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A “Tough Love” Message for Betty White

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Someone has stepped up to tackle the wrongness of Off Their Rockers,  and I applaud that someone–Barbara Morris, who’s been advocating for smarter aging even longer than I have.   Below is her press release about the situation.  I’ve added my own comment after hers.

By Barbara Morris:

I admire Betty White. Her energy and creative ability are inspiring. Long ago she could have joined those retirees who imagine they are living the good life, drinking, playing shuffleboard or endless rounds of golf, and reminiscing about what used to be. Instead, she continues to use her time and talent to give meaning to her life. Her vitality and competence assure every healthy midlife woman that chronological age is meaningless; that a joyful productive life, not just a passive dependent existence is possible regardless of age.

Unfortunately, she is not doing old people a favor with her TV show “Off Their Rockers” with its premise “A troupe of senior citizens pulls pranks on unsuspecting folks.” The “unsuspecting folks” are usually embarrassed young people. The whole idea is embarrassing to a lot of us older folks, too.

One must wonder why Betty can’t see how damaging it is to the image and psyche of her peers. It’s tragic that dementia strikes so many older people, rendering them incapable of rational behavior. It’s even more tragic when old people of sound mind deliberately engage in behavior that gives the impression advanced age is synonymous with ditzy lunacy. It’s disturbing to watch the cast of her show behave like irresponsible teenagers. Watching their often-obnoxious antics is akin to hearing a dirty joke that makes you giggle but at the same time you know it’s inappropriate and you feel demeaned by the experience.

Why did Betty decide to do this show? Is it because she is so confident and so vibrant that she can’t understand that most of her audience doesn’t grasp that she is trying to spoof the pathetic stereotype of “old” and see it as confirming it instead? Or maybe she saw it as a way for older people to get more exposure on TV, or a way to get a few dollars in their pockets. Maybe she is so focused on getting a laugh that she doesn’t see the damage she’s doing.

Regardless of her reason to create this misguided show and no matter how good her reason, it’s still damaging to all of us who ever get old enough to fall prey to the “old people eventually lose it” stereotype. She is undoing the very thing that we love her for–being vibrant and funny and “with it” in her 90’s.   We appreciate and applaud Betty White. But she needs to give us respect in return. Participating in a show that’s demeaning to older people is simply not the right thing to do. In so many ways Betty could use her talent, energy, and experience to choose projects that more accurately reflect the caliber, talent and continued competence of old people.

A positive change in Betty’s choice of entertainment projects may already be happening with her new show, “Hot in Cleveland” that has more to its premise than the horrid, longstanding stereotype of “old.” In the meantime, it’s time to retire “Off Their Rockers”. It never belonged on the air in the first place.

Barbara Morris, R.Ph., Editor, Publisher Put Old on Hold Journal Barbara@PutOldonHold.com

Comment by Mary Lloyd:

Thank you for bringing this up, Barbara.  That show has been bothering me since the first (and only) episode I watched.  It is a huge disappointment to have Betty White—someone the whole country loves for doing what she’s doing for as long as she’s been doing it—playing to ageist, stupid pranks to get a laugh. 

No one would dream of making a series based on racist jokes or even “dumb blonde” or other sexist jokes.  Why is this ageist garbage deemed acceptable?

But it goes a step farther.  She—and the show’s writers—have missed an important piece of advice I got from Jonathan Winters in a writers workshop years ago.  “Good comedy laughs with people not at them.”  Off Their Rockers is makes fun of young people and presents old people as self-centered, outrageous dingbats.  It’s wrong on many levels.  How tragic that it’s still on the air. 

Mary Lloyd, author of Supercharged Retirement:  Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love.  www.mining-silver.com.

Links to Mary Lloyd elsewhere…

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Huffington Post blogging and a radio podcast. What a nice way to end (or start) the week!

The Huffington Post has started a section called Huffington Post 50 and I’ve been invited to blog for them. My first post went live with the debute of the section on Friday, Sept 30.  Check it out.  And if you want to help shape what appears there, figure out how to post a comment and do that whenever you agree–or disagree–with whatever you’ve just read.

Also, last Sunday (Oct. 2) I was interviewed by Kevin de Phillips for The Beacon program on radio station WCPT 820 AM in Chicago.  They focus on issues related to seniors, veterans, and the disabled and are spending the entire month of October on employment issues.   Check out that broadcast. (My interview with Kevin starts about 40% of the way into the program.)

While we’re at it, you might also want to see what I’ve been saying for over a year in the Building a Better Workforce column that I write for workforce50.com.  Their website is a treasure trove so look around once you get there.

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

Mary Lloyd is a speaker and consultant and author of Supercharged Retirement:  Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love.  For more, see her website.

 

You versus 2008

Monday, December 29th, 2008

by Mary Lloyd,  CEO Mining Silver

As we count down the last hours of 2008, let’s look at how well WE did, rather than just lamenting the horrid year it’s been in general.    That action is particularly important if you’re not currently in the workforce.  One of the things we lose when we leave work behind is the regular assessment of our own performance that comes as part of any job.

It may not be an official “performance appraisal,” but the work environment has ways of letting you know whether you are doing well or not.  Maybe it’s the difficult customer who will only work with you (oh, joy!).  Maybe it’s the stack of papers graded or the sleeping toddlers in the nap room.  Maybe it’s the bottom line.  Maybe it’s the novel you’ve gotten far enough to leave in the bottom drawer to “steep.”  Maybe it’s the bottom of the pot you just scrubbed.

Maybe it’s billable hours, projects completed, tons of fish processed, or total sales.  Whatever it is, cherish it if you have it and look for a way to replicate it if you don’t.  Work gives us vital information about how well we are doing.  It has a lot of room for built-in feedback.  And that’s precious stuff .

Those little everyday review processes give you something you really can’t thrive without–a sense of your own competence.  So you really DO want some kind of evaluation process in your life, even if paid employment isn’t currently part of the picture.

If we were doing this right from infancy, we’d be using clearly defined personal benchmarks that go beyond the current work setting as we measure our own merit.  This is rare though and hard to maintain.  My younger son used to do it via goal setting, at least before he got sucked into corporate America.  Each January, he’d rework his life goals and commit to what he wanted to make happen that year.  He’d work on making those things happen throughout the year.  Then each December, he’d do his “final reckoning” for that year’s goals and start the process all over.  Goal setting works well for young lions.

It’s a little harder to buy in on once you end up the non-rational depths of personal reality.  What good is a goal if your best strategy for the situation is to surrender to the Divine and accept life as it unfolds?  Goals serve as beacons, but they can lead you onto the rocks if they tilt because of a poor foundation.

We need something to tell us how well we are doing.  That’s why we love games and those little tests in the Sunday paper.  We need information to confirm our own value.  We seek it even if it’s in some lame game show assessment of what you know.

Sometimes, we don’t even reach for that.  In retirement, we end up leaning on what we used to do to give ourselves validation.   Between jobs, it’s even harder not to rely on the past accomplishments to feel good about yourself.  But history is a weak second as raw material for personal worth.  Authenticity demands you stand tall on what you’re doing NOW.  How do you do that without a title?  Without the regular paycheck? Without the business cards and the company car?

This is the perfect time of year to create something better to take your cues from.  It’s a simple but powerful two step evaluation.  Assess your life with the following two questions.   They are unquenchable signal fires for your personal worth, regardless of the situation.

1.  WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO ME?

2.  WHAT AM I DOING ABOUT IT?

Your answers pretty much sum up the quality of your life.  If family is important to you, but the vast majority of your time is spent at a job you hate so you can buy stuff you don’t need, you lose,.  Even if your bonus was six figures  If you value learning and growth, but haven’t explored a new idea in six months, you lose. Even if you already hold a PhD in astrophysics and are working on the space shuttle.

To make life worthwhile, regardless of what the economy, the culture, and your favorite sports team are doing, there must be a strong link between what you believe is important and how you spend your time.

If you’re coming from your own truth, what’s important doesn’t stay behind when you leave work.  You take that commitment with you, no matter what the circumstance.  Lay off… botched bailout..organizational implosion–all are temporary obstacles if you keep your focus on doing something about what you think is important.

There is stength in doing the difficult, but only if it’s grounded in your belief that it’s important to get done.

What Color Is Your Retirement Attitude?

Friday, September 12th, 2008

By Mary Lloyd, CEO, Mining Silver
This article appeared in the September 2008 issue of Barbara Morris’s online newsletter Put Old on Hold.

There are two ways to look at retirement—gray and silver.

So much of what we assume about this stage of life comes from what happened to Mom and Dad or Grandpa. They retired and traveled. They retired and took up woodworking…or quilting….or golf. They retired and took a backseat to what was going on in the rest of the world. They retired and pretty much disappeared. Gray isn’t very noticeable. Or very interesting. Eventually, they were gone but usually long after they’d been forgotten by the culture.

Is this approach unavoidable? Is it what’s going on with people who retire now?

Only if they choose it. There are a lot more options than moving to Tucson or playing bridge five days a week.

The traditional version of retirement is built on the concept of “the Golden Years” which was given to us as a culture by Del Webb in 1960 as part of the inaugural marketing effort for the first Sun City, a retirement community outside of Phoenix, Arizona. It was a way to put a positive spin on a very negative situation. At that time, American workers were required to retire at a certain age and once they did, society pretty much forgot them. Webb and others turned this invisibility into the idea that retirement was time to play—that retirees have earned the chance to have fun all day every day. A life of 100% leisure.

To those still working, this sounds like Nirvana, but as a lifestyle, it can be grim. Not even children play all day every day. Not having a purpose or a way to contribute creates a vast array of health problems–both mental and physical–for individuals and robs society of their talents and skill.

But this mindset continues because many believe:
• People old enough to retire are frail–in poor health, with no stamina, and physically unable to do much of what younger people can.

• They are short-term members of society; they will either die or enter a nursing home (and then die) in a few years or even months.

• They’re inept–“Out of it” the vast majority of the time, with no idea what’s going on in the world and no ability to do much about it anyway.

• They’re irrelevant or worse, a burden–nothing they do has impact beyond their own lives. Many of them can’t even take care of them selves.

This is the GRAY version of retired life. Lifeless, fading, dull. Also WRONG.

NONE of this is mandatory, necessary, or wise. Most of it is just plain false. The truth about people old enough to retire is much less limiting. But to get to where we plan using a better model, we have to embrace a new set of assumptions:

• At this age, we are still robust . The vast majority who elect to retire are at the top of their game. Physically, they are in better shape than their parents were even at ten years younger.

• We are stepping into a long-term stage of life. Those now retiring are likely to be around at least another fifteen years and more likely twenty-five to thirty. Those who retire at 55 could easily spend more time retired than they did in the workforce.

• We are a significant segment of the population. In numbers. In buying power. And if we take the time to plan for it, in the roles we take on and the challenges we step up to for our families, communities, and society as a whole.

• We are energized. The chance to do things we believe in with the flexibility to accommodate all the other things we value is revitalizing. This age group has the potential to recharge both ourselves and our communities—and whatever else we decide to take on. We can have “the good life” and “do good” at the same time. We are in a position to give but also to take the time to enjoy what life has to offer.

This version of retirement is SILVER—sparkling and full of energy. Retirement, using this set of assumptions, is the time of life when we really can have it all.

Why settle for gray when silver is just a matter of mindset? What color attitude are you going to choose?

Mary Lloyd is author of Bold Retirement: Mining Your Own Silver for a Rich Life. She’s about to release a workbook of the exercises from Bold Retirement and is working on her next book, about “work after work.” She’s available as a speaker and for retirement planning seminars. Her website is www.mining-silver.com. She can be reached at mary@mining-silver.com.

Freedom vs “Free”

Friday, July 4th, 2008

With the firecrackers and fun and the assorted trappings of Independence Day come thoughts of freedom. Today I’ve been playing with the difference between freedom–which today is all about–and “free”–which we are bombarded with at every turn as a marketing ploy.  Are they the same or opposite?

After letting this simmer on my mental back burner all day, I think it’s the latter.  Freedom is the chance to do it your way, be it worship, words or what color you want to dye your hair. It’s the ultimate statement of human uniqueness–our right to our own individuality.

“Free” is usually about what someone else wants you to do. Try this cheesecake sample–and then buy one. No interest payments if you buy this car. It’s the opposite of unique because it’s mass marketing to the core. It’s also usually anything BUT “free.” Every time someone gives you something for “free” you take on a responsibility, even if it’s just to burn up the calories you just ingested and get rid of the little paper cup the tidbit came in.

I bet life would be easier if we were more conscious of accepting the free stuff–“free literature” and “free estimates” and “free credit.” You have to really want and need whatever it is that’s being offered for it to be a plus and, even then, you have to figure out what to do with it once you no longer need it. Perhaps living free involves saying no to “free.”

Tell Me Your Story…

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

“Work after work”–the challenge of finding meaningful things to do once work becomes just one of many options–is something most of us will either consider or need once we retire. The options are endless but also elusive. Prevailing (erroneous) assumptions about our skills, knowledge level, ability to learn new things, etc. make it an uphill effort for many of us. But others end up with something that suits them better than they ever dreamed because of the oddest of circumstances.

My next book is about this aspect of retirement specifically. The more I know about what others hav experienced, the more useful the book will be. So TELL ME YOUR STORY.

If you are over 50 and have had either incredible good fortune or the hardest job search ever–or any other experience that pertains to finding and keeping work after 50, please e-mail me with whatever you are willing to share at: blog@mining-silver.com.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Coming soon!

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Please click on the “Seminars” option in the menu to the right for a list of upcoming events.