A Book for Boomers (but Not Only Boomers)

I recently read 55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal by Elizabeth White, even though I’m a couple of decades younger than 55. Although the book might be most useful to Americans of the Boomer generation, the reader’s age isn’t so important, because people younger than that (and some in the 75+ crowd) might benefit from it as well.

55underemployed

What brought me to the book to begin with? I happened to see it at the library and read through its section on employment issues (fewer full-time jobs with benefits and pensions, more part-time/contractual/freelancing/gig work, and age discrimination in hiring practices), and then I checked it out.

I recommend it as a kind of ‘starter guide,’ as it addresses a number of important issues, including:

  • Social isolation, shame, and anxiety.
  • Options for more affordable housing, along with things that need to change, such zoning restrictions that don’t suit current needs.
  • What to do if you don’t have enough saved for retirement (most Americans don’t have nearly enough).
  • What to do, and how to cope, if you aren’t finding a good job or any job.
  • Finding the right mindset for making your life worth living and meeting the difficulties head on, even if your life isn’t turning out the way you expected it to.

Anyone can use this book to plan for future problems or find insights into current difficulties. One of the book’s strengths is the number of resources the author shares – a large number of organizations and their websites covering all kinds of areas, including assistance with work and housing.

I also liked the author’s tone. It’s compassionate, firm, and straightforward. She obviously supports taking responsibility for your life, but she also doesn’t ignore various issues that people don’t have control over (such as the recession of 2008). She’s a level-headed person, and she’s clear about the fact that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for each problem she discusses. You might read through this book and find little that helps you, but even if you get one or two ideas for what to do next, it could be worth it.

The book is also full of short, often moving contributions from other people. Sometimes, they share their struggles, and you can commiserate. Other times, they share solutions for what works for them.

It’s worth checking this book out.

Aging, memory, and context

There are limitations to memory research studies conducted only in the lab, especially if they never include memory tasks and situations that are encountered in everyday life (in fact this is a limitation of lab studies investigating any cognitive process, not just memory).

For example, when researchers take into account how aging adults remember things in day-to-day life, they start to get a different picture of the difficulties people experience with memory as they get older:

When people are tested in the lab and have nothing to rely on but their own memories, young adults typically do better than older adults, she said.

Remarkably, when the same studies are conducted in real-world settings, older adults sometimes outperform young adults at things like remember appointments or when to take medicines.