Tuesday, 16 September 2014
What Elder Services are There is Your Town?
[BLOGGING NOTICE: Yesterday, the email, RSS, Twitter and Facebook feeds of the blog post were delayed until mid-morning when a reader advised me of the missing messages. It happened because I forgot to set the day and time for automatic publishing. My apologies.
Last week, when I was not quite sick but not well either and told you about it, SusanG who blogs (sometimes) at Hillsborough NJ Journal, left this note:
”Ronni, when you want a day off would you consider a reader-to-reader feedback day? You choose a reader submitted question asking for other readers' opinions or suggestions.
“For example...what senior services are offered by your town, do you use them, or are their other services you would like to see offered? Or experiences moving away from friends and family. Or whatever.
“I have so much respect for the comments your readers make and always find them useful and thought-provoking.”
Life, always full of surprises and occasionally of the negative variety, pitched me a beauty last Thursday morning when I woke to a massively swollen and painful mouth.
It is enough for you to know that when the dentist pointed to the photograph he'd made of it while he explained the problem, I asked if he could do that while I looked elsewhere.
Since then I've been on around-the-clock antibiotics of two kinds and am exhausted. I thought it was the drugs but according to a trip around the medical internet, it is the underlying infection that is making me tired.
As if that's not enough.
As I've discussed in the past, I wear a denture but with the left side of my face still swollen (though not as much as last week), I'm not sticking anything in my mouth – for food, I'm on soup and mashed potatoes.
So in addition to sleeping a lot, I won't leave the house because no one – make that NO ONE – gets to see me without the denture. You can call it vanity all day long, but that's how it is.
All of the above puts me in no mood to write a blog post and since I agree with SusanG that TGB readers are world class commenters, it's up to you today.
Let's go with one of SusanG's questions:
”...what senior services are offered by your town, do you use them, or are their other services you would like to see offered?”
That is broad enough for there to be a wide spectrum of issues to discuss – services from city, county, state; faith organizations, a Village if there is one where you live; senior centers.
As to the last item, for a bit of impetus you might want to re-read a post from July 2013, Are You a Senior Center Snob?
Whatever interests you about elder services - or lack thereof – that you want to talk about today. I'm eager to see how this goes.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean: Old Woman Waits
Monday, 15 September 2014
Aging in Place – Your Town
I grew up in suburban Oregon and California so I had a good deal of experience with suburban living before I moved here to Lake Oswego, Oregon, four years ago.
I also lived for 40 years in New York City and I always believed that it is an ideal place to grow old. (Other densely populated big cities like Chicago and Boston may also be, by my knowledge is of Manhattan.)
That city is made up of many dozens of small villages – most of them geographically much smaller than any small town.
Often they are no more than five or six square blocks, but because each tiny village is so densely packed with people, all the necessities and amenities of daily life are contained within the village borders, walkable for all but the most infirm.
And even then, even before internet shopping and delivery, it is almost possible to live in Manhattan without ever leaving home. My next door neighbor, a healthy, young Wall Street trader, phoned the corner bodega for delivery of his morning coffee and bagel every day of the week for years.
Laundry, cleaners, grocery stores, movie theaters, restaurants (eat in, take out and delivery), varieties of clothing shops, hardware stores, libraries, medical offices, local social services and pretty much anything you need or want is contained within each little village or close enough for an easy walk.
When it's not, public transportation in Manhattan is among the best in the world. There is no need to own a car and therefore none of the fear American elders in suburban towns, or sprawling cities like Houston and Los Angeles, have of one day turning in their car keys.
Over the weekend, The New York Times published a story about how more elder New Yorkers are choosing to age in place nowadays rather than make the traditional escapes to retirement in Florida and the American southwest.
As you might imagine, it being New York City, there is a good deal of contention among residents of different age groups in large residential buildings about how to deal with those who need more help as they grow old.
Elder residents, reports The Times, become forgetful, wander the halls in their night clothes, leave gas stoves on or water running among other issues that can be either dangerous or just annoying to other residents.
But some buildings that have become transformed into NORCs (naturally occurring retirement communities) are creating a variety of ways to deal with and help their elder residents.
”Often, doormen are the first line of defense. 'Me and the other guys know who looks good and who doesn’t look good,' said Michael Lydon, who has been on the service staff of an Upper East Side co-op for 27 years.
“We’ll say, 'Have you seen Mrs. So-and-So recently?' People who are elderly have a routine, like going to Gristede’s on senior citizens’ days. If they break from that routine, that makes us think we should go check on them.'”
Many NORC buildings, according to The Times, are finding other creative and important ways to serve the needs of their elder residents such as one that keeps a list of residents with special needs, such as those who use canes, walkers or wheelchairs, for use if there is an emergency and the building needs to be evacuated.
Another allows deliveries directly to apartment doors of elder residents rather than requiring the packages be left at the front desk as with younger residents. Others arrange for classes or social gatherings in the building and at least one brings in a registered nurse each week to check blood pressure and medications.
Although some building management companies avoid any kind of help to their elder residents citing the possibility of litigation, others welcome the opportunity to help and are finding new ways to do that:
”Seniors? Bring them on, said Dean Feldman, an associate broker at Halstead Property and a resident of Schwab House. 'I know that co-ops aren’t social service agencies,' he said.
“'But we can all do a lot to support all the elderly people in our buildings.' This could include designating 'floor captains' who would take note of newspapers piling up in front of a door and of mail uncollected.”
I bring all this up today because, as we know, the percentage of old people is growing dramatically throughout the world and there are not now, nor will there be, enough “homes” to help those who are no longer entirely independent.
With a little help from such enlightened people at Mr. Dean Feldman, elders themselves are going to have to figure out care for ourselves as we age. One way I write about here from time to time and am working on in my area is the Villages movement.
There are other solutions too and it will take all of them together to help us help one another age in place. We can learn from one another in different places and environments and there are some good ideas in this New York Times story that I'm sure can be applied in a number of ways elsewhere.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Trudi Kappel: Tomatoes for Victory
Sunday, 14 September 2014
ELDER MUSIC: 1960 Again
This 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 1960?
- Michael Hutchence was born
- U2 spy plane shot down over Russia. America denied the obvious
- Elvis discharged from the army
- Rome staged the Olympics Games
- The Beatles played in Hamburg for the first time
- Psycho was released
- Melbourne were premiers
THE DRIFTERS have been through many members over the years – more than 60 of them.
They've also had two lead vocalists who are as good as anyone around. The first of these was Clyde McPhatter who started the group after leaving Billy Ward and his Dominoes.
Clyde was drafted into the army and he sold his share in the group (much to his later regret). The manager couldn't find a good replacement so he fired the lot of them. He then grabbed a group called the Crowns and renamed them The Drifters.
They had Ben E. King as lead singer and it was this version of the group that made most of the great records we remember. Ben was only there for a short time – he didn't ever tour with them - but fortunately, he made a bunch of records. This is one of them, Save the Last Dance for Me.
Billy Davis with brother and sister Berry and Gwen Gordy wrote quite a few songs around this time. Berry also started Motown records. One of the songs the trio wrote was All I Could Do Was Cry for ETTA JAMES.
Etta's former boyfriend married Gwen and that added an extra frisson to her performance on this record. Later, in the nineties, Etta rerecorded the song.
FLOYD CRAMER was a session pianist in Nashville and backed pretty much everyone who recorded there.
He had a distinctive style and whenever he's on a record, it's easy to pick that that's him.
Besides his session work, he made a series of records about this time. One of them, and the best selling of the lot, was Last Date. It later had words added to the tune and several people, including Emmylou Harris, recorded it.
JOHNNY BURNETTE's early recordings with his trio produced some of the best early rock & roll and rockabilly records around.
Later, Johnny became a crooner and left his wild days behind him. He was really good at that too. Unfortunately, he died too early in a boating accident. This is You're Sixteen.
By 1960 ÉDITH PIAF was starting to have hits in the English speaking world as well as her native France.
Milord was the biggest of these and it sold well world-wide. Not just Édith's version; pretty much every country had a singer who covered it in their local language. None was as good as the original though.
JERRY BUTLER first came to general notice as a member, and lead singer, for The Impressions. Curtis Mayfield was another member of the group. There will be a later column on them.
Jerry went out as a solo artist and songwriter – he wrote some songs with Otis Redding. Incidentally, after Audrey's in the film of the same name, Jerry's was the first and arguably (I'll certainly argue) the best version of Moon River.
He wrote, along with Curtis, the beautiful He Will Break Your Heart.
BRENDA LEE started performing early, really early. She was already winning talent contests when she was just six.
When her father died when she was nine or 10, she was already the primary breadwinner for the family through these contests and also appearing on TV and radio.
By the time she was 12, she already had a record contract and was appearing around the country so Sweet Nothin's is far from her first recording (she was 16 by now).
JOHNNY HORTON made a career singing about historical events (and some pseudo-historical ones as well).
North to Alaska fits both categories. There really was an Alaskan gold rush at the end of the nineteenth century, but the song was the theme for the film of the same name. Johnny or, more correctly, he and Tillman Franks as they co-wrote the song, got the geography somewhat askew in the lyrics, but we won't worry unduly about that.
Although CHARLIE RICH started out playing jazz and blues he's mostly remembered as being a country musician.
He was also a session musician for a record company owned by Judd Phillips, brother of Sam of Sun Records fame. He recorded a number of tracks that Judd got to Sam who rejected them as being too jazzy.
So he recorded Lonely Weekends, obviously after studying the way Elvis sang. It hit the charts and he was on the way as a country muso.
Maurice Williams wrote the song Stay when he was 15 years old. He was trying to stop his girlfriend from going home (unsuccessfully as it turned out, but he got a song out of the experience).
Later when he formed the group MAURICE WILLIAMS AND THE ZODIACS they recorded a demo of the song.
This was hawked around to various record companies and no one wanted anything to do with it until one day the 10-year-old son of one of the record people heard it and loved it.
His father took notice of that and recorded the song. It became a DooWop classic.
You can find more music from 1960 here. 1961 will appear in two weeks' time.
Saturday, 13 September 2014
INTERESTING STUFF – 13 September 2014
UPDATE: Please remember (in regard to the Vitamin D item below) that no one, even a physician or researcher I have not vetted, may advise, suggest or imply in this blog that any treatment - even non-prescription drugs - should be used. You may explain what works for you but only in that personal, singular context.
ELDERS REACT TO 50 SHADES OF GREY MOVIE TRAILER
Have you read the 50 Shades of Gray books? I haven't but there has been so much talk that I certainly know the general idea.
In this video, the “Elder React to” group is back, this time watching the trailer for the movie of the notorious series – and reading passages from the books too.
[NOTICE: Parts are not safe for work, grandchildren and starchy types]
AN OLD CAT'S ADVICE TO THE NEW KITTEN
With more than 15 million views on YouTube, this video is likely to have passed your way already. But just in case...
There I was one morning, minding my own business, drinking coffee and checking the upcoming weather when I ran across this story:
”Buried beneath the snow-covered ice of the wind-battered, subarctic earth, Alaskan wood frogs freeze solid each year in order to survive the harsh, unforgiving Alaskan winter.
"'We found they can survive far longer than you can see something stay in your freezer,' Larson said, adding the frog's unique biology prevents its cells from dehydrating during freezing and they do not become susceptible to freezer-burn.”
What an amazing nature story. Go read it here.
BORED IN THE OVAL OFFICE
Kids. There are almost as much fun as internet cats.
I've spent time in the White House Oval Office – once during the Reagan administration and again when Bill Clinton was president. It is impossible to be unimpressed whether meeting the president or contemplating the history that is made there day in and day out.
Given my personal awe of the surroundings, I laughed when I saw this photograph of a Secret Service agent and his wife with President Barack Obama while their son takes a dive on the sofa. I hope the kid will come to love the photo when he's grown and keep it around in a frame.
LIVING PASSIONATELY IN OLD AGE
So many readers sent this TEDtalk from 71-year-old writer Isabel Allende that it seems redundant to post it. Maybe, instead, it is an indication of wide interest.
Personally, I'm not convinced that passion is what I'm looking for in old age but whether or not, Allende seems oddly dispassionate about it.
AMAZING MIND READER REVEALS HIS “GIFT”
This looks like a standard mind reading act although more detailed that most. Keep your eye on it and thank Darlene Costner for sending it.
VITAMIN D AND DEMENTIA
After a physical examination last January, test results showed that I was in the normal range in all health data benchmarks except for one – I was deficient in vitamin D.
The doctor said, “Don't worry about it. Everyone in Oregon is vitamin D deficient - not enough sun here. Just take this supplement every day and you'll be fine.” I do that now without fail and after this new study, I'm glad.
“The international team followed 1,658 men and women aged 65 and over for six years and were surprised by their own findings.
“They expected to see a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and cognitive impairment; they didn’t expect a 53 percent increase in the risk for dementia among people who were moderately D deficient and a staggering 125 percent increase among those who were severely deficient.
“For increased Alzheimer’s risk, those figures were 69 and 122 percent.”
It's a moderate-sized study and needs some additional work but I don't think it can be dismissed. There is a lot more detail and good information in the story at Senior Planet.
MUTANT GIANT SPIDER (DOG)
The picky among readers might say it's not nice to scare people. Maybe so, maybe not. But this sure is funny and let's thank Larry Beck of Woodgate's View for sending it.
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 include the name of the blog and its URL.
Friday, 12 September 2014
Kicking the Bucket List
I stole that title from a blog post at The New Yorker this week because it perfectly expresses my sentiments on the topic.
I didn't like the 2007 movie and even more, I dislike the cultural adoption of the idea itself even if it has become one of the few things enthusiastically shared by young and old generations.
My objection to bucket lists is that they are too superficial. They reduce experience, even life itself, to grocery list status – items to be checked off one after the other, then forgotten like an item on a Buzzfeed listicle. Experience – and, certainly, life – is much more important than that.
Rebecca Mead has written a couple of books, contributes articles to many international newspapers and magazines and has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1997. Reading her work is always a pleasure and often instructive.
So when Ms. Mead takes up the topic of bucket lists, who am I to try to match her skills of which I am both jealous and a fan. Instead, I will report to you the reason you should pay attention.
Her article takes as its starting point President Barack Obama's side trip to Stonehenge earlier this week after which he told the attendant press, “Knocked it off the bucket list right now,” before returning home to the United States.
I recall cringing when I read that remark. It was way too cavalier for my taste after visiting a place (particularly with the privilege of doing so unencumbered by tourist masses) that holds so many ancient mysteries. As Ms. Mead writes:
”Dropping by Stonehenge for ten minutes and then announcing you’ve crossed it off your bucket list suggests that seeing Stonehenge - or beholding the Taj Mahal, or visiting the Louvre, or observing a pride of lions slumbering under a tree in the Maasai Mara - is something that, having been done, can be considered done with.
”This is the YOLO-ization of cultural experience, whereby the pursuit of fleeting novelty is granted greater value than a patient dedication to an enduring attention - an attention which might ultimately enlarge the self, and not just pad one’s experiential résumé.
“The notion of the bucket list legitimizes this diminished conception of the value of repeated exposure to art and culture. Rather, it privileges a restless consumption, a hungry appetite for the new. I’ve seen Stonehenge. Next?”
Bucket lists seem to me to be a youthful pursuit – or ought to be. The older I get, the more I crave a greater understanding of the people, places and things I encounter, and these days I seek the time to contemplate them as I was too impatient to do when I was young.
Ms. Mead concludes:
What if, instead, we compiled a different kind of list, not of goals to be crossed out but of touchstones to be sought out over and over, with our understanding deepening as we draw nearer to death?
“These places, experiences, or cultural objects might be those we can only revisit in remembrance - we may never get back to the Louvre - but that doesn’t mean we’re done with them.
“The greatest artistic and cultural works, like an unaccountable sun rising between ancient stones, are indelible, with the power to induce enduring wonder if we stand still long enough to see.”
Yes. Exactly. And although I have given you a few important passages from Rebecca Mead's essay, you should go to The New Yorker to read the whole thing, to take the time to appreciate her graceful writing and her thoughtfulness, whether you agree about bucket lists or not.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dan Gogerty: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Past
Thursday, 11 September 2014
Still Learning from Our Parents
There was no wiggle room with my dad. When I was a kid, if my chores were left undone, if my bed was not made just so, if I was late for anything or if there was a grade below A on my report card, punishment was swift and sure.
More than any other memory I have of my dad is that he scared the bejesus out of me. He made it a habit to ask why I had committed any given transgression and it enraged him when I gave my honest, little girl answer, “I don't know.”
I also didn't always know a rule existed until I had broken it and all of this made my father a feared and fearsome presence in my life every day.
I am telling you this not to create a debate about my father's parenting skills (or lack thereof) but to set the stage for one of his rare indulgences, one that I am taking advantage of today and, possibly, tomorrow and beyond.
Among the known requirements of my young life was to attend school each day no matter what. Aside from communicable diseases, nothing merited missing school and when I had the sniffles, I was handed a pack Kleenex and sent on my way.
Until one day when I didn't feel like getting out of bed. I knew I wasn't sick but it just felt good that morning to loll around under the warm covers. Of course, Dad arrived in my room blustering around and demanding to know why I wasn't dressed and at the breakfast table.
Expecting his wrath at catching me in a lie, I told him I didn't feel well. But lo – instead of a rant, he said I'd better stay home from school then. I was amazed and shocked at my good fortune.
This happened when I was in fifth grade, taught by a man named Mr. Katagiri who was a friend of my dad's. The next day, my father supplied the written note I needed and I snuck a peek at it on my way to school. What would be his reason for my absence?
Dear George,” it began. “Please excuse Ronni from classes yesterday. She had a bad case of the crud and I gave her a day off.”
That may not be what he wrote word-for-word but it is damned close – it's hard to forget the circumstances surrounding a privilege so rare that something similar happened only two or three other times while I was growing up.
About two weeks ago, I was down for three days or so with some kind of unnameable illness and I have not been right since then. Details aren't important. It is enough to know that I'm dragging myself around from wake-up time to bedtime with a feeling of general malaise so that everything from feeding the cat to writing a blog post feels like climbing Mt. Everest.
It's kind of like my fifth-grade crud except that it's lasting longer which might be due to my being six decades older.
The important part and the reason for this all-too-long intro is to explain that I have decided to give myself the same kind of dispensation from blog and other work that my dad so surprisingly gave me that day 60-odd years ago.
Maybe it came to me to do this because tomorrow, Friday, will be the 32nd anniversary of his death. Please don't judge him harshly for what I explained above. I don't.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Chlele Gummer: My Famous Story
Wednesday, 10 September 2014
Internet Advertising and My Brain Health
Today is Net Neutrality Day and thousands of websites have joined together in a brief slowdown of the loading of their pages to point out what will happen if the FCC decides to create paid internet “fast lanes” for big corporations like Comcast and Netflix.
At first, I intended to join them until I discovered that doing so involves a pop-up announcement with a link to a page where you can let lawmakers know you support net neutrality.
As you will find out further down this post, pop-ups (and other forms of advertising) have become so debilitating to human brain function that I will not add even this one to our decreasing abilities to concentrate. You can support net neutrality here – and please do.
In recent years, intrusive advertising has so increased in amount, length, sound volume and repetition that it outnumbers news, information and entertainment on webpages. This is no longer an exaggeration.
[Before we go any further with this discussion, let it be understood that anyone thinking to advise me about Adblock should go immediately to the back of the class. I have bank and other important accounts that do not function if Adblock or similar programs are in play and I do not want to be constantly enabling and disabling it.]
Most advert intrusions fall into either audio/visual or pop-up categories. Here are some the worst examples:
AUDIO/VIDEO: Music, narration or other audio – always a commercial - begins the moment the page loads. The source is, nowadays, hidden somewhere so far below the fold as to be unfindable (deliberate, of course) so to end it, all computer audio must be muted – not a useful choice.
Among many others, Huffington Post, TalkingPointsMemo, Time, Salon and The New York Times are offenders and USA Today doesn't even supply a mute or stop button so that the only escape route is to close the page. Which I do and now I've stopped visiting the site.
So many other websites have recently copied the no close/no mute button practice that I'll soon have no way to read the news online.
Another awful practice presented itself from Reuters. I had left open the page while I checked email and suddenly a commercial blared forth.
There were about 10 tabs open in my browser and no way to know which one was the culprit without taking the time to go through them all and search each page for the hidden audio.
While, of course, I had lost my train of thought and even what email I was dealing with.
I rarely visit the AARP site but was not too surprised last week to find that they have taken up the practice of suddenly blaring audio when I was well into reading a story, with no indication of how to find the origin.
POP-UPS: Pop-up (under, over, behind, etc) purveyors have become expert at timing the intrusion until you have read just enough to be engrossed and then they cover the exact paragraph and sentence you are reading.
Daily Kos does this and they pain you further by providing a close button but guess what? It won't work for about ten seconds. Do they really believe I'll keep visiting their site after that's happened several times? I have unbookmarked them.
The New York Times has their own annoyance that a few other sites I visit regularly have adopted. You've just settled into the story. You might already be at paragraph three or four when whoosh! The entire story is pushed below the fold by a giant, full-screen advertisement, often a movie poster, sliding down from the top.
But wait. If you are fool enough to scroll down as fast as you can in hopes of finding the place where you left off reading, Surprise! Just as you do, the advertisement closes by sliding back to the top, dragging the text with it and you've lost your place a second time.
Then there are the slide-ins. Truthdig does this and like the pop-ups, they are timed to cover what you are reading – but it's not even an ad. It begs you, for god's sake, to like them on Facebook. Interrupt me for something as silly as that and I'm gone. Forever.
TalkingPointsMemo also uses slide-ins from the sides but they have graduated to repeating them – again and again – as you move your cursor around trying to stop them from opening and closing. Nigh impossible.
But it is Raw Story that has taken the interruptions to the limit of human endurance – you know, the point where you smash your head into the computer screen.
A video starts blasting as soon as you arrive. It takes a minute or more to find it somewhere near the bottom of the screen and when you scroll back up, re-read a few sentences to find the place where you left off – at exactly that moment, a pop-up covers the entire page.
There seems to have been a big uptick the number and annoyance factors of these interruptions in recent months and while keeping this “intrusion diary,” I've become painfully aware of how short my attention span has become and worse, how jumpy I have become in general.
Reading a long (paper) magazine story or a book (paper or Kindle) has become hard. After 10 or 15 minutes, my mind wanders and feel myself searching for a distraction.
I realize it has been a long time since I have lost myself in a narrative and that, since I first learned to read, has been one of my greatest pleasures in life. I miss it and am determined to get back that kind of enjoyment but I doubt it will come easily.
I am convinced that as much as TV has, over decades, shortened our ability to focus, the internet, even before pop-ups and instant sound, have made it so much worse that I now question my ability for productive thought and for me, that is as terrifying as dementia. Hey, maybe it is a form of dementia.
So I have cut my online subscriptions (paid and free) and alerts at least in half including a lot of my favorite news and aging sources. I am limiting my reading to my morning coffee, lunch when I'm home and half an hour in the late afternoon just before I shut down the computer for the day.
I was lucky enough, as managing editor of the first cbsnews.com website beginning in 1995, to be part of the creation of the news and commercial web. It was a fascinating time – we were inventing it, making it up as we went along.
When the technology advanced far enough for audio, video and animation, my colleagues and I along with virtually all other reputable websites rejected automatic starts. Users, we believed, should make the choice of when to listen or watch.
That sane decision is gone now, I am seriously concerned about my brain health and further, I find it extremely odd that for all the time I've spent online until now, I have never seen a rant about this issue. I wonder if I'm the only one who is worried.
Don't forget to let your voice be heard on net neutrality.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: The Waiting Time