Thursday, 17 April 2014

Mental Health Day No. 2

What an interesting and fruitful discussion we had on Tuesday on the post about retirement living preferences. If you haven't read the comments, you should. You will be enlightened.

Elizabeth left a comment that may or may not have been in jest:

”Rather than an eventual move to a nursing home or other type of care facility, I am thinking of a cruise ship where care is apparently available. When I die, just throw me overboard!”

A lighthearted discourse on cruise ship retirement has been published here twice in the past, most recently here. Go read it, you'll enjoy.

The cruise ship suggestion, I believe, is a sequel to an internet original, Let's Retire to the Hilton which has also been published here in the past. Since I am still on mental health leave, I am reposting it today for your pleasure.

It's quite old and prices involved seem to be outdated but just adjust the numbers in your head and don't let it impinge on your enjoyment and amusement. Here it is:

No nursing home for me! I'm checking into the Hilton Inn. With the average cost for a nursing home per day reaching $188.00, there is a better way when we get old and feeble. I have already checked on reservations at the Hilton. For a combined long-term stay discount and senior discount, it is $49.23 per night. That leaves $138.77 a day for:

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner in any restaurant I want, or room service

Laundry, gratuities, and special TV movies

Plus, they provide a swimming pool, a workout room, a lounge, washer, dryer, etc. Most have free toothpaste and razors and all have free shampoo and soap. They treat you like a customer, not a patient. $5.00 worth of tips a day will have the entire staff scrambling to help you.

There is a city bus stop out front and seniors ride free. The handicap bus will also pick you up (if you fake a reasonably good limp).

To meet other nice people, call a church bus on Sundays. For a change of scenery, take the airport shuttle bus and eat at one of the nice restaurants there. While you're at the airport, fly somewhere. Otherwise, the cash keeps building up.

It takes months to get into decent nursing homes. Hilton will take your reservation today. And you are not stuck in one place forever. You can move from Hilton to Hilton, or even from city to city. Want to see Hawaii? They have a Hilton there, too - the wonderful Hilton Hawaiian Village and Spa.

TV broken? Light bulbs need changing? Need a mattress replaced? No problem. They fix everything and apologize for the inconvenience.

The Inn has a night security person and daily room service. The maid checks if you are okay. If not, they will call the undertaker or an ambulance. If you fall and break a hip, Medicare will pay for the hip and Hilton will upgrade you to a suite for the rest of your life.

And no worries about visits from family. They will always be glad to find you at the Inn and will probably check in for a few days' mini-vacation. The grandkids can use the pool.

What more can you ask for?

So, when I reach the golden age, I'll face it with a grin. Just forward all my email to the Hilton Inn.

Ronni here again. According to one of the emails I received years ago with this retirement idea, there was an addendum. Here it is:

Upon telling this story at a dinner with friends and too much red wine, we came up with even more benefits the Hilton provides to retirees:

Most standard rooms have coffeemakers, easy chairs with ottomans, and satellite TV - all you need to enjoy a cozy afternoon.

After a movie and a good nap, you can check on your children (free local phone calls), then take a stroll to the lounge or restaurant where you meet new and exotic people every day. Many Hiltons even feature live entertainment on the weekends.

Often they have special offers, too, like the Kids Eat Free Program. You can invite your grandkids over after school to have a free dinner with you. Just tell them not to bring more than three friends.

If you want to travel, but are a bit skittish about unfamiliar surroundings, in a Hilton you'll always feel at home because wherever you go, the rooms all look the same.

And if you're getting a little absent-minded in your old days, you never have to worry about not finding your room. Your electronic key fits only one door and the helpful bellman or desk clerk is on duty 24/7.

I told Stephen Bollenback, CEO of Hilton this story. I'm happy to report that he was positively ecstatic at the idea of us checking in for a year or more at one of their hotels. Stephen said we could have easily knocked them down to $40 a night.

See you at the Hilton. And not just for a "Bounce Back Weekend," but for the rest of our lives.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: How to Make Your Own Luck

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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Mental Health Day No. 1

Do you ever just feel like throwing it all in for awhile? Don't get me wrong. I like doing this blog. A lot. Although at minimum it gives me a reason to get out of bed every day, that is the least of it.

Until 17 or 18 years ago, I never much thought about my age. Then came that day I realized I was old enough to be most of my colleagues' grandmother. Not even mother; grandmother. And then I got fascinated with what aging is all about.

It still interests me. We – scientists, the medical world, sociologists, psychologists, writers, thinkers, poets, etc. - don't know anywhere near as much about elders as we do children, teens and adults so there is a constant stream of new information to learn from – at least provisionally until further study comes along to support or refute new findings.

That's on the macro level. On the micro level, it interests (and amuses) me to watch my own aging – physically, cognitively, emotionally – and it is my good fortune to have so many who seem to want to read my meanderings about all this aging stuff.

Which reminds me - I don't tell you frequently enough, dear readers, how much I appreciate you every day. For your support, input, kindness and interest – among other attributes you have.

The first thing I do every day is check the computer to see what you've had to say overnight. It is as embedded nowadays in my morning routine as feeding the cat and starting the coffee. On the rare occasion the internet is down, I am at a loss.

But now and then, I need to stop. I feel brain dead. I'm behind in simple living – you know, wandering around without having something nagging at me that I need to do.

Hmmph. That's a lot of something to tell you I have nothing to say and that it might go on for a few days.

There will still be a word or two here each day (rerun? poem? a wave of the hand?) so that there is a page on which to link to The Elder Storytelling Place. I'll be back in full form when it feels right.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Maureen Browning: Another Way

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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

What is Your Retirement Housing Preference?

UPDATE AT ABOUT 10AM PACIFIC TIME: This is the most interesting thread I've read here in a long time. I'm fascinated by all the different choices, reasons and the thoughtfulness you are putting into this. Please keep the comments coming. We all can learn a lot from one another on this topic.

Last week we discussed location choices and the finances of retirement living. It was interesting to read how many who commented left an impression that elders and boomers coming up on retirement soon are all doing fine financially.

Today, let's talk about the type of housing we are interested in for our retirement.

Although I can't prove it, it is my sense that a large number of our parents and grandparents worked hard to pay off the mortgages on the homes where they raised their children and, barring the need for full-time care, stayed there until they died.

Some may have moved to Florida, Arizona or their personal equivalent but there were not a lot of retirement living choices beyond Sun City-type, 55-plus communities. Today there are many more.

In fact, there are so many that I can't possibly cover them all here so let's go with the most common new kind of choices that do not involve the need for caregiving.

NORCs: These are neighborhoods most commonly of condominiums or single family homes that, unplanned, hold a significantly high number of retired people.

Cohousing: Communities that are planned, shared and owned by the residents that may include common facilities like kitchen, dining room, child care, laundry, offices, etc. They are usually multi-generational with common interests, often involving environmentally sustainable living.

Age-Restricted Communities are usually segregated by age: 50-plus, 55-plus, 60-plus are the most common. Sometimes children – grandchildren, for example - may visit for only a limited number of days per year.

Active Adult Communities: These, too, are usually age restricted to 50-plus, etc. of privately owned homes and/or condominiums that also provide recreational facilities such as golf courses, gyms, tennis courts, swimming pools, etc.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities: CCRCs for short are a hybrid idea for life-long living. Residents can move from independent living in apartments or individual homes to assisted living to nursing care as needed.

Shared Housing is a growing phenomenon of two or more unrelated retired people living together in a single family home. Think Golden Girl although there is an uptick recently in elders who own their homes taking in college students or unemployed who can't otherwise afford housing on their own. New matchmaking services that include background checks are helping like-minded people connect.

Common Identity Communities: Quite new are retirement communities with people who share an interest or identity: LGBT elders, musicians, unions members, a specific religious faith, etc.

RV-ers: Speaking of common identity communities, a couple of TGB readers have commented in the past that when they need a respite from travel, there is a specific community of RVers to which they return to live until the next time they head out. (Please do enlighten us further, RV-ers.)

The Village Movement: I've written about how I am working with a group of people in my town to start a Village – a group of people living independently in their homes who band together to provide the services they and one another need help with as they grow older.

These are only some of the possibilities. Personally, had I not been forced out of New York City, I would have stayed in my Greenwich Village apartment until I die (or need full-time care). Maybe I would have attempted to create a Village in my part of Greenwich Village.

As it turned out, I chose a medium-sized condominium community that, unbeknownst to me when I bought, is a NORC. The most planning I did was for affordability (e.g. condo to share big costs rather than a single-family home) and continued ease of living as the normal declines of old age increase in coming years (e.g. no stairs).

If I were doing it now, I suspect I would choose differently but I am not uncomfortable here and I have little patience for regret. I am fine where I am.

Now, what about you? I am curious how others approach retirement living arrangements, and the reasons are probably as varied as individuals themselves.

How did – or will – you choose how to live in your retirement? Does it come easily? How much did you or have you planned? How has it worked out so far?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: No Blue Hair, Please

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Monday, 14 April 2014

Crabby Old Lady and the Old Gray Lady

(For those who may not know, “The Old Gray Lady” is a nickname of The New York Times.)

For the past few years at that newspaper there has been a blog titled The New Old Age where almost exclusively the posts deal with decline, disease, disability and caregiving of elders.

If The New Old Age was all you knew about old people, you would be forced to conclude that old age – at least, the new kind The Times has staked out for itself - is nothing but misery, and Crabby has whinged about this stereotyping in the past.

In keeping with the paper's negative view of aging, a few days ago there appeared an essay titled, What, Me Old? that is an unrelenting complaint about strangers assuming the writer is older than she believes she appears.

”In the space of a day, three people offered me their seats on buses. I remember doing that when I last lived here in New York, three decades ago. But when I gave my seat away back then, it was to old ladies...

“The next day, three residents of my building raced past me to hold open the heavy front doors. 'What's their problem?' I thought. I mean, I go in and out, without assistance, many times a day...

“Then, not two hours later, I went shopping at the grocery store, seven blocks from home. As I was leaving with three bags of groceries, the 20-something at the checkout counter asked if I wanted a cab. I huffed out and carried my bags home. My shoulders are just fine.”

"Huffed out" of the store? Since when is kindness a cause for taking offense?

The writer of this story is 66-year-old Jane Gross, a long-time reporter at The New York Times. She is one of the few blog regulars who does not entirely toe the age-defeatist editorial line of the blog.

Two recent examples worth reading are Conversation with the Dead and Finally Taking Her Own Advice to Downsize.

On those two stories alone, Crabby expects better of Ms. Gross Instead, we find that like too many others in the final third of life she not only denies her age, she is aggrieved when others don't share her willful blindness of it.

Worse, she is a jerk about it. “Huffed out” of the store? Don't think that 20-something, who was being polite, respectful and kind, didn't notice. No wonder there are too many nasty “get off my lawn” jokes about old people.

Contrary to the position of Jane Gross in particular and The Old Gray Lady in general, there is nothing wrong with getting old. Crabby Old Lady is both disappointed in and ashamed of them both.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson: The Panhandler

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Sunday, 13 April 2014


Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

What happened in 1949?

  • Bonnie Raitt was born
  • Death of a Salesman opened; it ran for years
  • Hopalong Cassidy began on TV, the first TV western
  • J. Edgar Hoover gave Shirley Temple a tear gas fountain pen. Hunh?
  • The best film ever made, The Third Man, was released
  • America won the Davis Cup
  • Essendon were premiers

Although, as we've seen and heard in previous years, songs that could be called rock & roll were around earlier, this next one by FATS DOMINO is often credited with being the first.

Fats Domino

It's The Fat Man, the first of many, many hits for Fats.

♫ Fats Domino - The Fat Man

Here is VAUGHN MONROE with his most famous song.

Vaughn Monroe

Or maybe the most famous of his is They Call the Wind Mariah. It could be either one as far as I'm concerned.

The song we're interested in today is Ghost Riders in the Sky. Burl Ives was actually the first to record the song but Vaughn wasn't far behind.

♫ Vaughn Monroe - Riders in the Sky

ROY BROWN was one of the foremost exponents of jump blues.

Roy Brown

His vocal style was influential as well; Jackie Wilson listened closely to him. James Brown and Little Richard probably lent an ear as well.

The song Miss Fanny Brown is rather unusual. Fanny's an older woman, not a girl of seventeen as is often (too often, probably) the case in these songs.

♫ Roy Brown - Miss Fanny Brown

Bill Haley obviously listened closely to JIMMY PRESTON.

Jimmy Preston

I know that because he covered this song and pretty much pinched the arrangement. Jimmy was a sax player as well as a singer, although the wailing on this track wasn't his. It belonged to Danny Turner.

Okay everyone, let's Rock This Joint.

♫ Jimmy Preston - Rock This Joint

It's not all jump blues and rock & roll this year. Here is EZIO PINZA.

Ezio Pinza

Ezio was an Italian opera singer. He sang bass. Outside of opera, he's best known for playing Emil de Becque in Rodgers and Hammerstein's “South Pacific" on Broadway. He wasn't in the film because he died the previous year.

Here is Some Enchanted Evening.

♫ Ezio Pinza - Some Enchanted Evening

Back to the rocking with WYNONIE HARRIS, another great jump blues musician.

Wynonie Harris

All She Wants to Do is Rock was the most successful song of Wynonie's career. I notice in the song she hucklebucks as well. That's yet another euphemism that's gone into the language to mean something different, just like rock & roll.

♫ Wynonie Harris - All She Wants To Do Is Rock

Okay, that's it for the rocking for this year. MEL TORMÉ is the antithesis of that style of music.

Mel Torme

I don't know about all that hand clapping throughout the song, but the Velvet Fog gives us another great performance with Careless Hands. This has been covered by such diverse performers as Bing Crosby, Dottie West and Jerry Lee Lewis. A good song will work in any milieu.

♫ Mel Torme - Careless Hands

Black Coffee was recorded first by SARAH VAUGHAN.

Sarah Vaughan

She wasn't the last – Peggy Lee, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and scads of lesser singers have had a go at it. It's a fine, mellow song until that blast of brass in the middle woke me up. I could have done without that.

♫ Sarah Vaughan - Black Coffee

Both Sarah and CHARLES BROWN are favorites of Norma, the Assistant Musicologist.

Charles Brown

Charles had classical training on the piano and he also earned a degree in chemistry that he put to good use for a while. He later lit out to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career, initially with Johnny Moore's group and then with his own trio. Trouble Blues was a hit for him.

♫ Charles Brown - Trouble Blues

FRANKIE LAINE enters the picture. Well, our picture; he'd been around for a few years by 1949.

Frankie Laine

Get out your stock whips so you can sing and crack along to Mule Train. Frankie's version was the first recorded, pipping Bing Crosby by a couple of weeks. I think Frankie makes a more authentic mule driver than Bing.

♫ Frankie Laine - Mule Train

1950 will appear in two weeks' time.

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Saturday, 12 April 2014



One of the many terrific things about living in Manhattan is that there is no need to own a car, a possession I find annoying in the extreme. It always wants something – gas, tires, washing, tags, insurance – not to mention that it is unwieldy and expensive.

(I believed we would have the Star Trek transporter by now and I'm deeply disappointed that we don't.)

But when I got married in 1965, we bought one of the first then-new Ford Mustangs in a gorgeous deep green color. It is one of the best looking car designs in the history of automobiles and I cannot imagine why we got rid of it.

But here, on the 50th anniversary of the Mustang, is a video from a man who kept his 1964 Mustang all these years and he's still driving it.


Cows are big, lumbering lumps of animal flesh who never have seemed to me to have much personality. Now, thanks to TGB reader Jan Cooper, we have a glimpse of what they can be like when they are filled with joy.

And it's also a nice story about people who care for these cows.


The black death that killed a third or more of the British and European population in the 14th century was caused by infected rat fleas biting humans. That's what they've always told us. But now some researchers believe they have a different cause:

”...for any plague to spread at such a pace it must have got into the lungs of victims who were malnourished and then been spread by coughs and sneezes. It was therefore a pneumonic plague rather than a bubonic plague.

“'As an explanation [rat fleas] for the Black Death in its own right, it simply isn't good enough. It cannot spread fast enough from one household to the next to cause the huge number of cases that we saw during the Black Death epidemics, said Dr Tim Brook.”

If this proves true, there will be a lot of textbooks to change. You can read more about this potential historical reversal in The Guardian.


According to the YouTube page for this video, Fred Astaire himself said it is the best dance number ever filmed.

Whether everyone agrees or not is beside the point. It is from the 1943 movie, Stormy Weather and and it is fantastic. That's Cab Calloway doing the lead-in song.


Tuesday 15 April is the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. A few weeks ago, Kevin Spacey told David Letterman about visiting recovering bombing victims and what puppies have to do with that.


Now don't go thinking this is icky or scary or something you'd rather not know. It a really interesting animation about literal dust to dust from Scientific American.


I found that Scientific American video because TGB reader Chic Barna sent a link to another story from that magazine: “How to be a better son or daughter.”

Usually, articles with such titles are a bunch pop psychology hooey but this one caught my attention for its ring-true simplicity. Just four smart, little rules we all should know but sometimes we need to be told:

Have a happy life
Accept help
Don't tell them what to do
Have patience

Now go read the short explanations that go with each rule. You'll be glad you now know these things. There are other places to apply them besides with parents.


You probably know all this. I do. But it is a good refresher course of facts to help explain to people who think they will lose 30 pounds in two weeks if they eat nothing but pineapple.


Just when I think Simon's Cat has lost his touch a good one comes along. Hat tip to Bev Carney.

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

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Friday, 11 April 2014

Retirement Living Reality Check

In March, Better Home and Gardens Real Estate released a new survey about where baby boomers intend to retire that is getting some media attention. The big surprise, they say, is that the boomer generation does not want to live in Sun City and its equivalents.

Surprise? A zillion surveys over recent years have already told us that and in this one, only 27 percent say they will choose 55-plus retirement communities.

Here are some other highlights:

57 percent will leave the homes they now live in and

72 percent of those will remain in the state where they now live

39 percent want to move to a rural community such as a farm or small town

26 percent are aiming for an urban, metropolitan environment

Survey results on at least one question confirm the baby boomer reputation (deserved or not) for self-centeredness:

”...83 percent – do not expect family to move into their home in the future, indicating that any 'house guests' will be temporary.”

Those guests include both parents and grown children – no granny flats for this generation.

Of those wanting to move to a new home, 69 percent are willing to upgrade or renovate to fit the home to their needs but most of all they want low-maintenance homes. (Who doesn't?)

25 percent intend to buy a second home for retirement.

Really? All of this seems wildly optimistic to me - on the part of the boomer respondents themselves and the real estate industry promoting the survey results to their constituency. Median savings of the boomer generation is about $120,000. That won't go far.

The survey doesn't really tell us anything about boomers overall and here's why: it was conducted with 1000 respondents age 49 to 67 who were self-selected by answering an email inquiry. And, it's designed for people in the real estate industry who want to build and renovate homes for old people.

So we have an impossibly rosy picture of those 77 million boomers living it up in pricey, big-city condos or on rural gentleman farms with leisurely weeks at their second homes at the shore or in the mountains.

What are these folks smoking? 2008 changed everything. Millions of boomers were forced into early retirement or are working at much lower salaries than before the crash or they have lost their homes to foreclosure (illegally or not) or are struggling with underwater mortgages or all of the above. (No one talks about this stuff anymore but it is still real.)

As a Businessweek story noted:

”Boomers lost more than other groups in the stock market and housing bust of 2008, and in the aftermath many also lost their jobs at a critical point in their productive years.”

So I thought that today, we might get some real retirement information from people who have actual experience at it – those of us, usually a bit older than boomers, who have lived through the retirement transition – a lot of whom, even though not boomers, live with the effects of 2008.

A couple things that occur to me:

Except for the wealthy, buying a second home is out of the question.

Every elder fears losing the privilege of driving but it happens and it's good to live in a city, town or neighborhood that is walkable and has good public transportation. Farms do not meet those criteria.

I doubt that as many as in the survey will find it possible to sell their homes in the near future and will need to adjust their attitude about remaining where they are now.

All of us, young people starting out, mid-life earners, boomers facing retirement and those of us already retired - live in a post-2008 world that is not as affluent as this silly survey implies.

It is a much more serious world for the 99 percent now with fewer choices that must be made more carefully than in the past.

What, for you who are already retired, is the reality you would want people soon to retire to know about life in retirement? Did you need to adjust your expectations? If so how? What's working for you and what is not?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sondra Terry: The Giving of a Tallis

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