Saturday, 18 April 2015

INTERESTING STUFF – 18 April 2015


THE ONLY KNOWN FOOTAGE OF ANNE FRANK

It's grainy, black-and-white shot on 22 July 1941, but you know immediately that it is Anne Frank.

She is leaning out of the second-floor window of her home in Amsterdam watching a bride and groom leave the house next door on the way to their wedding. It's only 20 seconds and as far as anyone knows, it is the only moving footage of her.


IDEAS ARE SCARY COMMERCIAL

It is not my habit to promote corporations and in no way does this imply endorsement of the firm. But the currently airing GE commercial delights me every time I see it.

It is as stunning a good idea as the ideas it is designed to make us think about - as thoughtful as it is charming. The commercial was produced by the agency, BBDO, and there is a list of production credits here. They all deserve our applause.


MODERN EGYPTIAN MUMMY BURIAL


GuentertGrave

Just a simple grave marker, right? Nothing important about it unless you are friend or family. If that is what you think you would be wrong.

For the past 25 years of his life, until he died in January this year at age 92, Frederick W. Guentert, Jr. worked on his own casket, a close replica to the ancient burial containers of the Egyptian pharoahs.

"Since the mid-1980s when he began working on it, the eventual three-hundred-pound, seven-foot-long reminder of mortality reposed in two pieces within his home garage...,” explains Mary Ellen Markant at the Finishing Touches blog.

"Occasionally, he 'tried it on for size,' but only when his wife wasn’t looking and wouldn’t witness him bedding down in this blatant representation of destiny."

Even the inside of the casket is carefully decorated:

EgyptianCasket1

On the lid is a depiction of Osiris, Egyptian god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead.

EgyuptianCasketCU

As elaborate as Mr. Guentert's final resting place is, his funeral was as simple as his gravestone:

”There would be no viewing or funeral,” explained Ms. Markant. “He wanted only to have his body embalmed, wrapped in a shroud, and placed in the box he had finessed to its completion.

“In spite of disavowing an afterlife, his face would be covered by a fiberglass mask depicting...Osiris.”

There is much more to Guentert's lifelong Egyptian obsession and you can read about it at Finishing Touches.


TEXAS DMV HAS NO SENSE OF HUMOR

This is so silly and would not warrant a mention here except that perhaps it explains why the really important stuff governments should be taking care of is so often ignored. Actually, I think the license place is clever and it makes me giggle when I see it.


BABY DEER RESCUE FROM PORCH

No explanation needed – just a lovely backyard rescue. Thank Darlene Costner for sending it.


JOHN OLIVER ON THE IRS

Last Wednesday was tax filiing deadline day in the United Statesand on the Sunday before, John Oliver used it as a reason to feature the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)on his Last Week Tonight show.

He explained in simple, clear detail why the agency is crucial to the ongoing health of the U.S. economy and how Congress's budget and staff cuts have dangerously undermined it.

Keep in mind, too, as you watch, that Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is running on a platform of abolishing the IRS.

Oh, and you'll enjoy Oliver's laughs, of course, too.


BUSINESS OWNER RAISES COMPANY MINIMUM WAGE TO $70

Dan Price is CEO of Gravity Payments, a Seattle-based, credit card payment processing company. He announced this week that over the next three years, he will raise the salaries of all 120 employees to at least $70,000 a year.

”[He] said would pay for the wage increases by cutting his own salary from nearly $1 million to $70,000 and using 75 to 80 percent of the company’s anticipated $2.2 million in profit this year.”

Price told The New York Times that the idea came about after he read an article about happiness that said “for people who earn less than about $70,000, extra money makes a big difference in their lives.”

Here is a video of Price making the announcement of the salary increase to the company's employees:

You can read more at The New York Times.


THAT TERRIBLE DAY IN POMPEII IN AD79

A few years ago, a company named Zero One created an animation for a 3D museum installation for the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces. The idea was to show visitors an up close and personal sense of what happened when Mt. Vesuvius erupted destroying the town of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

It's an amazing recreation. Thank Darlene Costner for sending it.


CAT PLAYS DEAD TO AVOID GOING FOR A WALK

The headline tells you all you need to know except – be sure you've swallowed your coffee or tea before watching. It will make cat lovers laugh out loud and make dog people too. (Hat tip to Joan McMullen)


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 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.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (17) | Permalink | Email this post

Friday, 17 April 2015

Disengagement in Old Age

Readers sometimes send me interesting questions about getting old (as if you think I actually have answers). When they are specific and about topics on which there is a body of knowledge and consensus from experts, I can act as researcher when I have time.

Then there are questions like the one from Jim Harris we discussed last week and today's from Lynne Spreen who blogs at Any Shiny Thing.

Lynne's question, which has been sitting on my blog to-do list for longer than I realized, is about her 89-year-old mother's apparent ennui.

Here are the most salient bits of Lynne's email:

”What do I say to my mother, who is asking, 'What's the point?'

“Mom is sharp and healthy, although discomfited by damage from a broken femur of 3 years ago. She lives in a 55+ community, where she participates, but she's older than almost everyone, and can't keep up with the younger peeps of 75 or so.

“Still, she does crafts, drives, has community and church activities, but says she feels like she's swimming through Jello. She laments the slowness, forgetfulness, dependency, and general fearfulness. She deals with grief, over and over again, when another friend or sibling dies.

“Not that she doesn't have joy! But sometimes she feels like she's just going through the motions...At 60, I don't know what to say to help her. She lives 4 blocks away and we include her in 90% of our activities, including those with great-grandchildren, which she enjoys.”

With mood or mental changes, it is good to check for physical reasons and my first thought was medical: is Lynne's mother takng a large number of medications – including over-the-counter drugs? This is officially called polypharmacy or overmedication and is a common problem in old age because it can lead to dangerous drug interactions, and is a serious issue because it is easily overlooked.

Dr. Mehrdad Ayati lists potentional side effects of overmedication in the book I told you about on Wednesday, Paths to Healthy Old Age, and they are many:

”...heart failure, seizures, disorientation, confusion, weakness, sedation, falls, fractures, hypotention, incontinence, electrolytic disorders, anxiety, delirium, mental decline, blurred vision, constipation, GI bleeding and loss of appetite.”

Because elders are often treated for several diseases and conditions at once, each with its own specialist physician, it is easy for a variety of drugs to cause negative interactions. If you use the same pharmacists for all prescriptions, those professionals are a good backstop for negative interactions.

You should keep an up-to-date list of all drugs with you always, including over-the-counter medications, supplements, etc. to give your doctor so he or she can check new prescriptions against the list.

If the problem is not an excess of drugs and Lynne's mother is not clinically depressed, then what?

Part of Lynne's message about her mother is a good description of old age in general: our bodies slow down, we become forgetful, dependent and our personal worlds contract, if we live long enough, as our friends and relatives die and the number of people who share our world view declines year by year.

These are the burdens specific to old age and they are not easy – particularly, I think, with grief because in the U.S., we do not grant ourselves much time for bereavement; we expect people to be “back to normal” in a couple of days.

On this, let me quote a bit from Sogyal Rinpoche's brilliant and wise Buddhist spiritual classic, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. He speaks of how we can help the bereaved who, he writes, may be

”...shattered by the array of disturbing feelings, of intense sadness, anger, denial, withdrawal, and guilt that they suddenly find are playing havoc inside them.

“Helping those who have just gone through the loss of someone close to them will call for all your patience and sensitivity. You will need to spend time with them and to let them talk, to listen silently without judgment as they recall their most private memories, or go over again and again the details of the death.

“Above all, you will need simply to be there with them as they experience what is probably the fiercest sadness and pain of their entire lives. Make sure you make yourself available to them at all times, even when they don't seem to need it.

It takes a long time to grieve a loved one's death, time we don't readily acknowledge in our culture and in old age not only is time necessary, the deaths keep coming one after another; there are so many to mourn.

There is another factor that affects those who are very old. In all that I've read over 20 years of studying aging I have never come across a reference to it (that I recall). I have only personal experience.

My great Aunt Edith was my favorite relative. For most of her old age, she lived on the west coast and I on the east but we wrote letters (remember those?) and we spoke on the telephone about once a week for an hour or so.

Aunt Edith read widely – books and magazines. She mailed me articles that interested her – political, social, weird news, etc. - and she also liked to send cartoons from The New Yorker.

She had a good sense of humor – about life and about herself especially, as they occurred, her diminishing physical capacities. She was well into her eighties when she told me that after scrubbing the kitchen floor on her hands and knees, no matter how hard she pushed, she couldn't stand up.

She had to crawl into the living room and pull herself up with the help of chair.

Aunt Edith laughed throughout the entire story (which she dragged out because she was a good storyteller). And we laughed some more when I told her that they'd invented this amazing new cleaning tool she might want to look into – it's called a mop and has a long handle.

It was about this time that I first noticed other kinds of changes in Aunt Edith.

Her letters didn't arrive as often and when they did, there were not as many cartoons and other clippings. She stopped sending her cooking-for-one recipes (she had never married and had a large collection). More frequently than in the past, I did the telephoning as if, perhaps, she had forgotten. Or was distracted. Or something.

None of this was sudden and it took awhile for me to notice. Gradually, over a period of two or three or four years, I came to see that she was withdrawing from life. She had less interest in news and politics. She wasn't reading as many books. Her stories were fewer. She wasn't as generally curious anymore. Our conversations became shorter.

There was nothing wrong with her mind. She just became less and less involved with the world and its activities.

Aunt Edith died in 1985 just a couple of months short of her 90th birthday. Since then, I have given a great deal of thought to her steady disengagement from life.

In doing so, I have come to believe that if you do not die suddenly or linger in great pain from disease or injury, a period of letting go makes great sense. It feels "meet and right" to make time as the end appears to grow near, perhaps over a few years even, to look inward, to make private peace, accommodation and to find some harmony perhaps within the mystery of being.

As it did with Aunt Edith, I suspect this goes on without need of discussion about it with other people, friends or relatives.

I have no basis in fact for any of this although I have noticed its possibility in three or four other people, including my mother who knew she was dying, that it would be soon and who, as she grew weaker, had less and less to say.

Does any of this have anything to do with Lynne's mother? I have no idea. In the (embarrassingly long) time since Lynne first emailed (January), I've poked through my library of books on aging, consulted Dr. Google and can't find anything that directly applies.

Her question, “What's the point?” already comes to my mind now and then and I'm 16 years younger than Lynne's mother. I'm not sure it needs to be answered or that there are any answers. Not to be too flip, but it occurs to me that you first have to figure out if it is meant cosmically or just about whether to replace a shabby chair.

What I hope is that my rumination has given us all a few things to think about and I'm looking forward to see what you, dear readers, might say. Remember, it's the internet and there is no space limitation – just please, please use paragraphs (hit enter twice) if your comment is long.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (38) | Permalink | Email this post

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A Workbook for Healthy Aging

When I was a kid, old people regularly annoyed me with a mantra they used as a catchall comment to discussions of even the mildest difficulties: “As long as you've got your health.” they repeated. “As long as you've got your health.”

Now that I'm old, I understand. A simple cold feels more like a flu these days and lasts longer too. We all know, or know of, someone whose broken hip sent them permanently to a care home or worse, who died without recovering (20 percent of elder fall victims, within a year).

Our sleep goes out of whack, foods we've enjoyed all our lives now give us gas, stairs become problematic, our stamina is gone with the wind we used to have.

And that's just for the healthiest among us. Eighty percent of people older than 65 have at least one chronic disease and many have more than one.

What else most of us have in common, however, is a determination to do what we personally can to maintain our health, to take responsibility for it ourselves.

The difficulty emerges from the plethora of advice and information available nowadays via the internet. There is way too much that is too often contradictory and it takes too long to sort out what is useful and what is not, what is true and what is false.

Now, however, along comes a guidebook for healthy living just for old people written by a husband and wife team. Mehrdad Ayati is a physician board certified in family medicine and geriatrics. He's also an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and has a slew of other impressive credentials.

His wife, Arezou Azarani holds a degree in physiology along with fellowships in molecular biology and genetics.

PathstohealthyagingcoverPaths to Healthy Aging is a deceptively short “workbook,” as Dr. Ayati calls it, with just five chapters: Nutrition, Mental Health, Frailty, Overmedication, How to Find a Geriatrician. It is packed with useful, common sense information with easy-to-understand explanations about how we age and how that affects our health.

What is most neglected in treating the medical needs of elders, says Dr. Ayati, is someone who will actually listen and pay attention to their concerns. (I don't know about you, but my primary care physician spends more time looking at a laptop screen when I'm with him than at me.)

”The next thing that is of most interest to patients,” writes Ayati in his introduction, “is valid, up-to-date information on how to prevent, treat or live with diseases. They want to grasp complex medical issues in a comprehensible format...

“My goal here is to...simplify the journey. Based on my experience of what has worked best for my patients to achieve meaning, joyful and healthy lives...”

And that is exactly what he does throughout deceptively simple little book.

Each of the chapters begins with a set of questions to ask yourself that can be used then as a reference and comparison as you read through the information.

In nutrition, for example, he discusses loss of taste buds in old age, the need to keep up dental care, the importance of companionship (perhaps at lunch together each day) and why fad diets that rely on emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain nutrients lead to unwanted results and poorer health.

Since most people I know have a problem keeping their weight down, I was surprised at how much time Dr. Ayoti spends discussing weight loss in old age but as he explains,

”Data indicate that even the loss of a small percent of weight over a three-year period is associated with multiple negative health outcomes such as frailty, fatigue, a higher risk of infection, delirium (confusion) and an increased death rate in the elderly.”

He follows with an impressive section on many ways of overcoming loss of appetite or interest in food and eating.

The chapter on mental health is equally wide-ranging, easy to understand and, as you would expect, covers physical activity, stress reduction and staying engaged by choosing a variety of activities that, he notes, aren't very useful unless we enjoy them.

I know from my own reading that Dr. Ayati is up-to-date on the latest findings. I appreciated the pithy section on blood pressure that explains why systolic pressure of 135-140 over diastolic of 70-90, which might be considered high for young people, is normal for elders.

The frailty chapter includes a good selection of easy exercises anyone can do at home without special equipment to help maintain strong bones and muscles, balance and independence.

Each chapter ends with a “take home message” list summarizing the most important parts of the information along with an “action plan” you can fill in to track what you want to change and a long list of studies he has consulted in writing each chapter.

Although I won't attempt to summarize, the chapter on overmedication is important with extremely useful explanations of the reasons it can be a problem and how you can help control it with your physicians. And I like this funny cartoon he includes on the topic:

OvermedicatedCartoon

Throughout the book, Dr. Ayati reminds readers that it is not intended as a substitute for medical advice from your own doctors. Generally, at this blog, I ignore medical advice books as most of them have a particular axe to grind, usually on the order of “drink six cups of green tea a day while standing on your head and you'll live to be 147 without a single wrinkle.”

Oh, all right, I made that up but you know what I mean. Paths to Healthy Aging, however, is the opposite - filled with common-sense information you can trust, written by a friendly geriatrician whom I wish could be my own. He genuinely likes and understands the health needs of old people.

By the way, the one place where I part company with Dr. Ayati is his chapter on finding a geriatrician. He acknowledges that there are too few, but that it is good to see a trained expert in aging health once a year.

I don't disagree but I spent nearly two months calling and emailing local geriatricians when I moved here trying to find one who would see me.

It wasn't that I would need to wait several months as Ayati acknowledges can happen with the geriatrician shortage in the U.S. It was that they all gave me, politely, some version of we're not taking on new patients at this time.

That doesn't mean it is futile to try, but it's really hard.

You can read more about Paths to Healthy Aging at the website and it is available online at several of the most popular booksellers.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (20) | Permalink | Email this post

Monday, 13 April 2015

The Forgotten Generations and Ageism

REMINDER: Beginning today, Time Goes By will not be published on Tuesdays and Thursdays as in the past 10 years. This is an experiment to be re-evaluated in the fall.

In addition, links are no longer appended at the bottom of TGB stories to The Elder Storytelling Place. If you relied on those links to read the other blog, you will need to subscribe at that website.


In what is an otherwise laudable if not particularly special appeal to stop the conflation of old age with death, writer Amy Gutman in the Washington Post a few weeks ago, summed up this way:

”We baby boomers (soon to be joined by our GenX peers) have few guideposts to follow in designing fulfilling and productive lives for 30 more years.

“This makes it all the more important that we both recognize the issue at hand and talk to and learn from one another. For now, our proper focus is not 'aging and death.' It’s 'aging and life.'”

Hey, Amy. I'm older than baby boomers but I'm a long way from dead yet.

In two short sentences, Ms. Gutman has consigned me along with everyone else currently over the age of 68 to irrelevance.

It feels a lot like the years during which the women's movement ignored our sisters who chose full time motherhood. It took decades to repair that lamentable and unnecessary rift.

This time it is the baby boomer generation, replicating the role of careerist feminists, rejecting generations older than themselves (instead of mothers).

Move along now. Nothing to see here, nothing to learn. Only we baby boomers and a few gen-xers need apply.

This is not new from boomers. Hardly a day and certainly not a week passes when I don't find boomer-written references about ageing that specifically exclude anyone older.

(I don't mean to pick on Ms. Gutman but she is emblematic of an ongoing, widespread attitude. She's getting called out only because she is the most recent to raise my hackles and happened to do it on a day I decided to finally speak up.)

Deliberately omitting more than 31 million people (the population age 69 and older) from the conversation about growing old is another of the many forms of ageism.

Although Ms. Gutman and some of her generation appear lately to accept their own aging and want to find ways to change negative attitudes that remove old people from the mainstream of life, she immediately dismisses the one group who actually knows something about “designing a fulfilling and productive” old age.

I suspect the reason is what it has always been – denial:

Oh, I'm not like those old people over there. Don't confuse me with the ones on the bench in the park or the bridge bunch at the senior center. I'm getting old differently from them.

It's not enough to say, as old people too often do, oh, well – their turn will come. If old people are going to ever be accorded the respect and dignity all people deserve, it has to start now. The older generations cannot, should not pit themselves one against the others.

Amy Gutman is right, we need a public conversation about growing old (god knows I've been trying here for 10 years). But it is doomed from the start when any part of the group is excluded.

If Ms. Gutman doesn't think we of the generations older than she have anything worthwhile to say about fulfilling and productive lives in old age, she could start educating herself by reading just one post (among many) at this blog.

There is much that is rich, thoughtful and even wise in last Friday's conversation, filled with a variety of ideas about how to live and contribute during the last third of our lives.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (20) | Permalink | Email this post

Sunday, 12 April 2015

ELDER MUSIC: 1974

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


What happened in 1974?

  • Ryan Adams was born
  • Cyclone Tracy destroyed Darwin on Christmas Eve
  • We really didn't have Nixon to kick around anymore
  • Rubik's Cube invented
  • Duke Ellington died
  • Blazing Saddles was released
  • Richmond were premiers

Well, we're solidly into singer/songwriter territory this year. All it needs is Bob to complete my favorite list of those – I'm omitting him from these years as he features prominently in other columns. Similarly you won't have found The Beatles or The Stones either.

I don't know if you'd call BOB MARLEY a singer/songwriter but I suppose that technically he fits the bill – he sang songs he wrote himself.

Bob Marley

No Woman, No Cry was Bob's breakthrough song. It was on the "Natty Dread" album but the big hit was from his album "Live" which, curiously enough, was a live album. The one today is from the former album.

♫ Bob Marley - No Woman, No Cry

GORDON LIGHTFOOT is the first of the recognized singer/songwriters today.

Gordon Lightfoot

Sundown came from the album of the same name and the song is about his girl friend of the time who wasn't a very nice person at all.

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Sundown

Midnight at the Oasis was from that wonderful first solo album by MARIA MULDAUR.

Maria Muldaur

The song was really just a last minute inclusion and was written by David Nichtern who also wrote the beautiful I Never Did Write You a Love Song, also on the album.

♫ Maria Muldaur - Midnight at the Oasis

Seasons in the Sun started life as a song called Le Moribond written by Jacques Brel. The poet Rod McKuen wrote English words for it and it was recorded by TERRY JACKS.

Terry Jacks

Both English and French versions are sung from the point of view of a dying man but the French version is more scathing and sarcastic making references to the singer's wife's infidelity. Jacques himself was dying of cancer when he wrote the song.

Before Terry's version, The Kingston Trio (closer to the mood of the French language version) and The Fortunes both recorded it to some success. Terry's, though, went gangbusters – it's one of those rare records to have sold more than 10 million.

♫ Terry Jacks - Seasons In The Sun

I was going to gush here because JESSE WINCHESTER was such a wonderful songwriter and a terrific singer. I had originally included suggestions to catch his performances but alas, he died not so long ago.

Jesse Winchester

I'll just introduce Mississippi You're on My Mind.

♫ Jesse Winchester - Mississippi You're on My Mind

BILLY JOEL wrote the song Piano Man about his experiences of playing in a piano bar.

Billy Joel

Billy doesn't think much of the song musically and was surprised and embarrassed when it took off. However, he says his songs are like his children so he was pleased that "the kid had done pretty well.”

♫ Billy Joel - Piano Man

TOM RUSH is known mostly as an interpreter of other people's songs and a damn fine one at that.

Tom Rush

However, he does now and then write songs, and really good ones. This isn't one of those. It's by Richard Dean and is called Jenny Lynn. It's an amusing little ditty.

♫ Tom Rush - Jenny Lynn

JACKSON BROWNE was starting to make a name for himself around about now.

Jackson Browne

Many of Jackson's songs turned up on other people's records long before he ever recorded them. It's remarkable how someone who was so young as he was at the time could come up with such profound and wise songs. I just shake my head and listen to the music. For a Dancer.

♫ Jackson Browne - For a Dancer

RY COODER was, still is, the go-to man if you want some fine guitar playing on your record. He's graced many a memorable (and some not so) album.

Ry Cooder

He has recorded his own as well and they are really worth a listen. Besides that, he's brought to the general public forms of music that aren't generally heard outside their own musical ghetto.

With the "Buena Vista Social Club" album, film and live performances he brought a number of great Cuban musicians to the fore who hadn't been heard outside their country for decades. He's also a champion of what's labeled "Tex-Mex" music.

We're going back a few years, to 1974, of course, and from the album "Paradise and Lunch" we have Tatler, a song Linda Ronstadt covered pretty well.

♫ Ry Cooder - Tattler

JOHN SEBASTIAN was the driving force of the Lovin' Spoonful who were featured in previous years. You may also remember him for his performance at Woodstock (the film anyway, if you happened not to attend the actual event).

John Sebastian

John's songs have been covered by many artists who have made them more recognized than his own versions. Here he covers one of his own. The song Sportin' Life was recorded originally by the Spoonful and John later also included it on his album "Tarzana Kid.”

♫ John Sebastian - Sportin' Life

1975 will appear in two weeks' time.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (5) | Permalink | Email this post

Saturday, 11 April 2015

INTERESTING STUFF – 11 April 2015


COLLEGE STUDENTS LIVING RENT-FREE IN ELDER HOUSING

This idea seems to be growing around the world and it is such a good one:

”In exchange for small, rent-free apartments, the Humanitas retirement home in Deventer, Netherlands, requires students to spend at least 30 hours per month acting as 'good neighbors' [to the elder residents of a nursing home, reports PBS NewsHour].

“Officials at the nursing home say students do a variety of activities with the older residents, including watching sports, celebrating birthdays and, perhaps most importantly, offer company when seniors fall ill, which helps stave off feelings of disconnectedness.”

We first reported this kind of an arrangement here on Interesting Stuff last December regarding a college music student in Cleveland, Ohio. I think it is a sensational idea which should be expanded everywhere. You can read more here. (Hat tip to doctafil)


BOSTON DYNAMICS “HORSE” ROBOTS

It was about two years ago that we first featured the Boston Dynamics four-legged robots. They keep improving and wait until you see what this one, named Spot, can do. Amazing. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)

The webpage tell us that "Spot is designed for indoor and outdoor operation. It is electrically powered and hydraulically actuated. Spot has a sensor head that helps it navigate and negotiate rough terrain. Spot weighs about 160 lbs."


ANOTHER NEW YORK CITY INSTITUTION PRICED OUT

Out of existence, that is – another old favorite of mine, Pearl River in Chinatown.

Pearl River exterior

”The store can no longer afford New York’s skyrocketing rents, driven in part by money from newly rich Chinese mainlanders.

“Rent for the sprawling, 30,000-foot store at 477 Broadway — where Pearl River has been since 2003 — was likely to jump from about $110,000 a month to five times that, said Ching Yeh Chen, the retailer’s president.”

Here's a look inside the story. (Photo credits: Hiroko Masuike)

Pearl River interior

That does not begin to indicate how diverse the inventory is. I still have two pairs of fold-up mini travel scissors I bought there for a dollar each about 15 or 20 years ago. Until then I had no idea such a thing existed and they always are allowed through airport security checks.

Undoubtedly the site is due for another thousand dollar handbag store. Soon Chinatown too will be too pricey for all but the one percent. You can read more here and here.


KLM, DOING WHATEVER NECESSARY TO RETURN LOST ITEMS

It is no longer hyperbole to say there is no such thing as good consumer news about airlines. At least, not U.S. airlines. But look at the amazing efforts of Dutch airline, KLM.

Maybe I should stop flying anywhere KLM doesn't go. (Thank Darlene again for this video.)


OREGON'S NEW VOTER LAW

Maybe you've seen the news about this. At a time when voter ID laws in more than a dozen U.S. states seek to reduce the number of citizens allowed to vote, Oregon's new governor Kate Brown signed a bill making registration nearly universal. Here's how it works:

”The secretary of state's office will regularly collect drivers' license data and 'provisionally' register people who aren't already signed up to vote.

“These prospective voters will be sent a notice giving them 21 days to let elections officials know if they don't want to be registered. As a result, Oregon will become the first voter registration system that is 'opt out' instead of 'opt in.'

“Newly registered voters will also be given information on how to register with one of the state's political parties. If they don't, they will be listed as non-affiliated.”

The new law is expected to add about 300,000 people to the voting rolls. Oregon was already the first state, 17 years ago, to enact vote by mail. Now, all the new voters, like every other registered voter in the state, will automatically receive a ballot about 20 days before each election.

You can read more here and here.


JOHN OLIVER – GOVERNMENT SURVEILLANCE

On John Oliver's HBO show last Sunday, he snagged an interview recorded in Moscow with Edward Snowden on the subject, of course, of government surveillance.

Because it's Oliver, it's funny and it's profane and extremely important. Get a cup of coffee or tea, settle down to watch – and laugh too.

Oliver's dick picture rant has now inspired a new website – cantheyseemydick.com and it is not joke. It is from the Electronic Frontier Foundation which has been working hard from the earliest days of commercial internet to protect our privacy online.


ELDER SKIN CARE

The National Institutes of Health website for elders has recently published three, succinct, good pages about old age and skin – what to expect as we get older – age spots, skin tags, etc. - and how to care for ageing skin. As the site explains, as we get older,

”...skin becomes thinner, loses fat, and no longer looks as plump and smooth as it once did. Your veins and bones can be seen more easily. Scratches, cuts, or bumps can take longer to heal.”

There is more to know here and here and here.


UKELELE ORCHESTRA OF GREAT BRITAIN

Maybe not to everyone, but to me there is something inherently funny about ukuleles. They seem to be such dinky little, almost make-believe instruments. And then you see something like this, the Ukelele Orchesra of Great Britain performing The Theme from Shaft.

There are many more performances from the Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain here.


HAPPIEST VIDEO EVER

Well, I don't know about that headline but that's what it says on the YouTube page. It's a whole slew of baby animals having fun.


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 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 .

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:13 AM | Comments (13) | Permalink | Email this post

Friday, 10 April 2015

Finding One's Own Kind of Retirement

A month or so ago, I received an email from long-time TGB reader James Wallace Harris who blogs at Auxiliary Memory. He has been retired for awhile now and is feeling restless from what might be too much unaccustomed freedom:

”Doing whatever I want, when I want, is like a habit forming drug,” wrote Jim. “Want to kick back and listen to Van Morrison for two hours – cool. Want to watch the Oklahoma Kid, a western from 1939, sure, why not. Want to put off lunch until 2:30 to keep reading my science fiction novel, that’s a-okay...

“The trouble is, I’m writing less, letting the house go, ignoring things on my to-do list, and losing all sense of discipline.

“I don’t know if this is because I’ve gone eighteen months without working, or because I gave up junk food January 1st, and don’t have enough brain fuel to keep me energized. However, I don’t want to get a job just to force a routine on myself.”

Jim also mentions that some tell him he is going through a well-known phase of retirement and he wonders, he says, if some older people with more experience can help him work this out (as he notes, I am 10 years older than he is).

First, let's look at that notion of “well-known phase.” There are plenty of so-called retirement experts who will tell you this is true. They will especially tell you this for a good-sized fee that might include email or telephone “retirement coaching” sessions.

(I've done the calculations and discovered that there are precisely the same number of retirement coaches as there are people who tried and failed real estate sales in retirement.)

Okay, that's my personal prejudice – stages of life, including retirement. That's way too neat and tidy to be human and from the people I've known over years, few fit into the pigeon-hole categories pop psychology books like to lay out for us.

Even as we share some similar experiences, there are so many variables in our backgrounds, sensibilities, habits and personalities – moreso in old age than when younger - we can't be reduced to pre-digested ranks and classifications.

What I mean is that Jim is asking really hard questions for which there are no easy answers. There is not even a Chinese menu list with items to choose from columns A, B and C.

The fact is, one person's schedule is another's freedom. Some crave structure, others abandon it altogether and follow their whims each day. Undoubtedly, most of us fall somewhere in a spectrum between the extremes.

I understand completely how Jim has fallen into a kind of sloth (if he doesn't mind that description). I've been there.

It is my habit, after feeding the cat first thing in the morning, to read the news online and answer overnight emails with my coffee. Early on after I retired, that period gradually expanded from a couple of hours until I found myself still at the computer in my granny gown at noon and beyond.

Finally a day arrived when I saw what I had become and I was appalled with myself. After all, if you make it past noon without showering, why bother at all? And if it seems too much work by early afternoon to dress – well, there must be an old can of tuna in the cupboard that can work for dinner.

(As I write this, Jim, it strikes me now that structure or lack thereof is only one kind of issue people confront when we no longer owe most of our time to the company store. I've known plenty of people who happily cruise into retirement without a backward look or thought.

Me? I discovered that I need to impose structure on myself or it all goes to hell.

Seven or eight years have passed since I pissed away half of every day and now it is my habit to be washed and brushed and fed by 7:30 or 8AM, a schedule that includes plenty of time for the news, email, exercise and meditation that prepare me for the rest of the day.

On the other hand, there must be plenty of people who are completely relaxed about sitting around in their pajamas for many hours. If they are not bothered by it as I was, it's not a problem as far as I can see.

This blog takes up a large part of my time and I like it that way. Many elders volunteer, some work at paid jobs and others have one or more interests in their lives, as ageing is for me, that are so compelling there is no question where they will put their energy.

And that brings me back to where I started. There is no objective answer to Jim's question. There are only individual, subjective answers – and anyone who says differently is wrong.

What I do know that has always helped is hearing how others have handled such dilemmas. The particulars don't necessarily match our own but there are similarities of place and time and experience that give us new ideas on which to ruminate.

So, dear TGB readers, this is a crowd-sourcing day for Jim's retirement restlessness. I know for sure that others have wrestled with these questions.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: The Tea-Baggers Manifesto

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (24) | Permalink | Email this post