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March 2006

The Courage to Grow Old

If we live long enough, there will be loss. You can count on it. At the least, muscles will weaken, we will tire more quickly, and memory may become an issue.

amba at ambivablog recently reminded me of this:

“You know anyone who doesn't [live with limitations]? For starters, that's all of us who are simply growing older and learning to live with sore knees and backs, dimming or blurring eyesight, fogged-in memory, and more. (One of the ways I knew I was middle-aged was when I stopped seeing the very old person creeping along in front of me in the supermarket as a maddening obstacle and started seeing him or her as a hero.)”

Barring accident or disease, these debilities sneak up on us gradually. One day, you wait for the next one rather than run for the bus. Another day, you think better of buying a half gallon of cider because your other purchases already weigh too much to carry easily. And when tearing through all the weekly housecleaning on Saturday morning comes to require a nap afterwards, you devise a schedule to spread it out over seven days. Dr. William Thomas speaks of this slowing down in his book What are Old People For?:

“Old age may be a time of loss and decline, but it is not only that. There is a countervailing and equally significant increase in the power of adaptation. The development of this capability is one of the most important and least acknowledged virtues of aging…

“While it is true that muscles weaken in late life, it is also true that older people are less likely to report symptoms of depression than younger people. Hair may turn white, get thin, and fall out, but when surveyed, older people often report an enhanced sense of well-being…

“These seeming paradoxes are actually the fruits of adaptation. It grows in tandem with and is nourished by the decline in physiological function.”

Adaptation, and also courage - the quiet kind that elders go about every day without acknowledgement from the culture or even, Dr. Thomas notwithstanding, the medical community. There are no medals, no cheers for navigating around the shoals of declining capability, but there ought to be because as the actor Bette Davis noted wisely, “Old age ain’t for sissies.”

amba links to a remarkable blog post by Anne Streiber who has been adapting to the residual effects of a ruptured brain aneurysm she suffered in 2004. Take her wish for everyone and hold it near as you make the adaptations required for living a rich and successful old age:

“Now I know that fearlessness is something we all need, because living even an ordinary life takes courage.

“May you all be brave in the face of your particular adversity, whatever it is.”

.


How Medicare Part D Became a Joke

category_bug_journal2.gif There are three writers/thinkers for whom I have carried long-time crushes, decades in two instances - Gore Vidal and Bill Moyers - and Rageboy aka Chris Locke, for the past five years or so.

If I had to analyze the reasons, I suppose it would be that each is an intellectual giant without being a pedant, and they never fail to inform, entertain and raise questions I’d not considered before. Those are about the sexiest qualities I know of - engage my mind and you’ve got me for life.

With that confessional taken care of, today it is Bill Moyers who has my rapt attention. In a long piece at tompaine.com, originally a speech, Moyers delves into the dirty dealings of money in Washington politics.

“Gilded Ages - then and now - have one thing in common,” he writes. “Audacious and shameless people for whom the very idea of public trust is a cynical joke.”

It’s not that this story is new, but it is in the detail that the extent of the joke becomes so much more clear than the daily reporting of mainstream media. That the Medicare prescription drug plan is an organizational mess is only the superficial, the easy story. Here is the background from Moyers:

“It was not a pretty sight out there on the floor of the House. At one point DeLay marched over to one reluctant Republican – Representative Nick Smith – who opposed the Medicare bill – and attempted to change his mind.

“Smith, who was serving his final term in office, later alleged that he was offered a bribe – $100,000 for his son’s campaign to succeed him. When he subsequently retracted his accusation, the House Ethics Committee looked into the charges and countercharges and wound up admonishing both Smith and DeLay, who admitted that he had offered to endorse Smith’s son in exchange for Smith’s support but that no money or bribe were involved.

“Timothy Noah of Slate.com has mused about what DeLay’s endorsement would nonetheless have meant in later campaign contributions if Smith had gone along. While the report of the ethics committee never did find out the true story, Noah asks: ‘Who did whisper ‘$100,000’ in Smith’s ear? The report is full of plausible suspects, including DeLay himself, but it lacks any evidence on this crucial finding. You get the feeling the authors would prefer to forget this mystery ever existed.

“There are no victimless crimes in politics. The price of corruption is passed on to you. What came of all these shenanigans was a bill that gave industry what it wanted and gave taxpayers the shaft.

“The bill covers only a small share of drug expenses. It has a major gap in coverage – the so-called ‘donut hole.’ It explicitly forbids beneficiaries from purchasing private coverage to fill in the gap and explicitly forbids the federal government from bargaining for lower drug prices. More than one consumer organization has estimated that most seniors could end up paying even more for prescription drugs than before the bill passed.

“Furthermore, despite these large flaws the cost of the bill is horrendous – between 500 billion and 1 trillion dollars in its first ten years. The chief actuary for Medicare calculated a realistic estimate of what the bill would cost, but he later testified before Congress that he was forbidden from releasing the information by his boss, Thomas Scully, the head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who was then negotiating for a lucrative job with the health care industry.

“Sure enough, hardly had the prescription drug bill become law than Scully went to work for the largest private equity investor in health care and at a powerful law firm focusing on health care and regulatory matters.”

It’s not just Medicare Part D that is negotiated in this manner for the benefit of mega-corporations in general and the monied elite in particular. It is every Congressional act. There is no public interest in Washington.

Do read Moyers' entire piece which covers much more that Medicare. It is lucid, detailed, enlightening, long - prints out to 12 pages - and worth every minute you will spend with it.

Back in the days when television actually sought to inform us on occasion, Steve Allen produced a series based on the old question, who from any time in history would you most like to have dinner with? Knowledgeable people then portrayed Julius Caesar, Ben Franklin, Jeanne d'Arc, etc. in serious discussions of important human issues.

The number from history, for me, would necessarily require a banquet hall. But if confined to the living, my choices for dinner companions are Gore Vidal, Rageboy and Bill Moyers.


Silver Threads - 2/26/2006

Claude of Blogging in Paris was the subject of a story about elderbloggers in French-language Le Monde this week. Being, unfortunately, a single-language American who knows only menu French, I can't read it, but Claude was kind enough to mention Time Goes By and Millie Garfield’s blog too. It's very cool to have been linked from Le Monde and I thank Claude profusely - it's amazing what it did for my blog statistics this week.

I know my schadenfreude is showing, but given the number of elders (and not so elders too) who lost most if not all of their retirement savings in the Enron debacle, I have no tears for the president’s friend, 63-year-old, former Enron CEO Kenneth “Kenny boy” Lay, whose net worth, as reported in The New York Times, is down from hundreds of millions to $650,000. Couldn’t happen to nicer guy. [The Times link will go behind their paid firewall before next Sunday]

There is a remarkable and wonderfully-told story from Octogenarian about how his father, in 1937, came to be considered a Jewish saint for cursing the Nazi dirigible Hindenburg as it flew over his home in The Bronx only to explode and burn later that day in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Don’t miss this terrific memoir.

Like the United States and elsewhere, Australia faces an impending shortage of workers as aging boomers retire, but it’s hard to see how prime minister John Howard helps in his call for workers to stay on the job in their later years with references like this one: "The bad news is that we are all getting older...” But the opposition party is no better when one spokesperson lumps “mature workers and people with a disability” in the same category.

Robert Brady of Pure Land Mountain has cheery news this week: according to those who believe they know, there is an 80 percent probability “that the week of March 20-26, 2006 will be the beginning of the most significant political crisis the world has known since the Fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 together with an economic and financial crisis of a scope comparable with that of 1929.” I kinda guessed this was coming, just not quite so soon.

But before that happens, on Sunday, 12 March, I will be speaking on a panel, Respect Your ElderBloggers, at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. This is an old and venerable meeting of the minds that was first held in 1987, and now has three components - music, film and interactive. Find out more about the conference and about my panel.


Government Secrets

category_bug_politics.gif Strolling around the web recently, I was reminded of the controversy over Vice President Cheney’s secret task force of energy industry executives in creating the Bush administration energy policy early in 2001. If memory serves, that task force included no representatives from environmental organizations.

Various journalists and interest groups sued to discover which executives met with Mr. Cheney. Eventually, a federal appeals court ruled that Cheney is not required to disclose the names (a decision that, to me, is questionable in a democracy). According to reports, some of the recommendations from the energy executives were included in the final policy word-for-word.

There are many things a government should keep under wraps. Certainly that would include anything that could jeopardize the safety of military troops, details related to negotiations with foreign governments until a accord is reached and in a post-9/11 world, anything related to security measures that safeguard the country from attack.

But names of executives who, apparently, dictated their corporate desires to the government without balanced consideration from people whose concerns go beyond corporate profits? This task force was conducted within a month of President Bush's first inauguration and in hindsight would seem to have been a signal pointing to the day-to-day conduct of this administration that we should have paid attention to.

So, as Jack Cafferty on CNN’s Situation Room would put it, here’s the question:

Can you think of a reasonable explanation for the vice president to fight so hard to keep secret the names of the energy executives who helped develop the energy policy of the Bush administration?


HGH Rubbish

category_bug_journal2.gif No reputable physician believes human growth hormone can do anything but zilch for the effects of aging, and all over-the-counter/internet products claiming to be HGH or to promote levels of HGH within the body are bogus.

Nevertheless, spam for these expensive, fraudulent products crowd my inbox and another arrived yesterday:

“After the age of twenty-one, your body slowly stops releasing an important hormone known as HGH (Human Growth Hormone).

“The reduction of HGH, which regulates levels of other hormones in the body (including testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and melatonin) is directly responsible for many of the most common signs of growing old, such as wrinkles, gray hair, decreased energy, and diminished sexual function.

“Human Growth Hormone will normally yield the following results:

  • Boost your immune system
  • Rejuvenate your body and mind
  • Feel & look younger
  • Reduce wrinkles, lose weight, decrease cellulite
  • Restore your sex drive and vigor
  • Revitalize your heart, liver, kidneys & lungs
  • Maintain muscle mass
  • Refresh memory, mood and mental energy
  • Sleep soundly and awake rested
  • Help eliminate stress, fatigue and depression”

Geez - they left out warts and bunions. You just have to laugh, don’t you? Every word in that email is false, yet thousands of people waste millions of dollars on this crap. Here is some of what the Merck Manual of Health and Aging says about HGH:

“Some products that are available without a prescription are claimed to contain substances that stimulate the body’s production of human growth hormone…Human growth hormone taken by mouth cannot be used by the body…Human growth hormone applied to the skin or used as a spray cannot be absorbed by the body…”

The only approved uses for HGH are:

“…by children whose growth has been stunted. It is also used to reverse muscle wasting (atrophy) in people with AIDS and to treat people who have a deficiency of human growth hormone.”

And it must always be prescribed by a physician and must be injected for the body to use it. Some medical theories proposing that HGH might reverse frailty in old age have, in tests, proved fruitless:

“…several studies have focused on whether human growth hormone replacement can reverse the aging process…Results of these studies have been disappointing, showing no improvements. [emphasis added]

A quick Google search for HGH produces 4.5 million returns listing a variety of HGH products with unprovable claims for their concoctions. Drinking water would do you more good. But they wouldn’t be online if people weren’t buying.

When I was a little girl, I believed everything in print was required to be factual. Apparently, too many adults still believe that or, in a youth-besotted culture, will fall for any amount of fakery in their desperation to appear younger than they are.


The Aging Workforce

category_bug_ageism.gif Following up on Tuesday’s post which included the ageist Economist cover image, Deejay of Small Beer and John Franklin, forwarded me the two related stories from the magazine.

In the United States, the number of workers between the ages of 55 and 64 will increase by more than 50 percent in this decade while the number of 35 to 44 year olds will decrease by ten percent. Nevertheless, few companies are prepared:

“A survey in America last month by Ernst & Young found that ‘although corporate America foresees a significant workforce shortage as boomers retire, it is not dealing with the issue.’ Almost three-quarters of the 1,400 global companies questioned by Deloitte last year said they expected a shortage of salaried staff over the next three or five years. Yet few of them are looking to older workers to fill that shortage…”
- The Economist, 18 February 2006

Some experts predict that a portion of the shortfall of workers in the U.S. and Europe can be handled by offshoring jobs to countries with lower salaries and relaxing immigration laws, but older workers are a closer solution. In arguing for this, The Economist did not take into account latest brain research, repeating the old myths:

“Their productivity may decline as they get older - although people gain in experience, their capacity for sharp thinking falls off…”

On the contrary, as the most recent studies, reported here, show:

“The most important difference between older brains and younger brains is also the easiest to overlook: older brains have learned more than younger ones. Throughout life, our brains encode thoughts and memories by forming new connections among neurons. The neurons themselves may lose some processing speed with age, but they become ever more richly intertwined.”
- Newsweek, 16 January 2006
“Far from slowly powering down, the brain as it ages begins bringing new cognitive systems on line and cross-indexing existing ones in ways it never did before….you manage information and parse meanings that were entirely beyond you when you were younger.”
- Time, 16 January 2006

That is not to say that some old people’s cognitive skills don’t slow down. Unlike childhood and adolescence, during which development can be predicted by the month, elders age at dramatically different rates. Some 90-year-olds are as sharp as they ever were; and some 60-year-olds have lost some thinking skills. It’s much more individual than in youth.

The Economist also repeats the common admonition to elders that if they want to work, they’ll need to take lower salaries.

“In many cultures, age is related to seniority, and therefore pay. The older the worker, the more expensive he is. Boomers will find work only if they accept that their wages will be based on what they are worth to the company - rather than their salary at the top of their career.”

Why is there an assumption that a 65-year-old is not as good, even better, than he or she ever was? That is not to say that if older workers take new jobs at which there is a ramp-up period, they should necessarily be paid what they were in previous jobs or, if they work fewer than 40 hours a week, they shouldn’t be paid less, but the assumption that because they are old, they are not worth the same salary they were ten or 15 years earlier is plain ageist.

No one ever suggests that a 35- or 45-year-old should be paid less money on a new job. I’ll take the age argument a lot more seriously when corporate CEOs who are frequently in the seventies and even eighties, stop taking home obscene salaries in multiples of tens of millions.

Aside from the objectionable cover of this issue, and the kneejerk ageism references to cognitive ability and salaries, The Economist covered the topic well, noting that age discrimination and diversity laws often make it difficult for companies to hire older workers.

It would behoove business and government to work together to make it easier to employ older people who want to continue working. That way elders, in addition to bringing decades of experience and judgment to the workforce, continue to contribute by paying taxes, helping to lower the fiscal strain on retirement resources and help themselves remain physically and mentally active.


Power to the People

category_bug_politics.gif There have been previous presidents and administrations whose policies I disliked, but none before has scared the bejesus out me. The vice president, Defense secretary and others have assured us the war on terror will go on for decades, so when Mr. Bush said...

"Anything we do to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law"

…the imperial presidency was openly declared.

The operative word in that quote is anything. What worries me now is what other of our once-guaranteed liberties have already been made null and void in secret, like warrantless wiretapping until its existence was leaked late last year. What I then considered was the wingnut fringe of leftie politics warned, in 2004, that the administration might suspend the election that year by invoking a potential terror attack. I don't believe they are such wingnuts anymore.

In this system of government under which we now live, there is no control on the executive branch. But there is a way - two of them, in fact - assigned to Congress: it can withhold funds from a president and it can impeach a president.

The second, if successful in removing this president from office, as quite a number in the blogosphere are calling for, is not the best idea when you consider who is second in line of succession.

And the first has been ineffective for the past five years because the rubber-stamp Congress is busy enacting laws written by lobbyists for the benefit of global corporations which owe allegiance to no country and hire Congress people at mega-salaries when they leave public office in time to amass fortunes for their extravagant old age. This is not how the founding fathers envisioned Congress to operate.

But there is still one little hitch in this inexorable march toward your and my enslavement to tyranny and penury. Assuming those proliferating electronic voting machines are not all rigged yet, we can throw the bastards out.

There is a Congressional election this year. All 435 Representative seats are up for grabs along with one-third of the Senate. Between now and 7 November, we - each of us in each of our states - can warn those who are running for re-election that we will vote for the other guy, whoever he or she is, if they do not begin today and from this day forward to serve only the public good - and not the imperial president.

[For a useful rendition of the greed, stupidity and failures of our government in the past five years, read this from Stephen Pizzo.]

Last year, during the aftermath of Katrina, I was so enraged that I suspended for a week normal publication on what it’s really like to get older to rail against the government. I offered a solution in one entry which requires that we awaken ourselves from our weariness and do something every day. Please go read it again because we - you and I and every person whose arm we can twist to join us - need to do these things no matter how tired we are. We need to do them today and tomorrow and next day and every day until 7 November no matter how old and tired we feel.

Elder numbers are growing and we have always voted in larger numbers than other people. We can use this numerical advantage to help save our nation.

I believe we are on the brink of national political disaster that only we the people can stop. I have no experience in creating a national movement to take back the federal government, nor do I have the credentials or the personal appeal required.

And so, as a small contribution, I've added this political component to Time Goes By and fervently pray that somewhere, someone with the unassailable stature and character of a Martin Luther King, Jr. will emerge and quickly pull the country together against the enormous force of this presidency which only a strong Congress can thwart now. It is a small hope - I see no one on the horizon who can do this - and so we must each keep trying in every small way we can, and hope it adds up to something larger.

It is no longer just the war in Iraq or treaty nullification or fiscal insanity or intrusion into our private lives or torture or every other outrage. Our democratic way of life is at stake. And Steve Sherlock: I agree with you one hundred percent that none of this matters if global warming is not addressed immediately. But that will not happen until we either change the trajectory of Congress 180 degrees or replace them all. ALL.

In a variety of polls in the past two or three months, majorities of the people of the United States have said that Iraq is a mistake. They also said they want:

  • A single-payer (universal) healthcare system
  • To raise the minimum wage, which has been stuck for a decade
  • To repeal tax cuts for the rich
  • To reduce the deficit by cutting Pentagon spending
  • To protect the environment whatever it costs

A majority said these things and no one in Washington can hear. The only conclusion a sane person can draw is that the sycophants in Congress support the imperial presidency.

A tiny crack in that sycophancy appeared yesterday when even Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, a consummate Republican, called for a hold to be put on the sale of U.S. port security to a Dubai company after the president flexed his imperial muscles about the controversy:

"[Congress] ought to listen to what I have to say about this," said Mr. Bush. "They'll look at the facts and understand the consequences of what they're going to do. But if they pass a law, I'll deal with it with a veto."
- Yahoo! News, 21 February 2006

At last, on this one issue, Congress is showing some backbone, but that's not enough and there is still no guarantee that if they succeed in stopping this move they will also override the president's veto. Nor is there any guarantee they will stand up to other, less obvious, insanities.

(By the way, in all the discussionon cable news of outsourcing port security to Dubai or to a close ally like Great Britain, why hasn't the obvious solution of hiring an American company or creating a government agency to do it been explored?)

In his nasty threat to veto any Congressional bill to sink the port security deal, the president is in open defiance of the largest (and bipartisan) public outcry against his administration since the first election. Please email your representative and senators today to keep up the pressure. You can do that here.

During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the Black Panther Party adopted a slogan they used together with a raised-fist salute. We need to resurrect it, for all of us this time and rage against the imperium - and you might want to append it at the end of your letters to Congress: POWER TO THE PEOPLE.


More Age Discrimination

category_bug_ageism.gif If you don’t know by now that the population of the world is aging, that the proportion of old people is increasing, you haven’t been paying attention. This phenomenon raises important social and economic issues that most governments and most employers have yet to adequately address, so it's encouraging when mainstream media does.

In its 18 February issue, The Economist, to its credit, placed the issue of an aging workforce front and center on its cover:

Economist2_1

My local newsstand has no more copies of this issue and it is a premium story online, so I have no idea what the magazine says about managing older workers - it may be an excellent piece, but you wouldn’t know that from the cover image.

It was brought to my attention by dus7, who blogs at Come Speak To Me, with a link to a bit of commentary at Bag News Notes, but it deserves more. The image is ageist to its core.

No one would confuse that frightened-looking old man slumped in what appears to be a lawn chair with an experienced and competent employee. The eye-chart-style headline diminishing into an almost unreadable final word suggests poor eyesight. And the words themselves suggest that older workers, by virtue of their age alone, present a difficulty to managers and certainly are not manager material themselves.

Everything about this cover is offensive. If you think not, picture it with a black man (young or old doesn't matter) in place of this old man, and change the eyechart headline to "How to Manage a Black Workforce." You would never see such a cover image because editors would never consider creating it. But they create prejudicial images and stories about elders every day without a second thought, and with no outcry from the public or other media.

Ageism is the last acceptable bigotry. It has has been much discussed at Time Goes By in the past and will continue to be. Its stupidity in the face of increased longevity and growing numbers of healthy elders, while the numbers of younger workers shrinks, is monumental. Yet, it is images like this one on the cover of an internationally respected publication, read by the leaders of corporations who hire millions, that support the unchecked continuation of age discrimination in the workplace and everywhere else.


Old and Tired

category_bug_politics.gif It is not uncommon for some elders to say, from time-to-time, that they are tired. They’ve worked hard for decades, scrambled to pay the bills, raised their kids, overcome setbacks and now, having reached a ripe old age, want to kick back and relax. They’ve earned a rest, they say, and so they have.

I’m tired too - exhausted, in fact - but not (yet, anyway) for the same reasons.

I’m tired of a federal government that at every opportunity has usurped the power granted in the Constitution to Congress, the Judiciary, the states and the people. I'm tired of watching the administration, day by day and in each new revelation of secret fiat, remake the United States into a tyranny. I am tired of being told by some friends and acquaintances to lighten up, that I exaggerate. Are these - individually and collectively - exaggerations?

The president claims anything he does is lawful and so, it appears, the Constitution is dead.

Hundreds of thousands of private communications have been intercepted by the government in the name of national security. If, when I write a note to my friend in Israel, I might happen to say that Arab Muslims have a point about this or that, will our correspondence then be flagged and held against us at some future time?

Hundreds of people are held in offshore prisons for years without access to family, legal counsel or trial date.

Torture is now an acceptable means of prisoner control while elected officials spin lofty tales of exporting the kind of democracy that they thwart at home.

Congress expects me to respect the results of their hearings, but selectively exempts corporate executives and high government officials from testifying under oath.

The president promotes turning over retirement benefits and health coverage to market forces enriching the wealthy elite while increasing costs to the poor and middle class who have no way to pay.

The president tells us the economy is solid and growing, but the middle class is shrinking, wages lag behind inflation and personal savings has moved into the negative.

Our borders are a sieve, only four percent of imports are subject to security checks and now the government has sold the responsibility for port security to the United Arab Emirates, and we are told it’s a done deal, cannot be changed.

All checks and balances, assigned by the Constitution to Congress, have been moved to the executive branch with hardly a peep from Congress.

Congress is openly entertaining the idea of turning over control of the internet to the mega-communications companies who would, in turn, then control where each of us can go online.

Giant technology companies, with the consent of the government, are engaged in censoring access to the internet in other countries and as a direct result of Yahoo!'s cooperation, three Chinese dissidents have been jailed.

Millions of dollars worth of bought-and-paid-for mobile homes are sinking into the muck, unused on the Gulf coast while thousands of victims of the worst natural disaster in the history of United States continue to go homeless.

Laws protecting whistleblowers within the government have been suspended (by presidential fiat?), and those who speak out are savaged, silenced, fired and window-seated when they try to tell the public how our country has been ravaged by the greed of the corporate/government alliance.

In the name of phony war against a country that had no involvement in 9/11, the president has taken a tidy budget surplus left by the previous administration and turned it into a deficit that cannot be repaid in decades no matter how much the economy may grow. But no one is an iota more safe and the United States has been made a pariah in the eyes of the world.

Yet all of the above matters not a whit if our president cannot be convinced that global warming is not, as every reputable scientist on earth has shown us, junk science.

I haven’t begun to enumerate the enormity of the takeover of our country by the wealthy elite in business and government who make these decisions. Every public utterance from the president and his underlings is meant to obscure, obfuscate and keep hidden the crimes against the Constitution and the people of the United States that are going on in secret.

They have been able to do all this because they believed from the get-go that the citizenry is too disinterested in the workings of government to pay attention. And they are correct. As dangerous and craven as these people are, we are at fault for our complacency. For not speaking up. For not demanding, in numbers that cannot be ignored, that our government get that smirk off its face and operate by the rule of law - of, by and for the people.

For 250 years, the U.S. has experimented with democracy. It’s not perfect, but it so inspired the world that there are now successful democracies in at least 75 other countries. If we don’t do something now, it won’t be long before we wake up and find we are no longer one of them.

Just when strength is needed more than ever, I am so tired. Perhaps that was their plan all along.


Silver Threads - 2/19/2006

The number of bloggers in their ninth decade of life has recently been increased with the addition of 83-year-old Lucy, blogging at Golden Lucy’s Spiral Journal. "...this blogging thing has opened a world that has already taken me places I've never imagined,” she told me in an email. “I doubt anything more exciting to do will come up before I die." Please stop by and give her a big elder blogosphere welcome.

Grandmotherantiwar In Valentine’s Day anti-war protests in Oakland and New York (and perhaps some other cities), grandmothers offered up themselves to replace young soldiers as cannon fodder in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We grandmothers have had long, full lives. Our young men and women deserve the same. We are prepared to take their place…” Lots more good photos of elder women taking a stand against war from Jan at Happening-Here?

Dana Wilkie of the Copley New Service does an excellent job of pulling together in one place a lot of hard facts about how lobbyists for the big pharmas, with the cooperation of a majority of Congress, helped enrich those pharmas at the expense of elders with the Medicare Part D legislation. “It's a perfect example for lobbying reform, because pharmac[eutical companies] got everything and the customers got nothing,” said Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego.

Governments everywhere have long mastered the art of Newspeak. In England, which is facing record high unemployment, people without jobs are no longer unemployed, they are “economically inactive” - the better to hide the real hardships of losing one's means to a livelihood. Who makes up this stuff? (Hat tip to Sophy Merrick)

Critic Beth Mcarthur notes an encouraging phenomenon in 63-year-old Harrison Ford’s new film, Firewall: “…a thug who is about to pillage a wine cellar asks his companion how to recognize a good bottle of vino. ‘It’ll be dusty,’ comes the response. The exchange is no sop to sommeliers. This ‘older is better’ proclamation is the filmmakers’ clear attempt to filter out the insidious social virus, ageism," writes Macarthur, "from their movie early on.” And, she says, they do it well.

Steve Sherlock alerted me recently to a new service called cocomments.com. By adding a small bit of code to your blog, you can show readers what you’ve been saying on other people’s blogs, or just track your comments on the cocomment site. I haven’t decided about its usefulness for TGB yet, but you can see it in action at Steve’s blog, Steve’s 2 Cents.

It is surprising how many elder poets there are among bloggers. I’m sure there are more, but just from the ElderBloggers list:

The Joy of Six
Dreamsinger (songwriter)
Dick Jones Patteran Pages
Limerick Savant
Old Gray Poet
Wegads
Watermark

Have I missed anyone?

As an advocate of show-and-tell in regard to our life stories, I was pleased to find, this week, Doc Searls extensive photo remembrance of his mother’s life which, necessarily, includes grandparents, cousins, a sister, father, aunts, uncles and assorted friends of each of those people. It’s a beautiful tribute. Take a look and think about doing it for you and your family. (Hint: blog readers would like to see it too.)

A minor milestone was reached at TGB this week when the ElderBloggers blogroll count reached 99. In the interests of symmetry, it would be nice to have an even 100 in time for the TGB two-year anniversary next month. You are welcome to submit suggestions of good blogs by people 50 and older who update at least once a week, design their sites to be easy on old eyes (no dark backgrounds) and allow comments.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: You are also welcome to submit suggestions for items to include in this weekly Silver Threads column posted each Sunday. They may be blogs or blog posts, news stories, cultural and political happenings, a personal experience, photos - anything notable that relates to elders and what it's really like to get older. Please email them to ronni AT timegoesby DOT net.]


To All the Kids Who Survived - Redux

I thought yesterday’s post was a no-big-deal, nice little reminder of times past and most particularly, that we - just maybe, but not for sure, might if we wanted, not necessarily, conceivably, though I could be wrong, but still not impossible, once in awhile - give some small thought to a few of the things modernity has snatched away.

Instead, I woke up this morning to a not inconsiderable number of emails and a few public comments about how awful the good old days were and what a nincompoop I am for publishing such drivel. Children died, you know, in the good old days.

I want to thank each of you who reminded of that. I’d forgotten, you see, that a girl down the block bought the farm after contracting polio one summer. Another, a boy, died of diphtheria. One kid was killed by a car when he ran into the street to retrieve a ball. (If I’m not mistaken, this particular calamity is still not preventable, but perhaps a researcher somewhere is working it.)

It’s good to be reminded that several kids in my school couldn’t play in gym class because they had club feet. A lot of kids had scars on their faces from smallpox, a disease some had barely survived. Cleft palates were, if not common, a condition we were accustomed to among our school friends. My own brother received a severe head injury in a bicycle accident because helmets were not required then.

I appreciate all who helped bring these memories to mind (most particularly the private email letters hiding opinions from public view and open commentary) and showing me that I’ve been living in a fairy tale about the past and not appreciative enough of the improvements we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Although, come to think of it…

…while school kids today are protected from a large number of fatal diseases that plagued my youth and we have mandated kid protection in certain circumstances, parents have new ills to worry about for their children: drugs at younger and younger ages, school, play yard and street shootings, and one that concerns me a great deal - the constant atmosphere of potential violence with cops checking for guns at the schoolhouse door and surveillance cameras in every hall and lavatory. All day, every day, kids are reminded in school that something awful might happen at any moment. I wonder what that does to young psyches?

Carefree summer days of crashing go-karts, broken arms or legs and shared soda pop are gone from a childhood now focused from the cradle on cramming enough information into kids’ heads that they can snag a spot in an elite school that will ensure they become masters of the universe pursuing the only acceptable professional goal left in the U.S. - wealth. I wonder what that does to young psyches?

And so on…

Not one word I’ve written here should be construed to mean I long for the good old days. As the piece I published yesterday states at the end, “The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas,” that have changed the world for the better in remarkable ways.

However, in some cases, we have not put our new knowledge to its best possible use, and equally important, it is not prudent, as modern culture seems to believe, for the past be obliterated by the new.

The idea is - or should be - to take along the best ideas from previous eras as we build on them to create better futures. One simple example - has it occurred to anyone yet that given recent studies on levels of childhood obesity it might be a real good idea to figure out how to get kids away from video games and back outside playing all day in the summer?

It is elders who, in their judgment and, sometimes, wisdom gained from decades of experience, can see more clearly than younger people what modern innovation has wrought on the culture - the good and the not-so-good - and what from the past might be applied as we fling ourselves headlong into the future. Humankind could not possibly have survived into the 21st century if our ancestors hadn’t been doing that all along.

And please, in the future, all you folks who spew your misguided interpretation of my intentions in private email, have the courage of your convictions: get them out in the light of day in the comments section where everyone can read and discuss them. It’s okay. I have fairly tough hide.


To All the Kids Who Survived the 1930s, '40s, '50s and ‘60s

[PERSONAL NOTE: I am abashed, pleased and shyly proud to read the lovely things Doc Searls says on his blog about Time Goes By. Sometimes a simple thank you is inadequate and words are just useless.]

My friend, Rick Gillis, sent me what follows here. It has undoubtedly been making the email rounds for years and you’ve probably already seen it. But I hadn’t, I like it and it feels like it deserves a permanent place on Time Goes By:

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate bleu cheese dressing and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright-colored, lead-based paints. We had no child-proof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a water bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends from one bottle. And no one died from this.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because we were always outside playing. We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were okay.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendos, X-Boxes, no video games at all. No 500 TV channels on cable, no DVD movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no internet or internet chat rooms. We had friends. We went outside and found them.

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that. We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms, and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live in us forever.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law.

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever. The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

And you are one of them.


Age and the Law of Unintended Consequences

In a comment on yesterday’s post about the New Ageism of Boomer Chic Terri, who blogs at Writing Away on Cedar Key, left, in part, this comment:

"’It’s just been moved forward a few years to accommodate boomers’ delusion of eternal youth.’

“…I don't think it's fair to say the above [as] a blanket statement. I, personally, do not have a delusion of eternal youth, nor do any of my friends or acquaintances…

”I also wanted to comment on that ‘silent generation.’ From my own experience with the over 65 age group, I'd have to say there's an element of truth in their definition. That's how society was - the male made most, if not all, of the family decisions. The women stayed home to raise the family. Many had no clue how to even balance a checkbook.

“But this "silence" didn't extend to all members of that generation. Just as not all baby boomers are caught up in the delusion of eternal youth. But I do also feel it was this baby boomer generation that refused to be silenced in our society...for good or bad.” [emphasis added]

Possibly, I'm guilty of of sloppy writing in that last sentence of mine that Terri quotes at the top of her comment, but every other word in my post makes it clear that I am talking about the media treatment of boomers and not boomers themselves - although I certainly know as many boomers intent on trying to live young until they die as I do others like Terri.

Terri points out that all generalities are unfair. But so is misinformation, as Maria of Silver Fox Whispers rightly notes in another comment on yesterday's post. Terri's statement that “…it was this baby boomer generation that refused to be silenced in our society…” flies in the face of historical record.

The oldest boomers were barely teenagers when the turmoil of the 1960s changed the social direction of the United States for - as Terri puts it - “good or bad”. In fact, most boomers were still children or not born yet when the groundwork for that upheaval was laid and the protests begun.

It was the “silent generation” who led the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war protests and the women’s movement. Here are some of the people, off the top of my head, whose courage and action pointed the direction of even my (born 1941) small efforts in these protests:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.: born 1929
  • Rosa Parks: born 1913
  • Thurgood Marshall: born 1908
  • Muhammad Ali: born 1942
  • Michael Schwerner: born 1939
  • James Cheney: born 1943
  • Andrew Goodman: born 1943
  • Abbie Hoffman: born 1936
  • Dave Dellinger: born 1915
  • Tom Hayden: born 1939
  • Betty Friedan: born 1921
  • Gloria Steinem: born 1934
  • Bella Abzug: born 1920

Boomers - uninformed media and individuals alike - have been grabbing credit for the Sixties for decades, but it was the misnamed silent generation who “refused to be silenced” in that remarkable moment of social change in U.S. history. Our efforts resulted in the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965, equal rights for women and brought down a president who would not listen to the will of the people about a misguided war that killed more than 58,000 American soldiers. I’m proud of my part in it and I won’t have it snatched away.

The boomer penchant for claiming ownership of the Sixties is a example of the law the unintended consequences. Because that generation is publicized and written about to the exclusion of others and because they were young then, those whose grasp of history is shaky (including boomers themselves) have come to believe in that erroneous ownership. It is a myth of twisted history.

The new aggrandizement of boomers as the leading edge of aging in America to the exclusion of those who are older is is beginning to create another set of unintended consequences - pitting generations against one another. Terri's post is a small example.

The president tried it too when, in 2005, when he goaded younger people to support his campaign to privatize Social Security by telling them old people will deplete the Trust Fund before they become old enough to benefit. Politics by age division didn’t work last year, but it wasn’t a pretty spectacle and it might work next time.

When one generation is consistently granted headline privilege resulting in the invisibility of others, mistrust and resentment build. Soon, each age group looks out only for itself, it becomes every man for himself and coalitions important to the benefit of all become difficult to create.

It is doubtful the media - or individuals - mean to set off generational warfare when they favor one group. They are only practicing lazy journalism, following a media trend by feeding off one another’s stories. But depending on what is at stake, the consequences are real.

The current administration in Washington shows no signs of curtailing its irresponsible war-spending binge or ending tax cuts which together are building an astronomical deficit that someone has to pay off in the decades to come. Should sanity ever return to the federal budget, there will be hard work to do, hard fiscal choices to make. All generations will need to give in, give back and give up things, and we can’t be bickering among ourselves as we make those necessary and difficult choices.

We are all in this together - the silent generation, baby boomers, generations X and Y, millennials and their kids coming up soon too. If the new ageism of boomer chic is not thwarted, those unintended consequences will bite us all, even the baby boomers.


The New Ageism: Boomer Chic

category_bug_ageism.gif No sooner had I posted a bit of a tirade yesterday on what I’m coming to think of as the “new ageism,” than this popped up in my email inbox:

“Hello. […] Productions is producing a documentary for PBS on the Baby Boomer generation slated to air 2007. I am reaching out to you in search of inspirational and extraordinary stories to include in our program. Stories that would contradict the idea that "there are no second acts in American lives" (F. Scott Fitzgerald). Stories about exemplary Baby Boomers who embody these characteristics - anti-authoritarian, idealistic, innovative and self empowered.

”We'd love to hear some amazing Boomer stories.”

Apart from the fact that the writer has already made my point today by erroneously assuming that a blog about aging must be written by a baby boomer, the producers of the documentary, along with all mainstream media, are redefining old age as ending at 60, relegating everyone older to cultural death by media neglect.

Before the boomers turned 60, media stories about elders didn’t get beyond health problems and the politics of entitlements. Now, boomers are “amazing, inspirational, extraordinary, exemplary, anti-authoritarian, idealistic, innovative and self-empowered” and anyone who isn’t, or is older, has been made twice invisible - first through the historic ageism of the youth culture and now through the new ageism of boomer chic.

Setting up boomers as exemplars of aging and concentrating attention only on those who exhibit extraordinary (usually physical) accomplishment is another desperate cultural attempt to deny the facts of aging with continued segregation of elders who don’t meet these criteria.

Further, this narrow interpretation of age - imitation of youth - discourages public discussion of the real changes and limitations that accompany aging, and dismisses the extraordinary personal growth that only old age can bestow.

Advancements in 20th century science blessed us with longevity unknown in the history of the world. If we allow these extra years to be ignored, elders are doomed to continued marginalization and the culture loses the experience, judgment and wisdom the burgeoning numbers of elders can contribute to the overall well-being of our communities, large and small.

Geriatrician William H. Thomas makes a distinction between "adults," whom he describes as those in their most active mid-years, and elders, those whose child-raising is over and whose careers have wound down. He deplores the cultural imperative for old people to behave as adults or be tossed aside.

“We cannot and will never be adults forever," writes Thomas. "To attempt such a thing is to invite repeated and progressive failure into our lives. Worst of all, the cult of adulthood slathers these failures with shame and demands that, whenever possible, they be hidden from others.”
- William H. Thomas, M.D., What Are Old People For?

The definition of age as decline, debility and disease has not changed. It’s just been moved forward a few years to accommodate boomers’ delusion of eternal youth.

It’s easy to tell from the email that the producers of the PBS documentary have decided to perpetuate that delusion before they’ve shot an inch of tape. And as PBS still maintains a shred or two of its reputation for integrity, this boomer program will be hailed as progress in the cultural attitude toward elders. Don’t be fooled. It’s just a new version of the same old ageism.


The Ageist Media

category_bug_ageism.gif It’s official. There is no one in the U.S. older than 60 who matters anymore. In a period of just three months, Newsweek has published its second cover story on baby boomers, this time titled “Sex and the Single Boomer.”

In tandem with the recently-published half dozen books on the joys of elder sex, the story reports that boomers are going at it like bunny rabbits. And, ever in need of reassuring themselves they are the first to do anything, they’ve ditched the three-date rule:

"At our age," says [51-year-old Diane] Barna, "if sex presents itself, if you're comfortable with your partner, why wait for three dates? Just go for it."

Mainstream media has never reported a social phenomenon for which they can't find a downside, but this time there is a serious consequence to all this coupling:

“Though single boomers are having sex regularly, only 39 percent invariably use protection, according to the AARP study. ‘To me, those are pretty alarming figures,’ says Linda Fisher, AARP's research director…The number of new HIV infections among older women is rising rapidly: between 1998 and 2000, women's share of AIDS cases among those 50 and older nearly doubled, from 8.9 percent to 15 percent.”

Although I count many boomers among my friends and acquaintances, I have lost all patience with them as a group. Anyone who’s gotten to age 50 without knowing the importance of preventing transmission of HIV is probably still wondering where their kids came from. These people still aren’t grownups.

In keeping with their extended adolescence it seems, according to Newsweek, women boomers have exhausted the sexual stamina of their male counterparts and are going for younger guys. In a remarkably shallow example of painting an entire gender with one brush, 49-year-old Kim Cattrall who, as Samantha, flaunted her boy toy on the HBO television series, Sex in the City, has adopted that fictional preference in real life:

“After playing a sexually adventurous character, Cattrall found it hard to have a relationship with a man her own age because she thought they were trying to compete with Samantha. A younger man, she says, doesn't feel that need to outdo her. ‘The thing I really enjoy,’ she says, ‘is that I can show him my world and what I think about something. He's not closed down.’”

Come on, you boomer men reading this - speak up for yourselves. There was a time when women complained about men with this kind of attitude toward women their age.

But love - even companionship - is hard enough to find, so far be it from me to object to it whatever disparate ages the partners may be. But, says Newsweek few of these boomers are looking for either in their approaching dotage:

“In a recent AARP study, only 14 percent of women said their most important reason for dating was to find someone to live with or marry, compared with 22 percent of men.”

Although it is dangerous to take seriously such lightweight media stories as this, boomers will be boomers, I suspect, desperately grabbing at remnants of youth unto death. What I most object to is the media’s and researchers’ apparent belief that anyone older than the baby boomers is dead. For decades, old age was considered an extension of adulthood and not worthy of study. Now, even though average life expectancy in the U.S. is about 77, those 17-plus years of life - yes, active life in most cases - beyond the oldest boomers are ignored.

Pre-boomers are not the same as boomers. Our behavior, needs and desires are different and if researchers and reporters had a lick of sense, they’d look at the 60-plus generations too if for no other reason than to figure out how to deal socially, culturally and economically with those 78 million boomers when they reach elderhood.

Ageism is alive and well - it’s just shifted forward a decade or so.


The Blizzard of '06

category_bug_journal2.gif

Backyard

Those little two- and three-inch snowstorms are nothing but a nuisance, but when we get a big one, New York is transformed into a wonderland. This is my backyard about halfway through the blizzard. It got much deeper. The final count, 26.9 inches, is the most since record-keeping began in 1869.


Patiotable

The snow piled on the patio table was almost as deep as the table is tall.


Street1

The wind was blowing so hard, I could barely remain upright while I took this photo of some apartment houses on my block.


Street2

I was the only person out and about on my block while the snow was coming down this heavily. It was almost a whiteout with visibility of no more than a city block.

Giant snowstorms still thrill me as much as when I was a kid. At first light on Sunday, I bundled up and walked my Greenwich Village streets, the first person to make footprints on most blocks. I couldn't resist lying down on the corner of Bedford and Carmine to make a snow angel although it was already filled in ten minutes later.

Ollie the cat had never seen snow like this and he seemed to be amazed. It appeared that he picked out a falling snowflake and followed it with his eyes until it hit the ground and then started over with another one. But I couldn't get him out the door to play with me.

Olliewindow

All day, radio reporters described the storm in such phrases as "terrible out there," "rough morning," "disastrous storm" and "paralyzing the city." Oh, please. Where is their sense of beauty, of magic, of wonder? And what's life without a delightful, unpredictable surprise now and again.


Silver Threads - 2/12/2006

Hurray for Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich who, in writing of the retirement of Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor, had this to say: “We need more wrinkled, jowly, white-haired women in power.” She continues:

“Pop culture's idea of a powerful older woman is Madonna. Or Oprah, who looks younger with every monthly magazine cover…Looking at that recent photo of O'Connor unaided by stylists or lighting specialists, I saw something I hadn't seen until then: She not only served the cause of women by becoming a justice, she served it by aging realistically in the job.”

Leonard Nimoy’s commercial got a lot better press this past week following the Super Bowl than the Rolling Stones did for the half-time show. It concerns an aging Nimoy overcoming arthritis pain, with the use of Aleve, to be able to make the Vulcan salute at a Star Trek Conference. You can see it here.

Insurance behemoth, Humana, has been accused of violating federal guidelines by paying its sales force higher commissions for selling elders managed care plans than it does for the less expensive Medicare Part D drug-only coverage. I’ll soon be choosing a Part D provider and a supplemental health coverage plan. It won’t be from Humana.

You can now wear your blog keywords or “word cloud” on your chest. Snapshirts will do it with just a click of your mouse and then print it on a teeshirt for $18 or $21. Check it out here. (Via Colleen at Loose Leaf Notes)

Cosmetics are a bigger blog topic that I would have guessed. Following up the Radiant Older Women post on TGB this week, Koan Bremner of multidimensional.me added her own thoughts on the Blogher blog with a collection of links to other who’ve pondered the use of makeup. Jill Fallon of Legacy Matters follows up too on her Estate Legacy Vaults blog noting the advantages of word-of-mouth marketing to older women.

My old friend Yaakov Kirschen swept the Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards in four categories for his Dry Bones Blog: Best New Blog of 2005, Best Political and Current Affairs Blog, Best Jewish Humor Blog and Best Blog Overall.

Fat Old Artist has discovered that reading large-print books while she’s on the treadmill is easier and a lot more compelling that watching television, but she also laments that there aren’t more books published in large print that she wants to read.

On Monday and Tuesday, you might want to check out the luge competition from Turino. 52-year-old Anne Abernathy - also known as Grandma Luge - is competing in her sixth winter Olympics in this event. She’s the oldest woman to ever compete in the Olympics and is up against competitors less than half her age.

Doc Searls was writing about subverting hierarchies but makes an important point in passing that is disbelieved by too many - that creativity can increase with age: “Nearly all of what I'm known for I've done since I was fifty. And without the Net, there would hardly be any of it.”


Reflections on Age

category_bug_journal2.gif They say there is to be a blizzard today in New York - always a good reason to stay home, to sit quietly by the fire, pet the cat, read a little, and reflect.

“Many people think old age is a disease, something to be thwarted if possible. But someone has said that if any period is a disease, it is youth. Age is recovering from it.”
- T. C. Myers
“Old age is not a disease - it is strength and survivorship, triumph over all kinds of vicissitudes and disappointments, trials and illnesses.”
- Maggie Kuhn
“Aging is not "lost youth" but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”
- Betty Friedan
"To be happy in this world, especially when youth is past, it is necessary to feel oneself not merely an isolated individual whose day will soon be over, but part of the stream of life flowing on from the first germ to the remote and unknown future."
- Bertrand Russell
"Of course there's a lot of knowledge in universities: the freshmen bring a little in; the seniors don't take much away, so knowledge sort of accumulates."
- Abbott Lawrence Lowell
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."
- Bertrand Russell

Stealth Privatization of Social Security

category_bug_politics.gif The privatization of Social Security was big news last year here, on many other blogs and in the mainstream media. President Bush spent almost more time on the road stumping for his pet plan to enrich Wall Street at the expense of Social Security recipients than at his Crawford ranch - and that’s hard to do.

After dozens of presidential, arm-twisting speeches to carefully-selected crowds of supporters only, the people of the United States rejected privatization in resounding numbers. But when this president doesn’t get what he wants, he goes stealth.

This week, Washington Post/Newsweek columnist, Allan Sloan, reported that buried deep on page 321 in the president’s 2007 budget, which he submitted to Congress on Monday, is another Social Security privatization proposal:

“His plan would let people set up private accounts starting in 2010,” write Sloan, “and would divert more than $700 billion of Social Security tax revenues to pay for them over the first seven years…"
- Newsweek (online), 8 February 2006

There is no legislation for this proposal, so it is unclear how it could come to be. Would passage of the budget by Congress, with this plan included, make it law? I have no idea. I’ve sent off a note to Mr. Sloan asking for clarification and await a response.

In his State of the Union address last week, the president called only for a bipartisan commission to study Social Security reform (as if we need another study to add to the hundreds in existence).

There was no mention of this budget item in the speech, nor is it included in the highlights of the budget posted on the White House website, which makes its inclusion in the 2007 budget sound remarkably like those earmarks for pork projects our representatives sneak into other legislation in the dead of night.

Is there not a single elected official who plays straight with the people of the United States? It would be a good idea for all of us to alert our representatives in Congress that the country has already rejected privatization of Social Security and this sneak attack by the president is unacceptable.


Radiant Elder Women

Crabby Old Lady does a fair amount of corporate-America bashing here on TGB (though she believes she’s not been unfair), and she hasn’t posted anything in recent memory that isn’t a criticism of someone or something. But not today, so you may want to pay attention - who knows when this will happen again.

Eighteen months ago, Crabby took up cudgels against the manufacturers of cosmetics. Her complaint was that there is nothing at the department, drug and cosmetic specialty stores suitable for an elder woman:

“…Max, Estee, Christian, Elizabeth, Helena, Germaine, Pierre and all the rest who served her so well in her youth have forsaken Crabby in her dotage. Where is the foundation that covers nature's errors but doesn't cake in the lines? Eye shadow in matte colors of brown and gray without sparklies? Blusher and lip gloss that are brighter than Crabby's skin color, but not by much, and certainly not iridescent?

Lo and behold, one cosmetic company has heard Crabby’s lament and answered it as perfectly as if Crabby Old Lady had formulated the new cosmetics herself. Vital Radiance (from Revlon) does everything Crabby wanted and more.

The foundation glides on lightly and smoothes out Crabby’s skin blotchiness. Instead of the pervasive iridescent blue which crowds out anything more subdued at cosmetic counters, eye shadow comes in shades of taupe and tan and champagne-ish without a sparkly to be found. The blusher brightens up her cheeks just enough and not too much. The lipstick, in age-appropriate colors, glides on like silk - and stays there. Best of all, the light mascara, even in black, doesn’t make Crabby look like Betty Boop.

For the past week, Crabby Old Lady has been playing with this new line of cosmetics with as much enthusiasm as when she was a teenager experimenting with makeup for the first time. It’s the best girlie fun she’s had in ages.

An additional step in this system are primers for face, eyelids and lips. They feel as light as air and the tiniest amount is all that’s needed, but it appears to make all the difference in covering Crabby’s blotchiness making the makeup look - well, not like makeup. She tried the foundation, eye shadow and lipstick one day without the primers with less stellar results. God knows what space-age emollients or emulsions are in the primers, but those chemists came up with something that Crabby believes the younger set will soon be clamoring for.

Crabby realizes she sounds like a paid advertisement today, but how often does a mega-corporation come up with a new product that meets all your needs? According to Catherine Fisher in the press office at Revlon, they conducted extensive studies with older women in developing these cosmetics and as she told Crabby what the research subjects said they wanted, Ms. Fisher could have been reading from Crabby’s original blog post word-for-word.

And hallelujah - there are no false promises. The words “antiaging” and “youth” appear nowhere on the products or on the website. There are no insulting claims of erasing wrinkles or of instant rejuvenation.

Crabby might take issue with the models who while age-appropriate are, unlike most women, breathtakingly beautiful with their Katharine Hepburn bones. But she'll let that go. The company’s marketing people are treating elder women like the grownups they are this time, even respecting the needs of aging eyesight by increasing the usually tiny text size on the product containers.

To the company’s additional credit, Vital Radiance is available in local drug chains, priced accordingly. It’s just being rolled out now (Crabby saw part of a television commercial a couple of days ago), and you can get free samples, customized to your skin type and color, by calling 1.800.RADIANT or by ordering through their website.

Crabby doesn’t wear makeup every day anymore and that’s unlikely to change, or not by much. But when business and social events call for more dressiness, she is delighted to at last have cosmetics that suit her elder needs.