Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Are Elders REALLY More Susceptible to Scams and Fraud?

Every year or two, I write a blog post about scams, swindles and frauds that are likely to be perpetrated upon elders, along with some information on how to avoid them.

Conventional wisdom in the reporting about elders and fraud, supported by the FBI, Nolo, NCOA, AARP and other organizations one would expect to be knowledgeable, is that many more old people are cheated out of their money than younger people:

”The U.S. Department of Justice,” writes Nolo in an undated piece on the website, “estimates that dishonest telemarketers take in an estimated $40 billion each year, bilking one in six American consumers -- and the AARP claims that about 80% of them are 50 or older.”

In support of the assertion that elders are more stupid than others, the FBI relies on infantilizing us. Here are some of their reasons from an undated page at the FBI website:

“People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits...

“Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to...

“When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses...

“Senior citizens are more interested in and susceptible to products promising increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-cancer properties, and so on...”

As I reported here last year, I had been irritated for years at these assumptions that old people are more frequent victims:

”Why should they [be]?” I wrote. “In fact (thought I), with age comes experience and many elders have probably been burned enough times by unscrupulous people to be more alert to it than those with less experience.”

But that post last year was about new studies showing that scans of elder brains reveal diminished response to untrustworthiness. I concluded,

”So it seems my arrogance was showing in believing that my brain is healthy enough that I could not fall victim to a swindler. Now I know better. We are all vulnerable and these studies are a good warning to be careful.”

Well, not so fast. Although I generally stay away from reporting studies that use words like might, maybe, could about results, last year's studies were about what researchers found (or found lacking) in brains of young and old.

Not many maybes about that. Except, perhaps, in interpretation.

More recently, three researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada looked into the available data to see if elders really are scammed more often than younger people:

”While there isn’t much research that directly answers this question, the research that does exist suggests that older adults may be less frequent victims than other age groups,” reports one news source.

As the abstract of the published research report notes, there isn't enough evidence to be certain that elders are less frequent victims but neither is there evidence that they are more frequent victims.

”In generalizing from laboratory findings of cognitive decline to age differences in the prevalence of consumer fraud, psychologists may underestimate the influence in everyday life of possible protective factors associated with old age, including increased experience and changes in goals, lifestyle, income, as well as purchasing and risk behaviors.”

Just as I have always suspected – that a lifetime of experience make elders less vulnerable to scammers. Maybe. Maybe not.

But the jury is out and such organizations as Nola, NCOA, AARP and the FBI, lacking evidence, should not assume that old people are too stupid to come in out of the rain.

If I have learned anything in 20 years of studying aging, it is that the negative myths and presumptions about elders by the ignorant and uninformed are refuted far more often than they are upheld.

That does not mean that even the most vigilant people of any age cannot be scammed by clever swindlers. Nor does it mean that the experts who are so quick to scorn elders' cognitive capabilities can't provide useful information.

They are correct that elders are frequently targeted because the bad guys, too, believe the stereotype that old people are more susceptible than young people. And, when you are robo-calling and emailing millions, you are bound to turn up some who really do suffer cognitive decline.

So here are some good websites with information on the many ways the bad guys use part us from our money. (Do note, however, than none of the pages are dated so there is no way to know if, for example, “top 10 scams” are still true. New ones have undoubtedly been invented by now and others may have become more or less common.)

The FBI Common Fraud Scheme/Seniors page
The NCOA Top 10 Scams Targeting Seniors
NOLO Financial Scams Against Seniors


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: The Best Lovers

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Welsh Declaration of Rights for Old People

Last week, Wales became the first country in the world to adopt a Declaration of Rights for Older People. Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas said,

“The number of older people in Wales is growing and there is no dedicated set of rights for older people in the UK. Age discrimination and ageism are widely tolerated across the world.

"We must dispel old-fashioned stereotypes of people based on their age, and recognise and value the enormous contributions that older people make in all of our communities across Wales.

“I’m therefore delighted that Wales is once again leading the way by publishing a Declaration of the Rights of Older People in Wales.”

According to NewsWales, Older People's Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira, worked with elders themselves to create the Declaration,

”...which has received cross-party support in the National Assembly for Wales, is based on the UN Principles for Older Persons and sets out what older people have said they value and what rights they feel would support and protect them.”

The Declaration is meant not only to help old people understand their rights in Wales, but to be a guide for those who are responsible for the development and delivery of social services to Welsh elders.

Here are the six points in the Declaration along with the fuller explanations of each as laid out in the document:

I have the right to be who I am
Not all older people are the same and I have the right to be who I am. I am a unique person and have the right to be understood, considered and recognised as an individual. I have the right to be treated equally and without discrimination.

I have the right to be valued
Because I am human I have the right to be valued. My life is significant to me and those who care about me, and I have a right to live a life that has value, meaning and purpose. I matter. I am of worth both when I contribute to society and when I no longer do so.

I have free will and the right to make decisions about my life
I have the right to make decisions and be supported to do so if necessary. I have the right to exercise my free will and make choices. My opinion is the most important when decisions are being made about me and my life. I have a right to be supported to live independently.

I have the right to decide where I live, how I live and with whom I live
I have the right to decide where I live and to choose the person or people to spend my life with. I have a right to be in my own home and with the community I love.

I have the right to work, develop, participate and contribute
My life does not come to an end because I have reached a certain age. I have a right to work. I have a right to full involvement in my own community. I have a right to thrive and to continue learning, developing and growing. I have a right to support so I can continue contributing. I have a right to explore new things.

I have a right to safety, security and justice
I have a right to be taken seriously when I am afraid. I have a right to information and advice that addresses my worries and uncertainties. If I need the law to protect me I should not be treated differently because I am older. I also have the right to take risks if I want to.

You will find the full document here [pdf].

A big thank you to TimeGoesBy reader Allan Moult for bringing the Welsh Declaration to my attention. I was, of course, reminded of An Elder Pledge which I've shown you before and hangs on the wall by my desk. Each supports the other nicely - declarations from government and from elders themselves.

Elders Pledge

The Pledge was written by elderlaw attorney, Orrin Onken. The poster is 12 inches by 36 inches and can be ordered from the Syracuse Cultural Workers website for $15 unframed plus shipping. There are also postcards and bookmarks of the pledge.

As the population of elders increases dramatically around the world, I hope Wales will not be the only the first of many countries to adopt such a Declaration and make it binding.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Reincarnation

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Monday, 21 July 2014

Old Age Incontinence

According to a June 2014 report [pdf] from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half the U.S. population age 65 and older (50.9%) report urinary and/or bowel leakage.

That's just the group of us who live independently; there are different numbers, higher and lower, for those in care homes of various kinds.

Because it's not a subject anyone likes to talk about much, we giggle and make jokes.

IncontinenceHotLine

Although it is hard to openly discuss incontinence, it is important health issue that can have serious effects on people's lives. When WebMD reported on the CDC study, it noted,

"Bladder and bowel incontinence is a highly prevalent disease that has emotional, health, social and economic impacts in the daily life of our elderly population in the U.S.," said Dr. Farzeen Firoozi, a urologist at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.”

The first time I wrote about this often taboo subject in 2009, Cop Car posted my favorite comment: “I'm not dressed without a maxi pad.”

Ever since, when the subject comes up, I've laughed again and passed it on (so to speak) to others (with attribution, Cop Car).

The reason for that post was, as I explained then,

”...lately, when I laugh, sneeze or cough with too much force, I leak. Or, more bluntly, I pee in my pants. Not a lot, a few drops, and it happens not just when I need to visit the bathroom; it can happen even when I have just peed.”

So I did some research and reported to you. As I have further explained, more recently, losing weight solved the problem. No more leaks.

All this came to mind a few days ago when I received the weekly mailing from Harvard Medical School selling their topical health booklets – this one titled Better Bladder and Bowel Control. The email itself, headlined Five Ways to Dodge Incontinence, provides some good advice:

Watch your weight. Excess weight and incontinence can go hand in hand, particularly for women. One theory is that extra abdominal fat can weaken the pelvic floor muscles and lead to stress incontinence (leaking when coughing, laughing, sneezing, etc.). In some cases, simply losing weight can improve incontinence.

Don’t smoke. Smoking threatens your health in many ways. It also doubles the likelihood that a woman will develop stress incontinence. Nicotine has also been linked to urge incontinence.

Stay active. In the Nurses’ Health Study, middle-aged women who were the most physically active were the least likely to develop incontinence.

Minimize bladder irritants. Caffeine and alcohol have been linked to urge incontinence (the feeling you need to urinate even when the bladder isn’t full). Carbonated drinks, the artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet), spicy foods, and citrus fruits and juices cause urge incontinence in some people.

Don’t strain with bowel movements. This can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. If your stools are frequently hard or take considerable effort to pass, talk with your doctor. In a study involving people ages 65 and older, treating constipation improved a variety of urinary symptoms, including frequency, urgency, and burning. Increasing the fiber in your diet and drinking enough fluid can help prevent constipation.”

As useful as those items are to know, you can't get the rest of Harvard's information on causes and treatment without shelling out a lot more money than I care to spend.

Therefore, as TGB public service, here are some links to reputable online sources of information on incontinence:

WebMD Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center
Many links to full articles, explanations and discussions of all aspects of incontinence

Medscape Urinary Incontinence in the Elderly
A thorough, single-spaced, eight-page explanation meant for physicians but easily understandable by laymen

Mayo Clinic Urinary Incontinence
A good section with pages on definition, symptoms, causes, risk factors, complications, treatments, drugs, even home remedies

Incontinence is highly treatable with drugs, other interventions and in some cases, surgery. For me – like so many of the minor afflictions of age - just irritating, every single day.

I am grateful my bout of incontinence was so easily solved with weight loss. I always wondered, when I took up Cop Car's solution, what jokes the check out clerks at Rite-Aid were telling each other after this white-haired old woman paid for her Maxipads.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: I Accept the Nomination

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Sunday, 20 July 2014

ELDER MUSIC: 1956 Again

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 1956?

  • Archie Roach was born
  • Melbourne staged the Olympics Games
  • Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show
  • My Fair Lady opened on Broadway
  • IBM invented the hard disk drive. It contained fifty 24-inch disks with total storage capacity of 5MB
  • High Society was released
  • Melbourne were premiers

I'll start the year with the inimitable LITTLE RICHARD.

Little Richard

Any year that starts with him can't be all bad. His song is one of his big ones, Rip It Up.

♫ Little Richard - Rip It Up

From real rock & roll to no rock & roll at all, in spite of the title. Around this time mainstream musos were trying to cash in on the craze and completely missing the mark. This is a good example by KAY STARR singing Rock and Roll Waltz.

What a shocker (the song that is, not the singer – Kay's pretty good).

Kay Starr

♫ Kay Starr - Rock and Roll Waltz

My Prayer started life in 1926 as a song called Avant de Mourir written by Georges Boulanger who was a Romanian violinist, composer and conductor.

Around 1939, Jimmy Kennedy wrote English lyrics to the tune and it was recorded with some success by both Glenn Miller and The Ink Spots. More time passed and THE PLATTERS had a go at it this year.

The Platters

Many others have turned their hand (or their mouth) to it, but The Platters' version is still the pick of them and the biggest selling as well.

♫ The Platters - My Prayer

Lincoln Chase wrote song Jim Dandy for LAVERN BAKER.

LaVern Baker

The song is all about how our hero Jim rescues women from all sorts of improbable situations. The song was successful enough that Lincoln wrote a follow up called Jim Dandy Got Married (I don't know if that counts as an improbable situation).

♫ LaVern Baker - Jim Dandy

GENE VINCENT started his adult life in the navy, sailing to Korea at one stage.

Gene Vincent

Upon his return he was seriously injured in a motor cycle accident (hit by a drunk driver) that damaged his leg so he had a limp for the rest of his life.

He was discharged from the navy on medical grounds and started a band called Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps. He wrote a song called Be-Bop-A-Lula and they recorded a demo.

Capitol Records wanted an artist to compete with Elvis and they got to hear Gene's demo. They signed him immediately and they recorded it for real and it became a big hit and a very influential song indeed.

♫ Gene Vincent - Be-Bop-A-Lula

The charts of the day still contained artists from earlier times, one of whom was FRANKIE LAINE.

Frankie Laine

Even though he was renowned for singing cowboy songs, Frankie was at heart a jazz singer. This isn't quite jazz, although there are some inflections there. It's more big band pop. A Woman in Love.

♫ Frankie Laine - A Woman In Love

TERESA BREWER really is A Sweet Old Fashioned Girl.

Teresa Brewer

Scoobley dooby be doo be doo (etc).

♫ Teresa Brewer - A Sweet Old Fashioned Girl

Oh Eddie, what possessed you to record Dungaree Doll? Eddie is, if you didn't know, EDDIE FISHER.

Eddie Fisher

I imagine he was still trying to remain relevant to the young folks but it was already too late. I don't know if you can still remember this one. I can, my sister played it all the time. Deep sigh.

♫ Eddie Fisher - Dungaree Doll

Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee recorded as SHIRLEY AND LEE.

Shirley & Lee

Shirley and Lee were born only days apart in New Orleans and had several big hits together while they were still teenagers. They wrote those themselves.

They had an interesting style, not singing together, really two separate singers that seemed to work. Here's one of those early songs, one that's become famous as a sort of anthem of New Orleans - Let the Good Times Roll.

♫ Shirley & Lee - Let the Good Times Roll

I'll finish with The King. ELVIS was already in the mix by 1956, but it was this year that broke him worldwide with Heartbreak Hotel.

Elvis Presley

He had several more hits this year (and every year for the decade). This is one of them, Don't Be Cruel.

♫ Elvis Presley - Don't Be Cruel

You can find more music from 1956 here.

1957 will appear in two weeks' time.

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Saturday, 19 July 2014

INTERESTING STUFF – 19 July 2014


84 YEAR OLD STUNS AMERICA'S GOT TALENT PANEL

The judges on AGT were pretty sure they weren't going to like Mr. Jessel. See what happened.


MARY PHILLIPS UPDATE

In last week's Interesting Stuff, 98-year-old Mary Phillips explained how she was fighting an eviction notice from the apartment she has lived in for 50 years. TGB reader Chrissoup sent in a followup report which includes a statement from the company that wants to evict Phillips.

”Today Urban Green CEO David McCloskey released a statement saying that Phillips would be allowed to remain in her Mission neighborhood apartment for the rest of her life cost-free.”

According to the rest of the story, that's not quite it. There is no provision for Mary Phillips' friend and caregiver to remain in her apartment which would, it seems, make the offer useless.

And it's even more complicated than that. You can read the report at SF Gate.


THE BEST LEMONADE FROM LEMONS STORY EVER

Joe Pleban, age 23, loved sports, extreme sports. He contracted a rare joint disease in his ankle that required amputation. You would think that would be a terrible blow to Joe. Think again.

The fullness of the human spirit can sometimes be astonishing. You can read more about Joe Pleban here.


U.S. DIALECT MAP

A bunch of folks at Harvard surveyed more than 350,000 people to identify some regional linquistic differences and then The New York Times turned it into an interactive quiz for its readers.

Here's my map:

Dialect Map

Red areas are where my linquistic origins are most similar; blue is least similar. I don't think it is anywhere near correct but then, I've lived for short and long periods of time in ten U.S. cities scattered all over the map so I probably don't have an easily identifiable dialect.

You can try the quiz for yourself here.


JOHN OLIVER ON INEQUALITY AND AMERICA'S WEALTH GAP

What becomes more evident with each passing week of John Oliver's HBO program is that he, a comedian, is doing the best educational reporting on serious issues of any media outlet around – any, including print, online and television.

Here is his latest from last Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight. It's lengthy and worth every moment.


LET'S HERE IT FOR WOMEN BISHOPS

At least one religious group is catching up to the 20th century. Last week the General Synod of the Church of England approved consecration of women bishops. Read about it here.


ELDERS REACT TO GOOGLE GLASS

I'm never quite sure if these videos of Elders React to [insert almost anything] are funny or ageist. Mostly I laugh because, depending on the topic, I could be one of the elders in the videos.


FOR SHERLOCK HOLMES FANS

I've been a Sherlock Holmes fan since I was a kid. I've read the entire oeuvre- oh, probably half a dozen times over my life although I'm not so far gone to have considered membership in the Baker Street Irregulars.

Now, production is underway in London of a new movie about Holmes, this time as a 93-year-old retiree living by the sea who is struggling with a failing memory. He is played by Sir Ian McKellan. This is the first public photo of McKellan in character:

McKellen as Holmes - AP Photo/Agatha A Nitecka, See-Saw Films

The film, titled Holmes, is adapted from a 2006 novel by Mitch Cullen titled A Slight Trick of the Mind. I hope the film improves on the book which I found too tedious to finish.

You can read more about McKellen's new role here.


HIDDEN MIRACLES OF THE NATURAL AND SCIENTIFIC WORLDS

Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg gave a Tedtalk recently about a film that makes use of high-speed cameras, time lapses and microscopes to show us the world around us that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Thank Darlene Costner for sending this video which is a collection of excerpts from a new 3D movie titled, Mysteries of the Unseen World. It's great fun to watch.


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.

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Friday, 18 July 2014

The Power of Music for Dementia

A couple of years ago, my friend Jim Stone and several others readers sent me a remarkable video about Henry. At the time of filming, he had been 10 years living in a nursing home in dementia care - listless, unresponsive and as one person says in the video, hardly alive.

Then he was given a iPod filled with music from the era of his youth. Watch what happened:

Henry's life was changed due to the efforts of social worker Dan Cohen to bring iPods full of music to dementia care homes throughout the United States and Canada. The results are remarkable. As explained on Cohen's website, Music and Memory,

”...our brains are hard-wired to connect music with long-term memory.

“Even for persons with severe dementia, music can tap deep emotional recall. For individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s, memory for things — names, places, facts — is compromised, but memories from our teenage years can be well-preserved.

“Favorite music or songs associated with important personal events can trigger memory of lyrics and the experience connected to the music. Beloved music often calms chaotic brain activity and enables the listener to focus on the present moment and regain a connection to others.”

Today, 18 July, a movie about Cohen's efforts to bring music to millions of dementia patients opens in cities around the United States. It is titled Alive Inside and it reveals the power of music to restore a measure of life, memory and pleasure to people who have been semi-comatose.

This is the official Alive Inside trailer.

There is a list of opening dates and venues in various U.S. cities for the movie at the Alive Inside website.

At the website for Dan Cohen's Music and Memory nonprofit organization, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to help bring music to more dementia patients, and you can read about the research and science behind the music that is changing the lives of patients and their caregivers.

As I was writing this story, it occurred to me that perhaps among all the papers we have for end-of-life issues, we should all make a list, or even a thumb drive, of the music we loved in our youth and listened to throughout our lives so that should dementia become our fate, caregivers would not need to guess.

This is a local news story showing how music has affected the lives of some residents in care home in Pennsylvania:


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Mack: Dinner With Mom

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Thursday, 17 July 2014

How Do You Feel About Your Appearance?

It doesn't take long for little kids to understand that physical appearance - whether you are beautiful or handsome or not in the eyes of others - matters a great deal in the world.

Those who win the beauty lottery have all kinds of advantages over the rest of us including, according to repeated surveys, higher income throughout their lives. Relatedly, one of the reasons old people are marginalized is that younger people think we are unsightly – you know, all those ugly wrinkles.

It doesn't seem to be true for men (I could be wrong about that), but pressure on girls and women to make themselves as attractive as possible is what keeps companies that sell cosmetics, hair care products and chemical enhancements wealthy, billions of dollars style wealthy.

That's because the entire industry is geared to make all women who are not Angelina Jolie believe they are unattractive and most of us buy into it.

In regard to my appearance, I have always been adept at selective vision – seeing only what I want to see about my hair, face, body. During the decade when I got fat, before my recent weight loss (40 pounds), I never actually looked at my body.

That was easy while I was still living in Maine; I had no full length mirror. But even in this home that came with several full length mirrors, it was as though there was a veil over my eyes that made me invisible in the reflection.

Nowadays, I'm quite happy to see myself clearly in the mirror. Even the remarkably high number of new wrinkles that come with weight loss in old age (in places where I've never had wrinkles before) doesn't bother me.

According to a new survey from Gallup of more than 85,000 adults age 18 and older, I am far from alone in being comfortable with my appearance in old age.

”Though many may pine for the physical appearance they had in their younger years, America's seniors are the most confident in their looks. Two-thirds (66%) of Americans aged 65 and older 'agreed' or 'strongly agreed' that they always feel good about their physical appearance...”

Elders even beat 18- to 34-year-olds in the survey. Sixty-one percent of them like their appearance. The middle-aged are least likely (54 percent) feel good about their appearance.

As you might suspect, throughout life men are more confident about their looks than women and they hit their peak – when the largest number are comfortable with their appearance (74 percent) - at age 80-84.

That age for women (69 percent) is 85 and older.

Now we could attribute that result to poor eyesight but it's much more fun to believe that at last, toward the very end of our lives, we finally achieve a measure of wisdom as to what is really important and what is not.

You can read the entire survey results at the Gallup website.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: The Chance of a Lifetime

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