Measly Social Security COLA Increase for 2017

Anyone who reads this blog undoubtedly knows this already: on Tuesday, the Social Security Administration announced that the annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for 2017 will be .3%.

That's right, three-tenths of one percent.

If you apply that to the average Social Security benefit of $1,238.00, it amounts to less than four dollars a month. That is on top of no – read: zero – increases for 2015 and 2016.

Are we supposed to be grateful this year, do you think?

I just received a 4.5% increase in my Medigap premium, a more than 10% increase in my Comcast internet bill and a 5.1% increase in my auto insurance premium (and we won't know about the annual increase in the Medicare Part B premium until November.)

No extra services, of course, in any for these increases – just an additional $35 or so a month. You might say that's not much except that increases for other fixed expenses haven't arrived yet and, most important, it happens this way every year.

Here is a chart from USA Today showing the Social Security COLA changes for the past 10 years:


Pathetic compared to actual costs. I can't be the only person who, each year, cuts back a little here, a little there and wonders how long until all of life's little pleasures are gone.

The president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), Max Richtman, sometimes asks attendees at town hall meetings how much they believe the COLA represents the true cost of living:

”...laughter is always the response,” he wrote Tuesday in a news release following the COLA anouncement.

“We should move to a COLA formula that takes a more accurate measure of seniors’ expenses,” he continued, “which is a CPI for the elderly. The CPI-E has been in the experimental phase since 1982. It’s time to finish the job by fully funding the development of a more accurate COLA formula.”

The CPI-E is a much more realistic calculation of elders' expenses compared to working people but recommendations to change to it have been ignored in Washington for more than 30 years.

There are at least two bills to strengthen Social Security that have been sitting in the House and Senate for a year or more with no action from our do-nothing Congress. I cannot imagine that the bills will come to the floor before a new president is sworn in.

Which brings me to that tiny mention of Social Security and Medicare in the final moments of the Wednesday presidential debate. There was no real discussion to speak of. Here is Max Richtman's full statement after the debate:

“Rather than focusing on the candidate’s plans for improving Social Security and Medicare’s long-term solvency, strengthening benefits and tackling the retirement crisis looming for millions of workers and retirees, last night’s viewers were stuck with the same old crisis calls that ‘entitlements’ are bankrupting America.

“No doubt, Washington’s billion dollar anti-Social Security lobby was happy to have some life pumped back into their middle-class killing campaign to cut benefits; however, America’s voters deserved far more from this debate.

”Make no mistake about it, the choices between Clinton and Trump couldn’t be starker. Donald Trump’s Social Security shape-shifting leaves voters with no idea of how he plans to improve solvency and benefit adequacy. Doing nothing isn’t an option.

“Contrary to his insult last night, hearing Hillary Clinton tell the truth about how to strengthen Social Security's funding isn't ‘nasty,’ it's just reality. As long as America's wealthiest are allowed to avoid paying their share of payroll taxes, Social Security suffers. Period.

“While Clinton supports expanding benefits, Trump’s only policy promise last night was to repeal Obamacare. That cuts years from Medicare’s solvency and billions in preventive care, prescription drugs and cost-reducing benefits to seniors.

“Most Americans know that our nation faces a retirement crisis. Our economy depends on strong Social Security and Medicare programs and improving benefits is vital to keeping millions from poverty. Too bad voters weren’t allowed to hear any of that debated last night.”

Perhaps in a new administration some progress can be made in Congress on this kind of legislation. Stay tuned here after the January inauguration for ideas on how you and I can make a difference.

Meanwhile, don't spend your COLA all in one place.

Oh, wait. One more thing from our friends at the NCPSSM coming off Trump calling Hillary a "nasty woman" at the Wednesday debate:


The Day After the Final Presidential Debate of 2016

Like all previous debate moderators, Chris Wallace reminded the audience of thousands at last night's final debate in Las Vegas that they were spectators, not participants and he admonished them to withhold applause, laughter, boos and cheers. But he left one out of the forbidden list: gasp.

And that was the audience's spontaneous response when Republican nominee Donald Trump refused to say he will accept the outcome of the November 8 election.

“I will look at it at the time. What I have seen is so bad. First of all, the media is so dishonest and so corrupt, and the pile-on is so amazing.”

His refusal is so unprecedented, so shocking, so demeaning of precedent and our democracy itself that Mr. Wallace gave Trump a second chance to answer. Trump stood firm: "I'll keep you in suspense," he said.

Secretary Hillary Clinton called his answer "horrifying" and actually, it was much worse than it seems in print. Here is the piece of video that will undoubtedly live in infamy:

There is only one answer, a one-word answer, to that question and Trump blew it.

The analysts and particularly those who lean Republican will tell you that Trump performed better at this debate than the previous two but that doesn't matter in the face of his answer repudiating a bedrock foundation of America, the peaceful transition of power.

One other thing - minor in comparison. Chris Wallace saved his announced topic of "entitlements" to the very end when there were only a couple of minutes left in the debate and answers were sketchy. Secretary Clinton pledged to use tax increases on the wealthy to preserve Social Security and Medicare. Trump said his plan is to - well, it was hard to tell - perhaps "make America great again."

I won't quote all the morning news outlets for you - it's easy to find them online. But now, it's your turn to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment space below. 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.

Final Presidential Face-to-Face Tonight


Here we go again - one last debate tonight just 20 days before the 8 November election.

Before I get to the nuts and bolts of what you need to know for tonight and a nice surprise at the end of this post, here's a short video from John Oliver on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight last Saturday with his own kind of recap of Donald Trump's previous week:

You probably don't need me to find all the information about tonight's debate - it's everywhere. But in the interest of completeness, here are the details.

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

• MODERATOR: The anchor of Fox New Sunday, Chris Wallace, is the moderator.

• LOCATION: The debate is, of course, live and being held at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

• FORMAT AND TOPICS: Like the first debate, this one will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each with topics chosen by Mr. Wallace. They are:

Entitlements and debt
The Supreme Court
The economy
Foreign policy
Each candidate's fitness for the office of president

You can pretty well bet it will not go well for us older folks when the moderator refers to Social Security and Medicare as “entitlements.” I cannot wait to see how misinformed Wallace is about those programs. Wouldn't it be terrific if Clinton began her response by saying, “These are 'earned benefits', Chris, not 'entitlements'. Every recipient paid into them all their working lives.”

Don't hold your breath.

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.

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


Fox News

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

Most networks' websites

Also: Undoubtedly at a bar or two near you. As with the previous two debates, Time Goes By will be open tomorrow, Thursday, for discussion of this final confrontation between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Now for the treat:

Even though the latest polls look good for Hillary Clinton, I don't entirely believe them and I've been concerned all along that Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein will pull just enough votes from Clinton that she might lose.

As it turns out, that is precisely what John Oliver talked about in his main essay Saturday on Last Week Tonight: third parties. You're gonna love this.

Cooking at Home as We Get Older

Last week, TGB reader, Elizabeth Archerd contacted me with a topic suggestion for Time Goes By:

”...can we talk about how to manage home cooking as we age?

“...My eating habits are great, according to every medical person I know, but whole natural foods do take a certain amount of cooking time. I've been looking for ways to simplify the process to save my damaged hands from pain, which I feel after every holiday meal and increasingly from daily kitchen work.

“I'm curious about how elders are managing food, not just those with my own preferences. What can we preserve, what will we have to expect to give up?”

“Duh,” said I, slapping my forehead while reading Elizabeth's email. More than a dozen years at this blog and it had never crossed my mind that cooking could become difficult as we get older either from waning stamina and strength or something more specific like arthritis.

This fact escaped me even though a few months ago, I bought a mechanical apple peeler to use when I make my monthly batch of apple sauce to freeze because my hand had recently begun cramping from holding the paring knife in one position for too long.

My first thoughts were practical in a general sense: most old people probably shouldn't be climbing onto chairs or ladders so it would be important to move all food, tableware and cooking equipment to shelves that are reachable without a kitchen ladder.

Sometimes food preparation, particularly for special occasions that Elizabeth mentions, can takes longer than feet or legs are willing to hold up. Here is an “angled perching stool” I found at Elder Store that takes the weight off your feet and also supports your back.

It turns out there are dozens and dozens of kitchen aids and gadgets for people who are old, disabled or recovering from surgery or accidents. A few of my favorites:

This one-handed vegetable brush, also available at Elder Store, makes perfect sense. Why didn't I think of that.

Here is what they call a rocking T knife - also known as a mezzaluna to most cooks - that makes it easy to cut fruit, vegetables, herbs or anything else with one hand. It is available at Active Forever and other online stores.

I really like this pan holder that you can find at many shops for elders. It makes stirring with one hand easy and accommodates different sized pots and pans. You can find this at several stores including RehabMart.

I love this. I don't have arthritic hands (yet) but tearing off plastic wrap from the roll is always a war between me and the box. At $9, this is expensive but maybe it's worth it. It's available at Elder Store.

There are a gazillion kinds of gadgets to help open cans and bottles but one caught my attention because it works with pill bottles too. You can find it at the Elder Store where it is called the easy open pill extractor.

Many of these items and others seem to me to be more expensive that they ought to be and I recommend checking for similar ones around the web at such places as Amazon, Google Shopping, Walmart, etc. in addition to the specialty stores I've linked above.

For those of you not in the United States, I came across Arthritis Solutions (don't take all these name too literally) in Australia and Living Made Easy in the United Kingdom. I'm sure there are more.

A couple of other ideas:

Most supermarkets carry already-chopped garlic and onions, fruits and vegetables, varieties of ready-to-use salad greens, etc. Personally, I am leery of packaged fresh produce; although it's been many years ago now, I recall an outbreak of E. coli caused from packaged spinach.

The meat and fish departments of supermarkets where I live are increasingly providing dishes that are dressed, flavored and ready to cook – stuffed peppers, for example, marinated steak, Asian chicken breasts, stuffed salmon, shish- and fish-kebobs, and so on.

To cut down on the amount of cooking, you can also supplement with meal services. My next door neighbor, during the years he cared for his invalid wife, used the local Meals on Wheels program not because he couldn't afford to cook but because it took too much time and effort away from caring for his wife.

Nowadays, there are growing numbers of gourmet home cooking food delivery services with all the fresh or frozen ingredients and instructions for making delicious meals without a lot of effort.

I have no idea if these services are useful or affordable; I haven't tried them. They appear to be expensive but that may not be so when compared to what you spend on food shopping now and whatever value you place on less time in the kitchen.

If, like me, you enjoy cooking but you have to cut back for physical or other reasons, you could combine sometimes cooking with delivery services or meeting friends for lunch or dinner. All of this, of course, depends on what is affordable.

And don't forget cooking ahead. When you have the energy, set aside a morning or afternoon to cook and freeze ready-to-eat meals. I do this most frequently with soup in the winter. I really like seeing the rows of two-cup containers of home-made pea soup, tomato soup, squash soup and others lined up in the freezer. All I do is keep one in the refrigerator defrosting for when I'm too lazy or busy to cook.

Which brings me to you, dear readers. This is the perfect story for crowd-sourcing.

What kitchen gadgets and supplies do you find most helpful nowadays?

What changes in preparation and techniques are you making as you grow older?

What have you given up doing in the kitchen and what have you maintained?

Have there been accidents or other incidents that compelled you to change how you work in the kitchen?

And so on. Give us you best advice on this subject – and thank you Elizabeth Archerd for a terrific idea.

ELDER MUSIC: His Slight Muse Do Please These Curious Days

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.

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William Shakespeare wrote songs into his plays. He also wrote poems and sonnets, some of the best ever. Naturally, over the years composers have put these to music. I'm going to feature some of these today.

There is a mixture of composers who actually worked with Will at the time, up to others who wrote the music just this year. This year is sort of important as it's 400 years since Will turned his toes up.

That most prolific of composers, Anon, starts the ball rolling today. To perform Mr or Ms A's composition we have ALFRED DELLER.

Alfred Deller

Alf was (and probably still is) the best known counter-tenor. This singing style replaced the previous castrato and is an improvement over that as the singer retains all the requisite parts of his anatomy.

Alf's contribution is O Mistress Mine, from Twelfth Night.

♫ Alfred Deller - Anon ~ O mistress mine (Twelfth Night)

Coming right up to date we have DAVID GILMOUR.

David Gilmour

Dave is best known for being a member of the group Pink Floyd which he joined as a replacement for founder Syd Barrett when Syd went off the rails in a big way.

Dave performs probably the most famous of Will's sonnets, number 18. That's the one that starts, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate..." and so on.

♫ David Gilmour - Sonnet 18

Speaking of "best knowns", BRYN TERFEL is almost certainly the world's best known bass-baritone.

Bryn Terfel

Bryn has sung in every famous opera house on the planet and a lot of other places as well. His song is It Was a Lover and his Lass from As You Like It. This was set to music by Gerald Finzi, who was a British composer best known for his choral works.

♫ Bryn Terfel - It was a lover and his lass

FLORENCE WELCH is the songwriter and singer for the English band Florence and the Machine.

Florence Welch

She (and they) has (have) had several albums that topped the charts but I'm afraid that I missed those. I haven't missed her Shakespeare though, and she performs Sonnet 29 (When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes).

♫ Florence Welch - When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes (Sonnet 29)

PHILIPPE SLY is another bass-baritone.

Philippe Sly

Phil was born and bred in Canada which is where he received his training. These days he's a member of the San Francisco Opera. He performs Hey, ho, the Wind and the Rain, a song from Twelfth Night.

♫ Philippe Sly - Hey, ho, the wind and the rain

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT recently released a complete album devoted to Will.

Rufus Wainwright

Rufe certainly has musical pedigree – his father is Loudon the third, mother Kate McGarrigle (making his aunt Kate's sister Anna). His sister Martha is also a singer and writer of songs (ones that bare her soul to a considerable degree). His step-mother is Suzzy Roche, and I'd better stop there as I'm running out of space.

I've selected Sonnet 20 from his album, that's the one about a woman's face.

♫ Rufus Wainwright - A Woman's Face (Sonnet 20)

The musical HAIR had some Shakespeare in it.


This might or might not surprise you. In my collection, whenever I collected this, I just labeled it "Hair" so I have no idea which version it is or who is singing (because that was quite a while ago). It's a chorus, so there are several people anyway.

What they perform is What a Piece of Work Is Man, from Hamlet.

♫ Hair - What a Piece of Work Is Man

IAN BOSTRIDGE and ANTONIO PAPPANO recorded an album of Will's songs.

Ian Bostridge & Antonio Pappano

Ian did the singing and Tony tickled the ivories. The song I've selected was again written by Gerald Finzi, who is a bit of a one for putting tunes to Will's songs. In this case it's Who is Silvia? from Two Gentlemen of Verona.

♫ Ian Bostridge - Finzi ~ Who is Silvia

Australian national treasure and most famous singer/songwriter PAUL KELLY was another who released an album this year devoted to the works of Will.

Paul Kelly

From that I have taken Sonnet 138. This one starts "When my love swears she is made of truth..." It sounds rather like one of Paul's own songs. He must have studied the master's works closely.

♫ Paul Kelly - Sonnet 138

I originally had this last song pencilled in first to be performed by Alfred Deller. However, on hearing EMMA KIRKBY perform it I knew she had to be the one, and Alf got a different song.

Emma Kirkby

Emma is one of the finest performers of early music and I can testify to her greatness as I had the good fortune of seeing and hearing her here in Melbourne.

From The Tempest, Emma sings Where the Bee Sucks, There Lurk I.

♫ Emma Kirkby - Thomas Arne ~ Where the Bee Sucks, There Lurk I

INTERESTING STUFF – 15 October 2016


On Thursday, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature was announced in Stockholm and it was one of our generation – the poet/troubador Bob Dylan, age 75.

Here is the moment when Sara Danius, the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, announced the name of the winner:

It was reported that Dylan's selection was nearly unanimous and that he is the first American to win the Literature Prize since Toni Morrison in 1993. You can read more here.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Let me take a few lines here to say that, starting with the next item, nearly half this week are about Donald Trump. Normally I wouldn't do that but each one of these four are either so pathetic, outrageous or funny that I couldn't resist.

Needless to say, you may not want the kiddies in the room for these and keep in mind also, that these are a few days old and events develop quickly in Trumpworld, so much has happened since these were first published.

We are living through what is probably the most extraordinarily awful election campaign in history so we need our laughs – as lamentable as some may be – where we can get them. See what you think.


On his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, last Saturday, John Oliver opened with a four-and-a-half-minute take on that video tape we all now know by heart. Here it is:


Alleging that the Clinton campaign released the Access Hollywood video, Donald Trump's 32-year-old son, Eric, explained his father's lewd conversation with Billy Bush this way:

“I think sometimes when guys are together they get carried away, and sometimes that’s what happens when alpha personalities are in the same presence.”

Yeah, right. You can read more at Raw Story.


You will recall from several years ago, the Russian contretemps over their punk rock protest group Pussy Riot. This week, when CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour was interviewing Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, this exchange took place. Commence laughing now:

This is the transcript:

AMANPOUR: Can I just try one last question? One last question. A bit cheeky but I'm going to ask you. Russia had its own Pussy Riot moment. What do you think of Donald Trump’s pussy riot moment?

LAVROV: Well, I don't know what this would… English is not my mother tongue, I don't know if I would sound decent. There are so many pussies around the presidential campaign on both sides that I prefer not to comment on this.

Obviously, there is nothing wrong with his English. You can read more here.


There is no way I could avoid clicking on this headline:

NSW Parliament Officially Calls Donald Trump: “Revolting Slug”

The man who said that about Trump is MP Jeremy Buckingham as he introduced a motion in the New South Wales parliament officially calling Trump by that name. Here is Buckingham reading the motion:

The motion was agreed to – unanimously, according to Buckingham. You can read more here.


In keeping with yesterday's post on the benefits of even small amounts of exercise in old age, Harvard has published a list of what it calls the five surprising benefits of walking:

  1. It counteracts the effects of weight-promoting genes

  2. It helps tame a sweet tooth

  3. It reduces the risk of developing breast cancer

  4. It eases joint pain

  5. It boosts immune function

Go to Harvard Health Publications page for more details about the list.


My mother was knitter. A constant stream of sweaters, scarves, mittens, hats and more flowed from her hands.

She hardly ever sat down without picking up her current knitting project. She even read books while knitting. Knit, perl, knit, perl, knit, perl – turn the page. Knit, perl, knit, etc.

Tom Delmore sent this video about the importance of handwork in modern life.

Renata Hiller is the co-director of the Fiber Craft Studio at the Threefold Educational Center in Chestnut Ridge, New York. You can read more about her and handwork at On Being.


Most people I know use a credit or debit card for almost all their purchases these days, no matter how small. Not me. I withdraw an allowance of two hundred dollars every couple of weeks to use for groceries, restaurants, entertainment, a print newspaper occasionally and other small-ish purchases.

I live on a carefully worked-out budget and by just glancing in my wallet at how much cash remains, I know if my spending is on target or needs to be adjusted. I like it this way. It's what I've been doing all my life.

There are quite a few good reasons to switch from cash to cards or electronic payments with smartphones in today's world. I understand that. But I keep hoping it won't become widespread until after I die because it is way too easy to overspend when you don't handle the cash.

Last week, it was announced that in an effort to reduce traffic congestion, toll booths in New York State will eliminate cash options for payment.

”Instead of charging drivers who are stopped at toll plazas,” explains The New York Times, “the [Port] authority will use sensors and cameras to automatically charge cars that have been equipped with E-ZPass; those without it will have their license plates recorded by camera, and a bill will be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.”

One more step in the race to eliminate cash money that I think will lead to widespread debt because it's so hard to track how much money you spent when it's just pixels on a screen.

Obviously I'm being a dinosaur about this. The world is passing me by.


YouTube explains that 24-year-old Frenchman Guirec Soudée is seeing the world in his 30-foot sailboat, alone at sea with only his pet chicken, Monique, for company. He says he is fulfilling a life-long dream.

It's a lovely, charming story. Take a look.

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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.

Exercise, Even In Small Doses, Offers Tremendous Benefits For Elders By Judith Graham

RONNI HERE: Remember last month when I told you that my friend Judith Graham, a trustworthy and respected reporter on the “age beat,” had begun a new column at one of the most trustworthy and respected health websites we have, Kaiser Health News?

Yesterday, as I was pulling together links to include in blog post today to harangue you yet again with the latest information about how important even small amounts of exercise are for elder health, Judith's newest column materialized.

She had already written a great deal of what I intended that I don't see any reason to repeat all her good work.

So below is Judith's column in full as Kaiser encourages republishing. Also, Judith is always looking for older adults with aging and health stories to tell. If you’ve got one, send it to her at

One more thing. I realize that I probably write post stories about exercise way too often - that you've got the point by now - and asked myself why it keeps coming up for me. Here's what I think:

I am so astonished that repeated, independent studies from respected researchers all around world keep reaching the same conclusion, that it doesn't take much exercise at all to make an enormous difference in our health.

Most of my life I was told and believed that to have any benefit, exercise needed to be long and hard and lots of it. And that just wasn't in me. But the new studies - the number and continuing flow of them - must be believed and even I can do as much (and even more) than they recommend.

But it's one of those things that amaze me - real, measurable, observable health benefits without having to be a gym rat or marathon runner. I haven't gotten over my astonishment yet. In future, I'll try to keep my enthusiasm under more control

* * *

(Republished with permission from Kaiser Health News.)

Retaining the ability to get up and about easily — to walk across a parking lot, climb a set of stairs, rise from a chair and maintain balance — is an under-appreciated component of good health in later life.

When mobility is compromised, older adults are more likely to lose their independence, become isolated, feel depressed, live in nursing homes and die earlier than people who don’t have difficulty moving around.

Problems with mobility are distressingly common: About 17 percent of seniors age 65 or older can’t walk even one-quarter of a mile, and another 28 percent have difficulty doing so.

But trouble getting around after a fall or a hip replacement isn’t a sign that your life is headed irreversibly downhill. If you start getting physical activity on a regular basis, you’ll be more likely to recover strength and flexibility and less likely to develop long-term disability, new research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows.

This encouraging finding comes from a study of people at high risk of mobility problems: men and women between the ages of 70 and 89 who were sedentary and had some difficulties with daily activities but were still able to walk a quarter mile without assistance.

Half of the group attended 26 weekly health education classes followed by monthly seminars. The other half spent about an hour getting physical activity — primarily walking — at a clinic twice a week, followed by at-home exercises.

The goal was to have participants meet the government’s recommended standard of 150 minutes of weekly moderate physical activity and sustain that level over time.

Results confirmed the extraordinary benefits of physical activity, which has been shown in previous research to lower an individual’s risk of heart disease, cognitive impairment, diabetes, depression and some cancers.

The group that focused on walking and strength and balance exercises was 25 percent less likely to experience significant problems with mobility than the group that focused on education over a period of almost three years. Specifically, they recovered faster from episodes of being unable to walk and were less likely to have problems getting around after that recovery period.

The program “was a godsend,” said John Carp, 87, who didn’t make it a point to walk regularly before he joined the study. “There was an improvement in physical feeling and also my mental attitude.”

“If there was a pill that offered comparable benefits, it would be a billion-dollar product and people would be all over it,” said Dr. Thomas Gill, lead author of the new paper and a professor of geriatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, as well as director of Yale Program on Aging.

Gill hopes to convince Medicare and other insurers to adopt the intervention he helped create. But older adults don’t need to wait for that to happen. There are plenty of places — YMCAs and senior centers, for instance — where seniors can take classes. Experts’ practical advice:

It’s never too late. “Older adults may think ‘it’s too late for me — I’m too old or too sick for this,’” said Patricia Katz, a professor of medicine and health policy at the University of California, San Francisco. “The message from this study is it’s never too late.”

“Prescribing exercise may be just as important as prescribing medications,” Katz wrote in an editorial accompanying Gill’s report.

Focus on activity, not exercise. “Older adults, if you talk to them about exercise, will say that’s not for me, that’s for my grandchildren,” Gill said. “But if you talk to them about become more physically active, they’ll say ‘okay, I can do that.’”

“Basically, I walk in the park or around the neighborhood and move my arms and legs around at night in different positions, and try to flex my muscles,” Carp said, describing his daily routine. “It’s not hard, and it makes a big difference.”

Start slow. Some participants could barely make it around a track at the beginning of the study so “we started low and increased slowly,” offering remedial help along the way, Gill said.

“I recommend focusing on smaller and achievable goals, initially, and not trying to do everything at once because we know that tends to make people give up,” said Dr. Anne Newman, chair of the department of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh and co-author of a new study showing that people who eat healthily, maintain a normal weight and are physically active live longer and spend less time being disabled at the end of their lives.

Even small amounts make a difference. Newman’s study tracked more than 5,000 older adults over the course of 25 years. One conclusion: “There’s no threshold for benefit from physical activity,” she said. “Every little bit helps.”

“You don’t need to get on a treadmill, go to the gym, or wear Spandex,” Newman said. All you need to do is start walking for a few minutes every day and gradually build up your strength and endurance.”

Beware of becoming sedentary. The worst thing seniors can do is “sit down and take it easy,” said Susan Hughes, co-director of the Center for Research on Health and Aging at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Make a plan. Hughes helped develop Fit & Strong, an evidence-based physical activity program for seniors with osteoarthritis that incorporates health education.

Before participants go off on their own, coaches craft an individualized plan that covers three questions: What are you going to do and how often, where are you going to do it and who are you going to do it with? You can make a plan yourself, but make sure it’s enjoyable, Hughes said. Otherwise, it’s very unlikely you’ll follow it for any length of time.

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We’re eager to hear from readers about questions you’d like answered, problems you’ve been having with your care and advice you need in dealing with the health care system. Visit to submit your requests or tips.

KHN’s coverage of late life and geriatric care is supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

What It Means to be Human

Isn't that a splendid story? It's barely a minute long yet it is filled with a world of love, understanding, grief, joy, compassion, insight and maybe some magic.

There isn't much of that these days. At least, not in public life. For the past 18 months, one person and his various enablers have been force feeding us a daily menu of hatred, ignorance, malice, lies, vulgarity and general thuggery that has tainted any whisper of human kindness trying to break through.

Yes, I'm bringing Donald Trump into this.

On Monday, the post updating some thoughts about elder loneliness I was trying to write for today was not going well. The words refused to come together, I was distracted and couldn't focus – instead surfing political websites and clicking on cable news to see who was saying what about Sunday's presidential debate.

None of it was uplifting in the tiniest degree. The more I saw, the more I read, the grimmer I felt. Let down. Kind of dirty. Craving a bit of patriotism maybe – words like freedom and liberty and justice that are missing from this horrible, endless election campaign.

I had wasted several hours unable to write about loneliness before trashing the piece and hoping for overnight inspiration.

That didn't happen but early Tuesday I ran across the above video clip that I had set aside some time ago for future use and had forgotten. Let me tell you about it.

It is from a movie released in 2015 titled Human directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, now age 70, who is a French photographer, filmmaker and environmentalist.

The film was produced over three years during which Arthus-Bertrand and a team of 20 others traveled to 60 or so countries where they interviewed more than 2,000 people, asking each one the same 40 questions.

All the subjects were shot on a plain, black background without any details about their identity and locale nor, during post production, any musical score. That way, Arthus-Bertrand explained to Wired magazine, he hoped to

”...concentrate on what we all share. If you put the name of a person, or what country they’re from, you don’t feel that as strongly".

Here is Arthus-Bertrand himself explaining his goal in making Human:

Now, a few more of the 2,000 stories.

Although I would hope so, it is hard to know if I am good enough to maybe, possibly, sometimes find the kind of forgiveness the man in that last video has. What I know with all my heart, however, is that Donald Trump cannot.

He is the opposite of love, devotion, kindness, understanding. And what he has done – or we have allowed him to do - with his non-stop bellowing of loathsome and repugnant speech is infect us all with his hateful view of life.

It is bad enough that with at least one-third of voters backing Trump, his abominable beliefs and behavior will not end with a Clinton victory. We are stuck with it for a long time.

Which is exactly why I need a break from it all and something uplifting to feed my soul. It took finding that video of this magnificent movie about all the many ways there are to be human for me to feel a little bit clean again.

You can watch Human yourself in a variety of places and formats. There is the official website or watch many short videos like those above at Google Arts & Culture. Or visit the YouTube page for more clips.

There is also a theatrical version and a TV version, among others (see here). Plus, there is this three volume version you can watch online:

Human – Extended Version Volume 1
Human – Extended Version Volume 2
Human – Extended Version Volume 3

I don't recall that I have ever in my 75 years felt as bad about my country and its future as I do now. This movie, Human - which shows us the family of man in all its glory, and misery too - is a good antidote.

The Day After the Second Presidential Debate

It was a small and pissy debate last night as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump badgered one another with attacks and slurs for 90 minutes. I think it was a disgrace and a degradation of public political discourse. Mostly, it was irritating. Ms. Clinton had lost her mojo from the first debate and although Trump apparently put some small amount of preparation for this one, the "facts" he flung around were, I would guess, about 75 percent wrong or fake.

Two or three moments stand out. In his misdirecting manner, Trump apparently confessed both to sexual assault and to not paying federal taxes for many years. But the most shocking statement was when Trump said that if he is elected president he would have the Justice Department investigate Clinton and would jail her.

Let me restate that as clearly as possible: an American citizen who is a candidate for the presidency threatened to jail his opponent if he is elected. Just like they do in third world countries. Do not minimize this as Donald Trump being Donald Trump. It is shocking, disrespectful of our country's values and, I believe, requires an apology to the entire nation. Which will not happen, of course.

I have a feeling the media will not see Trump's threat to jail Clinton if he wins as important as I do. That would be wrong. It reveals Trump's ignorance of everything the United State stands for as well as his inherent thuggery.

There was a nasty little bit of stagecraft an hour before the debate when Trump sat at a table in a drab hotel conference room with four women who, a couple of decades ago, accused then-President Bill Clinton of sexual misdeeds. The four women were later seated in the debate auditorium but there seemed to be no real purpose to charade.

Overall, Clinton held her ground and Trump did not lose any of his base voters. Neither moved the needle.

As with the first debate, I don't need to quote all the morning news outlets for you - it's easy to find them online. I've only read a couple of them so far and to give you a real feel of the debate from an expert who was there and who has followed the campaign from day one, I recommend Robert Costa at the Washington Post.

Now, it's your turn to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment space below. 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.

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In regard to this entire campaign, I want to share one of the most interesting things I read over the weekend about the rise of Donald Trump.

Stephen Greenblatt is a professor at Harvard and the general editor of The Norton Shakespeare. In The New York Times, he wrote about how Shakespeare took on the question of how a great country could wind up being governed by a sociopath.

”The problem was not England’s, where a woman of exceptional intelligence and stamina had been on the throne for more than 30 years,” writes Greenblatt, “but it had long preoccupied thoughtful people.

“Why, the Bible brooded, was the kingdom of Judah governed by a succession of disastrous kings? How could the greatest empire in the world, ancient Roman historians asked themselves, have fallen into the hands of a Caligula?”

Shakespeare tackled the question in his play, Richard III. Greenblatt identifies five enablers that made it possible for Richard to come to power and they are remarkably similar to what we are watching during this presidential campaign 420-odd years after Shakespeare's time.

”Shakespeare brilliantly shows all these types of enablers working together in the climactic scene of this ascent. The scene — anomalously enough in a society that was a hereditary monarchy but oddly timely for ourselves — is an election...

Richard III does not depict a violent seizure of power. Instead there is the soliciting of popular votes, complete with a fraudulent display of religious piety, the slandering of opponents and a grossly exaggerated threat to national security.”

Doesn't that sound familiar. As Greenblatt concludes:

”Shakespeare’s words have an uncanny ability to reach out beyond their original time and place and to speak directly to us.

“We have long looked to him, in times of perplexity and risk, for the most fundamental human truths. So it is now. Do not think it cannot happen, and do not stay silent or waste your vote.”

I think you will enjoy reading all of Stephen Greenblatt's essay here.


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.

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That's some Australian money if you're wondering. I didn't take that photo; I don't have that much loot lying around (those green ones are $100).

We were the first to use plastic money and producing them for other countries has been a serious export earner over the years. There's only about one country left these days that still uses paper money.

KEVIN JOHNSON is an Australian singer/songwriter who would be a superstar if he'd been born in New York or Los Angeles.

Kevin Johnson

For we folks in Oz, he is just that anyway. It's a pity that most of the rest of the world don't know about him. I'll do my little bit to spread the news.

His song is Grab the Money and Run. He mentions in the song about going to Mexico. This may seem normal to Americans but for folks from these parts, that's a major trek. I love the tongue in cheek lyrics.

♫ Kevin Johnson - Grab The Money And Run

ERNEST KADOR was a minor musician from New Orleans who had a couple of minor hits, including this one.

Ernie KDoe

He changed his name to Ernie K-Doe and became a star. However, the song is from his initial period as a musician. It's called No Money.

♫ Ernest Kador - No Money

After Hank Williams, LEFTY FRIZZELL would probably be the most influential person in country music.

Lefty Frizzell

Even super-duper stars like Willie Nelson cite him as an influence. Like Hank, Lefty wrote a bunch of songs that have gone into the country music canon. Other genres as well. This is one of his more famous songs, If You've Got The Money (I've Got The Time).

♫ Lefty Frizzell - If You've Got The Money (I've Got The Time)

LOUIS JORDAN was an extremely popular band leader in the thirties and forties - probably only the Duke and the Count could beat him (I'm excluding all those bland band leaders).

Louis Jordan

Unlike those other two, Louis didn't take himself too seriously. He was later one of the leading practitioners of Jump Blues, one of the main precursors to rock & roll. Louis urges us to Put Some Money in the Pot, Boy, 'Cause the Juice Is Runnin' Low.

♫ Louis Jordan - Put Some Money in the Pot, Boy, 'Cause the Juice Is Runnin' Low

KEB' MO' was born Kevin Moore but thought he'd shorten his already quite brief name (actually, it was all his drummer's doing).

Keb Mo

At least it distinguishes him from all the other Kevin Moores out there. Keb's a fine blues performer but is not restricted to that genre. He brings in elements of rock, jazz and folk into his music. His money song is More For Your Money.

♫ Keb Mo - More For Your Money

I remember this song from MARGARET WHITING back in 1956.

Margaret Whiting

We all dreamed that this would happen to us. I'm still having those dreams. Okay, more daydreams, my real dreams are far more disturbing, but we won't go there.

I give you (and I bet you wish I could) The Money Tree.

♫ Margaret Whiting - The Money Tree

JIMMY JOHNSON had a couple of brothers who preceded him into the music business.

Jimmy Johnson

Jimmy worked as a welder and was over 30 by the time he made music his full time work. In spite of the late start (or maybe because of it), he quickly became a well respected blues guitarist and pretty good singer.

Jimmy performs I Need Some Easy Money.

♫ Jimmy Johnson - I Need Some Easy Money

Several tracks came and went in this spot. I'd put one in and then go, "Nuuuhhhh" and throw it out again. Finally, I just threw up my hands and went with the last one I included.

The last person standing when the bell sounded is TOM RUSH from New Hampshire.

Tom Rush

Tom had a couple I could have used, both from the terrific album "Take a Little Walk With Me". The selected song is Turn Your Money Green, an old Furry Lewis song.

♫ Tom Rush - Turn Your Money Green

Here is TINY TIM. No, don't move on to the next song quite so quickly. This isn't the way you're used to hearing him.

Tiny Tim

Tim is singing with his real voice, as it were. It won't hurt to have a quick listen to him performing I Ain't Got No Money.

♫ Tiny Tim - I Ain't Got No Money

WARREN ZEVON comes up with the ultimate power trio in his song.

Warren Zevon

Those familiar with his oeuvre will know of what I speak. Here is Lawyers, Guns and Money.

♫ Warren Zevon - Lawyers, Guns and Money

Okay, I imagine you were expecting Barrett Strong's Money (That's What I Want) or The Beatles' cover of the same song. Another that's missing is the various versions of Money Honey.

Yes, I know I could have bumped Tiny Tim for one of those. Sorry to disappoint.