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Elder Larks and Owls

category_bug_journal2.gif It is annoying to people I’ve lived with who are owls, but for all my life I have been a lark – that is, a person who wakes early and with eagerness, mind and body at full function ready to take on the day.

From childhood our waking is controlled, at first by parents urging us to get ready for school and later, by alarm clocks to meet the time requirements of jobs and careers.

Five days a week, for sixty years, except for the bliss of weekends, our sleep is abruptly, harshly and rudely interrupted each morning by bell or buzzer leaving us with confused fragments of incomplete dreams drifting away before our conscious minds can grasp them.

Lark or owl, we are captive to the relentless clock that orders our lives, although it is undoubtedly easier for larks than for owls.

And then retirement happens. There is no longer the necessity to arrive at a specific time somewhere that has been as close as a walk of a few blocks or a commute of two hours. There is no more morning rush, no schedule to keep, no gulping coffee nor the frustration of misplaced keys as the clock ticks relentlessly. No one requires our presence.

What a pleasure it is to awaken in one’s own time, as nature intended, becoming aware again that a new day has arrived, but doing it gradually and gently.

These cold winter mornings are especially delicious. The rooms are kept at 60 degrees Fahrenheit overnight so that even a lark like me wants to snuggle more deeply into the covers for awhile, drifting in that hanging space between sleep and consciousness where the direction of dreams can be controlled, if you do it gently enough. After all those decades of interruption, the final act of the reverie can be allowed to play itself out now.

But once “The End” is put to the dream, I am not capable of staying in bed. The day beckons – “let’s go, let’s go, no telling what might happen today.” And it starts with one of the best small pleasures of life – a hot shower – which without the pressure of school or job and commute, no longer needs to be rushed as it was for 60 years.

The old bones creak a bit these days and leg muscles take a few moments to get the juice flowing, so I don’t leap out of bed as easily as I once did. But the urge to get going is just as irresistible except that waking slowly without the shock of that alarm is one of the great, good benefits of getting old.


Misunderstanding Medicare Part D

[I have posted a new story, The Question of a Woman President, this morning at blogher.org.]

category_bug_politics.gif When Medicare Part D – the prescription drug plan – was launched, very little seemed right about it. It was and still is nearly impossible to choose the most effective plan among the plethora of different drug formularies and prices from increasing numbers of insurers.

Then there is the infamous doughnut hole – the coverage gap after drug expenses of $2,250 have been reached – during which time the insured must pay full price for $3600 in drug costs. The so-called “catastrophic coverage” then kicks in, but only until the end of the calendar year when the entire procedure begins again.

But it is much worse than I thought. Call me stupid – I deserve it – because from the beginning I have misunderstood an important and devastating part of the coverage (or, rather, lack thereof). It entirely escaped my notice - until the annual EOB (Explanation of Benefits) from my Part D insurer arrived last week:

All this time, I assumed the $2,250 “initial allowance” before the doughnut hole, referred to my co-payments, that is, my out-of-pocket expenses. But no. I was shocked to learn that the $2,250 limit before the doughnut hole refers to total drug costs.

Maybe you already knew that. But Miss Smartypants here, who prides herself on her careful reading of facts, is shocked. I pay $28 per month for the one prescription drug I take and I assumed I would never hit the doughnut hole as a year’s cost to me is only $336. As it turns out, even at the full price, I won’t reach the doughnut hole, but given the price of drugs, there are very few people who will not be forced into a period of paying for the full retail price of their drugs.

Imagine you take drugs that at retail cost $600 a month, and with your Part D coverage, you pay $150 for them. If only your co-payment counted toward the initial allowance, you would not reach the doughnut hole in a year.

But because the insurance carriers count the full, retail price of the drug, you hit the doughnut hole in just under four months and the catastrophic coverage, wherein a lower co-payment prevails, does not pertain until you have paid full price for six full months.

And don’t forget that you would be paying premiums to the insurance company for the entire six months (half the policy year) during which you are paying full price for the drugs.

So on drug costs of $7200 per year, an insured pays approximately $5,100, which could be higher depending on the size of the monthly premium and the deductible. How is this good coverage, or even reasonable, for the price?

I suppose if your drugs cost $15,000 or $20,000 or more a year and you have a moderate pension in addition to Social Security, this isn’t a bad plan. But if your drugs cost that much and you are the average Social Security recipient with about $12,000 a year in benefits, Part D isn’t much help and there are elders who choose every day among life-saving drugs, food and heat.

It is long past time for the United States to catch up with the rest of the industrialized world by adopting universal healthcare. Yes, there are problems in Canada and in Great Britain and in France and elsewhere. But one-sixth of their populations is not going entirely without coverage or relying on emergency rooms for routine medical help as is so in the United States.

Perhaps a result of the disastrous Bush presidency is that universal healthcare will become an important issue in the next presidential election. Several announced candidates are saying those two words and maybe – don’t count on it – it is, this time, more than lip service to get elected.

If we can push our government into universal health coverage, it will cost every one of us more than we are paying now in taxes; ensuring that everyone of every age has access to medical care will not come free. But it will not cost us as much as private health insurance does now and it will cover every citizen including the one-sixth - think of it, ONE-SIXTH OF AMERICANS – who currently have no health coverage at all.


Fear of Death

category_bug_journal2.gif Two of the reasons that I

  • always tell my real age
  • stopped coloring my gray hair
  • refuse to consider Botox, cosmetic surgery, etc.

…is that to do otherwise is a lie and as such, they are ageist acts by trying to convince others that one is younger than is so.

But there is a third, more important reason: I want to experience this phase of life - getting old, aging, becoming the oldest generation, facing death – as completely and genuinely as I experienced childhood, adolescence and adulthood.

Unless I am honest – with myself and everyone else – about all aspects of my age, I will not know what is real and what is not. If I tell you that I am 55 instead of 65, you will respond to me differently. 55 is still of working age; 65 is still considered traditional retirement age even if the law now says people cannot be forced to retire. Age 55 would put me in different social and cultural categories where, in reality, I no longer am.

If I returned to coloring my hair, it would undoubtedly shave a few years off my appearance, but not so many that it would matter much and it is much easier to be done with the chemicals, time and money.

And as to medical intervention, I’ve never seen any person who had “work done” who has either fooled us or aged well. Look at Michael Douglas these days. And Joan Rivers. And a host of others. Fright masks. But that is only the reverse vanity reason not to do it. For me, the real reason is that I am curious about what nature has in store for me as the years pass.

The multi-billion-dollar anti-aging industry and the additional multi-billion-dollar cosmetic business – medical, pharmaceutical and “cosmeceutical” – prove that I’m mostly on my own in wanting to get to my grave in the way nature devises.

And here is the reason, rarely spoken, that I’m alone out here in this youth-centric wilderness getting old au naturel: everyone is afraid to die.

It doesn’t matter how religious you are or what your holy books say about what comes next - no one knows. Is it 72 virgins? Is there a real hell? Or heaven? Or do we face oblivion? It is the great unknown and we all wonder, when on rare occasions we allow ourselves to do so, if all this life is for nought and if maybe we do not survive after death as ourselves.

We fear not being. And that fear – the most primal of fears - is built into our DNA. It keeps us from wandering out into traffic and from jumping off tall buildings. It keeps us safe long enough to get our kids raised and pass the baton the next generation. The difficulty is that even after we have individually guaranteed the continuation of the species, the fear continues.

“They” say mankind is the only species that knows of its own future annihilation. I’m not convinced that’s true, but even if it is, that knowledge of our doom is what gives life both its importance and its poignancy.

But instead of creating a philosophy of living that includes the truth of our cosmic dilemma (or, if religion does so, living it as though it mattered), most people have made it taboo to speak of death in ordinary conversation even though it is the central problem of life. Have you ever tried? Even your friends will say, “oh, don’t be morbid” and change the subject.

We have cleaned up and excluded all signs of death from our lives. Most loved ones die in antiseptic hospitals. Many family members don’t visit because, they say, they can’t face the death of their loved one. I never believe that. What they can’t face is being reminded of their own future death, and they have not the courage to show up anyway to hold the hand of the person, in the last days and hours of life, they say they love.

And once the loved one is dead, the body is sent to a funeral home to be cleaned and dressed by strangers. With all the pretense it is hard to know, nowadays, that Aunt Mary died. Maybe she just didn’t feel like showing up for Thanksgiving this year.

It is as though, in banning death from life and particularly in creating perpetual youth through surgical and other means, people believe they will fool the grim reaper into thinking it is not their turn when he comes for them.

Elders who look their years remind younger people they too will die. It is the genesis of all ageism and age discrimination: younger people and people pretending to be younger than they are don’t want old ones around to remind them of their own mortality.

But, no matter how many lies you tell about your age, no matter how much Botox you pump into yourself or how many nips and tucks you have done, you will get old, you will also look old and you will die. Trying to fight it and denying it will not change it.

It is better, I think, to pay attention to the changes the later years bring – to see them, feel them, think about them and to talk about them and the mystery of life. Of course getting old is sad. It is leading up to saying goodbye for good and that always hurts. But I think – or, at least, I hope – that in doing it my way, facing age and all that it means as directly and openly as possible, I will be as ready to leave life behind, when the time comes, as my mother was. A few days before she died, she said to me:

“Don’t be sad, Ronni. I’ve lived a good, full life and I’m ready to go now.”

Me My Elder Meme

As I’ve announced on several occasions in the past, I don’t do blog memes. They seem to me to be a monumental waste of time (some have a hundred or more items!) without much of a payoff for the effort.

I mean, what does a list of my favorite books or movies or foods tell anyone about me that is worth knowing? Nothing, since any such list shifts by the day if not hour.

And as far as “100 things you don’t know about me,” there is a reason you don’t know: they are bor-ing. And anyway, this is a blog, not a confession.

It could be that Jill Fallon at The Business of Life doesn’t know that I have forsworn memes since I’ve not made a big deal of ignoring them. Whether or not, she has been kind in tagging me with a particularly short and easy one and although I suspect it will bore you, it’s a little something for a Saturday on which I don’t usually post. And for all I know you like these things.

This one is called My, Me, Meme, although I can’t figure why:

  1. My: What would I give my right arm for?
    If, to follow Jill’s lead, I take this seriously, an arm seems little enough to give up to do away with hunger or create permanent peace in the world. Otherwise, I’d give up my right arm for there to be no more need for this blog.
  2. Me. What's one word that describes how you want people to see you?
    Thoughtful.
  3. Meme: If you could be any blogger, which blogger would you be and why?
    There is no other blogger I would rather be. I can’t think of anything that would engage me more that researching, thinking and writing about getting older.

Now, I’m supposed to pass this on to three people. If memory serves, these are three who don’t mind doing memes: Just Ask Judy, Tamarika at Mining Nuggets and joared at Along the Way. If I’m wrong, feel free to ignore the tag.


Susan Harris Reviews Venus

[A new story, Elders Are Not Inflexible; They're Discriminating, has been published this morning at blogher.org.]

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Semi-official Time Goes By film reviewer, Susan Harris of Takoma Gardener and GardenRant, is back with her take on Venus for which Peter O’Toole has grabbed an Academy Award nomination this year as Best Actor. The film has been added to the TGB ElderMovie List.]

Asked by television interviewer Charlie Rose what his new movie Venus is about, actor Peter O'Toole replied: "It's about a dirty old man and a slut of a woman."

True enough, but get ready to have those stereotypes busted wide open - if not during the opening credits, then shortly thereafter.

Happy reviewer that I am, this will be short and sweet because this story of a 70-something actor and the 19-year-old object of his lust is complicated, deeply sad, and outstanding. The possibly offensive 50-year age difference is just not the point and anyway, everyone responds to it differently. You might see his lechery as more avuncular or simply a desire for vitality. Complex reactions for a complex story - ah, one of the pleasures of independent films at their best. To me, O'Toole's character was indeed a dirty old man but a fine one, fleshed out by the perfect actor for the part.

Rather than gush on at length, I'll simply report that in addition to O'Toole's Oscar-nominated and -worthy performance, there's an excellent supporting cast, including Vanessa Redgrave, called "transcendent" by Rolling Stone magazine. But possibly my favorite part of the movie is its depiction of male friendships - the verbal parrying of three long-time friends in their local pub. (Hey, where can we Americans go for the community of the English pub? The clubhouse at the retirement community? Starbucks? Seriously - we need it.)

Ageism Showing?
Readers, I looked hard but couldn't find a whiff of it in the nine or 10 reviews I read:

"Normally we'd balk at a movie about an 80-year-old man's infatuation with a teenage girl, but a geezer's lust is just the starting point for VenusA."
- Washington Post
"Don't go 'eww' at the thought of their relationship."
- Rolling Stone
It's about aging and what keeps you alive, about the getting and passing on of the wisdom of a lifetime."
- Los Angeles Times
“[Peter O'Toole and the filmmakers] refuse to yield to the all-too-pervasive idea that it's 'icky' for old people to even think about sex…His age is inconsequential. His young self is alive in him. It's there in the color of his eyes."
- Salon

(Oh, yeah, he still has it.)

Now personally, I thought I'd be attacking the film for its double standard, presenting us with yet another of those Hollywood older man/younger woman match-ups that we see far too many of, thankyouverymuch. Instead, I'm intrigued by The New York Times' mention that both Venus and a previous work by the same filmmakers, The Mother "unblinkingly examine the effects of old age."

Get this: The Mother is about a grandmother who has a passionate affair with a man half her age - Daniel Craig, no less - so you'd better believe it's going to the top of my Netflix queue. And the writer of Venus also wrote the daring and unforgettable My Beautiful Laundrette.

And I love this from O'Toole himself, describing the "relaxation that comes over you as you get older" as an actor. Asked by Charlie Rose if he feels the same enjoyment as ever in acting, he answered, "Even increasingly so, Charles.”


Cool Gadgets For Elders

More and more frequently, some good ideas helpful to elders are turning up in everyday products. Steve Garfield, son of Millie of My Mom’s Blog, recently reminded me of the Jitterbug phone.

It not a camera, it doesn't surf the web nor does it alert you when a hot chick or guy is in your vicinity and it doesn't do txt msgs. What it does do is just be a telephone – it sends and receives calls – but with these elder advantages:

  • Big buttons
  • Bright, large screen
  • Simple yes/no buttons
  • Operator assistance
  • Large text
  • On-screen hints
  • Hearing aid compatible
  • Speakerphone

…and a bunch of other features. Of course, it is only available if you subscribe to the Jitterbug service, but it can be had for a low as $10 a month. This is a terrific elder product.

Automobiles are becoming more elder friendly too. The Northwest Herald reports that five models have added features to make driving easier for older people (although folks of any age could appreciate these :

  • Keyless ignition
  • Rear backup sensors
  • Heated drivers seat
  • Voice-controlled heating/cooling system
  • Buttonless shifters
  • Roomy interior
  • Rear backup camera
  • …and more

Not every feature is available on every model of car and the big thing I see missing is seats that rotate outward to make entering and exiting easier, but I’ll bet that’s coming soon.

The items above (and some others) are available on 2006 models of the Toyota Avalon, Prius and Sienna, the Ford Five Hundred and BMW 7 Series, but they are undoubtedly being incorporated in 2007 and future models.

What products or innovations have you discovered that make life better, safer, easier for elders and other people too?


The President’s Shameful Health Proposal

category_bug_journal2.gif My overall reaction to the president’s State of the Union message last evening is best left unstated except for one item – health insurance - which was the major domestic proposal in his speech.

Jim Webb, the freshman senator from Virginia who delivered the Democratic rebuttal spoke to the economic injustice of this (and other) Bush initiatives. Noting that corporate profits may be reaching new highs, but that those increases benefit a tiny proportion of Americans, Mr. Webb said:

“It’s almost as if we are living in two different countries. The middle class of this country – our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future – is losing its place at the table.”

This is not news. The rich have been getting richer at a dramatically increased rate and at the expense of the middle and lower classes for six years. But there is a fighting chance with the Democrats in control of Congress that we can at least stem the tide of the economic wasting away of all but the richest segment of Americans.

But first, we must stop the flow of money from the poor to the rich and the president’s health insurance proposal is nothing more than another tax deduction for the rich. Here is a simplified, general idea of how it would work:

  • The cost of employer-provided “basic” health insurance (half of Americans are insured in this manner) would show up on workers’ W-2 statements as taxable income which has never been done before.

  • Such employees would be granted a new standard tax deduction - $7500 for individuals and $15,000 for families. For those whose health insurance coverage costs less than the deductions, their taxes would be lowered.

  • This program would raise taxes, however, for those with what the White House calls “gold-plated” insurance plans (about 30 million people) unless they choose a less costly alternative.
  • Those who purchase their own, individual, health coverage are subject to the same standard deduction or rise in tax as people with employee-funded insurance.

Mr. Bush said this plan also helps the 47 million people (including 11 million children) who currently have no health coverage:

“For the millions of American who have no health insurance at all, this deduction would help put a basic private health insurance plan with their reach,” said Mr. Bush. “Changing the tax code is a vital and necessary step to making health care affordable for more Americans.”

What fantasyland does Mr. Bush live in. This is one of the most embarrassing, Marie Antoinette statements I’ve ever heard come out of a politician’s mouth.

The current average cost of health coverage for a family of four is between $11,000 and $12,000 per year. How does this tax code change help a family with a minimum wage income, or even double minimum wage income? When you are earning $30,000 or $35,000 a year, you cannot afford $11,000 a year for insurance with or without a tax deduction.

Even before Mr. Bush delivered the speech, White House spokespersons acknowledged that this proposal would help only 3 million of the one-sixth of Americans who are currently uninsured and I am skeptical of that number.

The other disturbing aspect of this plan is the taxing of so-called “gold-plated” health plans. It is my experience that such insurance reduces astronomical deductibles and covers health needs such as physical therapy or home nursing, etc. for longer periods of time than “basic” coverage.

That’s not “gold-plated.” That’s what everyone should be covered for. I’ve always wondered what happens to people who, for example, need additional physical therapy to improve, but cannot afford it when their coverage runs out.

The bottom line in president’s proposal is that those who can afford to purchase health coverage get a deduction, and those who cannot afford health coverage remain uninsured.

Recently, Governor Romney of Massachusetts and Governor Schwarzneggar of California have taken steps toward supplying the residents of their states with universal coverage. Although both proposals are patches on a bad system, they are moves in the right direction that should be coming from the federal government, not individual states.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without universal health coverage. Whenever it is brought up, opponents run around like chickens with their heads cut off yelling, “Oh, no, socialized medicine. Oh no. Oh, no. We can’t have socialized medicine.”

Please. We already have socialized medicine. It’s called Medicare. It’s not perfect – no system is - but it works quite well for everyone in the U.S. who is 65 and older, and it works a whole lot better than the private medical system we have for everyone else.

When one-sixth of a nation that is supposedly the richest on earth and likes to think of itself as the most democratic and fair country on earth, cannot afford even a flu shot or a checkup once a year for 47 million citizens, it is shameful. And so is any leader who proposes anything less that full coverage for everyone.


[Elder]Blogging To Give Shape To Our Lives

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been cross-posted from blogher.org.]

Back in the olden days when I was growing up, people wrote letters – thoughts laid down on paper with pen and ink – and mailed them to faraway friends and loved ones. Depending on how far away, letters could take days or sometimes weeks to reach their destination and the arrival of a long-awaited postal message was cause for excitement.

Letters were read and re-read and saved in pretty boxes, sometimes a collection of them tied with ribbon. When I was a child and a young woman, long distance telephone calls were too expensive except for celebrations and emergencies. Instead, we wrote letters, passing on personal news and commenting on whatever might be affecting our lives, our minds, our choices at that moment.

When I was about ten years old – five or six years after my father returned from fighting in World War II – I woke late one night to the low murmur of voices in the living room. I crept quietly to the top of the stairs where I discovered in the living room below my parents sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace. Between them was with a cardboard box filled with letters – V-mail - which I recognized from the war when my father was away for three years.

Mom and Dad were reading letters aloud to one another, talking about what was written, sometimes hugging or kissing. And when they were finished with each letter, they tossed it in the fire.

My great Aunt Edith and I exchanged weekly letters for 25 years. She was my favorite, most trusted older relative and I poured my heart out to her about every good and bad thing that happened to me from age 15.

Visiting her one time when I was about 40, she announced that I was “old enough now for these” as she handed me a box containing every letter I’d written her through all those years – essentially my own biography in my own hand and the most precious gift she ever gave me. (It is so easy to electronically keep everything we write these days that much younger readers may not realize the thrill of such a gift in times prior to personal computers.)

I was reminded of these events while reading Anna Quindlen’s column in Newsweek last week. She was holding forth on the new movie, Freedom Writers and on the lost art of writing:

“…as the letter fell out of favor and education became professionalized, with its goal less the expansion of the mind than the acquisition of a job, writing began to be seen largely as the purview of writers…And in the age of the telephone most communication became evanescent, gone into thin air no matter how important or heartfelt.”

To her credit, Ms. Quindlen recognizes a renewal of writing that has been brought about through technology although she appears to be unaware that it more often takes better form than the “…many [emails] r 2 cursory 4 u” she quotes.

Online writing, and blogging in particular, is so much more than “txt msg” shorthand. In fact, in blogging if you can’t or won’t spell correctly, if your blog is filled with typos, if your thinking (and therefore your writing) is sloppy and unclear, your blog will be ignored – at least, that appears to be so among elderbloggers who grew up in the days of pen-and-ink writing.

Quindlen beautifully captures the essence of letter-writing in the olden days:

“The details of housekeeping and child rearing, the rigors of war and work, advice to friends and family; none was slated for publication. They were communications that gave shape to life by describing it for others.” [emphasis added]

Gave shape to life...

Although nowadays we publish for all the world to read, I’ve come to believe this is what personal or identity bloggers, particularly elderbloggers, are doing – giving shape to our lives.

Carl Jung described one of the seven tasks of aging as the need to review, reflect upon and sum up one’s life. Most elders have a need to tell their story before they die and Jung himself wrote in his Memoirs, Dreams, Reflections, published shortly before his death:

“I try to see the line which leads through my life into the world, and out of the world again.”

Although it is an imperative for elders, making sense of ourselves and giving shape to our lives is what writing has always been about at any age. Blogging gives that need a new dimension through the medium itself and the sharing of our thoughts with so many others than personal letters allow.

In championing personal writing, Ms. Quindlen laments that it is a

“…concept that has been lost in modern life: writing can make pain tolerable, confusion clearer and the self stronger.”

I think bloggers – old and young – intuitively know this, and that we are on the bleeding edge of a renaissance in personal writing. Our blogs (and saved emails too) will become as important to our current and future loved ones as handwritten letters were to people of another era.


Don't Mess With Elders...

This past weekend was one of those days or, rather, two of them: if you had been here, it would have looked like a lot was going on, but nothing was accomplished, least of all a post for Monday morning. Any movement around here was all kerfuffle and no substance.

The one useful thing I did do was appear by telephone on a Sunday afternoon radio program that is broadcast live in Houston and Dallas, Texas. Hosted by my friend Rick Gillis, proprietor of The Really Useful Job Company (book available here) and Pam Kelly, Employment Radio may be the first-ever show covering all you need to know about jobs and searching for them.

Rick and Pam interviewed me about getting old, about this blog, about age discrimination in the workplace and particularly about The Jessie Project, a little experiment I made a few years ago to test whether my difficulty in finding a job was due, in any part, to age discrimination. You can read about it here, or you could listen to a podcast of Rick's radio show except that as of early Monday morning, he hasn't posted it online yet. I'll update with a link when it's available.

Like I said, the weekend was not otherwise productive and I have an early morning appointment today, so I have no real post for you. Instead, here is something I stole from Marian Van Eyk McCain’s The Elderwoman Newsletter, December 2006 edition, because it made me laugh out loud. It’s titled “Senior Breakfast.”

We went to breakfast at a restaurant where the "seniors' special" was two eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast for $1.99.

"Sounds good," my wife said. "But I don't want the eggs."

"Then I'll have to charge you two dollars and forty-nine cents because you're ordering a la carte," the waitress warned her.

"You mean I'd have to pay for not taking the eggs?" my wife asked incredulously.

"Yes!!"

"I'll take the special."

"How do you want your eggs?"

"Raw and in the shell," my wife replied.

She took the two eggs home.

DON'T MESS WITH ELDERS. WE'VE BEEN AROUND A LONG TIME!


Blaming the (Aging) Victim

[EDITOR'S NOTE: A new story, Women Demeaning Old Women, has been published this morning at blogher.]

category_bug_ageism.gif This blog was founded as a place to put a decade’s worth of research I’d been doing (and continue to do) into aging along with what I think about it and maybe even more, to counter the overwhelming focus in most popular media that old age is a period only of debility, disease and decline.

Three years later, even with all the hoo-hah over the oldest baby boomers entering their sixties, there hasn’t been much improvement in the media. In addition, there is a disturbing trend that has been gaining momentum in the past few years: an increasing number of stories in mainstream media, infomercials, blogs and commercial websites - that decline in old age is a fallacy.

It appears to be growing out of the fraudulent, billion-dollar anti-aging movement with their claims that you can remain as you were at 25 or 35 or 40, indefinitely.

These claims always come wrapped in a superior attitude of secret knowledge. “You’re an idiot and I’m not and I will show you the truth and the way.” Decline is a lie, they say, and if you would only buy this $5,000 CD course or attend that weekend seminar at $2500 or take these secret-formula pills that go for $179.95 per bottle, you too can bench press 500 pounds until you’re 150 years old, not to mention cure cancer and remove warts.

I’m always tempted to write these charlatans to suggest they hang on to my email address. I’d like know how they explain themselves when they have a stroke or a foot is amputated due to diabetes or Alzheimer’s starts chewing holes in their brain.

It’s not the snake oil sales pitch that bothers me. There have always been swindlers and there are always enough suckers to keep them in business. But I am concerned by the increasing insistence that decline is not part of aging.

You may think I am contradicting myself about decline. I am not. Decline is inevitable, but it is only one aspect of getting old and I want to see more reporting about what we gain with age without falling into the fantasyland these gurus claim.

What is important to know about decline – less strength, less stamina, less energy and the other changes that slow us down – is that we age at dramatically different rates and it is not a 50-year-old’s fault if he can’t run a marathon anymore while another – sometimes an 80-year-old - can.

We all know the right things to do to keep us as healthy and strong as possible. It’s easy: eat your fruits and veggies, exercise, don’t smoke and keep your mind active. That’s all you need to know; anything more is commentary. All else being equal, how well one person survives compared to another is due to earlier health conditions, genes and dumb luck.

But the decline deniers are infecting the culture with the insidious implication that if you can’t carry the groceries up the hill anymore or need painkillers to control your arthritis or are giving up driving because your peripheral vision is shot, it is your fault.

This is piling insult upon injury. Already the culture believes that if you are older than 40 or 45, you have become too stupid to hold a job. Already the culture believes that if you look old, you have nothing to contribute. And now we are to be convinced that if you walk more slowly than in the past, climb stairs one at a time now and are worn out after a morning at the mall, you are to blame for not having the right mental attitude.

If this attitude is allowed to grow and take hold (it’s in its early stages), so will ageism increase. Those elders who are lucky enough to show little decline will be held up as paragons (it is already happening) who know how to think right, while those who slow down will be ignored and when not, they will become examples of wrong thinking who are to blame for their arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, etc.

It is seductive to think that if you are healthier than Ms. Jones or Mr. Smith who is the same age you are, you must have done something right that they didn't do. If you do believe that, don't break your arm patting yourself on the back because it's not necessarily so. Runner Jim Fixx, an athlete credited with helping to create America's fitness revolution, died at 52 of a heart attack. There are many other examples of seemingly healthy people who did everything right but died young.

If you are old and healthy, count your blessings. But don't go thinking it's your superior mental attitude and don't believe those charlatans who tell you decline is all in your head.


The Unparalleled Experience of Elders

category_bug_ageism.gif To match the extreme weather in other parts of the U.S., the temperature here in Portland, Maine, has recently dropped into the single, minus digits that will continue, according to weather.com, for a week or more.

Jack Frost has been painting windows in the manner of Christmas cards, the sound of plastic scrapers on windshields has become ubiquitous in recent days along with the crunch of booted feet on frozen snow.

It’s nice. I like a real winter. It’s the reason I moved to Maine and not Florida last year. Still, when temperatures drop this far, it is nothing to be (only) sneezed at when the furnace stops pumping out heat – as mine did on New Year’s Day.

The young man from the company that maintains my equipment took all of five minutes to get the heat going again and if I choked on the $90 bill, well – it was a holiday. That’s life.

As I sat here at my computer two mornings ago, once again I felt chillier than I should. Sure enough, a check of the thermostat showed a temperature about six degrees lower than I set it and no heat kicking on.

In a couple of hours, the same repairman as on New Year’s Day – let’s call him Tom – arrived. Tom’s a genial kind of guy who got to work fiddling with my boiler and after about 30 minutes determined that a new part was required; he would return with it in 15 or 20 minutes.

Tom removed the old switch, attached the new one, turned things off and on and generally behaved like a furnace repairman for an hour or so to no avail. No heat was forthcoming.

Soon a much older man, having been summoned by Tom, arrived. Let’s call him Joe. In short order, Joe set to work assessing the problem. The questions he asked Tom revealed Joe’s deep knowledge of the minute intricacies of heating equipment gained during his 35-year career.

In the end, the old switch was found to be in good working order once Tom correctly re-attached the wiring at Joe’s direction. The problem of no heat was found elsewhere on the boiler, eventually discovered through Joe’s patient, practiced eye and persistent poking, tapping and testing.

It was a pleasure watching an old pro jockey into submission a recalcitrant machine while showing a tenderfoot how it’s done when the solution isn’t listed in the manual.

Corporate America that is so enamored with the “creativity” of youth forgets there is no substitute for experience that can be gained in no other way than over many years. It’s not just furnace repairmen or electricians or truck drivers – the trades, as it were. It’s all kinds of work.

Old sales people know psychology as well as credentialed academics. Experienced engineers can keep the rookies from unnecessarily repeating mistakes they learned how to avoid the hard way. And there is a reason young physicians work for years under the tutelage of older doctors.

It would be useful to know if corporate bean counters, whose primary cost-cutting tool is ditching old folks, have ever calculated the value of elder workers’ knowledge or the dollar cost when old workers are replaced with inexperienced youth and there is no one left to show the kids how it’s done.

How lucky I am that young Tom was smart enough to call in an elder expert when he needed help. And how even luckier for me that Joe’s employer understands that the value of a 66-year-old who had triple bypass surgery ten weeks ago is undiminished and unparalleled.


The Brain-Game Hype Takes Off

category_bug_journal2.gif The hype surrounding brain games is already boring and it hasn’t gained anywhere near the screech level it will reach in the coming year.

It started in the U.S. last year with Japanese import, Brain Age, a video game that requires the purchase of a special player to use the word and number exercises, and has expanded to internet subscription sites like happy-neuron.com and mybraintrainer.com. It has invaded assisted living communities, is being offered by health insurers and touted by AARP.

“This is going to be one of the hottest topics in the next five years – it’s going to be huge,” said Nancy Ceridwyn, co-director of special projects for the American Society on Aging. “The challenge we have is it’s going to be a lot like the anti-aging industry; how much science is there behind this?”
- The New York Times, 27 December 2006

So far, not much although all the brain-training program manufacturers like to say that their games are “scientifically” developed, and they claim using their products for weeks or months will, among other things, strengthen memory and concentration. But there is little data to prove that.

“While there is encouraging animal research, experts say human studies have generally relied on observations of people with healthier brains, but have not been tested whether a particular behavior improves brain health. Perhaps people with healthier brains are more likely to do brain-stimulating activities, not the reverse.

“’Right now,’ said Dr. Marilyn Albert, director of cognitive neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University…’we don’t know that if you do certain kinds of puzzles it’s going to have a benefit.’”

- The New York Times, 27 December 2006

What is better known to the scientific community is that cardiovascular exercise helps the brain:

“What’s good for your heart’s probably good for your head,” said Dr. Lynda Anderson, chief of health care and aging studies at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…

“Similarly, Dr. Albert said that heart-healthy foods were probably brain-healthy foods.”

- The New York Times, 27 December 2006

Unlike herbal supplements, some of which are untested and others that are outright fakes, there is certainly no harm in doing a few puzzles and mental exercises. But I'm skeptical. There is a slight whiff of snake oil about the sudden, unquestioning acceptance of brain games by traditional healthcare organizations, particularly insurers, that leaves me wondering how soon we will all be required to prove we’ve successfully passed a test based on them to be eligible for health coverage.

Until researchers can show me otherwise, I suspect that a healthy, active mind requires much more varied and complex use than puzzles and memory games can provide. If you enjoy them, that’s well and good, but they are limited in being only one kind of mental stimulation for a short period of time each day.

Better, I think, is an abiding interest and curiosity in people and the world around you; finding a passion and delving into it; listening - really listening, not just passively hearing – music; blogging, too, which studies show improve both critical and analytical thinking.

A mixture of all that should keep any mind active, but be sure to save some time to take a brisk walk. Your brain needs all the blood it can get.


The Differences Between Being 65 and 81

[A new story, Crabby Old Lady Gets Grumpy, has been posted at blogher.org this morning.]

[EDITOR’S NOTE: It often has been noted here that people age at dramatically different rates. We all get old, but how healthy we are or not at a particular age is different for each of us. An 81-year-old can be and often is as vibrant as a 65-year-old, or two people even at those widely separated ages could be physically limited in a similar way - all depending on individual genes, health and plain, dumb luck.

What is not variable, however, is the experience of years. When we are children, five years is a long, long time. By mid-life, five years between the ages of two people makes little noticeable difference in how they relate to one another. So, superficially, it would seem to follow that after about age 60, ten or 12 or 16 years shouldn’t be much of a separation.

But 16 years is nearly a generation. The childhood and adolescence of one person born in 1925 – the sensibility and zeitgeist of those times that we drag along with us throughout life – is nowhere near the same as another person born in 1941.

Millie Garfield of My Mom’s Blog sometimes makes mention that at age 81, she has done a great deal more living than I have yet at age 65. She’s right, you know, and so I invited her to write a guest blog here about…well, I’ll let Millie tell you.]

Ronni has honored me by asking me to be guest blogger on Time Goes By. The question she posed to me went something like this, "How have you changed, how has your life changed, how has your daily life changed in the past 16 years?"

What huge questions! Ronni picked sixteen years because she just turned 65. The answer, in a nutshell, is that my life is totally different now at 81 than it was back when I was 65. I'm a different person in many ways. Life happens, you need to adjust and to accept those things that you cannot change and go on with your life.

Retirement
Many wives complain about having their husbands under their feet when they stop working. In my case, we had no problem, he did his thing, I did mine and then there were times we did things together, that way we made life interesting for both of us.

Soon after my husband retired we started spending the winter months in Florida.

We took advantage of the many activities that our complex offered. Like my mother taught me, "If you don't go out, nothing will happen." So I went out and things happened.

It was an opportunity for me to meet people who had different backgrounds and different ideas than my own. It wasn't difficult meeting new people to spend time with. It's not hard for me because I listen when most people talk.

I had to learn how to deal with people that were nothing like my good old friends from up north.

What I quickly realized was that you have a history with your old friends that is irreplaceable. There's a comfort level that is built up over years of shared experiences. I've been coming down to Florida for 18 years and have made a lot of friends, but only a handful of them approach the closeness and comfort of those old friendships.

Losses
Ah- losses, those were hard times - I lost my husband when I was 68, he was 74. Five months later his sister died, after that other family members and friends passed away.

It was during those days I realized how strong I had become. My husband had always encouraged me to do things for myself. If it weren't for him I wouldn't be driving today. So many husbands say to their wives, "honey, I'll take you wherever you want to go." They take care of all the financial matters and when "push comes to shove" the wives are helpless. Not so in my case.

Decisions
For some reason I always have trouble spelling the word "decision." I think it's because I have had trouble in the past when it comes to making an important decision but as time goes by it's not as difficult as it once was. Experience is a good teacher.

After my husband died I knew it was time to sell the house. The friends that I had were all married, had lives of their own and I had to make a new life for myself. What to do, where to go? I gave it a great deal of thought, thought about it and thought about it. I almost made a mistake by considering a development where two of my dearest married friends lived. What a mistake that would have been! They were supportive but I needed to be where I could meet other widows and single ladies.

Fortunately for me, in that case, I moved very slowly and finally found a development where I knew a few single ladies. It took me three years to do "the deed" but it paid off because the day I moved in I knew it was the right place for me. The neighbors were welcoming and I fit right it.

Challenges of a New Life
Another big decision I had to make was, "Do I stop going to Florida for the winter." Even though I had been going to Florida for years with my husband, this was different - could I do everything that had to be done to get ready, I would be alone and have to make new friends, it would be a totally new life.

I sat on that for a while and then a light bulb went on, "if I wasn't happy, I could always come back home." At that point I was strong enough to realize that's what I had to do. If I hadn't gone that winter I wouldn't have been going all these years.

How Have I Changed?
Another big question. I'm more confident, assertive and independent. I'm more selective about how I spend my time, I'd rather read a good book or be on the computer than spend it doing something I wouldn't enjoy.

When I was 65 I did not think about age, my health was good, I baked, I cooked and had family and friends over for dinner, Now at 81, no more baking, very little cooking and very little housekeeping, I move a lot slower now but what needs to get done, gets done today, if not there is always tomorrow.

Blogging
At the age of 77 I started blogging. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would enrich my life the way it has. When I was a child I was this shy little girl and look at me now! I've been on TV, been written up in newspapers and made speeches!! This all came about because when I asked my son, "What is Blogging?" I took the challenge and started a whole new chapter in my life.

There's a lot of living to do between 65 and 81, there are bumps and pot holes in the road, but they can be repaired and life can be beautiful!


Tell Me Something I Don’t Already Know

One of the many things that makes blogging and other forms of online personal expression compelling is that they are still developing; we don’t know exactly what they are or how to best use them yet. And just when you think you’ve got it nailed, things change. Again. As they will next week. And next month.

What we do know for sure is that mainstream newspapers are struggling for relevance in a world of instant email news alerts and 24/7 television news channels. I’ve often caught myself skimming The New York Times in the morning muttering, “yeah, yeah, tell me something I don’t already know.”

But the paradox of all this available news is that it is easier to find out about an abducted child or a train wreck 2000 miles away than it is to find out what the local school board is doing.

Bloggers have been taking up the slack in local reporting all over the U.S. and even the world in what Lisa Williams calls placeblogs:

“Placeblogs are about the lived experience of the place, while newspapers are about the tiny slice of that experience that is news. Placeblogs do contain and sometimes even break news, but within a much broader spectrum of lived experience that wouldn't be appropriate in a newspaper. Think: ‘Stymied by Soggy Crust, East Side Man Switches Pizza Alliance.’ Sounds dumb when put in newspaperese, but where-to-eat posts are the bread and butter of a decent placeblog.”

Now Lisa, who placeblogs about her hometown at h2otown, has launched Placeblogger where you can find blogs that report on your town, read the local news and add placeblogs you know of to the database.

Placeblogs are a common-enough phenomenon now that even The New York Times wrote about them on Sunday quoting one of the owners of a New Jersey placeblog, Barista:

“There’s a hunger for people wanting to know what’s going on, and that’s not being met by the local paper,” Ms. George said. “The paper has a site, but it’s not updated as frequently, and it’s not as interactive. We publish stories, and all the readers can comment.”

So what does this have to do with elders? One: it’s a terrific way to keep up with not just your current home town, but the cities and towns you may have left behind but are still curious about - a modern-day Mt. Idey News.

Two: it’s an excellent way to participate in chronicling the events of your place. Besides reporting, elders bring the perspective of time and history to current events, not to mention experience and judgment. This is a way to make a real contribution to your community that can’t be done with traditional newspapers.

Three: if you can’t find a placeblog listed for your town at Lisa’s new site, consider starting one yourself. Tell your neighbors and fellow citizens something they don’t already know about where they live.


You’re Not Getting Older…

category_bug_ageism.gif Politically, I’m not a Hillary Clinton fan and if this were not about age and gender and if my less attractive inclinations were not currently dormant, I’d probably laugh. But neither of those conditions is in play at the moment.

Not long ago, an AOL Journal blogger by the name of Charlie Eklund published this photo of Senator Clinton:

Hillary

Now if I were asked to characterize this photo, I would say that she is a well-put-together, older woman who looks her age sitting, perhaps, in a Senate hearing room listening to a speaker across the room who is compelling enough to distract the senator from her book. She looks serious, engaged and maybe a little dubious about what is being said. I think she’s a fine looking woman caught on film in an unguarded moment doing the work we citizens pay her for.

But no. Ol’ Charlie headlines the story, “You’re not getting older; you’re getting bet-“, and concludes below the photo, “...umm...well...ahem...forget I mentioned it.”

You can bet your booties that if it were the senator’s husband – a man of about the same age and appearance - in a similar photograph, ol’ Charlie would not consider such a comment. He wouldn’t even have noticed the photo.

This is ageism and sexism all at once, but wouldn’t be important on such an obscure little blog except that it is an example of the kind of bigotry that goes on every day, day in and day out, in publications large and small. And no one is ever called to account.

By accepting it without comment, prejudice is reinforced and continues to be acceptable. You might want to surf on over there and let ol' Charlie know what you think. [It appears that you need an AOL user ID and password to do so.]


Elder Websites

[A new story, “You Don’t Look That Old” is Not a Compliment, has been posted at blogher.org this morning.]

Michael Arrington at TechCrunch was complaining on Wednesday that the people who run websites and services for the “older crowd” are too condescending to their audience to succeed, especially the website, Eons:

“Founder Jeff Taylor is too young, at 45, to use his own site. Perhaps being out of touch with his target demographic has been what’s led Eons to mediocrity…”

That’s been my problem with Eons all along together with Arrington’s spot-on complaint about cRANKy, the Eons site search that is now trying to go big-time as a stand-alone search engine on the web:

“The site indexes about 5,000 sites that Compete.com says are popular with people over 45,” writes Arrington, “and focuses on less [sic] results because ‘the Eons Generation doesn’t like to wade through millions of search results.’

“…if less results is [sic] appealing to older people, the same would be the case for everyone. People like relevant results and lots of them. And if your search engine isn’t very deep, it’s a flaw, not a feature.”

True, true and true. When I tested cRANKy, I always wondered what I was not getting in the results.

Arrington headlined his story, “Do Older People Really Need Separate Websites?” After a decade of keeping my eye on what’s available online for elders, I’d have to answer – not if we’re stuck with the ones we have.

Eons is difficult to navigate, has no focus and pretends that being 50-plus is the same as being younger except they use the word “retire” a lot and post hundreds of games. But there is nothing there to engage our minds, nothing that gives us anything to think about.

Veteran elder website, thirdage.com, makes a similar error assuming that elders’ interests haven’t changed, in half a century of life, beyond Seventeen magazine-style headlines: Make Your Dreams Come True; Nine Sexy Ideas; Achieve Your Dreams; Ready to Be Rich?; 20 Ways to Heat Up Your Love Life, etc.

I’m embarrassed every time I stop by thirdage, and neither it nor Eons knows how to speak to elders. Both talk down either directly or in the nature of the content and whether they mean to or not, each makes me feel, in a dozen different ways, that they believe I am mentally challenged. That limited search engine is an example: they think I'm too stupid to sort through all the search returns Google would give me.

Just as there are sites that target mothers, teens, 20-somethings, college students and other age-related groups I think, in answer to Michael Arrington's question, there should be websites for elders too. I doubt, however, that there is a one-size-fits-all approach as Eons and thirdage try to be.

Elders are much more diverse within their cohort than many other groups of people and it could be that elder websites need to aim for niche audiences instead of the entire population. Either way, maybe next time someone who wants to dump several million dollars into building a website for elders will hire old people to develop and run it.

[Hat tip to Rana at Notes From an Eclectic Mind.]


The Futility of Battling Age

category_bug_journal2.gif Back in the 1970s when I was producing morning television programs, I did several shows with dermatologists about skin care, wrinkles and the best methods to maintain healthy skin.

To a man (or woman), they said the same the thing: wash with soap and water; no moisturizer at any price is any better than Vaseline; use a sunscreen every day no matter what the weather. They also said that drinking water is a better way to keep skin moisturized than any cream or lotion, although the latter are useful as a base for cosmetics.

I have used their advice (except for Vaseline, which I find too heavy and shiny) for 30-odd years and you would be hard-pressed to find wrinkles in my face - when I’m not smiling - even now at age 65. However, I ascribe that more to facial chubbiness than to the regimen and, anyway, I have come to like my wrinkles.

Now comes The New York Times with a report [available only to Times Select customers] on a “new” back-to-basics movement among dermatologists:

“They are prescribing simplified skin-care routines requiring at most three steps: soap; sunscreen every day, no matter the weather or season; and, if necessary, a product tailored to specific skin needs, whether a cream for pimples or pigmented spots, or a vitamin-enriched moisturizer for aging skin. Each product, they say, can be bought at drugstores for $30 or less.”

Manhattan dermatologist, Fran E. Cook-Bolden, is even more minimalist, advising only two products:

“…a gentle cleanser and a good sunscreen are enough daily skin care for most people, and you can buy those at a drugstore or grocery store.”

The Times story comes on the heels of a recent Consumer Reports study which

“…found, for example, that a three-step regimen of Olay Regenerist products costing $57 was slightly more effective at reducing the appearance of wrinkles than a $135 tube of StriVectin-SD or a $355 combination of two La Prairie Cellular lotions.”

And

“’People are spending $450 on a jar of cream just because it’s made out of something exotic like salmon eggs or cocoons,’ said Dr. [Mary Ellen] Brademas [a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Medical Center]. ‘But the cheapest products work just as well as the more expensive ones.’”

It’s important to remember that the FDA does not regulate topical cosmetic products, requires no proof of their efficacy or even that their products contain the ingredients that are listed on the label. Consider this from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Nonprescription wrinkle creams contain lower concentrations of active ingredients than do prescription creams. Therefore results, if any, are limited and usually short-lived.
  • Research suggests that certain ingredients may improve wrinkles. However, most anti-wrinkle creams haven't been subjected to the comprehensive, objective research required to prove this benefit.
  • Cost has no relationship to effectiveness. Just because a wrinkle cream is expensive, doesn't mean it's more effective than a cheaper product.
  • You'll likely need to use the wrinkle cream once or twice a day for many weeks before noticing any improvements. And once you discontinue using the product, your skin will likely return to its original appearance.
  • Some products may cause skin irritation, rashes, burning or redness. Be sure to read and follow the product instructions to limit possible side effects.

Everyone wants to look their best and there’s nothing wrong with that. But we’re being hoodwinked by cosmetic companies who have no proof that anything they sell works and they’re making billions of dollars on ineffective products by preying on the near-universal fear of growing old.

But here’s something worth pondering from Morrie [in Tuesdays With Morrie]:

“If you’re always battling against getting older, you’re always going to be unhappy because it will happen anyhow.”

"We Must Believe in Age"

At the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas last February, I shared the stage with Lori Bitter, the guru of the Mature Marketing Group at JWT, on a panel about elders and elderblogging that was sponsored by Blogher.

Later, I wrote a piece for the Mature Marketing Group’s quarterly magazine and as a result, received their 2007 calendar. All that is by way of acknowledging the source for these terrific quotes about growing old – the calendar – some of which I’d never read before, others I had and I want to share a few of both with you today.

We are not limited by our old ages; we are liberated by them.”
     - Stu Mittleman

“Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.”
     - Robert Browning

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”
     - Dorothy Sayers

“Youth is a gift of nature, but age is a work of art.”
     - Garson Kanin

“Women are just beginning at forty. At fifty you hit your power.”
     - Lauren Hutton

“Age should not have its face lifted, but it should rather teach the world to admire wrinkles as the etching of experience and the firm line of character.”
     - Ralph B. Perry

“We turn not older with years, but newer with every day.”
     - Emily Dickinson

“When I was twenty-seven, I felt like a pebble on the beach. Now I feel like the whole beach.”
     - Shirley MacLaine

“Retirement at sixty-five is ridiculous. When I was sixty-five I still had pimples.”
     - George Burns

And my favorite in this group:

“Paradoxical as it may seem, to believe in youth is to look backward; to look forward we must believe in age.”
     - Dorothy Sayers


Ageist Joke or Not?

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Ronni Bennett has published a new story, The Power of the Aging Brain, this morning at blogher.org.]

At the conservative political weekly, Human Events, Crabby Old Lady ran across the oddest piece from, of all people, TV host Pat Sajak. She has re-read it a dozen times trying to figure out if it is tongue in cheek or serious. His overall point – a prediction that ageist language will become taboo within the next few years - is well-taken. But the commentary is what puzzles Crabby. An example:

“…we [baby boomers] are the most self-absorbed generation ever, and we firmly believe the world revolves around us. Hey, didn’t we stop a war, throw out a President and open everyone’s eyes to the wonders of peace and drugs and sexual freedom? [EDITORIAL NOTE: Well, no Pat. It was the generation just before you.] We’ve been running things for decades now, and we’re not about to give up that power. When we expressed our disdain for old folks, we meant the really old folks, not us.” [Crabby doesn’t know if that’s a joke or not.]

He continues, asserting that baby boomers [Sajak is one of the oldest born in 1946] will not need to look or act older:

“We can…use a little cosmetic surgery here or there to make sure we look young and a little Viagra to make sure we act young, and search for wonder drugs that might one day lead to a breakthrough in science that could keep us in charge forever! Wouldn’t that be the coolest?”

Again, Crabby Old Lady can’t tell if Sajak is kidding. He then ends the piece with a warning:

“So let me be the first to alert all you young bucks who think older folks aren’t important: things are about to change. You’re messing with the wrong generation, buddy! It’s us. We’re big in number and you’re not going to treat us as an unimportant demographic. [Did Mr. Sajak just get fired from Wheel of Fortune and Crabby hasn’t heard about it?] As for the P.C. Police, we created them, we know how to use them, and we’ll have them knocking on your doors at the slightest provocation.”

If this essay is meant to be serious – well, Crabby agrees in principle but objects to the details. If it is meant to be funny or satirical, Crabby thinks it is fortunate that Mr. Sajak found a long-term gig as a game show host because if the audience doesn’t know when to laugh, the comic has failed.


Changing the Culture of Age

category_bug_ageism.gif

Abigailtrafford Abigail Trafford is the weekly My Time columnist at the Washington Post and now that Donald M. Murray, who wrote a column for the Boston Globe, has died she is one of only two people at a big-city newspapers writing regularly about getting old.

For the new year, she offered a “big resolution:” to change the culture of aging and she lists ten excellent ways to get started. Here are five of them, but I urge you to read the whole story.

Plan beyond money: Too many people, writes Ms. Trafford, ask themselves only if they have enough money for their old age. She believes the first question should be, What am I going to do in these years? On average, we live 30 years longer than people did a century ago.

Redefine work: Trafford is advocating for flexible work schedules which would also benefit working parents. This has been urged for years and it’s time it became de rigeur in corporate America.

Expose Ageism: “Prejudice against older people is insidious,” writes Trafford, from healthcare to the media to the workplace. We’ll keep pointing it out here at TGB.

Put aging on the political agenda: Social Security and Medicare are important, but we need, too, to change laws and create opportunities “to tap into the potential of an unprecedented cohort of vital older Americans.”

Change the language: As I regularly rag on here at TGB, this is the starting point. When you change the language, you change how people think. “Retire the word ‘retire’”, says Trafford, “which implies withdrawing from life.” Hear, hear.

Ms. Trafford’s piece is true in every word and we need, all of us, to work on this. The entire story is here.