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Facebook/Hatebook Responses

Crabby Old Lady’s post last Friday, Facebook = Elder Hatebook, has drawn quite a reaction here on TGB and around the web. Many are as appalled as Crabby, but a surprising number of people dismiss the Facebook anti-elder postings as “hyperbole”, just kids rebelling, in one case “a tempest in a teapot” and in another that Crabby’s post was “sensationalism.”

In November 2006, comedian Michael Richards, performing at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood, used the N word against some black audience hecklers. Caught on phone video and posted to YouTube, the incident killed Richards’s career. Would someone please tell Crabby Old Lady why the same kind of speech against elders should be overlooked as childish rebellion?

Children, teenagers and young adults are not stupid. Their minds are like sponges absorbing lessons from every corner of their lives. It is our - adults' - responsibility to teach them well, and to allow hate speech aimed at any group without calling them out is is a lesson to them of our acceptance. As any adult knows, it is astonishingly hard in adulthood to unlearn bad habits and attitudes picked up in childhood.

Some who responded have suggested that the tiny percentage of hate messages on Facebook compared to the humongous number of posts from 30 million members make them unimportant. Really? Crabby asks you to consider what you would do if posters were tacked to telephone poles calling for violence against elders (or blacks or women or teenagers or anyone) appeared across town in a neighborhood you don’t visit. Would you, the local government and other residents ignore them? Facebook is not different.

Some believe ageism is not on a par with racism and sexism because young people too will be old one day. Crabby disagrees – adamantly. It is because young people will grow old that we must protest whenever we find ageism and hate speech against elders so that when they reach our age.

As all advertisers know, repetition succeeds. The more an idea is repeated, the more acceptable it becomes. If we don’t combat ageism now, it will still be here when those young people are our age and it is we adults who will have allowed it to continue. Those kids on Facebook (are we certain they are kids?) may be acting like nasty little trolls today, but they can change and a swift kick in their virtual behinds by removing their posts and/or banning them from Facebook for a period of time might be a step toward that change.

Although in primitive societies, elders were valued for their knowledge, experience and institutional memory, ageism is not new. In the early 20th century, it was common enough to produce this cartoon from the Independent on 28 August 1913:

Ageismcartoon

Like ageism, neither racism nor sexism was new in the 1960s when a good deal of progress that continues today was made toward changing those attitudes. Until people believe that ageism is as destructive to individuals and the common good as other prejudices, it will continue to harm not only today’s elders, but future elders too:

“Most older persons report that they have experienced ageism, and although polls do not reveal the frank personal expressions of prejudice by the population at large [such as on Facebook, ed.], ageism remains embedded within the nation’s institutions with de facto discrimination in the workplace, health care, language, appropriate care of older persons in long-term care institutions, abusive language such as ‘crock,’ ‘gaffer,’ ‘old biddy,’ and imagery revealed in ugly, distorted, angry, and negative cartoons and drawings.

“In addition, ageism is apparent in direct personal responses toward older persons – insensitivity and impatience are not uncommon. Especially painful is the extent of various forms of abuse – physical, emotional, financial, even sexual.”

- Ageism in America, 2006

Go read the entire report which was produced by the International Longevity Center, directed by Robert N. Butler, MD of Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York – the man who coined the term ageism in 1968. The report is thorough, reasoned, balanced and for those who like such references, crammed with footnotes of sources.

A number of readers – in comments or on their blogs – say that canceling Facebook membership is not the way to go, that remaining there and fighting the hate speech is more valuable. Crabby doesn’t disagree and considered that herself. But Crabby Old Lady does not find Facebook useful for her in general and there is something to be said, in protesting, for opting out of organizations that condone prejudice. Crabby has no idea which avenue is correct or produces better results so why not try them all.

Ian Bertram of Panchromatica, who is one of Crabby’s longest-standing blog buddies, took Crabby to task for using the age of Facebook’s founder in noting that he is the media’s most recent internet darling. That was a valid journalistic decision which Crabby stands by. And to others who suggest Crabby was attacking all young people in her objection to Facebook anti-elder groups, go back and read the post. Crabby did not do that nor would she ever do so.

Adrian, who commented on ambivablog’s story about Facebook hate groups, did a good deal more research on Facebook than Crabby did, finding a host of other hate groups – against women, men, fat people, babies, whites, blacks, liberals, Republicans, a variety of the world’s gods and – The Beatles.

If Adrian’s long list and that last item appear to make the various groups’ laughable, Crabby Old Lady differs; it is just proof that repetition breeds familiarity which leads to easy acceptance of discrimination. None of it is tolerable.

But Crabby can’t save the entire world and so she will continue to beat her drum about what getting old is really like and, when it hits her radar, ageism.

“It is critical that we begin to transform the culture and experience of aging in America. It is a matter of human and civil rights.”
- Dr. Robert N. Butler, Press Release for Ageism in America, 2006

[There is a new contributor, Grannymar, at The Elder Storytelling Plact today with a story about wearing pants - very fancy pants - long before that was an acceptable Style for women.]


One Kind of Retirement Choice

category_bug_journal2.gif Most people, given a choice, would prefer to remain in their homes until they die. Personally, I dread the day that I might no longer be able to live independently. I like my home, my library, my garden, my “stuff”. No retirement village for me! I’ll live here until I die – quietly in my sleep.

That is, unless I don’t. And none of us can know the future.

A week ago, I had an opportunity to visit Monarch Landing, a retirement community in Naperville, Illinois, that is built and maintained by Erickson Retirement Communities, owned and operated by the man, John Erickson, who owns Retirement Living Television.

The occasion was an in-house fair for residents and any others from the surrounding area who wanted to attend. More than 500 people took part in health screenings, musical performances, Wii games (which are highly popular with residents), face painting and other activities for children, a lot of good food and the opportunity to find out what living at Monarch Landing is all about.

Before that weekend, I had never been to a retirement community, had no idea what to expect and why should I? Retirement places are not a hot topic with the general population of present-day America and no one tells us what it is really like. So I arrived ignorant - and left having learned a lot.

What I found was a vibrant group of about 150 residents ranging from age 62 to 90. The community is new, still being built and will eventually house several hundred residents and include an assisted living area, respite care, Alzheimer’s care and long-term care. The majority get around on their own two feet. A few use canes, walkers or scooters.

From the outside, Monarch Landing looks like any modern apartment complex in a suburban setting – brick facade, attractive landscaping, a glass-walled swimming pool, a putting green, pleasant walkways, an area for individual gardens. In the community building there are two restaurants, a fitness center, computer center, meeting rooms for residents’ activities – gardening and books and current affairs clubs, etc. – a theater, a gift and deli shop, mail room, on-site medical center and such.

As I said, it looks like any well-maintained apartment complex anywhere in America - except it is full of elders. The only kids are visiting grandchildren which is encouraged.

While I was there, I spoke with a lot of the residents all of whom are happy with their choice. One of them gave me a stern wakeup call.

Sharon Morse is 63 years old, a retired special education administrator who moved to Monarch Landing in October 2006, when it opened. She visited many retirement communities before choosing this one and did a prodigious amount of homework. The complexities of the various kinds of elder living are many and government regulations are as complicated as you would expect. Sharon appears to have all that knowledge under control and made her decision accordingly.

Like many other residents I spoke with, Sharon traded her home for Monarch Landing because she doesn’t want to move again in her lifetime and she tired of the maintenance and ongoing upkeep of a house.

But Sharon also gave me three of the most compelling reasons I’ve ever heard to seriously consider a retirement community:

Not Becoming a Burden
In past discussions about late life here at Time Goes By, pretty much everyone who commented expressed their strong desire – even need – to not become a burden to their children. Readers were referring to the possibility of such conditions as Alzheimer’s or becoming permanently disabled in some other way.

But Sharon goes further and earlier with this thought. She does not want to be nagging her children to help with errands and chores that inevitably become difficult or impossible for some elders: mowing the lawn, moving some furniture, changing lightbulbs, picking up a prescription or, when the time comes to give up driving, taking us to the store, and all the other needs that will come up.

As Sharon spoke, I was reminded of the times in my life when someone has said with a sigh, “you know, we must make time to go paint Gran’s living room.” Perhaps we don’t realize how often we call on relatives and friends to help out and that is a kind of burden too.

Making One’s Own Decisions
Sharon, who is a decidedly no-nonsense sort of person, also said she chose a retirement community because she did not want to “let things just happen”. These days, hospital stays are about as short as a trip to the supermarket. They throw you out almost as soon as the anesthesia wears off.

So if you have a stroke or heart attack, for example, or have undergone a hip replacement, you will likely be in no condition to do the research as quickly as you will need it for the right kind of follow-up care in a rehab or nursing facility that suits you. Sharon knows that at Monarch Landing, should the need arise, she can move into the community’s continuing care area of assisted living or full-time nursing, not forced into a care facility she would not choose for herself.

“[Monarch Landing] may look like a hotel,” says Sharon, “but it’s not.”

Building a Community of Friends
If, as in the case of a stroke or heart attack, the need for support turns up suddenly, there will be no friends yet at a community an elder moves into. By planning for the future in this way, Sharon says, she is making new friends with like-minded interests now and knows they will be there for one another with the support, caring and companionship everyone needs.

Would I move into Monarch Landing? No. I’m a city girl and it’s in a suburb an hour from Chicago. Would I live in a place like Monarch Landing if it were in a city? A week ago, I would have said never, unless I am forced. This week, I’m not so sure.

Sharon Morse gave me a dose of reality about getting old and making plans while you’re still capable that I had not taken seriously. Something I have rejected out of hand in the past is now a possibility I will investigate further.

This is not a promotion for Erickson Retirement Communities. For a long time, I’ve been meaning to survey for us the many choices for retirement living there are today. The idea, over time, was to look into retirement communities, nursing homes, assisted living, co-housing, new types of communes and other individual choices for community living. But there are so many variables, so much information, so many differing philosophies that the research never ended.

Visiting Monarch Landing gave me a place, at last, to start. There are thousands of such communities throughout the United States I could have written about, but the Erickson people invited me to visit, so they win.

If you are interested, keep in mind that all communities operate differently. Take a leaf from Sharon’s book and do your homework, visit a variety of communities, read the fine print, talk to residents, investigate the financial structure, compare and then make your decision.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, kenju is back with More Childhood Memories about a chicken coop, snakes, paper dolls, scraped knees, ghost stories, picnics and more.]


Facebook = Elder Hatebook

A few weeks ago, Crabby Old Lady received an email from Facebook advising her that a blogger she knows wished to “friend” her. Crabby had never looked at the Facebook website but figured “what the hell” and accepted.

Since then, invitations tumble into Crabby's inbox at the rate of two or three a week. She has accepted all but those from a few people she never heard of and she briefly dickered around with her page that was created when she accepted the first friend.

Mostly, they want to know things like the name of Crabby's college and her major which hold no interest for her at age 66. There are networks and groups to join, requests to write on friends' "walls", products to buy, charities to contribute to and - well, Crabby got bored trying to figure out the purpose.

There is no real conversation that Crabby can find as takes place on our blogs and anyway, this blog and Crabby's life take up most of her time and there doesn’t appear to be much going on at Facebook except people collecting friends.

Then, earlier this week, Nicole Freydberg, who blogs at Freydblog, emailed Crabby regarding hate groups aimed at elders on Facebook. When she investigated, Crabby found dozens of them. Here are some examples of Facebook hate speech (with poor grammar, spelling and four-letter words intact):

Who is with me on this, who thinks old people in school should be taken into the quad and be tarred and feathered for their annoyance , stupidity, and outright wasting of time.
Children and old people should probably go to hell. Children are bastards. Old people are surly and they smell weird. Fuck that!
Too long have irate old farts been a hazard too society. They can’t hear, they can’t change their own diapers, and they sure as hell can’t drive!
F*CK** OLD PEOPLE
OLD PEOPLE SUCK AND THEY R GONNA DIE SOON ANYWAY!!!
Ugh yeah old people are so gross. Theyre all wrinkly and smelly. Just thinking about them makes me angry!
sometimes i see old people in wheelchairs and i have a strong urge to push them down the stairs.
Old People Make Me Want To Puke
Old people drive like they fuck: slow and sloppy
I like to beat the living crap out of old people
Let us unite and join for a common cause, abolish social security and legalize euthanasia.

[You can find a long, long list of these Facebook hate groups in a post at Nicole’s site.]

The above statements are maybe five percent of what Crabby Old Lady found in under 30 minutes. Just kids, you say? Not important? No one suddenly becomes a bigot at age 50; it is inculcated from youth. These are the people who will one day run companies, governments and vote, and they will carry these prejudices with them as they grow up, move into adult world and make decisions about old people.

To make clear how disgusting this hate speech is, Crabby applied The TGB Bias Test to some of the above excerpts wherein the words “women” or “blacks” are substituted for “old people”:

  1. Old People Make Me Want To Puke
  2. Black people make me want to puke
  1. old people in school should be taken into the quad and be tarred and feathered
  2. women in school should be taken into the quad and be tarred and feathered
  1. I like to beat the living crap out of old people
  2. I like to beat the living crap out of black people
  1. Ugh yeah old people are so gross
  2. Ugh yeah black people are so gross

Would all those No. 2 statements be tolerated on Facebook? To check, Crabby searched for them as she had with “old people”, “senior citizens”, etc. and found none. Since she doubts race and gender bias are nonexistent among 30 million members, Crabby can only believe Facebook owners remove those offensive postings. But as within most of our society, hate speech against elders is acceptable at Facebook.

Although it is frightening to know that so many kids are growing up with hateful attitudes toward old people, Crabby Old Lady faults the investors and owners of Facebook for allowing these offensive groups to continue and increase in number. The company's terms of service contain this warning:

You may not post or share Content that:
  • is obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit
  • depicts graphic or gratuitous violence
  • makes threats of any kind or that intimidates, harasses, or bullies anyone
  • is derogatory, demeaning, malicious, defamatory, abusive, offensive or hateful

But who enforces this policy? Not Facebook, at least not when abusive language targets elders. There is no contact email except for the media. Each entry within each group contains a “report” button that launches a form where objectionable material can be submitted for review. But there are thousands of hateful comments like those Crabby quoted above and it should not be users’ responsibility to report each and every one.

By allowing these groups to exist, Facebook has become Hatebook.

Meanwhile, big media is fawning all over their latest internet darling, 23-year-old Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, as in this Time magazine interview last week. Apparently, the reporter cares more about big numbers, IPOs and stock options than Facebook's ageist content.

Crabby Old Lady is ashamed and embarrassed to have allowed herself to be part of this website. She has sent her objections to the press email address and deactivated her Facebook account. (Full removal is not allowed.) It would be good if other elder Facebook members would write on their own blogs about the site's tolerance of ageist bigotry and join Crabby in canceling accounts and writing to Facebook.

Nothing like this ever changes unless you make a lot of noise about it.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Matty has an - uh, unique deterrent for a nursing home Lothario in I Think I'm Going to Hell.]


(Elder)Blogging To Give Shape To Our Lives

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This piece was originally published in somewhat different form at blogher.org in January 2007.]

Back in the olden days when I was growing up, people wrote letters – thoughts put 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 reply was cause for excitement.

Letters were read and re-read and saved in pretty boxes, sometimes a collection of them tied together with ribbon. When I was a child and a young woman, long distance telephone calls were too expensive except for major 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 soldiering 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. I’m so sorry now they didn’t save them.

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

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 with 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.

I was reminded of all this while reading Anna Quindlen’s January 2007 column in Newsweek. She was holding forth on the then-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 revival of writing that has been brought about through technology although she appears to be unaware that the writing revival more often takes better form than the “…many [emails] r 2 cursory 4 u” she references.

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 those 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. And blog technology has supplied the added dimension of commentary, discussion and others’ insights that one-to-one letters could never give us.

Ms. Quindlen, in her paean to the benefits of personal writing, laments 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 our blogs are on the bleeding edge of a renaissance in personal writing. Our blogs (and saved emails) will become as important to our loved ones as be-ribboned letters were in the past.

[Today at The Elder Storytelling Place, Kent McKamy gives us funny tale of a woman who really, really, really doesn't like big cities in Don't Fence Me In.]


The International Elders

There was a flurry of big-media attention last week to the announcement of a new, international team of senior statesmen called The Elders. They are:

The announcement of this free-lance group of international troubleshooters was made by Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 89th birthday on 18 July:

“...Mr Mandela explained that The Elders would be able to dedicate their experience and moral courage to help solve some of the problems the world was facing.

"’The Elders can become a fiercely independent and robust group that tackles these issues,’ [said Mandela.]"

- Bua News, 19 July 2007

The Elders is the brainchild of British businessman Richard Branson and British musican/activist Peter Gabriel the latter of whom said,

“In traditional societies, the elders always had a role in conflict resolution, long-term thinking and applying wisdom wherever it was needed. We are moving to this global village and yet we don't have our global elders. The Elders can be a group who have the trust of the world, who can speak freely, be fiercely independent, and respond fast and flexibly in conflict situations.”
- Awdal News Network, 18 July 2007

The Elders have not yet selected their first task, but examples of where The Elders might exert their influence are hostage situations in Nigeria or problems like “waste and lack of coordination among aid organizations providing healthcare to developing nations,” said Jimmy Carter.

“The Elders won’t get involved in delivering bed nets for malaria prevention,” Carter continued. “The issue is to fill vacuums, to address major issues that aren’t being adequately addressed.”
- Chicago Tribune, 18 July 2007

There has been some public quibbling about politics of these men and women. And it remains to be seen how The Elders’ influence will function, and if the leaders of the world will accept and pay heed to them. Those leaders would do well to note what Dr. William H. Thomas has written in his book, What Are Old People For?:

“Longevity loosens the grip of the ego but also grants elders a new perspective on self and society. Together these trends prepare elders for the singular role of peacemaker…

“Adults can accept elders as peacemakers because age ensures that elders will not use their new role to gain unfair advantage – elders simply cannot overpower the adults around them…

“…there are other more essential functions – making peace, giving wisdom, creating a legacy – that only elders can fulfill.”

Let us hope that The Elders does not become good idea that fades away without the opportunity to make a difference. Our world desperately needs some wisdom to be applied.

[Today at The Elder Storytelling Place, Kay Dennison recalls a favorite grandparent in Grandpa's Girl: A Memory.]


When an Elder Must Stop Driving

category_bug_journal2.gif Several times in the past we have discussed age and driving and the day that comes to many when we must stop driving for our own and everyone else’s safety. Sometimes it is a parent we care for whose keys must be confiscated and last week Candace Craw-Goldman, who blogs at In Repose, emailed about her mother who is 80 and lives with Candace:

“Physically she is pretty weak, has a frozen shoulder, spinal stenosis, a bulging disk, does not have full use of her arms and walks with a cane. She is forgetful at times and gets very anxious and takes anti-anxiety medication. She…has congestive heart failure, is pacemaker dependent and has some other medical problems.”

Candace was reluctant when for weeks her mother pestered her about being allowed to drive to the grocery or Wal*Mart, but finally relented if her mother followed Candace and Candace’s daughter as they drove:

“In just the four miles from our home to the first stoplight we watched her in our mirrors and counted 20 times that mom left her lane. The road is hilly…and curvy. 17 times her tires crossed over to the left, 3 times to the right. I thought very hard about pulling over but there were no other cars on the road at that time and pulling over would have been an additional safety hazard of its own. We got her safely to the Walmart parking lot…”

Needless to say, Candace’s mother is now grounded – no more driving. But she is petulant about it, believes Candace invented the number of lane-crossings and feels defeated, causing a lot of family friction.

Candace works in the time to drive her mother, but she’s busy and cannot always do it when her mother wants. There is a local taxi service, but her mother has never taken a taxi and is frightened of new things.

It must be awful to be forced to give up an important privilege that at the early end of life marks our passage into adulthood and responsibility. By the time one can no longer safely drive, we’ve had decades of practice at being an adult and when the keys are taken away, it is like being made a child again, deprived by others and now dependent on them.

It is not just elders who have trouble learning new things. All my life, when confronted with a new situation, I’ve wanted to know as much as possible about how it is done before I do it. Look at all there is to learn if you’ve never taken a taxi:

  1. How do you order the taxi on the telephone? Can you book a time or even days in advance?
  2. Can you talk to the driver while riding?
  3. How do you pay? (When, after my first taxi ride in London, I tried to pay from the back seat as in New York, the driver insisted I get out first and pay him through the window.)
  4. How much do you tip?
  5. Will the taxi wait at the supermarket or Wal*Mart or must you call from the market when you are done?
  6. If so, is using a cell phone another learning curve?
  7. Can the driver be asked to help get packages into the car?
  8. Will the taxi driver help get packages into the house?

For a big-city person, taxis are second nature but for others, when you break down the steps, there is a lot to learn if you’ve never taken a taxi, are shy of new things and don’t want to feel like an idiot for not knowing the drill.

Giving up driving may be as big a rite of passage as getting a drivers license in the first place, a 50th birthday, marriage, etc. - a giant transition into a new way of living. It is hard to admit to oneself that you are no longer competent to drive - and it will never change. You are not going to “get well”. In addition to whatever health conditions an elder lives with, turning in our keys is one more intimation of mortality.

Some elders make these transitions with little fuss; others do not. I’m not a psychologist and don’t know how best to deal with the intransigence someone like Candace’s mother expresses about giving up this kind of independence. But it’s not hard to understand that it is a painful crossing of a great divide.

When we must be the bad guy our job, I think, is to figure out what we can do to ease them through the change in their lives. And maybe in doing so it is also practice for the day when we too must make a similar transition.

[In an era when everyone dances without a partner, is there still such a thing as a wallflower? Today at The Elder Storytelling Place, Ronni Prior recalls what it was like to be one in Teenage Wasteland.]


The Gift of Age

My friend John Brandt (no blog, no link) sent this to me a couple of months ago and since then, it has arrived from about ten other TGB readers. It has undoubtedly been around the internet and email for a long time and many of you may have read it. But I rant a lot here about the culture of ageism and age discrimination and it’s good to have an antidote now and again. Thank you, John and everyone else.

The other day a young person asked me how I felt about being old. I was taken aback, for I do not think of myself as old. Upon seeing my reaction, she was immediately embarrassed, but I explained that it was an interesting question and I would ponder it and let her know.

Old Age, I decided, is a gift.

I am now, probably for the first time in my life, the person I have always wanted to be. Oh, not my body. I sometime despair over my body: the wrinkles, the baggy eyes, and the sagging butt. And often I am taken aback by that old person that lives in my mirror (who looks like my mother or father), but I don't agonize over those things for long.

I would never trade my amazing friends, my wonderful life, my loving family for less gray hair or a flatter belly. As I've aged, I've become more kind to myself, and less critical of myself. I've become my own friend. I don't chide myself for eating that extra cookie, or for not making my bed, or for buying that silly cement gecko that I didn't need but looks so avante garde on my patio. I am entitled to a treat, to be messy, to be extravagant. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4AM and sleep until noon?

I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50's & 60's, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love - I will.

I will walk the beach in a swim suit that is stretched over a bulging body, and will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set.

They, too, will get old.

I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.

Sure, over the years my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when a beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength and understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile and will never know the joy of being imperfect.

I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn gray, and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.

As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore. I've even earned the right to be wrong.

So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day.

- Author Unknown

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, kenju adds to her growing list of childhood reminiscences on this blog with Food Memories.]


Our Country is in Deep Trouble

category_bug_politics.gif [EDITORIAL NOTE: Somewhere in the past week, I read a survey reporting that young people – teens and twenties – follow the news hardly at all. In another poll, only 40 percent of respondents of all ages knew who I. Lewis Libby is. (Sorry, I’ve lost those links.) That leaves concern and activism up to older folks.

Daily, I become more alarmed at the direction the leaders of the United States – all of them - are taking our country. In addition to the many assaults on our Constitution and liberties by this administration, last week President Bush's disdain for all but the richest citizens of the U.S. reached new heights of Marie Antoinette-ism when, in a speech in Cleveland, he declared his opposition to expansion of a public health coverage program for uninsured children:

“The immediate goal is to make sure there are more people on private insurance plans," said the president. "I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.

So, today, I’m doing something that has not been done in the history of Time Goes By: I am reposting below a story in its entirety.

The piece is written by Jack Lessenberry, a Michigan journalist for many years, and he writes with succinctness and clarity what I have been trying to achieve for several weeks on the same topic for this blog without success.

Big time media, newspapers and television, are too timid, perhaps too beholden to corporate America, to tell it like it really is. Jack Lessenberry does. The rest of us must pay attention and we must contact our representatives, the White House, local and national candidates for office – repeatedly – and let them know we will not stand for their craven, corrupt behavior any longer.

Mr. Lessenberry’s piece, “Bush vs. America”, was first published in The Metro Times of Detroit on 11 July 2007. It was reprinted at commondreams.org on the same date.]

George W. Bush is more and more frequently referred to as "the worst president in the history of America" by those who know the background and pay attention to what's going on. However, that description may be too mild.

We may need an entirely new classification. For more than five years we've had an administration that has shown consistent contempt for the rule of law, for the Constitution, for Congress, for the American people and for the facts. They're squandering trillions of dollars, the effects of which will be felt much more severely in the decades to come.

They have failed to catch the mastermind of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and instead have helped increase that nasty band of thugs with our ham-handed tactics. We have ruined Iraq, doing far more damage to it than Saddam Hussein ever dreamed of. Hundreds of thousands are dead.

All for a war which we are doomed to lose, in a country we'll leave once somebody in Washington calculates that the voters won't put up with any more dead Americans, a number which will reach 4,000 in three months or so.

So far, the corpse count hasn't excited many Georgetown or Ann Arbor cocktail parties, because in this war, those fighting are mostly inner-city blacks, jobless rural whites and Hispanics who are trying to earn their way to citizenship.

Eventually, however, even the liberals may start to get uneasy. Last week, in what should have been a sudden epiphany for the half-asleep, this administration gave us a sharp lesson in just how thoroughly corrupt it is.

That was when Our Supreme Leader announced he was commuting the sentence of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was sentenced to 30 months in the slam after being convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. Libby, you may remember, was the former chief of staff for Vice President Richard Cheney.

Libby leaked to the press, presumably at his master's direction, that the blond bombshell Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent. This was printed, which destroyed her effectiveness and career, as they intended it would. Why did the Bush administration want to do that?

Simple. Her husband, a former ambassador named Joseph Wilson, had angered the Bushies by telling the truth publicly, which was that his investigation revealed that Saddam Hussein had never tried to buy uranium from Niger.

Libby was tried, convicted and duly sentenced by an experienced and fair federal judge. Previously, the Shrub had said he would do nothing till the appeals process had run its course. Something, however, happened to change his mind.

After five years of trying to govern by propaganda, George Bush suddenly decided that a strong dose of George Orwell's doublespeak is exactly what was needed instead. "I respect the jury's verdict," he said, and in his next breath showed he didn't respect the jury, or the judge, in the slightest, by adding, "I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive."

Never mind that our intellectually challenged and allegedly dyslexic prexy never set foot in law school, or that the Constitution gives the responsibility for determining sentences and punishment to the courts. That doesn't matter because, as he sees it and likes to say, "I am the decider."

But why now? The normally cautious New York Times openly speculated Bush could be worried about what Libby might say once he realized he was at the tender mercies of the guards and his fellow convicts.

For a little perspective, let's compare this with what actually happened in Watergate, the only scandal that ever actually brought a president down.

What few remember now is that Watergate actually was sort of a comic-opera bugging episode in which a band of Cuban exiles, under the supervision of whacked-out former spy Howard Hunt, tried to bug the Democratic National Committee offices one night in June 1972. This was immensely stupid, since it was perfectly clear the Democratic nominee, George McGovern, was going to lose by a landslide.

They were caught in the act; Hunt was stupid enough to have the White House's phone number in his pocket. Eventually, Nixon ordered an illegal and clumsy attempt at covering the mess up — and taped himself doing it. Yes, he did other bad stuff, but what I just told you was the essence of why he had to resign. That, and the fact the tape showed he was a real potty-mouth. In that long-ago time, Americans never imagined Their President could possibly be a man who would say "cocksucker."

George W. Bush is a man who has constructed secret prisons and authorized torture — not only here but in other countries. He started a war and lied about why. He has invaded our privacy illegally, authorizing wiretaps in a way forbidden by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. When all that was needed was to ask a secret court for rubber-stamp permission, he didn't even do that.

What America — what all of us — needs to ask now is this:

  • Why isn't Congress — right now — authorizing committees to investigate what this president and vice president knew and when they knew it? (House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers: Your move, sir.)
  • Why aren't journalists in America demanding an investigation to what seems to be an organized cover-up and obstruction of justice?
  • Why doesn't someone — Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, say — demand the White House explain its strategy for the Iraq War?

That strategy seems to consist of having our soldiers drive up and down the roads, getting blown up, until one day the insurgents adopt democracy.

We have a world crisis and a sick democracy at home, and our puppet masters are cleverly amusing us to death with Paris Hilton.

You really might want to do something - while you still can.

[On a lighter note, today at The Elder Storytelling Place, Susan Fisher tells a marvelously funny story about an experience most of us lived through when we were about 15 in Driving Lesson.]


Wednesday Mornings Without Fail

category_bug_journal2.gif We have spoken here in the past of small pleasures. Some, like a hot shower first thing in the morning, can be indulged in regularly, indefinitely and almost anywhere. Others, alas, must change with life circumstances and it is up to us, when that happens, to find replacements that don't only fill a void, but supply a different though equal satisfaction.

Now that I am a year settled in to my new digs in a new town, I have come to realize how desperately I relied upon and miss New York corner delis. Nearly every block has one and so packed are they with the needs and minutiae of daily life that I long ago became convinced that, if necessary, one could live without ever requiring another source of goods. In addition, the corner deli is the neighborhood town square where micro-local gossip and information are exchanged, and the guys behind the counter will spot you a $10 or $20 when you're short.

There are no corner delis in Portland, Maine.

But there is a new pleasure here which, while not a substitute, I have come to appreciate as much as visits to my New York deli. Rain or shine, every Wednesday from April through October or so, you will find me at the farmer’s market at Monument Square in the middle of Portland's downtown.

I go early, 7:30 or 8AM, because I like to be out and about in the morning air and it is a good idea to get to the stalls before the best stuff is gone. In addition to the fact that the fruits and vegetables are no more than one day from the vine so you know dinner will be a feast of freshness, market day is also a feast for the eyes and soul.

There are plants and flowers at the market too and I particularly liked the layout of these at the far north end of the square:

Sunflowers

It was raining a week ago Wednesday, one of those light, cool mists that makes everything – food, buildings, sidewalks – look all clean and shiny and new. The first growth of local strawberries was at its peak and you should have been at my house that evening for berries and cream. Wimbledon has nothing on the Bennett household in that regard.

Strawberries

No matter where you turn at the Wednesday market, there are views like this one that make me want to take home everything in sight:

Marketwideshot

Meanwhile, back at Chez Bennett there is another new pleasure - my small deck garden. The sweet peas - new this year - are just beginning to bloom, the dahlias are growing strong and bright along with about five colors of geranium. I am pleased with a night-blooming phlox I bought at the farmer's market whose tiny flowers, closed up tight during the day, open at dusk wafting out a powerful and exotic fragrance I've never known before.

Deck

There a few herbs too: basil for pesto, rosemary for lamb, cilantro for Asian dishes. But you can't see all that in the above photo. I will save them and the miniature Japanese willow for another day along with close-ups of some of the exotic vegetable varieties at the Wednesday market.

[Today at The Elder Storytelling Place Marti tells us about teacher's kindness, even after a classroom transgression, in a story titled Chatterbox.]


Best Media Effort To Combat Ageism Award

A lot of effort is expended at Time Goes By bashing media – news and entertainment - for their ageism, and well it should. Kneejerk prejudice against elders is so common, entrenched and often subtle that hardly anyone notices it.

Every now and then, however, someone gets it right and it is exhilarating when it happens.

On Monday night’s episode of The Closer titled “The Round File,” the story concerned a retired police reporter, Mr. Baxter, who confesses to the poisoning murders of seven residents in the nursing home where he lives.

Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson, played by Kyra Sedgwick, is ready to book him when he recants, explaining that the confession was a ruse to get the police department to pay attention to the murders which he had reported in the past and been ignored.

Although the homicide squad doubts there is a previous complaint from Baxter and is suspicious of his recantation, that changes when a file of his past report turns up. As Commander Taylor, played by Robert Gossett, hands over the complaint file to Chief Johnson, the following exchange takes place:

TAYLOR: [The officer who took Baxter’s complaint] Gordon found Baxter uncooperative. In fact, the old guy was more interested in asking questions than answering them. So Detective Gordon dumped his complaint in the round file. You know, Chief, we get this kind of stuff all the time. It’s hard enough staying on top of the crimes we find much less the ones people make up.

JOHNSON: (perusing file) I know exactly what happened. Mr. Baxter is old and difficult and because of that he was just dismissed out of hand. [I know] that’s what happened because that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do to him myself.

Chief Johnson - who could have been speaking for every bureaucrat, healthcare worker, comedian, reporter and thousands of other television shows who regularly condescend to elders - makes an attitude adjustment and with the help of Mr. Baxter's clues, solves the crime.

…And so, for proving that important cultural lessons can be taught without sacrificing a good story, the winner of Time Goes By's award for Best Media Effort to Combat Ageism goes to executive producers Greer Shephard, who also directed, and Michael M. Rubin, and to writer, Michael Alaimo. My only complaint is that there aren’t any other shows for The Closer to compete against for this award.

You can see a short highlight video of the episode here, and you may be able to view the entire show (No. 305) online soon; TNT appears to be posting them a couple of weeks after the original air date.

While I’m passing out kudos, the character of aging detective Lt. Provenza, played by G.W. Bailey, is the best grouchy old guy I’ve seen on television in a long time. Provenza has been there, done that, seen it all and the ongoing portrayal of younger boss/older employee is an example to all the so-called employment experts who think such a relationship is problematic.

Because it is important in fighting ageism to give credit where it is due – particularly in big-time media where it can do the most good - you could drop TNT a line or two, as I have done, letting them know you appreciate this show: tnt AT turner DOT com

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Betsy Devine tells a childhood story of a scary neighbor and A Mother's Loving Lie.]


Identity Theft and You

Recently, I received a form letter from the third-party company that sends paper checks to my monthly creditors who do not accept electronic transfers from my bank. It was alarming to learn that my personal details - name, address, birthdate, bank transactions, Social Security number and few other items of identity - had been taken, along with those of 100,000 other people's by an employee of the company.

The letter said there was no indication that any fraud had been perpetrated in my name (yet), listed the actions I could take to safeguard my identity and blah, blah, blah.

When, 12 years ago, I first took on the additional task of privacy officer at the website where I worked, identity theft was in its infancy. Hardly anyone had heard of it and fewer took it seriously.

No sooner had I educated myself about the ease with which one’s identity can be stolen than I was asked for my Social Security number while purchasing a sweater by telephone. When I refused, the customer service representative told me it was required to track the sale. I did not buy the sweater.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, ID theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S., and in some other countries too. During just the first six months of 2007, in the United States alone, the Center has tracked 187 corporate security breaches [pdf] involving the exposure of 64,940,727 records of personal information.

The types of organizations from which this information was exposed or stolen will surprise you. Universities are at the top of list along with medical organizations. Others include JP Morgan Chase, IHOP, AOL, IBM, Turbo Tax, Radio Shack, Xerox and a number of federal and local government agencies including FEMA.

Although other identifying numbers – credit or debit card numbers, drivers licenses, etc. - can lead thieves to steal your identity, Social Security numbers are the prize with which thieves can loot bank accounts, take out loans in your name, open credit card accounts, access your tax records, and use your identity when arrested by the police.

This makes elders particularly vulnerable because we use our SS numbers more frequently than many younger people for transactions regarding Social Security benefits and Medicare which uses that number to identify us.

Remember that only certain government agencies, employers and organizations that are required to report financial transactions to the government, can legitimately require your Social Security number, so don't give it out to anyone else. Retailers, such as the company from which I tried to buy a sweater, cannot and should not ask for that number. I have stopped using one credit card because the issuing bank requires my Social Security number for identification with them.

Identity theft is a federal crime. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 2003 (ITADA) amended the U.S. Code, s. 1028 criminalizes the unlawful possession, transfer and use of identification documents without lawful authority.

Which is not much help because it is difficult to find perpetrators of identity theft and identity fraud and worse, it is a nightmare of phone calls and paperwork over many months to restore your credit when your identity has been stolen. Here is a reporter’s personal story from 2004 that gives a general idea but was not nearly as devastating as it can be.

The best deterrent is vigilance:

  • Never carry your Social Security card with you
  • Use complex passwords online and don’t give them to anyone
  • Do not store personal or financial information on your computer
  • Shred financial documents before throwing them away
  • Be alert for phishing scams
  • Get your credit reports from all three agencies – Equifax, Experian, TransUnion. You are entitled to one free report from each of them annually.

Although none of us can do anything about slipshod security practices by companies we do business with, the above measures will help, and here is a list of resources with further information:

Social Security Administration/ID Theft
Federal Trade Commission/ID Theft
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Identity Theft Resource Center

As to the third-party company who informed me of their security breach and my stolen personal information, they offered no help that would involve them. It is up to me to contact my bank, watch my bank statements and credit reports at the three reporting agencies and be on constant lookout for theft.

This is not good enough. Corporations that are lax in protecting our information should be required to monitor the accounts of the people whose information has been taken and will be sold to criminals perhaps many times over.

That's not going to happen any time soon and whether it is up-front vigilance every day or follow-up when information has been stolen, it is up to each of us individually to do the work. Repairing one's credit when identity has been stolen is a nightmare of mounds of paperwork and telephone calls and it can take years to restore one's identity.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joy Des Jardins tell about a couple of kid-icky food experiences from her childhood in Cinderella and the Bomb.]


Artifacts of a Mid-20th Century Childhood

category_bug_journal2.gif Last Friday, at the suggestion of Betsy Devine, who blogs at Betsy Devine: Now With Even More Funny Ha-Ha and Peculiar and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we met up at a fascinating museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire named Strawbery Banke. Yes, that spelling is correct.

The museum is a collection of preserved and restored homes built in the 18th and 19th centuries which was an ongoing community until 1960 or so, saved from urban renewal demolition then through the efforts of a local librarian.

The museum is so large – a small town in itself – that I will need to return one day soon for a good look at the oldest homes because on this visit I was magically whisked back in time to my 1940s and ‘50s childhood. The period was irresistible, at once both familiar and old-fashioned. Who knew one could live long enough that artifacts from one’s earliest years would become items of historical interest?

The Marden-Abbott Store looked like every corner market I remember when I was a kid and some things haven’t changed much in more than half a century:

Campbellsoup

But whatever happened to these brands of soap? Rinso. Oxydol. Fels-Naptha. “Duz does it”, as the radio jingle went:

Soaps

I’ve been eating Cheerios since before I can remember, but didn’t know the cereal wasn’t always named that:

Cheerioats

Even after World War II, women dressed up to go shopping. My mother always wore a hat when we went to the store.

Inflation

Here’s Betsy at the candy counter:

Betsydevine

Betsy and I spent a lot of time in a nearby small garage with a good collection of government-issue, World War II posters urging people on the home front to do their part for the war effort. I clearly remember my mother saving fat, tin and paper even for several years after the war ended:

Savefat

Savingtin

Savepaper

One can’t help wondering how the current Iraq War might have been different if the people of the U.S. had been asked to participate in important ways as they were during World War II.

Many food items were rationed during World War II: meat, coffee, butter, sugar, tobacco, gasoline. (Sorry about the glass reflection.)

Rationing

Every American regardless of age was given full rations each month so my mother, since I was born in 1941, had what amounted to a double ration allotment and used the extra at holidays to entertain friends.

The museum keeps period gardens from several eras going back 300 years including this World War II Victory Garden. [Photo courtesy Betsy Devine.]

Ronniatvictorygarden

So you don’t think I entirely ignored the oldest and largest parts of the museum, here is a shot of the parlor in the Aldrich House, built in 1797 and refurnished as it was in 1908.

Aldrichhouseparlor

Several times during our tour, Betsy and I ran into what is, apparently, the Strawbery Banke resident cat.

Blackcat

The last time we spied him, toward the end our tour, the cat was racing away from a museum worker carrying a baby bunny in his mouth.

[At The Elder Storytelling place today, kenju recalls her childhood from the 1950s in Old Friends, Camp and Kisses.]


A New Golden Age of Television

[EDITORIAL NOTE: The university study cited in yesterday's story on humor and elders caught a lot of people's attention including David Wolfe's at Ageless Marketing. He published a much more informative piece on age and humor than mine. Definitely worth reading.]

Many people who read this blog are old enough to remember what is known as The Golden Age of Television, that period from about 1949 to 1960 when, in particular, the quality of serious drama – live and later, filmed - was superb.

Such luminaries as Rod Serling, Paddy Chayefsky, Reginald Rose and even Gore Vidal were writing for such programs as Playhouse 90, Studio One, The Philco Television Playhouse, Kraft Television Theater and, a bit later, the original Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The scripts were rich and complex, as good as the best theatrical films had to offer, and some stories were so compelling they still stand out in our memories.

Then television took a dive becoming what Newton Minnow referred to as “a vast wasteland.” That is not to say that there were not good dramas and sitcoms here and there, but the quality definitely declined from television’s earliest years. Ever since then it has been de rigeur for anyone with pretensions to intellectualism to decry the quality of prime time TV.

I beg to differ. These days, our quality drama cup runneth over, most within the context of ongoing series rather than stand-alone, one-hour features of the past, but they are no less excellent.

An early leader in the renaissance is Law and Order which for nearly 20 years has served up its combination of police and courtroom procedurals that take on serious social issues ripped (as they say) straight from the headlines, and they do it without bogus easy answers at the end leaving a viewer with something to think about. The other two flavors of L&O are not shabby either.

Although the Miami and New York versions lack the pizzazz of the Las Vegas setting CSI does so well with its flashy, neon nightlife sensibility, the stories of the Vegas original and the acting are well worth viewing.

A series that snuck up on me over time is Without a Trace. The characters, with the exception of one who is now gone anyway, are well drawn and consistent over time. Plus I like the overhead and odd-angled shots of New York City that display the town in interesting ways I never noticed during 40 years of living there.

I became a fan of The Closer in its first season and it’s even better in this new summer season.

All these years later, I still like Star Trek: The Next Generation and I just recently discovered that it airs regularly on one of the more obscure cable channels. Either my memory is shot to hell or there are a lot of episodes I missed when it was in first run, and lately, I’ve been thinking Captain Picard should run for president.

Another series now in repeats on cable is an early entry into the TV drama renaissance, the stunningly good Homicide: Life on the Streets shot in Baltimore. Its network run was canceled long before it should have been, but in an interesting program innovation, the Richard Belzer character, John Munch, was "hired" by the New York Police Department in Law and Order: Special Victims Unit where he still "works."

There are others that if not entirely first-rate, are nipping at the heels of the best: Shark comes to mind along with a new entry, Heartland, and some people tell me ER should be in this group, which may be true, but I never found the actors compelling.

This idea of a new golden age of television came to me after watching a full-episode preview of a new series, State of Mind, that I mentioned a few weeks ago in a story about an increase in the number of older actors in starring roles on television.

I intended to watch the first ten minutes or so to see what the buzz is about and got sucked in for the entire hour. I’m not going to review it for you except to say that if subsequent episodes match the premier, it will join my list of top-drawer dramas – which I really don’t need. It premiers Sunday night on Lifetime or you can view the entire first episode now here on your computer.

You may wonder – and rightly so – how I watch this much television while still doing all the research and writing for this blog and maintaining a reasonable facsimile of a life.

The answer is, I don’t watch that much. I worship at the god of DVR (Tivo for some of you), set my recordings and catch up with one per evening at bedtime or by zipping through the commercials during personal marathons on rainy or brain-dead days. I miss a lot of episodes, but that just gives me new ones for the months of summer repeats.

Watching television in this condensed manner - only what I consider the best without surfing through the detritus in moments of boredom – has convinced me that we are in a new Golden Age of television drama. There is stunningly good and original work being done on the traditional networks and on cable channels.

I never get tired of being told a good story and there is now a gold mine of them to choose from on television.

[Speaking of good stories, you'll enjoy a terrific tale of parental ingenuity from Darlene Costner at The Elder Storytelling Place today. It is titled Grounded.]


Humorless Elders?

“They” have been saying all my life that in literature there are only seven basic plots. In the past decade – or maybe more – I’ve come to believe that there are only seven basic jokes.

Like many women I’ve known, I can’t remember jokes to be able to repeat them myself, but I am a good appreciator. For me to laugh out loud, however, a surprise is usually required, a punch line that was not anticipated and hits me out of the blue. I love it when that happens.

But there don’t seem to be many those these days. More and more frequently, it’s an old punch line attached to a new circumstance and I can see it coming in the early set up. Thus, my theory that there may be only seven basic jokes and I’ve lived long enough now to have heard them all too many times.

Now comes a study from Washington University at St. Louis that suggests

“…because older adults may have greater difficulty with cognitive flexibility, abstract reasoning and short-term memory, they also have greater difficulty with tests of humor comprehension.”
Washington Post, 10 July 2007

Let’s ignore the fact that recent brain studies I’ve read report that because old people make greater use of both sides of their brains simultaneously than younger folks, their abstract reasoning gets better with age. But this was not a brain study. It was a test asking participants in multiple choice questions to choose the correct punch line, and to “choose between [sic] four panels to find the funny ending” in Ferd’nand cartoons. The results

“…showed that the younger adults did 6 percent better on the verbal jokes and 14 percent better on the comic portion than did older participants…”

Although I’m not much impressed with six and 14 percent differences between young and old, could it be that the participating elders just didn’t find the jokes or Ferd’nand (which was never a particularly clever cartoon) funny? It’s not possible to know since we don’t have the jokes or the cartoons to make a judgment. However, one of the researchers said,

"This wasn't a study about what people find funny. It was a study about whether they get what's supposed to be funny…"

It has been a too-common joke in sitcoms for decades that old folks don’t get it, what ever “it” may be. Maybe it’s true and we just can’t help it because of all the brain dysfunction these joke researchers believe elders are afflicted with. But I still think there are few jokes I haven’t heard before.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jo Ann tells of a trend she has uncovered in "Tick Epidemic - Nude Humor Everywhere".]


Even Some Elders Are Boors

[ELDERBLOGGERS BADGE UPDATE: Steve Garfield left a comment on Monday’s post about the new Elderblogger badges. He suggested that anyone of any age should be able to post the “Elderbloggers Rule!” badge. Steve is right - what a good idea - and the badge download page has been amended accordingly. Anyone younger than 50 who has a affinity for elderbloggers is welcome to post the badge.]

Crabby Old Lady knows she should ignore this. As she writes these sentences, she is saying to herself, “Don’t do it. It’s not worth it. You’re gonna be sorry. There will always be boors in the world and some of them are even elders. Let it go. He doesn't deserve the link.”

But n-o-o-o-o-o. “The moving finger having writ moves on…” And on.

Someone calling himself “The Old Rogue” left this comment on Monday’s post:

“Elderblogger? “We're old and we're proud?

“You're joking right?
“No wonder I like younger women.”

Crabby Old Lady knows better, but her finger clicked the link of it own volition – she couldn’t stop it - and she found just what she expected at The Old Rogue’s blog:

“In the last few years I've woken up with a few different women and any that were even close to my age [60] made me want to leave immediately. Face it ladies, most women over 45 are losing the race against age big-time, and you just aren't as attractive as a younger woman.

’”Most of you have bags under your eyes, wrinkly skin, stretch marks, and no matter how much you work out at the gym, you're body pales in comparison to someone in their 20s or 30s. Besides, you probably have attitude and men hate women with attitudes.

[Excised: extensive boasting of how rich he is and how young his bed partners are.]

“So quit the whining ladies and accept the facts. If someone your age has money, he isn't going to be interested in you.”

Crabby Old Lady is still laughing her ass off. She knows The Old Rogue’s type – too well. One of them, a few years ago a blind date, who may have been The Old Rogue himself, was arranged by a “friend”. Over drinks, he tried regaling Crabby with stories of the size of his bank account, his yacht, his villa in the south of France and his – ahem, well, you know.

When he moved on to talking about his previous liaisons with 20-somethings and suggested he was making an exception to his age limit in women due to our mutual friend’s recommendation, Crabby threw the remainder of her drink in his face and left.

For boors like The Old Rogue, inexperienced, young women are their only recourse. No grown-up would spend more 30 seconds with him. Oh, and if we’re getting picky about appearance, Crabby has never met an old rogue who wasn’t wrinkly himself, overtanned and loutish.

[Today at The Elder Storytelling Place Colleen Shannan tells how she and 19 other children in hospital discovered a brand new band in "Ladies and Gentlemen, The Beatles".]


An Ageism and Blogging Clarification

category_bug_ageism.gif Last week, Crabby Old Lady took out after a reporter who listed lot of negatives about getting older. Ann who blogs at One Wild and Precious Life took issue with Crabby’s assessment of the writer:

“This is a serious question, not trying to be inflammatory. I'm not yet an "elder," but I am beyond middle age (55). What are your specific objections to any of the quotes you cited? For the life of me, I couldn't find anything ageist or wrong with them.

“They seemed to reflect MY reality of aging, even though they were some of the more poignant/negative aspects -- and there are positives as well. If I say my body is past its prime of beauty, and that I have aches and pains, is that ageist? If I say I look around and find myself to be the oldest woman at work, and that bothers me, how is that ageist? To me, it just sounds honest.

“I truly am puzzled. But I'd love to hear your specific objections to each of these quotes, because I may just not have my consciousness sufficiently raised yet.”

Good question, Ann. There are two issues raised in your comment: one is the ageism question and the other is a difficulty in the nature of blogging. Let’s take them one at a time.

Media Ageism
Ms. Paulson’s article that Crabby quoted last week is not unique – similar ones pour into my inbox every day from Google and newspaper alerts and I mention perhaps two or three percent of them over time.

Stories about the negatives of aging appear daily in newspapers and magazines and are repeated in ageist jokes by comedians, in sitcoms and in offensive remarks about elders in dramas on television and in movies. And the often repeated belief that elders are not only not creative, but cannot do the job – any job – as well as younger people is so widespread that is it accepted as truth from on high.

In addition, it is not possible to read a magazine or newspaper or watch television without seeing large numbers of advertisements and commercials for lotions “that will make your skin look young again” furthering the cultural dictum that the physical aspects of aging are abhorrent and must be hidden.

Add to that the consistent repetition by elders that they “don’t feel old” when what they mean is they feel healthy. By confusing good health with youth they reinforce the opposite – that age equals sickness.

The amount of negative information about aging in this youth-centric, age-phobic society is so overwhelmingly prevalent that any other perspective is drowned out. And so I give my small voice on this blog to the other side against a tsunami of negativity.

That is not to say that Time Goes By does not address the downside of getting old.

A Blogging Difficulty
Over nearly four years, much has been discussed here about the decline of aging, how to cope and make peace with waning capabilities and with the ultimate question of life that must be faced in our later years – our mortality. And there will be much more over time.

Those who are regular readers know that, but it is in the nature of blogging that new and occasional readers know only what is written today and so it appears, as may be so with Ann in this case, that I am nitpicking and ignoring the inevitable decline of aging which is not so. With the enormous contributions of commenters and guest bloggers, we cover a lot of territory in the area of aging – the good and the difficult.

I could, when writing such a piece as last week’s, link to old posts about the poignant aspects of aging, but a blog is not a book. Any blogger’s point of view builds up over time, through many daily posts and not every issue can be covered in every entry. So it is easy in reading one or a few posts to see only one side of a blogger.

As I note on my About page, I began this blog after six or seven years of studying aging without finding anything in books, magazines, newspapers, scholarly journals, medical research, documentaries, etc. that are not about decline, debility and disease, and it hasn’t changed much in the years since Time Goes By was launched.

Having worked in media all my life, I pay special attention to how aging issues are treated. Although there has been some improvement in media in recent years as marketers have realized that baby boomers are getting old and as a generation have a lot of money to spend, overall the attitude is condescending when it is not dismissive and even hostile.

Ms. Paulson’s story is offensive because is it lazy writing repeating what has been and continues to be said in thousands of other stories reinforcing the belief that there is nothing good about getting old.

Ageism is as mean and wrong as sexism and racism and all three are often subtle – and effective. One way to overcome prejudice is to consistently point it out when it occurs.

[Today at The Elderstorytelling Place, Ronni Prior tells a lovely story about her little boy when he was five years old in My Son, The Patriot.]


Elderbloggers Rule

Nearly two years ago when wordsmith extraordinaire Elisa Camahort invited me to be on a panel at the SXSWi conference in Austin, Texas, she named the session “Respect Your Elderbloggers”. It was an Aha! moment for me.

For reasons discussed here in the past, I dislike the words “senior” and “senior citizen,” preferring “old” and “older” when used as neutral descriptions. But they lack pizzazz. So when Elisa coined elderblogger, I immediately knew it was just the right word for bloggers who are older than 50.

Since then, elderbloggers has come to be used in mainstream media - at least when I gently browbeat a reporter into it. Among others, The New York Times headlined a piece “Elderbloggers Stake Their Claim” and Retirement Living TV, on The Daily Apple show, titled an episode “Elderbloggers.” .

Blogging is divided into many subcategories. There are mommybloggers and daddybloggers and political bloggers and tech bloggers and cooking bloggers and so on ad infinitum. It is time for Elderbloggers to establish ourselves as fully as those other genres have and Kay Dennison of Kay’s Thinking Cap emailed me last week with a terrific idea.

She made these two blog badges that say it with just the right amount of subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor:

elderbloggersrulebadge

proudelderbloggersbadge

There is now a new permanent page here on Time Goes By where the badges can be downloaded to post on your blog. My badge on the sidebar links to that page and it would be good to link your badge to it so your readers can find out what it is and download one for themselves. And, perhaps, when mainstream media are occasionally moved to explore what older folks are doing online, they will click it too.

The criteria for posting a badge are few:

  • You must, obviously, have a blog on which to put it.
  • You must be 50 or older.
  • Anyone who is included on the Elderbloggers List on the left sidebar is eligible.
  • Anyone else may post a badge too, but it would be nice to let me know when you do so I can see if your blog fits the additional criteria for the Elderbloggers List.

Let’s let the internet know that elderbloggers are here, we’re old and we’re proud.

[Today at The Elder Storytelling Place, Jim Filer recalls a funny childhood event that explains several layers of Connections.]


BlogHer/BlogHim

In the two years since its first conference, BlogHer has become a phenomenon of the blogging world. The organization’s praises are sung far and wide for raising the general consciousness that women bloggers are out here in equal numbers with men and doing a fine job of it. No disagreement there.

Blogher '07 BlogHer has grown in membership and prestige so much in a short time that this year they planned two conferences, one held earlier in the year in New York and another upcoming in Chicago over the weekend of July 27-29. The BlogHers who are attending have been atwitter for months about their eagerness to meet one another in person and they should be – I had a fine ol’ time at Blogher ’05.

Still, there are times when Crabby Old Lady gets testy about the insularity women can take on along with the whiff, sometimes, of victimhood in women’s organizations that can be tedious.

That is not to say that there is not more to do in the equality-with-men arena. After centuries of patriarchy, a mere 40 years of gains has not finished the job. But sometimes the earnestness of women in groups wears thin.

All of which is why Neil, who blogs at Citizen of the Month, had me rolling on the floor with this recent post:

Bloghim

Be sure to read the comments – it is all a wonderful hoot done with great, good humor.


The Ageist Elder Award

Some days Crabby Old Lady despairs. Just when she thinks elders are making a few strides forward in gaining respect from the media, someone kicks the chair out from under her. And as often as not, it is an elder who does so.

This time it is one Joanne Paulson of the Saskatoon StarPhoenix who headlined her story, “I’m Getting Older, Not Necessarily Better.”

Some high – or rather, lowlights from her piece:

“The aforementioned friend and I do not spend five or six hours drinking wine until the wee hours, babbling like mad. We go for lattes. During that conversation, we do not rattle on about men and clothes and books and music, as we once did. Instead, we talk about socioeconomic issues; later we both acknowledge that the last year has found us less energetic and increasingly forced to deal with little things like, well, eyesight. That was fun.”
“Fireworks? Pah! Nothing but noise and smoke. Pretty lights for a few seconds at a time. Yawn.”
“I am among the oldest women in the newsroom, if you can imagine. I certainly can't. Sadly, I had to chew that bone until I figured out I am indeed among the three oldest women in this department.”
“My dear husband, who considers himself a bit of a wit, said to some friends a little while ago: ‘I always wanted an older woman. Now I've got one.’ Ha. Very funny. And, sadly, true.”

In yesterday's post, mystery writer Ruth Rendell was quoted as saying that she dislikes how young people talk about the old:

“I don’t like their attitude,” wrote Rendell, “which if they weren’t young and therefore bright and vibrant, would be called outdated.”

Good god, it’s not the young people whose statements are outdated; it’s old people themselves and today Crabby bestows the Ageist Elder Award to Ms. Paulson.

Perhaps Ms. Paulson thought she was being funny sticking “sadly” next to her laments about how terrible old age is. Crabby couldn’t find a laugh anywhere in this ageist, Uncle Tom piece. “Sadly” the woman is no humorist. And, “sadly”, she does not understand the damage she does to all elders by perpetuating the same old, same old stereotype.

But Crabby suspects nothing better can be expected from someone who is so cynical as to yawn at fireworks. Here’s a photo Crabby took from her deck during the Fourth of July celebration in Portland, Maine. Even in the rain, it was an “ooh” and “aah” display.

04july2007fireworks

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, David Wolfe tells of an epiphany 30 years ago that made a dramatic difference in his life in How an Obscure Trappist Monk Changed My Career.]


Ruth Rendell and Me – Getting Older

[This piece was originally published in slightly different form at blogher.org.]

A large amount of writing about getting older is done by those of 50 or 60 or so who insist they are young. Those among them who make anti-aging their calling – and they are legion – tell us they are the same as when they were 25 and if you will just spend the $300 per bottle for their (patent pending) elixir or adjust your attitude to their (heretofore secret) life perspective, you too will never get old.

For more than three years here, I have been arguing for recognition of old age as it really is with about as much success as I would have pushing an elephant up the stairs. Now, along comes a doyenne among mystery writers, Ruth Rendell, who is 76 and telling it like it is in the Australian publication, The Age - which is not about aging, but Ms. Rendell’s story is.

Except that she is a famous writer, a life peer and the recipient of dozens of writing awards, I could have (and have) written much of this myself. So I’ll quote Ms. Rendell on the theory that famous people get more attention and, perhaps, belief.

“I feel [my age] without much minding that feeling…I am not young or young at heart.”
“…I am not going to pretend that growing old is all sweetness and light. And this is not because of my outlook on life and my attitude, but very much because of the way younger people view old age. Old women especially are invisible. I have been to parties where no one knows who I am, so I am ignored until I introduce myself to someone picked at random. Immediately word gets round and I am surrounded by people who tell me they are my biggest fans. This is fine for me, but what about the others, my contemporaries, left isolated?”
“’Still’ is a word I don’t much like. Nearly everyone I talk to asks me if I am ‘still’ writing.”
“The phrase ‘at your age’ doesn’t please me either, with its underlying implication that it would be better if women in their 70s were to stay indoors and pull down the blinds.”
“I don’t like the way young people write and talk about the old. I don’t like their attitude, which, if they weren’t young and therefore bright and vibrant, would be called outdated.”
“When I was young and middle-aged, I used to boast that I never felt tired, but I do now and, as one who gets up at six, I struggle to keep myself awake till 10.”
“…I walk whenever I can. I thought I walked at the same pace and with the same energy as I did when I was young until I began to notice that I was soon outstripped by anyone younger.”
“I don’t want to live with anyone…I like living by myself. I like to come and go as I please and not have to tell anyone where I shall be and what I shall be doing and when I shall be home. I am an old lady who lives alone with two cats.”

It is understood by the youth-centric world we live in that old age is a horror or, at best, boring and there are far too many, including elders themselves, who deny that old age is different from adulthood. Thank God for Ruth Rendell.

[Today at The Elder Storytelling Place, kenju tells about her righteous revenge in Show Me Yours and I'll Show You Mine.]