The senilization of the boomer bulge is almost upon us. The World Health Organization estimates that by 2025, the number of people over sixty-five will rise from 390 million to 800 million. Not all of them, it’s true, will be living in your spare bedroom—but by 2050 the number of North Americans living with dementia could reach as high as 16.5 million. And up to half of us who reach eighty-five will suffer some degree of dementia.
So. Sixteen-and-a-half million of us, combing the underground parking lots saying, “It’s silver—no, metallic blue….” Hundreds of us in the Starbucks lineup saying “Hello, I’d like to make a deposit.” Armies of us forgetting that we’ve been fired, and turning up at the office.
We might retain a few isolated phrases—“Pinot noir” or “Does it face south?” or “Is my gas tank on this side?” But not only will many of us no longer make much sense, we won’t be able to walk about or zip up our boots.
As we lose our minds, cell by cell, however, one thing we won’t misplace or forget is our lifelong boomer conviction that we are “special,” and not about to retire, or age, or ever stop whitewater kayaking. And when death insists that we meet him for a quiet dinner some night, we will assume there is going to be valet parking.
This is why, right now, in the cubicle of some heartless entrepreneur, products are being developed for the online catalogue that will soon replace L.L.Bean and Victoria’s Secret on the sadly barren desks of our future: Designs for Dementia. Here are a few items you may want to order early—before you forget.
The Recycling Cardigan
It’s not a pretty thought, but one day you will find it impossible not to spill your food on yourself. Crackers will crumble on your merino turtleneck, cheese will dot your trousers, and your shirt front will resemble a tasting menu. Designs for Dementia (with the handy mnenomic D for D) offers an attractive alternative to this: The Recycling Cardigan. Made of lambswool, polymer, and dried peat moss, this stylish cable-knit cardigan absorbs and quietly recycles any food particles that come in contact with the sweater (up to kibble-size fragments only). The peat moss converts the morsels to a harmless and almost odourless nitrogen-related gas. This enriches the atmosphere?—?at the same time that it safeguards your appearance and dignity. Available in ballpoint-ink navy, toast-crumb brown, and Dijon ochre.
Consider this the next generation of the BlackBerry: a cellphone/organizer for the elder boomer with cognitive deficits. The Grape combines a gps system with a simplified keypad that offers only one key: when you press the Grapeface, it dials the number of your extended-care institution and then relays the message “Please come and get me.” The gps then transmits your location. With its no-fumble Velcro wrist strap, The Grape will restore confidence and allow users to blend into the wired world. When you use it in public, everyone will assume you’ve just upgraded your BlackBerry—when, in fact, you’ve gently retreated to the mono-tasking elegance of The Grape.
The Prada Walker
How long will it be before the curb becomes your Everest? Not long, if you’re reading this! Right now, you may be the sort of driver who honks at the elderly as they take their sweet time navigating crosswalks, but in twenty or thirty years, you too will be staggering through intersections with ups trucks bearing down on you. But don’t settle for ordinary walkers, with their overtones of frailty and advanced age. Lurch forward in style, gripping the matte-black and brushed-chrome handlebars of the Prada Walker. Like the upscale paramilitary baby strollers preferred by urban parents, the Prada Walker is equipped with an all-weather transparent dome, a beverage holder, a milk frother, and a dual function carrier/seat. When you find yourself lost in the bowels of the mall, simply sit, grip the “ignition claw,” and the Walker will motor you home — if you still know where that is!
“Hello…Lucy! How nice to see you!”
The “Hello…Lucy!” product is one of our most popular new items. You don’t need to be demented to experience something we all go through: the erosion and loss of proper names. At the office party, the boss’s wife approaches. Your brain starts skipping like a dirty CD: Uhhhhh…oh God, it’s an L word…Laura…Linda…Lillian…. Your smile freezes, because a new colleague has joined you and you now have to introduce these two people. But with the “Hello…Lucy!” simply by touching your earring (or watch band), you activate the scanner-identikit that secretly reads the face of your boss’s wife, which you have previously stored in your iLucy archive. This instantly retrieves her name and prompts you through a small nude-coloured earpiece. As you confidently step forward, saying, “Lucy! How lovely to see you again!” no one will ever guess that you have lost 50 to 60 percent of your short-term memory.
We’re all familiar with cubicles aflutter with Post-its reminding us of tasks and passwords. But with age, we will buy more and more Post-its, while forgetting to write anything on them. But Elder Post-its ease this transition; each package is already printed with universal reminders, such as “Call accountant,” “Book colonoscopy,” and “Close the fridge.”
When is a diaper not a diaper? When it’s a high-absorbing, low-riding, Burberry-plaid saucy thong, that’s when. Nothing says “Meet me in the TV room after lights out” like this practical and playful piece of lingerie.
For men, D for D also offers the Tiger Woods “Hole-in-One” khakis, with a discrete catheter tube running down the inseam. For gentlemen with prostate issues or are simply too idle to walk to a toilet, the “Hole-in-One” allows you to inconspicuously void — in meetings, on the golf course, or even while dancing.
Don’t imagine that you will finally be vice-free when you’re ninety-seven. You may need even more! Nicotine, for instance, increases the speed of synaptic transmission in the brain — so consider the benefits of chain-smoking after the age of eighty-five. You can lie in your adjustable bed, smoking your special “grippy paper” elder cigarettes, with the filter end coloured lime green so you don’t accidentally light it. And the Asbesta-Bed is specially designed with the aged or demented bon vivant in mind; the box spring is fireproof asbestos, and the mattress is designed to smoulder without ever bursting into flames. It produces enough smoke to trigger ceiling detectors. (The Hemlock Society would like to add that this alarm function can be disarmed.)
Self-expression has always been a core value of the boomer generation. However, with dementia, this tendency can accelerate into inappropriate, “disinhibited” behaviour. You may find yourself in a crowded dental waiting room, loudly saying, “You’re pretty cute, come on over here and give me a big kiss,” or “Someone with an ass like yours should never wear pants.” The answer to these impulses is The Inhibitor, a cellphone-sized device worn on the belt and controlled by a small remote carried by a spouse or caretaker. The Inhibitor delivers a harmless electric shock and is invaluable at family gatherings, when “frank” outbursts — “Everybody thinks you never molested our sister but I know otherwise” — can have unpleasant consequences.
The Coffee ‘n’ Crematorium
One delicate problem with advanced dementia is that it may very well slip our minds that…we are going to die. We won’t plan for it, or take steps to hasten it — which will be all the rage by 2025. So Designs for Dementia hopes to launch Coffee ‘n’ Crematoria, a chain of upscale cafés which also act as “full service exit consortiums.” (This usage is thought to be the origin of the word crema, the Italian term for the froth that forms on espresso.) Membership includes the Mocha-Mori (the ultimate “coffee to go”) which delivers a triple shot of espresso, a final sugar rush, and then, poof, you’re gone. In an antechamber, your remains are then cremated and returned to the serving pod in a thermal urn. Plans to make the cremains available as a topping for special “mourning beverages” are still under consideration.
Watch for the next product line from Designs for Dementia: You’ll never know what you’re missing.
Marni Jackson is an author and former Walrus editor.