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Expectations of Aging: Young vs. Old

Fifty-seven percent of people aged 18 to 64 expect to be afflicted with memory loss in old age, but only 25 percent of people 65 and older report such a difficulty. Forty-two percent of the younger group say serious illness will be a problem; only 21 percent of the older group report experiencing such.

In nine negative markers of aging, younger people expect growing old to be worse than it is.

Yesterday, Pew Social Trends released a new survey titled Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality. Here is their chart on the difference between young and old on “The Challenges of Aging”:

PewChallenges

Do you think this misperception by young people might have something to do with the incessant cultural drumbeat to remain young at any cost? The responses of the young to the positive markers of age are also at odds – to a slightly lesser degree - with the reality elders report.

Eight-seven percent of the young group expect more time for hobbies and interests; 65 percent of elders find this to be true. The gap between younger and older on more time for travel is 77 percent to 52 percent. Here's that chart:

PewBenefits

In the past on this blog, we have discussed – even argued - at what age people can be labeled old. The Pew survey asked about this and as expected, the older you are, the older old age begins. But I was pleased to see that it doesn't vary all that much – 14 years – from age 18 to 65-plus:

PewWhenOld

Here is another way of looking at the same question: events that mark one as old, answered by all 2,969 respondents, but not separated into age groups:

PewMarkersofAge

As long-time readers of Time Goes By know, I get nuts when anyone says something like, “I'm 72, but I don't feel that old.” It's absurd; since no one has ever been as old as they are today, whatever they feel is how that age feels.

What is happening when people make that statement, I've come to see, is that they are reacting to misperceptions of old age from their youth when, as the younger people in this Pew survey, they believed old age is worse than it is. Here's the Pew chart on actual age versus perceived age:

GapBetweenAgeandHowFeel

This is an excellent and extensive survey comparing young and old beliefs about aging which helps explain some cultural ageism. There is much more than I have covered in this post and you can read the entire report here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Confessions of a Neurotic.


Featured Elderblogs

For a couple of years, it has bothered me that the Elderbloggers List, which was in the left sidebar, is so long there was hardly any way to choose what to click on except, perhaps, when a blog name happens to catch your fancy. No one, certainly not me, can read all these blogs, but they are carefully chosen for quality and should be – each and every one - spotlighted.

So today, a new Time Goes By section is being launched: Featured Elderblogs. Each Monday, links to five blogs from within the full list will be posted and remain until the following Monday when five different blogs will be featured for a week and so on.

Now don't panic. The full list - and your own blog link - has not disappeared. Instead, note the new graphic link just below the Featured Elderblogs that will take you to the complete list on another page.

The reason to do this is that the number of blogs – up to 377 today with the inclusion of 32 new ones – has become too unwieldy for a sidebar. Moving it to its own page frees up a lot of real estate for other items that will be added from time to time.

I assume you know the list does not contain all the elderbloggers online. It is only the ones I learn of in various ways and that meet certain criteria, among them: written by people who are at least 50 years old and who post new material once a week or more; are reasonably well-designed and well-written; are personal – that is, non-commercial, non-professional – blogs (which doesn't mean there can't be GoogleAds and their ilk).

There are a handful of blogs on the list written by people younger than 50 such as Advanced Age and ElderGuru who make elders their topic and do it well. But generally the list is for old people's blogs.

I once had the idea of organizing the blogs within categories, but was defeated when I realized there are nearly as many topics as there are elderblogs. So the list remains alphabetical.

There are probably a few abandoned blogs in the full list – I removed some, but there may be more. I will gradually delete them as I work my way through the weekly, five Featured Elderblogs.

You are welcome to suggest elderblogs – your own or someone else's - for the wait list. Do keep in mind, however, that they may not be included for various reasons and since I update the list only every few months, there may be a delay before they are added.

The new Featured Elderbloggers list should introduce readers to new blogs they haven't discovered before, reacquaint us with some we may have lost track of, and help spread the word about the many elders who keep excellent blogs. I hope you like the new system.

Here is a list of the newly-added elderblogs:

Birds on a Wire

Blethers

Boogie Street

Celia's Blue Cottage

cilesfineline

Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie

dept. of nance

Eclectic World

ElderGuru

Friko's Musings

goldenrod's thoughts

Gooznews on Health

HinesSight

Jive Chalkin'

Kenyo of Pensacola

Kick It Up a Notch

Lewis Grossberger

MamaFlo's Place

Middle Age Ramblings

MiiiKee's-World

The New Sixty

Patient's Progress

Peevish Pen

Possumlady Place

Rambling Woods

Realizing Ordinary

Sixty and Single in Seattle

Small Change

The Stamp Collecting Roundup

The Tempered Optimist

Thrifty and Proud of It

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Syney Halet: Interview.


ELDER MUSIC: Classical Part 1

EDITORIAL NOTE: When I returned from New York City, I discovered that Peter Tibbles of Melbourne had been hard at work producing Sunday Elder Music posts for me – for which I am most grateful – he knows so much more than I do. This is Part One of a post on classical music which will continue next Sunday.


When I’m at home alone I listen mainly to what’s generally called classical music. This may come as a bit of a surprise to anyone who’s read a few of my Sunday Music spots. It’s just that music from the fifties is so much more fun to write about.

What I have for you today is music from the 12th century to the present. That early music wasn’t very well recorded so we just have to use cover versions, but that’s okay.

I’ll start with Johann Sebastian Bach. I use his full name as there were a bunch of musicians called Bach. Old Jo, himself, had 20 kids, half a dozen of whom would normally be considered major composers if it weren’t for dad’s giant shadow. I’m rather keen on the music of Johann Christian, the “London Bach.” There were also his father and uncles and the like who twiddled away on the organ and such.

Back to Johann. Although I had a fair number of his CDs, a year or so back I indulged myself with a giant box set of the complete works. Some hundred and eighty or so CDs (I did the same with Mozart and Beethoven, self-indulgent little devil that I am).

I’m working my way through these. That sounds a bit planned and methodical when really, what I’m doing is opening the box and picking something at random to play. With Bach it’s usually a cantata because there are a lot of those. I know if I go up to the left I can grab a concerto and to the right it’s a passion or the like. Today it’s a cantata from the middle, Cantata BWV 192.

Johann_Sebastian_Bach

Bringing this right up to the present is Philip Glass. This is one to split the listening public. Love his music or hate it. There seems to be no in between. I really like it, especially his solo piano pieces. That’s not what I have though, as there will be a bit of piano later on. This is the second movement of his violin concerto.

Philip_Glass

Haydn, the most under-rated composer of them all. That sounds a bit like the intro to the Disneyland TV program: “and Haydn-land, the most under-rated…” Okay, that’s enough.

I’ve chosen a string quartet as he invented this genre. I could have chosen a symphony as he invented that as well. Okay nitpickers, I know there were symphonies before him but these were fiddly little things amounting to nothing much. I haven’t seen a box-set of Haydn’s works, but if such existed I’d need a truck to take it home. And there wouldn’t be any filler.

This is the first movement from the String Quartet No. 66 (Op. 77, No. 1)

Haydn

Way back to the 12th century. Alas, besides having no recordings from then, there aren’t any photos either. What’s with these people?

This is Hildegard (von Bingen). She was a nun who composed in her spare time (or was a composer who nunned a bit now and then). Not only that, she was also an author, counselor, linguist, naturalist, scientist, philosopher, physician, herbalist, poet and all-round polymath. Makes me feel inadequate.

This is O vis aeternitatis from “Canticles of Ecstasy”.

Hildegard


This Week in Elder News – 27 June 2009

In this regular weekend feature you will find links to news items from the preceding week related to elders and aging, along with whatever else catches my fancy that I think you might like to know. Suggestions are welcome with, however, no promises of publication.

Last weekend Pete Sampson, who lives here in Portland, Maine, and blogs at As I was Saying, sang the national anthem at Fenway Park in Boston with his group, the Grateful Dads.

“Although the expressions on our faces suggest we were standing in boiling oil (the wind was blowing rain straight at us)”, writes Pete in an email, “we had a great time. As with every Red Sox game, the stands were full despite the rain. Being cheered by 35,000+ people is an experience I won’t soon forget!”
That's Pete second from the left.

PeteSampsonFenway

lilalia of Yum Yum Cafe emailed this week with a link to an extensive section at the Guardian UK titled Aging Britain. It's filled with stories ranging from dating tips for the 60-plus crowd to writing a will. Take a look here.

I want to mention too that lilalia and her 14-year-old daughter have launched a charming new blog, Short Short Stories (which reminds me a bit of Virginia DeBolt's First 50 Words). Here's a sample from a contributor named Kim:

how come when i paint my toe nails i feel:

  • girlie
  • dressed up
  • more stylish
  • shiny and bright
  • happier
  • sexier

how come i only paint my toe nails in the summer then?
how come it took me 52 years to start painting my toe nails?

I liked Advanced Style – a blog about fashionable elders caught in street photos – when it launched last year and it has only gotten better since then. And, the bloggers have expanded from New York to other locales including Seattle and Milan. Here are two women in giant, matching eyewear.

AdvancedStyleEyewear

Here is another reason Congress should be writing a single-payer health care reform bill: in a poll from Thomson Reuters measuring the effect of the recession on people's health care spending, the silent generation – those older than the boomers - are least likely age group to postpone health care needs because they have their own single-payer system, Medicare. Congress, please take note.

This video of 89-year-old Rachel Veitch and her 1964 Mercury Comet Caliente from the Growing Bolder website is all the rage this week. About a dozen readers forwarded it. [3:48 minutes]

I've been a fan of The Beatles since they emerged in the 1960s – enough so that I replaced all their albums as technology changed going from from LPs to eight-track and then cassette. But I never caught up with replacing those with CDs and I'm lacking a lot of mp3s.

Now, along comes a new Beatles websitesite with links to videos of all the original songs from every album, including lyrics. You can find the album list here or, try this page where every Beatles song link is listed alphabetically.

As a sample, When I'm 64 seems appropriate for this blog. [2:37 minutes]

Some good health news: elders may be immune to the H1N1 flu virus. In a previous flu outbreak during the 1970s, few people older than 26 were affected in the U.S. and, speculates an infectious disease specialist, the current flu virus may be similar enough to the 1970s version to protect old people. Read more here.

For the finale today, a French television commercial for a European brand of rubber cement. Don't sneer. It is sweet and funny and delightful, and you would never be allowed to see it on American television.

The embed code doesn't work properly and I'm not smart enough to fix it, so I can't include the video on the page. Go here instead - and enjoy. You're gonna love it. (Hat tip to Marion Dent of And the Beat Goes On.


The Benefits of Growing Old

You don't need to look far to know that old age is abhorrent to most people. Or, as someone once said, "Everyone wants to live a long time, but nobody wants to be old."

You can't turn a page in a magazine, watch television for more than five minutes or click through more than two or three pages on the internet without bumping into an ad for something that promises to prevent aging. Some people – usually old ones – see it differently.

Earlier this week, The New Old Age blog at The New York Times reported on an April sermon by 90-year-old Rabbi Joshua Haberman of Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C. in which he lists six benefits of growing old. The abbreviated version:

• Tranquility

• The cooling of passion

• Submission to what you cannot control

• Willingness to be wrong

• Increased appreciation and gratitude

• The love of family

You can read the entire sermon with the rabbi's explanation of each benefit here. [pdf]

It's a good list and I wouldn't argue these conclusions with anyone - especially a learned rabbi - who has 22 years on me. Although I've not reached his level of attainment, I do feel progress. But wait: I think his list the too short.

Rabbi Haberman covers the big picture well. Still, there are other rewards for living a long life that may be less profound and, in other cases, more specific but are equally satisfying.

Two examples: I am lately more willing to forgive others and, no small matter, myself, for the kinds of transgressions that in youth seemed more baleful than they are. It is also a gift to be gaining a better perspective on my place in the scheme of things; self-centeredness wanes. I guess I mean that in age, we learn to get over ourselves.

And I am deeply thankful that I've overcome worrying about what others think of me that wasted so much energy for so long.

So, class, your assignment today, is to tell us something – choose just one – that you see as a benefit of growing old. Each stage of life has its advantages and disadvantages and too much emphasis is given to the disadvantages of age.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Brenda Henry: Bus, My Boogie to Wonderland.


Big Pharma to Cut Drug Costs - Whoopee

As is true of TGB commenters a couple of days ago, Crabby Old Lady is having trouble tracking all the threads of the Washington health care debate. Since she read, on Tuesday, about what the White House overstated as an “historic agreement to lower drug costs" – only two days ago – the conversation has already moved on. Crabby, however, hopelessly behind, is still on the drug story.

The essence of the agreement is this: pharmaceutical companies have agreed to cut drug costs by $80 billion over ten years, $30 billion of which will go to helping Medicare recipients through the doughnut hole in the prescription drug coverage (Part D). According to the White House website:

“As part of the upcoming health care reform legislation, drug manufacturers that participate in Medicare Part D will either pay a rebate to Medicare or offer a substantial discount of at least 50 percent on prescription drugs to seniors who fall within the infamous "doughnut hole" — payments between $2700 and $6153.75 not covered by Medicare.”

Additionally, 100 percent of the full cost of the drugs will count toward reaching the $6153.75 doughnut hole limit thereby reducing the time before full coverage resumes, thereafter paying 95 percent of drug costs.

Beyond that, there are few details and some questions. How many elders who fall into the doughnut hole will the annual $3 billion cover? What happens when the $3 billion is spent; who gets left out? How will the $50 billion additional monies be spent? There is only speculation and as Consumer Union policy analyst, Steven D. Finley, notes:

“...this still leaves the doughnut hole in place and hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of seniors on the hook for drug costs they cannot afford.”
The New York Times, 23 June 2009

So, begging the pardon of the president, Congress, AARP and virtually every news outlet, who are singing the Hallelujah Chorus for this munificence on the part of big pharma, Crabby Old Lady is not impressed.

There is still the doughnut hole which should never have been created; no one is discussing allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices as the Veterans Administration does; and we pay nearly twice as much for prescription drugs overall as people in such countries as Canada and Germany. In fact, prescription drug prices in the U.S. are the highest in the world.

Drug manufacturers have scored handsome, increased profits from Part D in the three years since it went into effect, and they are poised for billions more if a health care reform bill provides tens of millions of uninsured Americans with coverage.

So $80 billion in concessions from the pharmaceutical giants would appear to be pocket change - not quite 2.5 percent of the $3.3 trillion the Department of Health and Human Services estimates will be spent on prescription drugs over the next ten years.

Although some elders will get some relief from the high drug costs imposed by the doughnut hole - and this is a good thing - Crabby Old Lady sees nothing historic about the new agreement.

In a rational government that placed the good of the people before exorbitant corporate profits, all this would be moot. Our legislators would be writing a bill that would expand Medicare to everyone or creating a single-payer system into which Medicare could be folded – either one including an intelligent drug policy.

Instead, the Democrats are tinkering with minutiae and the Republicans are screeching Socialism. Bah, humbug.

UPDATE JUST BEFORE POSTING THIS STORY: The New York Times editorial board this morning seems to have been reading over Crabby Old Lady's shoulder on this issue. Good for them.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Summer 1942.


GAY AND GRAY: Brinkers Face Retirement

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams (bio) in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here.]

Ronni describes "elders" as the age group that begins at 55 and goes on up as long as we last. Sometimes I wonder about that; I'm pretty sure the experiences and concerns of folks at the young end of the spectrum are quite different than those of some older folks.

I'm at the younger end myself, 62 next month. And lately I've come to think my set ought to be called "Brinkers." Why? Because so many of us are at the brink of the change usually called "retirement," voluntary or involuntary, desired or feared. For this month's column, I thought I'd share some of the conversations I've found myself in about these changes over the last few months.

* * *

I have a friend whose partner and soul mate of the last 40 years recently died. I try to walk for exercise with her as often as we can find time.

She's lucky: though not quite 65, she left an intense job with a pension and a severance deal that gives her excellent health insurance until she gets to Medicare eligibility. Almost every time she sees me, she asks anxiously, "You do own your house, don't you?" "Does your job give you health coverage?"

Reliable shelter and health insurance, that's what she thinks life boils down to these days.

* * *

My women's group has been meeting every six weeks for almost 30 years. We've seen each other through romantic ups and down, separations and re-couplings, moves, job changes, some lif- threatening illnesses, parents dying with and without our help - and now we're all in the Brinker age group, thinking about retirement.

At a recent gathering, we shared our thoughts:

• "I've always defined myself by my work. When I quit next year, who will I be?"

• "I just can't imagine not going to work every day. The idea scares me. But I am so ready..."

• "We've got gardens and animals. Farmers don't get to retire ..."

• "As you know, I've been on disability since my illness. I've always worked to rise in my profession, but I just don't care anymore. I don't ever want to go back to work. I have no trouble filling my days."

• "I think I've begun to retire and not quite admitted it. After this spring I won't teach anymore, though I've started a small business and I'm excited about that. Lately I've been learning new computer skills and I want to share them..."

• "I don't want to retire. I've got work to do. I think they'll let me stay on."

The range is wide, but we all feel we are teetering on the brink of something big.

* * *

A recently retired friend took me to dinner. He's a Brinker too. For almost 30 years he worked for the Sierra Club, first arranging outdoor experiences for inner city kids, later in the fundraising department.

Early on, he helped launch Gay and Lesbian Sierrans as a sub group within the Club. There was some opposition at first - why should the gays have their own affinity group? My friend pointed out that straight singles had a group, so why not gays who wanted to be in the wilds together? GLS became one of the Club's more active components.

He had thought he'd have to hang on until eligible for full Social Security (that's 66 or later from most Brinkers.) But the Club offered a buyout, including health coverage until Medicare clicks in, so he's happily out of there.

He's considering moving to a remote area. After all he's an outdoor guy. I wondered, did moving to the country worry him?

"Well, I knew I needed a new stove in the cabin. I went to one store and they told me all about ignition systems and pressure valves and so on. I went to another and the first thing the salesman said was, 'We have a choice of this shade or that color...' So I guess I found my store."

No, he's not worried.

* * *

Hey, isn't this supposed to be a Gay and Gray column? What's the gay content besides the anecdote about the last guy? There isn't much - or nearly all of it is about being gay, depending on how you choose to read it.

All the individuals quoted except the first one are gay. But our anxieties as Brinkers reflect more about our economic and health status than our sexuality. Perhaps it is distinctive that all these people never expected to retire based on the shared resources of a partner; they knew from early on that they'd never inherit anyone else's Social Security or pension because the world would not recognize their partnerships (and that is mostly still true), that they had to built what security they could through their own careers.

And they've mostly been lucky -- they've lived in times and places where they could succeed. It is not at all clear that future generations of Americans will enjoy such opportunities.

* * *

So you've talked about your friends - what kind of Brinker are you?

Me? I'm a Brinker with "retirement lust"! Actually I've been in that condition for years. The work I do, episodic advocacy and political campaigns, is periodically very intense - and then there is down time. I call the down time (with a label stolen from that misogynist thriller writer John MacDonald) "taking my retirement on the installment plan."

This is not a rhythm that works for everyone, but I'm currently very ready for one of the installments - and not quite ready to fall over into the real thing. We'll see...

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Frank M. Calabria: Sunday Dinner with My Aunt Bessie and Her Flatulence Machine.


Aging Out of a Blackberry World

Dr. Howard Fillit is a geriatrician, a neuroscientist and a professor at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. Among other affiliations, he is also executive director of the Institute for the Study of Aging which funds research on the discovery and drug development for Alzheimer's Disease.

I was reminded of him yesterday while reading a New York Times story by Alex Williams about the culture clash between those who tap, tap, tap at their Blackberries and other smartphones during meetings, and those who think it is rude.

“...a spirited debate about etiquette has broken out. Traditionalists say the use of BlackBerrys and iPhones in meetings is as gauche as ordering out for pizza. Techno-evangelists insist that to ignore real-time text messages in a need-it-yesterday world is to invite peril.”

Remember, in the prehistoric days of 2004 or so, when one-sided, cell phone conversations nearly caused fist fights between oh-so-self-important technology mavens and everyone else in the room, restaurant or rail car? No more.

Nowadays, the noise level has given way to a new annoyance as the courtesy-challenged silently squint at two-inch screens while their thumbs race over tiny keyboard buttons and you know they haven't heard a word you've said. Williams continues:

“It is routine for Washington officials to bow heads silently around a conference table — not praying — while others are speaking, said Philippe Reines, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Although BlackBerrys are banned in certain areas of the State Department headquarters for security reasons, their use is epidemic where they are allowed.

“'You’ll have half the participants BlackBerrying each other as a submeeting, with a running commentary on the primary meeting,' Mr. Reines said. 'BlackBerrys have become like cartoon thought bubbles.'”

Now that's scary. When there is a discussion about North Korean missiles, for example, I want everyone at the table paying attention.

Blackberrys have not invaded every space. Yet. Although many attendees at the Age Boom Academy I attended took notes on their laptops, there were no Blackberrys or even dumb cell phones in view during our all-day sessions. It was understood, without admonition, that they were unacceptable and I was among half a dozen attendees, during the first day or two, who were mortified when, having forgotten to turn them off, our phones rang out in the middle of a presentation.

But such attention to speakers is now, apparently, the exception. Several friends with whom I visited in New York – not only young ones - placed their Blackberrys on the table as we settled into our chairs for lunch or dinner and responded to messages with a dip of their head and a “Sorry, this is important.” Meanwhile, the thread of our conversation was lost and the meal felt disjointed and off-center – like reading a column of unrelated Twitter posts.

There comes a time, I think, when you realize the world of work has passed you by, when you are no longer equipped to participate in it.

This month marks the fifth anniversary of my retirement. I had not intended to stop working. It was forced when, after a year of looking for a job following a layoff, too many 20- and 30-something hiring managers dismissed me with glance at my gray hair, and my personal finances reached the panic point.

Nevertheless, I have believed since then that were there the opportunity, I would slip back into the workplace routine with ease. Now, not so much.

It was hard enough, during my last years on the job, to read or write or edit or even hold a thought surrounded on three sides of my cubicle with colleagues whose work entailed incessant phone calls. I sometimes booked myself into a small conference room just to get anything done in peace. The addition of a Blackberry to my arsenal of equipment would defeat me.

It's not that I couldn't master it - smartphones are not difficult to use. It's the twin demands to be always available for interruption and to tolerate being ignored by others whose messages are more important than the people speaking in person with them. Even at home alone, when I need to concentrate – or just to read or listen to music, sometimes – I close my email program and turn off the phone. I wouldn't last a week in the new, 21st century workplace.

The justifications for the disruption caused by Blackberrys – particularly that it enhances productivity – feel wrong to me, which brings me back to Dr. Fillit who, in his goal to find a prevention or cure for Alzheimer's, has spent his career studying how our brains work.

During his presentation at the Age Boom Academy in which he discussed the workings of human brains at length, he told us that our brains' processing speed peaks at age 20 and the ability to multitask continues to diminish thereafter.

Other studies have repeatedly shown that multitasking – partial attention to several streams of information or activity at once – is not as effective as concentrated attention, leads to errors and prevents in-depth understanding.

So people of all ages - at the highest echelons of government and business or at lower levels where the necessary grunt work is supposed to be done - are fooling themselves to believe that juggling email, texts, meetings and conversation simultaneously leaves them time to reach intelligent decisions. And god knows, at this juncture in our history, we need intelligent decisions more than ever.

It's a good thing I have aged out of the workforce. For better or worse, smartphones have won the culture war and I would surely fail in a Blackberry world.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Landscapes.


The Health Care Reform Debate

category_bug_journal2.gif There are so many fibs, falsehoods, fabrications, fairy tales and outright lies being circulated in regard the health care reform debate in Washington that fact is already hopelessly entwined with self-serving fictions from the various stakeholders.

And the debate has only just begun. The country will be subjected to this barrage of misinformation, meant to confuse and frighten various constituencies, for many upcoming months.

It is going to take all our concentration and brainpower to sort the useful information from the flummery. Here are two points to keep uppermost in mind as you try to follow the debate:

• Insurance companies, big pharma and corporate medicine want to maintain the status quo. It has made them rich.

• Members of Congress receive their largest campaign donations from insurance companies, big pharma and corporate medicine.

Filter everything you read through those two facts. No one who has the power to influence health care legislation (with the possible exception of Senator Ted Kennedy) has the people's interest in mind; all are more concerned with the goals power or money. When the president signs the eventual health care reform bill, whatever benefit it contains for citizens will be as little change as possible from the present, private system that has served those twin goals at our expense.

That said, there should be some improvement because Congress cannot entirely ignore the skyrocketing costs of healthcare nor the 47 million uninsured. (That number, nearly one-sixth of the U.S. population, was established in 2005, and is undoubtedly much larger now due to the rate of unemployment and the many who cannot afford COBRA premiums. Also, it does not include the under-insured.)

First, let's get the vocabulary straight so we are all talking about the same thing:

Individual Health Insurance is coverage purchased by individuals or families from private companies usually subject to increased premiums for age, gender or pre-existing conditions. Coverage can be denied for any reason.

Group Health Insurance is similar to individual health insurance but provided through employers, unions and other affinity groups often at a reduced premium rate.

Universal Health Insurance or coverage is an umbrella phrase referring to any kind of system that ensures coverage to everyone.

Single Payer, a form of universal coverage, refers to a centralized system in which the government pays for every citizen's health care funded through taxes. Physicians and other medical professionals are not employees of the government.

Socialized Medicine, also a form a universal coverage, is a system where the government owns and runs health care facilities, and physicians are paid by the government.

Public Plan (promoted by President Obama) is a relatively new phrase referring to health insurance coverage that would be offered by the federal government to individuals and families to compete with private, individual insurance plans.

There are hundreds of health care reform plans in Congress right now, one for nearly every member. None proposes any kind of universal care. The Democrats recoil from universal or single-payer plans because Republicans squeal “socialized medicine” when the Democrats mention them.

(By the way, if I were king of the country, we would extend Medicare to everyone. It's not perfect, but no plan can be. Systems are already in place and it has worked well for more than 40 years. The necessary expanded administration would employ many of the experienced people who now work at private insurance companies and those companies could sell additional coverage for cosmetic surgery and other discretionary treatments to people who want it.)

Most of the plans in Congress are what Nobel Laureate Robert Fogel, speaking at the Age Boom Academy I recently attended, called “tinkering at the edges” of the current system. Dr. Diane Meier of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, also speaking at the Academy, declared “single payer won't happen,” but Nancy LeaMond of AARP, who knows her way around the halls of Congress, at the same conference declared that health care reform (of some kind) “is going to happen.”

Dr. Robert N. Butler, who runs the Age Boom Academy, said he believes the plan from Senators Ted Kennedy and Max Baucus is good and as close as we can get in this Congress to a single-payer system. It exists only in draft form – 615 pages - at the moment. You can read some details of the draft here and here.

The universal rejection in Congress of any kind of universal coverage is at odds with the American public. In a new CBS News/New York Times poll released on Saturday,

50% of respondents believe the government would be better than insurance companies at providing medical coverage

59% believe the government would be better at holding down costs than private insurers

64% believe government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans

And, a large majority, 72 percent, back a government-sponsored health care plan to compete with private insurers. Additionally, 57 percent are willing to pay higher taxes for insurance for everyone.

So apparently, our Congressional representatives are completely out of touch with the people they represent, beholden instead to the money interests who support their election campaigns. It's going to be a contentious summer.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joan Barber: You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Dress - and the Right Shoes.

ELDER MUSIC: Singers and Actors. (Or Vice Versa)

EDITORIAL NOTE: When I returned from New York City, there four new Elder Music stories in my inbox from Peter Tibbles of Melbourne. This guy knows his music from many angles and has prodigious knowledge and memory for Fifties pop music (among other genres and eras). Here is today's with more to come in future weeks.

We all know of fine singers who went on to become good actors. The prime example of this is Frank Sinatra. Not far behind him would be Bing Crosby and Kris Kristofferson. Doris Day and Tom Waits. Dean Martin was good at both. And, of course, there’s always Elvis. He didn’t do too badly in his first three or four films. Had he been given some more good roles he could have been a contender. We know where that went though.

I’m not going to dwell on singers who became actors, but actors who became singers.

For this I’m excluding musicals, so there will be no Natalie Wood, no Audrey Hepburn (of course, that really means there will be no Marnie Nixon. I’m also excluding Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood (I can hear the collective sighs from here).

No, I’m talking about actors who had separate careers as singers, no matter how brief. Actors who made a record or two.

I’m also ignoring David Hasselhoff here as I pretty much always ignore David Hasselhoff. I’ve also left out William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, David Soul, Robert Mitchum and some others quite arbitrarily.

I’ll concentrate on the fifties and sixties (now why does that come as no surprise to you all).

The first of these, and we had a 78 of this song (hello Pam, this was yours), is Sal Mineo - Start Movin'. This isn’t a bad song, rather typical mid-fifties pop song. I quite like it. I notice that he recorded a whole album at the time.

SalMineo

Now when I said actor, I’m stretching the point somewhat. I’m doing that so I can include Tab Hunter. He covered the Sonny James song Young Love. He also did Red Sails in the Sunset on the flip side, but we’ll ignore that (and if you’ve ever heard it you will agree with me). We had this one too.

TabHunter

Tony, Tony, Tony. Tony Perkins. Norman Bates. Also that creepy minister in that strange film with Kathleen Turner (Crimes of Passion). Before all that we had a nice gentle Tony doing Moonlight Swim.

TonyPerkins

Edd Byrnes was definitely not a singer as you will hear, so I suppose he was an actor. I assume he did something other than 77 Sunset Strip but I can’t be bothered finding out what. He had help on this song with another singer/actor, Connie Stevens. I don’t know if she was a singer who became an actress or vice versa. It doesn’t really matter as she wasn’t exactly earth shattering at either enterprise. Kookie, Kookie Lend Me Your Comb

EddByrnes-ConnieStevens

Shelley Fabares. Ah, Shelley. All we males of a certain age had the hots for you back then. Okay, Annette Funicello was in there as well. You were the girl next door who really didn’t live next door to us, alas, and Annette was, well, Annette.

Back to Shelley. There are rumors on the net that this song took about a million takes as she couldn’t sing in tune. The record was cobbled together from these. I don’t know if that’s true, we’d have to ask her. As she doesn’t live next door I can’t do that. Johnny Angel

ShelleyFabares

Johnny Crawford, another Mouseketeer that grew up. Also The Rifleman’s son. That pretty much completes my Johnny Crawford knowledge. Here’s the only song I remember him doing: Your Nose is Gonna Grow

JohnnyCrawford

Duane Eddy had a big instrumental hit with Because They’re Young. In the way of these things in the 50s/60s cusp, someone wrote some words to that tune and got James Darren to sing them. Actually, James had a number of hits around this time (Goodbye Cruel World, Her Royal Majesty) so I don’t know if he fits into the actor turned singer category, but as he wasn’t bad in Let No Man Write my Epitaph and The Guns of Navarone, I’ll include him.

Alas, my 45rpm of Because They’re Young is no longer in the box and I can’t find a playable version on the web, I’ll just have to go with Goodbye Cruel World instead.

JamesDarren

Ringo. This isn’t really singing, more reciting, but I’m including it because I can.

LorneGreene

We in Australia (and Britain, and probably elsewhere) first discovered Peter Sellers in The Goon Show on radio. In Australia, this program has never been off the air since it finished its run in the late fifties.

Okay, that’s not strictly true, but close enough – it is still running here today. Anyway, Peter Sellers made several records. Here he is with Sophia Loren, Goodness Gracious Me.

PeterSellers+SophiaLoren

Later in the Sixties, a most unlikely addition to the genre, and a particular favorite of mine (and I’m not going to tell you why) is Richard Harris, MacArthur Park.

RichardHarris


This Week in Elder News – 20 June 2009

In this regular weekend feature you will find links to news items from the preceding week related to elders and aging, along with whatever else catches my fancy that I think you might like to know. Suggestions are welcome with, however, no promises of publication.

Humor writer Lew Grossberger, an old friend with whom I had dinner while I was in New York earlier this month, has recently launched an eponymous satire blog at True/Slant. Regarding President Obama's remarkable fly swat at White House last week, he had this to say:

“For the first time in his political career, President Obama is winning broad right-wing support, after killing a fly during a CNBC interview being taped in the White House.

“'This time Obama wasn’t afraid to use presidential power,' said Rush Limbaugh...”

Read the rest of Lew's post here. And here's the video of Obama's amazing fly strike:

In the past year, internet broadband use at home among elders 65 and older has increased from 19 to 30 percent, according to a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project which also noted:

“Broadband adoption appears to have been largely immune to the effects of the current economic recession. In the April survey, more than twice as many respondents said they had cut back or canceled a cell phone plan or cable TV service than said the same about their internet service.”

You can read more about the survey here.

In another survey, this one from Zogby, a whopping 56 percent of Americans say they prefer to get their news from the internet – nearly two-and-a-half times the number who prefer television as their main news source. Newspapers were way behind at 10 percent. Of course, this doesn't tell us what kind of news people are reading online or its level of reliability.

More of the Zogby poll here.

After ten years and $2.5 billion in taxpayer dollars spent on research, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a part of the National Institutes of Health, has found that almost no alternative remedies work. The Center's director, Dr. Josephine Briggs,

“...conceded there were no big wins from its first decade, other than a study that found acupuncture helped knee arthritis. That finding was called into question when a later, larger study found that sham treatment worked just as well.”

Many billions more are spent by consumers on alternative remedies apparently with no measurable result. Read more here.

Not long ago, I mentioned here that 50 percent of purchasers of Amazon's Kindle ebook reader are elders. But it's pricey: $359 for the original and $489 for the new Kindle DX with a larger screen. However, if you have a netbook with Windows XP (not Vista), there is an alternative - a free ebook reader. All it takes is a download or two from the web. I haven't tried it yet, but I soon will and there's no reason it won't work on your XP desktop or laptop except that you can't carry it with you as easily as a two-pound netbook. You can read how to do it here.

Public support for some kind of public health care option is overwhelming. A new survey from Employee Research Benefit Institute (EBRI) reports,

“Between 68 percent and 88 percent of Americans either strongly or somewhat support health reform ideas such as national health plans, a public plan option, guaranteed issue, expansion of Medicare and Medicaid, and employer and individual mandates.”

Even so, there is heavy opposition to such options among our representatives in Congress, big health lobbyists and former government heavyweights who still hold the power to persuade. Four former senators, George Mitchell, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and and Howard Baker, issued a report from the Bipartisan Policy Center that essentially says, let's not let this one little issue of a public health plan get in the way of status quo.

I will have a good deal to say about the health care reform debate next week. Meanwhile, you can read a news story about the four senators' announcement here and the full report here.

Or better yet, read Lew Grossberger's take on Washington's approach to health care reform titled, Congress Seeks Ways to Overhaul Health Care While Still Screwing Public in which he states,

“'We believe that affordable health care for every American is a right, not a privilege,' said Jean Trepkin, chief lobbyist for the American Institute of Greedy Insurers. 'The problem is that big profits for insurance companies are a more important right, so that sort of trumps the first right I mentioned. You can’t have everything.'”

Don't miss the rest of Lew's piece here.

In his campaign to get Oprah Winfrey to book him on her television show to talk about health and elders, Dr. Bill Thomas has produced three short videos titled The Scooter Diaries. Here they are:

The Scooter Diaries with Dr. Bill Thomas – Part 1 [2:06 minutes]

The Scooter Diaries with Dr. Bill Thomas – Part 2 [2:14 minutes]

The Scooter Diaries with Dr. Bill Thomas – Part 3 [3:26 minutes]


REFLECTIONS: On the Newspaper Business

[AND THE WINNER IS: If I had my way (and more money), I would send Dr. Robert Butler's book, The Longevity Revolution, to everyone who asked and to every member of Congress too.

Alas, that is not possible. The winner of the single copy I have available, the fifteenth person to send an email, is - DRUM ROLL - Alan Stewart who lives in Hong Kong. Alan, it will be on its way to you today or tomorrow. - Ronni]


[EDITORIAL NOTE: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman (bio) writes the bi-weekly Reflections column for Time Goes By in which he comments on news, politics and social issues from his perspective as one of the younger members of the greatest generation. He also publishes a weekly column, Gray Matters, on aging for Newsday.

I figure my 55 years as a reporter, correspondent and columnist for just three newspaper organizations qualify me to put in my two bucks on the future of the business. And I do believe, in spite of the obituaries, that newspapers, the kind you hold in your hand or spread out on the table or floor, will survive and even prosper.

Maybe I’ve told you this before, but it’s worth repeating: when television was coming of age, many newspapers so feared it that they would not accept or publish the programming schedules. Now, whether you know it or not, television, especially the news programs, depend on newspapers and newspaper reporters.

Writers and producers for CNN or MSBC or the network news shows would not know what the news is without first consulting the morning papers. And they would not know what to think without reading the major columnists. This is not to say these papers and columnists get things right. But we’ll get to that.

First, here is a systemic problem that did not exist through much of my career: The public ownership of newspapers. For example, I worked for a number of years for what was then, Knight Newspapers, which later merged with the Ridder Newspapers and became Knight-Ridder, one of the largest American chains that included The Detroit Free Press, The Charlotte Observer, The Miami Herald and the flagship >e,>Akron Beacon-Journal, among others. The Philadelphia Inquirer was added.

But when I was a Washington correspondent, the Knight papers, the Inquirer and the Ridder papers in Minnesota had been family owned. The Ridders were conservative; Walter Annenberg, who owned the Inquirer was so imperious, he banned from his paper news of one of Philadelphia’s teams. And he was a great friend of Ronald Reagan.

Jack Knight, on the other hand, was feisty and liberal-minded and my favorite publisher because he was among the first to editorialize against the Vietnam War for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. He had never forgotten the death of his son in World War II.

The point I am making is that these papers, often reflecting their owners and often not, were independent citizens. They were the personification, for good or ill, of A.J. Liebling’s observation that freedom of the press belongs to the person who owns one. Then came what a former editor of mine, Davis “Buzz” Merritt, called Knightfall, which was the title of his book.

That’s when Knight-Ridder Newspapers and most others went public, offering stock on the New York Stock Exchange. Others have followed: The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the McClatchy papers – all of which had been family owned and run.

Let me confess that I led the campaign at Knight-Ridder’s Washington bureau to get an early crack for us peons to buy the stock. And many of my colleagues and I made good money on that stock over the years.

What none of us realized is that as Merritt put it, the brand of relatively independent, reporter-editor oriented, public-service journalism would be undermined by a focus on profit margin and stock price.

One of the dozens of editors who left Knight-Ridder in disgust or buyouts told Merritt, “I became an editor because I wanted to do journalism, but now it’s about the bottom line.” That is to say, it’s about Wall Street’s bottom line. It wasn’t good enough for newspapers to be profitable, they had to increase profit margins; they could not allow earnings to drop in any quarter or the stock would drop. Wall Street analysts, said one writer, focused not on the quality of the paper or its content or the coverage of important events, but on “the quality of a newspaper company’s financial reports.”

David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, creator of HBO’s The Wire and Homicide, recently told a Senate committee hearing on the future of journalism:

“My industry butchered itself and we did so at the behest of Wall Street and the same unfettered free market logic that has proved so disastrous...The original sin of American news papering lies, indeed, in going to Wall Street in the first place. When locally-based, family-owner newspaper like the Sun were consolidated into publicly-owned newspaper chains. An essential trust between journalism and the communities served was betrayed.”

He noted angrily, that the Baltimore Sun was eliminating its afternoon edition and trimming nearly 100 editors and reporters when the paper was achieving 37 percent profits. Indeed, at Knight-Ridder and Newsday, editors were told the papers had to return at least ten percent on investment. When it didn’t, Knight Ridder was dismembered by Wall Street raiders and sold to McClatchy, which sold off its unionized papers. The House that Jack Knight built was gone and so was its talent.

When The Los Angeles Times owned The Baltimore Sun, it also owned Newsday, which had expanded into New York City. But the CEO of Times-Mirror Corp. a former cereal company executive, closed it to drive up the price of the company’s stock for the spoiled heirs of the former owners.

It worked for a while, but the Times-Mirror sold itself and its holdings to the once-family owned (Chicago) Tribune, and real estate player and publisher wannabe, Sam Zell, who sold Newsday to Cablevision, which owns Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks. It earned $1.9 billion last year, up $200 million from the earlier year. But it continues to shrink Newsday’s content and staff rather than build it. And the once proud Sun, of H.L. Mencken, which once sent correspondents across the world, is but a shadow of a newspaper. Its staff is down from 400 to 150 and it is dying. Who suffers? Baltimore.

As one result of what’s happening to newspapers, the best and most experience reporters, editors and writers have left, or were forced into buyouts (as I was) and the recession only hastened the exodus. One day these newspapers will want the talent they lost. But my colleagues left daily journalism to retire or teach or blog.

Simon has no love for even the most successful blogs. He told the Senate committee, “The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore zoning board hearing is the day I will be confident that we have actually reached some sort of balance” with online journalism. If not a newspaper, who will cover the cop shop, the schools, the courts? Who is to keep public officials honest?

I despair when I think of the great reporters and writers I’ve worked for and with who have left newspapers to teach or, in one case, raise bees. Maybe I’m being unfair, but I don’t think that some kid in his or her twenties, who is great at texting or twittering, should be my newspaper’s authority on finance, the Middle East or the wars this country is fighting.

Only a few reporters saw the reasons for Iraq war as lies. There is no short-cut to experience. Indeed, the rise of the good, aggressive blogs, websites critical of journalism like Media Matters testify to the shortcomings of mainstream, corporate journalism where newspapers worry about the bottom line more than the story and young reporters worry more about their careers.

And yet, when this recession ends we’ll see more clearly, there is no substitute for a newspaper with solid reporters and editors to watch over your town or the country or its relations with the rest of the world, where newspapers are flourishing. No online service can keep watch over a city councilman, a member of Congress or a president the way an honest, aggressive newspaper can.

In sports we look to newspapers to tell us what we saw when our favorite team won. We want to know how and why, as well as whom, what and when. Television can’t or won’t analyze or critique the new production of King Lear or the pianist we heard.

The best newspapers in each city will survive because there is no real substitute for a certain segment of the population, mostly older people - and most everyone will grow older. I read the other day that newspapers like The New Orleans Times-Picayune has a steady readership of 50.4 percent of the adult population, or 85 percent, if you include the reach of the web; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 41.6 percent and 65 percent; Indianapolis Star, 40 percent and 77.8 percent.

We have become a nation divided between readers and watchers. The watchers prefer television and computer games and the top of the news, if any news at all. The readers are a smaller but more wealthy and influential group, people who are active in community affairs, who support the arts and help run the town. They will continue to be the core readers of newspapers for they understand their lives and their fortunes depend on the depth of knowledge only a daily newspaper is equipped to provide – if it will.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Frank M. Calabria: Playing Monster and Hunting Mosquitoes.


Photographs from New York City

[WARNING: There are way too many photos in this post, so the page may be slow to load on older computers.]

category_bug_journal2.gif The Age Boom Academy was the reason for my trip to New York City, but it is also the place I consider my “real” home and I tacked on a few extra days to visit with old friends and soak up the city vibe.

There is a lot I miss about New York, but I found that it was the little things no one bothers to mention much that pulled hardest at my heartstrings.

In a city famous for its concrete canyons, it is astonishing how green it is – much moreso than where I live now. The city plants trees for free if residents ask and this view isn't uncommon.

StreetTrees

City dwellers work hard to spruce up their homes and apartment buildings with flowers and greenery, sometimes in the tiniest of spaces.

WindowSill1

WindowSill2

WindowSill3

It was great to be reminded of the many, odd, little architectural flourishes in New York.

ArchitecturalFlourish1

ArchitecturalFlourish4

ArchitecturalFlourish2

I had forgotten how many dogs there are in New York – dogs, dogs everywhere, especially during regular outing times in the mornings and evenings. I caught these dog walkers near Central Park on my way to that day's conference sessions.

Dogs

New York has the best window shopping in the world but you know, when there is only one dress or pair of shoes in the window, you cannot afford them. Don't even ask.

WindowShoppingShoes

I spent two afternoons walking the streets of my old neighborhood, Greenwich Village. My home there is empty now. All four apartments are owned by one person who started a renovation a couple of years go, but seems to have halted it. The window shutters and flower boxes are missing and the doors have been sanded but not refinished. It looks sad and lonely.

BedfordStreetHome

Across the street is the home of Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor. I'm pretty sure those were Secret Service agents who walked out of frame when I aimed my camera.

SoniaSotomayorHome

Near the upper East Side hotel where I stayed during the conference was this extremely narrow house.

NarrowHouse

Too bad I didn't have a tape measure with me because it reminded me of another narrow house in the Village where the poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, lived in the 1920s that is only nine-and-a-half feet wide. Before the advent of automobiles, the space was open, a driveway to residents' horse and buggy stables behind the homes in the middle of the block.

MillayHouse

Nearby is one of the last few wood-framed homes in Manhattan. It was originally built in 1799 and is currently owned by a member of the Mattel (Barbie dolls) family.

WoodFramedHouse

Legend has it that these mansard-roofed, twin homes were built by a sea captain for his two daughters who couldn't stand to live together. Good story, but it's not true. City records show they were built for a milkman named Peter Huyler in the 1870s.

TwinHomes

Just across the street is the Cherry Lane Theater, founded in 1924 by several Village artists and writers including Edna St. Vincent Millay. An astounding number of renowned playwrights have been produced here: Samuel Beckett, William Saroyan, Sean O'Casey, Clifford Odets, Eugene O'Neill, Lorraine Hansbury, Edward Albee, David Mamet, Sam Shepard to name a few.

CherryLaneTheater

Not far away is the equally famous Lucille Lortel Theater, renamed such in 1981. I liked the original name better - Theater de Lys - and under that name, it was home to the first production, in 1955, of The Threepenny Opera starring Lotte Lenya, and in the 1970s, Kurt Vonnegut's Happy Birthday, Wanda June. Among many other productions, I saw Steel Magnolias here. I liked the movie, but not as much as the play.

LucilleLortelTheater

There aren't many backyards in Manhattan, so parks are crucial to outdoor life. This little one near my Village home is named Winston Churchill Park for no good reason other than a nearby apartment house bears the address, 10 Downing Street. But that doesn't make it any less a cool (in both senses of the word) oasis on a hot day.

WinstonChurchillPark

Greenwich Village is home to a number of private, residential enclaves tucked behind locked gates. They feel like magical little worlds out of time and I always wished I could have lived in one.

PrivateEnclave

Many uptown people consider Central Park their own, gigantic backyard. Mine was the much smaller, although more charming to my eyes, Washington Square Park.

WashingtonSquarePark

On any given Saturday or Sunday in good weather, there is enough to entertain anyone for an entire afternoon and it doesn't cost a penny. On the day I visited, I found a puppet show...

PuppetShow

...a jazz band

JazzBand

...a children's orchestra playing popular music more familiar to elders, and this young man, whose voice had probably changed only the week before, sang Tangerine while I was there.

ChildrensOrchestra

The fountain was turned on full blast and the kiddies were having a grand old time in it as their parents may have done in their childhood.

ParkFountain

Even though street fairs, in recent years, are filled mostly with professional vendors selling stuff you could buy anywhere, I still like the hustle and bustle of them with no cars to contend with.

StreetFair

I couldn't find a hat I looked good in.

StreetFairHats

But I did buy one of these teeshirts – the same as the red one, but in a dusty green color to remind people, when I feel like it, where I live in my heart.

10014teeshirt

The design of these other teeshirts is a throwback to the Fillmore Auditorium posters from the 1960s and '70s.

SixtiesTeeshirts

On one of our Age Boom Academy field trips, we met with some members of The New York Times' editorial board in their new headquarters designed by Renzo Piano. (The Times is a major sponsor of the Academy.) The exterior of the building, not yet finished when I left New York in 2006, looks to me to be covered in the world's largest Venetian blind...

Nytimesexterior

But those blinds made a much more interesting shot from the conference room where we had lunch.

NYTInterior

ButlerBook Now that you have indulged my overwrought nostalgia for New York, I have an offer for you. Among the materials we were given at the Age Boom conference is a copy of Robert Butler's 2008 book, The Longevity Revolution. I interviewed Dr. Butler about it last year which you can read here. The book is an important compendium of his decades of research into aging as it relates to the political and social changes that need to be made to accommodate an aging world.

My own copy from a year ago is highlighted, underlined and Post-It noted to within an inch of it existence, so I would like to send this pristine, new one to someone who will make good use of it.

If you are interested, email me (use the Contact link in the upper left corner of this page), including your mailing address and let's give it a deadline of 6PM eastern U.S. time today. The 15th person to email will receive the book.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Florence J. Anrud: Reshuffle the Deck.


THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Download and Install

EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

Do you abandon an idea if it requires that you download and install some software?

Have you given up on something you wanted to do when told you need to install Adobe Reader or the latest version of Flash?

Have you kept using a browser that you know isn't the best because you are unsure about how to install a better one?

You would probably enjoy your experience on the internet much more if you didn't let those kinds of things block you. Let's break it down into small steps. The example will involve Adobe Reader, but the steps are the same for any download and install.

Download
Find the software to download. In the case of both Flash and Adobe Reader, this is at the adobe.com site in the downloads section. The web site should recognize what kind of operating system you have and offer you the correct version of the software for your system automatically. Here you see that Adobe is offering me the version for Mac OS in English, which is what I need for my setup.

click the download button to begin

Click the Download button. What you do next is important, but it may not look exactly like my illustration image. Here's what I see.

save or open the file

On a Mac, my choices are either Open the file with a package that will unzip it, or Save. On my computer, I have it set up so that anything I download will be saved on my desktop.

If you don't have your computer set up that way, you may see a dialog asking you where you want to save the new download. Pick Desktop. If I choose Open, it unzips it and saves it on my desktop. If I choose Save, it saves the unzipped file. Either way, you want it on your desktop.

If you chose Save, next you need to double-click the downloaded file to unzip it. You have a zip file and another file with an icon that looks like an open box on your desktop. The box represents the installer. These two may be anywhere on your desktop, so look around for them. Once you find them, drag them to an open spot on the desktop where they are close together so you can find them again easily when you're finished.

the zip file and the installer package on a Mac

On Windows, when you click the download button or link, you may have to click a bar at the top of the browser to allow an add-on. If you're downloading from Adobe, they are trustworthy, so you can OK this. You will be asked if you want to Run or Save the file. You can pick either Run or Save.

As with the Mac, you want this to end up on your desktop. You'll download an .exe file, which may end up on your desktop with some other file extension, however you should be able to identify it as Adobe.

Install
Double-click the icon on your desktop to install the new software. A dialog will open. It's different depending on whether or not you use Windows or Mac.

On a Mac, you most often drag an icon representing the program into the Applications folder. Sometimes there are a few steps to click through asking questions like, "Do you want to install this in the Applications folder?" Your goal is to get the program into the Applications folder, so follow whatever instruction it tells you to do in order to make that happen.

On Windows, double-click the new item to start the installation. You may have to click Continue a couple of times to get through the steps before it is finished. When you're finished, an icon for the program should be on the desktop, which you can double-click to open the program any time you need it.

You may also have to click to agree to licenses or terms of service for some things you install. Don't be afraid to agree to things that pop up when you are installing software from a trustworthy company. Everything should go smoothly if you agree to what they ask and let it do its work automatically.

Every version of Windows may not handle this the same way. Don't worry. The key steps are to get the downloaded item on your desktop, then double click to install it. After that just approve whatever it wants until it's finished.

Clean Up
You may need to do some clean up on a Mac. Make sure you close the installer program so you can clean up.

The two files on your desktop - the zip file and the installer (the box icon) - are now trash. You no longer need them, because you have the software installed. Put them in your trash and empty the trash. This applies to any old zip files you might have sitting around on your desktop. Once the program is installed, you don't need those things cluttering up the place and using storage space. Trash them.

On Windows, the .exe file or other installation files may just go away and you may not need to clean up your desktop. But if you see them still sitting there, drag them to the trash. Be careful not to drag the icon that you use to start the program, just the installation files, if any.

Configure
The Adobe Reader can be used independently, but it may be used by your browser, too. If you try to read a PDF document in the browser, it may go looking for the Adobe Reader and use it to open the PDF document right in the browser. The same thing applies to Flash. It's generally used in the browser to play videos or animate something.

Your browser may or may not need to be "told" that the new Reader or Flash software is there and ready to go. If it doesn't seem to realize that the software is there, it may ask you what application you want to open something with. Click through your Program Files or Application Folder to find the name of the software and choose it.

If you install a better browser such as Firefox [http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/] or Opera [http://www.opera.com/download/], you want to configure it by importing the bookmarks or favorites from your old browser. In Firefox, choose File > Import. In Opera, choose Bookmarks > Manage Bookmarks. In the Manage Bookmarks window, choose File > Import.

That's how to download and install. Give it a try.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, George J. Measer: A Reception at the White House.


Home from the Age Boom Academy

category_bug_journal2.gif Although they kept us busy at the Age Boom Academy in New York, I re-read every guest blog as they were automatically posted each day, and all the comments, leaving me wondering if I shouldn't take a break more frequently. There was such a glorious variety of voices writing on important aging issues and the conversations that followed in the comments section were equally outstanding.

What an amazing bunch of smart, thoughtful people hang out here. Thank each and every one of you for taking such good care of Time Goes By while I was gone.

The Age Boom Academy was the most exhilarating learning experience I have ever encountered. It was like getting a master's degree in aging and my head is stuffed with knowledge that cannot possibly be summarized in a single post. It will take months of continued study to sort it all out.

Perhaps a good way to begin is to explain what our five days were like.

We met each morning at 9AM at the International Longevity Center on East 86th Street (a walkable distance from the hotel) where breakfast awaited when we arrived. An excellent, healthy lunch was provided each day too along with snacks, coffee, tea and plenty of water during breaks to keep our minds in good working order until we ended at 5PM.

There were 12 or 14 of us journalists around this conference table where, over the five days, a total of 24 presenters, each one a top expert in his or her field, explained their latest knowledge and findings along with a history of their specialties and projections for the future.

ILCconferenceroom

The collective brainpower in that room cannot be calculated and amazingly, they all spoke in language we non-experts could understand. I am told that Dr. Robert N. Butler, president and CEO of the International Longevity Center who founded this annual conference ten years ago, works with the presenters to keep jargon to a minimum and he succeeded beyond anything I would have expected.

There were three field trips. One day we spent several hours at the Hebrew Home in Riverdale, a nursing home that is a leader in innovation. Just last Sunday, The New York Times published a story about the organization's ElderServe at Night program in which Alzheimer's patients who live with their families and are prone to wandering in the late hours, are cared for from dusk to dawn which gives their caregivers much-needed, uninterrupted sleep. It is believed to be the only service of its kind in the country.

There is a lot more to tell you about what I learned at the Hebrew Home which I'll do at a later date. We were also given a tour of the Home's new Judaica Museum which will soon be open to the public.

Torah

One evening, we had dinner at the Harvard Club which I hadn't visited in 30 years, and where I snuck into the elegant, wood-paneled library still using those wonderful, old, wooden, card catalog drawers. Here is a relaxing, reading corner.

HarvardClubLibrary

Over the coming weeks and months, I will give you in-depth specifics from the various speakers which will also inform other posts not directly related to the conference. For today, however, here are a few, short, facts I found interesting that don't require much explanation. I realize they are superficial and do no justice to the speakers. Consider this, then, only an introduction.

• There are 100 trillion cells in the human body and 60 billion miles of DNA.

The reason we read so much about worms (c. elegans), fruit flies and lab rats in scientific studies is that they are short-lived, their genomes are known intimately and there are many similarities with humans.

Steven Austad, PhD
Professor, Department of Cellular and Structural Biology
Purdue University

• One in 10,000 people lives to become a centenarian. Those who do generally have low growth-hormone levels. Short people have a gene mutation that may be related to longevity.

Nir Barzilai, MD
Director of the Institute for Aging Research
Albert Einstein College of Medicine

• Only two percent of all foundation money goes to age-related research and overall, there has been a 13 percent reduction in support of scientific research during the past eight years. The U.S. has dropped from 11th place, in 1955, to 42nd place in life expectancy among countries. Life expectancy in Jordan is greater than in the U.S.

There are only 11 departments of geriatrics in the 145 U.S. medical schools. Boomers are a generation at risk - they haven't saved enough money for their old age and they are not healthy. There is a direct relationship between wealth and longevity.

Social Security is the only tax that has a salary cap. Although widely believed otherwise, Medicare is not free. One-quarter is paid for by elders through the required Part B premium, the Part D premium and co-pays. Medicare administrative costs are at two percent; private insurers spend 20 percent on administration. Medicare Advantage programs cost 13 percent more than traditional Medicare.

Robert N. Butler, MD
President and CEO
International Longevity Center-USA

• The processing speed of our brains peaks at age 20. Thereafter, the ability to multi-task is reduced. Outliers – those who continue to function at top levels - tell us these may not be inevitable.

Howard Fillit, MD
Executive Director
Institute for the study of Aging, Inc.

• Medicare is a social compact between generations; without it, children would be paying for their parents. Elders are the only increasing natural resource on earth – also our most untapped resource.

Linda Fried, MD
Dean of the Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University

• There is deeper support now for health care reform than when President Clinton tried it in 1992/93. Public support for insurance companies and big pharma is weak. Reform is going to happen, probably this year, but a single-payer option is overwhelmed in Washington by the status quo.

Nancy LeaMond
Executive Vice President of Social Impact
AARP

• Death rates cannot be reduced by much – they are already low. The reason for increased longevity is that during the 20th century, we redistributed death from the young to the old by reducing and/or eliminating childhood diseases.

• The goal of scientific aging research is not to extend the number of years, but to slow the biological process of aging to prolong healthy life until near the very end.

Jay Olshansky, PhD
Professor, School of Public Health
University of Illinois

• The U.S. can afford Social Security and Medicare. Every single-payer country rations health care by time. The U.S. currently rations it by money. Forty-five percent of health care is covered by government in U.S.; 80 percent in England.

Robert Fogel, PhD
Head of Center for Population Economics
University of Chicago
Nobel Laureate, Economics 1993

• The quality of medical care does not relate to the amount of money spent. There is currently no way to shop for health care in any meaningful way.

Greg Anrig
Vice president of policy
The Century Foundation

• We are a permanently aging society which means the number of people older than 60 will soon be greater than the number of people younger than 15. This will not change when the boomer generation dies which requires that the fundamental institutions of our society be restructured.

Jack Rowe, MD
Chair, MacArthur Foundation Research Network
Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University

A large number of the presenters at the conference, whatever their field or specialty, reported that the single most powerful thing anyone can do to maintain health in old age is exercise, exercise, exercise. So get off your duff, put on your walking shoes and get moving.

This is an embarrassingly skimpy gloss on what I learned in a week, covering just a few factoids from only a third of the learned presenters. But perhaps it will pique your interest and be a preface for future stories when I've had time to digest my notes and do some further study.

It was an honor to be included in the Age Boom Academy. My appreciation goes to Dr. Butler, to Everette Dennis, the COO and executive director, along with others at the International Longevity Center-USA who were so gracious and helpful throughout the week.

Again, thank you all for carrying on so well at Time Goes By while I was away.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carol Westover: Summertime and Broken Gearshifts.


Guest Blogger Clair Jean: Older People

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Claire Jean who writes: I am 67 now and both my husband and I were born and continue to live in the Northeast. I work full time; my husband has been retired for several years. I enjoy reading (mostly non-fiction), poetry, swimming, trips to New York City, meeting friends for lunch, reading Ronni’s blog each day, time with my two grandchildren and, recently, watching women’s college basketball.


Let Me Grow Lovely
Let Me Grow lovely, growing old -
So many fine things do;
Laces, and ivory, and gold,
And silks need not be new;

And there is healing in old trees,
Old streets a glamour hold;
Why may not I, as well as these,
Grow lovely, growing old?

- Karle Wilson Baker, The Best Loved Poems of the American People (1939)

Older people, as far back as I can remember, afforded me a sense of well being. To this day, I’m able to find comfort by mirroring images of those gentle faces in my mind while remembering their names as well as the many kindnesses they so generously bestowed upon me while growing up.

Now that I am probably older than some ever lived to be, I wonder - could they ever have imagined how valuable they were then and continue to be even more so now these many years later.

The stereotypical rubbish attributed to aging is not only untrue and cruel but can be quite damaging. Unfortunately, when older people are told that they become invisible, lose their usefulness, health, etc., it can jeopardize a sense of who they really are and might still become.

How can it be any different when television commercials, magazine articles and the like assure us regularly that they have found new and improved ways to help us look and feel younger. The message they send is clear. Growing older is a bad thing.

When someone I haven’t seen for some time remarks that I haven’t changed in twenty years, I’m tempted to reply, “You mean I looked sixty-seven when I was only forty-seven?” The discomfort regarding old age is at such a level it compels some to pretend that aging itself doesn’t exist; hence the foolhardy comments.

Unwelcome age-related remarks at my workplace in a department where the median age is fortyish have not gone unnoticed. However, they have become much less frequent and not nearly as troubling. Hopefully, my colleagues realize by now that I don’t intend to leave the workplace because of age. After all, we older people have had plenty of time to learn and know that no matter what we do, we’ll never please everyone so we must do what’s best for us and our families.

My job requires contact with college-aged students many of whom seem pleased to see and talk to me. When that happens, it’s a win-win situation. We’re able to share ideas and hopefully learn from one another. On the other hand, one can sense the fear and/or surprise when stepping into my office for the first time and seeing someone who by now perhaps resembles grandmom. One can only wonder what their apparent uneasiness suggests.

If only older people were recognized for themselves, instead of the group society has painted them - if only.

Who Are My People?
My People? Who are they?
I went into the church where the congregation
Worshiped my God. Were they my people?
I felt no kinship to them as they knelt there.
My people! Where are they?
I went into the land where I was born,
Where men spoke my language…
I was a stranger there.
“My people,” my soul cried. “Who are my people?”

Last night in the rain I met an old man
Who spoke a language I do not speak,
Which marked him as one who does not know my God.
With apologetic smile he offered me
The shelter of his patched umbrella.
I met his eyes...And then I knew...

- Rosa Zagnoni Marinoni, The Best Loved Poems of the American People (1939)

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.


Guest Blogger Nancy Belle: On Turning 65 – Lessons Learned

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Nancy Belle, a former nurse and health care communications/marketing professional. Recently laid off, Nancy is starting a new adventure. Her new blog is The Tempered Optimist.

I reach a turning point at the end of May. I will turn 65. I believe I am not defined by a number. But I have learned now I am. I also believe I am the total of life experiences have made me who I am today: someone who loves to have fun; someone who can be brutally honest; someone who has no tolerance for game players or hypocrites; someone who sometimes is impatient, silent, reflective yet personable and very intuitive. These characteristics were always within me but some became more prominent as I aged. So my first lesson is that you are who you are - formed at early age.

But as I got older, I found I did not like looking older - and, I wanted to look younger. Funny isn’t it? We are never happy. When we’re young, we want to be older; when we are older, we want to be younger. Why?

I believe it’s societal. We want to belong, be in the mainstream. Or maybe it’s our insecurities. For me, as I aged, I became more accepting of who I am. I guess I finally grew up. So lesson learned: be comfortable with who you are and don’t make excuses for yourself, your looks, the way you feel. It’s a right and privilege earned.

At a young age, I was forced to face hard reality. Because of the culmination of innumerable sudden deaths of fairly young family members, I learned death can come at anytime. While this hard lesson initially evoked fear of death in me, it was an invaluable lesson because it taught me to live my best and full life every day. So as I grew older, the fear of death subsided.

I learned that just because you grow older, and the aches and pains and fatigue set in, you can make changes to continue to add life to your years. I learned this most from the medical people with whom I was working on a book project, everything seemed to come together. Here’s what I found out.

The body is very forgiving. So even though you may have abused it most of your life with overeating, drinking, smoking, whatever, if you turn a new page and stop the excesses, your body will forgive you and believe it or not, regenerate. Maybe not to the level of youth, but enough to make you feel better, even good.

For me, those meant losing weight, working out ( I actually enjoy exercising). The benefit: I feel pretty damn good. Who knew? I also meet some really nice people and it gets my day started. Look I don’t do any heavy weights or things like that, but I do the bike which helps my knee (two broken cartilage and arthritis) so it’s not stiff anymore. I guess it forgave me.

Good attitude, good life. There are many conflicting researchers out there who sometimes give mixed messages but believe this one. If you believe, it will be so. If you are positive, you feel better. Don’t spend too much energy on people or things that upset you. My friend Jan used to say to me, “those people are trees.”

So, when someone or something gets me really angry, that thing or person becomes a tree. They are part of the environment, you know they’re there but it’s up to a mightier power to take care of them, not me. Sometimes I give them tree names - and sometimes, just before I let go, I envision a dog coming by and urinating on that tree.

So the lesson: make yourself feel good about who you are and what you are doing. The heck with the others - you can’t change the world. (Though I should tell you my list of trees is growing by leaps and bounds since I got laid off!)

Continue to socialize; don’t stay away from people. This leads to depression. Interact with people, even if it’s only on the computer. If you don’t socialize, you withdraw. If you withdraw, you lose your motivation. If you lose your motivation, you lose the spark that ignites you each day. Groups like the Silver Sneakers can help with this (as well as exercise). They are a national group of elders who walk the malls. You will meet new people as you walk! See Silver Sneakers.

Finally, none of this means you give up on causes and stop getting angry over inequities like the way we are all treated. My being laid off of work has taught me even more - mostly about the stupidity of health plan administrators, the inequities of health coverage for the 65-plus population and ageism in the workplace and subsequent hardships in seeking employment.

Some anger is normal as long as you put it to good use and don’t let it fester inside of you. So happy milestone to me and to all of you - To life!

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.


Guest Blogger Ronni Prior: The Snowball Effect

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Ronni Prior of Rants by Ronni. Scourge of the Internet, she started blogging three-and-a-half years ago, just to have something to do while quitting smoking. So far, she's winning.


Everything was going well with Addy, until she fell. Oh, she had myriad health problems, mostly stemming from two fierce habits: cigarettes and vodka. But, as I said, everything was going well. She lived alone, and either Jim or I went over to her house every day. I took her to the doctor and the grocery store, and garage sales and the antique mall. Jim did her bills. We played Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune right along with the contestants on TV.

And then, she fell. It was not the first time she had fallen. The time before that, she had dislocated her elbow. Still, this time, she and I were shopping and she stepped off the curb to get in the car and she fell.

I knew I should have made her stay down, but she insisted on getting up with the willing assistance of passers-by. She was apologetic about cutting short our expedition, but she thought she really needed to go home. I thought she really needed to to to the ER, but, bless her heart; she didn't want to hear that.

In the middle of the night, she called. Her leg was hurting and she thought she might have hurt her hip. Jim took her to the ER, and, sure enough, her hip was broken.

There was surgery - a partial hip replacement. There was residential rehab at an assisted living center. And then there was the next fall. She somehow got twisted around, getting out of bed and went down on the nice thick carpet. The steel rod that ran through her thigh rapped sharply against her femur, and bingo! A broken femur. More surgery. More residential rehab, in a different assisted living center.

During one of her hospitalizations, a nurse noticed that a nick on her toe was not healing and that she was developing a bedsore on her heel. She eventually ran out of hospital days and residential rehab days on her medical insurance, and they sent her home with me.

It fell to me to clean and debride her toe and heel every day. That terrified me because I was so afraid I wasn't doing it right. The home nurse who taught me how came a couple of days a week for a while, and then that service ran out and poor Addy was left to my inept ministrations.

We were still having fun though, and I introduced her to the wonders on online shopping. She loved being able to do her Christmas shopping that way, and when the parcels arrived, she supervised my wrapping. It was almost like an early Christmas for her.

We had Christmas, laden down with ham and children and presents, and then she got pneumonia. She was back in the hospital for New Years, and Jim had to sign the papers for her to have part of her foot amputated. Her toe had not healed, and gangrene had set in. Once they started operating, they decided that they should remove her entire foot, because of the sore on her heel. By the time she was back in her room, her leg was gone, halfway to her knee.

More residential rehab. More surgery, because the amputation wouldn't heal. By then, her leg was gone to just below the knee.

After the second amputation, I went to pick her up at the assisted living center to take her to a follow-up appointment with her surgeon, and found her with her head down on the table, unconscious. The nurse didn't want to call an ambulance - after all, we were on our way to the doctor's office anyway, right?

We never made it. I called ahead, and Dr Surgeon told me to take her to the ER. He never did meet us there, as he promised, but the hospital admitted her anyway in order to monitor her and tweak her incredible cocktail of medications.

The next time I saw Dr Surgeon, he was handing Jim another sheaf of papers to sign so that he could further amputate Addy's leg - above the knee, this time. For "pain management." By then, Addy was half out of her mind, vacillating between morphine and agony. "It's trying to heal," said Dr Surgeon during his daily inspection.

Addy, ever the optimist and too blind to see the wound, would get to thinking that it was all getting better and they would be fitting her with a prosthetic any day and we would be off to the antique mall. I was trying to figure out why he was lying to her. It finally occurred to me that she was dying, and he knew it didn't matter. The same thought occurred to Jim, also, because he refused to sign for the above-knee surgery.

I cornered Dr Surgeon and Dr Internist during rounds the next morning. Jim and I were pretty much living at the hospital by then. ("Hi honey. How was your day?” “Oh, excuse me nurse...") I asked Dr Surgeon exactly what he meant by "trying to heal." I asked Dr Internist what the prognosis was. I wanted to know the truth that Jim couldn't face. Addy was not going to get any better. I challenged the both of them to tell Addy what they had just told me.

Catching her in a moment of lucidity, they explained the situation as I glared at them from the doorway. She nodded sagely. When they left, she looked at me and said, with a mere hint of her lifelong feistiness, "Now, we're going to fight this thing."

God forgive me, I couldn't stand it. I said, "With what, Addy? You've been fighting and fighting for months. There's nothing left!"

Hours later, I heard her tell the nurse, "I want to die."

I am still chilled to the bone by that.

When she told the nurse that, it set in motion another procedure. Hospice.

The little volunteer bustled up to me with her huge glasses and shiny briefcase and began asking me questions. How much was she sleeping? When did she last eat? When I explained that the nurse and I had mashed her pills up in some Jello and fed it to her a few hours before, her pencil poised above the legal pad, and she blinked owlishly at me. "Oh," she said, "if she's still eating, she could last for a month or more. Our program is only for two weeks."

I lost it. Dearly Beloved, I lost it.

In retrospect, I feel sorry for the volunteer, who must have been very new. "WHAT?" I said, "Do you mean she's not DEAD enough for you? I'll tell you what! You don't know Addy! When she puts her mind to doing something, it gets done!"

I believe I further invited her to pack up her pencil and her briefcase and get the hell out, and that I had been coping all along and would continue to do so. She whimpered pitifully and offered to "crunch some numbers" (yes, she really did say that), and see if she could get Addy into her "program."

Well, she crunched and she crunched, and by then it was Saturday, and the on-call doctor at the hospital wouldn't sign off on the hospice program because he "didn't believe in euthanasia." Addy would have to endure until Monday, when Dr Internist, who had already signed for the hospice program, would be back and could sign for it all over again.

Of course, I was right. Close to dawn on Monday morning, Addy gripped my hand tightly and stared into my eyes with a surprised expression, and died.

* * *

I learned a couple of things. One is that insurance is a wonderful thing. Another is that doctors will do anything and everything to you and for you that your insurance allows, whether or not it will improve your quality of life. A third is to never underestimate the resourcefulness of a feisty and stubborn woman.

I miss her. She was eighty-one.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.


Guest Blogger Mary Jamison: The Lessons Keep Coming

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Mary Jamison, who says, for the most part, I love my job: I get to talk to a lot of interesting people. I’m a lifelong Western New Yorker, a single woman, a 57-year-old homeowner, a newbie in the world of dog showing. I was shopping for a circular saw last night and I learned that hydrogen peroxide really does make a dog ralph up something he shouldn’t have eaten. Sometimes I think I’m too cynical, but I can still be dismayed - and surprised - when humans (including myself) behave badly.


Behavior that served me well in my career back in the day - when I was a skinny blonde with a clearly discernible waist and a cute butt - doesn't serve me at all in these post-menopause years.

I’m a talker - one of those people who is always eager to make suggestions and kick around ideas. Once upon a time, that meant I was one of the people tapped to do the presentations and handle the special projects. Not always, but more often than not, I was among those who survived the lay-off or who got the promotion. I was never tracking to be the Big Boss, but I was always a solid B performer. And when it came to promotions, people were encouraging and supportive.

Now? Not so much.

It took me a long time and a lot of soul-searching to figure out that, these days, people around me react to a different person than I experience myself to be.

When we’re enthusiastic and young, we get a lot of encouragement. After all, “participates in class” is considered a plus throughout most of our school lives. But it looks as if that tendency to jump right in becomes a liability as we get older.

Take, for example, the get-acquainted meeting with the new boss last year. I brought along a resume and told her I was eager to “take on new challenges.” Weeks later, I was stunned to learn that her reaction was negative. She’d somehow interpreted my desire to learn something new as dissatisfaction with my current job.

It could be that, in that case, I simply played my hand badly. But another possibility is that the rules have changed. Is it really strictly a coincidence that people’s reactions to me seemed to change just about the time I turned 50 - the time I started a new job?

I’ve begun to speculate that elders in the workplace are expected to behave differently than young people, different from even our younger selves. That means changing the habits of half a lifetime.

It’s tempting to rail against this. After all, why should this be so?

Shouldn’t ideas be based on their worth? Shouldn’t input be valued?

Shouldn’t ambition be encouraged?

Well, maybe. But the thing is, work is about getting paid. And insisting on fair play at work is risky business. For one thing, one person’s fair play is another person’s favoritism. For another thing, rocking the boat is seldom well received. And maybe the thinking is that if a person isn’t where she’d hoped to be at this stage of the game, she should just face the fact and let her skills and strength go unused.

With all this in mind, I’ve been paying attention to what people of all ages say about their older colleagues.

For example: One young colleague told me that she didn’t take part in a discussion between people because they were “older women.” She felt uncomfortable, disrespectful.

For example: during a training session, a young colleague turned away from her assigned older teammate to join a team made up of people her own age.

For example: one of the programmers posted an old Bloom County cartoon about how old people shouldn’t be allowed to use computers.

Some of this is ageism, pure and simple. Some of this may be related to authority issues with older people being seen as - or acting like - the parent or teacher, and the younger folks feeling like, or being treated as, children. Some of it might even be respect, although I’d find it more respectful to be challenged honestly than to be politely ignored by someone who disagrees with me.

I’m struggling to figure out how to fit better in this strange new world—made all the stranger because it looks just like the old one. And I’m trying to use the struggle as an opportunity for reflection and for growth and a chance to understand my own prejudices better.

Or, as the bumper sticker says, “Oh, no! Not another learning experience!”

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.


Guest Blogger Ian Bertram: Preparing

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Ian Bertram. Ian started his working life as an urban planner and spent 30 years in local government in the UK. Since being declared redundant, he has variously worked as a consultant planner, as a trainer for community groups, as chairman of a community owned social enterprise and now spends his time at play as an artist. (Its too much fun to be called work). He blogs at Panchromatica, has images on Flickr and Ipernity and sells his work at local galleries and on the net at Etsy.


The death of any loved one is difficult, but it is harder still when as in the case of my late and greatly beloved aunt, a remarkable woman I her own right, but also the last family member of a remarkable generation.

My aunt, died two months short of her 90th birthday. Back in 1991, she left me instructions that on her death, her body was to be given for medical research. She had done all the preparatory work and as next of kin I had to confirm that I had no objections. When she died a few weeks ago, it thus fell to me to follow through on her wishes.

Sadly I was unable to do so since neither of the local university teaching hospitals could take her. I suspect if she had considered this possibility at the time I would have had equally clear instructions for her funeral. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and I had to try and make the arrangements I felt she would have wanted.

I’ve touched on funereal matters before, in my own blog. This guest post for Ronni revisits some of those issues. I suppose death might seem rather a gloomy thought for a blog about aging, but my belief is that we cannot truly accept growing older until we also face up to our own inevitable passing.

I’ve never been to a Jewish or Muslim funeral so I can’t speak for what happens there. British Christian funerals are, however, underpinned by a strong tradition of hymn singing. The effect of that is very different from the same hymns sung by the choir. The shared experience of singing is an important part of the ritual.

My mother-in-law's funeral included one hymn – How Great Thou Art - with a wonderful tune (and for a believer, powerful words) that even as a long-standing atheist still managed to raise the hair on the back of my neck. Add Abide with Me and The Day Thou Gavest and you have a strong – and shared - emotional experience.

My aunt wasn’t a member of any organised church. She was, unlike me, a believer but in that inchoate way so common in the UK. It seems only about 7 percent of us attend the Anglican Church with any frequency and only about 16 percent attend any Christian church.

For the atheist, there is no equivalent to the Christian hymn. There is obviously powerful and emotional music to draw on, but it will not be shared in the same way as the Christian hymn. Nor is there a shared equivalent to the St James Bible. As a consequence, since most people probably do not plan their funeral in advance, I suspect that when the time comes the relatives settle for the comfort of a familiar ritual, even if they are not actually believers.

Back in 2004, I listed a few possibilities to be played at my own funeral. My aunt’s passing made me revisit this and Ronni’s invitation gives me a chance to share those thoughts with you her readers, a much wider audience than I could ever expect on my own blog.

I chose three pieces for my aunt, each with strong emotional overtones.

As she arrived, we played a brass band arrangement of a hymn tune, The Day Thou Gavest. The tune, the words and the melancholy brass band arrangement all hang together.

The day Thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall sanctify our rest.

As an atheist of, course, this is not a message I personally subscribe to, but the metaphor of death as the closing of the day is very powerful and does not depend on religious imagery for that power.

During the service, we played another piece of music, one that she chose for the funeral service of her husband some 30 years ago, a setting of a poem by Burns, sung by Kenneth McKellar.

Oh, my love is like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June
Oh, my love is like a melody
That's sweetly played in tune
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in love am I
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till all the seas gang dry.
Till all the seas gang dry, my dear,
Till all the seas gang dry
And I will love thee still, my dear,
Till all the seas gang dry.

There is a theatre saying, “there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”

This version is by Eva Cassidy [3:35 minutes]:

Finally as we filed out, I chose something more upbeat, in a deliberate reflection of the New Orleans tradition of the slow dirge on the way to the cemetery and cheerful happy music on the way back. This was Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – a powerful and life enhancing secular hymn to humanity.

So where am I with my own arrangements? When the time comes I hope to have the entire ceremony mapped out with readings and music chosen. For the time being though here are some musical possibilities.

West End Blues – Louis Armstrong (if only for the tremendous opening solo)

For All We Know - Billie Holiday (because I can’t imagine going anywhere without Billie)

Vissi d’arte from Tosca (it passed the neck hair test even though when I first heard it I had no idea of the meaning or the context)

Three from Duke Ellington:

Ducky Wucky – (it makes me laugh)

Warm Valley – (warm and sensuous - Duke at his best)

Caravan – (more classic Duke)

A final word from Seneca:

“Death is non-existence, and I know already what that means. What was before me will happen again after me. If there is any suffering in this state, there must have been such suffering also in the past, before we entered the light of day. As a matter of fact, however, we felt no discomfort then.

“And I ask you, would you not say that one was the greatest of fools who believed that a lamp was worse off when it was extinguished than before it was lighted? We mortals also are lighted and extinguished; the period of suffering comes in between, but on either side there is a deep peace.

“For, unless I am very much mistaken, my dear Lucilius, we go astray in thinking that death only follows, when in reality it has both preceded us and will in turn follow us. Whatever condition existed before our birth is death. For what does it matter whether you do not begin at all, or whether you leave off, inasmuch as the result of both these states is non-existence?”

I don’t accept the last sentence in this quote, but I do believe in the essential truth of the passage. This life is all we will have. We must make the most of it and that includes leaving not grief and sorrow behind us, but a positive example of a life well lived.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.