The Greatest Stocking Stuffers For Little Kids (And Their Parents, Too!)

When Michele Welsh and her husband were driving their three young children to a kiddie amusement park in 2008, they missed the exit and wound up close to the famous Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, so they decided to go there instead.

After they paid the “hefty admission fees,” and entered the park, Michele became nervous by the overwhelming size of the crowd, and suggested they leave. “Keeping track of three children at a large amusement park can be intimidating, even for the most diligent parents,” she said. They decided to stay, however, and that’s when Michele had an “aha” moment. (more…)

Joan Didion Is NOT My Icon For Aging Women!

That’s the famous writer, Joan Didion,
in the Céline ad.

She’s 80, and Céline has lately decided it’s cool to “celebrate” age. So they’ve chosen a “model” who they believe suits their “understated look.” (BTW, those are fashion buzzwords usually synonymous with over-the-top expensive.)

My cool 33-year-old daughter thinks Joan looks “totally chic,” as does FabOverFifty’s cool 25-year-old art director. As a matter of fact, so does my stylish FOFriend, Marla Ginsburg, who is the hottest fashion designer on HSN right now.

Call me vain (don’t become more disagreeable than that, please). I’m just not into that kind of “chic,” at 67, and I don’t want to look that kind of “chic” if I live to be 80. Although Joan’s writing is certainly inspirational, I don’t find her wispy thin hair, jowls and turkey neck especially inspirational, chic or cool, even if they are accessorized by trendy big black sunglasses, an oversized pendant, and a simple black (undoubtedly $4,000) sweater. I’m also not a fan of the anorexic look at Joan’s age. (One fashion writer called her “cigarette thin.”)

I know many women would think Joan is growing old “gracefully.” I’m not sure what that means. Does that make you unrefined, uncouth, unsophisticated, graceless, and unattractive if you color your hair, buy a wig, have your jowls eliminated, wear makeup, and shoot your wrinkled forehead with Botox?

Please don’t misunderstand me. If Joan Didion doesn’t mind showing off her crepey neck, good for her. Katherine Hepburn hated her neck but didn’t want plastic surgery, so she covered it with lovely scarves and high-necked sweaters, and I think she looked gorgeous, at 40 and at 80.

I think pretentiousness is the only thing the Céline campaign “celebrates,” something at which
the fashion industry excels.

On the other end of the “let’s celebrate age” spectrum, Dolce & Gabbana brings together two nonnas and throws four of its hip bags and a teddy bear into their laps (chic nonnas never leave home without two handbags each AND their teddy bears!). I’m not sure what message the creative geniuses at D&G are attempting to communicate (Be young again with D&G? D&G: Ageless?) but I also think its campaign is affected.

The last ad, from American Apparel (below), gets it right, as far as I’m concerned. Sixty-year-old with a great body modeling underwear.

I would not want to see a 60-year-old with a
jiggly stomach modeling panties. So why do I want to see an 80-year-old with jiggly jowls modeling eyeglasses and a pendant?

Then again, you don’t need to care what you look like when your eyeglasses cover your entire face.

Tell me, my FOFriends, which approach do you favor?

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Fame After 50: Loved It, Left It, Longs For It

This is the story of three real women—one in her late 70s, one in her early 60s, and one in her late 50s—who have either achieved fame, given up fame
or are on an endless quest for it.

Searching for
New-Found Fame

I recently met the woman in her late 70s, whose name is known to most of us over fifty. I’m not going to reveal her identity, however, because what I’m going to say probably wouldn’t delight her. Besides, her identity is less important than what she symbolizes.

This woman has enjoyed a great deal of professional and personal success throughout much of her adult life. I guess you could have even called her a “celebrity” from the 70s through the 90s. But while she has continued to do her craft, and has a great deal to offer others, her “star” doesn’t shine nearly as brightly as it once did. This is not because she’s any less talented now, but simply because the “world” in which she once circulated no longer exists. For one, the media that helped her attain fame—namely newspapers and magazines—don’t have the clout they once did. So even if she’s quoted and her photo appears in the New York Times this morning, no one much cares or thinks about it by noon. Second, she hasn’t created a powerful presence for herself on the Internet. She’s trying, but she lacks the digital marketing savvy she needs. No matter how successful she is at attracting real live audiences when she lectures, in person, that doesn’t translate to a great number of fans on her website or Facebook page.

Now, here’s the rub: This woman yearns for the good old days, when she would draw a crowd around her by just walking into a party, and the next morning her name would appear in all the papers, which only fueled her celebrity status. While chatting about the present, I sensed that her mind was focused far away from our conversation. Oh, she’s darn astute, I assure you, but seemed most “present” when she talked about the past. Part of the reason, I suppose, is that she lost her husband a number of years ago, a man with whom she enjoyed great happiness, both personally and professionally.

(more…)

AARP Develops A Tablet for The “Tech-Shy”

Although about 60 percent of the population between 50 and 65 is technologically savvy, and would rather lose their wallets than their cell phones…

…that leaves a significant number of the 35 million people 50+ who haven’t fully embraced modern communications developments, like tablet technology, to help them stay connected. Although they want to stay in touch with family and friends, browse the Internet, shop online, or read an e-book, they’re apprehensive about navigating the digital world.

Take a 69-year-old-man I know quite well, a stellar trial lawyer who thinks quick on his feet in front of a jury, but completely unravels when he’s holding his tablet and would like to access Showtime. Or a 53-year-old friend, who has never had the pleasure of using Google Docs because she doesn’t know how to set the program up in the first place.

Motivated to help people like this to get over their “technological shyness,” AARP has introduced RealPad, a tablet device powered by an Intel processor with “an easy-to-use software interface to make technology enjoyable and affordable,” according to the press release.

To get further AARP perspective on the relationship between boomers and technology, I interviewed Terry Bradwell, AARP EVP and CIO.

When did the AARP start bringing technology to its constituency?

About 18 months ago, we started a nationwide program called AARP TEK (Technology Education & Knowledge) to provide complimentary hands-on technology workshops, with customized curriculum for those who are apprehensive about using technology. The workshops help attendees learn how to use technology to connect with friends, family, employment opportunities, health information, entertainment, and more. We were blown away and humbled by the interest in the program and touched by the participants’ reactions when they saw what they could do digitally. We quickly realized the need to expand the program and look at other technology partnerships and products we could offer to aid digital literacy. Over 30 percent of the attendees in the program are between 50 and 60, and 70 percent are older, which is in line with Pew data. (Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research.)

What prevents some older people from being tech savvy?

Today’s technology is very sophisticated and isn’t always warm and welcoming, even for those who’ve had technology experience.

For example, I met a gentleman who retired as an engineer from IBM about 10 years ago, when he was in his early 50s, traveled a great deal but lost touch with today’s technology. Even though he was technologically savvy in his era, and thought the new technology would be easy for him, he discovered the way we think and process information these days has changed and he needed to get across a mental learning curve.

Our attitude towards technology relates to how we’re conditioned. I’ve been in IT for almost 30 years and I remember when we started to move away from green computer screens to point and click. It was amazing to see the amount of discomfort created in the workplace when something called “a mouse” was placed on everyone’s desk. It took several years to really adapt to it because we weren’t used to that type of interaction, holding a mouse and then predicting where the cursor was going to go on the screen. It now sounds like an easy, mundane thing, but we had to have mouse-training classes back then. Now we have gesture clicks that the computer recognizes as specific commands, without a lot of process behind them, but you still have to remember and know intuitively where to go for help if you’re stuck.

For those who have been communicating one way for a very long time, and using certain tools, it presents a really steep learning curve when society starts using a brand new way of interfacing and communicating, with new tools.

It has nothing to do with how smart you are or with your lifetime of learning.. You can use the same logic with kids who can pick up new languages much more quickly than an adult who has been using one language for the last four decades. Younger people embrace technology because it’s part of their societal norm, of their daily living.

Why is the RealPad easier to use than other tablets?

Essentially, an amazing, simplified interface is built on top of an Android operating system (dominant in the mobile industry), that doesn’t rely on the user’s intuitive knowledge.

The most common things that you want to do are right there, available for you, and you don’t have to search for them. This includes sharing photos, video chatting, playing games, learning resources and enjoying entertainment.

We also have a feature called Real Quick Fix, (our Beta testers dubbed it One-Click Wonder) for solving common problems, such as a lost WiFi connection or conserving power when your battery is running low and you don’t have access to a plug. One click and you restore your WiFi; another click and you conserve your battery. It eliminates a lot of the frustration trying to figure things out. Even if you have rogue aps that somehow appear on your device, RealPad allows you to easily delete them.

Wrapped on top of that, we have 20 tutorial videos and this halo of 24/7 support that no one else offers for the life of a device. All day, every day, someone will walk you through your problems and stay on the phone as long as needed; there are no maximum call times. Tech enthusiasts have had some really warm and kind words to say about the product. They love the Quick Fix button. We hope a lot of manufacturers will pick up on these kinds of things.

Why haven’t other big-name brands done what you’ve done?

The industry has not paid attention to the tech-shy market, while it continually introduces products for tech-savvy consumers. We have this huge technology market, the best in the world, but it’s failing much of our constituency and we want to plug the gap.

How does someone in her 70s or 80s learn how to use RealPad?

That halo of support I mentioned will guide you through. Plus, we’re rolling out on and offline workshops in 25 major markets during the next two years, which are free to attend whether or not you’re an AARP member. So if you have any kind of ambivalence, challenge or difficulty about technology, we want you to know there is always a resource that wants to and can help you. The workshops are about all the technology of today, about Androids, smart phones and mobile devices. We’re device agnostic. These workshops don’t market any products, but we’ll also have workshops on RealPad and other products.

RealPad also comes with 20 built-in video tutorials to help people who are new to digital technology to learn how to use their tablets quickly and increase their confidence and comfort levels with technology. Tutorials include subjects such as downloading apps, touchscreen basics, accessing and browsing the Internet, and setting up video calling and email accounts.

Where does someone find out the workshop schedule?

You can go to AARPTEK.org.

Besides the workshops, how will you market the RealPad?

AARP members will hear about it through our magazine, bulletins, as well as through other traditional methods, such as TV and radio.

Where is it sold?

The Real Pad is sold exclusively through Wal-Mart across the country and at Sam’s Club; you can also order it at AARPRealPad.org. Even five years ago, technology was nice to have. Today it’s an imperative. Traditional brick and mortar stores are going away. When was the last time you went around the corner to rent a movie? Our content, our services and our shopping are continuing to go digital. Mobility is our future and we don’t want anyone in our constituency to be left behind.

We will continue to look for other opportunities that can fill gaps, if the market isn’t serving the part of the population that we serve. AARP is committed to helping Americans 50+ live their lives to the fullest…

How To Rewire Your Mind

How many times have we heard or read this advice from someone who is ill:

Stop and smell the roses,” tell our loved ones how much we care, appreciate every single day, no matter how much it tests your mental endurance? No doubt, we’ve all heard it many times. Yet, how many of us really take the advice to heart, beyond maybe a few hours, a day or even a week? We fall right back into our routines, often getting frustrated, disheartened, depressed, or even downright mad at someone or something. Here are a few scenarios to which we can all relate:

  • Our Time-Warner cable goes out at least once a week, and we are forced to do without the Internet for long periods. We call the customer service number, have to hold on and listen to irritating music for 33 minutes and then get someone who is absolutely useless to help us or explain the problem.
  • We take a few minutes from our hectic day to call a friend just to say “hi” and she moans, “Sorry, but I’m just too busy to talk right now!”
  • We read an article on the Internet about a really dumb subject, like whether Beyoncé and Jay-Z are divorcing, and we write an insulting comment about them.
  • We can’t wait to get back from a vacation or business trip. We get to the airport and the plane is delayed for hours.

Most often, we have absolutely no control to change the situations or people that
are driving us wild.

Still, we can continue to let them raise our blood pressure, elicit our ill will and anger and divert our positive energy from doing something productive—not to mention cause us to waste massive amounts of time—or we can figure out how and where to seek another path.

But how, you ask? You swear you don’t want to think all these unpleasant, jealous, maddening thoughts, but you can’t seem to turn them off. A online community called rewireme.com says you can, and aims to do precisely what its name says: Help us to disconnect the ‘faulty wires’ in our brains that short-circuit to obstruct, inhibit and hinder us, and to connect the wires that can turn on our power to happily move ahead in our lives.

Launched in 2013 by Rose Caiola, a New York City real estate businesswoman, the rewireme.com mission statement says it wants to help us “learn, grow, and transform into our best selves by understanding emotions; making conscious decisions to acknowledge and experience rather than bury our feelings; expressing what we feel and communicating our understanding with one another; sharing our stories and receiving wisdom from one another.”

When we listen to what other people are going through, we can empathize and often see in them what we usually have a hard time seeing in ourselves,
the website says.

“The more we share, the deeper we’ll be able to go—to embrace growth. As we push the boundaries of our comfort zones and challenge ourselves, we’ll find ways to move from like to love, from status quo to passion. It’s exhilarating to conquer our fear of change together.”

I confess that I’m not typically inclined to be a fan of any single person who ‘preaches’ to the masses how he or she will help us to “be healthier, happier, wiser, more balanced” etc., if we will just listen to their expert advice, on anything from aging to eating; intimacy to motherhood. Yet, what I like about rewire.me is how it makes its community part of the whole learning process. Visitors are encouraged to share their stories of “discovery and change”; advice on the site often is based on scientific fact, such as the 11-minute, clever and entertaining video that explores the causes and cures for stress; and engaging activities promise to give us enjoyment while we learn.

So please take a few minutes to tool around rewireme.com and next time the cable company puts you on hold, your plane is endlessly delayed, or the Internet goes down, you’ll let it roll right off your back and move on.

“Yay! Aren’t I An Accomplished, Smart, Successful and Lovely Person?”

When nice things happened to us, back in the day, we couldn’t wait to share the news with someone we loved. Found a new apartment? We rushed to the phone to call our best friend. Landed a dream job? Dad will be thrilled, we thought. Met a new guy? Mom will be tickled pink.

Now many of us “share” our good fortune with our world of “friends” on the internet. But we’re
doing more than sharing.

Shameless self-promotion is running rampant. One old-time PR person literally congratulates herself on Facebook every time she gets publicity for one of her accounts. For goodness sakes, that’s what these accounts are paying her to do!!!!! She sounds as if Steven Spielberg is going to make a major motion picture about the hair dryer account she represents, and we’d all better know about it.

Someone else devoted an entire blog to the news that a self-help book she wrote won a bronze award of some kind, and although she was going to keep it to herself, a friend told her she should, “by all means,” share the good word.

Have we taken to this audacious self-promotion to A) convince ourselves we’re stars in a world where everyone wants to be a star, B) simply brag, or C) enhance the lives of the 50 or 500 people we’re telling? The book award winner said that although she’s traditionally been reserved about telling anyone other than a couple of people about her accomplishments, she actually “admires people who state and share their success.”

I couldn’t disagree more. The classiest, really successful people do not state and share their success by blogging, tweeting, or instagramming about it. They let others share the news about them. An acquaintance, who happens to be one of the most brilliant, wealthiest men on the planet, never brags about his endless successes. Instead, The New York Times did devote two entire pages last week to an article about him.

A woman I know well was so publicly low-key about her successes, you’d never have guessed she was one of the most successful women on Wall Street. I still believe “actions speak louder than words.”

What we do and how we do it say
far more about us than flagrant self-aggrandizement. Just think
about Superman.

Do you tout your accomplishments?

How I Changed My Life At 51

This blog post is sponsored by MSD Consumer Care, Inc., the makers of Oxytrol® For Women.

I had risen through the ranks during my 23-year-career at a publishing company, to become an Executive Editor and Publisher. I had a six-figure salary, a great family health plan and I had been pretty much free to cultivate my own ideas for the publications I ran. I was pretty certain I’d still be an employee there when I died. Why not?

When I turned 51, in 1998, I suddenly thought I had to get out. I had given the company immeasurable passion, talent and time over two decades and continuously helped boost its “bottom line.” Why couldn’t I do the same things, but for my own business? Not only could I benefit financially; I could explore new avenues for my creativity, such as custom magazine publishing.

(more…)

A Dry Run

Alex and I took the train to Boston last week, where I was invited to participate in a panel called “Booming Tech,” presented by Washington Post Live, as part of its continuing event series covering pressing issues involving Washington and the world.

I’ve always enjoyed taking moderately long train rides, because I can pull out my laptop and work, but I wasn’t looking forward to this almost four-hour trip, because I’m not fond of restrooms on public transportation. Although I try to avoid using them, I now worry that I might have ‘little leaks,’ which can be induced by doing something as harmless as laughing hard. Making frequent visits to the bathroom usually can keep these occurrences to a minimum, but I preferred not to do that.

Alex and I love working together, and we also enjoy laughing, so I figured I’d have to make a four-hour, no-laugh vow. And if, heaven forbid, I was going to sneeze, I’d have to do my best to suppress it since that also can bring on those pesky little leaks. (By the way, I’ve learned this is a pretty common condition, affecting about 33 percent of women, and is officially called LBL, for light bladder leakage.)

Visiting the drugstore a couple of days before our trip, I spotted a Poise product called Microliners. The package says the “surprisingly absorbent and incredibly thin liners provide discreet protection and quickly lock away wetness and odor.” The package of 54 individually wrapped liners cost $5.99, which would last me months, so I decided to buy them.

The small and thin liner easily and firmly adhered to the crotch of my panties. I tried it. I liked it. And Alex and I had a few good laughs, to and from Boston.

By the way, I greatly enjoyed the “Booming Tech” event, which, as you can surmise, addressed how our generation is shaping the future of technology. I invite you to have a look, especially at P.J. O’Rourke and Bill Aulet. And, of course, yours truly.