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Last Word on Year To Come: Bell Bottoms? With PM-Quick Picks

January 1, 1994

Undated (AP) _ They’re out there sifting through data, crunching the numbers, going on gut, trying to forecast what the year-end stories will say 364 days from now. In trendspeak, they’re ″crystal-balling it.″

Of course, the prognosticators don’t know what will happen in 1993. Oh, they know that there will be a new administration. That’s a gimme.

But they don’t know the really juicy stuff, like whether interest rates will go up or down. Or whether Di and Charles will reconcile. Or whether the new ″Star Trek″ spinoff will go where no series has gone before.

They do have some good hunches - about baby boomers all grown up, about baby busters leaving the nest (finally), about bell bottoms. (Yes, bell bottoms. More on that later).

A lot of what they foresee is bound up in what many of us feel - optimism, a sense of new beginnings at hand.

Bill Clinton’s baby-boom cohorts will applaud, analysts say, as he moves their priorities to the top of the national agenda. The postwar generation surprised the Census Bureau last year by sustaining a 4 million-plus annual baby boomlet of their own. And, the experts aver, it’s not over yet.

No, you’ve not heard the last of Family Values. They’re just being reshaped, the traditional nuclear mold altered to fit the shortage of time and cash. Policy-makers predict 1993 will find help on the way.

″I think we’re going to see a good deal of attention paid to child issues and children’s problems,″ said Nicholas Zill, executive director of Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization.

Much of the push will likely come from Hillary Clinton - First Lady, First Spouse, First Mate, we’ve yet to find out. Long a children’s rights advocate, she’ll no doubt play a key role in the new administration.

As will a lot of women. A year ago, everyone was talking about Susan Faludi’s ″Backlash″ and the state of feminism in the ’90s. Well, it looks like the Year of the Woman has extended to ’93, with a new crop of female lawmakers and executive appointees.

Along with the focus on children, a whole host of social issues will take center stage. Activists like Ralph Neas, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, feel certain economic opportunity, race relations, civil rights of all kinds will get their year (or four) in the sun.

″Now, for the first time in 12 years, you have two branches of government committed to equal opportunity issues,″ Neas said. With the Los Angeles riots still fresh, if faded, advocates are hopeful that inner cities, the unemployed and disenfranchised will get some relief.

So long as it doesn’t cost too much. Consumer confidence was up pretty dramatically in December. But economists say that doesn’t mean there are jobs enough, or that the employed feel secure.

The economy will tell the tale of ’93, nearly everyone predicts. ″You’re not going to see many new malls built. That’s for sure,″ said Carl Steidtmann, chief economicist at Management Horizons in Columbus, Ohio. ″You will see quite a bit of mall redesign and refurbishing, though.″

Frugal is in. Still. Marketing directors like Ken Gurin of Towne-Oller and Associates in New York see it in things like the phenomenal growth of in-home diagnostic tests, non-brand labels and new nonprescription products.

″Rather than going to the doctor’s office and paying $50 and getting a prescription that costs $25 or $30,″ he said, ″people can now go for a $15 or $20 over-the-counter product that will do fine.″

Nickels and dimes shouldn’t be as big a concern for many in the ever- expanding over-55 set, however. ″The older folks are sitting pretty and will continue to do so,″ said Diane Crispell, executive editor of American Demographics magazine. ″They’ve got their pensions, Social Security, financial security.″

Things are less sure with the baby busters. Will this generation born between 1965 and 1976 finally move out of the house? Again, it seems to depend on the economy. The way things are looking, experts say, they may actually stride out on their own. Hear that, Mom and Dad?

″A lot’s riding on this recession,″ Crispell said from Ithaca, N.Y. ″The twentysomethings might even start getting married, buying homes. That’s what everybody is waiting for.″

Sidney Levy, a psychologist and professor of behavioral science at the Kellogg Graduate School of Business, suspects Americans won’t stay down long. Or rather, they can’t.

″We’re basically an optimistic people. It’s un-American to be depressed too long,″ he said. ″Things are going to get more whimsical. I think people will be increasingly interested in things that have a light, frivolous, colorful tone.″

If so, then, Walt Disney will keep banking on animated gold like ″Aladdin″ and ″Beauty and the Beast.″ Amusement parks, too, will get a good ride, what with the new crop of kids and all.

If only everyone lived in fantasia. But in the year to come, people will continue to die. Many of them from AIDS, which will by the end of 1993 strike between 390,000 and 480,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There’s something new: the ‘and Prevention’ the CDC added late in ’92. The medical community is continuing to shift to preventative health care through improved diet, fitness ... you know, the old New Year’s resolutions.

Psychiatrically speaking, the exciting news is in the pioneering drugs coming into wider use in the treatment of depression, schizophrenia, panic and anxiety, obsessive-compulsive and other disorders.

″There are some real breakthroughs happening,″ said Dr. Michael Freeman of the Institute for Behavioral Health Care in San Francisco. ″This is being called the decade of the brain because for the first time we’re really beginning to understand how the brain functions and how to treat disturbances.″

This, in combination with the growing trend toward managed health care, doesn’t bode well for Dr. Freud. Shorter-term, more goal-oriented therapies are gaining in popularity.

As to that other therapy, the self-help and recovery movement, this may be the year it comes off its peak. Have we heard enough yet about our ″wounded children within?″ John Bradshaw may have hit the point of overexposure.

In any case, the self-help book industry is likely to slow down at least a little this year. After all, there’s only so much shelf space.

″I’ve certainly heard a lot of talk about how they’ve been way overpublished and that particularly recovery books are slowing down,″ said Nora Rawlinson, editor in chief of Publisher’s Weekly.

That’s not to say that spiritual self-discovery will be out. ″More and more, it’s coming out of the closet,″ said Jonathan Adolph, executive editor of New Age Magazine. ″People are more concerned about how things are going as a society ... and the soul-less path.″

On the, uh, lighter side, Kim Long takes a look at what’s hot and what’s not in his ″The American Forecaster Almanac 1993.″ Let see, there’s infomercials (hot) and Western music (not).

Long’s positive there’ll be a craze for powdered condiments. But, then, he was off last year on the boom in powdered water. And he’s given up predicting politics (In the ’92 edition, he said ″the election would be short and boring.″ Enter Perot.)

Tragedy isn’t a popular prediction. The Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasts for Sept. 7 through 11: Possible on-shore hurricane. For Oct. 18-22, heavy rains, central and north from possible hurricane.

Last year, they predicted for Aug. 30: ″Possible hurricane south.″

On Aug. 27, Hurricane Andrew hit.

Too ominous? Consider this: In fashion, an industry insider confides, the BIG trend will be ... ″bell bottoms. Bell bottoms are it. That I can say with definite confidence.″

Now THAT’S scary.