Archive for the ‘News and Research’ Category

  • “Head to Head: iPhone and iPad Square Off”

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    Just a short snippet to share a great example of the value of infographics which we waxed on about in yesterday’s post: “A Picture: How Logos and Information Graphics Tell Your Story or Convey Your Brand in Much Less Than a Thousand Words.”

    This morning’s infographic by Henry D’Andrea aimed at those trying to decide which device – an iPhone or an iPad – is the best all-around deal for them will find this “Head to Head: iPhone and iPad Square Off” post from thetechupdate.com illuminating.

    Courtesy of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk

    The Bard continues to be in awe…

  • Senior Entrepreneurs: Innovative, Foolhardy or Desperate?

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    As more and more research details that older Americans are starting businesses at a higher-than-average rate, it’s important to study the why and how of this phenomena.

    Anita Campbell, Editor and Founder of Small Business Trends, LLC, posits the question, StartUps Are Graying, But Is It a Good Financial Move?

    Campbell writes, “The face of the typical startup entrepreneur these days is a bit wrinkly, sporting some gray hair, and having the wisdom that comes with age.”

    She refers to a Business Week article by Scott Shane where he says, “according to recent research, these days those 55 and over are more likely than young people to be starting businesses.” And Shane, in turn, cites research by Dane Stangler of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation that showed in every year from 1996 to 2007, Americans aged 55 to 64 had a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than those aged 20 to 34.

    In the name of realistic scrutiny, I just Tweeted an Op-Ed piece in today’s New York Times, Entrepreneur or Unemployed?, by Robert B. Reich, former secretary of labor, now professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley,

    Reich captures the under-reported truth behind this entrepreneurial joy, saying, too often the catalyst for this entrepreneurial surge is, “In a word, unemployment. Booted off company payrolls, millions of Americans had no choice but to try selling themselves. Another term for ‘entrepreneur’ is ‘self-employed.'”

    Reich continues:

    “According to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics by an outplacement firm, Challenger Gray & Christmas, the number of self-employed Americans rose to 8.9 million last December, up from 8.7 million a year earlier. Self-employment among those 55 to 64 rose to nearly two million, 5 percent higher than in 2008. Among people over 65, the ranks of the self-employed swelled 29 percent. Many older people who had expected to retire discovered their 401(k)’s had shrunk and their homes were worthless. So they became ‘entrepreneurs,’ too.

    Maybe this is a good thing. A deep recession can be the mother of invention. These Americans are now liberated from the bureaucratic straitjackets they thought they had to wear. They can now fulfill their creative dreams and find their inner entrepreneurs. All they needed was a good kick in the pants.

    But this upbeat interpretation doesn’t include lots of people who don’t particularly relish becoming their own employers, like an acquaintance whom I’ll call George. George was an associate partner at one of the world’s largest technology and consulting firms until he lost his job last year in a wave of layoffs. For months, George knocked on doors but got nowhere because of the deep recession.

    But this upbeat interpretation doesn’t include lots of people who don’t particularly relish becoming their own employers, like an acquaintance whom I’ll call George. George was an associate partner at one of the world’s largest technology and consulting firms until he lost his job last year in a wave of layoffs. For months, George knocked on doors but got nowhere because of the deep recession.

    Finally, his old firm got some new projects that required George’s skills. But it didn’t hire George back. Instead, it brought him back through a “contingent workforce company,” essentially a temp agency, that’s now contracting with George to do the work. In return, the agency is taking a chunk of George’s hourly rate.

    Technically, George is his own boss. But he’s doing exactly what he did before for less money, and he gets no benefits — no health care, no 401(k) match, no sick leave, no paid vacation. Worse still, his income and hours are unpredictable even though his monthly bills still arrive with frightening regularity.

    The nation’s official rate of unemployment does not include George, nor anyone in this new wave of involuntary entrepreneurship. Yet to think of them as the innovative owners of startup businesses misses one of the most significant changes to have occurred in the American work force in many decades.”

    In addition to more realistic depictions of this frequently “involuntary entrepreneurship,” I’d like to see more research on how seniors’ are underwriting their start-ups. Are they, for example,  throwing all their savings and what crumbs might remain in their 401-K retirement accounts into these ventures? Is this, as Anita Campbell pointed out, a wise move? Young entrepreneurs have many more years to recoup those funds should the new enterprise fail.

    In that regard, it would also be valuable to see some data on Senior “Entrepreneurs” success rates. How do Seniors compete with the more tech savvy, viral-marketing-driven young entrepreneurs? Robert Jones, asks in his SmartBrief on Entrepreneurs nugget, “Are older entrepreneurs at a competitive disadvantage in a world of social media and digital communication?”

    Jeff Wuorio, makes a start at answering some of these questions with his four tips in The Older Entrepreneur’s Guide to Success, but clearly – there are a lot more questions to be answered before we revel in the “Senior Entrepreneur” phenomena.

  • Online Privacy an Oxymoron: “The Fix” and A Fix

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    Today, when every single detail of our lives is more visible than any time in the history of humankind, why in the world would Connecticut’s Attorney General, Dick Blumenthal, lie about his military service? Clearly he’s not stupid; he graduated from Harvard and received his law degree at Yale… Yet one has to wonder when he holds a press conference in which he categorizes the lie as “a few misplaced words.” Could it be that he assumes his constituents are less intelligent or less connected? Surely, it’s not just because a former president may have gotten away with it…

    Ethics and moral issues aside, we all know that privacy – even for mere mortals who have no intention of ever running for anything except perhaps a mini mini mini marathon – is fragile at best. Privacy for public figures, attempting a political run in what is admittedly the most toxic political environment in memory, is virtually non-existent. Our personal brands and our reputations are everywhere and open to scrutiny.

    In “The Fix,” the Washington Post’s political news and analysis column, Chris Cillizza details the self-imposed threat to Blumenthal’s Senate campaign. The tragedy is that this serious character flaw may obliterate all the good work Blumenthal has accomplished over the course of many years for veterans. At the very least, it will invoke inquiry into Blumenthal’s motives for his veterans’ advocacy work: was it sincere or just political expediency?

    For all who remain online privacy innocents, we recommend you give this “Fix” from reclaimprivacy.org a test drive. The website provides an independent and open tool for scanning your Facebook privacy settings. The results are revealing and allow you to fix the settings to secure a smidgeon of privacy – Maybe!

    Telling the truth, of course is the best “Fix.” As the author, Rita Mae Brown, once said, “the best thing about telling the truth is that you never have to remember what you said!”

  • 10 Trends in Longevity: the Good, the Bad and the Cost of Staying Alive

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    “A new twist on recycling!” comes to mind as a great subtitle for this bright but cautionary tale by Philip Moeller about the US government’s “Health, 2009” report in US News and World Report’sBest of Life Series.”

    “The goals of improved health and financial security are to live longer and, presumably, more fulfilling lives. Increases in longevity have certainly been impressive. Not only has 60 become the new 40, but we’re well on our way to the day when 80 becomes the new 60. While the victors in the longevity race have many spoils to enjoy, they also have many aches, pains, and other unpleasant reminders of their continued existence. The government pulls together an impressive array of statistical snapshots in its current compendium, “Health, 2009,” a 550-page record of the state of the nation’s well-being. Here are some of its most compelling findings about the health of an aging America.”

    Moeller captures some of the very best nuggets from this report, including the “Power” of seniors as related to the vast and growing number of us, but he also flags some of the – too often unanticipated or blatantly ignored – problems related to living longer.

    A wake-up call! Read the nitty gritty details here

  • Resumé Dates or No Dates? and Are There REALLY Jobs for Seniors on the Horizon or Is That Just a Mirage??

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    Today, a trusted friend and HR Guru, sat me down, drilled into my brain via my eyeballs and said: “Take those dates off your resumé!”

    I immediately started stuttering, “But, but isn’t that deceitful? Or, at the very least dissembling? And won’t that be a shock when I waltz my 60+ year-old self into the interview?”

    The Guru answered, “You know we HR folk are not as dumb as some people like to think we are. We can tell how long you’ve been working by simply reading your work history, experience and accomplishments. Clearly, you’re not just fresh out of college.”

    “That being said,” she continued, “in today’s job market we are inundated with resumés for each job we post. Hence, we are desperately seeking ways to winnow them down to a reasonable number. Sadly, your dates might prove an easy fix. Not that any self-respecting hiring manager would ever admit age bias but…”

    “On the other hand, if you have a brilliant, innovative working resumé – with no dates to shut us off at the first pass – by the time we finish reading and realize you are most probably a bit long in the tooth we really don’t see it as a barrier.”

    *************

    Now to those jobs on the horizon… US News and World Report actually published an article this week, titled Retired Workers Will Be Wooed to Return [to Work] by Philip Moeller.

    Wooed to Return??? Perhaps, it’s been so long since I’ve been wooed that I no longer grasp the meaning of the word, but I do question the veracity of this prediction. Then, too, I do not like to think myself a skeptic, so please read this bit of sunshine and let us know what you think.

  • Singing Your Heart Out at 80 and Kicking Your Heels Up at 106!

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    Janey Cutler is living proof that you’re never too old to dream a dream!

    “Britain’s Got Talent” had a rare treat this past Saturday night when 80 year-old Janey Cutler sang Edith Piaf’s ‘No Regrets’ (‘Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien‘) from La Vie en Rose. She, like last year’s unexpected BGT star Susan Boyle, hails from Glasgow, Scotland – something in the water perhaps?

    YouTube Preview Image

    Although the 80 year-old was physically tremulous and had to be helped onto the BGT stage, there was nothing shaky about this chantreuse’s voice. Her deep, mezzo-soprano was powerful and passionate, and the audience rose en masse to give her a standing ovation almost as soon as Janey Cutler began to sing.

    When asked where she’d been all these years, she replied, ‘oh you know, me wee pubs and clubs’. The judges including Simon gave Janey Cutler ‘3000 and three yeses’ so she’s on to the next round. No doubt she will be singing before the Queen, who is, of course, also an octogenarian!

    Janey and Queen Elizabeth, however, are wee whippersnappers compared to Doris Eaton Travis, the last surviving Ziegfeld Girl, who died this Tuesday.

    Archival Photo: Doris Eaton Travis as a Ziegfeld Girl.

    In her NY Times obituary, Douglas Martin writes, “From 1907 to 1931, beneath towering, glittering, feathered headdresses, the Ziegfeld Girls floated across grand Broadway stages in lavish pageants known as the Ziegfeld Follies, often to the wistful tune that Irving Berlin wrote just for them: ‘A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody.‘ They were former waitresses, farmers’ daughters and office workers who had dreampt of becoming part of Florenz Ziegfeld’s own grand dream of ‘glorifying the American girl.’”

    Just a few weeks ago, she was back on 42nd Street kicking up her 106 year-old heels for her annual appearance at the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS annual benefit.

    Doris Eaton Travis never stopped dancing; indeed, she had No Regrets!

    Mrs. Travis in 2009. Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times

  • Betty White: Stereotype-Buster or Panderer? Who Really Won the Evening: SNL, Betty White or Facebook?

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    Did any one else see the great triple paradox between Betty White, the 88-year-old “golden girl,” and her Mother’s Day Eve hosting of that “mother-of-all-Saturday-Night-Live episodes,” and her put-down of the gallant white Facebook horse she rode in on???

    The media is exclaiming about Betty’s stunning performance on SNL. RTT News, the Global Financial News wire proclaimed: “Betty White’s appearance on ‘Saturday Night Live’ this weekend was a hit with viewers. The NBC comedy series recorded its best overnight ratings in 18 months on Saturday. The show picked up an 8.8 share, according to Nielsen, making the episode the highest rated since November 1, 2008, when Ben Affleck hosted and Senator John McCain was a special guest.”

    While the NY Times “Arts Beat” blogger, Dave Itzkoff loudly proclaimed, ” All it took to reinvigorate a 35-year-old comedy show was the presence of an 88-year-old woman,” he also noted towards the end of his blog in a much quieter tone:

    “If you watched carefully, you might have noticed that many of Saturday’s skits were simply new variations on recurring “SNL” bits like “MacGruber” or its “Lawrence Welk Show” parody. …And if you really want to get picayune about it, most of Ms. White’s jokes boiled down to some version of her (a) saying something totally inappropriate for her age, or (b) making some kind of subtle — or blatant — sexual innuendo. But really, who cares, when so many of them worked?”

    This begs the question: did they really work or were some folks just dazzled by someone whom they thought was beating the “old woman stereotype” or in awe that SNL finally offered an old lady the role of host?

    My reaction is that Betty White was just fighting one stereotype with another and not too successfully at that.  I had a truly “feisty” grandmother and she never once pandered to deliver something “totally inappropriate for her age” or subtle or otherwise “sexual innuendo.” Betty White delivered what she or the folks at SNL wanted her to deliver, and I call that pandering not stereotype-busting.

    Robert Bianco, USA Today, also sensed something was askew as he wrote: “Betty White’s ‘SNL’ stint: Less than Golden.” …Perhaps no show could have lived up to expectations created for this week’s Saturday Night Live by the Facebook campaign that got Betty White her first hosting job after a 35-year wait… Yet in the end, Saturday’s over-hyped NBC broadcast mostly served to explain why SNL seemed so reluctant to bring White on board. Clearly, they didn’t know what to do with her. …So they had her make some blue jokes, bear the brunt of multiple “isn’t she old” jokes, and pump for the upcoming MacGruber movie — and then make a few more blue jokes. …None of this was White’s fault, who once again proved that she is both a pro and an extremely good sport. What laughs there were, outside of Weekend Update, were pretty much provided by her and her alone, and that’s not something you can say about every host. She just deserved better. And after a 35 year wait, so did we.”

    The final – for now – element of the paradox is: why did Betty skewer the horse (Facebook) she rode in on. My feisty grandmother taught me to never insult your host, but right out of the box, Betty did when she called Facebook a “waste of time.” Had she forgotten that she was finally offered the top SNL spot after her fans launched a hugely successful grassroots Facebook campaign.

    As the Christian Science Monitor noted, “In January, David Matthews, of San Antonio, launched the Facebook page “Betty White to Host SNL (please?)!” after Ms. White appeared in a popular 2010 Super Bowl ad for Snickers candy. By mid-March, several hundred thousand Facebookers had signed on to Matthew’s petition, and it was announced that the former Golden Girl would be hosting a special Mother’s Day episode on May 8.”

    How was Facebook a waste of Betty’s time: for the SNL invitation and for whatever her professional future – thanks to Facebook – now holds?

    It makes me wonder what other issues might be resolved through the power of a Facebook campaign!

    One more thought:  When I read in today’s Washington Post, Adam Bernstein’s tribute to Lena Horne, who died Sunday at age 92, I was reminded of her 1942, ground-breaking contract with MGM in which it was writ that she would “never have to play a maid.” Perhaps, Betty White’s next contract – be it with SNL or another – should stipulate that she “never has to ‘play’ at being an old woman!”

  • Ingenuity Is Essential: Could Tech Tools Have Helped Hansel and Gretel?

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    Would text messages have been more effective than their trail of breadcrumbs? Not really. Sure the birds gobbled up their tasty breadcrumbs, but their cell phone’s battery could have died just as easily or, deep in the forest as they were, they could have lost their signal. Far better to rely on your own ingenuity than any ancillary tools…

    Abandoned by their parents and lost in the woods, Hansel and Gretel soon learned they had to draw on their own resources to survive. Today, many of us have been abandoned by our employers – hopefully not as perniciously as the old woodcutter but still leaving us alone in the “bleak forest” of the job market wilderness.

    Arthur Rackham

    Several parallel lessons for today’s job seekers jump right off the pages of this cautionary fairytale.

    First, of course, don’t trust your parents – or more to the point, don’t trust that your current job is going to be there forever. Even if everything seems peachy in your office, external elements (for H&G it was the wicked step-mother) can quickly turn your life upside-down.

    Second, don’t be mislead by gingerbread houses. Some jobs may look luscious from the outside but once inside you may find you’re the tasty morsel.

    Third, while you may – in your desperation to secure any job – have been lured into the wrong situation, you can still escape.

    Gretel, pretending thermal ignorance, cleverly tricks the witch into popping her own head into the over to test the heat. Whereupon, Gretel shoves the witch all the way in and seals the oven door.

    Gretel then frees Hansel from the cage where the witch had kept him while he “fattened up,” and together they cavort about in joy.

    Alas, the story then begins to fall apart as a “little luck in the form of a white duck” escorts them safely home, where they discover their nasty stepmother has conveniently died.  Then, too, their instant forgiveness of their irresponsible father seems more than a bit of a stretch, but that’s fodder for a whole other story.

    In a more positive light, let’s reflect back on how Gretel’s ingenuity caused the witch’s demise…

    The good news is that such ingenuity is not only the provenance of youth or limited to fairytales. Last week, the NY Times published Tara Parker-Pope’s very reassuring interview with Barbara Strauch about her new book, “The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind.”

    Strauch defines the new middle age as 40-65, and she says research has shown that during this time, “if we’re relatively healthy our brains may have a few issues, but on balance they’re better than ever during that period.” In fact, during this period, “the new modern middle age, we’re better at all sorts of things than we were at 20.”

    When Parker-Pope asks, “what kinds of things does a middle-aged brain do better than a younger brain?” Strauch replies, “Inductive reasoning and problem solving — the logical use of your brain and actually getting to solutions. We get the gist of an argument better. We’re better at sizing up a situation and reaching a creative solution. They found social expertise peaks in middle age. That’s basically sorting out the world: are you a good guy or a bad guy?”

    “Good Guys and Bad Guys” – Good Jobs and Bad Jobs.” Sounds like we still have the mettle and ingenuity to avoid the gingerbread, identify the witch and nip her culinary aspirations in the bud. And that’s without a “lucky white duck!”

  • Multitasking: Why Two Tasks Work and Three Are Overwhelming

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    In today’s social media driven environment, opportunities to multitask at warp speed proliferate. Online, we can dance from snippet to snippet of news, music, e-books, webinars, job postings, how-to tips, etc, etc.  But how much of the “information” is our brain actually capable of absorbing?

    Two (I was going to cite three but thought better of it after reading article #2) fascinating articles shed much needed light on the highly vaunted “art” of multitasking.

    In The Myth of Multitasking, Karen Hopkins, reports, “when we think we’re getting better at multitasking, we’re really getting faster at switching back and forth between two different things at different times… training gets the ‘Thinking Brain’ to think a little faster. So we’re switching tasks quickly enough to appear to be doing them simultaneously. Which,” she continues, “is still nothing to shake a stick and sneeze at.”

    I almost missed that simultaneous “shaking a stick and sneezing!”

    In the second, more recent article published in Scientific American, How the Brain Keeps Track of Two Tasks at Once, Katherine Harmon points us to new research which”illustrates how the brain can simultaneously keep track of two separate goals, even while it is busy performing a task related to one of the aims, hinting that the mind might be better at multitasking than previously thought.”

    Etienne Koechlin, director of the cognitive neuroscience laboratory at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research in Paris and coauthor of the new study shows that “rather than being totally devoted to one goal at a time, the human brain can distribute two goals to different hemispheres to keep them both in mind–if it perceives a worthy reward for doing so.”

    Caveat Emptor!  I said I was only going to cite two articles, but I’ll just point you to this third one by Naomi Kenner and Russell Poldrack which tries to explain What Happens When You Try To Do Three Things at Once?

    As I try to visualize this, the first thing that comes to mind is “visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads” but, then, they are all sugarplums, aren’t they?

    "Can You See What I See?" illustration by Walter Wick

  • What Do Stone Age Eggshell Engravings and Seniors’ Higher-Order Reasoning Have in Common???

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    60,000 Year-Old Engraved Ostrich Egg Shell Fragments

    Both illustrate the wisdom of the ages: early, pre-historic human wisdom and the evolution of higher-order reasoning among today’s seniors.

    Jim Emerman, Executive Vice President of Civic Ventures led me to this reassuring paper, “Reasoning about Social Conflicts Improves into Old Age”, from the National Academy of Sciences.

    “It is well documented,” the paper posits, “that aging is associated with cognitive declines in many domains. Yet it is a common lay belief that some aspects of thinking improve into old age. Specifically, older people are believed to show better competencies for reasoning about social dilemmas and conflicts.”

    …We show that relative to young and middle-aged people, older people make more use of higher-order reasoning schemes that emphasize the need for multiple perspectives, allow for compromise, and recognize the limits of knowledge.”

    Bolstered by this encouraging news, I starting poking around the National Academy of Sciences’ site to see what other relevant bits of wisdom I might find.  Being Spring and just past Easter, I was drawn to their “Stone Age Eggshell Engravings” article about the earliest reliable evidence of an engraving tradition that continues to thrive today. Moreover, the eggs “represent a system of symbolic representation in which collective identities and individual expressions are clearly communicated, suggesting social, cultural, and cognitive underpinnings that overlap with those of modern people.”

    Hooked, I then Googled “Stone Age Eggshell Engravings” and found this article by Jonathan Amos, BBC Science correspondent, which refers to the National Academy of Science paper and includes the marvelous photos (above).

    Amos reports that, “the markings are almost certainly a form of messaging – of graphic communication…. Symbolic thought – the ability to let one thing represent another – was a giant leap in human evolution, and sets our species apart from the rest of the animal world… Understanding when and where this behaviour first emerged is a key quest for scientists studying human origins.”

    So, at 60,000 years plus 60, I’d say Savvy Seniors’ “little grey cells” are still functioning remarkably well!

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