Face it. Back-to-School Means Just That!

Where are the devices?

Where are the devices?

Let’s see … left over pasta from Friday – check…. Course book and assignments – check…. Notebook – check…. Beer money – definitely check! Hold it. Stop there! BLOG WARNING TO YOUNG READERS … If you are under 30 you may want to stop reading this post now. God forbid you don’t want to be known reading any sort of boring reflection from someone more than a day over 50! Equally, this blog cannot be responsible for any erroneous ‘shares’ to your scores of ‘friends,’ ‘followers,’ and believers, thereby proclaiming your allegiance to all things grey – and we’re not talking ‘50 Shades of Grey’ either. May you have a wonderful life and all the best. For the rest of us, you may remember creating this type of checklist many, many moons ago as we prepared for class (actually checklists are an everyday part of most over 50 lives as the old grey cells need a trigger or two for memory recall). Now what was I saying … Oh yes. Returning to school for the over 40 and 50 set becomes more and more popular as many Canadians look to leading productive and focused lifestyles by instituting an academic upgrade. Whether you want to strengthen your memory, bolster your resume, or keep up with the latest and greatest in your profession, returning to school is an intelligent choice and it seems to be growing. According to the voice of 50 up in Canada, Zoomer Media:

  • In 2012, 1.4 million Canadian over 50 reported attending classes. (PMB, Fall 2012). This represented 22% of all Canadian students
  • 296,000 were attending college, representing 28% of all college students
  • 331,000 were attending university, represented 19% of all university students

We can clearly see growth in this market but the question still remains, ‘What about online as opposed to face-to-face (F2F)? Is this still viable with the over 50 crowd?’ Yes seems to be the answer but only if they can stay at home as opposed to venturing to their local varsities. In 2011, California State University, East Bay, delivered a study to validate their online efforts entitled: Students’ Perceptions of Online or Face-to-Face Learning and Social Media in Hospitality, Recreation and Tourism. Their findings showed:

… of the 25% seniors taking the course, 78% took the study online and 18% F2F.

This percentage would skew within course content but paints a not too ‘active’ picture of boomers (b. 1945 – 1964) and now as of this year, Gen X (b. 1964 -).

78% eh?

Rubbish! This blog says this does not represent many over 50 students we know! Well …. Maybe just one … To put this into perspective, here are five good reasons why you need to experience F2F education as opposed to staying in the basement and turning on the record player to Dark Side of the Moon for the 7,342th time while waiting for your webinar. REFERENCE BOOMER MUSIC HERE:   How do I know? Because I have had the fortunate circumstance of attaining this knowledge first hand by attending the spring term at University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Education’s certificate in Digital Strategy and Communications Management. FIVE DEAD TO RIGHT REASONS TO CHOOSE F2F LEARNING

  1. It gets you out of the house. This may sound a little negative to some that are in an office all day and want nothing more than to go home and enjoy a nice single malt. Exactly what I thought until about the third week in, as I gradually started to appreciate having one weeknight dedicated to going downtown and mixing with other humans. Often our nights are consumed with household chores and family responsibilities. The best tonic to this becoming over-whelming is night school.
  2. You get to meet new and fascinating people. Remember, post-secondary school is the same then as it is now. You are with ‘like’ minded people. We’re not talking Facebook ‘likes,’ we’re talking having the same interests. Well maybe not in clothes … But certainly in subject matter. You won’t get this at work unless your department is actually your entire workplace. Or of course you work for Hootsuite, Google or any other of those hipster joints.
  3. You get to go back in time. I’m not talking H.G. Wells time machine travel, but by immersing yourself into campus life some 20 odd years later, you will be pleasantly surprised how it all comes back. Saturating your senses with all things academic; with a rather big difference this time ‘round. You are there just once a week and have beer money.
  4. Engagement. Picard said it best when finishing off some nasty aliens, “Engage.” Come on, how much engagement can you have by taking a course online? You’re lucky if the technology actually even works for the lectures yet alone participating in one. Going back to school F2F will re-energize your debating and discussions skills a heck of a lot better than arguing about why your office in the basement wasn’t vacuumed last week. Added bonus, the young ones may teach you a thing or two.
  5. It keeps you young at heart. We are referred to as boomers, mid-boomer, late-boomers and now this year, first of the Gen X’ers. We may be balding, building the midriff and regularly go to bed at 10, but we actually do have an inner-self. This spirit lives on as a 21 year-old – without the physical part of course. By mixing with folks 10, 15 and 20 years younger, this ‘young soul’ inside is given a much deserved outing filled with friendship, respect and modernism. Yes, modernism. You must embrace everything new when you go back to school which allows you to enjoy the best thing of all – intellectual adventure.

So there you have it. For the ones still listening to Floyd, have a good one! The rest, welcome to an old friend called school (not high school of course as we all hated that part of our lives). You will reopen a door with no stress or expectations other than what you have already set. Put away the Skype and pack a snack ‘cause you’re going to embrace this new part of your life with all the enthusiasm of a 20 year old. REFERENCE NEW EXCITING BAND HERE:
john k. bromley

Steak tatar? No thanks! What else is on the menu in1977?

Exotic Munching circa 1977

Exotic Munching circa 1977

As this is my first ‘Throwback Thursday’ I needed to make sure the picture is both a legitimate archival snap, and a fair representation of my youth.


Let’s go back to 1987 and a time any student covets – March Break. My beloved aunt – June Malabar – took it on herself to entertain two strapping young men, my cousin Rob and myself, for an evening of nosh and natter. No KFC this time for Rob and John, June rolled out her usual carpet of wonders for her son and nephew by taking us to one of her favourite restaurants of the time – the Graf Bobby Restaurant.

From the picture below, 36 Wellington Street has changed considerably, especially in light that Graf Bobby closed in 1987 due to the emergence of high commercial real estate prices for this part of Hogtown.

36 Wellington Street (today)

36 Wellington Street (today)

But I digress into the halcyon numbness of the seventies, especially as a 19-year old young man ready for the world.

On Thursday July 10th, I add my contribution to ‘Throwback Thursday‘ with a nod to one of the best aunts a guy could have and really cool place to eat.


Not the ‘Last Chance Texaco’

Photo Courtesy of Robbie Cantrell

Photo Courtesy of Robbie Cantrell

There are instances in life where we are either voluntarily, or involuntarily brought to a juncture where we pause, take a breath and look back. Our jobs and home lives can be overwhelming at the best of times, so taking the required time to blow off the dust and mentally reconstruct these many years can be dicey – yet alone suspect. Especially for anyone that survived the 70’s as a young adult where the abuse of grey cells was sport.

Now that my tenure working for Canadian Blood Services (CBS) has come to an end, there have been many signposts and road-stops marking this journey. Working for an institution that believed in my vision to help build both an international blood stem cell network and a national public cord blood bank, was both empowering and humbling. I can confidently say that these past five years telling both these business stories, represent key milestones on my communications pilgrimage.  Diversity stakeholder work being a premium asset coming from this good work. But in order to bring it all home it is imperative to tell a small story about one patient years ago. After all it is all about the patients when you work in healthcare.

Picture a budding Communications Specialist in the late 1990’s (no grey hair or glasses please). One of my first duties was to arrange a photo opportunity with the Toronto Blue Jays Baseball Club Alumni, Sick Kids Hospital and CBS. Slam dunk as any communications professional will know once you involve a sports franchise, ‘If you promote it, they will come.’

Everything went swimmingly and as I was cleaning up a 16-year old leukemia patient came to me thanking me for being able to meet the likes of Alumni Kelly Gruber, Mark Eichhorn and starter Kelvim Escobar. He was a huge Jays fan and revelled in owning signed baseballs from his idols to cherish on his own. I wished him a quick recovery and shook his hand and his parents and continued to pack up. I quickly went back to the office and hammered out an Adobe Illustrator card wishing him well with pictures of his idols too boot. I immediately mailed it to his parents.

About 10 months later I received a call from his mother saying their son had passed away from the disease but wanted me to know how important the media event was to him on that day months ago. Through a quivering voice she also said, ‘But it was the card you took time to make that lifted his spirits and will always be on our mantle as a reminder.’

And yes, this was the first patient I worked with that died.

On Monday as I choose life’s new passage, I can honestly and unequivocally say this one road-stop CBS made me the not just the professional communicator I am today, but the kind of person that understands clearly; what we do in our lives is also marked by the persons we ask to join us.


Top 10 Reasons Why Not Having a Dad is OK

Your time will come

Your Time Will Come


Many calendar milestones are celebrated with the best intentions but can be immensely subjective towards their intent. This Sunday, dads everywhere will be feted and pampered for their loving contribution to family life. Unfortunately for many children and young adults alike, this day can be a stark and painful reminder of loss or absence. But from despair comes hope as I learned many years ago trying to fill this hole.

My father died when I was five years old and with my mother remarrying shortly after, I never really knew him. During my adolescence all accounts of his life were one sided and biased. In the 60’s and 70’s many experts, including Children’s Aid, readily encouraged new couples (with children) to be adopted by their new parent(s).

With little effort from my new adopted parent to form a – what I imagined – normal family, I pined for a father that I never knew other than one magenta tinted Kodachrome I found at the bottom of a sweater chest.

On reflection years later, I still feel a void in my heart where my dad was supposed to be, but like many kids from broken homes I quickly lifted my spirits and rose above it all to live a gratifying and rewarding life (and still hope to for years to come).

On this Father’s Day, I thought it best to assure others they are not alone and champion how far we have all come by none other than a Top 10 List. This list will encapsulate why it is perfectly OK to not have a dad – and in most cases – it will sure as heck help you out in both your business and personal life:

10. You learn to be independent early in your life, which will help you with leadership skills later

9. You can choose a surrogate dad from all those fantastic fathers your friends have

8.Your Granddad is more than willing to step in to fill this void as he always needs someone to enjoy a soft ice cream with

7. You don’t understand chauvinism and detest why it’s so prevalent in society today

6.You can choose what school you want to go to. Yes college is perfectly fine

5.You can learn to tie a Windsor knot yourself and get that first job

4.You can get a damn haircut any time you want! Or, you never have to cut your hair!

3.You can teach yourself to drive, to love, to play sports and read a business section before the sports section

2.You can give a Father’s Day gift to another dad that has been kind to you and understands how difficult this one day can be for kids growing up

1.You can try to be the best darn dad ever when its your turn

To all the dads out there that knew one day, many years later, Father’s Day would be a pretty terrific day to celebrate.