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Posts from the ‘samuelson’ Category

Lance Armstrong: A Reasoned and Rational Personal Reflection

Note: As this commentary unfolds it will not be from a “…cast the first stone” perspective. I am far from an archetype of virtue. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve wished for Do-Overs, and, I would guess, so have you. This is not a judgment crusade.  After all — ultimately — who am I, who are we, to judge? I don’t know about you, but Final Judgment, when ALL is said and done, is way above my pay grade.

The Faces

Let’s just see where this takes me. Seriously, there is such a confluence of emotion that I need to simply put fingers to the keyboard and let it flow.

Disappointment, anger, concern, empathy, outrage, sympathy, confusion, and back again to disappointment. And, that’s just nicking the surface.

The accompanying photo is of a poster presented to me by The Lance Armstrong Foundation (now known as The LIVESTRONG Foundation), in 2001. Two years earlier, following a diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma, I had a modified radical mastectomy and my perspective on many things, all things, was forever changed. Since sharing the dais that afternoon in Austin with Lance and Lisa Bashore, I’ve delivered dozens of cancer survivorship talks throughout the nation including additional presentations at the request of LAF. I also participated in a Tour of Hope cycling event, a 50-mile ride into Washington, DC — led by Armstrong — to raise cancer awareness and funds for survivor support.  It was always my honor to contribute to this cause anytime, anywhere, anyway I could. Whenever LAF asked, whenever any cancer organization asked, the answer was/is always, without hesitation, yes.

Say it ain’t so…

For over ten years this poster has hung proudly and prominently in our home in Michigan, in the boardroom of the Health and Wellness Institute in Rhode Island, and, after retiring from HWI in 2010, once again in our home in Michigan. Following Lance’s chat with Oprah, my initial reaction was to remove the poster while dressing down the screened image of Armstrong with venom-sprayed expletives.  The lies, the arrogance, the vindictive trampling of good people whose only crime was telling the truth at the risk of clenched-jawed Armstrong wrath, sycophant lawyers serving papers, and mercurial public scorn.

Perhaps, most of all, the flood of emotion was because he pulled out an egotistical and hubris-coated needle and popped the balloon of trust. He also vaporized the poetic illusion that the fictitious Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy, born in Radioland, USA on July 31, 1933, a star athlete at Hudson High School, international super star, and universal role model was — in our world — Lance Armstrong, the Olympian, Cancer Survivor, and Tour de France Champion, born in Plano, Texas on September 18, 1971, a star athlete at Plano East Senior High School, international super star, and universal role model.

Yes! Yes! Yes! We want and need our heroes. Take a bow, Lance Armstrong, take a bow!

But, wait a minute, what’s that you say? This “mythic, perfect story” was “one big lie;” that you cheated during every one of your seven Tour de France victories; that you bullied, threatened, and intimidated those with the courage to speak the truth; that you simply didn’t believe that, in spite of all your admissions, you were cheating! Ah, say it ain’t so, Lance…please, say it ain’t so.

If it seems too good to be true…

No matter how much it served our personal yearning for real-world, honest-to-goodness caped crusaders, the Lance Armstrong story was simply too good to be true.  And, deep down, we knew it. As with the creeping credibility collapse of Three Cups of Tea author, Greg Mortenson (too good to be true), the heroic level of the cancer survivor turned seven-time Tour De France Conqueror defied reason. But favoring the comforting gauze of wished for miracles and Wheaties’ fanfare, the facts, logic, and preponderance of evidence were screened, pushed aside, and hushed by the desire, hope, and, yes, naiveté, of millions.  We were duped, but willingly so. Lance was not the only beneficiary of these self-serving actions.  Hubris cannot live without an adoring audience anxious to elevate those who defy the outer limitations decreed by the gods. Shame on you, Lance Armstrong, and, to a lesser, cautionary degree, shame on us, as well.  Together we created a parasitic symbiosis that only the bravest among us had the courage to acknowledge, separate, and expose for the toxic relationship it became.

Yes, Virginia, real heroes do exist…

Actually, maybe now is a good time to stop bestowing the rank of “Hero” on anyone who simply does the right thing; you know, the stuff our moms told us to do when we were little.  Precious few deserve the “Hero” badge, and even fewer can bear the burden and temptations that come with the label. That said, how about we just periodically stop spinning, recognize, and celebrate REALLY GOOD PEOPLE.

In a world of situational ethics (morality of convenience), it’s refreshing and reassuring to know that there are people — lots and lots of good folks — out there who are willing to take great risks, forego riches, and commit themselves to causes bigger than themselves. U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO, Travis Tygart, under threat of personal harm, is one of the good guys. His mission is to protect clean athletes by exposing those, like Armstrong, who cheat.  Jeff Fager, Chairman, CBS News, also joins the club. He, admittedly, helped create the Armstrong myth, however, he and his producer, Michael Raduzky, also relentlessly stayed with the story and reported the myth as it began to unravel. As with Tygart, Raduzky reported on 60 Minutes that the Armstrong camp personally threatened him.  Another person who was threatened, disparaged, as well as economically harmed by Armstrong is Betsy Andreu, wife of Frankie, Lance Armstrong’s former cycling teammate. Her crime: She testified in a lawsuit that she and her husband heard Armstrong tell a doctor in the mid-1990s that he had used an array of performance enhancers. Frankie, she reports, was pushed off the Armstrong team, essentially ending his professional cycling career, for failing to fully step up to the recommended doping program.

Yes! Yes! Yes! We want and need REALLY GOOD PEOPLE. Take a bow Travis Tygart, take a bow Jeff Fager, take a bow Michael Raduzky, take a bow Betsy Andreu!  You’ve all earned it.

It’s Not About the Bike…

There is another good guy, really good guy, and dear friend for over ten years, that I would ask to step forward, be recognized, and take a bow. He is Doug Ulman, President and CEO of LIVESTRONG. But, asking Doug to take a bow would be a useless request. Doug would — nicely, politely, self-deprecatingly — smile, look away, shrug his shoulders, defer to the entire organization, and scoff at the suggestion.  I know he would. That’s who he is.

Since their inception in 1997, the LIVESTRONG Foundation has raised more than $470 million to support their mission to inspire and empower people affected by cancer. They have provided financial resources to more than 550 organizations that conduct cancer survivorship research or offer services to people affected by cancer, and 81 cents of every dollar raised has gone directly to support their programs and services for survivors. Remarkable. Please consider making a contribution.

So, as I look closely at the poster on the wall in our recreation room I am reminded of that day long ago in Austin, and I think about what this all means, today.  That day was a dynamic celebration of hope, determination, inspiration, and common cause. IT was about surviving and thriving with, during, and beyond your cancer diagnosis, or the diagnosis of a loved one. It was about collective caring, unity of spirit, and the power of the possible. It was about tears, laughter, hugs, and goodwill. It was about the visceral knowledge that life is lived in moments…not years.

Yes, Lance and his journey symbolized the theme and galvanized the crowd, but it wasn’t and isn’t about the bike.  On that score, he got it right, he told the truth.

The poster stays…

The Human PRIMARY Operating System is Not Rational

The Human Primary Operating System is Not Rational

We are not rational beings who emote; we are emotional beings with the capacity to think rationally. Big difference. Emotion trumps reason. Absent primordial prevention, sickness trumps wellness and survival trumps thrival.

It’s time for a new social health contract.

Let’s be very clear, society (government, healthcare providers, employers) must take the lead role when it comes to responsibility and accountability. This is a partnership, a social contract whereby—we, the people—voluntarily relinquish the freedom of action we have under the natural state (a state of existence that is not contingent upon man-made laws or beliefs) in order to obtain the benefits provided by the formation of social structures. Building on the philosophy of John Locke, who said, “…no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” Thomas Jefferson et al, framed government responsibility under the umbrella of securing inalienable—natural—rights including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” By obeying man-made laws and complying with accepted standards and mores, we implicitly agree to our part of the social contract. In turn, we have the legal, moral and ethical ground to demand that the custodians and protectors of our natural rights—our elected officials, medical providers and employers—be held accountable.  This speaks directly to the issue of healthcare access and affordability.

In its simplest form, our implied social health contract requires that society provide:

  • Awareness of the consequence and benefits of lifestyle choices
  • Education needed to initiate and sustain healthy living
  • Access to affordable primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare
  • Evidence-based medicine and prevention measures
  • Supportive infrastructure (parks, healthy worksites, recreation, green, etc.)

And, when provided with all of the above, individuals representing themselves and their minor dependents are responsible for:

  • Making healthy choices
  • Self-exams (paying attention to changes in personal health)
  • Keeping up with recommended age and gender clinical screenings
  • Seeking timely and appropriate medical attention
  • Complying with evidence-based recommendations and directives involving lifestyle habits, medications, lab work and rehabilitation protocols

Evaluate your contribution to this social health contract.  Are we, as a society,  providing awareness, education, full access to treatment, evidence-based medicine and prevention and a supportive culture for ALL of our citizens?  If not, why not?  And, as an individual, are you keeping up your end of the bargain?  If not, why not?

The Health and Wellness Industry FAQ: Vendors – How Do You Sort Out the Good, Bad and Truly Ugly?

Wellness Exists at the intersection of Contentment and Aspiration.

To live  there, You Must First Choose to Move Out of the Village of Someday…


Over the years I’ve been asked a number of questions about the health and wellness industry. This is question #7 of the top 10 most frequently asked questions. The responses are, of course, neither right nor wrong. They are simply my impressions from over 35 years of field experience.


“We are bombarded with individuals and organizations selling wellness (health promotion, disease prevention and disease management) products and services.  How do you sort out the good, bad and truly ugly?”


Thirty years ago, there were only a handful of quality programs available through national vendors. Choice was not that difficult. Today, with the growth of the Internet and the flood of scientific data, there are hundreds of vendors anxious to sell you their services.

Caution: A “Desk Drawer” wellness initiative will burn out your staff and simply will not work (tweak…maybe…but not transform). Avoid a scattergun or one-off approach. Success requires a dedicated internal project manager working with an experienced and field-tested 360 degree vendor.

Questions to ask include:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Who are the individuals behind the products?
  • Do you have an advisory board? If so, who are the members?
  • Can you prove net health care and/or productivity cost reductions while improving population health?
  • Any accreditations and/or awards?
  • Are you open to risk sharing or pay-for-performance contract provisions?
  • What are the delivery options?
  • What outcome analytics are in place to track program results?
  • Who are your client references?

A vendor should be much more than a provider of drop-off products and services. They need to be comprehensive, accessible, flexible and experienced. Sound simple? It’s not. Due to limited dollars, you need as much quality one-stop-shopping as possible. You do not have the time, dollars or energy to have multiple contacts for each of your offerings. Find an experienced multi-component provider and stick with them. They will not only help you with paperwork and sanity, they will also help with triage, crossover, data collection, analysis and strategic planning. Like a good pharmacist, they will also help you avoid unhealthy program interactions. An excellent provider will have a pattern, philosophy and support network that is consistent throughout their offerings; this will help you, immensely. A good vendor is, at a minimum, equal to one FTE.

The ideal vendor should be able to assist clients with each and every phase of a  “comprehensive” wellness initiative, including:

  • A health awareness component, including health education, preventive screenings and health risk assessments.
  • Marketing and promotion efforts to maximize employee participation and engagement.
  • Research supported programs and methodologies to change unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle choices, including counseling, seminars, online programs and self-help materials.
  • Supportive environment efforts, including assistance with workplace policies to encourage healthy lifestyles, healthy eating, increased physical activity and improved mental health.

Introducing excellent programs without a comprehensive corporate audit (readiness) and indicated culture adjustments ⎯ policies, procedures, senior management visible buy-in and health-driven food services ⎯ is akin to throwing fertile seed on untilled and nutrient-poor soil. It won’t work; you will lose money and credibility.


It’s Time for The Health Promotion Elders to Give Back

It’s Time for The Health Promotion Elders to Give Back

 A couple months ago I wrote an essay about leadership and the importance of stepping out from the crowd to shout “Fraud!” “No!” “This is Crazy!” “Off with Their Heads!” and other bursts of honest reactions to dishonest (or, at the least, unexamined) acts, declarations and policies, or lack thereof.  I wrote about the value of being an irritant; a catalyst for change in a world gone soft, lazy, or, perhaps just very tired. Tired enough to allow their affect to shift from outraged and edgy to resigned and apathetic.

When the essay was published, Linda Thomas, from Tapestry Communications, reminded me that — in today’s shaky job market — such boldness, while important, may well land someone out the door and back on the streets. “…there are so many standing in line to take that job of the rabble-rouser.”

Again, quoting from Nancy’s note:

What that reality does is make the impetus for “the elders” ever more important. It is up to those who no longer depend on or are fearful of economic retaliation in terms of job loss or being ostracized from their position ‘at the table.’ These voices are powerful. Listen. They are out there. They are our self-published authors; makers of websites of truth; some even run for office (not many). They speak to groups who want to hear them. They have purity of message. They do not wear jackets with emblems endorsing brands and products. They do not give away pens that tout Pepsi or Coke. They are out there. They are writing blogs. And doing radio interviews. They are tenured professors. Listen to these voices when the roar of the crowd is still…and the pom-pommers have gone away.”

More than an excellent writer, she is spot on. If you are fortunate enough to have negotiated the professional health promotion labyrinth, grabbed the flag and descended from the mountaintop, you now have a responsibility (yes, the word is “responsibility”) to share what you have learned — the good, the bad and the truly ugly — with others. And, most important, as Nancy puts it, “…have purity of message.

With achievement comes debt. Give back to this industry; give back to anyone who can benefit from your experience. Be the voice of those who are not in a position to speak; for those who still cling to outrage and edgy while fighting off resignation and apathy.


“When it comes to Wellness … Are You Committed or Just Involved: A Call for Leadership”

There isn’t a day that goes by without a dozen or so clicks to this posting. Something is resonating, so here it is again…just click, below.

Wellness: Are You Committed or Just Involved?

SATURDAY MORNING REFLECTIONS: What is it About New Year’s Resolutions?

New Year’s Resolutions

“New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”

– Mark Twain

YouTube Video Introduction

What is it about New Year’s Resolutions?

I guess, maybe, ironically, we create this entrapment to feel good about ourselves. You know,   “This time…and, I really mean it!” kind of self-righteous-good. The time when we look in the mirror, stand a little taller, stare the stare of determination and raise one arm followed by a series of quick little fist pumps.

“There, I did it, I made my resolutions! What a good boy am I!”

“…now, let’s get back to life and living.”

Why is it that I don’t have to make an annual commitment to take long walks in the woods, love my family, watch more movies at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, enjoy a glass of red wine, buy the latest new toy at the Apple store, or eat more peanut butter?


Hey, maybe, just maybe, it’s because I anticipate and look forward to the payoff. In the moment—at least to the person doing it—all behavior is considered good, it scratches a self-interest itch. And, as long as the actions don’t hurt innocent bystanders, that’s okay.

  • I love the woods; the smells, solitude, insights, critters, and the random questions and answers that suddenly appear tucked inside the sounds of  crunching snow and snapping twigs.
  • I love my family beyond words. My feelings are spiritual, sacred, unbounded and absolute.
  • I look forward to the thought-provoking films shown on campus and the lively discussions/debates served afterward as a side-dish at the Red Hawk.
  • I enjoy sharing a bottle or two of rich, velvety, red wine with friends who are never guests.
  • I love the little-boy-at-Christmas feeling that comes when I take a new Apple product out of the package.
  • I like peanut butter; I just do, always have…always will.

I guess what I’m saying is that It isn’t the woods…it’s the treasures I find in the woods. It isn’t an obligatory sense of family strangled by “shoulds” … it’s a humbling, revered, fulfillment of “wants” and “needs.” It isn’t the Michigan Theater…it’s the intellectual challenge and passionate conversation it spawns. It isn’t the wine…it’s the uncorked flow of friendship. It’s not the computer, touchpad, speakers, wireless keyboard, tablet, or phone…it’s the promise of discovery, creativity, and adventure that shakes my bones and lifts my spirit. And, it isn’t the peanut butter…it’s the taste in the jar!

Shakes my bones and lifts my spirit…shakes my bones and lifts my spirit.


Maybe, just maybe, that’s it! Perhaps our annual Brick-Laying-Party-to-Hades renews because we focus on the path to personal rewards and not the personal rewards, themselves. By the way, I’m talking about your rewards, not your mom’s, partner’s, or Oprah’s. Seek passionate change that takes you to a state where your bones shake and your spirit soars!

Reframe and repackage your resolutions. Losing weight is not the goal…the goal is freedom from emotional and physical discomfort coupled with new options and opportunities. Exercise is not the goal…the goals are energy, self-confidence and, in some cases, social interaction and athletic accomplishment. Quitting smoking is not the goal…the goal is a long, healthy life of engagement with friends and family. Cutting back on the booze is not the goal…the goals are clear thinking, dignity, and self-respect. Getting out of debt is not the goal…the goals are sleeping well at night, economic freedom, pride, and self-reliance.

Take a close look at the resolutions you’ve made for 2012. Ask yourself, “Who am I making this resolution for?” “Beyond, the science of life, how does the resolution advance my art of living?”

The mechanics of behavior change are relatively easy and well defined. I can show you the color templates. However, personal passion and personal motivation—not as easy to define and kick-in-gear—are the keys to sustained, meaningful change. Focus on “Why?” and “So What?” These questions tap into your passion. If the resolution doesn’t pass the bones-shaking and spirit-lifting test, odds are you’re focusing on the process, not the true goal, and, maybe—just maybe—you are channeling someone else’s desire for you to change.

Watch for more about discovering your passion and cultivating your motivation in a future edition of “Saturday Morning Reflections.”


“Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

– Helen Keller



The full five-part article on THE CHRONOLOGICALLY SUPERIOR is now available in PDF at no charge. If interested, just click…

Samuelson Article – The Chronologically Superior



Position Statement:

Wisdom is the sum of the reflective and reflexive understandings that settle deep in one’s soul after a long journey — a life adventure  peppered with laughter, tears, fear, foolishness, joy, doubt, amazement and wonder. Pay attention to those who have traveled before you. Ask questions and listen with your whole being. Like echoes in a canyon, the lessons will continue whispering their meaning.


What follows is the Summary of this essay on health and wellness for seniors.

The Chronologically Superior: Part V – VIDEO Summary (So What?)

We’ve all done it. Certainly, I have. You know what I mean: spoken a little louder, perhaps a little slower, maybe, with the same affect used when talking to small children. We somehow-for some reason—assume that as the hair lightens/thins/disappears, and the shoulders stoop, cognitive thinking is slowly washed out by the inevitable bright light that holds vigil at the end of the tunnel. Oh, it’s done with the best of intentions. We want to show respect, show deference, reduce the load and clear a path to green pastures. “Take it easy,” “Can I get you anything?” “Oh, Sweetie, I’ll get that,” “Have a seat, Honey…you’ve earned.”


Nice. Polite. Moms all over are proud. Right? I mean that’s how we were taught to treat our elders. Remove responsibilities, assume control, open the door and help them in and out of the backseat. Nice. Polite. Moms all over are proud. Right?

Not so fast. I like the intent, truly I do, but we need to rethink our assumptions regarding “old age.”

Old Age Isn’t What it Used to Be

In 1935, when President F.D. Roosevelt sent his “Economic Security Bill” to Capital Hill, a white male child born in that year could expect to celebrate his 63rd birthday, and a male person of color had a life-expectancy of around 52 years. A white woman was expected to live until 67, and a non-white female, about 55 years. Renamed, “The Social Security Act,” the title was amended so as to read:

“An act to provide for the general welfare by establishing  a system of Federal old-age benefits, and…”

Given that—in 1935—life expectancy was somewhere between 52 and 67, “old” seems like an appropriate descriptor for someone in this age range. However, a child born today, in general, can expect to live somewhere between 71 – 81 years. On the high side, this is a 14 year, or a >20%, gain in longevity.


One of the dangers of advancing outdated notions of what it means to be 65 and older is that these lowered expectations are quickly assimilated. Older people are the same as everyone else; if you set the bar lower than their ability, they will pick up on your cues and tend to underachieve. Conversely, set a stretch-goal and people—of all ages—tend to reach or exceed the mark. Psychologists refer to this as, “Priming Behavior.” We prime behavior in a variety of ways including signals we send with our physical posture, gestures, vocabulary, facial expressions, and the tenor, tone and volume of our speech. When it comes to the senior population, if we are not careful, we will transform our otherwise sharp, productive, energetic, and engaged senior population into shuffle-board-playing, slow-moving, disengaged, crabby, self-absorbed, sickly, afternoon-matinee-attending, 5’o’clock Denny’s Dinner Special-eating “old” folks. AND they will stay that way for a long, long, time!

The More Senior You Become…The More Senior We Become

There are a number of factors contributing to expanded life expectancy. Reduced infant mortality, improved disease prevention, and better medical treatment for all age groups are key, well-known, factors. The one factor we’ve neglected to consider and plan for is, aging. The older we get, the older we get.

When my great grandfather Jeremiah Madden was born in 1846, his life expectancy was just over 38 years. When he reached 10 years of age, his life expectancy jumped all the way to 58 (the impact of infant and childhood mortality). When he made it to 20, his predicted age at death was pushed out another two years to 60. At 30, he was looking at 64 and, when he reached 40 years of age, statistics projected my great grandfather out for another four years to 68. When he reached his Jubilee year, he was given three more years to the age of 71. At 60, he could look forward to seeing his 75th birthday and, when he reached 70, the stone mason made the statistical folks look real smart when, chisel in hand, he finished the bookend dates on either side of my great grandfather’s tombstone dash with the year “1926.” Jeremiah Madden died at the age of 80. The older he got…the older he got.

To put it another way, when my great grandfather turned 65 in 1910, his 65+ cohort represented 4.3% of the total population. When my grandfather turned 65 in 1947, he and his buddies were 8.1% of the total. When my dad turned 65 in 1974, his group made up 10% of the population. Should I make it to 65 in 2013, my baby boomer friends and I will consume more than 13% of the population pie. Our children begin turning 65 in 2041 and they and their group will represent 21% of the total population, and our grandchildren in the year 2075, will represent 23%. As you can see by the graph below, starting with my grandchildren’s generation—the Echo Boom progeny—it’s projected to start leveling out.

However, in the meantime…

Are you (we) ready for an older population? Who will benefit? Who will suffer? How so?

The 5 Ws

Years ago I realized that the only way I could attack an issue—an opportunity— was to break it down using what I call, “The 5 Ws Model.” ™

  1. What’s Happening? – Current Status
  2. So What? – Trends & Consequences
  3. What Now? – Triage & Emergency Action Plan
  4. What Next? – Strategic Plan & Intent
  5. What Difference Does it And Will it Make? – Personal/Organizational ROI

Let’s apply this model to the question at hand:


Our Aging Population

(a.k.a., “What Are We Going to Do About Grandma and Grandpa?”)

What’s Happening  (Current Status)

  • In 2010 the top three federal spending categories were:
  1. Social Security
  2. Defense
  3. Medicare
  • Since the turn of the 20th century, the percentage of the US resident population, 65 years of age and older, has grown three-fold, from 4% to 13%.
  • The current unfunded debt obligation for Medicare is $24.8 trillion. Let me write that out for you:


So What?  (Trends & Consequences)

  • In 1962, 13% of the federal budget was spent on Social Security and Medicare. According to the OMB, by 2020 these two programs will account for 36% of the total spend.
  • From 2000 – 2010, Medicare spending jumped 81% (OMB data).
  • The high cost of Medicare pulls dollars away from other needed programs. As seniors age, we must find a way—healthwise— to keep them younger as they grow older.
  • Overall, the top-heavy spend on unnecessary medical treatment, error, and redundancy has drained away much-needed primary prevention dollars. Dollars that could advance and ensure affordable, full access to the social determinants of health. These include health literacy, general education, basic nutrition, neonatal care, early childhood development, healthy infrastructure, screenings and early intervention.
  • According to the 2010 Trustees Report, the year that Social Security will begin to spend more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes is 2015—one year sooner than predicted in last year’s report. In the year 2037 “trust funds” will be exhausted.

What Now? (Triage and Emergency Action Plan)

  • Pull your head out of the sand. Begin facing the hopes and fears, obstacles and opportunities that come with aging. It is the quintessential approach/avoidance dilemma.
  • As a relief-reaction to the horrible and historical mismanagement of your tax dollars, go to a window, open it, stick your head out and echo the cry of Howard Beal: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
  • Look in the mirror and ask yourself,  “Down the road, who’s going to have to pay for my lifestyle-related health issues? My children? My grandchildren?”  Take steps, today, to reduce future economic and emotional debt for your (and our) loved ones.
  • Intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and economically embrace the concept and value of compressed morbidity.

What Next? (Strategic Plan and Intent)

  • Write your representatives in DC and demand administrative reform at CMS and SSA. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a plan…it does matter that, they (House and Senate), know that you hold them accountable and that you VOTE. Do the same when it comes to state and local issues that impact senior populations.
  • As Steve Jobs would say, “Think Different” when it comes to seniors. Treat them with respect, not deference. Our seniors want/need to feel relevant and engaged. Encourage activities, include them in your discussions, ask for their advice and pay attention to the life lessons they have to share. Sense of purpose is a beautiful thing.
  • If you are an employer, consider phased retirement for key people. Thirty years that ends with a cardboard box and a pat on the back hurts everyone. Consider such things as mentoring positions, advisory boards, focus groups, open ended consulting relationships, and confidential no-oblique-speak lunch and learns with senior workers and senior staff.  Mine the treasure wrapped in gray. You don’t even have to dig…it’s sitting right in front of you begging to be noticed!
  • If you are a vendor of products and services, don’t miss the senior market opportunity. They are a large group with significant discretionary dollars to spend and they expect to be around for decades to come.
  • When you turn 60 and—assuming you’re in good health—the odds are very strong that you will be around for your 75th birthday. If good health finds you turning 75, 85 looks good to go. And, if you’re doing okay at 85, welcome to your 90s! Can Willard Scott be far behind?! Is this good news or bad? Will the years ahead bring gold or rust?
  • When it comes to aging, PLAN FOR THRIVAL NOT SURVIVAL!
  • Plan on spending less time at Denny’s.

What Difference Does It and Will It Make? (Personal/Organizational ROI)

  • It’s not enough to simply—or, not so simply—increase awareness, education and action. Without measuring effectiveness and personal meaning (passion), we are doomed to repeat history. We need to monitor both the objective as well as subjective impact of our interest and energy.
  • Stay informed by reading and studying both sides of an issue and listening to the interpretations and evaluations of both vested and disinterested parties.  Depending upon who is in the White House and who is controlling Congress, Republicans and Democrats will tell you that things are getting better or that Chicken Little was right. Libertarians will simply tell you and everyone else to just leave this, and virtually every other issue, alone. Get involved and stay involved.

In Conclusion

I’m just starting this CS journey, but as it progresses—and God willing it will be a long and healthy journey—you can call me “Honey,” “Dear,” and “Sweetie.” You can open every door, offer to carry every heavy package and even speak a little louder and slower if it makes you feel better to do so. These are nice things to do, well-intended, and I’m sure your mother would be proud. I appreciate it, I really do. But, please—and, I speak for all those with light/thinning/transparent hair and stooping shoulders—please respect my dignity and intelligence, support my independence, ask for my advice, benefit from my experience… including my mistakes, let me drive my car for as long as it’s safe to do so, share your time (the most precious gift you can give me) and don’t, I beg of you, feel a need tell me about the early-bird dinner specials at Denny’s. 😉

THE CHRONOLOGICALLY SUPERIOR: Part IV – Caution: Your Workforce and Consumer Base are Ageing

Position Statement:

Wisdom is the sum of the reflective and reflexive understandings that settle deep in one’s soul after a long journey — a life adventure  peppered with laughter, tears, fear, foolishness, joy, doubt, amazement and wonder. Pay attention to those who have traveled before you. Ask questions and listen with your whole being. Like echoes in a canyon, the lessons will continue whispering their meaning.


What follows is Part IV of a five-part essay on health and wellness for seniors.

As I begin writing this section, the US population is 312,805,052. Of these residents, 13% are 65 or older. By 2020, that percentage will jump to 16.1%, a gain of 1.2%, while those under 20 will drop by .05% and those in the 20 – 64 cohort will drop by 1.2%. And, according to the US Census Bureau, by the year 2030 (closer than you think), seniors will comprise close to 20% of the total US population.

In just 18 years, one in every five US residents will be over the age of 65.


“…As  The baby boomers moved into the older age groups, beginning in 2011, the  proportion aged 65–74 is projected to increase. The majority of the country’s older population is projected to be relatively young, aged 65–74, until around 2034, when all of the baby boomers will be over 70. As the baby boomers move into the oldest–old age category, the age composition of the older population shifts upward. In 2010, slightly more than 14% of the older population will be 85 and older. By 2050, that proportion is expected to increase to more than 21%. The aging of the older population is noteworthy, as those in the oldest ages often require additional care and support.”  (US Census Bureau)


Are you ready? Ready as an employer? Ready as vendor? Ready as a taxpayer?


If you are an employer keep in mind the fact that as the baby boomers grow older, so does the US workforce. Three decades ago the median age of the labor force was 35 years in 2008 the median age was estimated to be 41 years. By 2030, 23% of the US labor force is projected to be ages 55 and older, compared with13% ages 55 and older in 2000. Much of this is due to the elimination of mandatory retirement age, improved medical care (living longer), elimination or reduction in pension payouts, extended age eligibility for social security benefits, and—in the case of higher income workers—erosion of 401k plans. Take a look at your workforce and ask yourself:

Am I ready for an increasing older workforce?


Great news for you. Everyone—other than those writing the checks—will benefit from an ageing population. Retirement villages, long-term care facilities, healthcare providers, wellness professionals, and the recreation industry all stand to gain from an ageing population. Vendors, take a look at your product line and ask yourself:

Am I ready for an increasing older consumer base?


Of course, that means most of us. I needn’t waste digits by re-hashing the red ink associated with funding Social Security (employee-contribution savings) and Medicare (legislated entitlement). Pick up a newspaper or turn on the television. Legions are forming at the checkout line. Each day, over 10,000 baby boomers become eligible for Medicare and Social Security. And consider this: In 1950, as Social Security ramped up, there were 16 workers per recipient. Today there are 2.9 workers per recipient, and by 2041, the Social Security Association says there will be just 2.1 workers per recipient. Taxpayer, take a look at our obligations and promises to these older Americans and ask yourself:

Are we ready … ?

I can answer the third readiness question. The answer is “No” with further comments to come in a later white paper. As for you employers and vendors, here’s my advice:

Be Aware of & Beware of …


Coming Up…

Part V:                     Summary – So What?


Position Statement:

Wisdom is the sum of the reflective and reflexive understandings that settle deep in one’s soul after a long journey — a life adventure  peppered with laughter, tears, fear, foolishness, joy, doubt, amazement and wonder. Pay attention to those who have traveled before you. Ask questions and listen with your whole being. Like echoes in a canyon, the lessons will continue whispering their meaning.


What follows is Part II of a five-part essay on health and wellness for seniors. 

“I enjoy talking with the Chronologically Superior, for they have gone before us, as it were, on a road that we too may have to tread, and it seems to me that we should find out from them what it is like and whether it is rough and difficult or broad and easy.”

– Socrates, in Plato, “The Republic”

Yeah, yeah. Okay, you got me. Plato’s Republic quotes Socrates as saying, “…really old men” and not, “…the Chronologically Superior,” but, hey, I’m trying to make a point here…


Here are a few of the age-related factoids that show up on the internet:

  • George Bernard Shaw completed “Heartbreak House” at the age of 60.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien was 62 when he published the 1st volume of “Lord of the Rings.”
  • Benjamin Franklin, at the age of 70, helped draft the Declaration of Independence.
  • Cornelius Vanderbilt began buying railroads after he turned 70.
  • John Glenn, at the age of 77, became the oldest person (CS) to fly in outer space.
  • Jessica Tandy and George Burns were both 80 years old when they won Oscars.
  • Coco Chanel was the CEO of a design firm at the age of 85.
  • Mother Theresa, at the age of 87, was attending to the needs of the poorest of the poor.
  • Grandma Moses, at 88, was named “Young Woman of the Year” by Mademoiselle” magazine.
  • Picasso was still producing drawings and engravings at 90.

Of course, advanced age brings physical and intellectual challenges—as does each of Shakespeare’s seven ages—but there are also “Members Only” joys and opportunities reserved for those with a CS attitude.


“Swept by the current of the four powerful rivers,

Tied by strong bonds of karma, so hard to undo.

Caught in the iron net of self-grasping,

Completely enveloped by the darkness of ignorance.”

– Lama Tsongkhapa

What’s it all about Alfie?

It’s all about “The Dash,” that’s what. Death is Not a Curable Disease.

Okay, one more time, here’s the deal: you’re going to die.  We all are.  As I’ve said before, I’m sorry if that comes as a shock; and more sorry if you know this but prefer to consider it at a later time.  That notion…that we can deny, ignore or defer the reality of death is dangerous, futile, wasted opportunity and the height of hubris. Once conceived, all of us reading these pages will ride the four raging rivers of birth, ageing, illness and death.  Awareness, acceptance, compassion for our fellow travelers and the ability to let go of attachments—to let it be, to go with the flow—will determine our level of suffering.

Here’s the really sad part.  Many people, when they are healthy and vibrant and not in the personal throes of giving care to a loved one, accept the concept of death — a finite existence — only as an intellectual construct.  Yes, sure, someday, someday, sure, but not now.  Someday.

Fact: Most of us will not die in our sleep after a wonderful fun-filled day of (fill in the blank). For most of us there will be a period of illness before we die and, if you are fortunate enough to watch today’s children and their children grow, there will be the accompanying infirmities that come with time. To quote the Bard from As You Like It,

“…The sixth age shifts 
into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
 his youthful hose, well sav’d, a world too wide
 for his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
 turning again toward childish treble, pipes
 and whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history,
 is second childishness and mere oblivion;
 sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

 — Jacques (Act II, Scene VII, lines 139-166)

So much for being delicate.  Oh, and to be more intrusive, I’m going to shake you out of your slumber so that you can be fully awake before you die.  Yes, that’s right, most of us are sleeping or shuffling along in that overcrowd village of Someday. Oh, please, you know the place, SOMEDAY. The place where, somehow, our once-upon-a-time-soaring-spirits, filled with determination, passion, and world-changing guts have landed, tail-tucked and whimpering for fear of … what?  Oh, yeah, fear of not meeting someone else’s expectations of where we should be or what we should be doing.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can focus on the real issue, morbidity.  Or, perhaps a better way of looking at it, the quality of the dash (-) that separates the date of your birth from the date of your death. The date of your birth is fixed and beyond your control. You are here, so open your eyes to all of it, the good, the bad and the truly ugly. The other date, your death, is inevitable and is simply a matter for the stonemason.

As they did about so many things, Joseph Campbell and Viktor Frankel spoke eloquently and passionately about the art of living — the dash. When asked, “What is the meaning of life?” Campbell would say, “There is no meaning of life. We bring the meaning to life.” He agreed with Frankel’s philosophy that sustained well-being (success, happiness) ensues from the honorable and enjoyable pursuit of meaningful goals.

Beyond the physical, the anxiety of ageing often spews from a gunnysack of wouldas, couldas and shouldas—a life of regrets. To those who have danced until their feet throb with joy, the quiet of old age is paradise. As Carl Jung once said, “An old man who cannot bear farewell to life appears as feeble and sickly as a young man who is unable to embrace it.”

 “Eternity is that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off. And if you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere.”

– Joseph Campbell

Coming Up…

Part III:                    CS “Members Only” – Qualifications

Part IV:                    Caution – Your Workforce and Consumer Base Are Ageing

Part V:                     Summary – So What?