Elder Orphans – Part 1: Definition

About 18 months ago, I started a conversation here about elder orphans. It is a distinct characteristic of old age for tens of millions of old people but recognized as such only recently.

Somehow I dropped the ball on this and am only now getting back to it. The intention this time (and you are allowed to call me out if I don't follow through) is to cover the issues in installments that will appear here on a regular basis – about once a month or so.

Let's start today with the definition – who/what is an elder orphan? This is more important and more complicated than I anticipated because as I began catching up on the newest information, I was shocked at the universally negative description of life in old age itself and worse for elder orphans. Some samples.

Even Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York City (who may or may not have coined the phrase, elder orphans, paints a terrible picture.

”According to Carney,” writes Carol Marak in Huffington Post, “older adults have a higher risk of having trouble with daily tasks, experience cognitive decline, develop coronary heart disease and even die.

“The risks increase for people living alone and socially isolated. They have higher incidences of medical complications, mental illness, mobility issues and health care access problems. This is not good news for us, the single without children.”

Well, geez, just shoot me now.

Ms. Marak, who keeps a Facebook page called Elder Orphans, also writes, at Next Avenue in a piece titled, Elder Orphans Have a Harder Time Aging in Place:

”...once 65 hits, the changes bring reminders that we’re no longer the same. We don’t move as quickly, we don’t multitask as well, nor do we easily adapt.

“Those are the simple cues. As we age, the physical and mental challenges delivered through loss, immobility and dependence are the ones that put us at higher risks.

“However, the effects of aging land harder on an 'elder orphan,' because the worry and concern of 'what will become of me if I can’t care for myself?' triples when no one is around.”

There is no way to know where that “triples” reference comes from nor do I buy it. Not for a minute do I think elder orphans worry three times as much as non-orphans about the effects of aging.

However, even without that hysterical tone, some academics sound as dire in their definitions of elder orphans: “both childless and friendless;” “people over 65 who are single or widowed, have no children at least in the area, and no support system;” “have low social capital.”

Some of you who have been here at TGB for a number of years perhaps recall what I discovered about the literature of growing old after I had been studying aging for half a dozen years. As I wrote in the About page for this blog:

”...I spent the greater part of my time away from the workplace researching what it is like to grow old. I wanted to know what I was in for and it wasn't a pretty picture.

“Whether popular books, magazines and newspapers, scholarly and academic research, psychology and medical texts, movies, TV shows, advertising and comedy too, the conclusions were universal: old age was all about the three Ds – disease, decline and decay leading to a fourth D, death.”

And that was the best anyone had to say about growing old which is why I adopted the subtitle for this blog, "what it's really like to get old." It's nowhere near that bad.

In the decade since then, as the boomers have reached the beginning of their elder years, old age has become “cool” to write about as both popular and academic reporting has taken a more realistic and positive attitude toward it.

Except, apparently, among the people who have at least acknowledged the existence of elder orphans. I'm going to assume that these people mean well but I reject their descriptions of old age just as I did a dozen years ago.

Yes, some old people will become sick, lonely and dependent on family or others but nowhere near a majority of old people and I'll back that up with research and statistics in a future post.

Today, let's get to a definition of an elder orphan. At the risk of stringing out what would have been a one-page blog post until I started reading, here is a definition in list form from Ms. Marak's Huffington Post story linked above:

”Who are elder orphans?” she writes.
We are the socially and physically isolated aged living in local communities

We live without a family member or a designated surrogate

We have a higher vulnerability to losing the decision-making capacity

We use only a few community resources and are lonely

We have a high risk of losing independence and safety

We aren’t acknowledged (as a group) that will need more attention and care”

No. NO. NO. There is no evidence for a word of that.

Lack of family or close friend, in itself, does not make anyone more vulnerable, lonelier, less safe or liable to loss of cognitive abilities than old people with children or close friends.

I suspect Ms. Marak has confused research on loneliness in old age with being an elder orphan. Some elder orphans are lonely. Some old people with families are lonely. The two characteristics are not synonymous and alone is not the definition of lonely.

Here is a better definition of an elder orphan from 18 months ago:

An elder orphan is an old person who is single, lives alone, has no children or family member or friend who can act on his or her behalf in handling health, legal and financial issues.

An elder orphan has no one, or is uncertain of who, to list on that “next of kin” line in forms, no one designated to carry out end-of-life wishes, and see to the funeral and burial.”

That was a decent definition a year and a half ago but it needs expanding at least this much: Some old people who have children or other family members are elder orphans because they are estranged from their family or children and/or don't want them involved in decision making.

It's amazing how many people I've run into who feel this way. Having relatives doesn't mean you trust them – or even like them.

As my friend Wendl Kornfeld – who knows a whole lot about elder orphans and who you will be hearing more from during this series of blog posts – says:

”We urge people without family to be their own strongest advocate and to support that by creating a community as their family.”

And that is what we will do in this series: break down the issue into easily doable chunks. And we will do it without making anyone feel that being an elder orphan is a calamity that makes our lives worse than that of other old people. It is not.


A Rite of Elderpassage – One More Time

[EDITORIAL NOTE: A couple of unexpected appointments intruded yesterday leaving no time to get a post written before I ran out of steam by mid-afternoon so today I have a rerun for you.

This was first published here 10 years ago (while I still lived in Portland, Maine) and I may have republished it since, although I can't find it. A decade later, I still like it and I am still happy I made a point to mark this passage for myself. See what you think.

* * *

We humans have numerous rituals to celebrate important events. Some are one-time, special occasions like baptisms for babies, confirmations and bar or bat mitzvahs at around puberty, marriage (well, not too many in a lifetime) and funerals. Others come ‘round regularly – birthdays and anniversaries, for example.

Many of our celebrations involve special foods and music, recitations of text and clothing just for the occasion. Our rituals give context to and mark our path through life. They strengthen social bonds, renew commitments, are demonstrations of respect or faith and, sometimes, are conducted for the pleasure of the observance itself.

There is one U.S. ritual, however, that is not remarked upon and as far as I have noticed, not widely recognized as a rite of passage: signing up for Social Security. I did that yesterday.

For all my life, 65 was the “official” U.S. retirement age, the birthday on which all workers and some others become eligible for Social Security. In the past few years, the government has been raising the age at which full benefits are given and for me, having been born in 1941, it is 65 and eight months – December 2006.

During the past two or three weeks, I checked the Social Security website and knew I needed a certified copy of my birth certificate, my tax return for 2005 and my checking account number to arrange direct deposit of my benefit. I had those, but when I tried to sign up on line – twice – the link to that page was broken.

That didn’t give me a lot of confidence that the enrollment, if I could catch the webpage on a day it was working, would happen without a glitch, and as time went by, I began thinking that becoming a Social Security beneficiary is too important an event to toss off with an online form.

Nothing else we do marks our passage into old age. Oh, some have retirement parties when they leave their last full-time job, but with fewer people working at the same company for many years as in the past, retirement celebrations are less common and, anyway, it doesn’t rank up there with birthdays and bar mitzvahs. When was the last time anyone got a gold watch?

We have written and argued here for almost three years about the age at which someone becomes old. Obviously, it is a fluid designation - a different time for different people - and some refuse to be categorized as such at all.

But the whole reason Time Goes By exists is to exercise my curiosity about what being old is really like and receiving a monthly retirement benefit from the Social Security Administration is a pretty good signal that one is no longer young – or even middle-aged.

So I decided to make a private ritual of it, to mark the day when I became an official old person.

I could have called the SSA 800 number, but that's no better a ritual than a webpage form. So at about 8:45AM yesterday, I packed up my papers and drove to the local Social Security office – a dank little building down the street a short way from a strip mall where, inside, a police officer moonlighting as a guard sat reading a war novel. I was there at 9AM, early enough to be fifth in line.

After a 30-minute wait, I was called to the counter. “Social Security number?” the woman asked. Then, instead of “what is your name,” she asked “who are you?” Since I am more than my name, I liked that and decided on the spot that it was an auspicious beginning for my little ritual.

Another wait of 15 minutes and then a different woman, Mrs. Ortiz, called me into her cubicle. Like me, she is from New York City – Brooklyn, to be precise. Moved to Portland, Maine three years ago with her husband and two small children. We had a fine old time talking about what we like about Portland and what we miss and don’t miss about New York.

It was nearly an hour we spent together looking at my papers and leisurely filling out forms while I swore to the facts that I’m not a felon or a fugitive, am not lying about anything and understand my rights.

Except that the Social Security office is as drab and dull and gray as all government agencies and, oddly, neither Mrs. Ortiz nor any other employee I could see had a single personal item in their cubes – not even a box of Kleenex – it was the best experience I’ve ever had with a bureaucracy.

Pleasantries were exchanged as if we might have been seatmates who had never met before at a wedding dinner. Questions were asked and answered. Computer keys clacked in response and a printer whirred.

As the final step in our ceremony, we shook hands to affirm that my new status had been ritually achieved. I was now a Social Security beneficiary and, in the lights of the U.S. government, I had become an official old person.

Aside from whatever number of additional birthdays the gods grant me and unless I marry again, this was the final rite of passage before my funeral. Mrs. Ortiz may or may not have realized it, but she made it feel like the ritual I wanted. And to celebrate my "coming of age", I had a glass of wine with dinner. Whooeee!


The Day After the First Presidential Debate of 2016

image

She crushed him. Hillary Clinton crushed him. She was prepared, poised, knowledgeable and in control of the stage. Donald Trump was vague, pouty and flailing, clearly out of his depth and after the first 30 minutes or so, incoherent. Clinton had no trouble getting under Trump's skin and he reacted as we have come to expect, lashing out, but none of his attacks landed.

He interrupted Clinton constantly, made childishly faces while she was speaking, fidgeted and harrumphed. His behavior could have been seen as a Saturday Night Live parody of him played by a 10-year-old. It was that bad. It is questionable that this man is capable of running a company and certainly not a country.

Most of the pundits (except the ones you would expect) declared Secretary Clinton the winner. Two snap polls agreed: A PPP poll found that viewers thought Clinton had won the debate by a 51-40 margin. A CNN/ORC poll found that 62 percent of viewers thought Clinton won vs. 27 percent who thought Trump did, reported Slate.

This is a good thing - for us and for a world worried about what kind of person the United States will elect - but I remember the first debate in 2012 when Mitt Romney cleaned Barack Obama's clock. Obama came soaring back from that defeat in the subsequent debates and we'll see if Trump gets his game on when the two candidates square off again in St.Louis on 9 October.

I don't need to quote all the morning news outlets for you - it's easy to find them online. This extra Tuesday post is for all of us to react to what we saw last evening or read today. Comments are shut down on yesterday's post with a link to this one so all our responses are gathered in one place where we can follow along.

Because it is the internet, space is unlimited – have your say at whatever length. Just, please, paragraph it if it's long so that it is easier for old eyes to read.


Watching the First Presidential Debate Tonight

UPDATE ON TUESDAY EARLY MORNING: Comments are shut down on this post and you are directed to the "morning after" post here for reactions and commentary on the first presidential debate that was held Monday night.

* * *

image

It's been 14 years now I've been at this blog and I'm pretty sure 99.99 percent of the posts relate to ageing no matter how much I sometimes stretch the definition of that word to fit whatever I'm writing.

None of that pretense today. And there won't be any during the next times I write about this political season until we vote on 8 November because it is the most crucial presidential election of our lives, however old or young you are.

The consequences of choosing the Republican candidate puts our country, the countries of the rest of world and the ideals we hold dear at the greatest risk we have ever known. His election could change the future of the world in ways no other American president has done and that are terrifying to contemplate. And that is why this debate and the next two are the only things we should be talking about right now.

Sometimes I still think it is impossible that this man is a real candidate for the presidency with a real chance of winning. In all its years, I never saw an episode of The Apprentice. I could not have told you when it was broadcast or on what network.

He came to public attention about the time I arrived to live in New York City in the late 1960s and he became such a media presence that he couldn't be missed. But for me, it went no deeper than the garish headlines leaving me with the impression that he was an ignorant, vulgar boor, not someone I would ever need to pay serious attention.

Amazing now, how wrong I was. This evening, he and the Democratic candidate go head-to-head in the first of the three debates that will help decide the future of the world.

UPDATE AT 6AM: Last night, John Oliver returned from hiatus to his HBO show, Last Week Tonight. His main essay is too important not to post right now, before tonight's debate, and here it is:

There are predictions of more than 100 million viewers tonight - that's approaching Super Bowl levels - and that 73 percent of registered voters are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to watch, according to Morning Consult Poll [pdf].

You don't need me to find all the information you need to prepare for tonight's debate (if you think you need to at all) - it's everywhere. But in the interests of detail, here are some facts:

• TIME: The debate begins at 9PM eastern U.S. time and lasts for 90 minutes. There are no commercial interruptions.

• MODERATOR: The anchor of NBC Nightly News, Lester Holt, is the moderator.

• LOCATION: The debate is, of course, live and being held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Long Island.

• FORMAT: The debate will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each.

The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other.

The moderator will use any remaining time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

• TOPICS: Moderator Lester Holt selected the topics: America's Direction, Achieving Prosperity, Securing America. Each will last for two segments.

Or, at least, that's what is planned so far. Events could change the topics and maybe the format.

• WHERE TO WATCH: These television channels will carry the debate:

ABC
CBS
Fox
NBC
PBS
C-SPAN
CNN
Fox News
MSNBC

The debate will also be streamed online at least at these locations and there may be others:

Most networks' websites
Facebook
YouTube
debates.twitter.com

Also: Undoubtedly at a bar or two near you.

image

• FACT CHECKING: Unlike Chris Wallace who will moderate the third debate, Lester Holt has not announced he will refrain from fact checking the candidates, although that does not mean he will.

Certainly, Hillary Clinton has some mis-statements and/or outright lies on her record but nothing to equal Donald Trump who has so many that most of us cannot recall them all.

As a reminder so you can keep track during the debate, here are some helpful reminders:

Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post has rounded up a Fact Check Cheat Sheet. As he explains in his introduction:

”The list is longer for Trump because, frankly, he has been exceptionally fact-challenged in this campaign. His average Pinocchio rating is 3.4, which is extraordinary; the highest average rating in the 2012 campaign was Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who earned 3.08.

“Clinton has an average Pinocchio rating of 2.2, which is slightly higher than President Obama and slightly lower than Mitt Romney in 2012.”

You will find Kessler's Cheat Sheet here.

Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns at The New York Times have created a list of Trump's most commonly repeated "whoppers" that occurred in just one week.

Two other things:

  1. Many pundits have said that if Mr. Trump manages to get through the 90 minutes without dropping any of his signature verbal bombs or other craziness, he will “win” the debate. That is not the criteria for a win or, rather, shame on the media for thinking so.

  2. Normally, I do not publish on Tuesdays but tomorrow will be an exception. Whatever happens tonight, I'm sure we will want to talk about it so a new TGB page will be open for commentary on Tuesday and comments will be closed on this page.

Meanwhile, how do you intend to watch the debate? Here on the west coast, it will be 6PM. That's early for most people but due to my odd sleep disorder, it is late evening for me so the cat and I will snuggle in among the six bed pillows, me with pad and pen to take any notes I might want for later. You?

image

* * *

UPDATE ON TUESDAY EARLY MORNING: Comments are shut down on this post and you are directed to the "morning after" post here for reactions and commentary on the first presidential debate that was held Monday night.


ELDER MUSIC: 1962 Yet 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.

* * *

Perhaps I've been doing this too long because I'm about to quote myself. The first time through for 1962 I said, "1962, what a dreary old year you were musically. This year could be considered the nadir of the sixties.”

Now I'm going to see if I can prove myself wrong without using any of the songs I've used previously and remember, there have already been two columns devoted to 1962. Quite a challenge I know.

I don't know if I succeeded but I found enough so I wasn't disappointed. Let's see if they are worth including.

Over the years there have often been "the next" when it come to popular music – the next Elvis, the next Bob Dylan, the next Beatles and so on. I'll start with one of those, the next Buddy Holly, BOBBY VEE.

That's not too surprising as Bobby was quickly substituted on the tour after Buddy was killed in the plane crash. Fortunately, Bobby evolved into a decent artist in his own right.

Bobby Vee

He was already established by 1962, and the song The Night Has a Thousand Eyes was probably the biggest of his career. He was one of the most underrated performers of this era.

♫ Bobby Vee - The Night Has A Thousand Eyes


THE CRYSTALS were a real group who had a number of hits.

The Crystals

However, their producer was Phil Spector and he really didn't care about the personnel of his various groups as long as they sounded good. That means that on a number of their records, it was actually Darlene Love and/or The Blossoms singing.

Not on this one though. It's the actual Crystals with one of their hits written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Uptown.

♫ The Crystals - Uptown


DEL SHANNON was one of the few bright lights who turned up between fifties rock & roll and sixties rock.

Del Shannon

Del had a bunch of fine songs during his career. This wasn't his best but it was the one from this year and we can't have everything. Little Town Flirt.

♫ Del Shannon - Little Town Flirt


BARBARA LYNN wrote and recorded You'll Lose a Good Thing, and took it up to the pointy end of the charts.

Barbara Lynn

It was later covered by Aretha Franklin and Freddy Fender who both had success with the song. Others have performed it too.

Barbara started out playing piano but later switched to electric guitar – it was unusual at the time for a woman to be out front playing lead. We hope things have changed but they may not have progressed to the point where this isn't remarked upon.

♫ Barbara Lynn - You'll Lose a Good Thing


MARY WELLS had a huge hit with the song My Guy, but that was in 1964.

Mary Wells

As she was on Motown Records, that song and most of her other hits were written by Smokey Robinson, including the one from this year, You Beat Me to the Punch.

♫ Mary Wells - You Beat Me to the Punch


Any year with the EVERLY BROTHERS having a hit can't be a complete write-off.

Everly Brothers

Most of their big hits were behind them by this year but they were still bringing out good music in spite of barely tolerating each other. This, alas, continued for the rest of their lives. Here is Crying in the Rain.

♫ Everly Brothers - Crying In The Rain


JOANIE SOMMERS made a singing career (she was also an actress) singing jazz and standards.

Joanie Sommers

However, she'll always be remembered (at least by me, and probably others around my age) for singing her only number one hit, Johnny Get Angry. Sorry, Joannie.

♫ Joanie Sommers - Johnny Get Angry


ETTA JAMES can be pretty much guaranteed to shake things up, and she does so today.

Etta James

Something's Got A Hold On Me was written by Etta along with Leroy Kirkland and Pearl Woods. It was recorded at the home of the blues, Chess records. It's been covered by many others but Etta did it first and did it best.

♫ Etta James - Something's Got A Hold On Me


As they always did, New Orleans musicians were guaranteed to produce good music, and they did it this year as well. One of those was BARBARA GEORGE.

Barbara George

Barbara wrote the song, I Know (You Don't Love Me No More) and it became quite a hit for her. It's been covered by quite a few others over the years.

Barbara wasn't able to match that song's success and she faded somewhat and retired from the music biz.

♫ Barbara George - I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)


There were no better singers this year than HELEN SHAPIRO.

Helen Shapiro

Actually, there have been few better singers than she in the history of popular music. The song I've chosen wasn't one of her biggest hits but I like it as I liked most of hers from around this time (before she became an "all round entertainer").

It is Little Miss Lonely.

♫ Helen Shapiro - Little miss lonely

Thank heavens for the women, they made this year acceptable.


INTERESTING STUFF – 24 September 2016

THIS 90-YEAR-OLD PROVES I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT DEDICATION

From the Youtube page:

”For 53 years, Justo Gallego has been building a cathedral by hand on the outskirts of Madrid almost entirely by himself. Gallego has no formal architecture or construction training, but that hasn't stopped him from toiling on this herculean task.

“At 90 years old, Gallego knows that he will not be able to finish the project in his lifetime. But he keeps at it anyway, day after day, driven by his faith.”

WHAT IN THE WORLD TEST

Most newspapers and many news websites have weekly quizzes where we can test our knowledge of what happened during the week. I'm not much interested in those but this one intrigued me. As The New York Times explains the latest update:

”A few months ago, we started a new feature of short, surprising items from all corners of the globe. We've now published 100 of these items, and we hope they have made you smile and maybe even taught you something about another culture.

“To celebrate, we offer this quiz, where you can test your new knowledge of peculiar facts about faraway places — or learn some new ones.”

Of the 10 multiple choice questions, I got only three right, she said with chagrin. You can check how you do here.

THE NEW AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM

You have probably seen news stories about the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington D.C. Most of us will probably not get there but this week, the Washington Post published images of some fascinating artifacts. Here are two:




Slaveholders could earn money by hiring their slaves out as workers. A slave badge identified the slave by his or her profession and the date.


During the segregation era, caricatures of African Americans were an ubiquitous part of American life that ornamented household items, from candleholders to coin banks to these salt and pepper shakers, made in the 1950s.

The variety of items, from slave collars and leg irons to Michael Jackson's fedora and much more, is remarkable. You can see more in the Post story here.

And you can explore the entire museum “through an African American lens” at the museum website.

JOHN OLIVER TAKES HIS EMMY TO JIMMY KIMMEL'S SHOW

The night after John Oliver's HBO program, Last Week Tonight won an Emmy for outstanding variety series last week, he and his Emmy dropped by the Jimmy Kimmel Live late night show. Take a look:

This was the first Emmy for Oliver and his HBO show. He has three others for his work on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. Also this week, Oliver appeared on CBS This Morning. The Emmy was mentioned but he also discussed his Edward Snowden interview in Moscow and the "dispiriting" presidential campaign.

At last, Oliver and his HBO show return from hiatus tomorrow night.

NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY LIVE EVENTS

TGB reader Amanda reminded me about the live events of the New York Public Library that are then available to watch for free online. The range of guests is wide – from Nicholson Baker recently to Alan Cumming, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Helen Mirren. Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and many more.

Tickets to attend an event at the Library can be as much as $40. But after the live events, usually by the next day, you can stream them on your PC, tablet, phone or download them as podcasts. All for free. Find them here.

AN AMAZING IDEA – SOLAR ROADWAYS

All you have to do to understand this idea is hear or read the name: solar roadways. It solves an enormous number of important problems and if anyone in charge is smart, we'll move forward with this immediately. Take a look – you will be impressed.

Find out more here:

MADELINE'S GINORMOUS TEDDY BEAR

Madeline Gonzales is only five months old. Her grandfather, who works at Costco, couldn't resist buying one for her when a load of humungously large teddy bears arrived at the store. Take a look at Madeline with her new plush toy:

Bigteddybear

There are more photos with the whole story here at Buzzfeed. I'm pretty sure this is the cutest thing you will see all day today.

A GAY LATINO COVERS AN ALT-RIGHT NEWS CONFERENCE

During this presidential election campaign, a certain candidate's dog whistles have made him a darling the white supremacy/neo-Nazi movement which, renamed the "alt-right," is having its moment in the media sun.”

Here is a report about their recent conference from a gay Latino reporter:

PILLSBURY DOUGHBOY OBITUARY

This has been floating around the webisphere for several years but I was reminded of it this week after a long while and it's as much fun to read again, especially for pun lovers, as the first time around.

Chi-pillsbury-dough-boy-creator-dead-20150402

”Sad news today, so please join me in remembering yet another great icon of the entertainment community. The Pillsbury Dough Boy died yesterday of a yeast infection and traumatic complications from repeatedly being poked in his belly during his lifetime.

“The veteran Pillsbury spokesman was 71. Dough Boy is survived by his wife, Play Dough; three children, John Dough, Jane Dough, and Dill Dough; plus they also had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart. Services were held yesterday at 350 for about 20 minutes.

“Dough Boy (DB) was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours.

“Longtime friend, Aunt Jemima, delivered the eulogy, describing DB as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. DB rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers.

“He was not considered a very 'smart' cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, but was thought of as a roll model for millions. Toward the end, it was thought he would rise again, but alas, he remained unleavened.”

* * *

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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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.


Welcome to Fall - And to Falls Prevention

Besides being the official first day of fall, yesterday, 22 September, was National Falls Prevention Awareness Day – as it has been for the past nine years.

Wait. Let me back up a bit first.

For readers who have been coming around here for a year and more, this will look familiar. I publish a falls prevention story every year at this time and maybe, like me, you feel that you have read it recently.

That's the age-old problem for old people of time passing so quickly as the birthdays pile up. In my case, I have no idea anymore how long ago any given thing happened. I've taken to telling people, when I use the word “recently,” that it could mean anything from six months ago to ten years ago.

However, in the case of falls prevention, familiarity and repetition are a good thing. If you don't think so, take a look at just a few of the statistics about falls in regard to people who are 65 and older. From the National Council on Aging (NCOA):

One third of all people 65 and older fall each year

Every 11 minutes, an old person is admitted to an emergency room for treatment for a fall

Every 19 minutes, an old person dies as the result of a fall

Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal, trauma-related hospital admissions among people 65 and older

Every year, the NCOA holds a competition for short videos from amateurs about falls prevention. Here is the first place winner of the 2015 Falls Free® video contest:

There are more Falls Free® contest videos here.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has an excellent page about what you can do personally to keep yourself from falling, along with a list of items for fall-proofing your home. It's a good reminder to check your home for falling and tripping hazards at least once a year.

This infographic (below and online here) is from the NCOA about falls prevention programs you may be able to find in your community:

Falls-Prevention-Programs-Saving-Lives-Saving-Money_NCOA-Infographic

There are so many medical and physical problems over which we have little or no control – unexpected diseases and conditions that seem to choose victims randomly. Falling is one thing in life we can go a long way toward preventing.

So don't forget, be careful out there.


Vote as If It Matters

Over the past couple of weeks, Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump has not only gained on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the polls, he has surpassed her in some of them and Democrats are beginning to panic.

I'm not a Democrat but I'm also not immune to running around like a chicken with my head cut off over this.

My friend Jim Stone sent me the link to a posting at Balloon Juice where a Facebook entry about voting for Clinton is reposted (Sourcing on the internet can be complicated.). The Facebook entry is the point but first, you should read the Balloon Juice lead-in:

”I’m with respected blog colleague Kay in thinking that it makes little sense to blame the Youngs for the horrifying possibility that Trump could be elected because of millennials’ insufficient fealty to the Democratic nominee.

“Yes, anyone who is determined to throw a vote away on sentient Caucasian dreadlock Jill Stein (hat tip – Sam Bee) or human bong avatar Gary Johnson deserves a clue-by-four upside the noggin.

“But it’s the Olds — specifically, older white folks — who weaponized the ferret-wearing shit-gibbon. Let’s put the lion’s share of the blame where it truly belongs.

“I think I’ve talked all the millennials in my purview into backing Clinton. (Or possibly they’re lying to me to shut me the hell up.) That said, this piece from Tooney of the Twitters might be good Facebook fodder for the young idealists in your feed who’ve bought into the purity brigade’s anti-Clinton smears.”

Not just for the the young idealists, but the old troglodytes too. They may not be among the rabid Trumpsters we see at his rallies but too many of them have become knee-jerk Republican voters who haven't noticed that their party has become the home of racists, mysogynists and xenophobes.

Up until the turn of the century, voters 65 and older had been reliably Democratic for a long time. In 1996, they voted for Bill Clinton over Bob Dole 50 percent to 44. In 2000, they voted for Al Gore over George Bush 51 percent to 47. And then it changed:

2004: George Bush over John Kerry 52 percent to 47

2008: John McCain over Barack Obama 53 percent to 45

2012: Mitt Romney over Barack Obama 56 percent to 44

Note how the spread has increased from one presidential election year to the next: 5, 8 and 12.

Do I think Hillary Clinton is the ideal Democratic candidate and paragon of political virtue? Hardly. As I emailed my friend Lia who blogs at Yum Yum Cafe recently:

”She's a politician. She's always been a politician. She's done some really stupid things over the years. She is also smart, incredibly well informed, knows how politics and Washington, D.C. work, has relationships with the leaders in most countries of the world...”

And she will work her butt off without letup. That's just how she rolls. Is she my first choice? Of course not. But compared to the other, well...

I'll shut up now and let you read the posting below or at Balloon Juice or where it was first posted. The reasoning of it seems so obvious to me.

ClintonVote

Think about posting this to your blog or Facebook page or any place else where it might help convince someone who thinks Hillary Clinton is not the better choice over the orange-haired, ignorant, racist, verbal bomb thrower. Or that abstaining on 8 November or voting for a third party candidate in protest that will dilute the Clinton vote is a virtuous idea. (Hint: it is not.)

Vote as if it matters.


Crabby and Her Latest Annoying Affliction of Old Age

As if there are not enough well-known ailments of old age, new ones keep creeping up on Crabby Old Lady.

She's not talking about the diseases of age, not the terrible diagnoses no one want to hear. She's talking about the minor irritations - things like fingers too dry to turn book pages, eye floaters, tinnitus, chin wiskers (women), toad spots, short-term memory lapses – for which there is no useful remedy.

Do all these things (and others) happen to all old people? Probably not, but Crabby is pretty sure most of us have our own collection of daily irritations which we can't do much about.

The other day, TGB reader Richard Lombard sent Crabby this email:

”When I saw Tylenol thought Tyvek. Today while watching the crawl on a news show, Tropical Storm Julia drenches Florida...I read Tropical Storm Judi Dench. I could not understand what Dame Judi was doing in Florida.”

“Julia drenches” becomes “Judi Dench.”

Of course it does. It makes perfect sense to Crabby. She's been making similar mis-readings now and then for quite awhile, in books, magazines, online, pretty much anywhere there are words.

It is not uncommon for something like “free checking” to become “free chicken” in Crabby Old Lady's reading, but it is usually enough out of context that she goes back to re-read the sentence and find her error, as Richard obviously did.

Sometimes the mis-readings are funny but Crabby also wonders how often she doesn't catch the error and winds up believing something that is not so.

As far as Crabby can tell (that's a big question), this doesn't happen often. Much more frequently, she types these kinds of mistakes. She knows the word she wants and believes she has typed it and then when she proofs a blog post, there's a weird word where it doesn't belong.

Something like, from the immediately preceding sentence, “...believes she has tripped it and then...”

There is usually some connection between the word Crabby wants and what she types – perhaps that each begins with the same letter. And they usually have the same number of syllables. Verb errors are usually in the desired tense.

Unlike reading errors, typing errors occur several times in one story or email. Yes, email too. It has been many months since Crabby has sent an email, however short, without proofing it and just as often as not, there is this kind of error.

A blog story is much worse than email, usually half a dozen such mistakes and it happens so often that Crabby knows she cannot post anything without two and even three proof readings to catch the errors.

Sometimes Crabby misses them until they've been posted so undoubtedly some of you have seen these along with more usual sorts of typo she doesn't catch. Of course, Crabby has always made typos but nothing to this degree or this kind – substituting similar-looking words that more often than not have no meaningful relationship to what she intends.

Crabby Old Lady is not concerned that these errors are signs of any serious brain problem (yet) but she is really crabby about adding one more irritation to the growing list of old-age related annoyances.

It is a bit of comfort knowing that it happens to Richard too.


ELDER MUSIC: The Late Great Townes Van Zandt

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.

* * *

All the other Texas songwriters claim that Townes Van Zandt was the most influential and best songwriter from that state, and as we have Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett in the mix, that's a big statement. Willie Nelson might have something to say about it, however.

Townes

Michael Hall in the Texas Monthly sums up Townes best:

”He remains today what he was all his wild, heartbreaking life: a cult artist honored by peers and ardent fans but largely unknown in the mainstream.

“He never released an album on a major label. He was never a music business professional and was never much concerned with his career. He was never concerned with much of anything in fact, but writing, touring, and hanging out with friends and family.

“He loved paradox - living it and spreading it. Born into comfort, he preferred the company of the poor and desperate and sometimes gambled away what money he had. He was a lighthearted prankster who wrote some of the saddest songs of the century. He sang about how precious it was to be alive yet spent a good deal of his life killing himself with drugs and alcohol.”

Townes

A man who can name one of his albums "The Late Great Townes Van Zandt" while he was still alive has something strange going on in his brain. When he died in 1997 at age 52, the most surprising thing was that he had lived so long.

On his first album, TOWNES recorded many of his best known songs, but he was dissatisfied with the result such that he rerecorded most of them on subsequent albums.

Having heard both versions of all of them, I agree that was the wise thing to do. One of those songs appeared on his very next album.

Although far from his best known song, it is my favorite of his. It's a really beautiful song with some gorgeous (and simple) guitar playing from Mickey White. His songwriting is so evocative you can picture Maria without any trouble. (Quicksilver Daydreams Of) Maria.

♫ Townes Van Zandt - (Quicksilver Daydreams Of) Maria


Many artists have recorded Townes' songs and I'm going to include a few of them. I'll start with one you could have pretty much guaranteed would be present. EMMYLOU HARRIS.

Emmylou Harris

Emmy has the help of Don Williams on If I Needed You.

♫ Emmylou Harris - If I Needed You


Townes once said, "I want to write songs so good that nobody understands them, even me". He succeeded with this next one.

Townes

Pancho and Lefty is certainly his best known song. He said it came through the window of a seedy hotel room to settle in his brain. "I was just tapped on the shoulder from above and told to write these songs, as opposed to wanting to be a success in the music business,” he said.

It's a mythical song that no one knows what it's about, but who cares? Bob Dylan would have been proud to own this one.

♫ Townes Van Zandt - Pancho & Lefty


NANCI GRIFFITH recorded a couple of interesting albums where she got a whole bunch of people to perform duets (and trios and on and on) with her.

Nanci is a fine songwriter but on these she performed songs written by others, I suspect mostly her favorites or those who have influenced her over the years. Naturally, there was a Townes song in the mix. On that one she had the help of ARLO GUTHRIE.

Nanci Griffith & Arlo Griffith

The song they performed is Tecumseh Valley, one of the most interesting songs that Townes wrote.

♫ Nanci Griffith and Arlo Guthrie - Tecumseh Valley


Townes

I imagine that people who haven't been there think of New Mexico as hot and dry. It is that, but they probably don't think of snow. I have been there when it snowed and it gets damn cold.

Raton is in the northeast of the state, nearly in Colorado and that's a state that is associated with snow. Put all that together and you have Snowin' on Raton.

♫ Townes Van Zandt - Snowin' on Raton


GUY CLARK was a close friend of Townes' and they occasionally shared a small glass of sherry together (well, that's the politically correct version of what they did).

Guy Clark

Guy rivals Townes in the Texan singer/songwriter department and since Townes' demise, Guy has always included one of his songs on each new album (as well as in concert, of course). Out of several I've chosen To Live is to Fly.

♫ Guy Clark - To Live's to Fly


Don't You Take It Too Bad has been recorded by many of Townes' friends and others as well. None did it better than Townes though.

Townes

This is his version of the song.

♫ Townes Van Zandt - Don't You Take It Too Bad


Townes wrote songs that were deceptively simple - not for him the epic stories of Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. Now and then, however, he showed that he could match those two at their own game. This is one that either of those writers would be happy to call their own, Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel.

Townes

♫ Townes Van Zandt - Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel


As mentioned at the beginning, Townes wrote the saddest songs anyone ever committed to paper and disk, and the general consensus is that the saddest of the lot is Marie. This is a five hankie or full Kleenex box affair. WILLIE NELSON's stark approach to the song highlights this.

Willie Nelson

It's just Willie and guitar and that's all that's needed for it.

♫ Willie Nelson - Marie


I'll finish with a song that could have easily fitted into my "Seasons" columns. Townes sings Come Tomorrow.

Townes

I could say this is another sad song but that would be redundant.

♫ Townes Van Zandt - Come Tomorrow