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September 2007
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Things To Do at Time Goes By

When I was planning and designing Time Goes By in the fall of 2003, it was to be a simple little blog. No one was writing about what it's really like to get old so I would do it, making use of the years of research I'd been collecting on aging for my personal understanding, and whatever new material I found along the way.

When I was tweaking some layout the other day (have you noticed the new dropdown menus for the archives in the middle of the right sidebar - nifty, huh?), I was struck by how much stuff is here other than my daily musings. And most of it comes from you - readers who have been generous in contributing to this blog in a variety of ways.

Here are some of the things you can do here:

1. Find the best of elderblogs on the list in the left sidebar. Recent additions are marked with an asterisk. If you would like to recommend your own or another blog for inclusion, email suggestions. Here are the criteria.

2. Peek at photos of where other elders blog. And submit your own. New ones have been added yesterday and today.

3. In Geezer Flicks, find movies featuring positive portrayals of elders. Each one links to its entry at the Internet Movie Database for more information. You are welcome to submit suggestions for more.

4. Read stories at TGB's sister blog, The Elder Storytelling Place. And submit your own stories to be published there.

5. Get an Elderblogger badge to post on your own blog to help promote elderblogging.

6. Read the excellent Guest Blogs from elders who have filled in for me when I've been away. Just search "guest blogger" with Lijit in the upper right corner for a list.

7. Read a serial fairy tale, Chandra and Her Georg, written 80 years ago and published here for the first time. The watercolors that accompany the story are extraordinary. New episodes are published each Saturday and Sunday. It begins here.

8. Watch videos by and about elders. Although they are posted as regular blog entries over time, there is now a new page listing them all in one place. There are many more at YouTube, but these have been randomly selected as I discover them or, more likely, as readers bring them to my attention.

9. Most of the above are permanently available listed under "TGB Features" toward the top of the right sidebar along with some past series on Social Security Privatization, Universal Healthcare, Hurricane Katrina commentary (particularly regarding elders during that tragedy in New Orleans) and the story of caring for my mother during the final months of her life.

Of course, there are new blog postings five or six days a week, and most especially the comments. I'm proud that TGB attracts so many smart, vital, argumentative (in the best sense) people contributing every day. There are some terrific conversations going on here.

One more thing: while I've got your attention, I am issuing a plea for more stories for The Elder Storytelling Place. Five are published during each week and I get nervous when the reserve falls to fewer than ten. So tell us your stories.

Also, don't forget to send in your photos for the Where Elders Blog feature.

And most of all, thank you all for so generously taking part in this blog. It couldn't possibly be as rich and full without your contributions.



The Aging of Movie Stars

category_bug_ageism.gif Demi Moore, who is 44 years old (a stripling to many elders), has lately been lambasting Hollywood producers for not hiring actresses of a certain age, of not even bothering to write roles for them.

Although my sympathy for people who take home millions of dollars for a couple of months’ work is tepid, Ms. Moore is not wrong. Except for occasional supporting roles as mothers (who are never germane to the plot), Hollywood actresses disappear from the screen at about age 35 or certainly by 40.

After of few years of exile, they turn up as has-been semi-celebrities on reality shows then disappear again until they age into grande dames like Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Maggie Smith (although it is curious that the current crop is all British).

The result of Ms. Moore’s public griping has been, in the gossip rags, to point out her physical failings. How’s this for a headline?

“Demi's £260,000 body remodelling in tatters as she reveals yet more wrinkles”

After a lengthy recitation of the all the liposuction, lifts and injections Ms. Moore has done, including the price of each, the story continues:

“Where once her skin was taut and smooth, she now sports pronounced crow's feet and deep set wrinkles.

“Heavy bags and shadowing around both eyes added to her apparent rapid aging. Ironically, her less than polished appearance came during the photocall of her new movie, Flawless.

“Miss Moore's latest public appearance comes four years after she made her first visit to the plastic surgeon…

“Last night, plastic surgeon Apostolos Gaitanis said: ‘Basically she will need botox around her eyes to make her skin smoother.

"’She should also consider using small injections of hyaluronic acids and multi-vitamins to improve the texture of her cheeks.’”

Daily Mail, 2 October 2007

What is important about this is that whether we like it or not, the media’s attitude toward celebrities' age - from who is chosen to appear in movies and on television at one end of the scale to newspaper and magazines stories such as this one - is that the negative portrayal of old people (particularly women) or lack of portrayal at all, devolves onto ordinary elders and becomes part of the culture of ageism.

There is nothing wrong with youth and beauty. If you can’t gasp sometimes at the breathtaking perfection of a 25-year-old in full bloom, you’re probably not breathing at all. But youth should not be the only human condition that is valued.

Oh, and here’s the photograph the Daily Mail finds so repellent. I think she is lovely.

Demimoore_2

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joy Des Jardins takes a poke at our funny bone in It's Worth a Good Laugh.]



An Elder Hit on YouTube

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Have you sent in a photo of your blog workspace for the new feature, Where Elders Blog? The more photos, the more fun for everyone. The instructions are here, and you can see other elders' blogging places here.]

When, over the summer, I visited Monarch Landing, an Erickson retirement community in a suburb of Chicago [TGB story here], one of the most popular activities among the residents was Wii bowling.

In case you’re behind the curve on Wii, it is video game console from Nintendo in which a handheld controller similar in look to a television remote, is swung like a tennis racket, golf club, bowling ball, etc. toward a large screen where the action takes place. In other words, virtual sports.

I tried Wii bowling while I was at Monarch Landing. It’s a load of fun and as close to the real feel of the game as is anything likely to ever be invented. [Undoubtedly I'll regret that prediction some day.]

Erickson recently held a Wii bowling tournament pitting several of their communities around the U.S. against one another. And they recorded it. The edited tournament has been running on YouTube for only a couple of days and is rated (as of early this morning) in the top 50 viewed sports videos.

Here is it for you:

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Paul Henry, the Old Professor, tells us what happened when, as a youth, he decided I Want to Play Like Duke Ellington.]



What Have You Stopped Doing in Your Old Age?

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Have you sent in a photo of your blog workspace for the new feature, Where Elders Blog? The more photos, the more fun for everyone. The announcement/instructions are here, and you can see other elders' blogging places here.]

category_bug_journal2.gif Two commenters – Nikki of Nikki’s Place and jeh12345 of driftwoodinspiration – on the story about retiring to a Travelodge mentioned that, like me, they hate changing bed linen. Nikki brought up the difficulty in getting duvet covers on and off. No kidding. I once zipped the cat into the duvet and couldn’t find him until bedtime. He didn’t complain all day.

Two or three years ago, I gave up the quilt/duvet hassle every week in favor of thin, cotton quilts. I had switched to the quilt/duvet routine about 35 years ago to avoid the need for a top sheet; I am not capable of sleeping under them without getting my legs so tangled that it wakes me when I can’t move in the night.

Thin cotton quilts solve both problems. I just add more in winter and they wash as easily as sheets.

Here are some other things I’ve given up in old age:

  • High-heeled shoes, and oh, how I miss them – their beauty, their sexiness, the added height. But nowadays I can’t get from the bedroom to the door without crying out in pain. It is a good thing in life to not be in self-inflicted pain.
  • Weighing myself. I counted every forkful that went in my mouth from puberty until about ten years ago. I was always hungry, but when the scale inched up, I ate even less. Now I eat when and what I want and I may be fat, but I’m easier to get along with.

  • Coloring my hair. I suppose, due to my blog point of view, gray hair has become a political statement for me. But more important is the freedom from a chore that rivals bed changing on the tedium scale. Since my hair has no style – I just clip it back – I trim it myself allowing me to forego even a moment in a dreaded hair shop.

  • Makeup. At about 15 minutes a day for 45 years or so, I spent nearly six months of my life applying makeup. No more. Well, except for the occasional fancy social engagement.

  • Pantihose. For decades I inflicted this torture on myself. Now, if an outfit requires pantyhose, I don’t buy it.

  • Finishing books I don’t like unless I’m obligated by a misguided promise. Whatever possessed me for so many years to think that once begun, a book – no matter how boring, badly-written or unenlightening – must be finished.

  • Buying music – in any format. There are more than 10,000 mp3s (some singles; some albums) on my computer now and my music organizer/player informs me that to listen to them all would take 36 days, 21 hours, 18 minutes and 43 seconds. That’s enough to last the rest of my life.

  • Following celebrity gossip. For the years I spent working at The Barbara Walters Specials and elsewhere, it was necessary to know who was who and what they were doing with whomever else who was a boldfaced name. Now I can’t tell the difference between Britney Spears (I had to look up the spelling) and Lindsay Lohan, and I don’t care.

  • Hurrying. I spent nearly 50 years working on deadline, sometimes hourly deadlines all day, every day. I don’t do that anymore at least when they are imposed by someone else.

In addition to reducing the amount of stress and irritation in my life, many of these save time and others save a lot of money which is a good thing since I don’t have as much of it as I did when I was working.

I know, I know – there are plenty of Time Goes By readers who have never done any of these things (call me shallow; I won’t mind). But I am willing to bet there is other stuff you have forsaken as a bad idea or no longer necessary as you’ve gotten older. Let’s hear about them…

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, there is an anonymous piece sent in by Randy Clark that should leave your leave your heart warmed. It is titled Whose Life Have You Touched Today?]



A Home in Portland, Maine

[EDITORIAL NOTE: A new feature has been added to Time Goes By: Where Elders Blog. Get a peek at the places people blog and do join us by sending a photo of your blog space - the more photos, the more fun for everyone. The announcement/instructions are here.]

Category_bug_timeline This Photo Biography/Timeline has been neglected for too long. In fact, I haven’t posted new pictures in 18 months which has been an eventful period for me, having moving from Greenwich Village to Portland, Maine and all.

Mainehouse2007

[8 June 2006] That's the day I closed on my new home and that’s my apartment on the second floor. I first noticed these New England-style “triple deckers” – sometimes called a “three-deckers” – on train trips to Portland from New York and back when I was looking for my new home; they are ubiquitous from Rhode Island on north.

Triple-deckers scream “working class” and “immigrant” and so they were when most were built in the early years of the 20th century. Mine was built in 1899. These days they are more likely to be renovated and sold as condominiums (shouldn’t the plural be condominia?) for middle class families.

Triple deckers are justly famous in architectural circles. The apartments are large, usually have decks or porches - sometimes both front and back - and because they are set on lots and not flush against one another as brick rowhouses generally are, there is light and air on all four sides.

Wikipedia has an entry on triple-deckers. An architectural blog calls them “da bomb.” There is even a long-running play about the residents of a triple-decker building.

Readers from other parts of the U.S. would be shocked at how small homes are in Manhattan, even many that cost millions of dollars. After nearly 40 years in cramped, New York City apartments, I feel like I have finally become a grownup having, now, so much space to rattle around in, including – oh, such grandeur! – a guest bedroom.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, kenju is having some fun with elder stereotypes in Mothballs and Throwrugs - the Mark of a Retiree?]



Elders and the Changing Blogosphere – Part 2

[EDITORIAL NOTE: If you missed it over the weekend, a new feature has been added to Time Goes By: Where Elders Blog. Get a peek at the places people blog and please join us by sending a photo of your blog space.. The announcement/instructions are here.]

Last Friday in Part 1, we discussed the changing blogosphere - specifically that attempts to monetize blogs leave many so cluttered with ads they look like newspaper inserts for K-Mart, and that social media sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. are luring bloggers away from more thoughtful and entertaining posts to quick shots of “what I’m doing now”.

The comments expand on the point and Virginia DeBolt of WebTeacher had a particularly interesting thought:

“Our electronic lives are being packed into more and more compact devices, such as iPhones or Blackberries. When everything is small and wireless, and keyboards are reduced to something you search one fingertip at a time, then things like Tweets take the place of blog posts. Everything is abbreviated into a text message. Our individual interactions with the electronic world increase, therefore we attempt to make each individual interaction briefer.”

Virginia is on to something regarding the medium being the message. It’s damned hard to expand on a thought with any depth or even tell a joke while trying to tap quarter-inch-wide keys.

Taken a step further, the question becomes: what does this do to our minds and attention spans? For 60 years, television has trained us to concentrate only in eight-minute bursts and try to hold that thought during three minutes of disparate commercials. Remember that show, Short Attention Span Theater? It was hilarious, but the underlying premise made a serious point.

Now, our miniaturized technology is further reducing our thought processes to 140 characters, and watching movies or news on a two-inch phone screen diminishes our worldview dramatically.

For several reasons, few old folks are likely to abandon blogging for iPhones or to follow the younger generations to MySpace and Twitter in numbers that matter.

  • Many elders are just getting started with computers. There is a learning curve for those who were not born with a mouse in their hand
  • Declining eyesight and motor skills preclude some elders from using miniature devices
  • Elders are less inclined to need to be in 24/7 contact with others that miniature devices and social media sites almost demand
  • Elders have less desire than young people to follow the latest fads
  • Many technology-savvy elders are just discovering blogging, attracted by the opportunity to share their stories and make new friends. (Elders are the fastest-growing age cohort online.)

Among Carl Jung’s seven tasks of aging is “determining the meaning of one’s life.” As David Wolfe brilliantly explains that at his Ageless Marketing blog,

“Life meaning among the young is framed by styles of appearance, language, material acquisitions, and social affiliations in the quest for a solid footing in the external world...

“However, the search for life meaning undergoes a major shift in the second half of life. Whatever people’s material success, many find less and less meaning from “things.” So, they begin to look inward rather than to the outer world in their search for life meaning.”

One way of doing that is putting order and coherence to the events of our lives and blogging is an ideal forum for telling those stories. Listen to Dr. William H. Thomas in his book What Are Old People For? on the subject of information and storytelling:

“Adults and elders alike confuse expertise and information with wisdom and stories…In the life of a healthy community, stories actually matter more than information. They are also far more durable. Stories are told only when they can be heard, heard only when they are told. They come to life in the moment of their telling and then make a place in our memories…

“Storytelling is one of the pleasures of life, its sweetness is enhanced when the story is used to transmit a bit of wisdom…Technical information, useful as it is, has little or no wisdom to it.”

Whether elderblogs can claim to transmit wisdom or not (I have found much wisdom in many), they provide an unparalleled benefits for elders.

As we have discussed here in the past, as people get older, their social worlds can shrink. Children and grandchildren may live thousands of miles away. In retirement, there is no longer the daily interaction with colleagues, nor the easy opportunity for making new friends at work. Old friends and relatives die. And sometimes, mobility issues keep elders from getting out and about as easily or frequently as in the past.

And although it is a new phenomenon, the friendships forged through blogging become as important, close and caring as with our in-person friends. When I left my home of 37 years in Manhattan in mid-2006, to live in Portland, Maine, the first year would have painfully lonely without my blog friends.

There are other important benefits for elders in blogging. At least one study reported at the Eide Neurolearning Blog has shown that blogging keeps minds from stagnating by promoting, among other things

  • critical and analytical thinking
  • creative, intuitive, and associational thinking
  • a combination of the best of solitary reflection and social interaction

For all these reasons, elderblogging is not only here to stay, it will grow even while, perhaps, younger people gravitate to shorter venues, smaller devices and other changes that will ensue. I hope some of those younger people will reconsider longer-form blogging; I would miss their voices.

Or, perhaps it takes getting older to appreciate the pleasures of contemplation – private and out loud on our blogs.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kay Richard recalls a episode of sweet revenge in Smokin' in the Garage.]