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August 2007
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New TGB Feature: Where Elders Blog

Marian Van Eyk McCain of ElderWomanBlog mentioned in an email that because she visited me here in Portland, Maine this past summer, she can now visualize me tapping away at my laptop when she reads Time Goes By.

What a lovely advantage she has. Knowing a person’s surroundings helps us know one another better. It adds depth and context to friendship and community, and gives us an additional sense of what someone is like. Plus, it's fun to get a peek inside our homes.

Is your desk messy, cluttered with notes and books and magazines and coffee cups (or as one elderblogger admitted, a wine glass)? Or is yours tidy and organized?

Maybe there are sticky notes all around your screen. Or perhaps a stuffed animal hanging off the top. Or maybe you blog with a laptop in an easy chair. Or in bed. Or at the kitchen table.

Wouldn’t it be fun to see where other elders do their blogging?

So today begins a new section of Time Goes By – Where Elders Blog – listed where you can always find it under the TGB Features header near the top of the right sidebar. Here is how it works:

  1. Take a photo of your blog workspace
  2. It must be a jpg
  3. It must be at least 370 pixels wide
  4. Email the photo to ronniATronnibennettDOTcom either as an attachment or inline in the body of the email
  5. Use the email subject line: Where Elders Blog

Include the following information in the body of the email:

  1. The name you want to use to identify yourself
  2. The city/state/country where you blog
  3. The name of your blog
  4. The link to your blog

You may also include a short paragraph about your blog workspace – or not. Up to you.

Everyone who is age 50 or older may send in a photo. There are elders who do not keep a blog, but comment regularly. Show us where you do that; we'd like to get to know you better too.

Each person will be listed on the Where Elders Blog home page with a thumbnail link to a page with the full-size photo, other information and link to your blog if you have one. Comments are enabled on each page.

I’ve gotten us started with a photo of my own blog workspace and eagerly look forward to adding yours.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today and tomorrow, Sunday, are two more episodes of Chandra and Her Georg. Also, if you have been thinking of sending a story to The Elder Storytelling Place, now would be the time to do it - we are running a little short of stories.]


Elders and the Changing Blogosphere – Part 1

A short while ago, Jeneane Sessum of Allied caught my attention with a post about how blogging has changed.

“It used to be blogging was how we talked to one another using hyperlinks for punctuation and context clues. That was when we were amateurs and doinks…Opinion and Thought Leadership were the last thing on our minds because, again, we came here to get away from THERE.

Now that there is here, and blogging has turned pro, enduring labor and giving birth to social media (which is hyper-pro), blogging isn’t the place where I want to say what I want.”

A couple of weeks before Jeneane’s post, Tish Grier of The Constant Observer addressed the issue from a different point of view.

“…how things have changed out here in the blogosphere regarding how we view authority – and even rank – of blogs…

“…‘linklove’ – well, that was a concept that I’m not sure we really care about anymore now that some blogs are more about advertising and making money from advertising than they are about building friendships, community and thought-influence.”

Both of these women are on to something important. Many blogs are now so cluttered with Blogher Ad Network ads, Google Ads, Blogads, Blogvertise ads and others sometimes all together that they feel more like splogs; I know there must be editorial content somewhere, but it’s damned hard to find.

It’s not that making pin money from blogs is a bad idea; I’ve done it myself (although I gave it up as distraction both from the blog and to myself). But when the ads take up more real estate than the writing, it is no longer a blog; it’s mainstream media with some token commentary.

[As an example of how far it’s gone, I recently ran across a blog where the entire day’s post was a plea to readers to click on the ads.]

I suspect, too, that the popularity of the so-called social media sites – MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and their imitators - is further eroding the sense of community that blogs originally fostered.

God knows I could be wrong, but it appears that some bloggers I have enjoyed are blogging less frequently and in shorter bursts as they have become involved in the social media websites. But I can’t find the social part.

For the time I’ve spent on Facebook, etc. (admittedly, little), I fail to grasp the appeal. Computer-generated requests drop into my mailbox, with no personal note, to “friend” people, most of whom I’ve never heard of, and others - some strangers, some not - plague me with invitations to join groups and campaigns, to “poke” someone or “message” them, and to donate money. Where is the conversation? Where are friendships being forged? Where is the funny anecdote, the thoughtful commentary, the link to useful information?

To Jeneane’s point, the more commercial, the more professional, the more corporate blogs become, the less value is placed on the friendship and community aspects of blogging.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. If we had had the wit to think it through four or five years ago when blogging began to take off, we would have realized blogs would be subsumed into “the media” including all its money-grubbing aspects. American business eventually turns every popular pastime into a revenue stream, and I’m pretty sure that if kids weren’t too busy on MySpace and with the new Halo3 to play hopscotch anymore, someone would find a way to monetize it – or worse, patent it and charge players a user fee.

But as Hereclitus observed two-and-half millennia ago, nothing is constant but change. Of course blogging has evolved. Of course it will continue to do so in ways we like and don’t like. What bothers me most is that as some bloggers move to the social media sites, as other blogs come to look like newspaper inserts for K-Mart, and bloggers reach for professional status, we lose the essence of blogging that attracted us “amateurs and doinks” in the first place.

If Jeneane now prefers IM and the telephone, as she says, we lose her inimitable public voice.

There is, however, one place in the blogosphere that with a minor exception or two is unlikely to stop talking with one another any time soon or follow the crowd to MySpace, etc. I’ll tell you what that is and why I think it is so in “Elders and the Changing Blogosphere - Part 2” on Monday.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz recalls an in incident of personal diplomacy during the deepest days of the Cold War in Frisbee With the KGB.]


How Ollie the Cat Lost His Outdoor Privileges

category_bug_oliver This tale of Ollie the cat begins in mid-2006, when he and his housemate, Ronni, moved from Greenwich Village to a new home in Portland, Maine.

The Maine apartment is much bigger than their New York City home – specifically, much longer with lots of room for a young cat to gallop from one end to the other (when he is not snoozing).

Snoozingollie


For an entire year, Ollie the cat lived inside this house and took pleasure, when windows were open, in ka-ka-ka-ing at the birds and squirrels who hang out on the electric lines in front of the house.

Electricsquirrel


During that first year, Ronni did not allow Ollie on the deck because cats are known to get distracted while stalking birds and bees and butterflies. Who knows, he might forget himself and take a flying leap off the second-floor deck.

Deck1


It was a distraction when Ronni, on a beautiful day, took lunch or dinner among her flowers and plants or read a book lying on the chaise longue, purchased just for that purpose, while Ollie screamed through the screen door demanding to join her. But Ronni has lived with cats all her life and knows their wandering ways. So Ollie was deprived of the one thing he wanted most – to be outdoors.

Deckivy


It wasn’t easy keeping Ollie in the house. Cats are born experts at whisking between human feet when they want to get somewhere they are not allowed. Especially when Ronni was carrying dirty clothes through the kitchen door and back hall to the laundry room or was hauling the big watering can to the deck, Ollie sometimes escaped, but not for long. Ronni is practiced at catching errant cats.

Backhall


Still, it was tiring for Ronni to keep constant watch on Ollie when doors were opened and closed and she did feel sorry for the little fellow who desperately wanted to frolic in the fresh air and take in the heady aromas that only cats and dogs can smell. And so, when the snows had melted and spring arrived, Ronni relented.

Olliewithflowers


At first, she stayed with Ollie when he played on the deck so she would be there to grab him if his interest in a bug took him too close to the edge. But humans – or, at least, Ronni – are more easily bored with bug stalking than cats and in time, Ollie was allowed on the deck alone.

In fact, when Ollie altered their morning routine by yelling to have the kitchen door opened before breakfast and even, sometimes, before sunrise, Ronni left all the doors open on good weather days so Ollie could come and go at his whim. And all was well - or close enough, if you don’t count regurgitated dead bugs on the rug.

Deadbug


When it wasn’t raining, Ollie spent most of his summer days on the deck chasing bugs or snoozing on his favorite outdoor chair. It was his habit to check in with Ronni at her desk a couple of times in the afternoon or, on hot, humid days, to loll around indoors stretched out on the cool porcelain of the bathtub. And on a few occasions, he spent the night sleeping on the chaise. Ronni tried that one time herself and understood the attraction on a cool summer night.

Deckchaise


Ollie likes to eat at about 5:30PM and if Ronni hasn’t filled his bowl by then, he tracks her down and taps her on the arm in a certain way that means, “Hey, it’s dinner time. You don’t expect me to eat those leftover crumbs from breakfast, do you?”

Several days ago, Ronni looked up from her laptop and realized it was an hour past Ollie’s dinner time. He had not reminded her and she had not seen him since early afternoon. Where could he be? She checked the deck. No Ollie.

Deck2


Ronni called his name from the kitchen - he usually comes – but no Ollie. She checked behind the sofa…

Behindsofa


No Ollie. She checked his cupboard hidey-hole…

Cupboard


No Ollie. She checked the guest room closet…

Closet


Still no Ollie. She looked under the bed. There were some lost cat toys, but…

Underbed


…no cat. She hadn’t done laundry that day, but just in case, she checked the washer and dryer…

Washerdryerpsd


They were empty - of a cat, anyway. She checked behind Ollie’s favorite deck chair where garden equipment is kept.

Behindchair


No Ollie. The cat was gone, gone, gone. How could that be? wondered Ronni. Then it struck her in all its horror - perhaps Ollie had fallen off the deck. You see, there is a six-inch lip of flooring beyond the fence of the deck. Ronni could never watch when Ollie patrolled out there.

Deckedge


Heart pounding, Ronni grabbed a flashlight – dusk was settling in – and ran downstairs to the small back yard. She looked behind every bush and flower and weed. With great relief, Ronni found no dead or injured cat. She looked up at her deck – it was a long way down.

Exteriordeck


Back upstairs and again on the deck, Ronni pondered this mystery of the disappearing cat and softly called his name. Was that a meow she heard? She called again. Yes, yes, it WAS a meow. But where was it coming from? The adjoining laundry room? No cat there.

Ronni called to Ollie again from the deck. There was no doubt this time; it was Ollie’s voice – coming from the yard.

Ronni raced downstairs to find Ollie peering out from under some plants behind the birdbath.

Birdbathplants


Even after several hours on the loose, Ollie wasn’t ready to come home and he nearly evaded Ronni's grasp. But cats sometimes forget humans are bigger and stronger than they are.

He yowled as Ronni caught him by the tail, but what’s a little pain, thought Ronni, compared to being squashed beneath a car’s tire or torn apart by the rumscullion cats who prowl the yard at night. Nevertheless, he fought her all the way upstairs.

How did Ollie get to the yard? Did he fall by accident and just happen not to hurt himself? Did he forget where he was and leap after a bug? Or did he carefully calculate the distance and deliberately jump to the ground from the second floor?

We will never know. But two mornings after Ollie’s escape, Ronni woke to a dream image of him sailing off the deck with all the magnificent grace of feline gazelle.

And that is the tale of how Ollie the cat lost his outdoor deck privileges. Ronni is certain she lost a few weeks off the end of her life due to stress and fear.

When she recovered, she was angry with Ollie. So angry, in fact, she is publishing this formerly secret, inelegant photo of him in the chair where he will undoubtedly spend more time now.

Ollieinlibrary

[Doesn't everyone have a favorite eccentric relative or two? Read about Celia Jones's today at The Elder Storytelling Place in a story titled My Aunt Sadie, The Cat Lady.]


The Nutrition Nazis

UPDATE: Tee hee. Could it be a coincidence that this piece of spam showed up in my inbox about two hours after I posted today's entry? Dunkin' Donuts has never spammed me before today.

Dunkin

category_bug_journal2.gif Remember Seinfeld's soup nazi? Now we have the nutrition nazis.

The headline was irresistible: “Seniors Balk at Ban on Free Doughnuts”. The story was compelling too. Seven aging demonstrators marched outside a senior center wearing sandwich boards that proclaimed “Give Us Our Just Desserts” and “They’re Carbs, Not Contraband.”

Clever slogans, proving that elders are not as dim as stereotypes insist.

“At issue is a decision to refuse free doughnuts, pies and breads that were being donated to senior centers around Putnam County, north of New York City. Officials were concerned that the county was setting a bad nutritional precedent by providing mounds of doughnuts and other sweets to seniors.”
Associated Press, 23 September 2007

Opinions on the doughnuts among regulars at the center is mixed. Some non-picketers are glad to see them go. Administrators quoted from several senior centers around the country are mostly anti-doughnut too.

“The lunches have to supply one-third of the federal minimum daily requirements in such categories as calories, protein, vitamin C and vitamin A, said Chris Miller, spokesman for the [New York City Department for the Aging].”

Ever since the studies on obesity in the United States were released earlier this year, food manufacturers, restaurants and other meal providers have rushed to improve the nutrition of their products and there are few who can object. But there is cause to be concerned about the coercive quality of this new nutrition campaign. Morality cannot be legislated and I doubt food choices can be either.

In any case, wouldn’t it be more productive to remove junk food from schools than senior centers? As C. Michael Sibilia, who visits a senior center, now without doughnuts, in Putnam County said, "I'm 86, not 8."

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kay Dennison tells a story about the odd things that can happen when there is a new baby in the house in How My Sister Got Her Freckles.]


How Presidential Candidates are Chosen For Us

category_bug_politics.gif Healthcare has emerged as the number one domestic issue in the presidential campaign and it has taken a further leap upward in the days following the release, early last week, of Hillary Clinton’s plan.

Senator Clinton is the last of the Democratic candidates to release a healthcare proposal. Media coverage – news and commentary – has been high and wide which led me to wonder how pervasive it is.

A separate Google search for each Democratic candidate’s name with “healthcare plan” appended produced these numbers of stories (on Monday 24 September):

Mike Gravel – 19,200
Dennis Kucinich – 34,500
Christopher Dodd – 51,200
Joe Biden – 54,000
Bill Richardson – 67,700
Barack Obama – 128,000
John Edwards – 132,000
Hillary Clinton - 249,000

Further curious, I Googled each candidate’s name with the word “campaign” attached:

Mike Gravel – 1,800,000
Joe Biden – 1,890,000
Dennis Kucinich – 1,930,000
Christopher Dodd – 1,940,000
Bill Richardson – 2,480,000
Barack Obama – 2,630,000
John Edwards – 5,090,000
Hillary Clinton – 12,800,000

This is a not a scientific survey; Google results are skewed in all sorts of ways. But I don’t doubt the general proportion of stories about each healthcare plan and each candidate.

Hillary Clinton is the media darling of the 2008 campaign and because far less than a majority of Americans bothers to read newspapers at all and many of the rest don’t get beyond front-page headlines and the sports pages, Hillary Clinton is the candidate that emerges in most people’s minds.

Corporations control our elections by contributing huge amounts of money to candidates and the media, which are owned mostly by mega-corporations, are their handmaiden. They decide our election choices by using their power and money to hype candidates that best serve corporate America's profit goals and downplaying those who do not.

This is not news to any thinking person and it is a terrible commentary on what our republic has become. These simple Google numbers are all that is needed to understand why public funding is necessary to reinstate fair elections.

Is there anyone out there willing to bet me that Senator Clinton will not be the Democratic candidate?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Matty explains why the most important Three Little Words are not the ones you think she means in the title.]


Going Gray by Anne Kreamer

There is what I consider an unofficial canon of popular aging literature. Writers and researchers who come to mind immediately include Robert. N. Butler, M.D. (who coined the term “ageism”), Betty Friedan, Erdman Palmore, Carolyn G. Heilbrun, Helen M. Luke, Becca Levy, Simone de Beauvoir, William H. Thomas, M.D. and blogger David Wolfe.

Over the past 20 years and more, they have a produced a thoughtful, intelligent body of work that together well represents the subtitle of this blog – what it’s really like to get old. Their books don’t stay neatly on my shelves for long. I regularly use them as reference for this blog, re-read portions of them to refresh my memory and for the inspiration of their wisdom.

After decades of mostly ignoring elders the media, with the aging of the baby boomers, has jumped on a new growing-old bandwagon. Newspapers now assign a reporter to the “age beat”. New magazines and websites aimed at elders pop up every day. And book publishers are creating a new genre to appeal to increasing numbers of people older than 50.

This is all to the good and, in time, may produce some works to add to the unofficial canon. The recently published Going Gray by Anne Kreamer is not one of them.

I had high hopes for this book, particularly with its subtitle, “What I learned about beauty, sex, work, motherhood, authenticity and everything else that really matters”. Unfortunately, the answer is “not much” or, at least, not much that she passes on to the reader.

What I mostly learned from Ms. Kreamer, the thread that runs through every chapter, is that she has no friends who are not famous, wealthy or powerful. On nearly every page, she drops bold-faced names of screen writers, executives, actors and actresses. She appears never to have an ordinary working stiff friend and I suspect that if she had talked to a few of those instead of her glamorous friends, this would have been a more enlightening book.

And it is hard to take any of her research seriously when early on she mistakenly writes that the U.S. average life expectancy is “over 80.” It is 84 and 81 for women and men respectively IF they reach age 65. Overall, it is mid-seventies, an important distinction.

One chapter is devoted to Ms. Kreamer’s hands-on research to see if she can get picked up in a Manhattan bar with gray hair. She immediately undercuts the experiment by telling the two men she meets, within the first two minutes, that she’s writing a book about gray hair. So much for finding out what they really think.

After slogging through a chapter on the plight of aging actresses in Hollywood, it was a relief to read the only interesting chapter in the book - on employment and gray hair. Kreamer’s interview with executive recruiter, Ann Carlsen, is enlightening:

“Carlsen also confirmed that among her roughly one hundred employer clients, for whom she conducts more than one hundred fifty searches a year, there is not a single woman with gray hair…

Of course, Carlsen is speaking mostly of people at the VP and CXO level of corporate America, but it was disheartening to hear from her too that at age 49, Ms. Kreamer

“’…should be a consultant.’ In other words, according to Carlsen, I’m over.

“I asked her if she saw any basic differences in the kinds of candidates that different industries look for. ‘Across the board, more companies are targeting younger demos, so they are focusing on wanting to hire people whom they believe will think like the animal. This is happening in all disciplines at the VP level and above’ [said Ms. Carlsen].

“She said that ‘corporate fit’ is more important in hiring than actual skills. Clients won’t tell her straight out, of course, that one of her potential hires didn’t get a particular job because he or she was too old. ‘Instead, they’ll say that the person ‘wasn’t a good fit for the culture,’ or that the ‘person is overqualified.’”

Ms. Kreamer then disappointed again by buying into the lie that overqualified can mean just what it says. What company in its right mind would not hire someone with the skills and experience to do the job. Overqualified always means too old.

Ms. Kreamer has an uncanny ability to belie every useful thing she writes. After resisting the urge to throw this book across the room for 200 pages, I found a nugget of truth:

“My whole experience hasn’t been about letting my hair grow in its natural gray. It’s been about growing up and – pardon the touchy-feely cliché – continuing to evolve as a person.”

Even if she has not, throughout the entire book, been capable of establishing such a theme for readers, at least she has arrived at her own positive conclusion. Then she undercuts herself again:

“I have every intention of avoiding the frail, frightened, old-lady stereotype – to remain as fit and curious as possible.”

In asking myself why I so dislike this book – it’s not harmful, after all – I realized it contains not a whit of thoughtfulness about aging. With the subtitle (overstated, I know now, by magnitudes) I had expected the experience of going gray to be a metaphor for getting old in a culture that demands we remain youthful unto death. I wanted the insight into traversing a barrier between midlife and old age the subtitle promised.

Instead, I got a 2500-word magazine story padded out into a 50,000-word book. A waste of my time. You’ll get a much more enriching read from Ellen Lee’s guest blog, The (Not So) Graying of America, published here in August.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Travelinoma richly evokes childhood summer evenings at her grandparents' home in Almost Heaven.]


Chris Pirillo's Mom and Chandra

You remember Chris Pirillo, don't you; he's the one who invited me to speak at Gnomedex this year. His mother, Judy, has just joined the blogopshere - a brand new elderblogger. It would be nice if you stopped by Judy's Thoughts and welcomed her to our fold.

And don't forget the two new episodes this weekend of Chandra and Her Georg at The Elder Storytelling Place. Sorry there are no illustrations this week, but Part V and Part VI continue the tale.


Retiring to the Travelodge

Remember a few weeks ago when I published a humor piece about Retiring to the Hilton? A couple in England has done it for real. David and Jane Davidson have been living in Travelodges for more than 20 years:

“The couple stayed at the first ever Travelodge in Barton-under-Needwood, Staffordshire and liked it so much they began to stay more and more often, finally choosing the hotel in Newark.

“By booking 12 months in advance, they pay £90 (US$181.00) a week and have all housework done by maids while often eating at the nearby Little Chef.”

BBC News, 11 September 2007

Over those years, they have spent a total of about £100,000 (US$201,491), a rate they get by booking twelve months in advance. Now, Travelodge is naming a room for them:

“Room 1 of the Gonerby Moor Travelodge near the A1 will now be called The Davidson Suite, complete with a plaque…

“Paul Anstey, Travelodge director of operations for the North, said: "We know Travelodge has really loyal customers throughout the UK but the Davidsons are unique - they've literally made a Travelodge into their home."

Of course, they must be careful about the amount of personal belongings they keep in their room, and they do own a flat. But, says Mr. Davidson, who is 79 years old (his wife is 70):

"The Travelodge room suits us so much better than our first-floor flat in Sheffield, which has no disabled access for Jean. It's important as she now suffers from a bone disease and uses a wheelchair."

I don’t know what a Travelodge room costs in the United States, but other costs must be calculated too as savings: heating, power, homeowners insurance, household maintenance, water assessment, property tax. And wouldn’t it be glorious to never change the bed again – one of the chores in life I dislike most. Is hotel living in retirement not a joke, but an idea whose time has come?

[Hat tip to Ian Bertram of Panchromatica.]

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joy Des Jardins shares one of her lifelong pleasures in In the Eye of the Storm.]


Hillary Clinton’s and Everyone Else’s Healthcare Plans

[CONTEST NOTE: Yesterday, we held a contest to select someone to receive a copy of Olive Riley's DVD, All About Olive. And the winner is - Darlene Costner. Darlene does not keep a blog, but she comments frequently and is a long-time member of the TGB community. Email me your snailmail address, Darlene, and I will send on the DVD - and congratulations for being number 15.]

category_bug_politics.gif A minor campaign shoe dropped this week when Senator Hillary Clinton, after months of dragging her heels behind most of the other presidential candidates, announced her proposed healthcare plan if she is elected president. (Don’t you love how all the candidates keep saying “when I’m elected” when they have not yet secured the nominations?)

Of the other seven major Democratic candidates, all but Mike Gravel had already issued their healthcare proposals, sketchy as they all are - including Senator Clinton’s. Among the Republicans, two – Rudy Giuliani and Duncan Hunter - either have not announced healthcare plans or do not have one.

As you read through these lists and weigh this critical issue in deciding whom to support, be sure to ask yourself this question: when was the last time an elected official kept a campaign promise? Remember the 2006 mid-term election...

Be that as it may, we have nothing to go on except their talking points and pandering, so we must do the best we can with what little they give us. The Democratic candidates have dutifully picked up the two think tank and media watchwords in regard to healthcare reform: “universal coverage” and “the system in broken.” With all this in mind, let’s take a look first at the Democratic candidate’s proposals starting with Senator Clinton:

[Where possible, all names link to the candidate’s healthcare issue webpage.]

Hillary Clinton

  • Requires all Americans to have health insurance (like auto insurance)

  • Choice of coverage among private, employer-provided, a new public plan and an expanded version of the federal employees plan

  • Tax subsidies for small businesses and individuals

  • Bans insurance companies from turning down people for health or pre-existing conditions

  • Would require no new federal bureaucracy (huh?)

  • Estimated cost: $110 billion per year

  • Would end tax cuts for people who earn more than $250,000 per year


Barack Obama

  • Combination of existing employer-based system and new government program

  • Limits on profits of biggest insurance providers

  • Would not renew President Bush’s tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000 per year when they expire in 2010

  • Require employers to provide coverage or pay government a percentage of their payroll

  • Small business would be exempt

  • Require all children to be covered providing subsidies to parents who cannot afford it

  • Create heath insurance exchange as a regulated marketplace of competing private health plans


John Edwards

  • Require employers to provide health coverage or pay six percent of payroll for government to provide insurance

  • Invest in more preventive care

  • Create a federal health insurance agency that would eventually do away with private health insurance

  • Provide subsidies or tax credits for low-income families

  • Expand Medicare and the federal healthcare program for children

  • Create regional healthcare markets to drive down premiums

  • Would add $120 billion a year to cost of healthcare in U.S.

  • Eliminate tax cuts for families earning more than $200,000 per year


Dennis Kucinich

  • Universal, single-payer, not-for-profit healthcare system - essentially Medicare for everyone

  • Plan already exists in the Kucinich-Conyers bill – HR676

  • Covers all healthcare needs including prescription drugs, vision and long-term care

  • Quotes economist Paul Krugman as saying, "covering everyone under Medicare would actually be significantly cheaper than our current system."


Joe Biden

  • Promises to develop a comprehensive plan to insure all Americans within six months of taking office

  • Require insurers participating in federal programs to provide preventive care

  • Invest $1 billion per year to switch to electronic health records

  • Allow federal government to negotiate prices with pharmaceutical companies for Medicare Part D

  • Expand Medicaid to cover low-income families and childless adults

  • Allow all families to buy into SCHIP with a sliding scale of payments

  • Establish federal reinsurance pool to reimburse employers and insurers for 75 percent of catastrophic coverage


Christopher Dodd

  • Promises that all Americans will have quality, affordable coverage during first term

  • Responsibility for coverage shared by employers, individuals, insurance companies and the government

  • According to their ability to pay, individuals and businesses will contribute to a Universal HealthMart based on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Plan.

  • Premiums will be affordable based on leveraged negotiating power, spreading risk, reduced administrative costs, and incentives for technology and preventive care.

  • Coverage will be portable; insurance purchased in Universal HealthMart will follow individuals.


Bill Richardson

  • Americans will have personal responsibility to obtain healthcare coverage

  • Tax credits available to those who cannot afford coverage

  • Relief from high interest charges when medical debt is placed on credit cards

  • Streamline healthcare administration

  • Invest in prevention

  • Promote transparency on price and quality

  • Restructuring incentives for high-quality care

  • Improve patient safety

  • Reduce health disparities

  • No increas in taxes


Mike Gravel
According to his website, no healthcare plan.

The watchword of Republican candidates is “no socialized medicine”. Does that McCarthy Era word, "socialized,” really scare off anyone these days? Apparently the Republicans think so. Several Republicans echo the Democrats in declaring that our current healthcare system is broken, but their solution appears to be to leave everything as it is; the marketplace solves all problems. And we all know how well that is working right now. But that's just my opinion.

Governor Mitt Romney

  • Require everyone to purchase healthcare coverage as in his current Massachusetts plan

  • No federal coverage; leave it to individual states

  • Make healthcare a market-driven entity


Sam Brownback

  • Increase consumer choice, consumer control and competition

  • Allow consumers to choose from plans that are tailored to fit their family needs and values

  • Allow individual to purchase coverage across state lines

  • Give consumers control over their personal healthcare records


Rudy Giuliani
According to his campaign website, no healthcare plan.


Mike Huckabee

  • Move from employer-based system to consumer-based

  • Encourage the private sector to seek innovative ways to bring down costs and improve the free market for health care services

  • Adopt electronic record-keeping

  • Reform medical liability

  • Make health coverage portable from one job to another

  • Expand health savings accounts

  • Make healthcare premiums for individuals deductible on income tax returns

  • Tax credits, not income tax deductions for low-income families


Duncan Hunter
According to his campaign website, no healthcare plan.


Based on these lists of particulars – if all else were equal which, of course, it is not – there is only one choice for me. What about you?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, kenju writes about the disappearance of small town America in Downtown is Gone Forever.]


The World’s Oldest Blogger

Olive2 It is a pretty good bet that Olive Riley, who will reach her 108th birthday in October, is the internet’s oldest blogger. She blogs, with the help of her good friend Mike Rubbo, at The Life of Riley from Down Under (do Australians call it that too? Or Oz?), usually in the form of a Q&A with Mike.

Last week, I watched a delightful, one-hour DVD titled All About Olive, produced by Mike, which follows Olive as she returns after many years to her home town of Broken Hill.

Along with vintage photos from her childhood, the stories Olive tells - about the mining accident that took her father’s arm, roller skating and punching a schoolmate in the nose – are recreated with contemporary residents of the town dressed in period clothes. It’s quite effective with Olive’s voice over.

As Mike notes in the video, the town of Broken Hill appears to have saved everything from their history and Olive revisits the horse-drawn ambulance from her youth, a pile of vintage skates and photos from her school days in the 1910s and ‘20s.

It isn’t all fun and games. Olive explains how she threw her husband out in the 1930s when she caught him with another woman, her best friend, and thereafter she was a single mother to her three children working as cook, a cleaning woman and, until she retired at age 78, a barmaid.

There is a touching scene in which Olive visits the grave of an older sister Emma (“The only one who ever loved me”) who died at age 17.

On the occasion of her 105th birthday, Olive hopes that her three children will attend the celebration and when one daughter does not show, Olive is at first hurt, then angry. “I don’t want anything more to do with her,” she barks.

It is Olive’s strong emotions and opinions that mark this film. Except for a brief few moments when she waltzes with a young man during her visit to Broken Hill, Olive gets around these days with a walker or in a wheelchair. She tires easily. But her mind is nimble, her memories are clear and her feelings are as strong as any young person’s.

This is something we must all remember about getting old. Our bodies may wear out but barring stroke or dementia, there is no reason we cannot live a vital life of the mind until our deaths. Olive is living proof.

Some excerpts and some other video of this remarkable woman are available here, and you can purchase the DVD through Olive's blog. But have I got a deal for you:

CONTEST
This particular copy of All About Olive has been all around the world, mailed from one person to the next in many countries. Mike Rubbo is a cool guy and at my suggestion, he has allowed me to give away the DVD to a Time Goes By reader. So here is how it works: send me an email (ronniATronnibennettDOTcom) telling me you would like to own Olive's DVD and the person who sends the 15th email wins. You'll have to trust me - I'm the only judge - but I do know how to count.

One note - the disc may not play in all DVD players, but it runs perfectly on a laptop. And remember, it's an email, not a comment on the blog that wins the DVD. The winner will be announced tomorrow, Thursday.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jerry Waxler finds that persistent poking at old memories will bring up details you may have thought you had forgotten in Reach Far into Memory to Describe a Nerd.]


Audience Discrimination in Hollywood

category_bug_ageism.gif Not long ago Julian, who blogs at The Tattler, discovered a disturbing new practice (is it a trend?) taking place in at least one preview screening in Hollywood.

“I wasn't upset by the fact they asked for my name; after all, common sense dictated that they probably needed it to identify me for their guest list.

“But, I paused when I noticed they wanted me to disclose my race and my gender!

“The one that really packed the punch was the notice that the individual making the reservation provide the age of the parties who were requesting to be put on the guest list.

“The film company was limiting entrance to those who were 17-50.”

The film in question, The Kingdom, is directed by Scott Stuber, produced by Michael Mann, distributed by Universal Pictures and stars Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. The plot, according to the Internet Movie Database, involves “a team of U.S. government agents...sent to investigate the bombing of an American facility in the Middle East.”

Julian tries to guess the reason for the age limitation:

“Are they afraid that the violence onscreen may induce a heart attack? If so, what a presumption!

“Or that citizens over 50 may not be able to fathom the issues pertaining to terrorism, race, or sensitive political tensions in the Middle East?…

“Maybe, they don't want to turn off a younger audience by seating them alongside a bunch of grey hairs, with wrinkles, in the audience?”

Julian then goes into an excellent dissertation on ageism in which he writes in part:

“Ageism, however, is different from other isms (sexism, racism, etc.), for primarily two reasons:

First, the individual may be ageist with respect to others. That is they may stereotype other people on the basis of age.

“Second, the individual may be ageist with respect to self so ageist attitudes may affect the self-concept.

“We live in a culture that reveres youth. To be young is to be alive, sexy, and full of energy. To be old is to be ‘senile,’ ‘worthless’, and having ‘one foot in the grave’.

“This is the attitude most often seen in modern society.

“In general there are at least nine known major stereotypes that reflect prejudice towards senior citizens.

“These include illness, impotency, ugliness, mental decline, mental illness, uselessness, isolation, poverty and depression.

“This discrimination allows the rest of us to separate ourselves from older people and view them as less than fully human.”

Although these points have been made here at Time Goes By many times, I have never said it better than Julian has.

Just when there appears to be some progress - when mainstream media occasionally takes the issue of age seriously without jokes or smirking, when young technologists at Gnomedex greet my presentation on elder technology with eagerness, and when a few corporations are beginning to see the value of retaining and hiring older workers - Hollywood dictates that only young people may see a movie.

As far as we know this proscription against elders is confined to one private screening in one theater in Hollywood. Public theaters restrict some movies to people older than 17 with various R and PG ratings, a system that was instituted due to pressure from parents. Are we now looking at the future possibility of an E rating? No one older than 50 admitted?

Let’s all boycott The Kingdom when it comes to a multiplex near us. And you might want to go thank Julian for his terrific rant against ageism. [Warning: light text on dark background]

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Alice (Graham) Pasupathi makes amends (sort of) for her dastardly deed in the desert in Confessions of a Nature Lover.]


Ronni Bennett at Gnomedex 2007

Early this year, Chris Pirillo invited me to speak at his Gnomedex conference in Seattle and on 10 August I did just that with a presentation on Elders and Technology.

I wrote about my experience in this post and joared of Along the Way watched the live video feed and produced an excellent recap, even capturing some of the live chat that took place during the presentation.

Now, for those who care to see it, Chris Pirillo has posted the video at his blog. He has written a really nice introduction with a good overview of elders and technology. And he even made the video available to post elsewhere - like right here.


Chris | Live Tech Support | Video Help | Add to iTunes

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson tells a delightful fantasy about all those brilliant words that get lost sometimes on their way from brain to page in Mexican Wine.]


An Elder Morning Slob Routine

category_bug_journal2.gif For nearly 50 years, my weekday routine was the same: shower, dress, coffee, feed the cat, leave for work. Depending on the job, I followed that daily ritual beginning anywhere from 4:30AM to about 7:30AM. There was little time for dawdling.

Then came retirement without the need to get somewhere by a specific time. Now it goes something like this:

  • Brush teeth, wash face
  • Start coffee
  • Feed cat
  • Publish TGB and ESP
  • Answer overnight email
  • Read newspapers and Google Alerts
  • Sunrise on the deck with coffee and cat
  • Read more newspapers and Alerts
  • Make notes for future blog posts
  • Read some blogs and websites
  • Go over to-do list for the day
  • Add and subtract items on to-do list
  • Play with cat
  • Have some breakfast
  • Maybe write a blog post
  • Think about cleaning up desk; add it to to-do list
  • Organize research notes for future blog post

Note what's missing: shower, dress, make bed. Good god, I've become the poster girl (aging variety) for pajamas bloggers and am fulfilling my worst nightmare of an old woman in retirement, sitting here in my granny gown, fuzzy slippers and raggedy chenille robe (as now) until almost noon or, on a more organized day, mid-morning.

And I love it, leaving behind 60 years (if you count school) of living on someone else's schedule. I've always disliked hurrying to do anything and for the first time in my life, I can slob around on my schedule.

Of course, there are the days when the Fedex or UPS guy shows up and I appear at the door to sign for the package with long, gray hair flying every which way in my unkempt night clothes.

Then I resolve to shower and dress directly after posting the day's blogs. But if that worked, I wouldn't be telling you about this.

And don't think there isn't some guilt involved, most particularly that my daily walk gets postponed, sometimes clear until evening, and it takes a bit of mental effort each day to force myself to do it. Science is not high on my areas of knowledge, but isn't there some physics rule about inertia? That a body at rest tends to stay at rest? That's me these days.

I keep telling myself that I should develop a better routine - and perhaps this morning slobbing around will run its course in time. For now, I love following my whims so damned much that I'm determined to get over the guilt.

Even so, it is high time to shower now and get on with that to-do list.

[At the Elder Storytelling Place today, Pat Temiz explains the complicated maneuvering required to eat American-style in Dinner at the Drive-In in Istanbul.]


Blogs Are Little First Amendment Machines

Long before someone came up with the phrase "social media", blogs were doing it. The essence of blogging is connections, links to people and information we want to pass along to readers and links to other blogs we believe readers will enjoy.

In April, when I posted the criteria I use in choosing blogs for the Elderbloggers list (now posted permanently on the About page), I caught a bit of flak for mentioning that I don’t link to far right-wing political blogs nor to blogs the purpose of which is to support the Bush administration.

This came to mind again last week when I posted about updating the Elderbloggers List. Tamar of Only Connect left, in part, this comment:

“As for your criteria, I thought long and hard about the item on far right-wing politics and Bush administration supporters. I even drafted a comment. Yet because I respect you and the TGB community so much I thought extra hard before posting it. And then didn't — because others covered the gist of my thinking and it is your blog. You get to make decisions (and change them if you want).”

I have wondered if and how Tamar’s last sentence could ever be in question – about any blog. People who run topic blogs generally link to other blogs related to that subject matter. People who write personal blogs link to blogs they like on many subjects and often, to blogs that link to them.

Most never bother to state their criteria for the links on their blogrolls and I would not have mentioned mine except that some readers ask.

Those who objected to my political link choices (or non-choices) said that I am being discriminatory and that since the U.S. is “based on equal rights”, I should link to other points of view.

It is too easy to argue these days, given the shredding of our Constitution over the past six-plus years, that if the U.S. ever was based on equal rights it is not anymore. But so far, we have not been deprived of our individual right to support the points of view we believe in and oppose those we do not unless we are attending (a speech given by President Bush or try to hold an anti-Iraq War press conference in Lafayette Square).

What concerns me about those who argue that my blogroll or any blogroll should link to other points of view is this: how far should this idea be taken? Should I restore the link I removed a couple of years ago because the writer made anti-Semitic statements? What about the link I deleted to a blogger who used an anti-Arab slur?

There are a couple of well-produced, well-written elderblogs that espouse white supremacy. Although I disagree, should I link to those? I don’t write about it on this blog, but I support abortion rights and oppose the death penalty. Now that I’ve mentioned those, am I obligated to link to elderbloggers who oppose my positions? And while I’m asking, is it discriminatory to not include people younger than 50 on my blogroll?

Down at the bottom of the left sidebar, there is a link to the Electronic Frontier Foundation with a quote I heard from Jay Rosen of PressThink at the first Blogher conference in 2005: “Blogs are little First Amendment machines.” I know that Amendment by heart:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In explaining that bolded phrase, people have traditionally quoted Voltaire: “I may not agree with what you say, but I defend to my death your right to say it.”

And so it is at Time Goes by: I express my opinions here through writing and, sometimes, through my choice of links and so do readers in the comments. Is that not true for all our blogs?

[For those of us who like to play with words, at The Elder Storytelling Place today, Paul Henry - the Old Professor - holds forth on the vagaries of English idioms in Corn On and Off the Cob.]


What the Class of 2011 Knows

Each fall, for a decade or more, Beloit College in Wisconsin has issued their “Mindset List” to help older professors understand the incoming freshman. The students in this year’s class, who will graduate in 2011, were born mostly in 1989.

There are 70 items on the list and if, as in number 1, the freshmen don’t know what the Berlin Wall was, I am flummoxed by some others such as Michelle Wie in item 19 and “off the hook” in item 13.

The list is a fascinating peek into how different the cultural references of young students are from elders'.

  1. What Berlin wall?
  2. Humvees, minus the artillery, have always been available to the public.
  3. Rush Limbaugh and the "Dittoheads" have always been lambasting liberals.
  4. They never "rolled down" a car window.
  5. Michael Moore has always been angry and funny.
  6. They may confuse the Keating Five with a rock group.
  7. They have grown up with bottled water.
  8. General Motors has always been working on an electric car.
  9. Nelson Mandela has always been free and a force in South Africa.
  10. Pete Rose has never played baseball.

  11. Rap music has always been mainstream.
  12. Religious leaders have always been telling politicians what to do, or else!
  13. "Off the hook" has never had anything to do with a telephone.
  14. Music has always been "unplugged."
  15. Russia has always had a multi-party political system.
  16. Women have always been police chiefs in major cities.
  17. They were born the year Harvard Law Review Editor Barack Obama announced he might run for office some day.
  18. The NBA season has always gone on and on and on and on.
  19. Classmates could include Michelle Wie, Jordin Sparks, and Bart Simpson.
  20. Half of them may have been members of the Baby-sitters Club.

  21. Eastern Airlines has never "earned their wings" in their lifetime.
  22. No one has ever been able to sit down comfortably to a meal of "liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."
  23. Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.
  24. Being "lame" has to do with being dumb or inarticulate, not disabled.
  25. Wolf Blitzer has always been serving up the news on CNN.
  26. Katie Couric has always had screen cred.
  27. Al Gore has always been running for president or thinking about it.
  28. They never found a prize in a Coca-Cola "MagiCan."
  29. They were too young to understand Judas Priest's subliminal messages.
  30. When all else fails, the Prozac defense has always been a possibility.

  31. Multigrain chips have always provided healthful junk food.
  32. They grew up in Wayne's World.
  33. U2 has always been more than a spy plane.
  34. They were introduced to Jack Nicholson as The Joker.
  35. Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names.
  36. American rock groups have always appeared in Moscow.
  37. Commercial product placements have been the norm in films and on TV.
  38. On Parents' Day on campus, their folks could be mixing it up with Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz with daughter Zöe, or Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford with son Cody.
  39. Fox has always been a major network.
  40. They drove their parents crazy with the Beavis and Butt-head laugh.

  41. The Blue Man Group has always been everywhere.
  42. Women's studies majors have always been offered on campus.
  43. Being a latchkey kid has never been a big deal.
  44. Thanks to MySpace and Facebook, autobiography can happen in real time.
  45. They learned about JFK from Oliver Stone and Malcolm X from Spike Lee.
  46. Most phone calls have never been private.
  47. High definition television has always been available.
  48. Microbreweries have always been ubiquitous.
  49. Virtual reality has always been available when the real thing failed.
  50. Smoking has never been allowed in public spaces in France.

  51. China has always been more interested in making money than in reeducation.
  52. Time has always worked with Warner.
  53. Tiananmen Square is a 2008 Olympics venue, not the scene of a massacre.
  54. The purchase of ivory has always been banned.
  55. MTV has never featured music videos.
  56. The space program has never really caught their attention except in disasters.
  57. Jerry Springer has always been lowering the level of discourse on TV.
  58. They get much more information from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert than from the newspaper.
  59. They're always texting 1 n other.
  60. They will encounter roughly equal numbers of female and male professors in the classroom.

  61. They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
  62. They have no idea who Rusty Jones was or why he said "goodbye to rusty cars."
  63. Avatars have nothing to do with Hindu deities.
  64. Chavez has nothing to do with iceberg lettuce and everything to do with oil.
  65. Illinois has been trying to ban smoking since the year they were born.
  66. The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born.
  67. Chronic fatigue syndrome has always been debilitating and controversial.
  68. Burma has always been Myanmar.
  69. Dilbert has always been ridiculing cubicle culture.
  70. Food packaging has always included nutritional labeling.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Matty reveals how much more than a definition she took away from The Day I Learned to Use the Dictionary.]


The World Trade Center - One Person's Memory

[EDITORIAL NOTE: With some minor edits to bring statistics up to date, this is a repeat posting from last year’s anniversary of the World Trade Center attack.]

category_bug_journal2.gif In the late 1950s, there was an excellent television drama titled The Naked City set, of course, in New York. The show's tagline was, "There are eight million stories in the naked city. This is one of them." And so it is today on Time Goes By, one small story among millions.

In the late summer of 2001, I was 60 years old, unemployed since the overnight demise, 13 months earlier, of the dotcom where I had been vice president of editorial and interactive.

The stack of printouts and folders on my desk had reached a height of two inches – more than a year’s worth of email and snailmail job applications, cover letters, lists of potential employment contacts, headhunters, notes of telephone conversations, rejection letters, follow-up schedules and spreadsheets tracking it all.

As everyone in the world would soon know, the morning of 11 September dawned gloriously cool, bright and sunny - a good day, if you were not working, to go to the park or bicycle down the urban path toward the World Trade Center or just walk the city. But not for me. The wolf had been scratching at my door for many weeks and on top of that stack of job search detritus was a list of contacts I intended to call as soon as offices opened.

By shortly after 8AM, I had been at my desk for a couple of hours working on a design for what would, before long, become my first blog (not this one). I only half listened to CBS News Radio88 in the background, the usual litany of national and local politics, deliberate and accidental death, and celebrity stories to fill in the blanks between commercials.

Then the breaking-news alert sounded. I remember groaning; it would be just another fender bender or commuter traffic snarl breathlessly reported as though it were the start of World War III. But instead, the news reader said something about an airplane and the World Trade Center. I dashed to the bedroom to turn on the television and saw to my horror that perhaps it was, this time, World War III.

It’s the little things in life that can turn me into a crazed harridan. When the big things happen, I am calm and rational, running potential next steps through my mind and then taking action, if any is needed. My lifelong broadcast career training kicked in; I needed to get to the office right away to help cover the story. But I had no office to go to. So, I phoned a journalist friend who was recently retired from full-time work.

“It’s like the Empire State Building years ago,” he said. “Some pilot lost his way.” “Not a chance,” said I. For three years, I had worked in an office on 11th Avenue overlooking the Hudson where I had watched planes large and small move up and down the river all day. I knew that 1: no planes are allowed to fly over Manhattan and 2: pilots are taught to ditch, when something goes wrong, in water and there is plenty of that around Manhattan. “It’s a terrorist attack,” I told my friend.

As soon as we hung up, the phone rang - my upstairs neighbor. His wife took the two boys to school in Brooklyn each day by subway and then returned home. She was late, he said. He just knew she had stopped to shop, as was her habit a couple of times a week, at Century 21 across the street from the World Trade Center. She didn’t have a cell phone with her. He was terrified.

My Greenwich Village apartment was half a block from the intersection of Sixth Avenue, a major north/south artery, and Houston Street. For 20 years, it had been my private ritual, as I left home each morning, to look north for a view of the Empire State Building and then south to check the twin towers of the World Trade Center. If they were there then all was right, I believed, with my world.

A second, less uplifting ritual – mental exercise, really - that began following the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, was my now-and-then attempt to calculate, should a Trade Center building fall over northward, whether the top of it would crash into my townhouse. My conclusion had been that it didn’t matter. Even if it didn’t reach as far as my block, the concussion would probably kill me. You shrug in the face of such potential catastrophe you can't control and get on with life. But my mind wandered back to it from time to time.

On that morning five years ago, my upstairs neighbor and I sat watching television near his phone waiting, hoping, silently praying to all the gods the world has ever worshipped to let us hear from his wife. We took turns joining neighbors at the corner of Sixth and Houston, staring south to the fire and smoke and, before long, the collapse of the buildings.

Within an hour or so, my neighbor’s wife telephoned from a friend’s house in SoHo and soon, sitting on our stoop together, we saw her, covered in soot, walking toward us. Later, she told her story:

Yes, she had been shopping at Century 21 and was just entering the stairs to the subway in the lower concourse of the World Trade Center when there was a tremendous noise above. The entire building shuddered. Debris was raining down as she and everyone raced out and away, not looking back. She hadn’t known what had happened until she reached her friend’s house.

I heard many more stories that day. I spent much of it sitting on my stoop and as thousands of survivors walked north on Sixth Avenue toward their homes, some turned into my street. The first time, I was surprised when a stranger in a dusty business suit, carrying a briefcase plopped himself down beside me and wept on my shoulder as he told me his story. When he had collected himself enough to head home, another stopped, and another, sometimes two and three at a time. We wept together for the dead, for ourselves and for our city.

That evening, the journalist friend I had spoken with in the morning came by and we walked Greenwich Village looking for a place to eat dinner. Hardly any restaurants were open and those that were, were crammed with people, most of them strangers to one another just wanting to be with other people. We joined them and then wandered over to Washington Square Park where thousands of others had gathered too.

The next morning, I went to St. Vincent’s Hospital to give blood, but by then, sadly, it wasn’t necessary and I was turned away. Home-made posters with photos of the missing were tacked on many buildings in the neighborhood. Spontaneous memorials with American flags, candles, flowers, prayer cards and notes had appeared on street corners.

The authorities shut down traffic except for emergency vehicles below 14th Street for the next four days, and we used the winding Greenwich Village streets as the cowpaths they once were, ignoring street lights and crosswalks, walking where whim took us.

During those days, knots of people – sometimes neighbors, sometimes strangers – gathered here and there. The first question, carefully worded, was always, “Is everyone you know okay?” Sometimes they were; sometimes they were not. Often we just stood together silently for awhile, stunned still by the events of that terrible day.

Three weeks later, at last, I was offered a job and a week after that, I was on a plane to Florida for a week-long conference. Planes approaching New York travel up the Hudson River and then turn toward LaGuardia Airport. On my return from Florida, I deliberately chose a window seat on the Manhattan side of the plane because although I had seen the aerial photos of Ground Zero, I wanted to see it "for real".

The size of the devastation was shocking. I'd had no idea that much of downtown was gone. A big, ugly, open sore on the city, much larger than any photo or video had conveyed.

The first anniversary of 9/11 hit me as hard as the first anniversary of the deaths of loved ones I’ve buried. I mourned for the dead, for the kind of world we had come to live in now, and for the damage done to my city.

It disturbs me still that from the day of the attack – and still – when I have stood at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Houston Street, I can’t remember which buildings the World Trade Center towered above when I looked south each morning. It feels as though my lack of attention all those years to their exact location in the sky is a betrayal and I am sorry for that.

Today, it is six years later and now we, the American people have been betrayed. The president used the tragedy of 9/11 as an excuse to launch a war with lies that have been proved to be so beyond doubt. More American soldiers have died now than died that day at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. Almost 28,000 more have suffered injuries they will live with until the end of their days.

And what have we gained?

Columnist Frank Rich’s summing up in The New York Times [subscription required] at last year’s anniversary still pertains:

“…so here we are five [six] years later. Fearmongering remains unceasing. So do tax cuts. So does the war against a country that did not attack us on 9/11. We have moved on, but no one can argue that we have moved ahead.”

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Grannymar tells of the time, on a dark and stormy night, a stranger (or was he?) appeared at the door in The Caller.]


Retired and Single

category_bug_journal2.gif Last week a reader named Joan left a comment saying she would like to read about

“…retired single women without spouse, children or grandchildren who are elder and retired from a career and on disability.”

The flip answer is that except for not being on disability, who do you think has been writing this blog for the past four years.

The real answer is that I have never thought about it much nor have I seen much, if anything, written about it, so I can speak only for myself.

I made a conscious choice, as my biological clock was ticking toward midnight about three decades ago, to not have children. I weighed the decision carefully, considering it for more than a year before letting go of the idea and moving on.

First, I had never felt much of an urge to be a mother. Second, I came to believe that whatever might happen to a marriage after a few years, it is probably best to give a child a shot at two live-in parents and I wasn’t married at the time - although that would not have stopped me if becoming a mother had felt like an imperative.

I have never regretted the decision and I don’t miss not having grandchildren. Or, perhaps it is that with no experience at raising children, I have nothing with which to compare a childless, grandchildless life. It feels normal to me.

That is not to say I don’t care about what life will be like for future generations. I care a great deal and in fact, almost all my political decisions and opinions are predicated on how I think they will affect a longer-term future rather than now or the just next four years.

I have come to like being single at this age, but I think I liked it when I was younger too. It has been a decade or more since I had any thought of marriage. I have friends of a wide age range, and a few who are close enough to call family.

If there is any social stigma attached to being single in old age, I haven’t noticed it and women, due to their longer, average life spans, often live alone in their later years. Most old women I have known were divorced or widowed, if not without children or grandchildren. Most old men I have known, however, were married.

As to retired, it was not my choice. I was forced out after a year of unemployment; not many companies will hire elders - men or women. But this blog and its associated activities engage me as much or more than many of the jobs I worked with the advantage that should I come to dislike it, I won’t need to continue just to pay the rent.

Even if the blog did not take a lot of time or, on the off chance I abandoned it, there are so many things to do, places to go, stuff to learn, I would be as busy. I have never been bored a day in my life and I don’t expect that to happen in whatever number of years I have left. I am certain I will die saying, "Wait a minute, let me finish this book." Or blog post. Or conversation.

There is less money by two-thirds or so than when I was working, but I don’t feel poor. I can’t buy on whim anymore nor can I afford to make mistakes with purchases as I did too frequently in the past. But a fortunate development that seems to come automatically with old age is that I don’t want as much stuff as I once did. And I don’t feel deprived, which was so in my younger years, when I cannot afford something I want.

All in all, I am quite happy in my circumstances.

I mention all this because I have nothing more to go on, in discussing a single old age without children or grandchildren, than my own experience. How about the rest of you? Are there any single, childless, retired people reading this who can enlighten us further?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone continues his story of long-haul trucking in Driving Test - More Than Half a Century Ago.]


Announcement About The Elder Storytelling Place

Beginning today and on every Saturday and Sunday hereafter for 28 weeks – which takes us to mid-March 2008 - a serial fairy tale will be published at The Elder Storytelling Place.

It was written in 1927, and is titled Chandra and Her Georg. More information and the first installment are here.

On an entirely different note, Riverbend who blogs at Baghdad Burning (she is listed on the right sidebar as an honorary elderblogger) is back. Ever since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, this young woman has been writing stories of daily life in Baghdad that are so real, so rich in sad and terrifying detail that you could almost imagine being there with her - except not really, because life for us in the U.S., Europe, Australia, etc. is so easy and safe.

She stopped posting in April and each time I checked her blog thereafter, I worried for her and her family. Given the news of civilian deaths every day from Baghdad, it seems almost a miracle now that she has posted her first entry from Syria to which she and her family fled a few months ago. Don't miss her harrowing tale titled Leaving Home...


The Words We Use for Elders

Much has been discussed on this blog about what words are used to describe old people. (Here and here are just two.) From day one at TGB, we refused any of the cutesy euphemisms such as “golden ager,” “third ager” and even “senior citizen” which has a dusty, overused quality to it.

We like “old” and “older” for clarity’s sake, and we lean heavily toward “elder” in an attempt to resurrect that lovely old word the definition of which needs to be expanded beyond its identification mostly with tribal elders.

About a month ago, Marilyn Gardner, a columnist for The Christian Science Monitor reported on a language survey among 100 journalists and editors who write about aging and retirement. She makes an important point:

“…the issue goes beyond the language those in the media use. The words we all choose to describe people in midlife and beyond – ourselves and others – help to define and shape attitudes about later years, both positive and negative.”

The Christian Science Monitor, 8 August 2007

The top two choices, in order of preference, were “older” and “senior.” “Boomer” was acceptable, but not “baby boomer.” And I couldn’t agree more with this:

“’Elderly’ is the word that grates the most. Elderly used as an adjective is acceptable, but the phrase ‘the elderly’ comes under criticism for its ‘impersonal and stigmatizing manner’ of grouping older people together with images of frailty and decline.

“’Elders,’ on the other hand, can convey respect.”

"Senior citizen" is one of the most disliked terms in the survey. The phrase is among my Google Alerts and the stories listed are almost always about pie sales, bridge club meetings, menus at senior centers and other community announcements showing that while journalists may be up to date on elder language, service organizations are not.

Ms. Gardner is even up to speed on the word “still” which we have railed against on this blog:

“It’s not just generational labels – nouns – that can convey negative images. Pesky little words, such as ‘still’, as in ‘still driving’ or ‘still jogging,’ imply that these activities are something out of the ordinary, defying the norm.

“Then there are the adjectives that are meant to sound complimentary but actually boomerang. Think of spry, perky, chipper, feisty, sweet, little and grandmotherly. For one journalist responding to the survey, the cloying phrase ‘100 years young’ represents the worst possible cliché about aging.”

Hear! Hear! In the same category are two phrases I recently ran across in news stories – “encore careers” and “after midlife” because they try too hard to avoid referencing old age.

Generally on this blog, we do not use the pejoratives for old people such as geezer, coot and biddy except in playful, humor circumstances. In a recent email exchange, Deejay of the Small Beer blog made me laugh when he suggested that Geezer Flicks is a lot more fun that the staid Elder Movie List name I had given our growing list of films that feature elders in a positive light.

It's always good to laugh so I have changed the name and henceforth it will be known as Geezer Flicks. Thank you, Deejay.

Otherwise here at TGB, we will continue using elder, old and older for exactly the reasons Ms. Gardner concludes her story with:

“Words matter. Whatever the choice of language, conveying a sense of dignity – which is sometimes hard for people to come by in their later years – represents a worthy goal.”

The Christian Science Monitor, 8 August 2007

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marti tells of the human need for a sense of place from her immigrant parents' point of view and her own in In Search of My Father's America.]