Saturday, 26 July 2014
INTERESTING STUFF – 26 July 2014
MONTY PYTHON FAREWELL CONCERT
Several readers send this video of the final concert from the remaining members of British Monty Python comedy group.
This video is the final song on the final night of the final 10-night stand in London during which many of the other performers from earlier in the evening joined them on stage.
You can read more here.
A ROYAL BELLY LAUGH
From Darlene. You don't often see Queen Elizabeth II or her son Prince Charles having this kind of fun. Too bad we don't know what they were laughing at.
GEORGE TAKEI'S CHILDHOOD INCARCERATION
The actor George Takei, famously known as Mr. Sulu from the original Star Trek series, was on The Daily Show to talk about a new documentary about his life and host Jon Stewart zeroed in on Takei's childhood in one of the most shameful events in American history.
Takei was five years old, he tells Stewart, when he, after Pearl Harbor, his parents and siblings were forced from their home to the camp for Japanese American citizens at Santa Anita Racetrack where a friend of mine also grew up. Take a look:
There is an extended interview online at The Daily Show website.
SAD AND FUNNY AT THE SAME TIME
Once upon a time, in 2004, a pine tree was planted in Los Angeles in memory of Beatle George Harrison:
Now, the tree will be torn out and replaced because it was killed by an infestation of – wait for it – beetles. Heh.
You can read more here.
JIMMY FALLON AND KEVIN SPACEY
I've been meaning to show you this video since last May when actor Kevin Spacey appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
You may or may not know that Spacey is a decent singer. Although he is better known nowadays for playing Frank Underwood in the Netflix hit, House of Cards, in 2004, he directed and starred in Beyond the Sea, the biography movie of Bobby Darin, and sang all the songs himself. I have the album and still play it now and then. I like Spacey's voice.
On The Tonight Show, Spacey and Fallon joined the members of the barbershop quartet called Ragtime Gals to sing Talk Dirty.
There is more information with links to additional song videos here.
NO SELF DRIVING CARS FOR DECADES (?)
Some of us elders have been carefully watching the development of self-driving cars because they could be so useful to elders who, when they can no longer drive for various reasons, could be less dependent on the sometimes non-existent public transportation and the kindnesses of strangers.
Although it is only one step in the right direction, I was thrilled a few years ago, to try a self-parking car at Ford Motor headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan:
I was amazed at how well it worked. Now, however, if we can believe the MIT Technology Review (and I generally do), it will be decades before self-driving (also called autonomous) cars will be ready for urban use:
”For example, a fully autonomous car would need to understand that someone waving his arms by the side of the road is actually a policeman trying to stop traffic.
“When surveyed by the conference organizers, the 500 experts in attendance were not optimistic such problems would be solved soon. Asked when they would trust a fully robotic car to take their children to school, more than half said 2030 at the very earliest. A fifth said not until 2040, and roughly one in 10 said 'never.'”
I hope they're wrong. You can read the whole story here.
JOHN OLIVER TAKES ON THE U.S. PRISON SYSTEM
As I keep repeating myself – John Oliver may be the best news person on television even if he is a comedian. He has been specializing in in-depth coverage of important issues. Last Sunday on Last Week Tonight, he took on America's prison system.
POLITE CAT EXACTLY LIKE MY OLLIE
Just like the polite cat in this video, my cat Ollie taps me lightly on the arm or leg or face or whatever body part he's near when he wants a pet or a head scratch. Take a look:
For Ollie, however (and who knows – maybe this cat too), when food rather than affection is the question, he's more insistent. Well, “vicious” would be the better word and I've got the scarred ankles to prove it.
Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.
You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.
Friday, 25 July 2014
Growing Old with Trees
Tom Delmore, a poet himself, sends me poems by others from time to time. Two that have been waiting longer than they should to be posted here are about trees and and the men who spent a lifetime knowing them. Take a listen.
By Wendell Berry
I know I am getting old and I say so,
but I don't think of myself as an old man.
I think of myself as a young man
with unforeseen debilities. Time is neither
young nor old, but simply new, always
counting, the only apocalypse. And the clouds
- no mere measure or geometry, no cubism,
can account for clouds or, satisfactorily, for bodies.
There is no science for this, or art either.
Even the old body is new—who has known it
before?—and no sooner new than gone, to be
replaced by a body yet older and again new.
The clouds are rarely absent from our sky
over this humid valley, and there is a sycamore
that I watch as, growing on the riverbank,
it forecloses the horizon, like the years
of an old man. And you, who are as old
almost as I am, I love as I loved you
young, except that, old, I am astonished
at such a possibility, and am duly grateful.
[From Leavings published in 2010]
ELEGY FOR A WALNUT TREE
By W. S. Merwin
Old friend now there is no one alive
who remembers when you were young
it was high summer when I first saw you
in the blaze of day most of my life ago
with the dry grass whispering in your shade
and already you had lived through wars
and echoes of wars around your silence
through days of parting and seasons of absence
with the house emptying as the years went their way
until it was home to bats and swallows
and still when spring climbed toward summer
you opened once more the curled sleeping fingers
of newborn leaves as though nothing had happened
you and the seasons spoke the same language
and all these years I have looked through your limbs
to the river below and the roofs and the night
and you were the way I saw the world
[From The Moon in Morning published in 2014]
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: We Never Knew When to Quit
Thursday, 24 July 2014
Not Like Them – Those Other Old People
Hardly a week goes by that I do not receive a press release or reader email alerting me to a photography exhibit of elders. So much so that it is hard not to conclude that it is becoming a growth industry.
The two most common categories are closeups of wrinkled skin and old people participating in sports - or, sometimes, both in the same series.
It is always better, I believe, so see more portrayals of old people, in any medium, than not. But too many of the photographs are just ordinary and stand out only for having been shot in harshly lit black-and-white which, as any denizen of the internet and certain galleries knows, is the signal that you are in the presence of “art.”
You can choose to reject that designation if your judgment tells you otherwise particularly, in my case, when it seems the photographers' goal is to shock us with the apparent ruin of 90-year-old bodies.
In June, Lillian B. Rubin died. She was 90 years old, a sociologist, a psychologist and author of several useful and well-received books including, in 2008, 60 on Up: The Truth About Aging in the 21st Century.
In reading Rubin's obituary, I was reminded of the opening line in that book,
“Getting old sucks. It always has, it always will.”
Anyone who has been reading this blog for longer than a day or two know that I disagree. But I do know what she was getting at and some of that is contained in an article she wrote for Salon in 2011:
”...old age - even now when old age often isn't what it used to be – is a time of loss, decline and stigma.
“Yes, I said stigma. A harsh word, but one that speaks to a truth that's affirmed by social researchers who have consistently found that racial and ethnic stereotypes are likely to give way over time and with contact, but not those about age.
“And where there are stereotypes, there are prejudice and discrimination – feeling and behavior that are deeply rooted in our social world, and consequently make themselves felt in our inner psychological worlds as well.”
In a short but remarkable section of that Salon article, written when Rubin was 87, she admits to her own prejudice against old people. As she recalled the interviews with elders that she conducted for 60 on Up,
”...I found myself forced back on myself, on my own prejudices about old people, even though I am also one of them.
“Even now, even after all I've learned about myself, those words – I am one of them – bring a small shock. And something inside resists.
“I want to take the words back, to shout, 'No, it's not true, I'm really not like them,' and explain all the ways I'm different from the old woman I saw pushing her walker down the street or the frail shuffling man I looked away from with a slight sense of discomfort.
“I know enough not to be surprised that I feel this way, but I can't help being somewhat shamed by it.”
My own “small shock” and “surprise” and “shame” is that sometimes I catch myself, when I pay attention, feeling like Rubin. Because even though I am hyper-aware, thanks to the work I do for this blog, that I am one perilous fall or terrible diagnosis away from disastrous need of part- or full-time care, I feel different from those who do.
But what Rubin was getting at when she wrote that getting old sucks is not so much the physical manifestations as the emotional and spiritual changes that our culture does not acknowledge even as it is the major source.
Rubin and I share a disdain for the relentless focus on youth, the anti-aging industry, the dubious value of brain games, elders who pretend they are not old.
It is the less than artful photography of ancient bodies I mentioned above that comes to mind when I read part of Rubin's conclusion in her Salon piece:
”...we're living in a weird combination of the public idealization of aging that lies alongside the devaluation of the old. And it isn't good for anybody.
“Not the 60-year-olds who know they can't do what they did at 40 but keep trying, not the 80-year-olds who, when their body and mind remind them that they're not 60, feel somehow inadequate, as if they've done something wrong, failed a test.”
Until we, as a society, find a way to value the late years of elders' lives – all the years, in all their manifestations - there will continue to be old people like Lillian Rubin, me and a certain percentage of you who are ashamed to know that sometimes we feel “not like them.” Until we are forced, one day, to admit, finally, that we are.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dan Gogerty: Ag Terms in Advertising – Natural Ignorance is Bliss
Wednesday, 23 July 2014
Are Elders REALLY More Susceptible to Scams and Fraud?
Every year or two, I write a blog post about scams, swindles and frauds that are likely to be perpetrated upon elders, along with some information on how to avoid them.
Conventional wisdom in the reporting about elders and fraud, supported by the FBI, Nolo, NCOA, AARP and other organizations one would expect to be knowledgeable, is that many more old people are cheated out of their money than younger people:
”The U.S. Department of Justice,” writes Nolo in an undated piece on the website, “estimates that dishonest telemarketers take in an estimated $40 billion each year, bilking one in six American consumers -- and the AARP claims that about 80% of them are 50 or older.”
In support of the assertion that elders are more stupid than others, the FBI relies on infantilizing us. Here are some of their reasons from an undated page at the FBI website:
“People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits...
“Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to...
“When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses...
“Senior citizens are more interested in and susceptible to products promising increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-cancer properties, and so on...”
As I reported here last year, I had been irritated for years at these assumptions that old people are more frequent victims:
”Why should they [be]?” I wrote. “In fact (thought I), with age comes experience and many elders have probably been burned enough times by unscrupulous people to be more alert to it than those with less experience.”
But that post last year was about new studies showing that scans of elder brains reveal diminished response to untrustworthiness. I concluded,
”So it seems my arrogance was showing in believing that my brain is healthy enough that I could not fall victim to a swindler. Now I know better. We are all vulnerable and these studies are a good warning to be careful.”
Well, not so fast. Although I generally stay away from reporting studies that use words like might, maybe, could about results, last year's studies were about what researchers found (or found lacking) in brains of young and old.
Not many maybes about that. Except, perhaps, in interpretation.
More recently, three researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada looked into the available data to see if elders really are scammed more often than younger people:
”While there isn’t much research that directly answers this question, the research that does exist suggests that older adults may be less frequent victims than other age groups,” reports one news source.
As the abstract of the published research report notes, there isn't enough evidence to be certain that elders are less frequent victims but neither is there evidence that they are more frequent victims.
”In generalizing from laboratory findings of cognitive decline to age differences in the prevalence of consumer fraud, psychologists may underestimate the influence in everyday life of possible protective factors associated with old age, including increased experience and changes in goals, lifestyle, income, as well as purchasing and risk behaviors.”
Just as I have always suspected – that a lifetime of experience make elders less vulnerable to scammers. Maybe. Maybe not.
But the jury is out and such organizations as Nola, NCOA, AARP and the FBI, lacking evidence, should not assume that old people are too stupid to come in out of the rain.
If I have learned anything in 20 years of studying aging, it is that the negative myths and presumptions about elders by the ignorant and uninformed are refuted far more often than they are upheld.
That does not mean that even the most vigilant people of any age cannot be scammed by clever swindlers. Nor does it mean that the experts who are so quick to scorn elders' cognitive capabilities can't provide useful information.
They are correct that elders are frequently targeted because the bad guys, too, believe the stereotype that old people are more susceptible than young people. And, when you are robo-calling and emailing millions, you are bound to turn up some who really do suffer cognitive decline.
So here are some good websites with information on the many ways the bad guys use part us from our money. (Do note, however, than none of the pages are dated so there is no way to know if, for example, “top 10 scams” are still true. New ones have undoubtedly been invented by now and others may have become more or less common.)
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: The Best Lovers
Tuesday, 22 July 2014
Welsh Declaration of Rights for Old People
Last week, Wales became the first country in the world to adopt a Declaration of Rights for Older People. Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas said,
“The number of older people in Wales is growing and there is no dedicated set of rights for older people in the UK. Age discrimination and ageism are widely tolerated across the world.
"We must dispel old-fashioned stereotypes of people based on their age, and recognise and value the enormous contributions that older people make in all of our communities across Wales.
“I’m therefore delighted that Wales is once again leading the way by publishing a Declaration of the Rights of Older People in Wales.”
According to NewsWales, Older People's Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira, worked with elders themselves to create the Declaration,
”...which has received cross-party support in the National Assembly for Wales, is based on the UN Principles for Older Persons and sets out what older people have said they value and what rights they feel would support and protect them.”
The Declaration is meant not only to help old people understand their rights in Wales, but to be a guide for those who are responsible for the development and delivery of social services to Welsh elders.
Here are the six points in the Declaration along with the fuller explanations of each as laid out in the document:
I have the right to be who I am
Not all older people are the same and I have the right to be who I am. I am a unique person and have the right to be understood, considered and recognised as an individual. I have the right to be treated equally and without discrimination.
I have the right to be valued
Because I am human I have the right to be valued. My life is significant to me and those who care about me, and I have a right to live a life that has value, meaning and purpose. I matter. I am of worth both when I contribute to society and when I no longer do so.
I have free will and the right to make decisions about my life
I have the right to make decisions and be supported to do so if necessary. I have the right to exercise my free will and make choices. My opinion is the most important when decisions are being made about me and my life. I have a right to be supported to live independently.
I have the right to decide where I live, how I live and with whom I live
I have the right to decide where I live and to choose the person or people to spend my life with. I have a right to be in my own home and with the community I love.
I have the right to work, develop, participate and contribute
My life does not come to an end because I have reached a certain age. I have a right to work. I have a right to full involvement in my own community. I have a right to thrive and to continue learning, developing and growing. I have a right to support so I can continue contributing. I have a right to explore new things.
I have a right to safety, security and justice
I have a right to be taken seriously when I am afraid. I have a right to information and advice that addresses my worries and uncertainties. If I need the law to protect me I should not be treated differently because I am older. I also have the right to take risks if I want to.
You will find the full document here [pdf].
A big thank you to TimeGoesBy reader Allan Moult for bringing the Welsh Declaration to my attention. I was, of course, reminded of An Elder Pledge which I've shown you before and hangs on the wall by my desk. Each supports the other nicely - declarations from government and from elders themselves.
The Pledge was written by elderlaw attorney, Orrin Onken. The poster is 12 inches by 36 inches and can be ordered from the Syracuse Cultural Workers website for $15 unframed plus shipping. There are also postcards and bookmarks of the pledge.
As the population of elders increases dramatically around the world, I hope Wales will not be the only the first of many countries to adopt such a Declaration and make it binding.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Reincarnation
Monday, 21 July 2014
Old Age Incontinence
According to a June 2014 report [pdf] from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half the U.S. population age 65 and older (50.9%) report urinary and/or bowel leakage.
That's just the group of us who live independently; there are different numbers, higher and lower, for those in care homes of various kinds.
Because it's not a subject anyone likes to talk about much, we giggle and make jokes.
Although it is hard to openly discuss incontinence, it is important health issue that can have serious effects on people's lives. When WebMD reported on the CDC study, it noted,
"Bladder and bowel incontinence is a highly prevalent disease that has emotional, health, social and economic impacts in the daily life of our elderly population in the U.S.," said Dr. Farzeen Firoozi, a urologist at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, N.Y.”
Ever since, when the subject comes up, I've laughed again and passed it on (so to speak) to others (with attribution, Cop Car).
The reason for that post was, as I explained then,
”...lately, when I laugh, sneeze or cough with too much force, I leak. Or, more bluntly, I pee in my pants. Not a lot, a few drops, and it happens not just when I need to visit the bathroom; it can happen even when I have just peed.”
So I did some research and reported to you. As I have further explained, more recently, losing weight solved the problem. No more leaks.
All this came to mind a few days ago when I received the weekly mailing from Harvard Medical School selling their topical health booklets – this one titled Better Bladder and Bowel Control. The email itself, headlined Five Ways to Dodge Incontinence, provides some good advice:
“Watch your weight. Excess weight and incontinence can go hand in hand, particularly for women. One theory is that extra abdominal fat can weaken the pelvic floor muscles and lead to stress incontinence (leaking when coughing, laughing, sneezing, etc.). In some cases, simply losing weight can improve incontinence.
“Don’t smoke. Smoking threatens your health in many ways. It also doubles the likelihood that a woman will develop stress incontinence. Nicotine has also been linked to urge incontinence.
“Stay active. In the Nurses’ Health Study, middle-aged women who were the most physically active were the least likely to develop incontinence.
“Minimize bladder irritants. Caffeine and alcohol have been linked to urge incontinence (the feeling you need to urinate even when the bladder isn’t full). Carbonated drinks, the artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet), spicy foods, and citrus fruits and juices cause urge incontinence in some people.
“Don’t strain with bowel movements. This can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. If your stools are frequently hard or take considerable effort to pass, talk with your doctor. In a study involving people ages 65 and older, treating constipation improved a variety of urinary symptoms, including frequency, urgency, and burning. Increasing the fiber in your diet and drinking enough fluid can help prevent constipation.”
As useful as those items are to know, you can't get the rest of Harvard's information on causes and treatment without shelling out a lot more money than I care to spend.
Therefore, as TGB public service, here are some links to reputable online sources of information on incontinence:
WebMD Incontinence & Overactive Bladder Health Center
Many links to full articles, explanations and discussions of all aspects of incontinence
Medscape Urinary Incontinence in the Elderly
A thorough, single-spaced, eight-page explanation meant for physicians but easily understandable by laymen
Mayo Clinic Urinary Incontinence
A good section with pages on definition, symptoms, causes, risk factors, complications, treatments, drugs, even home remedies
Incontinence is highly treatable with drugs, other interventions and in some cases, surgery. For me – like so many of the minor afflictions of age - just irritating, every single day.
I am grateful my bout of incontinence was so easily solved with weight loss. I always wondered, when I took up Cop Car's solution, what jokes the check out clerks at Rite-Aid were telling each other after this white-haired old woman paid for her Maxipads.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: I Accept the Nomination
Sunday, 20 July 2014
ELDER MUSIC: 1956 Again
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
What happened in 1956?
- Archie Roach was born
- Melbourne staged the Olympics Games
- Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show
- My Fair Lady opened on Broadway
- IBM invented the hard disk drive. It contained fifty 24-inch disks with total storage capacity of 5MB
- High Society was released
- Melbourne were premiers
I'll start the year with the inimitable LITTLE RICHARD.
Any year that starts with him can't be all bad. His song is one of his big ones, Rip It Up.
From real rock & roll to no rock & roll at all, in spite of the title. Around this time mainstream musos were trying to cash in on the craze and completely missing the mark. This is a good example by KAY STARR singing Rock and Roll Waltz.
What a shocker (the song that is, not the singer – Kay's pretty good).
My Prayer started life in 1926 as a song called Avant de Mourir written by Georges Boulanger who was a Romanian violinist, composer and conductor.
Around 1939, Jimmy Kennedy wrote English lyrics to the tune and it was recorded with some success by both Glenn Miller and The Ink Spots. More time passed and THE PLATTERS had a go at it this year.
Many others have turned their hand (or their mouth) to it, but The Platters' version is still the pick of them and the biggest selling as well.
Lincoln Chase wrote song Jim Dandy for LAVERN BAKER.
The song is all about how our hero Jim rescues women from all sorts of improbable situations. The song was successful enough that Lincoln wrote a follow up called Jim Dandy Got Married (I don't know if that counts as an improbable situation).
GENE VINCENT started his adult life in the navy, sailing to Korea at one stage.
Upon his return he was seriously injured in a motor cycle accident (hit by a drunk driver) that damaged his leg so he had a limp for the rest of his life.
He was discharged from the navy on medical grounds and started a band called Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps. He wrote a song called Be-Bop-A-Lula and they recorded a demo.
Capitol Records wanted an artist to compete with Elvis and they got to hear Gene's demo. They signed him immediately and they recorded it for real and it became a big hit and a very influential song indeed.
The charts of the day still contained artists from earlier times, one of whom was FRANKIE LAINE.
Even though he was renowned for singing cowboy songs, Frankie was at heart a jazz singer. This isn't quite jazz, although there are some inflections there. It's more big band pop. A Woman in Love.
TERESA BREWER really is A Sweet Old Fashioned Girl.
Scoobley dooby be doo be doo (etc).
Oh Eddie, what possessed you to record Dungaree Doll? Eddie is, if you didn't know, EDDIE FISHER.
I imagine he was still trying to remain relevant to the young folks but it was already too late. I don't know if you can still remember this one. I can, my sister played it all the time. Deep sigh.
Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee recorded as SHIRLEY AND LEE.
Shirley and Lee were born only days apart in New Orleans and had several big hits together while they were still teenagers. They wrote those themselves.
They had an interesting style, not singing together, really two separate singers that seemed to work. Here's one of those early songs, one that's become famous as a sort of anthem of New Orleans - Let the Good Times Roll.
I'll finish with The King. ELVIS was already in the mix by 1956, but it was this year that broke him worldwide with Heartbreak Hotel.
He had several more hits this year (and every year for the decade). This is one of them, Don't Be Cruel.
You can find more music from 1956 here.
1957 will appear in two weeks' time.