Baby boomer Laurie Orlov is a woman who has reinvented herself. Which puts her in a nice position to do it again. And her mother helped, although not in the way you’d expect. Here’s her story.
No question about it! I was pretty angry by the time my mother passed away from Alzheimer’s in 2006. She was, by then, in pain and down to 80 pounds from not eating. Mostly angry at myself, actually, considering the previous eight years of clueless decision-making about her care. What silly criteria my sister and I used to select an assisted living facility and subsequent nursing homes. On the positive side, we developed a weekly routine of music and dance in the nursing home (I played the piano and she danced), which became a well-attended hit. But there were plenty of not-so-positive experiences along the way.
Always a problem solver and action-oriented boomer — no solution left behind, as it were — I found many ways to vent my anger (i.e. helplessness). I cut back my tech industry analyst job to three days a week, interviewed 20 families, and self-published a book on bad boomer decision-making and elder care. After I moved to Florida the year Mom died, I enrolled in a graduate program in geriatric care management. I became a long-term care ombudsman, inspecting assisted living facilities and nursing homes, chasing down complaints about the quality of care.
I eventually quit my analyst job altogether, and flailed around doing IT consulting and writing about the IT industry. Until one day, after a research project for school where I looked into technology that could help seniors stay in their homes, my real purpose came to me in a flash of insight. A hit-yourself-on-the-head moment. I should become an analyst and commentator about the aging-in-place technology industry. I should help shape an emerging industry that could help people stay OUT of assisted living and nursing homes. (Eventually, perhaps I could even get paid for this expertise and replace my ongoing only-to-pay-the-bills IT-related work.)
Step One: start a blog and teach myself (and others along the way) everything there is to know about this technology, which includes medication reminders, home monitoring, personal emergency response, easy-access computers, and computer alternatives like email appliances and videophones, health-care tech that can keep folks out of the hospital.
So that’s what I’ve done. It has taken over my life and become my life’s work, not the least of which is getting the word out that I exist. Although it doesn’t yet pay, I am attending and serving on panels at four different events in 2009. I write a column for GilbertGuide.com, and cross-post on SmartSilvers.com. I am working on a market overview of the industry. I’ve spoken with dozens of vendor marketers. And with many of the big thinkers in the industry, although some heavyweights still don’t think I am significant enough to bother with yet. I think that will change.
After 33 years in the tech industry, it’s good at age 57 to know what you’re going to be doing. Every time I visit a nursing home or assisted living facility, I know I am doing the right thing for both baby boomers and their parents. Not that they’re all bad places, but no one should have to leave his home if he doesn’t want to go. I figure this career will keep me busy until at least age 65. Then I’ll reinvent myself again. Maybe as a columnist.
Laurie Orlov’s blog is Aging in Place.
Category: Boomer Lifestyle