INTERESTING STUFF – 29 August 2015

NEW LIFE EXPECTANCY CALCULATOR

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada has released what it says is a science-based online life expectancy calculator derived from research that followed 78,000 people

”... for up to 10 years. We basically looked at who died. Then we created predictive models based on whether they were a current, former or 'never' smoker, plus the amount they smoked, leisure time physical activity, alcohol (number of drinks per week) and diet.

“We included age, sex, body mass index and ethnicity, and neighbourhood for socioeconomic status – all things shown to be associated with increased risk. We also used our knowledge of epidemiology, of what’s been shown in past studies to cause increased mortality.”

The questionnaire takes only about five minutes. In my case, the report says my “health age” is 70.7 (I am 74.5 years old) and my life expectancy is 92.3 years. It also lists my risk factors comparing such indices as activity level, diet score, body mass index and more to their average.

You can check your own life expectancy here. Unfortunately, they say the upper age limit is 79. On the other hand, they don't require you to register or leave your email address so that saves a lot of annoyance.

The Foundation also has a heart and stroke risk calculator (upper age limit 90). In that one, my life expectancy is 94.5 years and my only risk factors are age and chronic conditions.

I don't understand the chronic conditions mention since I have none and there is no explanation for that. You can read more in the overview of the calculators here.

Remember folks, however much science is involved these are ONLINE calculators. They might be an indicator but are nowhere near a substitute for consultation with your physician.

ZION HARVEY UPDATE

Remember Zion Harvey, the amazingly cheery eight-yiear-old who underwent a dual hand transplant four weeks ago? Well, he went home from the hospital this week.

I was pleased to learn that the hands will grow with him – something I had wondered about but couldn't find in the first reports. Here are two videos. one to remind you of the background and a second, shorter one about his recovery from the surgery:

WHAT IF YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY ACCOUNT HAD BEEN ON WALL STREET THIS WEEK?

Ten years ago, then-President George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security. What if he had succeeded? What would have happened to your Social Security account this past week if it were invested with Wall Street bankers?

As the Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) noted this week:

”Take some solace in knowing that while your market savings have taken a hit, the good news is your estimated Social Security benefit today is the same it was on Wednesday.

“That’s why Social Security exists. That’s why it works. That’s why it’s beyond reason that so many in the GOP still support sending your Social Security to Wall Street and destroying the stable income protection (it’s not an investment) Social Security provides.”

Thank god we foiled dubya. Trading Social Security's benefit on Wall Street is scary, makes no sense and no one wins except the Wall Street investment advisers who take their fees out of your earnings.

EARLIEST DAGUERROTYPES

TGB's Sunday Music columnist, Peter Tibbles, sent a link to a fantastic page of 24 of the earliest photographs ever made. This is Portsmouth Square in San Francisco in 1851:

SFPortsmouthSq1851

Here is another astonishing photo, a self-portrait of a man named Robert Cornelius made in October or November of 1839. It may be the earliest portrait photo in the U.S.

RobertCornelius1839

Old, old photographs are fascinating peeks into long-ago life and you can see 22 more of them in much larger sizes at The Atlantic magazine.

BERNIE SANDERS FROM 30 YEARS AGO

As Nathan Heller wrote in the New Yorker this week about this 30-year-old video of Bernie Sanders, the senator

"...has held firm to his beliefs. The anachronism of his world view proves both his authenticity and his lack of hidden baggage as a candidate...The approach is striking in an era when even personal life is preconceived, polished, performed. Sanders is exceptional because he seems, demonstrably, the same guy who he was before the iPhone cameras first appeared.”

The footage is from a speech when Sanders was five years into his tenure as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. It's old and fuzzy and the audio is creaky at time, but stick with it. It's worth your time.

You can read more from Nathan Heller about Sanders at the New Yorker.

OXFORD DICTIONARY ANNUAL NEW WORDS

The Oxford dictionary people have announced their 1000 new words for 2015. These words are for the modern language oxforddictionaries.com and not necessarily the venerable Oxford English Dictionary.

My favorite new word is “hangry” – that feeling of irritability when you're hungry. “Pocket dial” is good - that accidental phone call from pressure on your cell phone when it's in your pocket.

Some seem quite old to me: I've known “beer o'clock” and “wine o'clock” for when it's time to start drinking, and I'm pretty sure I've been hearing or saying “brain fart” for 20 or 30 years. But here's a new one I had not heard before, Mx:

”...a title used before a person’s surname or full name by those who wish to avoid specifying their gender or by those who prefer not to identify themselves as male or female.”

Good idea. You can read about the new words and learn about many more of them here and here and here.

GENE KELLY DANCING ON ROLLER SKATES

I'm pretty sure no one would put anything like this in a movie today. The style has long passed us by but you and I can remember musicals which always included something wonderful like this.

It's from the 1955 MGM movie, It's Always Fair Weather, starring Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse, Michael Kidd, and Dolores Gray. The song is I Like Myself. Thank Darlene Costner for sending it.

TOKYO'S BOOKSTORE NEIGHBORHOOD

Like New York City (maybe it's all large cities), Tokyo has neighborhoods dedicated certain businesses. One is called Jimbocho, a sort of booktown. Recently, Colin Laird wrote at Abebooks about his visit to this district:

”...there are around 175 bookshops, including about 50 stores devoted to used and rare books. The variety of shops in Jimbocho is stunning - manga specialists, huge stores dedicated to new books, academic and scholarly booksellers, used and rare sellers, and even pop-up bookshops that appear overnight to fill a vacant retail space for a few days.”

Here are some photographs. First, Infinity Books:

Tokyo Infinity Books

A gorgeous and elaborate pop-up book:

Pop-up-book

A street stall bookshop:

Sodewalk book shop

Read more about Jimbocho and see more photos at Abebooks.

MONKEY THE CAT EARNS HIS MEAL

Ben Millam doesn't just feed his cat, he makes Monkey work for his supper. Here's how he explains it:

”This all started after I read an explanation of why cats go about repeatedly exploring the same areas: it’s partly to establish and survey their territory, but they’re also practicing ‘mobile’ hunting: moving about, being curious, and poking their noses around in the hopes of upsetting potential prey and finding a meal.

“So what if my cat, while out on patrol, actually found its prey? Surely this would bring him one step closer towards a more fulfilled and self-actualized indoor kitty existence.”

Take a look at how it works:

This all took a lot of training and building and Ben has a full explanation and instructions at his website. A bonus for visiting is a blooper reel from the Monkey the cat's training days at the end.

* * *

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 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.



Sleeping – or Not - While Old

After several years of trying to fight a hugely irritating sleep difficulty, I've given up and just go with it.

It's called ASPD or Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder which I've written about here in the past. The short version is that can't stay awake much past early evening and then I wake in the middle of the night.

In the past year or so, the malady has morphed into my not being able to sleep more than four hours straight. Then I wake, can't go back to sleep so now I get up for a couple of hours in the middle of night and mostly read until sleep returns.

Well, sometimes. Most often, although my mind and body get tired, I don't feel sleepy again until the evening.

One of the most common complaints I hear from old people is about sleep – or lack thereof. Sometimes it is less about sleep and more about the annoyance of waking frequently to pee but that amounts to the same thing.

Many others don't fall asleep easily and then wake during the night for no reason. Recently, some researchers in Switzerland described the problem they call sleep latency:

”Sleep latency, the length of time it takes you to fall asleep at night, is shown to increase with age, but only for women, with little difference in men's speed of getting to sleep.

“'However, sleep efficiency decreases with age in both genders,' with older people more restless during sleep and more likely to wake up than younger individuals.”

The research team at the University of Lausanne studied 6,733 healthy participants ranging in age from 35 to 75 randomly selected from the population of Lausanne, exluding people with known sleep disorders.

And here is what they learned as described in a paper published in Annals of Medicine in August 2015 and reported in ScienceDaily.

”The research resulted in a number of fascinating findings. It firstly revealed that 'Aging was associated with a gradual shift towards morningness, with the older population going to bed earlier and rising earlier than their younger counterparts.

“It was also observed that they slept for less time. Despite this reduced sleep-time, the paper informs us that 'Older subjects complain less about sleepiness, and pathological sleepiness is significantly lower than younger subjects,' suggesting that they actually require less sleep.”

Complained less? Not me. It's annoying as hell to be awake and full of energy when the rest of the world is sleeping. But there is no useful treatment for ASPD and I try hard to live with it.

What does seem to be true lately is that, as the study suggests, my sleep deficit doesn't bother me as much as when I didn't get enough sleep when I was younger.

So I'm wondering, does any of this study ring true for you? How has your sleep changed as you have grown older?



EVEN John Oliver Does It

UPDATE 2:30PM PDT: Sarah Wrightson says in the comments below, "someone edits Oliver's FB page: my comment is gone, as are many other people's on a range of topics."

If this is so - and I have no reason to doubt Sarah - I am even more disappointed in (and add disgusted with) John Oliver than I am at the original reason for this post. Please try Twitter instead of Facebook and especially the email to HBO.

And please come back here and let us know in the comments that you have done so. I wouldn't have followed up if there was no response to my post and your commentary but now I'm pissed off big time so it will help to know that you have complained.

* * *

Last Sunday on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, John Oliver opened his feature essay with this:

”Progress,” he said. “It's the reason your grandparents' views are better not spoken in public. 'Why did I bring you to Straight Out of Compton, Papa?' This is partly on me.”

Apparently, neither Oliver nor any of his writers, researchers and producers, nor the 10 or 12 well-known websites I've read praising and promoting this video see the irony in exposing discrimination against the LGBT community while bashing old people.

Imagine if Oliver had opened the show with any one of these:

“Progress. It's the reason black people's views are better not spoken in public.”

Or

“Progress. It's the reason women's views are better not spoken in public.”

Or

“Progress. It's the reason Muslims' views are better not spoken in public.”

Shall I go on? You can imagine for yourself the backlash if Oliver had used any of those references instead of elders.

When a man who builds his television career on pointing out the large variety of inequities in American culture and brilliantly defending the rights of every oppressed group you can think of (and some you haven't) engages in this kind kneejerk ageism for a cheap laugh, it is indisputable that old people are the last acceptable prejudice.

On Monday I wrote about ageist language in No Cute Old People and normally I would not repeat a topic so soon. But I saw this video, as I usually do with Oliver, first thing in the morning and nearly spit out my coffee.

It's not like Oliver's words are new to me. Ageist attitudes and speech have so thoroughly permeated our culture for so long that people who would blanch at being accused of racism or sexism see nothing wrong with stereotyping old people.

And Oliver, like his mentor, Jon Stewart, is not new to this. They both, when a reference to old age is called for in their performance, always go straight to derogatory, demeaning and dismissive.

Don't think this stuff doesn't matter. Every time such as statement as Oliver's is made, (thousands of times a day), it helps make it okay to fire a perfectly competent old person, allows certain kinds of politicians to believe they can eliminate Social Security and Medicare and as Yale professor Becca Levy discovered in her research, can negatively affect longevity by up to seven-and-a-half years. And that is just for starters.

One reason elder bashing continues and continues to be acceptable is that old people don't complain enough. Mostly we mutter among ourselves, whether it is as public as Oliver's offhand disrespect on television or one-on-one in our daily lives (“and how are you today, young lady”).

Let's change that this time and I'll make it easy for you. Link to this post or repost it on your blog or Facebook page. I don't care. And take it a step further.

Below are a variety of web addresses for Oliver's program, Last Week Tonight, for John Oliver himself, for one of the show's executive producers and for HBO.

Pick one or two or more and send a note letting them know that it's hard to take Oliver seriously about LGBT discrimination while in the same breath he dismisses elders with an offensive stereotype.

Be polite – trolling gets everyone less than nothing. But be clear, be firm and if you think it's helpful, include the URL to this post: http://www.timegoesby.net/weblog/2015/08/even-john-oliver-does-it.html

Here are the addresses:

LAST WEEK TONIGHT
Facebook page
Twitter: @LastWeekTonight

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER TIM CARVELL
Twitter: @timcarvell

JOHN OLIVER
Facebook page
Twitter: @iamjohnoliver

HBO
Facebook page
HBO online message form

What makes this lapse worse coming from John Oliver than it might from some people is that he is otherwise a force for good in the world, an agent of change that Time magazine earlier this year named among the 100 most influential people.

What a good thing it would be for him to influence others by taking a patented Oliver look at the widespread gratuitous ageism in the culture.

Except for that dismissive lead paragraph, Oliver's Sunday essay on LGBT discrimination is as funny, spot on and important as all his weekly videos are. Here it is the full segment:

Don't forget to follow up on letting HBO, John Oliver and his executive producer know what you think about elder bashing while defending LGBT people from discrimination.


“No Cute Old People”

That headline is the theme of a speech given a couple of years ago by Kirsten Jacobs, the education manager for LeadingAge, a highly respected association of more than 6,000 not-for-profit, member organizations in the United States that provide care and services for elders.

These are such places as hospice, assisted living, legal services, senior centers, meals programs, nursing homes, transportation, even Villages and more.

A critical purpose of all these agencies and organizations is to improve and expand services for elders so more of us can remain in our homes as we get older because there are not nearly enough residential care settings of all kinds now – nor will there be any time soon - to house our growing numbers.

What Kirsten was referring to with “no cute old people” is, of course, ageist language, something regular readers of this blog recognize as one of my signature rants.

As I have written here many times, we are bombarded from the cradle with negative stereotypes about old people and hardly anyone notices, let alone objects - even many old people.

But besides being rude and irritating, negative images and ageist language have serious consequences. Yale professor, Becca Levy, has found that one's personal perception of old age affects longevity more than even such factors as gender, loneliness, health and socio-economic status.

Having a positive perception of aging, Levy's studies show, can extend life expectancy by more than seven-and-a-half years. (Read more about that here.)

However, that is background and I digress. I'm really here today to tell you about spending a couple of hours with Kirsten Jacobs last week discussing all these issues and more.

It was such a pleasure being with a like-minded person as ardent as I am about language, especially one who spends her working life thinking about these issues as she develops educational materials and resources for the members of LeadingAge.

Maybe you could say elders are a family business. Kirsten lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Jake Kirsch, who works with Network for Oregon Affordable Housing (NOAH). They are also the new-ish parents of an 11-month-old.

It always thrills me to meet young people who make elders their life work. We old folks need them in our lives.

Kirsten cares deeply about old people, she dislikes euphemism and ageist language as much as I do and she wants to change how our culture thinks about aging.

Here is that “No Cute Old People” speech she gave at the annual meeting of LeadingAge members in 2013. I'm pretty sure you're going to like her as much as do.


ELDER MUSIC: Book Songs

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.


Bookshelf

I'm a dedicated book reader (that's part of my book shelves above). I know that Ronni and Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, are similarly inclined. I imagine most readers of this column are the same. So, here are some songs about books.

The first two sprang into my tiny brain immediately upon contemplating this topic. I knew they had to be present. The first of these is by THE MONOTONES.

Monotones

The Book of Love was inspired by the old Pepsodent toothpaste commercial (you know, all about wondering, and yes, we had it Australia too). It was the only song by the group that troubled the chart makers.

♫ The Monotones - Book of Love

Here is the second one I thought of. NILS LOFGREN has had an interesting career without having a big hit or becoming a household name.

Nils Lofgren

He started by forming the band Grin who had several albums released almost certainly due to Nils playing guitar and piano on some of Neil Young's early albums and touring with Neil.

After Grin folded, he joined Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and has been with them for more than 30 years. In parallel, he has had his own solo career as well as performing with or backing many other artists. He's a good singer and a great guitarist as you'll hear on Black Books.

♫ Nils Lofgren - Black Books

Tom Rush did an excellent cover of the song You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover, possibly even better than the original. That will probably sound sacrilegious when I say that that original was by BO DIDDLEY.

Bo Diddley

As big a fan as I am of Tom's, I will go with the man who wrote the song and performed it first.

♫ Bo Diddley - You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover

There are quite a few versions of the next song I could have chosen and all would be more than acceptable. However, I really like TONY BENNETT so he's the one I'm going with.

Tony Bennett

Tony says: I Could Write a Book. A lot of people say that but few accomplish it.

♫ Tony Bennett - I Could Write A Book

JOE TEX takes a couple of elders to task in his song, but they put him in his place.

Joe Tex

His song is Buying a Book.

♫ Joe Tex - Buying A Book

When I say I'm playing My Coloring Book, I bet I can imagine who you think will be singing it. I'm sorry, that's wrong, I've gone for SANDY STEWART.

Sandy Stewart

Kitty Kallen was the first to record the song, George Chakiris had a crack at it as well, but the most famous version was by Barbra Streisand, all recorded the same year as Sandy's. Indeed the same month, November 1962.

It's far from my favorite song, but I thought it had to be present.

♫ Sandy Stewart - My Coloring Book

There's a really good album with DUKE ELLINGTON and JOHN COLTRANE playing together with only a rhythm section of bass and drums accompanying them.

Duke Ellington &John Coltrane

I wish they had done more in this vein as the results were outstanding. From that album comes My Little Brown Book.

♫ John Coltrane & Duke Ellington - My Little Brown Book

CARL DOBKINS JR had more than one hit but I imagine that you're like me and couldn't name any but his most famous one.

Carl Dobkins Jr

It doesn't really matter as that was a really good one, My Heart is an Open Book.

♫ Carl Dobkins Jr - My Heart Is An Open Book

THE KINKS are the Village Green Preservation Society says the title of the album from which the next song is taken.

Kinks

Unlike most of the other British groups from the sixties, The Kinks were interested in chronicling English life past and present rather than just playing rock and roll and blues. They really hit their mark with this album, one of the finest from that decade. From it comes the song Picture Book.

♫ The Kinks - Picture Book

GREG BROWN flies under the radar which is a bit of a shame as he should be far more widely known.

Greg Brown

In spite of that he's made a couple of dozen or more albums, a number of which are superb and should be in any music buff's catalogue. Probably the best of them is "The Poet Game" and from that comes the song My New Book.

♫ Greg Brown - My New Book



INTERESTING STUFF – 22 August 2015

A SINGLE LIFE

There is an itch in the back of my head that keeps saying I have posted this video but I can't find it and even if it's here already, it's worth a rerun. Thank TGB reader Alan G for this go-round with it.

As the YouTube page explains, in this Oscar-nominated, animated short, a young woman receives a mysterious package that contains a vinyl record. She soon realizes that she can go forward or backward in time by simply adjusting the position of the needle as the record plays on her stereo.

Each time I've watched this I've wondered if really young people, under 20, even know what the machine is.

AIN'T THE WAY TO DIE

At his day job, Dr. Zubin Damania is a hospitalist. In his offtime, he transforms himself into rapper ZdoggMD and this video, about end-of-life care, is set to the tune of Love the Way You Lie, the Eminem and Rohanna hit the doctor reworked as Ain't the Way to Die.

As Emily Rappleye reports:

“Dr. Damania said he got a sense that the subject needed to be taken seriously after testing the waters on social media.

"'We feel healthcare providers need to be reminded constantly about having this conversation in the outpatient space,' said Dr. Damania. 'They need to see the torture — it's not glamorous at all if you ignore these conversations.'"

This is hardly Dr. Damania's first foray into rap and music videos. He's done more than 100 of them though not usually with as serious a purpose as this one. You can thank TGB reader Janis Blauer-Chima for sending this item and read more about Dr. Damania here.

LONDON SKYPOOL

It doesn't exist yet but this transparent swimming pool between buildings is scheduled to go up in London before long:

"The 'Sky Pool' is set to straddle two apartment buildings in the Embassy Gardens development, located in the Nine Elms district of London. The pool will be 25 meters (82 feet) long, 3 meters (10 feet) deep, and completely transparent. And it will be 10 floors up, connecting two apartment buildings.”

LondonSkypool

If you get a chance to try it someday, let me know how it goes because I would probably die of my acrophobia. You can read more here and here.

JOHN OLIVER TAKES ON TELEVANGELISTS

Oh my, this is good. Oliver creates his own church. Yes. For real. You won't stop laughing during this video while you simultaneously get his very serious points.

That URL on the screen at 17:25 minutes is real – check it out. So is the phone number.

SILLY INTERNET FUN – SNAKE PEOPLE / MILLENNIALS

This turned up, as so many things do on the internet, during some mindless surfing I was doing one day this week. Here's what I read:

”For the thousands of Internet users who have downloaded a browser extension called 'Snake People to Snake People,' any online use of the word snake person, a common term for people born in the 1980s and 1990s, is automatically changed to 'snake person.'

"An extension is a small software program that modifies an Internet browser such as Google’s Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox. Related terms are also altered: 'Great recession' becomes 'time of shedding and cold rocks,' and 'Great Ape-Snake War' turns into 'Great Ape-Snake War.'”

To get that quotation for you, I had to disable the extension because OF COURSE I downloaded one of the funniest online time wasters I've seen in a long time.

There are a bunch of imitators including one from the Metropolitan Museum of Art that substitutes images of cats from their collection when you open a new tab, another that removes all stories about the 2016 election and one that replaces every image with one of actor Nicolas Cage.

There's a whole lot more to read about this at the Wall Street Journal.

* * *

EDITOR'S MESSAGE You would be surprised at how many “angry” emails I get when there is not a cat video in this Saturday post. Okay, not really angry but readers being clear that a cat video is expected each week.

So here are a bunch I hadn't gotten around to posting that have been collecting in the “running list” I keep for this Interesting Stuff feature, plus an extra special, non-cat animal kicker at the end. Careful. You may overdose on cute.

* * *

ISTANBUL'S CATS

I love the headline on the story accompanying this video: “Why Istanbul Should be Called Catstantinople.”

You can read more at the Wall Street Journal.

COPY KITTEN

The YouTube page tells us that Neo, “was sitting with his mom, when she began bathing herself and bless his heart, the little guy tried to copy his mom - and failed.”

HERDING CATS IN THE MOST ADORABLE WAY

Here's another “little guy” - this one human named Ryder Richter. As Huffington Post reports:

“Ryder's mom, Lisa Richter...[said] that the original video is much longer and her son actually broke a sweat trying to get all the kittens in one place. It's OK, Ryder. We really admire your perseverance!”

Richter also told HuffPost that Ryder won't have his hands quite so full for long. The kittens, who belong to a friend, are currently under the family's care and Richter says they've decided to adopt two of them. The other three, however, are still looking for homes.” (as of 16 August)

BACKYARD BEARS

A mama bear. Five cubs. A backyard kiddie pool with water toys, slides, a swing and loads of fun.

The video is long but halfway through I turned off the family commentary and it became a kind of Zen experience watching baby bears being baby bears – not so different from baby humans.

* * *

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 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.


Useful Health Related Websites for Elders

On television few nights ago, someone made reference to the flying Dutchman and I wondered where the legend had originated.

In pre-internet days, if I didn't have an encyclopedia around the house, I would have been forced to wait until I could get to a library.

This time, however, I switched on the Kindle Fire I keep next to the bed (it's useless for reading books as it weighs about as much as the half the Encyclopedia Britannica) and satisfied my curiosity at Wikipedia in under a minute.

Sometimes I wonder how we got through life before the internet and in particular, how many of those stray questions that float through our minds did we ignore because it was too inconvenient to track down the answers.

The internet is a bonanza of information – easy to find and (often but not always) easy to use.

So today, I have a list of good websites that are particularly useful to old people. All but one or two are related to health but in future, I'll list some other kinds that are worth keeping bookmarked.

All these have been selected and checked for quality and reliability following these criteria:

Authoritative in their field
Easy to use
Elder specific or highly useful to elders
Free of charge

No services are perfect but these should provide or point you toward good information you can use.

IDENTITY THEFT HELP
Even though identity theft has been commonplace for more than a decade, repairing your credit is still a horrendous procedure that can take years. I say “still” because even though the crime is a growth industry, banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions make it as difficult as possible to correct.

There are many precautions you can take to help prevent ID theft - this is one I was surprised to find that many people do not know about.

In the U.S., each of the three major credit bureaus - Transunion, Equifax and Experian - are required to give everybody ONE FREE credit report a year. So here is how to track credit activity you might not otherwise learn about until too late:

  1. Order a free credit report from Transunion
  2. Four months later, order one from Equifax
  3. Four months later, order one from Experian
  4. That way, three times a year you can check to see if there is any activity that you did not authorize or initiate such as a credit or loan application

Mark your calendar for the year anniversary of each one and order your annual free report.

It's not foolproof and it doesn't prevent ID theft but it does give you a big leg up to know early if someone has been trying to use your identity.

MY SOCIAL SECURITY
At the Social Security website, you can sign up for My Social Security. This is a permanent, secure account where you can, among other services, get replacement Social Security and Medicare cards, change address and phone number, sign up for or change direct deposit and a host of other services.

Even if you do not yet receive Social Security benefits, you can create a My Social Security account to track your annual deposits, get estimates of future benefits, follow your application when the time comes.

You can read about My Social Security and sign up for it at this web address.

MY MEDICARE
At the Medicare website, you can create a My Medicare account – a free, secure service for accessing personalized information about your Medicare benefits and services.

It is particularly helpful each year during the open enrollment period so that you can compare your current coverage with what new is being offered, withdrawn or changed for the new year.

You can learn more about My Medicare and sign up at this web address.

HELP WITH MEDICARE
Medicare is a horrendously complex program with more rules and regulations than any one elder can keep track of. I've been surprised at how good the Medicare help line can be, but I have also been led astray a few times.

There is another way to get help both in general and with answers to specific questions. It is called the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) which provides free, in-depth, one-on-one counseling and assistance to Medicare beneficiaries, families, friends and caregivers.

The volunteers are carefully trained and must attend ongoing education programs and meetings. SHIPs operate in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

You can find the phone number and website address for the SHIP in your state here.

HOSPITAL SAFETY SCORE
Since 2001, the Leapfrog Group has conducted a semi-annual survey of 2500 U.S. hospitals, grading each one for safety from A to F. Here is the most recent distribution of letter grades.

HospitalGrades

You can search for your area hospitals' grades by city/state or Zip Code. There is a lot of good explanation of how the grades are determined, what hospital safety involves and what you can do to stay safe when you or a loved one face a hospital stay.

You will find all that here.

As, in recent years, patients have been encouraged to take a more hands-on approach to their healthcare, the number of sources for good information are growing. One of the best is Pro Publica which, so far, has four projects of searchable health data to help inform patients about their care providers.

PRO PUBLICA PRESCRIBER CHECKUP
There are serious safety concerns with prescribing certain tranquilizers to elders and until 2011, Medicare did not pay for such drugs as Valium, Xanax, Ativan and others. Now they are among the most prescribed medications Part D pays for.

CMS released Part D prescribing data for the 2013 and Pro Publica turned it into a database where you can find and compare physicians and other prescribers of a variety of drugs. Plus a lot of good explanation. You will find it all here.

PRO PUBLICA DOLLARS FOR DOCTORS
If you follow that kind of news, you know that some physicians have become notorious for taking thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical and medical device companies in exchange for dubious consultation.

These companies are now required by law to release details of their payments to a variety of doctors and U.S. teaching hospitals for promotional talks, research and consulting, among other categories.

You can now find this information in an easy-to-use tool at Pro Publica to search for general payments (excluding research and ownership interests) made from August 2013 to December 2014.

You will find that here.

PRO PUBLICA NURSING HOME INSPECTION DATABASE
As Pro Publica explains, you an use this tool to compare nursing homes in a state based on the deficiencies cited by regulators and the penalties imposed in the past three years.

You can also search over 60,000 nursing home inspection reports to look for trends or patterns.

As with all the Pro Publica health databases, there is ample explanation of how to use the tools and what the data means. You will find the Nursing Home Inspection information here.

PRO PUBLICA DIALYSIS FACILITIES TRACKER
This database will help you assess the quality of care at dialysis clinics. You can learn how often patients have been hospitalized or have reported certain kinds of infections or been placed on a transplant list.

You will find that and further explanation here.

In time, I will put together others lists of good informational websites, not always related to health. You are welcome to make suggestions and can do that using the “Contact” link at the top of each blog page. Publication is at my discretion.


Do You Learn Something New Every Day?

UPDATE: Thank you Peter Tibbles for correcting the count of years among us on Millie Garfield's 90th birthday post. Inevitably things go wrong - not important when it was only meant to be fun but still you want to be as accurate as possible. Just because.

So I did some more accounting this morning and the total number of years of the readers celebrating Millie's online birthday is 6576 plus or minus a few other errors.

Thank you all - that was fun.

* * *

Nearly every week – or frequently enough to call it that – there is a new study announcing that old people, to stave off dementia, should exercise and keep our minds active.

I'm not sure there is yet any solid proof about the dementia prevention part but there is no doubt that active bodies and minds are healthier bodies and minds and that has been known for a long time.

Back in February, Jeffrey J. Salingo wrote in the Washington Post, that once upon a time, the purpose of college was to “explore courses and majors before settling on a job and career...”

”[as opposed to]...today’s view that it’s all about getting a job...

“Freshmen now list getting a better job as the most important reason to go to college in an annual UCLA survey of first-year students. Previously, the top reason was learning about things that interest them.

“The number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in traditional arts and sciences fields (English, math, and biology, for example) has tumbled from almost half of the undergraduate credentials...The most popular undergraduate major [today] is business."

In another kind of learning inquiry, last year the Gallup organization set out to test the mission statement of nearly every American college which is, to promote lifelong learning as a core value in life.

From decades of their own research, the company believed being “engaged in your work and thriving in your overall well-being” is an excellent demonstration of lifelong learning and that it can be measured with a simple question: "Do you learn something new or interesting every day?"

So here is what they did [emphasis mine]:

”Gallup asked this question of a representative sample of more than 170,000 adults across the U.S. in 2014, and we cut the data by varying levels of educational attainment,” [they explained].

“What we learned is there's no difference whatsoever in the likelihood that college graduates agree with this question compared with those with any lower level of education - even those without a high school diploma!

“What an unbelievable disappointment. So much for the promise of a bachelor's degree leading to lifelong learning.”

Even though I too lament the debasement of the purpose of higher education, if, as Jeffrey Salingo tells us, high-minded intellectual goals have given way to hardcore job skills in college, then disappointment that a bachelor's degree confers no more advantage than high school or less can hardly be a surprise.

But I read the Gallup study differently. I think it's great news for elders – well, for anyone of any age but at this blog I speak about and for old people.

What I believe their study confirms is that a curious mindset and the eagerness to follow it is all anyone needs to continue learning and maintain an active mind throughout life.

The study also reveals that we should not necessarily put as much value on the importance of undergraduate degrees or, at the very least, should not assume that people without one are any less educated or less informed.

One of my pet peeves are the surveys on huge varieties of topics that measure results by educational attainment. They regularly imply that respondents with less education are dumber or, at least, less well informed. It's just not so.

I'm a pretty smart cookie and although I have a high school diploma, I got that in 10 years rather than the standard 12 and didn't spend a moment anywhere near a college.

As I repeat here occasionally – one the things I've LEARNED in life – is that if it is true for me, it is true for thousands and thousands of other people.

If there is something highly particular you want to master – a language, a musical instrument, the history of eastern Europe between world wars, trigonometry or anything else where an expert can point the way, then those lifelong learning classes at colleges and senior centers can be invaluable.

But I am wary of the too-common belief that the phrase lifelong learning almost always is applied to formal teaching. All it really takes to continue learning is to have a curious mindset and follow your interests whether it's a simple question that needs a yes-or-no answer or a long-term project.

For many people I know, the bigger problem about learning is how to keep it to a manageable volume. But old age is fine time for learning however you do it.

What new or interesting thing have you learned today? Do you take formal classes or do you follow your interests on your own?


Happy Birthday, Millie

Millie90Image2

This is a day early – it is tomorrow that Millie Garfield will be 90 years old but since I don't post on Tuesdays anymore, we can all celebrate with her for two whole days.

I've known Millie longer than anyone else I've met through blogging. In fact, she started doing this before I did.

Back in October 2003, Millie's wonderful son, Steve, set her up with a blog he called My Mom's Blog. You can see her first month of posts here.

Early on, with Steve as producer, cameraman and editor, Millie did a series of videos for her blog called “I Can't Open It.” Here's a sample episode and it shows one of the most important things to know about Millie – she loves to laugh, she does a lot of it and it's hard not to laugh with her:

She did another video series, a Yiddish class, and since she moved from her condo to Brooksby Village three years ago, she's been holding Yiddish classes in person for some of her fellow residents. Here's the video Steve and Millie made when she first considered the move to Brooksby:

There is a wonderful cookie and cake bakery here in Oregon called Faustine's and whenever there's an occasion – a birthday, for example – I have special cookies sent to friends. In a fabulous surprise for my 2014 birthday, Millie contacted Faustine's and had these special New York City cookies made for me:

CookiesBigApple

Isn't that great? I Love New York teeshirts, high-heeled shoes, big apples and all. Thank you again, Millie. That was fantastic.

And now, Millie's birthday has rolled around again (of course, I sent some tasty Faustine's) and it is a big damned deal being 90 years old.

Such a big deal that as Millie related on her blog a few days ago, Steve started celebrating back in July and part of that included a cake with the inscription, "A freilekhn geburtstog Matel" which is "Happy Birthday Millie" in Yiddish.

YiddishBirthdayCake

There are more celebrations to come this week.

It's hard to have a virtual party online. No Pin the Tail on the Donkey, no party hats, no cake and ice cream, no way to sing Happy Birthday together. I've been wracking my brain for something special everyone can do on Millie's big NINE OH and this is the best I can come up with:

At this blog, we celebrate age. So in honor of Millie's 90th birthday, let's see how many years we add up to, all of us together. Undoubtedly, it will go off the rails as more than one person at a time participates but what the hell – parties should get kind of silly.

Here's how it goes: I'll start with Millie and me. Take her 90 years, add my 74 and we're already up to 164.

Now, the next one of you should add your age to that number and leave it in the comments for the next person to add onto and so on and so forth. Let's see how high we can get that number.

But before we get started, we must have a big bouquet of Millie favorite flower. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MILLIE. I am pleased and privileged to be your friend.

4185268-cool-sunflowers

You can leave a birthday greeting at Millie's blog too.



ELDER MUSIC: Linda Ronstadt (The A.M.'s Choice)

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.


Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I both love Linda Ronstadt's music such that when I decided to write a column about her, the A.M. insisted on her choice of songs as well.

Fortunately, our selections were quite different so that means we could manage two columns. You heard mine last week and today it's the A.M.'s turn. Of course, she had all the fun of choosing the songs and left me to write the column.

Different Drum had to be present. It was written by Mike Nesmith, pre-Monkees, and the STONE PONEYS recorded it to great acclaim.

Stone Poneys

It was probably the first time most of us were aware of Linda.

♫ Linda Ronstadt - Different Drum

Willin’ was written by Lowell George when he was still a member of The Mothers of Invention. Frank Zappa didn't like the song at all as he was very anti-drugs. This prompted Lowell and a couple of other members to leave and form their own band, Little Feat.

They recorded the song twice and one of those versions is a classic. Here's LINDA's take on the song.

Linda Ronstadt

♫ Linda Ronstadt - Willin'

Heat Wave was originally recorded by Martha and the Vandellas. It was written by that prolific team, Holland, Dozier and Holland. This was not only on one of Linda's albums but released as a single as well and it made a serious dent on the charts.

Linda Ronstadt

♫ Linda Ronstadt - Heat Wave

Now for a change of pace. This time Linda doesn't rely on a recent songwriter (who were mostly her friends) but we have a song that's attributed to "Traditional.” I always wonder what the difference is between this writer and "Anonymous".” Not much I suspect.

Anyway, here is Morning Blues.

Linda Ronstadt

♫ Linda Ronstadt - Morning Blues

Speaking of her good friends, Jackson Browne was responsible for Rock Me on the Water. He did a fine version on his first album (that goes without saying, but I said it nonetheless). Linda's version wasn't far behind.

Linda Ronstadt

♫ Linda Ronstadt - Rock Me on the Water

For something completely different, here is Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry, a song written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne. Its first outing was by Jane Withers, however, it was most memorably featured by Frank Sinatra on his great album "Only the Lonely.”

Naturally, Linda does a fine version as well. It was on her "What's New" album.

Linda Ronstadt

♫ Linda Ronstadt - Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry

Of the duets Linda has recorded over the years, about the best of them (except for Emmylou, of course) was a song she recorded with HOYT AXTON on his "Southbound" album.

Linda Ronstadt & Hoyt Axton

The song they sang together is Lion in Winter, one of Hoyt's compositions.

♫ Hoyt Axton & Linda Rondstadt - Lion In Winter

Ry Cooder wrote and recorded a song called Tattler. Linda also recorded it but she called it The Tattler.

Linda Ronstadt

♫ Linda Ronstadt - The Tattler

One of my all time favorite soul songs was actually written by Jimmy Webb. It was sung originally (or at least the first time I heard it) by Al Wilson whose version marked it as one of the outstanding interpretations of the sixties.

Although I prefer Al's version, Linda does a good job too, and the A.M. prefers hers, so here it is. Do What You Gotta Do.

Linda Ronstadt

♫ Linda Ronstadt - Do What You Gotta Do

I'll end with the one common song to both our choices. I don't know what it says about us, but the song is Faithless Love, written by J.D. Souther.

Linda Ronstadt

♫ Linda Ronstadt - Faithless Love