It’s a book!: On Living the 1.5 Degree Lifestyle

It hits the shelves from New Society Publishers on September 14th; the story of my year trying to emit less than 2.5 tonnes of CO2e, and why everyone should be doing this. I have started a separate, special website for the book here.

I will be using this site to display all the archived posts I wrote about aging baby boomers that were deleted when the Mother Nature Network closed, which may be the basis of my next book. It is certainly a subject I have experience with!

The issue for boomers won’t be ‘aging in place’ 

The real question is going to be “how do I get out of this place?” From MNN

You can’t drive forever. (Photo: Mick Tinbergen/Wikipedia)

The oldest baby boomers have just turned 70, and most can drive to their birthday parties. They’re being followed by 70 million other boomers, all happily motoring along. Their parents? Not so good these days. Janet Morrissey of The New York Times looks at the issue of transportation for senior citizens and sees a problem: lack of transportation.

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Hearables improve what you see as well as what you hear

Connected hearing aids make everything better, not just your hearing. From MNN, February, 2017

My three favorite things: My hearables, my IPhone 7+ and Keanu Reeves. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

A few months back I wrote about the latest hearables I was wearing — that’s the trendy name for hearing aids that I prefer because they’re so much more than hearing aids. Lots of people are playing with hearables these days, particularly since the iPhone 7 came out and with it, the AirPods. I’m wearing Starkey Halo 2 hearables that connect via bluetooth to my new iPhone 7+ phone.

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Help! I just turned into a senior citizen

I don’t care what the government says; I’m just getting started. From MNN, November 12, 2017, my 65th birthday

I’m too old for cycling in the rain. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

I was in Sienna, Italy, five years ago on Nov. 12 when I celebrated my 60th birthday. Even though I was on vacation, I had to join an “all hands” conference call to learn that the website I worked for,, was now part of the Mother Nature Network. This was a shock, but it turned out to be a great birthday present. I’ve been contributing to ever since, primarily as a way of scratching my itch to write about how technology is changing the way we live, and how the baby boomer generation is adapting to it. So it’s a very happy fifth anniversary.

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Boomers are redefining the retirement hotspot

They’re heading to hot spots like Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. From MNN, March 2018

The nightlife is colorful in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

When I started watching the baby boomer scene, I predicted that the hot spots for retirees would be university towns, where you can find a good espresso, a second-run movie house and probably a good book store. But much has changed in the last few years; you can get a good coffee almost everywhere, the second-run movie houses have closed and book stores? Good luck with that. University towns are often expensive, too.

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Boomers and e-bikes were made for each other

Spending time on a bunch of different e-bikes has changed my outlook. From MNN, March, 2019.

Gazelle makes a gorgeous step-through electric bike. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

Almost a year ago I wrote that we should worry about boomers on e-bikes, noting that “older, male Dutch e-bikers are dying in shocking numbers.” It turned out not to be entirely true; statistically it had nothing to do with the e-bikes. Older people fall more often, but e-bikes don’t appear to be any worse than regular bikes or even walking. Researcher Paul Schepers tells De Telegraaf:

“Four years ago I did the same research and then the conclusion was that people riding electric bikes were at greater risk than those who had to pedal. We thought the weight of the bikes led to more accidents. But we have new figures now and they tell us that this isn’t the case if you compare the number of accidents and factor in age, frequency and distance.”

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Boomer alert: Smartphones keep your brain young

Forget Sudoku: Go play with your phone or computer instead. From MNN, September 2015

Keep using that tablet! It will keep you young. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

Baby boomers know that exercise keeps your brain young; many will be pleased to learn that so does using your phone or a computer.

There’s no question that as we age, we suffer from cognitive decline, but there are things we can do to slow it down. A new study, Smarter every day: The deceleration of population ageing in terms of cognition suggests that using computers and smartphones might be making a difference. The study authors are not the first to notice this; Nora Ephron pointed it out a couple of years ago:

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Boomer alert: Exercise keeps your brain young

Get out there and run, bike or row. Why? Because it prevents cognitive decline. From MNN, July 2015

The author, doing his best to prevent cognitive decline. (Photo: Kelly Rossiter)

It’s long been known that exercise adds years to our lives and keeps us physically fit, but a new study shows that it keeps us mentally fit as well. The paywalled study, with the mouthful of a title, Cerebral/Peripheral Vascular Reactivity and Neurocognition in Middle-Age Athletes, compared athletes to healthy couch potatoes for both brawn and brain.

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Bikes for boomers are lower and slower

But these Islabike ‘Icons’ may be all you need to keep riding longer. From MNN, January 2019.

A lot of older bike riders have been considering e-bikes these days; even fit aging boomers decline in strength and flexibility. But what if what they really need is just a better bike, designed around their changing bodies and needs? That’s what Isla Rowntree of Islabikes has done. She tells Peter Walker of The Guardian that her new bikes are designed for “people who want to ride under their own steam for as long as possible, and then might switch to an e-bike when they need to.”

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Bicycles make a big difference at any age

The Duet Bike converts a wheelchair into a great way to get some air and stimulation. From MNN, April 2015.

84-year-old Franco Modonese goes for a ride. (Photo: Chris Bruntlett)

Riding a bike is fun and exhilarating. Many seniors in good health can do it well into old age, but some of us, through advanced age or injury, can’t do it anymore and miss that joy. In Germany, many people use “Rollfiets,” special wheelchairs that connect to 14-speed bike frames. It’s a  clever design: the wheelchair can be used conventionally or tilted back so that the front wheels are off the ground, with the larger wheels becoming part of the tricycle.  

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Baugruppen: It’s a cooperative living concept, and it’s perfect for boomers

German idea could be a great alternative to retirement communities. From MNN January 2017

Here’s an example of baugruppen in Berlin. (Photo: Andrew Alberts via Archdaily)

What’s the best model for housing the boomer generation? This is a group that’s mostly healthy, and many are pretty well off. We recently showed a house designed for boomers, and complained that it was not particularly good for aging gracefully. In fact, the point could be made that no single family house is going to be terrific in the long-term.

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Baby boomers will be among the hardest hit by climate change

(And no, they won’t all be dead before its effects hit us all hard.) From MNN, February 2019

Greta Thunberg and young activists. Where are the old ones? (Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

The 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg complains about older generations: “You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.” Bruce Gibney, in “A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America,” wrote “Unlike acid rain, which had immediate impacts on Boomers’ quality of life and was therefore swiftly addressed, climate change is a problem whose consequences will fall most heavily on other generations, so far too little has been done.”

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Baby boomers aren’t buying senior housing

Baby boomers aren’t ready for retirement homes — yet. From MNN, November 2018.

This house for seniors sold, but it is a rarity these days. (Photo: Scott Olson /Getty Images)

Almost 20 years ago, Canadian demographer David Foot wrote “Boom, Bust and Echo,” in which he claimed that “demographics explains two-thirds of everything — whether the subject is business planning, marketing, human resources, career planning, corporate organization, the stock market, housing, education, health, recreation, leisure, and social and global trends.” One of the lessons in that book was to follow the baby boomers, the oldest of whom are now 72 and the youngest 58.

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Baby boomers are going to face another problem: The baby bust

As Maine goes, so goes the the rest of the country. From MNN, August 2019

With an aging population, who’s going to pull in all the lobsters in Maine? (Photo: Christine Norton Photo/Shutterstock)

Maine has the oldest population in the USA, with a median age of 44.6 years, significantly older than the 38.1 median age for the country. According to Jeff Stein in The Washington Post, the state is being “hammered by two slow-moving demographic forces — the growth of the retirement population and a simultaneous decline in young workers.”

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As baby boomers retire, millennials fill the gap

And in case you haven’t noticed, it’s changing everything about the workplace. From MNN, June 2015.

Don’t worry Neo, the office of the future won’t look like this. (Photo: Screen capture, ‘The Matrix’)

In 1985, upon the birth of the wireless phone, Harvard Business Review predicted the end of the office as we know it, suggesting that “your office is where you are.” I’ve been following the transformation of the wireless phone into a computer, suggesting that we are in a world where your office is in your pants.

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Are restaurants getting too loud? Or are their customers getting too old?

A visit to a local restaurant causes me rethink how they are designed. From MNN, April 2018.

It’s that ’80s show — exposed ducts, conduits and lights. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

My wife and I went out for dinner at Cano, a local Italian joint, the other night; when we got there, we were the only people in the place. We were seated at a table right under the speaker and it was loud. I asked the server if she could turn it down and she did (In jest, suggesting that if it was Friday night she wouldn’t have), but even though we were the only people in the restaurant, every sound bounced around — off the tile floors, the hard surfaces. I found it quite unpleasant.

The funny thing was, the restaurant had exposed ducts and conduits, industrial RAB lighting fixtures, and looked very much like the restaurants I designed when I was an architect in the high-tech years of the early ’80s. Visually, I felt right at home but aurally, I was in a different world.

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Are older cyclists endangering themselves?

NPR headline says deaths and injuries are spiking — but it’s wrong. From MNN, September 2015.

There’s safety in numbers, not clothing (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

Activists and planners are doing everything they can to get more people onto bikes and out of cars. After all, cycling is good for everyone, right? Not if you listen to NPR, which ran a story under the scary headline As More Adults Pedal, Their Biking Injuries And Deaths Spike, Too. The article notes that hospital admissions have more than doubled in recent years, with the biggest rise among cyclists 45 and over. 

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Are baby boomers ‘a generation of sociopaths’?

A recent book blames the boomers for everything bad in the country — and the author has a point.From MNN October 2017, a post that made our readers rise up and complain about me.

When all the old, bald white men are smiling, there’s reason to worry. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Earlier this year I read Bruce Gibney’s screed “A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America,” with the intent of writing about it here on MNN. At the time, I thought it was too extreme, too much of a rant.

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Architecture for the ages: How houses can adapt to aging boomers

And they can provide some space for the next generation as well. From MNN February 2016.

A house designed for three families (Photo: Williamson Chong Architects)

Of the 78 million baby boomers in the United States, most appear to want to retire in a nice big, single floor house on a cul-de-sac. Having seen too many of my parent’s generation do that and be totally miserable, I’ve tried to make the case that boomers should be doing the opposite, and should be looking to live in walkable communities where they won’t be trapped when they’re forced to hang up the car keys.

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Architects know what aging boomers want, but are they giving them what they need?

A recent survey of architects about housing trends makes me wonder what they’re thinking. From MNN, October 2017

Now what about a main floor master bedroom? (Photo: ‘Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House’)

When Mr. Blandings wanted to build his dream house, he went to an architect, because architects are supposed to know how to design houses that meet their clients’ needs. But that movie came out in 1948 and it seems that things have changed since then.

Every quarter, the American Institute of Architects checks in with over 500 architects doing residential work to find out what the current trends are in housing. It is a snapshot of what people are buying and what architects are delivering, and it has very little to do with needs and a lot to do with wants.

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All the lonely people: Where do they all belong?

This is going to be a major question in the very near future. From MNN, September, 2019.

A sculpture of Eleanor Rigby called ‘All the Lonely People’ by Tommy Steel stands in Liverpool. (Photo: Rodhullandemu [CC BY-SA 4.0]/Wikimedia Commons)

In “Eleanor Rigby,” John Lennon and Paul McCartney famously asked:

All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

These are good questions. And I’ll add one more: As the baby boomers get old, how will we cope with them all?

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Air pollution may wipe out the benefits of walking for aging boomers

From MNN, December 2017

Diesel buses and cabs are just part of life on Oxford Street in London. But when you’re talking about going for a walk, this environment isn’t your best choice. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

We go on about the importance of exercise for older people like aging boomers. I’ve written about how horrible the suburbs are because people have to use a car for every trip instead of just walking to the bodega or to the doctor.

And if a recent study published in the Lancet is correct, much of what I’ve written is either wrong or contradictory.

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Aging boomers: Forget the car, get on a bike

There are alternatives to driving that can work just about anywhere. From MNN, January 2018.

I went biking with a bunch of boomers in Vienna — and decided to take their photo. (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

Alex Steffen once wrote in the late lamented Worldchanging discussion forum:

There is a direct relationship between the kinds of places we live, the transportation choices we have, and how much we drive. The best car-related innovation we have is not to improve the car, but eliminate the need to drive it everywhere we go.

One of the problems we face as aging baby boomers is that most of us live in the kinds of places where we don’t have many transportation alternatives to driving. And while many people can drive safely well into old age, others cannot. Reaction times slow significantly. According to one study, “… it takes a 60-year-old driver 9 seconds to recover from undergoing a road glare, whereas this only takes 2 seconds for someone who is 30. Reaction times are also 22 times slower for someone who is 65, compared to a 30-year-old.”

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Are boomers going to age in place or be stuck in place?

Millennials may not be buying what the boomers are selling. From MNN, April, 2017

 car parked in a driveway — that was true of housing in the 1950s, but it’s still true of many boomer houses today. And that’s a problem. (Photo: George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images)

Four years ago, Emily Badger wrote in CityLab how the great senior sell-off could cause the next housing crisis, when all the aging boomers try to downsize and there aren’t enough buyers. Two years ago, I wrote that it won’t be pretty when boomers lose their cars, also predicting trouble:

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A bike is like ‘a rolling walking stick’

It’s also a great excuse to keep moving, but we need safe lanes for it. From MNN, October 2019.

Who needs a car when you’ve got a recumbent bike? (Photo: Lloyd Alter)

After Australian Madison Lyden was killed while riding her bike on Central Park West in New York City, a protected bike lane was finally approved. Then the owners of the multimillion dollar condos and co-ops sued to stop the project, citing as a main reason that “disabled and elderly residents who wish to enter Central Park will be in harm’s way by having to cross the bike lanes due to bicycle riders who often neglect to abide by the normal traffic rules.”

Every time a bike lane is proposed, one of the main arguments used to fight it is the concern that disabled and elderly people won’t be able to park. But in fact, for many older and disabled people, bikes could be mobility aids.

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9 ways to redesign (and rethink) retirement

Cherry Blossoms at Roberts Library/Lloyd Alter

It takes a community, not a wider hallway. From MNN, April, 2015

Shana Lynch at the Stanford School of Business wrote a fascinating article, Six reasons to rethink aging and retirement, which was picked up by Quartz and relabeled Six ways we need to redesign retirement for our longer lives. Because really, there’s a lot of design involved. Lynch quotes Laura Carstensen, the director of the Stanford Center on Longevity:

The culture we live in today, which evolved around lives half as long, does a pretty good job of supporting people up to 50, and then it stops. As we learn about aging, we’re finding that the malleability, the elasticity, the potential for people to age well is greater than ever previously imagined.

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Boomer Alert: You Need Better Lighting to Compensate for Aging Eyes

Lloyd Alter’s lights

Most people have thermostat wars. In our house we have lighting wars, especially since we converted all our bulbs to LEDs and our main fixtures to Hue RGB LEDs, which we can control on our phones. I am always turning up the light to the absolutely highest level and sitting right under the fixture; my wife keeps changing it to a more pleasing color temperature and lower intensity. When I chose lights for everywhere else in the house that required fixed bulbs, I picked far brighter ones than she would. (We could do surgery in the bathroom, is a common complaint.)

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