomers (ages 45 to 54) and older Boomers (ages 55 to 63) are equally likely to use e-mail online. What they call the Silent Generation(Ughh!), defined as those between 64 to 72) uses e-mail (91 percent), while 79 percent of the G.I. Generation, ages 73 and older, uses e-mail.

Search, watching videos, news, and travel are also universal categories across all age groups.

"This report can give some nuance to the stereotypes we hold about generations and online activities," Fox said. "Some of these stereotypes hold true. It's pretty likely that teens with Internet access will go on social networking sites. It's also true that if you're in your 70s it's less likely you will have Internet access and will stay in the shallow waters of e-mail and searchThen there are those people in the middle, who are also doing interesting things."

Pew Internet conducted a series of telephone interviews in August 2008 of adult Internet users to compile the data for the study.

What do women over 50 think?

A survey of 1500 British women aged between 40 and 60 by Britain-based bottled water brand Willow Water, found that four out of ten women picked 32 as the perfect age and the results indicated that 4 out of 10 women felt most sexy at 32 - the 38 percent who said they felt most attractive in their early 30s attributed it to confidence gained from experience, an active love life and a healthy diet.
However, when the over 50's were asked their views they came up with the following:
  • 7 out of 10 of today's over 50's are still happy to wear a bikini, with 4 out of 10 still happy to go topless on a beach.
  • 82 percent of women think turning 50 shouldn't be a reason to stop having long hair.
  • 98 percent of women over 50 wear make-up and 96 percent of over 50's still enjoy a pair of killer heels!
  • 24 per cent of 18-24 year olds believe that it's not appropriate for mature women to show cleavage but almost 87 percent over 50 believe they can still flaunt it.
Which just goes to show that we are still not going to allow our children to dictate our behaviour. Plus it gives me another opportunity to post a picture of Helen Mirren - this time in THAT bikini!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Scottish 50+ employability project

A key route to improving employability of older adults is engagement with lifelong learning. The Realising Your Potential (RYP) project in Scotland provides a range of innovative methods to support older workers participate in, or re-engage with, lifelong learning.
The project operates throughout the west of Scotland, assisting individuals aged 50+ in full-time, part-time or self-employment, to reconnect with learning, explore their potential and develop new skills beneficial to future employability. The RYP project offers an opportunity for individuals to reflect on past experiences and take time to explore new areas of interest through a structured learning programme. There will also be an opportunity for participants to review their current workability and, through individual planning sessions, make changes to enhance their work potential in later life.

RYP is managed by the University of Strathclyde Senior Studies Institute, which was established in 1991 to meet the increasing demand from older people for learning which matched their interests, aptitudes and needs. The Institute is unique in Scotland, and has become internationally recognised for the quality of its educational programme and for its expanding role in advising policy makers and business on age-focused issues.

For more information contact: Graham Smith, Project Co-ordinator

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Sixty Plus

If you live in the London area this is a great example showing how the generations can help one another. Typically over 16's volunteer to help the over 60's in a wide range of activities including mentoring them to begin to use computers and email. Look at their site. It is very uplifting.

Monday, 26 January 2009


This is the headline in the Daily Express this morning. A bit dramatic I know but making the point that the new Welfare Reform Bill, to be debated by MPs on Tuesday, will require almost all of the 2.6 million people on incapacity benefit to make efforts to get a job. However, new claimants will be offered six interviews designed to help them get back to work, while existing claimants will be offered three. But the 1.2 million claimants aged over 50, however, will be offered only one.

The Government response is simply that this is better than what was there before!

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Theresa May said the reforms would leave thousands of older workers on the shelf.

“Labour’s attempt at welfare reform just isn’t working,” she said, “They are recklessly writing off a key part of the population who need their help the most. Abandoning the over-50s on incapacity benefit is a huge waste of talent and potential. More than a quarter of the working population in the UK are over 50, and the economy will become more reliant on older workers as the population ages."

Not wanting to get over political but we think she is right.

More than 750,000 over-50s have been on incapacity benefit for more than five years, an increase of 100,000 in the past eight years.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Boost your ageing brain

Having been joking with you about walking we will now counter that with the latest research which shows clearly that exercise is the best remedy of all to prevent an ageing brain.

From the age of 40 we lose 5per cent of our brain volume every decade. This occurs because the synapses - the area between brain cells through which information is transferred - erode, eventually severing the connections.

The tiny capillaries that feed the brain also shrink with age, restricting blood flow to the area and so exacerbating the problem. This explains much of the forgetfulness of old age.

Dr Ratey’s investigations have found that exercise can reverse the impact of aging on the brain. The earlier you start the better, because if you have a stronger, more connected brain before the natural aging process takes hold, it will resist damage that much longer.

He cites a study where a group of previously sedentary people in their 70s went to the gym three times a week for an hour.

After six months, MRI scans showed significant increase in brain volume in each of them - their brains looked two to three years younger.

Aerobic exercise - anything which raises the heart rate and gets blood pumping - helps.

So, too, does strength training (either with weights, or using your own body as resistance through push ups, squats and lunges). These all release growth factors that help make new brain cells. Follow the hyperlink that we have given above for a number of suggested exercise programmes that will ensure that your brain may even become younger than your body.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Keep walking!

We said some time ago that all of this getting older stuff has its lighter side and we know that laughter helps to keep us young.(We report the research on this in our book.) So for you fitness types and those who have made New Year resolutions, this resonated with us.....
  • Walking 20 minutes can add to your life. This enables you at 85 years old to spend an additional 5 months in a nursing home at $7000 per month.
  • My grandpa started walking five miles a day when he was 60.. Now he's 97 years old and we don't know where he is.
  • I like long walks, especially when they are taken by people who annoy me.
  • The only reason I would take up walking is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.
  • I have to walk early in the morning, before my brain figures out what I'm doing..
  • I joined a health club last year, spent about 400 bucks. Haven't lost a pound. Apparently you have to go there.
  • I do have flabby thighs, but fortunately my stomach covers them.
  • The advantage of exercising every day is so when you die, they'll say, 'Well, he looks good doesn't he.'
  • I know I got a lot of exercise the last few years,...... just getting over the hill.
  • We all get heavier as we get older, because there's a lot more information in our heads. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
  • Every time I start thinking too much about how I look, I just find a Happy Hour and by the time I leave, I look just fine.
(But of course you will still all remember to exercise won't you!)

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

More data from the US on job losses still suggesting that the recession is hitting younger people most

In the Autumn, drugstore chain CVS Caremark (CVS) cut some 800 jobs in Northern California after acquiring Longs Drugs, a Walnut Creek (Calif.) pharmacy rival. Despite those cuts, the company continues to recruit baby boomers and other older workers to staff stores across the country. "We need their expertise," says Stephen Wing, director of workforce initiatives at CVS Caremark in Woonsocket, R.I. "When you're in your 50s and 60s, you're in your prime."

Companies nationwide are laying off workers by the tens of thousands. But many are trying to spare the post-55 set from the axe, a reversal of the top-down trends in past waves of layoffs. They're being driven by legal concerns—since boomers are in a protected age group—and by a need to keep experienced hands in place to keep the companies running and positioned for an upturn. "Seniority matters," says Marcie Pitt-Catsouphes, director of the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College.

All age groups are being hit by cuts now coursing through Corporate America, but government statistics so far suggest that the burden is falling far more heavily on younger workers. The unemployment rate among workers 55 and over is not only lower than for the younger set, but it has risen less sharply. Joblessness for those 55 and older jumped to 4.9% in December 2008, a rise of 1.8 percentage points from the 3.1% level of December 2007. By contrast, for their younger colleagues, those aged 25-54, the rate climbed to 6.3% in December, compared with 4% a year before, a sharper rise. The different impact comes into even more stark relief with the government's measures of employment. The number of people employed in the younger set has fallen from 100.5 million in December 2007 to 97.7 million as of last December—a 2.9% slide. By contrast, the number of those working among the 55 and older set has actually risen by 878,000, climbing to nearly 29.1 million.

Empty nest not such a bad thing?

For many years the received wisdom has popularised the notion of the “empty nest syndrome”.

But a growing body of research suggests that the phenomenon has been misunderstood. While most parents clearly miss children who have left home for college, jobs or marriage, they also enjoy the greater freedom and relaxed responsibility.

And despite the common worry that long-married couples will find themselves with nothing in common, research, published in November in the journal Psychological Science, shows that marital satisfaction actually improves when the children finally take their exits.

While that may not be surprising to many parents, understanding why empty nesters have better relationships can offer important lessons on marital happiness for parents who are still years away from having a child-free house.

Indeed, one of the more uncomfortable findings of the scientific study of marriage is the negative effect children can have on previously happy relationships. Despite the popular notion that children bring couples closer, several studies have shown that marital satisfaction and happiness typically plummet with the arrival of the first baby.

In June, The Journal of Advanced Nursing reported on a study from the University of Nebraska College of Nursing that looked at marital happiness in 185 men and women. Scores declined starting in pregnancy, and remained lower as the children reached 5 months and 24 months. Other studies show that couples with two children score even lower than couples with one child.

While having a child clearly makes parents happy, the financial and time constraints can add stress to a relationship. After the birth of a child, couples have only about one-third the time alone together as they had when they were childless, according to researchers from Ohio State.

The arrival of children also puts a disproportionate burden of household duties on women, a common source of marital conflict. After children, housework increases three times as much for women as for men, according to studies from the Center on Population, Gender and Social Equality at the University of Maryland.

But much of the research on children and marital happiness focuses on the early years. To understand the effects over time, researchers at Berkeley tracked marital happiness among 72 women in the Mills Longitudinal Study, which has followed a group of Mills College alumnae for 50 years.

The study is important because it tracks the first generation of women to juggle traditional family responsibilities with jobs in the work force. In the empty-nest study, researchers compared the women’s marital happiness in their 40s, when many still had children at home; in their early 50s, when some had older children who had left home; and in their 60s, when virtually all had empty nests. At every point, the empty nesters scored higher on marital happiness than women with children still at home.

“Kids aren’t ruining parents’ lives,” Dr. Gorchoff, one of the researchers, said. “It’s just that they’re making it more difficult to have enjoyable interactions together.”

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Regular running slows the effects of ageing...

..... say researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine in California. A study that has tracked 500 older runners for more than 20 years shows they have fewer disabilities and longer active lifespans than non-runners.

(The photo by the way is yours truly running the 10k Abbey Dash in Leeds last year - in yellow. My fellow runner, John, is a doctor. I'm not daft!)

The study's senior author, James Fries, an emeritus professor of medicine, says the research clearly shows the benefits of staying fit.

"If you had to pick one thing to make people healthier as they age, it would be aerobic exercise," Fries says.While both runners and non-runners did become disabled with age, the active group remained healthier longer.

"Runners' initial disability was 16 years later than non-runners."

Running has also kept death at bay. It slowed cardiovascular deaths and has been associated with fewer early deaths from cancer, neurological disease and infections. Surprisingly, the injuries expected with ageing runners haven't emerged. It was not associated with higher rates of osteoarthritis and runners needed no more knee replacements than non-runners.

Where you run, walk, or cycle has an effect on your mental alertness. Spending an hour interacting with nature, like being in a park, can help improve memory and attention by 20%, according to a University of Michigan psychology study.

"Interacting with nature can have similar effects as meditating," researcher Marc Berman says. So - you really don't have to spend a fortune on gym membership and breathing fresh air in a natural setting is a definite plus to staring at a treadmill screen! But then I am biased!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Who is suffering most in the recession?

We are getting very different data from the US and the UK at present. We have already posted on a recent Merrill Lynch report from the US stating that the younger generations are being hit the most by the recession. Again The New York Times reports that the age group 35-44 lost over a million jobs, the age group 55-64 gained over half a million over the past few months. Yet in the UK Age Concern are reporting that in the last quarter unemployment among those aged over 50 was up by 27 per cent. For a worker aged 24 to 49, the increase was just eight per cent.

The survey by ICM, commissioned by Age Concern, found that half of those over 55 are worried that they are more at risk of losing their job because of their age. We can understand the worry but worry is not always reflected by the facts.

So many groups have their own political angle on this issue and it is difficult to truly analyse as it is usually not possible to get access to the actual research data without paying large sums of money. We rely on what we read in newspapers and online journals. Please let us know of any new data that you come across in relation to this crucial topic.

Forced retirement could be outlawed

Many of us have been campaigning along with Age Concern and TAEN to stop forced retirement at 65. Age Concern have taken the issue to the Hague and to date we have been presented with an ambiguous ruling that probably throws the final decision back to UK courts. This government has been prevaricating on the issue. Some business groups have been against it although Age Concern believe that as many as two-thirds of UK employers no longer operate a fixed retirement age and 1.2m people are carrying on work beyond the normal retirement ages of 60 and 65. The Telegraph this morning carries the story that the Government are now planning to make it illegal to force people to retire at 65 and could see people working well in their 70s and beyond.

It would be applied retrospectively, covering workers who have already signed contracts requiring them to retire at the normal age.

The Government believes action is needed to help those who will find their savings, pension or income lower than expected in the coming years as a result of the current recession. It is the first time that the Government has suggested that the review into the current retirement age of 65 - which is due to conclude in 2011 - will consider calls to eliminate the default age entirely, rather than merely raising it in line with plans to increase the state pension age to 68.

The number of people wishing to work longer has already increased rapidly over the past decade. In 1998, 8 percent of women worked past 60 and 7 percent of men worked past 65. However, in 2008, 10 percent of men were working above the retirement age and 13 per cent of women. Older workers also receive more generous income tax allowances.

More than 250 people have recently lodged tribunal claims after being dismissed at 65.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Me and Helen Mirren

I got a text from my daughter Caitlin on Monday morning after this article came out in the Yorkshire Post to inform me that this is the closest I will ever get to Helen Mirren. Looking at the photo they have of me I think they may be right! I did think the article was spot on though and delivered the flavour of the book.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Helen Bamber

Helen is the first winner of The Times /Sternberg Active Life award for a person over 70. The award is for those who refuse to think that pensionable age should herald a quiet life.

When she was 20 years old and the war had just ended, Helen Bamber went into Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany to help with the rehabilitation of survivors who had been seriously traumatised by torture, hunger and the murders of their spouses, friends and children.

More than six decades later - at 83 - she is still doing much the same thing, but now in Britain, helping asylum seekers and refugees to recover from torture and other rights abuses. Mrs Bamber has dedicated her entire life to human rights. After she returned from Germany, she was one of the early members of Amnesty International, driven by the need to expose the practices of torture worldwide and document the injuries of survivors. From this work she set up the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. After she stepped down in her late seventies in 2002, she did not go quietly into retirement but instead established the Helen Bamber Foundation in premises near the British Museum in Central London. She continues to help survivors of genocide, torture, “ethnic cleansing”, sex trafficking and domestic violence.

The Times in its editorial comment on this also reminded me of the wonderful Thoreau maximum that none are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

More evidence that the over 50's are pretty IT savvy.

Fifty, 60 and 70-year-olds are nearly as tech savvy as younger consumers, claims a study of 3,135 adults by the Consumer Electronics Association and TNS Compete.
We posted a recent briefing giving you evidence for this and this has been quickly followed by some more research from the the US which shows that:
  • those in their 50s are just as likely to have a high-definition TV as those younger than 50;
  • 80% of 60-somethings reported using a mobile phone in the past week--nearly the same usage rate as 18-34 year-olds;
  • 71% of 60-somethings and 52% of 70-somethings reported using a search engine in the past week, compared to 77% of 18-34 year-olds. The online survey was conducted in November 2008.

When it comes to technology, the survey found that the main difference between older and younger generations is that aging consumers prefer more personal attention. While the majority of Americans are comfortable researching and purchasing products online, 63% of over 50s reported speaking with a sales associate in person when researching consumer electronics purchases, versus 47% of those ages 18-49. Older consumers also reported being frustrated with the complexity of new technologies.

Attracting, Retaining and Developing Older Workers

This is the title of a breakfast briefing being delivered at 3 Albion Place, Leeds on February 9th. It's aimed at businesses and organisations that are actual or potential employers of older people. Thea Stein from Yorkshire Forward will be kicking it off. Barrie is chairing the session and will be giving the opening address followed by BT and Asda talking about the policies they have developed to maximise the benefits of employing older workers. BT is represented by Zulfi Hussein MBE who sits on the BT Regional Board and Asda are represented by Chris Stone and Kevin Trott from the Asda Communications and Policy Team. There will be a panel discussion and of course considerable opportunity to network and find out what other organisations are doing or planning to do regarding this topic. Maybe it is not something that you have yet begun to think about so this will be a good introduction. The briefing coincides with the publication of our new book and free copies will be available for attendees to take away with them. If you can come then please go to . Press the Click Here button and just add your name and email address to the email addressed to Tina Maisuria, the Senior Administrator at the Yorkshire & the Humber Regional Skills Partnership who are sponsoring the event. If this does not work then please email Tina directly at If you have a colleague who might be interested please let us know and unless we have a problem with numbers we would be delighted to see them. Attendance is free. Again please give your colleagues details to Tina.

60% of new businesses starting up from home.

This is the amazing statistic reported by Ian Bushby, Head of Start Ups at BT. He states that the current economic climate is acting as a spur for thousands of people to start up their own business from home.

In the UK, more than 60% of businesses start this way – with over 1,400 new ones launched each week. Home businesses account for more than a quarter of the UK’s employment and everyone is getting in on the action – from the young to over 50s and even stay-at-home parents.

Obviously, those thinking of launching during the current economic turmoil have to weigh up their options carefully. However, slowdowns can be defining moments for people to make the move, especially if they have lost their jobs.

Many who decide to hit the start-up trail launch their own enterprises from home because of their desire for a better work-life balance, to increase their income or to be their own boss. The overheads are also cheaper than renting premises and the benefits to the environment through reduced traffic congestion and energy savings are obvious.

The development of reliable, fast broadband connections and technology and communications that support working from home, means the trend towards more home start-ups will continue in the long run as people are able to manage the full gamut of business tasks from the comfort of their homes.

One interesting trend picked up by BT’s Home Business Report 2008 found an increase in spare time start-ups, with a third of people running a home business in their free time. This thriving 5pm-9pm economy offers would-be entrepreneurs a low-risk route to starting their own business while still retaining a regular income stream from their full-time jobs.

More and more over 50's are pursuing what setting up what are called Lifestyle Businesses. These people do not necessarily want to build up large businesses, employing others, just wish to do work that they love and enjoy. And what a major contribution they are making to the economy too!

Friday, 9 January 2009

Is Generation Y really superior to the over 50's in IT?

Watch this video and slideshow which presents solid evidence to show that the gap is not only not great between the generations but in many ways the over 50's are ahead of the youngsters. Fascinating study. You can watch the video or go more quickly through the slide show. The company behind this is Atticmedia which partners with Axia Interactive Media, a company of which I am Chairman. We work with together with some signifcant national clients and I am delighted to bring this presentation to a wider audience.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Oldest Americans Gain Jobs Even As Other Age Groups Suffer Losses

We are often asked our opinion as to whether older workers will suffer more in the recession like they did in 1990. As no 2 economists seem to agree on anything these days - who are we? Having said that our gut reaction is that they might suffer less than younger generations so it was fascinating to pick up a report from the US today which claims that the slowing economy has dampened the demand for older workers, but not much. The number of workers 55 and older is still growing significantly while those younger than 45 struggle with widespread job loss. This report shatters the myth that older workers are particularly vulnerable in this economic downturn. The fact is pared down companies may increasingly rely on seasoned veterans to get them through the downturn. They may cost more in salary and benefits, but their experience and knowledge make them highly valued. The preference for older workers has also resulted in a significant drop in the amount of time it takes job seekers 50 and older to find new positions. The median job search for those over 50 winning positions in the second quarter lasted 4.2 months, according to the latest quarterly survey of discharged managers and executives. That is just about two weeks longer than younger job seekers, whose median job search time in the second quarter was 3.6 months.

A recent survey of 140 mid-size and large companies in the US by Hewitt Associates found that 55 percent have evaluated the impact that potential retirements could have on their organizations. Sixty-one percent of the companies surveyed developed or plan to develop special programs to retain near-retirement workers, including phased retirements that allow would-be retirees to reduce their hours (and salaries) incrementally instead of all at once. This is a win-win for employers and potential retirees. The employer gets the benefit of retaining experienced personnel who will have more time to pass along their corporate knowledge to younger workers. Ageing workers benefit by not being thrust into retirement before they are mentally and financially ready.

We need to keep on eye on UK statistics to see if these patterns are repeated here.

Older and wiser?

Today's New York Times (NYT) reporting on the swearing in of the new US Senate says that:
  • the average age of senators is 63, and of new senators is 57. The average time spent in office is 12.9 years or about 2.2 terms.( Congressional Research Service)

In the same paper are grim assessments of the huge challenges (especially unprecedented economic ones) facing the new administration (and the world!). Let's hope the trust that the American people are placing in the wisdom and expertise of a body of 50+'s is well placed and bears fruit!

No time for novices there then!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Book signing at Waterstones in Leeds

This will be a first for both of us. In our very long careers we have never before been asked to do a book signing. However, there is a first time for everything no matter how old you are! If there any readers who live locally and would like to join us for a glass of wine and a chat then please do come.

Thursday January 8th at Waterstones in Albion Street Leeds at 7pm. if you would like to come please let us know via this site or call Waterstones directly as there is a limit on numbers.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Telegrams from the Queen

When the Queen ascended her throne in 1953 she sent out 200 telegrams to centenarians. In 2008 12,000 people received their telegrams and by 2050 we can expect 250,000 new centenarians each year! That's a lot of telegrams! We also know that one in four babies born today could live to be 100.

Baby boomers will extend the global crisis

A SHARP drop in the number of baby boomers in western economies will exacerbate the global crisis, according to a report by Merrill Lynch.

It says that "median" baby boomers are now moving into their 50s, past their "peak-spending age" of 47 years.

Combined with an end to the era of ever-increasing credit, the ageing population means that the global recession will last until at least mid-2009 - and possibly much longer - far outstripping the typical post-war recession.

"After a buying boom over the past 20 years ... it looks as though the boomers are done," David A.Rosenberg, North American economist at Merrill Lynch, said. "For the first time in four decades, we cannot expect to see the demographic cushion to consumer spending that helped ease the blow in each of the recessions dating back to the 1970s,"

Studies show that by the age of 47, people have bought the biggest house they are likely to buy, they are earning the most they are likely to earn, and their children have mostly left home, leaving them more disposable income to spending on "dream-fulfilling" goods. Spending on Harley Davidson motor bikes, for example, is higher in the 45-50 age group than any other.

But beyond age 47, people enter into a more frugal era of their lives when they are more likely to trade down than up, and consumers are not so much buying new goods as replacing old ones.

In short, their biggest contributions to the economy are behind them.

This correlation between the number of baby boomers and growth in the stock market was first noticed by American investment strategist Harry S.Dent who, in the 1980s, saw two graphs -- one of the S&P500 Index and the other of birth rates. He spotted that the graphs were virtually identical, but on a 47-year time lag.

Using this technique he was able to predict the collapse of the Japanese stock market in 1989.

Based on this "spending wave" theory, the more 47-year-olds in an economy, and the more people there are approaching that age, the better the economy should perform.

But if the numbers are declining, it spells bad news for the economy and therefore the stock market.

"American consumers have been the engine-room of global growth for decades," Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital, said. "Fewer US consumers spending less money will mean less demand for imported products from all over the world."

At the same time, Rosenberg said the "buy now pay later" days are a thing of the past, with Americans likely to save much more of their income instead of borrowing to shop on credit.

"The 20-year secular credit expansion came to an end just over a year ago, an unprecedented event in the last six decades and, in most cases, beyond our own collective personal experiences," Rosenberg said.

"As mentioned, this is a recession that may ultimately be labelled something a little different once we come out the other side - not unlike how the Great War ultimately was renamed World War I."

Certainly, he is forecasting a far longer recession that is more like pre-World War II recessions.

"In the post-World War II era, recessions last 10 months on average. We were spoiled," he said.

"There have been only two credit contractions we can draw inferences from: the 1930s and Japan in the 1990s.

"And we must respect the differences and understand the similarities. But what we learn from recessions that are rooted in shrinking household balance sheets is that the process of de-leveraging, asset liquidation and debt repayment, tends to last years -- not months or quarters."

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Be Positive in 2009

Having had some media interviews recently it is revealing just what the interviewers highlight and what they remember later. One quote that was repeated consistently on a radio programme was the point that of all of the people on this planet who had ever lived to the age of 65 half of them were alive today.

The other statistic that had impact was the 7.5 years that you can add to your life by simply having a positive attitude towards ageing and life in general. This is especially intriguing when you compare it to the extra 4 years one can expect if you have low blood pressure and cholesterol levels or the 1-3 additional years from exercise and giving up smoking. I was also interested to see that the Times on Saturday was quoting this research as part of its tips on getting the most out of the New Year. Why this works is less clear so we were interested to read of a recent Harvard Medical School study of 670 men which found that the optimists have significantly better lung function. The lead author, Dr Rosalind Wright, believes that attitude somehow strengthens the immune system. “Preliminary studies on heart patients suggest that, by changing a person's outlook, you can improve their mortality risk,” she says.

So now you know what your No 1 New Years resolution needs to be!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Myths about ageing

Came across this website which outlines a series of myths about ageing and the evidence to disparage each one. We do this in our book but it is interesting to see US data pinpointing the same issues. We discovered this from a very informative Malaysian site which is worth a look and called Seniors Aloud . A focus on 50+ is increasingly a worldwide phenomenon!

Finding meaning ....

In 'The Rainbow Years' we provide activities to encourage the reader to become very clear about their Life Values. We believe this is a very key step in identifying what is most important in our life and what it is we want to commit to and achieve. We were also particularly struck by the links between life values and the components of 'happiness' identified in the latest research reported in the various work of Professors Oswald, Diener, Seligman and others. A consistently key element in a 'happy life' seems to be an involvement in activities in which a person finds 'meaning'. We can translate this as a commitment to applying our abilities and skills to causes that allow an expression of our life values, the things we believe matter more than others.
I am interested in how our 'third age' seems to provide opportunity to apply time and energy to areas that may have been 'asides' in the years when we were earning our living or building our career.
Today's (3/1/09) Guardian reports the latest Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) research which shows that;
  • the average age of VSO volunteers is increasing. In 1988 only 3% of volunteers were age 50 or over;
  • by the end of 2008, 28% were 50+
  • in December 2008 there were 119 volunteers over 60, with 5 of these over 70;
  • previously VSO has not accepted volunteers over 75, but now makes exception for 'the right candidates'.

The report recounts that VSO is finding 'an increase in the number of retirees who do not want to put their feet up ... when they retire and are looking for something quite different as they approach retirement'. VSO have identified a particularly strong need in the developing world for 'teacher-trainers, teachers experienced in curriculum development, surgeons, and maternity, child and HIV health workers'.

One 72 year old former science teacher is reported to have taken time out from a comfortable life in Cumbria , from being a grandfather to 11 grandchildren, to make repeated trips to Tanzania where he is helping to establish a technical college. I myself have two friends in their 50's, well established in their different careers, who are now spending a year with VSO in Sri Lanka. One is supporting the development of services for people with disabilities and the other providing computer systems consultancy to grass roots organisations.

So retirement most certainly does not equal 'idleness'! It can mean opportunities to commit to causes that 'are bigger than ourselves', that 'make the world a better place', that 'give back some of what we have had'. All of which are referred to in another chapter of 'The Rainbow Years' - My Spirituality!

Friday, 2 January 2009


As we talk to more and people about this project with 50 pluses we get asked from where can people buy the book. At the moment the cheapest price is through Amazon which is why we are now advertising it on this site. We also get asked about other related books that we have found useful so we will add those to our little widget on the site. ( Hope you are impressed with this growing evidence of our becoming late life techies.) I have just added a really excellent and very readable and amusing book on the brain by Prof. John Medina. He describes 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home and school. The hardback version comes with a very engrossing DVD which gives examples of what he is talking about. its more expensive than the paperback but I think it is worth the extra money for the DVD. If we recommend books like this please do let us know your reaction if you read any of them.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Depression begins at 40!

Well - maybe a bit of an exaggeration but an international study of mental health and happiness shows that the risk of depression was lowest in younger and older people, with the middle-aged years associated with the highest risk for both men and women. Previous research has suggested that the risk of unhappiness and depression stays relatively constant throughout life.However, the latest finding - of a peak risk in middle age - was consistent around the globe, and in all types of people. In the UK 44 is the age that we are most likely to be depressed.

Researcher Professor Andrew Oswald, an economist at the University of Warwick, said: "It happens to men and women, to single and married people, to rich and poor, and to those with and without children."

He said the reason why middle age was a universally vulnerable time was unclear.Professor Oswald said for the average person, the dip in mental health and happiness comes on slowly, not suddenly in a single year.Only in their 50s do most people emerge from the low period.

"But encouragingly, by the time you are 70, if you are still physically fit then on average you are as happy and mentally healthy as a 20-year-old".

Baby-boomers most efficient at cutting energy costs during recession

Over 55s are 25% more likely to shrink their monthly bills by being energy efficient than the younger generation, according to a new survey from Opus Energy, an independent electricity supplier for UK businesses.

The survey asked over 500 people about the energy saving steps they take both at home and at work. The findings showed that when it comes to tightening belts the “baby boomer” generation are way ahead of younger generations. Having lived through two recessions and grown up in post-war Britain, the over 55s are well versed in making those small steps that add up to real financial savings.

The results showed that the over 55s are well versed at making efficient use of modern technology. In the workplace, the baby boomers are three times more likely to switch off phone chargers when not in use.

The baby-boomers also have the most ‘efficient’ tea breaks at work with more than half the over 55s (55%) taking care not to boil more water than they need each time compared to under a third (27%) of under 25s.

Even though two thirds (66%) of young Brits claim they are switching to energy saving bulbs to help curb costs at home, a staggering nine out of ten (88%) over 55s said they had already made the energy efficient swap.

Under 25s were also more likely to think that making a business or a home energy efficient would increase its running costs. But as the baby boomers are clearly demonstrating, when energy costs are high and belts are tightening, small energy saving steps can be enough to equate to big savings.

Louise Boland, Director at Opus Energy said:

“It’s clear that having lived through two recessions, our older generations are more adept at taking steps to save on their energy usage to cut their bills. What is interesting is that the older generations have really embraced the energy saving benefits of modern technology, to an even greater degree than their younger counterparts."