A Boomer Looks Back
178
179
Te ’60s crescendo culminated in the motto: “If it feels good, do it!” Tis sentiment (generally
presented in a more subtle manner) became the message that flowed from electronic media,
profoundly affecting the nation’s vision of what constituted
the good life
±
Marshall McLuhan had it right± Years before any of us ever heard the term internet, McLuhan
was insisting that “our electronic media would become an extension of our central nervous
system±” His ground-breaking book –
Te Medium Is the Message
– made the case that new
technology would lead to “the electrical re-tribalization of the West±”
McLuhan was a Canadian English professor – an erudite futurist who simultaneously stared
in the rearview mirror
at the past
and
through the windshield as the digital age precipitously
approached± Watch his interviews on You²ube today and you’ll find his foresight
astonishingly insightful± In several interviews, McLuhan presented the idea that our society
oFen searched for (and expressed) its identity through
confrontation – whether through
aggressive foreign military action, or at home (more peacefully) on the football field±
As with any historical period, the core meaning of the ’60s is debatable, but regardless of
your perspective it’s hard to deny that it was a turbulent decade and a harbinger of the years
to come± Every aspect of society was changing rapidly, sometimes with a vengeance, and
oFen with a little help from master marketeers±
Madison Avenue Holds Up a Mirror
A current hit show on AMC goes to great lengths to accurately portray Madison Avenue
and the increasing role of advertising in American culture aFer World War II± Jon Hamm
(Don Draper) stars in the series as a
partner in a large advertising firm± Te
show is appropriately called
Mad Men
and recounts and examines the time
when the first boomers were beginning
to come of age±
Te series features well-developed
characters and an interesting story line,
and has garnered numerous Emmys
and Golden Globes± It’s definitely
worth a watch± Te first few seasons focused entirely on the late 1950s and early 1960s±
Mad
Men
dramatizes human relationships in a quickly changing society and juxtaposes profes-
sional and private lives with many of the major political and cultural events that affected
every American±
During the ’60s, television advertising began to reflect both the psyche and hidden heart of
the American consumer± Marketeers needed a direct hit on the hopes and dreams of their
target market, so focus groups and hard data turned advertising into a science± Tomas ³rank
wrote about the “rise of hip consumerism” in his famous 1997 book,
Te Conquest of Cool
±
AD
MAN
The Meaning
of the
’60s
(
²alkin’ ’bout my generation
)
S
OME BOOMERS
feel considerable fondness for the ’60s as a time of great freedom,
exuberance and experimentation± Other boomers remember the period as one bad trip±
Te past, like the present, is in the eye of the beholder±
Te popular mid-’90s book by Judge Robert Bork of Nixon/Watergate fame made the case
that the ’60s were mostly bad juju perpetuated by leF-leaning devils± Te title of his best-
seller,
Slouching ±oward Gomorrah,
is a play on a line from the classic William Butler Yeats
poem,
Te Second Coming,
in which “Te best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full
of passionate intensity±”
Strong stuff from Judge Bork, though Newt Gingrich has probably been the most consistent
and tireless critic of the Boomer Generation, arguing that cultural radicals in the ’60s were
responsible for the demise of traditional values in America± In subsequent years, Mr±
Gingrich lightened up just a bit
aFer leaving each of his previous two wives – both for
younger women±
I suppose
love
can change a man±
It should be pointed out that many boomers never smoked pot or protested the Vietnam
War – but they did join their peers, and society at large, in embracing some sort of cosmic
optimism about the future± No one wanted to be thought of as
a square
– it was cool to be
hip± Even businessmen shunned traditional dress codes in favor of fashionable new suits
and colorful ties that displayed their individuality±
Te Beatles and rock music became mainstream marketing tools± Popular movies, such as
Te Graduate,
poignantly laid bare the hypocrisy in our society to a soundtrack by Simon
and Garfunkel± Te coming-of-age story, starring Dustin Hoffman, was an indictment of
the American establishment.
Te movie, which won an Academy Award for director Mike
Nichols, also explored sexuality in a manner not seen before in a mainstream popular film±
Te script, specifically targeted toward young people, hit a nerve with a much wider
audience± Suburban Americans had fully embraced the Cultural Revolution±
Hugh Hefner’s magazine
Playboy
opened up new horizons by combining well-written articles
on a variety of subjects – including politics, art and sports – in a slick magazine that also
featured a bevy of half-naked women± Hefner made no apology for his exploration (and
exploitation) of sexuality± Te pages of
Esquire
and
Cosmo
encouraged readers to shed their
WASP guilt about the body and sensual pleasure± Advertisements from master ad man David
Ogilvy linked products to the expression of a freer, less hung-up approach to life, persuading
customers that self-expression was natural – a positive means of showing one’s identity±
A Boomer Looks Back
180
181
Flash forward …
The Boomers – 50 Years
After
the ’60s
Te Pepsi Generation took control of America±
Our political system and our corporations
are run
by boomers± Te average age of a
U±S± senator is 61, congressmen, 57± Te average age of board members of S&P 500
companies is 62±
Men still control the country’s agenda
American women and ethnic minorities have made tremendous advances in both business
and government, but they had to fight for every inch, and still have a long run to catch the
men who continue to run the show± Most boomer congressmen and businessmen seem to
like it that way± We still live in a testosterone-driven society, at least in terms of who wields
both financial and political power±
In the U±S± Senate, 95% of senators are white, and 83% are men± Even aFer a record number
of women were elected to Congress in 2012, more than 80% of the U±S± House of
Representatives are male, and 85% are white± And it’s a wealthy group: More than 70% of
senators are millionaires, as are 50% of congressmen±
The American dream is more elusive
²oday, a widening range of economists and business commentators seems to come to the
same conclusion: Economically, the chasm between the middle class and the wealthiest
Americans has grown significantly± Te United States can no longer claim to be number one
among the countries of the world in upward social mobility or a financially secure middle
class± Te general media has given much attention to this shiF of the nation’s wealth to the
mega-rich± Te trend has been clear for some time and recent statistics tell the story: 10% of
the population own approximately 85% of the nation’s wealth, and, more to the point, only
1% owns approximately 40% of America’s assets±
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hedrick Smith details the financial crushing of the American
middle class in his book,
Who Stole the American Dream?
Smith makes the case that this
trend was no accident, no quirk of nature or coincidence± He carefully documents how
corporate chieFains favor their own self-interests, and those of their major shareholders and
lobbyists, over the economic health of their own employees± Smith makes a compelling
argument that the American worker has been sold out with the blessing of U±S± presidents
and the Congress – and by those U±S± Supreme Court justices who validate, by slim majorities,
the decisions of mostly conservative lower court judges± It’s a sobering read± In the past six
years, profits for S&P 500 corporations have nearly doubled, yet wages remain stagnant±
³rank’s central thesis was that corporations embraced the mythic – and mystic – aura of the
American
counterculture
as a marketing strategy± ²o push their clients’ products, Madison
Avenue projected attractive images of an honest, rebellious and adventuresome new genera-
tion± Advertising agencies found that romanticizing the counterculture was the easiest way
to capture the consumer loyalty of boomers and their wallets±
No company’s success demonstrates the transforming power of Madison Avenue better than
McDonald’s± Starting in 1961, under the guidance of marketeer and owner Ray Crock, burger
sales rose astronomically± By 1963, sales had tripled, and McDonald’s was feeding the nation
at a rate of one million burgers per day
.
Like mass-produced rainbows, the
Golden Arches
spread across America, and Ronald McDonald would soon become one of America’s favorite
icons for the young± Te introduction of the Big Mac was just around the corner±
Madison Avenue Hits Its Stride
Te appeal was direct: Boomers could show their individuality, reject conform-
ism and express their true
inner self
by changing what they drove, wore
and consumed±
Part of the attraction and glamour of the ’60s “get real” movement was a
rejection of the phony and the celebration of the genuine± Every suburban
’50s kid idolized ³ess Parker as Davy Crockett± American men wanted to
identify with the macho guy on the horse who rode alone across our tele-
vision screens, so they lit up Marlboros±
American women were beginning to show
their independence, so they smoked Virginia
Slims, encouraged by that catchy phrase:
Te older members of ²om Brokaw’s Greatest Generation, who grew up during the
Depression era and fought in World War II, were beginning to retire± Marketeers began
referring to the latter stages of American life as
Te Golden Years
, selling prospective
customers on the notion that a product or service might magically lead straight to the gates
of Heaven±
NEW CAROLINA SLIMS
You’ve come a long way – baby.
A Boomer Looks Back
182
183
Children still love a strawberry shake
By the time the children of boomers were toddlers, Ronald McDonald was their single most
recognizable media personality± America’s beloved hamburger clown is a true success story,
a benchmark of American free capitalism and the advertising that supports and spreads it±
Ronald McDonald was the front man and spokesperson for a company that grew from one
burger stand to an ocean of shiny and identical fast-food shops feeding America± In fact,
McDonald’s represents a significant source of nutrition for boomer offspring±
I know I’m treading on sacred ground, but Ronald McDonald has been a questionable friend
to America’s children±
Te clown’s company is still peddling the same
secret sauce
meal of
Big Mac, fries and a Coke± Who but a clown would joyfully urge a child to enjoy
a meal containing 1,050 calories, nearly half of those from fat?
And that’s
before
kids are encouraged to say, “Super Size me!”
Not much has changed in the years since Morgan Spurlock’s good-humored documentary
Super Size Me
hit the theaters and skewered the quick-food corporation± McDonald’s didn’t
have much to say about the movie, but they did begin to give lip service to a “commitment to
evolve their menu±” ²en years later, they announced that they would promote juice and milk
with their Happy Meals, in lieu of soda
.
McDonald’s has been successful with essentially the same menu for 50 years, so don’t expect
any game-changers: A McDonald’s medium strawberry shake is currently listed on their
website at 700 calories – including 21 grams of fat, a pinch of various chemicals and a
whopping 100 grams of sugar±
McDonald’s PR department does a great job publicizing McDonald’s generosity in donating
money to help families cope with childhood diseases± Ironically, it’s a safe bet that someday
we’ll be reading about their plans to set up a worldwide chain of Ronald McDonald clinics to
address the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes±
I apologize for singling out McDonald’s± Burger King, ²aco Bell and other fast-food chains
are similar± Admittedly (as these corporations point out) the choice of what a child consumes
falls squarely on the shoulders of the parents, so parents should “order wisely±”
My real point
is simply that boomers continue to run corporate cultures mired in hypocritical double-
speak± Coca-Cola has remained America’s top gun in pushing soda for the past 40 years± A
can of regular Coke, Pepsi or 7up still has about 40 grams of sugar±
Even hip-hop artist 50 Cent cashed in± When he began pushing Vitaminwater as some sort
of “heath drink,” sales skyrocketed± Te superstar rapper was the national spokesperson for
the Vitaminwater brand and received a cool $200 million when the company sold to Coca-
Cola for billions± It’s the “new healthy Coke±” Of course the fine print on the back label
concedes that a bottle of Vitaminwater contains about 32 grams of sugar, as well as “synthetic
vitamins,” but it was a great new name for sugar water±
SoF drink companies have no shame about having no shame±
Many of my conservative friends scoff at such observations, and are quick to point out,
“Americans have every opportunity to pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” “Entitlements
only encourage slackers and promote laziness” and “People tend to get what they deserve±”
Tese sentiments are oFen voiced with irritation or even anger± Many take offense at any
public resentment toward what they feel is simply their “well-earned success±” Teir feelings
are all understandable, but I’m not sure that their conclusions are based entirely on fact±
Our
government has rarely offered a level playing field to all of its citizens±
Moreover, American
free enterprise has never been based on an economy of scarcity±
As a nation, how we choose
to allocate our abundant resources and capacities reflects our values±
²o some people, the fact
that in America so few of our citizens control so much of our country’s wealth may seem to be
“the new reality of modern-day capitalism±”
³or me, this trend is alarming and does not bode
well for our country±
³or the past decade, much of our government’s attention was focused on the wars in Iraq
and Afghanistan, distracting our nation from crucial domestic issues± Te cost of these two
wars is at least 20 times what was confidently projected by the Bush administration± And for
the first time in more than 100 years, America went to war without imposing a war tax±
Te
Wall Street crash and the ensuing recession greatly compromised our ability to repair our
nation’s crumbling infrastructure± Even the streets of Washington, D±C±, are deeply rutted
with potholes± Our health care system no longer even rates in the ²op 10 among developed
nations, and, to date, the implementation of “Affordable Health Care” has been miserable±
It’s much harder these days to make a fact-based case for American exceptionalism
,
and a
lot tougher for America to compete in what is now known as the global marketplace±
Boomer control not exactly transformative
During the ’60s there was sincere idealism in the air about the transformation of the American
character and redefining our national priorities, but very little change materialized
.
John ³± Kennedy’s call to “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for
your country” faded into the mist, along with John Lennon’s plea to “Give peace a chance±”
In their eager and hopeful youth, the Pepsi Generation was especially outspoken about the
hypocrisy they saw in the society around them± But as years passed and the Vietnam War
ended, fearless younger Americans, so outspoken and opposed to President Nixon,
disappeared into what Nixon referred to as the Silent Majority±
Most boomers quickly found themselves on detours± Marriage, children and careers
replaced idealism± As John Lennon said: “Life is what happens when you’re busy making
other plans±” Te great majority of my generation never took “the road less traveled” but
continued down many of the same paths of their parents± Under the stewardship of the
boomers, there have been very few meaningful changes in our nation’s practice, or brand, of
capitalism±
Te following examples are offered in a symbolic manner, indicative of the lack of social
evolution to a wide range of corporations and/or industries.
A Boomer Looks Back
184
185
dollars annually, so evidently Senator McConnell wants to protect the sales and profitability
of cigarettes± Approximately 20% of American adults still smoke cigarettes± Te health care
cost is staggering and a sizable burden on non-smoking taxpayers±
In 2012, Phillip Morris spent approximately $10 million in lobbying Congress
.
²obacco companies never give up± Reynolds American is now peddling the
Natural
American Spirit
brand of cigarettes that they advertise as “100% organic and additive free”
and “grown in America,” as if their cigarettes are somehow
healthier and more patriotic
than
conventional cigarettes± R± J± Reynolds’ advertisements claim that their Camel cigarettes are
inspired
,
passionate
and
original
± Cigarettes are still killing 1 in 5 Americans±
I’ve always wondered what the men who run the tobacco companies tell their own children
when asked the inevitable question: “Daddy, what does your company do?” I doubt whether
the father replies, “Well, kids, we produce cancer-causing tobacco products and market them
to young people, but only in other countries± It’s hard work, but someone has to do it±”
Short-sighted business models from Wall Street
We live in a business climate where boomer
CEOs go aFer their bonuses like sharks aFer
blood± Shareholders demand dividends right along with their ³rappuccinos± Our corporate
culture is still based on short-term vision for short-term profits, all too oFen at the expense
of our environment, our health and even our jobs± Corporations are quick to shut down
manufacturing plants in America – instead of figuring out better long-term
solutions to
protect American workers± It seems that Wall Street is still our nation’s most powerful
guiding force
.
Violence as a profit center
Under boomer leadership, America’s appetite for viewing graphic violence has grown to
seemingly insatiable levels± In the course of one generation, our entertainment industry has
dramatically increased the exploitation of human depravity±
Cable television shows such as
Dexter, Breaking Bad
and
Sons of Anarchy
have set new standards
in depicting gut-wrenching carnage± And by offering
CSI
programs and a wide variety of other
“terrorist” dramas, even mainstream networks dwell on every minute detail of violent crime±
On the night before the Tanksgiving holiday
,
I watched a new prime-time show on ABC,
Te Blacklist
± Te episode culminated in a horrendous scene in which an innocent woman
had her brains blown out at close range with a hand gun, with a gratuitous close-up of blood
splatter filling the television screen± Lovely±
Te former
peace and love generation
has loaded up America’s prime time with crime shows
whose central plots revolve around the lurid details of rape, murder and other perverse
activity± Trow in a mix of dark humor and sexual tension between the star characters and it’s
a winning combination for better ratings and bigger profits± Of course Americans can also
choose from nine different reality shows, most of which are light on violence but long on
Kellogg’s is still pushing ³rosted ³lakes and ³ruit Loops to children, and
General Mills is still hawking Cocoa Puffs± Many of the breakfast cereals aimed
directly at our young ones have sugar contents of 35% to 40% – or more±
When I was a boy, ²ony the ²iger was a great promoter of Sugar ³rosted
³lakes± “It tastes
grrrreat
!” was his friendly growl to America’s children
watching the tube± In the mid-’80s, the word “sugar”
was removed from
the box title, although the Kellogg Corporation somehow forgot to
remove the actual sugar±
²oday the hot ticket from Wrigley’s is the Hubba Bubba Squeeze Pop for kids,
featuring 96 grams of sugar per 4-ounce serving!
According to an all-star team of marketing wizards, our fast-food industry has managed
to magically transform processed ingredients into what they would have us believe are
health food.
²aco Bell now touts their ³resco Menu
,
and Subway offers up foot-long
sandwiches that actually
empower
their customers to lose weight± Even health food
stores
offer 12 versions of
natural
energy bars – ludicrous to anyone who actually reads the
wrappers’ tiny table of contents confessing to 15 grams of sugar±
Boomer marketeers now peddle
perfect
food products that are highly addictive and highly
profitable± Who can resist the call of
Nature Valley
?
Big Tobacco, Big Pharma and all-purpose snake oil march on
Cigarette smoking in the United States may have declined in
recent years, but Altria – the new name of Phillip Morris ²obacco
– never stops developing its markets± Altria is the parent company
of Skoal, which offers a dozen
flavors of chewing tobacco,
packaged to attract teenagers± All tobacco kills
,
but the federal tax
on other forms of tobacco is only about 10% the tax on cigarettes,
keeping nicotine addiction affordable for its victims±
Altria is a sweet-sounding name for a company that markets
cancer-causing products to young people worldwide± Of course,
Altria isn’t alone in targeting teenagers across the globe± Other
American tobacco companies still market to the young in other
countries± In spite of a U±S± court ban on the use of cartoon character Joe Camel in America,
he still roams the world, luring children into addiction±
As I write this, Philip Morris International is pressing the U±S± government for legal language
that will make it difficult for foreign countries that join a proposed Pacific Rim trade pact to
require warning labels on cigarette packages± U±S± Senator Mitch McConnell is leading the
charge to discourage any labeling that might dampen overseas cigarette sales – he argues
that such restrictions might encourage black market cigarette makers± AFer all, our
government is still subsidizing the U±S± tobacco industry with more than $1 billion tax
MachoMan
Cigarettes for real men!
MachoMan
A Boomer Looks Back
186
187
at-home shopping± In 2013, QVC pushed $8±6 billion in specialized non-essential gadgets
out their door± HSN – Home Shopping Network – offers a similar service± Boomers have
developed and marketed an endless supply of commodities no one really needs± Sophisticated
sellers
create
demand± Our closets, our garages and our mini-storage units are full of
stuff.
A myriad of lotions, potions and miracle creams fill our bathroom cabinets – all with some
guarantee
of a better life
.
Even All-American superstar quarterback Joe Teismann has
started carrying the ball for instant fixes, as he now stars in an infomercial hawking Super
Beta Prostate pills±
Te infomercial
has wormed its way into nearly every aspect of our lives± Entire networks
are devoted exclusively to these advertisements masquerading as helpful, honest
documentaries± Most of the information we receive today about goods and services is either
pablum or propaganda± ²alk-show format infomercials feature a gaggle of questionable
experts
who babble incessantly about their breakthrough products± Even
Happy Days
star
Henry Winkler (“Fonzie”) now informs us about the benefits of reverse mortgages±
²elevision isn’t the only source of authoritative-sounding but self-serving information±
Magazines regularly insert sections called “advertorials” where
super
lawyers
and other
ambitious business professionals receive special newsy attention and spurious awards±
²o fool the reader, these phony write-ups use the same typeface and layout design as
standard editorial copy, floating the illusion that their content was factually written by some
objective third party±
Newspapers allow these questionable full-page ads that look and read like a
concerned
columnist’s opinion piece,
letting advertisers bury the word
advertisement
±
Tese same
papers run articles about the perils of consumer fraud, or editorials pleading for ecology,
while stuffing their Sunday edition with two pounds of junk mail and throwaway flyers±
Our internet is now polluted with an infuriating stream of pop-up junk ads±
In short, American culture has run off the rails into the ²wilight Zone± If one of America’s
Founding Fathers surfed our cable channels he might quickly conclude that his countrymen
had all gone insane:
Click
– a violent murder scene from CSI±
Click
– a scene from reality show
Duck Dynasty.
Click
– an ad for
Hooters
±
Click
– an evangelist preacher pleading for money in the name of
Jesus±
Click
– QVC selling fancy dog beds±
Click
– a clip from
Te ±exas Chainsaw Massacre
to push a DVD collection of horror films±
Click
– an infomercial for erectile dysfunction
pills±
Click
– a rapper doing a promo for M²V±
Click
– a replay of Roseanne Barr singing the
national anthem±
I rest my case±
idiocy± Should a citizen prefer to watch endless remakes of action-hero movies, or play the
most popular video games, gratuitous violence is available in a wide range of flavors±
It seems odd to me that boomers still make such a fuss if a bare breast or “crude” dancing is
aired, while scenes of gruesome murder are accepted as part of everyday fare± A psychologist
might conclude that we live in a sick society, but at least we still have the consolation of
knowing that our nation is still
shocked and incredulous
every time a senseless act of
bloodshed (as glamorized on ²V) becomes reality and is featured on the nightly news
.
Paradise lost to disco, drugs and infomercials
Until the mid-’70s, some boomers still had the illusion that a “paradigm shi³”
was
moving
us
toward a more holistic, humane and balanced society± Without much fanfare, the Age of
Aquarius
somehow disappeared into the ether – lost under the spell of
Saturday Night Fever
and the magic of the disco ball±
Te War on Drugs,
originally launched by the Nixon administration and continued by boomer
presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama, has failed± Under my generation’s guidance, powerful
drugs (both legal and illegal) have proliferated in every major city and small town± America’s
medicine cabinets overflow with prescription drugs, while illicit substances are secretly stashed
in the closet± Americans crave their drugs and are constantly seeking new ones±
However, when it came to dispensing contraceptive drugs to young Americans, our
Congress extended the Reagan administration’s
Just Say No
position on recreational drugs
to birth control: For teenagers, abstinence from sex, like abstinence from marijuana, was
pushed as the best policy±
Tis attempt to use social engineering to control youthful
hormones was (pardon the pun) not well conceived± In the past several years, the states that
spent millions of federal tax dollars promoting sexual abstinence programs (while
discouraging easy access to birth control) registered the
highest
teen pregnancy rates in the
country±
The ultimate consumer society reaches new heights
If there is one area in which America continues to excel, it’s in finding new and more effective
ways to market consumer goods and services±
Most people became familiar with Amazon±com as a bookseller± But in less than two
decades, Amazon has become the store where America truly loves to shop – for
everything.
Jeff Bezos has perfected the one-stop internet marketplace, offering customers everything
from Kindle reading devices to sexual wellness merchandise and high-end art and fashion±
Amazon now employs nearly 100,000 people and brings in about $75 billion a year± Amazon
is now America’s biggest seller and their mission is simple: “Anything you want on Earth will
eventually be available from Amazon±”
Smaller companies like QVC – Quality-Value-Convenience – dedicate themselves to niche
markets through television merchandising± Joseph Segel’s network offers viewers 24/7 stay-
A Boomer Looks Back
188
189
Pharmaceutical companies also focus their marketing efforts on the medical community: In
1990, there were approximately 585,000 children in America on psychoactive medication
for ADHD, and today the number is 3±5 million±
Are there really
six times
more children who now need to be medicated?
Over the past two decades, the big drug companies have transformed themselves into
shameless drug pushers who especially target the aging-boomer market to create a demand±
Unfortunately, when it comes to boomers, we all know that all of the drugs that offer to
postpone or even reverse the aging process belie a chilling reality that is just around the corner±
Is the boomers’ party over?
Te boomers may have started out as the Pepsi Generation, but somehow the flower children
are finding themselves knee deep in the quicksand of heart disease, diabetes and cancer, and
oFen struggle with depression
.
But wait, there’s more: In addition to facing the humbling experience of physical decline and
an onset of the blues, many boomers will soon end up in a fog, a condition once simply
referred to as “senility±” A click on the Alzheimer’s Association website reveals a startling
prediction – in the near future the number of people diagnosed with the disease will increase
by 40%± Seven million Americans will soon suffer from some sort of dementia±
Te boomers will be at least a decade too late to be saved by any stem-cell bullet± What they
can expect for treatment are long waits, complicated insurance forms, and little compassion
from companies prone to deny coverage at the drop of a hat± It’s no accident that the largest
buildings in most major cities bear the name of insurance corporations±
And, insurance companies always employ three proven accomplices: Mr± ²ear, Mr± Lobbyist,
and Mr± Politician± It’s an unbeatable combination±
The tape-measure perspective
As I write this, most boomers are still reeling from the gut punches of the Great Recession
,
with more implications yet to unfold± Many of my generation will still be able to afford
spending their
sunset years
in newly minted versions of what were once called assisted living
facilities, which have recently evolved into
active senior living communities
±
²or those without sufficient financial assets, things will be more difficult± Boomers relished
the idea of living for the moment± Sadly, the moments have passed, and large numbers of the
’60s generation are too old to work and have too little savings to live comfortably in their
Golden Years± Millions of old people will fall through the cracks as inflation inevitably rears
its ugly head± Worse, a significant portion of boomers will endure their closing years on
Earth hovering near the poverty line, homeless and forgotten±
Te topic of aging seems to come up more oFen these days when I socialize with friends± A
few of us
older guys
were having coffee the other day, commiserating, when I mentioned that
Contemplating the Cialis Moment
Most of what we see today is simply a continuation of old-school marketing, but you can
count on the drug companies to pioneer new ground± It’s interesting to note that the United
States is the only country in the world (besides New Zealand) that allows pharmaceutical
companies to advertise prescription drugs on television directly aimed at consumers±
One of the newest trends in advertising features senior citizens
happily riding bicycles, hiking in forests or practicing yoga±
We’re promised entry to a mythical land, where boomer couples
sit blissfully in bathtubs by the ocean, contemplating their Cialis
moment± Te Marlboro Man has also matured
he cleverly
pulls his horse trailer out of the mud with his own horse before
going home to pop a Viagra±
Drug companies give boomers the hope that they can remain forever young, pain free and
vital, as long as they swallow the right pill± If Big Pharma sponsors a study to identify a new
syndrome,
it’s a good bet that an expensive capsule has already been developed to fix the
problem± Selling psychoactive medicine
to old people is the new frontier in marketing± Pushing
feel-better drugs requires clever advertisements that pluck at the heartstrings – because many
of these expensive
medicines
provide only questionable benefits and come with a mountain of
nasty side effects± At the end of each ad the familiar warnings arrive, the litany of potential
dangers, which always seem to include headaches and/or diarrhea and/or dry mouth, followed
by that catch-all phrase: “Check with your doctor before engaging in sexual activity±” Charming±
Te price tag for a specific drug oFen bears little relation to its production cost± It’s common
for drug companies to charge
whatever the traffic will bear
, as long as they can figure out
an angle
to demand a higher reimbursement from Medicare± ²or instance, Genentech
(a division of Roche) sells two virtually identical drugs, both commonly used for the
treatment of macular degeneration: Avistan costs $50 per shot and Lucentis $2,000, but
Medicare still commonly pays for Lucentis± According to an article published by the AARP,
providing Lucentis to patients results in “the single largest medication expense for Medicare,
based on 2010 data±”
³o make matters worse, the mega-brand name manufacturers oFen seek to extend a drug’s
exclusivity, by paying smaller generic drug makers sizable sums to drop legal challenges± Tis
common tactic delays the introduction of less expensive generic drugs± It’s a sick practice±
A detailed study by PLoS Medicine, published in a journal of the Public Library of Health,
asserts that the drug industry spends at least twice as much on marketing as it does on research
and development± Te industry claims otherwise, but independent sources say that the PLoS
findings are conservative in estimating the lopsided ratio between R&D and marketing±
A study conducted from the late-’90s through 2006 – and published by the non-partisan Center
for Public Integrity – found that drug companies had spent almost $1 billion on lobbying
activities – more than any other industry±
A Boomer Looks Back
190
191
It’s really a good point± Long before boomers kick the bucket, we will see exciting and
profound changes in technology and bio-science that will continue to improve the world
.
A lot of boomers remain in terrific physical condition, and engage in activities that once
belonged only to the young± Jamie Moyer still plays professional baseball at 50, Fred Couples
is still winning big in his mid-50s, and the band members of Earth, Wind & Fire are currently
touring in their 60s± In December 2013, we spent a night listening to Jerry Jeff Walker and
his band at Te Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston± At 71, the country singer who wrote
Mr± Bojangles sounded as good as ever and received a standing ovation±
Tere is no reason that boomers need be isolated as they grow older± It’s never been easier to
stay connected± PCs and iPads are a source of endless enjoyment, and allow us a stream of
emails and photos from friends and family± Tey supply an endless selection of new
information about the world around us± An inexpensive wristwatch will be able to monitor
your health, remind you to take your pills, locate any lost item, and serve as your phone and
internet connection± If you get lost, it will give you voice commands to find your way home±
Our 21st-century technology provides an inexhaustible supply of entertainment± Sporting
events look terrific on new HD televisions with surround sound, and the price of a large flat-
screen is reasonable± DVRs let you view your favorite shows whenever you want± Any book
is available at the click of a mouse±
Many of the children of boomers are finally independent and out in the world, allowing lucky
parents to once again walk around the house naked± Medicare benefits are just around the
corner along with a Social Security check± Walmart now sells prescriptions for $4±
Advancing age brings clarity about what is important, reminds you who your real friends
are, and gives you the confidence to speak your mind freely± Many boomers have to take
periodic health tests to monitor one thing or another, but each time the results come back
clean, it’s time to celebrate±
Carpe diem!
Several books have been written about how the boomers will change the experience of aging,
and how they are determined not to give up on life’s possibilities± It is this emphatic engagement
with life that drives many of us±
As the siren song of the Golden Years grows louder, each of us will be faced with the question
of how to spend our remaining time, and what kind of legacy we want to leave to the younger
generations±
Tose remaining chapters have yet to be written
.
n
the average life span of the American male is about 77± My friend Jim Agee
(who always
has an interesting perspective) grabbed a metal tape measure
from one of the other guys at the table and said: “Gentlemen, you may be
pushing up daisies sooner than you think±”
Jim pulled out 77 inches of the tape and laid it across our table± He then
dramatically ran his finger from 0 inches all the way up to the 65-inch mark,
and stopped±
“Ok,
Mr. Branch
,” Jim said, “look at how far my finger ran up the blade± Now
check out the very short piece of tape that’s le²± You should start making
your bucket list
.
Te visual was stunning – it’s hard to argue with the marks on a tape
measure±
About 65 years ago, bandleader Guy Lombardo wrote a catchy tune with the
memorable lyric: “Go ahead, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think±” It was
a big hit±
Now the Good News
Te majority of boomers still believe that our generation remains at the
center of the universe±
As a group, we still make up the largest, wealthiest and most powerful
segment of the population± More than any previous generation, boomers
are in a position to use their wisdom and wealth to help their fellow
inhabitants of the Earth±
My generation seems to have an innate pursuit-of-happiness impulse,
although we certainly did not invent or discover the idea that human life
should be rewarding, enjoyable and fun± A²er all, our forefathers codified
the concept by writing it into our Declaration of Independence as an
unalienable right± Te search for happiness became a mandate, the main
trail to the American Dream±
Much of this essay is not a pretty reflection of the past or the future, but
I should point out that all of my downbeat prognostications are merely
personal conjecture±
It was my goal to encourage some thought and discussion±
Most people still in their 50s or early 60s are much too busy working their
asses off to worry about this morbid stuff± Many of my friends, when they
read this, will respond: “Hey, I feel great± And why would anyone dwell on
these negative thoughts?”
Average
Life Span Of The
American Male