Building a better boomer


By Laurie Paolicelli

Local author and humorist Neil Offen has published a book targeting a sizeable portion of the reading public: those of us who are growing older. And older. And older. Building a Better Boomer attempts to address the challenges and opportunities that come with advancing age in both an entertaining and honest way.

He notes published reports that recent studies have found those of us older than sixty-five end up in the ER much more often than younger people, and that it will happen in the middle of the night on a major holiday weekend, when all local medical personnel are attending the annual pickleball industry conference in Hawaii.

Gradually, then all of a sudden, we’re falling apart, and nothing is slowing down fast enough for us to catch up. But laughing can help, and that’s where this book comes in.

Offen confesses that he, like many, is a man who lives between two worlds. He says that yes, most of the time the post 60-set googles the answer, uses GPS, and spends too long checking email and our social media likes. “Yet many of us still own a VCR and a number of audio cassettes . . . And occasionally we may even listen to ballgames on AM radio because we still have an AM radio” — a generation stuck between ChatGPT and Betamax VHS. 

The trick to warding off the end of times is to have a plan for a successful retirement. “You must embrace your new status and make it meaningful.”

Neil and Carol Offen.

Here are some of Neil’s suggestions (with some added tips from the Visitors Bureau). Download the PDF and post to your refrigerator.

Learn a new skill, find a new hobby. Learning a new skill or finding a new hobby keeps a retired mind sharp. It will improve your self-confidence, help you forge new social connections, and keeps those neurons firing even though that may give you the occasional migraine and cause the sprinklers to activate.

Visitors Bureau tip: Orange County offers a number of possibilities: dance lessons at Carrboro Century Center through their Parks and Recreation Department, for instance. Take an art class at the Carrboro ArtsCenter, play table tennis at the Senior Center, attend a free lecture at UNC, and get on mailing lists. Our favorites are the Hussman Journalism School’s visiting lectures, the FedEx Global Institute lectures and the Sonia Haynes Stone Center visiting artists. Attend an author reading at one of the many local bookstores including Flyleaf Books, Purple Crow Books or Epilogue books, or why not start writing a book yourself?

Continue to challenge yourself. Just because you’ve gotten older doesn’t mean you should shrink from mental or physical challenges. Change things up! Buy a solo ticket for a local performance at Memorial Hall or Playmakers. Take a walk on campus: it’s beautiful and lively. Park in the Wallace Deck downtown, head toward UNC and just meander. UNC offers a self-guided tour here. There are concerts at ArtsCenter, Cat’s Cradle, Southern Village Green, Downtown Hillsborough on Last Fridays. Participate in a local walk that fundraises for an important cause. Several are right around the corner including:

Be Physically Active: This is so vital. Get outdoors. The Triangle Land Conservancy offers many trails around the community that are stunning as they are soothing. Walk, or ride a bike. We are a bicycling community and many trails, group rides, and gatherings take place weekly. Join a gym. Just keep moving.

Neil Offen is an avid runner shown here with his son Paul Offen.

Have a positive attitude about your future. As Offen says: Think of all the important things that have happened in your life and how fortunate you are that you can remember some of them. That’s a positive!

Get a pet. Having a pet is a great way to expand your human social circle. Strangers are more likely to introduce themselves to someone with a pet “than some boomer nutso walking down the street singing, “Brandy, You’re a Fine Girl.”

Maintain a healthy diet: It’s important to keep your diet balanced, alternating between foods you don’t like and food that you really hate. Visitors Bureau suggestionDownload the restaurant map for a complete list of area restaurants and their location on the Orange County map.

Minimize your stress: “Try not to think too much about maintaining a healthy diet, being responsible for a pet, or having a positive attitude about your future.”

“I have often heard it said that there is nothing funny about growing older. Well, as Neil Offen proves-hysterically-in Building a Better Boomer, that is wildly inaccurate. If laughter truly is the best medicine, this is a book that I heartily prescribe for my fellow boomers. Offen’s sharp-and unfortunately accurate-observations will make you laugh out loud, assuming of course you can  remember where you left your reading glasses. Let me suggest that the nicest thing you can give to one of our peers is this gift of laughter.” — David Fisher, New York Times bestselling author

“Neil Offen has become one of America’s greatest humorists, embracing the lighter side of the aging process with charm and wit culled from personal experience. His columns, and now this book, have become must-read.” — Marty Appel, New York Times bestselling author of Pinstripe Empire and Munson

Neil and his wife Carol having pizza in New York with friends.

Laurie Paolicelli is executive director for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau, a position she has held since 2005. Laurie has worked in tourism and marketing for twenty-five years, having served in leadership roles in Houston and California convention and visitor bureaus. She is a native of the Twin Ports of Duluth, MN/Superior Wisconsin. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Communications from the University Wisconsin-Superior and graduate certification in Technology In Marketing from the UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

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