Previous month:
April 2013
Next month:
June 2013

How to End Sexism, Racism (and Ageism Too)

Slightly altered, I stole that header from Kavan Peterson at changingaging.org. In fact, I've stolen the entire post.

Ageism in all its forms drives me nuts. Nevertheless, it is as commonly perpetrated throughout the American cultural spectrum as the N word once was. It's a knee-jerk response everywhere you look.

As much as I love both of them, Jon Stewart and his Comedy Central cohort, Stephen Colbert, regularly make derogatory references to old people. In Stewart's case, it has surfaced more frequently (and often in reference to himself) since he turned 50 earlier this year.

But every single day on television, in magazines, newspapers, all over the internet, there are dozens of instances of “getting old is a bummer” and that is only the most polite version.

My point today is to show you a video I found at changingaging so I don't want to carry on at great length but it must said that some of the biggest perpetrators of ageism – which is the direct cause of age discrimination in the workplace - are elders themselves. As Marketwatch recently reported:

“'I don’t think baby boomers are any less likely to discriminate against their peers than other generations of older employees,' Ballman said.

'Boomers were the decision makers in many of the layoffs over the past few years, and older employees were targeted in those layoffs more than any other workers.

“Others agreed. 'When I talked to people, I found that some of the most age-discriminatory people out there are older people,' said Joanna Lahey, an associate professor at Texas A&M University who studies age discrimination.”

I'll save the rest of my ageism rant for another day. Right now, I want to introduce the TEDtalk from Jackson Katz who is addressing sexism and violence against women, homophobia and racism which doesn't necessarily sound apropos of ageism, so let's hear from Kavan about why it is:

”I have no complaints whatsoever about Jackson Katz’ message and delivery here. Physical and other forms of violence perpetrated by men against women and others is a serious, rampant problem.

“I will simply add that he could have easily included ageism in his message and everything he recommended to reframe sexism, racism, homophobia and violence would apply.”

Katz is a compelling speaker. I agree with everything he is saying and I heartily agree with Kavan that all of it can be applied to ageism too. Please watch with that in mind.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: How President Kennedy's Council on Physical Fitness Almost Scarred Me for Life


States Ranked for Healthy Aging

Yesterday, the United Health Foundation published the first comprehensive state-by-state analysis of elder health in the U.S. As Judith Graham (disclosure: she is a friend) reports at Kaiser Health News:

”Overall rankings in the report are based on a composite score of 34 measures of senior health, with data drawn from more than a dozen government agencies and organizations such as the Dartmouth Atlas Project and the Commonwealth Fund.

Among those 34 measures of elder health, reports Judith, are:

  • smoking and chronic alcohol consumption
  • the extent of poverty and funding for community supports
  • the availability of geriatricians and the extent of drug coverage for seniors
  • clinical care and the delivery of health care services
  • the number of preventable hospitalizations and hospital readmissions

Of course, you are wondering how your state ranks. If you live in Minnesota, congratulations. It wins the number one spot as the healthiest state for old people. Directly behind it are Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Iowa.

However, if you live in Mississippi, your state is the bookend to Minnesota. (Poor ol' Mississippi; it comes in last in so many (too many) quality-of-life measurements.)

Moving up the rankings from there are Oklahoma, Louisiana, West Virginia and Arkansas.

In addition to these overall rankings, the report includes color-coded maps to illustrate each state's incidence of obesity, tobacco use, diabetes and physical inactivity for people 65 and older.

This is the obesity map – the estimated percentage of those in the age group with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher:

StateHealthMapObesity

You can find your state's rankings in all the categories within the full report here. Click on a state (at that website) for a full description of findings.

Don't you love it when someone does your work for you? Judith further notes in her story:

”Several findings are sobering, although not altogether new. Notably, only 38.4 percent of older adults rated their health as 'very good or excellent' in 2011.

“One in every five seniors said they did not get sufficient social and emotional support, putting them at risk of isolation and loneliness, conditions known to have an adverse impact on older adults’ health.”

Judith also included a (to me) shocking statistic about chronic illness I had never run across before:

“Nearly 80 percent of the 65-plus population has been diagnosed with at least one such illness; half the population has received a diagnosis of two or more chronic conditions.”

Judith's story has more overall detail and there is a lot of information for each state at America's Health Rankings website.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowensterm: Zzzzzzzz


An Elder in Exile

For the 40 years I lived in Manhattan, it was well known that many people there, when they reached retirement age – especially in the Jewish community - moved to Florida. Some were immigrants from around the world and from other states in the U.S.; others were life-long New Yorkers, born there.

Either way, they trekked off to Florida (and probably still do) without, it seemed to me, a backward glance.

I always wondered how, without a compelling financial reason, they could just pack up their homes and go to places where they didn't know anyone. There is – to me, at least – extraordinary comfort in the familiarity of everyday life that I am loathe to give up.

Friends, neighbors, local shop keepers, knowledge of the best, worst or just-okay restaurants and stores, ease in getting from point A to point B because you've been doing it for decades.

To start over building all those connections anew would be, it seemed to me, an emotionally wrenching difficulty.

And yet, I did it when I moved first to Portland, Maine, and then in 2010, to Lake Oswego, Oregon. But although I selected the locations, it was definitely not my idea to leave Manhattan.

And maybe that is the difference in the emotional ease with which others appear to make big moves – they decided for themselves while the choice was forced on me.

It is probably easier for retirees to move far away when it is done to be near their grown children and grandchildren. Maybe others return to their hometowns. I know that some of those elder Florida residents say they are fleeing cold and snow which is also the attraction of another retirement haven, the desert southwest.

As common as retirement relocations are, few people talk about making new homes from scratch in their late years - how it works out, what is good and what is not.

It was only in March that I wrote about adjusting to moving far away from a bit of a different perspective. Today's post came about when a Manhattan friend who moved to Georgia a couple of years ago recently suggested that we are exiles, she and I, expats who have been banished like those in ancient times were for having committed a crime against the king.

It's funny how one word can make a big difference in one's thinking – in this case, exile. It feels exactly right to describe my feelings about no longer living in Manhattan – not of my choosing, missing the sense and sensibility of that particular place that I knew so well.

I am making a life here in Oregon. Volunteering with local organizations has helped me meet new people. I particularly appreciate the natural beauties of northwest Oregon. And I'm learning my a way around although it's much harder when you can't walk to everywhere you want to go.

And I am nothing if not a realist. Whatever circumstances I find myself in, I do what I can to make it work for me and now that it's been three years, I feel quite settled here.

But that doesn't mean I don't feel exiled from what is my real home. I'll let the poet Maya Angelou help explain it - from her book, Letter to My Daughter:

“I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and the dragons of home under one's skin, at the extreme corners of one's eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.”

Any other exiles out there?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Jimmy


What About Senior Discounts?

Yesterday morning, I received an email from a man who occasionally sends me a link to a website, essay or news story that is related to the kinds of things I write about here.

His email signature includes a link to his blog crowsperch where, until a couple of weeks ago, he had not written anything since 2011. His sig also includes this:

Tom Delmore
Poet

Wondering why I'd not done so when I have received past emails from Mr. Delmore, I tracked down a bit more about him. His blog tells us this:

I was born and live in Seattle, the youngest of 11 and I am an identical twin. I have been writing poetry, successfully and unsuccessfully since I was 17.

Delmore's next-to-last 2011 blog post expands on this:

”I was reminded that I have not written here for quite awhile. So a quick update. I got divorced and moved to Seattle and some healing. My latest book Tell them that you saw me but you didn't see me saw is being published by Moon Pie Press at the end of the month.”

You'll find that book with a poem sample at the Moonpie Press website. There is another, A Poultice for Belief at Amazon although currently unavailable. Librarything has another of his books, Child is Working to Capacity.

You never know who you'll meet on the interwebs and it's nice to know a bit about the people who are kind enough to write and give me suggestions.

What Delmore sent is a blog post at the Arts Journal website asking, Why do Seniors Get Discounts?

Since that essay, by Michael Rushton, is about pricing of the arts, there is a bunch of discussion in the post about elder poverty past and present, Social Security, Medicare and redistribution of wealth before he gets to an interesting thought about us old folks:

”...many discounts we observe in the market are targeted at seniors not because they are poorer but because evidence suggests they are careful shoppers, mindful of prices, searching for deals.

“The discounts at cinemas may be the result of (misdirected?) altruism by the owners, but it also could simply be a realization of different willingness-to-pay by seniors, a group that is easily identified and segmented by the presenter.

“Seniors pay less for groceries than non-seniors who shop at the very same stores, not because of discounts labelled [sic] “seniors discount” but because they take advantage of coupons, and random sales.

"In that case, the store recognizes different willingness-to-pay by a group but employs indirect price discrimination to provide the discount.”

Mr. Rushton, I believe, is on to something.

We old people have a lifetime behind us of purchasing mistakes due to carelessness, lack of knowledge and lack of time when we were working and raising a family.

Now, in retirement we have more time than younger people together with the internet that makes comparison shopping so easy.

Way back in 2005, I wrote about a TGB reader's and my own first senior discounts as a rite of passage into elderhood. Mine had a been a movie theater discount and I routinely ask for them now.

But except for movies, mostly I forget to inquire. Some elders, however, refuse discounts even when freely offered. On that 2005 post, Millie Garfield of My Mom's Blog left this story in the comments:

”I was waiting in line at the movies one day when the woman in front of me said to the cashier, 'you gave me too much change back.' The cashier's response was that was the senior rate.

“The customer was so mad she insisted on paying the full price! I guess she was not a senior and was insulted that she was taken for one.”

Mr. Rushton wrote his blog post to refute another that quite forcefully stated it's not elders who need discounts, but millennials:

”You’ve seen them on the bus, in museums, and at movie theaters: senior discounts. As a reward for being old, senior citizens pay a quarter less for bus fare, a small fortune less for movie tickets, and receive discounts generally all over the place.

“If you’re a twentysomething, or part of what some journalists have colorfully called “the screwed generation,” you may be wondering: why not me?

...

“It's Millennials, not seniors, that are vulnerable today. Yet it's still the seniors that receive discounts on public services and benefit from price discrimination by private companies.

“So if you’re a twentysomething, the next time you see an adorable old lady paying less bus fare with her senior discount, demand that you receive the discount instead of her. Tell the driver it’s the screwed Millennial discount.”

Pretty much everyone who's not in the one percent is having financial difficulties since the financial collapse in 2008. How do you feel about elders being the only generation that is routinely offered discounts?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On Sleeping In


ELDER MUSIC: Heroes and Villains

PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


The worst concert I ever attended was the BEACH BOYS. Fortunately, I didn’t pay for it.

It was held at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne - rather like the Hollywood Bowl, only better. Because the park around it is so big people can sit outside the enclosed area and listen, especially to rock bands whose music is loud enough to carry to us way up the back.

It was a lovely, balmy summer evening, appropriate for the group, and we went along. We left after three or four songs as they sang so out of tune it set my teeth on edge. Thus we missed Carl being so drunk he fell off the stage and a couple of the others getting into a fist fight resulting in one being knocked unconscious.

Dennis looked completely out of it, seemingly about to fall off his stool behind the drum kit which apparently he did somewhat later. Well he was often like that around that time.

Rather surprisingly, Brian was along – he rarely toured around that time – but he just crouched down behind a piano.

It wasn’t just their singing that was a problem, their instruments were out of tune as well. You’d have thought the roadies would have seen to that but maybe they were as whacked as the band.

I wasn’t alone in my judgment. This appearance was mentioned in a rather scurrilous biography of the band called Heroes and Villains as the worst they have performed.

Given all that, in the studio the band produced some of the loveliest music from the sixties.

The original Beach Boys were the brothers Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson, their cousin Mike Love and a friend of theirs, Al Jardine. Although Brian left the touring band fairly early on to be replaced initially by Glen Campbell and later on a more permanent basis by Bruce Johnston, he kept writing and producing their records.

Beach Boys

They started as a rather conventional rock band with some harmony singing but soon Brian took over most of the writing and production duties, often with the assistance of the Wrecking Crew, the revolving studio musicians who worked on Phil Spector’s records.

This led to a bit of album one-upmanship with Paul McCartney – “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver” begatting “Pet Sounds.” It begat “Sergeant Pepper” which led to “Smile” (which wasn’t released) and Brian’s nervous breakdown that lasted for years. I believe drugs were also involved.

Rather surprisingly, and who’d have thought it back then, Brian is the only Wilson brother still with us.

I won’t go into the story of the band as it’s been covered in quite a few books and would take far too long, even in synoptic form. I’ll just play some music.

Beach Boys

The appropriate place to start is with something to do with surfing as that was their original raison d’être even though Dennis was the only one who actually surfed. And right back at the beginning is Surfer Girl.

♫ Surfer Girl

Also early on was Help Me Rhonda and what an earworm this one is. That fluctuation in volume is deliberate, by the way, it’s not your computer playing tricks.

♫ Help Me, Ronda

Beach Boys

Skipping ahead a few years to their masterpiece album, “Pet Sounds,” here is Caroline No. This has some fine harmony singing by Carl and Brian. Look out for the train and the dogs at the end.

♫ Caroline No

Another one from that album is Wouldn't It Be Nice and yes, it is nice. The words hark back to their early days but the production is definitely Pet Sounds.

♫ Wouldn't It Be Nice

Beach Boys

Towards the end of the early creative period came the album “Sunflower.” On this one, several of the other members of the band wrote a number of songs although Brian was still the master producer. This is one of those songs written by Dennis, Slip on Through.

♫ Slip on Through

Beach Boys

Getting back to “Pet Sounds” - it’s hard to escape it really - here is God Only Knows.

♫ God Only Knows

By the end of the sixties, just when we thought that the Beach Boys were past it, that all their good music was behind them, they came up with a near masterpiece (missed by this much) called, rather ironically as it turns out, “Surf’s Up.”

This was, though, their last gasp at producing interesting, innovative music. From then on they descended into being a nostalgia band with songs reminiscent of their glory years, but not as good.

However, to “Surf’s Up,” the song I’ve chosen is Long Promised Road. This was one of Carl’s songs.

♫ Long Promised Road

A song that was destined for the “Pet Sounds” album but didn’t make the cut because Brian hadn’t finished tinkering with it is Good Vibrations. I’m glad he kept at it as this is one of the great singles of all time. You all know this one, but it’s always worth hearing.

♫ Good Vibrations

Beach Boys

Another of their finest compositions is Heroes and Villains. Rather surprisingly, this isn’t from “Pet Sounds.” It was supposed to be on the next album, the aborted “Smile.”

It did surface on their actual next album, a bastardized version of “Smile” called “Smiley Smile.” On this song, Brian had the help of his friend and occasional writing collaborator Van Dyke Parks. It’s one song that made the transition from ”Smile” to “Smiley Smile” successfully without change.

♫ Heroes and Villains

Beach Boys

I’ll finish with a song from one of their albums that seems consistently to be downgraded in their canon, “Holland,” possibly because Brian wasn’t as involved in this one as much as the previous several. I think it’s better than most commentators suggest.

Okay, it’s not “Pet Sounds”, but it’s well worth a listen - any album that contains Sail On Sailor can’t be dismissed out of hand. From that album comes California Saga, a rather adventurous suite, I suppose you’d call it.

It’s in three parts, the third of which is the best bit.

♫ California Saga

Beach Boys

It’s no coincidence that nearly half these songs come from “Pet Sounds,” generally considered one of the crowning achievements of sixties’ music.


INTERESTING STUFF – 25 May 2013

There is so much new Interesting Stuff this week that I can't post it all. If something you sent is missing, it may turn up next week or the next although never any promises.



“BETTER ME THAN A CHILD”

That is how an astonishly brave woman named Ingrid Oyau-Kennett explained taking her life in her hands when she engaged two alleged murderers in conversation last week.

Certainly you know about the gruesome hacking attack last week on a British soldier in broad daylight on a busy street. It is an unspeakable kind of murder.

But amazing good things can happen too. Ms. Oyau-Kennett first determined that the victim was dead then chatted with the two attackers, keeping them in the vicinity and calm until police arrived.

Here is her account of the conversation:

You can read more of her story at Huffington Post.


JAW-DROPPINGLY WONDERFUL

In the aftermath of the devastating tornado last week in Moore, Oklahoma, Barbara Garcia was explaining to a TV reporter that her beloved dog appeared to have been taken by the storm. Then, right there on camera, a small miracle happened. Watch.

You can read a transcript of the interview on the YouTube page.


MORE BAD NEWS IN OKLAHOMA

And all the American plains states, not to mention all of us. As The New York Times reported this week:

”Portions of the High Plains Aquifer are rapidly being depleted by farmers who are pumping too much water to irrigate their crops, particularly in the southern half in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

"Levels have declined up to 242 feet in some areas, from predevelopment — before substantial groundwater irrigation began — to 2011.

On this map, the darker the color, the farther the water table has sunk (larger image here).

Plains Acquifier

I find this terrifying. You can read the story here.


LIBERACE BIOPIC ON HBO

Any American in the age group that reads this blog certainly remembers how diamond-encrusted Liberace captured television audiences many decades ago when we were young.

Tomorrow night on HBO, Behind the Candelabra will premier. It is the story of a 1970's love affair between two lonely men, Liberace and his much younger lover, Scott Thorson. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the movie stars Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Thorson.

The film is being broadcast on HBO apparently because a distributor could not be found in the U.S. However, Behind the Candelabra has been playing in theaters in England and Europe without difficulty. Here is the trailer that was screened there:

There is a well-done review of the film in the Los Angeles Times.


PING PONG FOR ELDERS ONLY

Here is another new movie titled, Ping Pong, a documentary about eight players from five countries, all 80 and older, who travel to Outer Mongolia to compete the 2012 Table Tennis Championship there.

Some notes from the press release:

Les D’Arcy is a living legend. At 89 years old, he’s obviously not received the memo about slowing down, and is going for gold, literally...A seven time world champion, he still lifts weights to train – something he’s been doing for decades, after surviving a sickly childhood.

“Of course compared to some, Les is a spring chicken. Australian legend Dorothy DeLow is 100, and finds herself a mega celebrity in this rarefied world. She’d better watch out though – Texan Lisa Modlich is fifteen years her junior and is determined to do what it takes to win her first gold.”

Here is a trailer:

The film is having a limited theatrical run in the U.S. next week only (from 27 May to 4 June) and only in selected cities. You can find a list of those cities here.

Ping Pong is making the film festival circuit in the U.S. this summer and is expected to show up on DVD and cable providers' video-on-demand beginning 10 September.


THE STORY OF EARTH IN TWO MINUTES

Claire Jean sent this video that is beautiful and uplifting and then frighteningly sad.


MY NEW FAVORITE NAME

On Bedford Street where I lived in Manhattan, there was for a time a lovely little French bistro where I often dined. When the young proprietor, from Turkey, and his Texan wife had a baby, they named her Isabella Boughalem.

Go ahead, say that out loud: Isabella Boughalem. Let it roll off your tongue. Since she was born in about 2000, Isabella Boughalem's name has been my touchstone for mellifluousness.

Now I have another to add, this time a man's name. Until I read a couple of reviews of the latest Star Trek film, Star Trek Into Darkness, I had never heard of the young British actor, Benedict Cumberbatch (he plays Khan).

Benedict-Cumberbatch-Star-Trek-2

He already has a remarkable number films and television behind him and a lot of awards. You can read about him at Wikipedia.

Even if his name were not as rhythmic as it is, it would be interesting for its reminiscence of Dickens-style names.

Since “discovering” Mr. Cumberbatch, I like to say both names together: Benedict Cumberbatch and Isabella Boughalem.


MORE THAN HONEY

Here is another documentary for you today. TGB reader Nancy Hutto, who keeps bees herself, sent this trailer for More Than Honey about the global phenomenon of bee death.

The film will be playing at a few theaters in the U.S. in June. You can find out where at this website.


WINDOW REFLECTIONS

In the past decade or so, new kinds of software have made video manipulation more realistic than ever before. Think of that eTrade baby and the zillions of talking animals that look so read.

Darlene Costner sent another one. Yes, it is a commercial for Evian, but no matter. This is so much fun to watch that I'll bet you do it more than once.


SAD CAT DIARY

Nikki Lindquist and Eileen Riordan are only two of the TGB readers who sent this cat video. It's somewhat reminiscent of Henri, Le Chat Noir we have featured in this column in the past. This one has its own charms.


Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.


Better Treatment for Dementia

Of the common late-life diseases, Alzheimer's and other dementias are undoubtedly the most feared, both for ourselves individually and for our loved ones. Dementia steals the person's memory and with it, their selfhood making family members strangers to them and leaving them strangers to their families.

Last week journalist Rebecca Mead, writing in the New Yorker magazine, told a remarkable story of changes in treatment for dementia patients that are gradually being adopted in nursing homes and other care facilities because they are better for everyone – the patients, the care staffs and family.

The idea, at its most simple, is that instead of medication, restraints and rigid schedules found it most dementia care, comfort of the patients is paramount.

To a large degree, these advances in care are being spearheaded at the Beatitudes Campus, a retirement community in Phoenix, Arizona. The community's director of education and research, Tena Alonzo, has spent 28 years working with dementia patients which she prefers to call “people who have trouble thinking.” As Alonzo told Mead:

”'We can't change the way you think, but we can change the way you feel.”

Because dementia patients commonly become violent, Alonzo has re-created the physical space on Beatitudes' dementia floor, renamed it a “neighborhood” and trained the staff to concentrate on pleasant experiences for the residents throughout the day which has greatly reduced anger and violent behavior.

Meals are available around the clock, snacks are passed around by the staff, bedtime and waking times are not rigid, there is a sunroom that features wind chimes, patio furniture and a resident cat.

”'One of the things that create comfort for people who have trouble thinking is space,' Alonzo told me. 'If you are too blocked in, you feel frightened.'

“The sunroom overlooks a busy street; the hum of traffic, filtered through double-glazed windows, can be calming, as can the repetitive motion of the cars. 'We have men who adore watching the cars for hours,' she said.”

What the Beatitudes neighborhood does not have much of is television:

”In many nursing homes, televisions entertain the staff rather than the residents, who may find the programming too stimulating, or have trouble distinguishing between an onscreen drama and their own lives.

“(Talk shows that feature guests yelling at one another can provoke violence among residents.)”

“Back in 2001, the staff at Beatitudes had not yet learned to turn off the television, and on September 11th, Alonzo said, 'we had people crawling under their beds and trying to hide in their closets. Many of them felt like they were in World War Two again.'”

Beatitudes did not invent this new treatment. The Green House Project uses similar types of less instrusive care including fewer or no psychotropic drugs, as does the Pioneer Network in Chicago.

The principles are derived from the work of Thomas Kinwood,

“...a British social psychologist who died in the late nineteen-nineties,” writes Mead...

“In his landmark work, Dementia Reconsidered: The Person Comes First, published in 1997, Kitwood insisted that people with dementia, rather than being seen as debilitated, should be embraced for what they can teach the cognitively intact.

“Such people, he wrote, invite us 'to return to aspects of our being that are much older in evolutionary terms: more in tune with the body and its functions, closer to the life of instinct...'

“'The problem,' Kitwood concluded, 'is not that of changing people with dementia or of managing their behavior; it is that of moving beyond our own anxieties and defences, so that true meeting can occur and life-giving relationships grow.'”

At Beatitudes, part of learning to do that is having the staff experience what the residents have been subjected to:

”Alonzo underwent a public bed bath, in front of the entire staff of twenty-seven. She didn't allow herself to move her limbs, and behaved as if confused.

“Afterward, she was able to describe the nature of her discomfort, and the staff members analyzed their own activity in light of it. 'Let me tell you, it sucked – it was incredibly uncomfortable,' she told me.”

“...In the most radical experiment, the staff wore adult diapers. 'That was kind of life-changing for everybody involved,' Alonzo told me. 'We all recognized just how uncomfortable it was to sit in a wet brief.

“Some of our front-line staff, who really wanted to know how bad that felt, did not change them for a couple of hours.'”

The staff then began taking residents to the bathroom 20 minutes after meals reducing the need for diapers.

Alonzo has been taking the Beatitudes method on the road to teach staffs in dementia care homes around the U.S. what they have learned – the most amazing of which appears to be that the more humane the surroundings and living conditions are, the less need for heavy medication and – at Beatitudes since 2005 - no restraints at all.

There is this that is worth thinking about too:

”Alonzo told me that she regards the residents as being 'closer to the higher being. This is who they are: real, honest, and sometimes raw.

“'There is no ability to reason, or to cover up who you really are. And so, for much of the time, you see the loveliness of the soul – it is bare for everyone to acknowledge.'

“Valorizing dementia as a higher state of being may strike many people as bizarre, and such sentiments are unlikely to comfort the children or partners of people who must endure living in a state of perpetual confusion.

“Yet our society does tend to prize cognition and executive function at the expense of other essential human qualities: sensuality, pleasure, intimacy.

“For people who can no longer think clearly, a life of small sensory pleasures is a considerable achievement.”

Alzheimer's and other dementias are not unknown to some readers of Time Goes By who have cared (or are caring) for spouses and parents.

Statistics indicate that some of us who are reading this blog will, in time, become so afflicted and for me, I hope that such a place as Beatitudes can be found if I become one of the people who has trouble thinking.

Here is a short, little news video from a couple of years ago about Beatitudes' care:

There is so much I have had to omit from this report of Rebecca Mead's New Yorker story, "The Sense of an Ending," that I urge you to read it.

However, it is behind a paid firewall so if you are not a subscriber, you're stuck with having to track it down at the library. The issue is dated 20 May 2013.

There is a less thorough but still worthy The New York Times story about Beatitudes in Phoenix and this kind of dementia care from December 2010.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Karen Zaun Kennedy: Colby


Time Goes By Commenting Policies

Readers arrive here (and elsewhere on the web) with varying levels of computer and internet expertise. Because this blog appeals primarily to elders, many of whom have taught themselves this stuff (and hurray to all of you who have done so), inevitably there are gaps in their knowledge.

(I was lucky enough to spend the last decade of my working life employed at websites where lots of smart 20-somethings taught me amazing computer and internet skills that I sometimes wonder if I could have figured out on my own.)

So today, as I do about once a year, I am going to explain a couple of basics – technical and policies specific to Time Goes By - to catch everyone up to the speed.

There is no shame in not knowing – everybody was once a newbie - but I must tell you that this is equally for my benefit so that I can stop writing the several dozen emails I feel obliged to send each week to individual readers.

Commenting From Email
Certainly everyone here knows that to respond to any email, you click the word “Reply” and a form appears where you can write your message, click “Send” and be done.

However, if you receive Time Goes By via email, this is not true. Think about it: TGB arrives from my email address so if you click Reply, what you write is sent only to me. No one else sees it. And believe me, some of those emails only I see are so good, smart, funny or compelling in other ways, everyone should be able to read them.

It has come to my attention via these private emails that some of you are unaware that there even are comments and that if you read TGB (or any blog, newsletter, etc.) only in your email program without visiting it online, you are missing a large – and often the best - part of the conversation: all the comments from other readers.

So here are instructions on how to read others' comments and how to leave your own comment if you like:

  1. Click on the words “Time Goes By” at the top of the email
  2. The story will open on the TGB blog in your browser
  3. Scroll down to the end of the story where you will see the word “Comments” in the footer, sometimes with a number [e.g. (3)] following it. That is the number of comments already posted.
  4. Click on the word “Comments” to open the comments section
  5. At the bottom of the list of comments already posted is a form where you can write your own comment
  6. Do so, finish filling in the form, click Preview or Post and your comment will be added

If you do not keep a blog, you can leave the URL box empty. If you include ablog URL, your name below your comment will link to your blog.

You must enter a name (it does not need to be your real name). You must also enter a working email address which is never published.

If this is a new process for you, may I suggest that you print out the instructions because after today, I will no longer respond to comments sent only to me via the Reply button. As much as many of them are enjoyable and I wish others could read them, I don't have the time to answer so many messages reiterating these instructions.

COMMENT ADVERTISING
I have deliberately made Time Goes By an advertising-free internet zone. At this blog there are never any annoying popups, no screeching audio when the page opens, no video wiggling around in your peripheral vision, nothing advancing across the screen covering the words you are reading, no Google Adsense links interrupting you in the middle of a story.

And so, also, no advertising is allowed in the comments. I know it annoys some of you that I remove references to almost all products, brands and services along with links to their websites.

I do that because I cannot spend my time working out whether such a mention is innocently meant to be helpful or is someone being paid to slip in advertising masquerading as a real comment. Happens everywhere online so I remove them all.

In particular (but not exclusively), I remove any kind of health and/or medical product, advice or service as soon as I see it for other reasons. What works medically for one person does not, necessarily, work for another and should never be used without consulting one's personal physician.

You would think people know that, but half a century of working in radio, television, commercial websites and this blog have shown me thousands of times that there are many idiots wandering around out there who would try eating what's on the bottom of a bird cage if someone even jokes about doing so.

Therefore, this prohibition also applies to all medical/health remedies of any kind. All such references are deleted.

OFF-TOPIC COMMENTS
If you've ever been enjoying reading responses to news story, blog post or anything else online and it suddenly goes off the rails from the subject, you know how irritating it is.

Long term or short term, nothing kills participation in a forum or blog faster than off-topic comments and the more there are, the more people leave, never to return.

As with brand names and such, I remove these as soon as I see them. Sometimes there can be disagreements about what is off-topic or not, but it's my blog, my decision and just so you know, I usually err on the side of strict adherence to topic.

That may or may not sit well with you but a lot of my choices have to do with saving or returning time to myself that I've allowed the blog to take away from me.

I hope this clears up a few items. One of the good things about Time Goes By is that there is a larger sense of community among regulars here than at many other blogs. I keenly appreciate this which is what has led me to spend as much as an hour, sometimes two, a day answering reader emails.

But I do need to cut way back on that as I'm sure you understand. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments - I'll get to them as soon as is possible.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Socks


Elder Poverty in the U.S.

President Obama has not withdrawn his stated intention to cut Social Security benefits by using a different method – chained CPI – to measure cost of living increases for the program.

Many others – mainly Republican lawmakers and their zillionnaire campaign supporters – have spent decades working toward privatizing, or better yet, eliminating Social Security.

On Monday, the Kaiser Family Foundation released the results of their state-by-state study of poverty among people age 65 and older. Before I get to that, you need to know how poverty is measured by the government. It's a bit complicated, so I'm grateful to Dylan Matthews writing in the Washington Post.

There is the official poverty rate which does not include the value of, for example, food stamps in its counting, and there is also the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), created by the Census Bureau. Mr. Matthews:

”While the SPM takes transfer payments [e.g. food stamps] into account, it does the same with out-of-pocket medical costs. If you’re an unmarried senior with no dependents, make $15,000 a year, and spend $10,000 of it on medical care, under the official poverty measure you’d most likely not count as poor, as $15,000 is above the 2012 poverty threshold for a single senior ($11,011).

“But under the SPM, you’d count as poor as $15,000 – $10,000 = $5,000, which is below the relevant SPM threshold. And despite having Medicare, many seniors struggle with out-of-pocket medical bills.”

Here is a chart from the Kaiser report showing the income differences between the two measurements (click here to see larger images):

PovertyPercentwithbothmeasures

Poverty rates differ dramatically among states. Some examples of both measurements from the Kaiser report:

In DC, about one in four seniors (26%) live in poverty under the supplemental measure, compared to 16 percent under the official measure (see Figure 3 and Figure 4).

In California, one-fifth of seniors (20%) live in poverty under the supplemental measure, compared to 8 percent under the official measure.

Nearly one in five seniors live in poverty in another five states, including Hawaii, Louisiana, and Nevada (19%) and Georgia and New York (18%).

There are maps in the Kaiser report showing the disparity between the official poverty rate and the SPM in every state.

In my state, I contribute time to Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, a coalition of business and corporate organizations (including Kaiser), about a dozen local non-profits concerned with hunger, and several state government agencies.

For the sake of brevity, I'll quote the PHFO website about their activities:

”We document the extent of hunger, coordinate and publicize existing services, advocate for programs and policies to eliminate hunger. Our goal is to provide family economic stability and food security so that all Oregonians have sufficient means and ready access to an adequate amount of nutritious, quality food.”

Maybe there is such an organization in your state you can look into.

It is preposterous – not to mention an old-fashioned idea, immoral – that in a country where CEOs are commonly paid in the tens of millions of dollars per year and avoid the taxes on it by stashing their money overseas, anyone at all - from infant to elder – is allowed to go hungry.

Moreso that we are quibbling over which - $15,000 or $11,000 - counts as poverty.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Round and Zaftig


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 3

Okay, that was a bit of a cheat on Monday - all process, no news. But it was quick and easy to write and I needed time to prepare for the arrival of a houseguest. No excuses today.

Joseph_hairarchitectsThe Joseph of whom I wrote yesterday, is Joseph Pearce, the owner of Hair Architects, “a full service salon specializing in hair design and custom color," as the website states.

It is located in Portland, Oregon, but only a 15-minute drive from where I live in Lake Oswego so it meets my requirement of being easy to get to.

First, I gave Joseph a long speech and he was quite tolerant about it, checking out my hair as he listened: the gradual hair loss over ten years or so in two locations on my head, my solution of pinning up my long hair that covers one area but not the second balding spot just above my hairline, that both balding spots are becoming larger and more sparse.

I mentioned how much I dislike pixie cuts. I may have mentioned it twice. (Have I explained here that an additional problem with pixie cuts for me is the frequency with with they must be trimmed to look good? I don't have that much money.)

Joseph and I also discussed both wigs and going bald as a style and that either of these might be acceptable to me in the future, if necessary, but for now I want to pursue the possibility of a style that would hide the bald spots enough that I can live with it – at least for now. More drastic measures to be negotiated as required.

Together we (ahem, that would be “I”) ruled out a soft perm although that might be a solution to give the illusion of thicker hair for some people. He also asked if I object to using some hair spray which I don't.

I decided to trust Joseph and he went to work with the scissors, checking to see if I had a problem with him chopping off seven or eight inches of my hair. There was a time, when I was much younger, that whacking off so much would have been emotionally wrenching. These days I don't care.

Here is what I looked like when Joseph was finished: (sorry it's not focused better; my ancient camera was acting up).

Joseph and Ronni

Large brush2Yes, a downside is that to get this look every day, I have to refresh my skills with a hair blower (settings on warm and low) and a large round brush similar to this one - not ideal for a woman who has become impatient with a lengthy morning ritual. But neither is losing my hair ideal although it has happened.

The biggest thing I've learned from my work on this project is that it won't get better without compromise.

And with that word in mind, here are snaps of the crown of my head before and after Joseph's work:

Crown Before and After

Actually, I don't look as bald as the “after” photo indicates. At home the same day and since then when I've washed and dried it myself, it looks much better.

No one would confuse this with the thick hair I had when I was 20 or 30 or even 40, but it works for me for now.

Getting this result also involves, in addition to the cut itself, a small amount of very light mousse applied only at my crown. As Joseph indicated, my mistake with that product or gels in the past was using a too-heavy version and a too-heavy hand. In that case, it weighs down hair and separates strands thereby showing more scalp.

Following Joseph's instructions for the mousse and the final spray – again, a light touch – keeps my hair pretty much in place. Enough so that as a week has passed now, I am no longer obsessively checking out my crown in the mirror throughout the day.

What about my forehead hairline you might ask – the other balding spot. Joseph explained how to make use of a cowlick I have in that area. (No stylist ever in my entire life mentioned cowlicks to me before.)

For the years I've been pinning up my long hair, I've brushed it straight back from my forehead. Saying, “Don't do that,” Joseph showed me how parting it at the cowlick – but only back an inch or so from my hairline – and brushing to the side camouflages that front balding spot.

Take a look (sorry for the black-and-white; those newfangled florescent light bulbs above my mirror make dreadful colors in photographs):

Hairline

Pretty neat, huh.

BOTTOM LINE
Some conclusions:

For women with age-related, hormonal hair loss, nothing regrows hair. Anyone who tries to sell you anything – potions, lotions, pills, treatments, diets, etc. – that regrow hair is a flimflam man (or woman).

Surgical transplants work for only two to five percent of women. See this WebMD article for an explanation.

Backcombing to create volume damages hair resulting in weakening and breakage.

If you dislike the time involved in hair care, bald is the easiest “style” of all and if my hair gets too thin for Joseph's remedy to continue working, I will seriously consider it.

Wigs and wiglets are an option. These days, synthetic hair looks terrific, is easy to care for and not expensive. In fact, it might be fun to have a whole wardrobe of different styles and different colors too, like the young people who dye their hair Crayola colors.

We could take a page from their book and make a statement that deliberately wearing false-looking hair is fun - even when you're old.

For me, full-time hats, caps and scarves are not an option (now, anyway). But they can work for many people.

THE DISAPPOINTMENT
As I said somewhere earlier in this series, if there were any product or treatment that reliably and efficiently regrows hair, believe me, we would know about it: whoever invented or discovered it would be too eager to make him/herself a zillionaire to keep it a secret.

I accept that I'll never have my own full head of hair again and given the decreasing funding available for medical research these days, I would rather that money be spent on curing debilitating diseases than what is, at bottom, a vanity issue.

What I deplore, however, is that within the hair profession, hardly anyone will talk about thinning hair – not industry associations nor many individual salons - and it makes me wonder if they are loathe to be associated with old women. Is it ageism that prevents them from talking about it?

But I do believe there are individual Joseph Pearces out there - men and women who have developed their skills and enjoy helping clients with a wide variety of hair problems including elder women with our thinning hair.

I wanted to be able to headline a TGB story blaring something like: A FIX FOR THINNING HAIR. I'm disappointed that I cannot. There are those other solutions above but if, like me, it seems simpler to keep working with your own hair for as long as possible, you will need to research your local stylists and salons as I did.

Yesterday's post contains some advice to help you find your own Joseph Pearce. It's not easy – I spent several weeks (not full time) searching online, reading, calling, emailing until I found this man who turned out to be the right one for me.

I am so grateful to Joseph for listening carefully and working so well with a woman whose first move was to give him a set of limitations. When/if my hair becomes too thin to wear this way, it will be Joseph to whom I'll turn to discuss the next option. I hope you can find a similarly talented person.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 1
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 2


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ross Middleton: Continuous Creation


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 2

You can spend days on the interwebs and find not a single useful word about thinning hair. The only solutions that come close are from professionals who specialize in wigs for chemotherapy patients.

Obviously, that would work as well for people who have little or no hair for reasons other than cancer, but that isn't my problem nor that of most elder women. We still have a good deal of hair, just not enough of it in certain areas of our heads.

Nearly every website repeats the diseases and drugs that can cause hair loss which affects only a tiny minority of elder women. But that's all they know so the rest of their advice is snakeoil.

Nobody knows nothin' except selling expensive creams, lotions, potions, even electronic devices and occasional diets for regrowing hair that are all frauds.

Unwilling to jump directly to bald or wigs and unready to give up on my idea that perhaps somewhere there are hair stylists who have worked successfully with thinning hair, I persevered in other directions.

When I started this project, I expected that with my research skills, I would be able track down such people even if they were well hidden or unsung. I believed this because thinning hair is one of the most common problems of old women – 30 million of us – and it is the American way of business that when there is a need, particularly one that effects a large number of people, there are more than enough entrepreneurs eager to make millionaires of themselves by providing solutions – good, bad or indifferent as they may be.

But no. Here is a brief overview of my search and a few of the results. It is way too tedious to walk you through it all.

Professional Organizations: I contacted via phone and email several professional associations that represent hair stylists and salons. Of the ones I telephoned, all sent me to voice mail. Not one of them – from phone or email contact – ever responded, not even the ones that got both email and a phone call.

Professional Retailers: In a mini-brainstorm, I contacted Tish and Snooky, two sisters I know from New York City who, since 1977, have provided extreme, cutting-edge hair and cosmetic products mostly for young people via their Manic Panic stores and, since the internet came along, online too.

I wasn't looking for a blue or green hair dye (well, who knows - maybe later), but I suspected that they are well plugged in to the professional hair world and I was correct.

We had a nice Skype chat and as it turned out, they were heading for a hair products trade show that weekend and said they would see if anyone there was working on or specializing in thinning hair.

They found nothing except a couple of products that promise to regrow hair. More snakeoil.

Local Stylists: Because this is not an altruistic project - I need a remedy but I'm not willing to travel any farther than I can get to in about 30 minutes - I started calling and emailing hair stylists and salon owners in my immediate geographical area.

First I searched websites, read biographies, lists of services and paid close attention to customer reviews. I looked for stylists with at least 15 years experience and varieties of skills who owned or worked at shops that do not seem to cater to only 20-somethings.

After selecting about a dozen, I began emailing and telephoning. Not a single email was answered. Not one. I did learn that with hair salons – unlike their association representatives - you usually get a real person on the phone rather than a recorded message.

However, it was mostly downhill from there. Everyone said that of course, they could style for thinning hair but when I tried to pin them down, almost all said I should go with a short, layered (pixie) cut.

(Sorry, readers who think this is a wonderful solution. Enjoy it if it pleases you but I despised it in the 1960s (or was it 1950s?) and my opinion hasn't changed. I will go bald before I wear that. It's not who I am.)

As I moved through my list, one of the salon owners seemed to actually hear what I was saying so I made an appointment. Sitting in the chair facing the mirror, I did some show-and-tell with my exposed scalp, asked some questions and – wait for it - got the pixie cut speech.

I left. That cannot possibly be the only solution.

Of all the salon websites I visited, one – just one – had a “consultation” choice in their online appointment scheduler. A plus was no charge for it.

According to the website, the owner met my requirements of long experience with a variety of skills and most of all, I liked what the customers said.

Most online reviews of anything are useless. There is no way to know what “the best I ever had” means and few get beyond that. But in this case, several customers were specific leading me to believe that A: the service was outstanding enough to warrant detail and B: I might have found someone special. Some examples:

”Joseph had done research on styles for me...this was my first appointment with him. He listened to my needs, thoroughly examined my hair and opted to trust my experience with my stubborn mop.”
”He genuinely listens. And he has a great sense of humor.”

From a man:

”Although I don't have alot of hair left to work with (naturally), Joseph always makes me look professional and ready for work...He is a true artist.”

I scheduled a consultation. I'll tell you about it tomorrow with some photos.

I am reporting my odyssey so that if you want to follow my route where you live, you'll have a good idea of what it takes to find what you are looking for.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow – Part 1
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow - Part 3


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: 1945


ELDER MUSIC: Songs About Cities - Memphis

PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


Memphis

There are quite a few songs about Memphis which is good for me as I don’t have to try too hard to find things worth including. It’s more a matter of which to leave out.

There is no better way to start than with a song simply called Memphis and no one better to perform it than CHUCK BERRY.

Chuck Berry

The song is rather atypical of Chuck - it doesn’t have his trademark guitar licks that have been stolen by every rock guitarist since. However, it is from his glory years when everything he released pretty much changed the face of rock & roll a bit.

♫ Chuck Berry - Memphis

This one, by contrast, is quintessentially BOB DYLAN - enigmatic, dense, impossible to understand and yet quite clear. Sorry, I seem to be the same (except for that clear bit).

Bob Dylan

The song is from his album “Blonde on Blonde,” a tour de force from the sixties and one of the finest albums ever. The song is Stuck Inside Of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.

♫ Bob Dylan - Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again

Most of the songs today are rock or country but here’s one to supply a bit of contrast by JULIE LONDON.

Julie London

Her song is Memphis in June and in it she mentions the oleander blowing perfume in the air. Hmm, I wonder about that as oleander is toxic. I certainly wouldn’t eat it (as a major symptom of doing that is death) and even the sap is problematic.

I suppose the perfume is okay but Norma, the Assistant Musicologist (and a bit of a horticulturist), says that she has never noticed any perfume from the oleander at her place. Oh well, no accounting for taste. Anyway, here’s the song.

♫ Julie London - Memphis in June

If there were any justice in the musical world, and we know that’s not going to happen, JOHN HIATT would be a super star. He’s a great songwriter, an interesting vocalist and a fine guitarist. He also puts on a terrific live performance.

John Hiatt

Still, there are those of us who go to his concerts, collect his records and pass the word around about him as I’m doing today. Enough said, here is John with Memphis in the Meantime.

♫ John Hiatt - Memphis in the Meantime

MARC COHN is another one of those artists that you wonder why he isn’t better known. I’ll do my small bit to try to rectify that.

Marc Cohn

Marc has said that the song today is really about his musical life. He’s always appreciated other musicians, from Al Green to Elvis to Levon Helm to Charlie Christian. They’ve really been a touchstone for me, he said.

Marc’s song is Walking In Memphis where a couple of those mentioned get a nod.

♫ Marc Cohn - Walking In Memphis

I decided, along with advice from the A.M., that I wouldn’t play the original version of Talk Memphis by JESSE WINCHESTER from the album of that same name. We thought that the backing was far too busy and didn’t show Jesse at his best.

Jesse Winchester

Jesse is a real favorite of both of us and we see him whenever we can. One of those times was when he came to the Troubadour Weekend where acoustic musicians are featured here in country Victoria.

His concerts were recorded and parts of them were released the following year at that same event. There are 50 very lucky people who have that CD. You know that I’d be one of them.

Here is Jesse with the song and you can hear the A.M. and me applauding as part of the audience. We were in the front row (where else would we be?)

♫ Jesse Winchester - Talk Memphis

What can I say about JOHNNY CASH except that he has a Memphis song too. It’s called Going to Memphis.

Johnny Cash

I remember this one from when I was young, perhaps not as a whippersnapper, but certainly more than a year or two ago.

♫ Johnny Cash - Going to Memphis

JOHN FOGERTY was the singer, songwriter and lead guitarist for Creedence Clearwater Revival.

John Fogerty

His stamp on that band was such that his subsequent solo albums sound as if they are Creedence albums. Of course, from my point of view, that’s no bad thing although John might be a bit miffed.

After Creedence John refused to play his old songs due to a legal wrangle with his manager who had managed to finagle ownership of John’s songs. This took many years to settle.

One of the albums John recorded in the interim was called “Centerfield” which was a big seller. This had a song on it about his manager who sued him and the album had to be recalled and the song rewritten. Some of us who got in early have the original version. Also on that album is Big Train (From Memphis).

♫ John Fogerty - Big Train (From Memphis)

Another change of pace here with DEAN MARTIN.

Dean Martin

Old Dino’s not usually associated with Memphis but he does have a song worth considering. It’s Night Train to Memphis and it doesn’t sound at all like his normal songs.

♫ Dean Martin - Night Train to Memphis2

Memphis was the home of Stax Records so we have to have something from that great establishment. Fortunately, there is a song about Memphis so that’s the one. It’s by RUFUS THOMAS.

Rufus Thomas

Rufus was a disk jockey as well as a soul singer. He was also the father of Carla Thomas with whom he recorded quite often. He wrote and performed Walking the Dog, covered by The Rolling Stones, but the song we’re interested in today is The Memphis Train.

♫ Rufus Thomas - The Memphis Train


INTERESTING STUFF – 18 May 2013


DADDY IS SOOOO FUNNY

There is not much that is better in life than a bunch of babies laughing and here are quadruplets who think daddy is the funniest thing ever.

What I want to know is where daddy got that amazing quadruplets table.


KIDS' FIRST TASTE

Nikki Lindquist sent this sweet, little video of some kids' first tastes of grownup food.


TWO-MINUTE SURVEY

The MIT Age Lab has a two-minute survey for old people:

“This is an exploratory survey to understand what concerns people may be thinking about today in anticipation of their life in older age. All responses are anonymous.

You can take the survey here.


NEW YORK CITY CANDY CAB

Monsoor Khalid drives a New York City's only candy cab and his tech savvy has made him an internet celebrity. Take a look:

Here's Mr. Khalid's Facebook page and you can read more about him and his cab here.


THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING PRESENT

Standup comedian Tig Notaro recently stopped by Conan O'Brien's TV show to explain the importance of being present in life. Hilarity ensues. (Hat tip to Larry Beck of Woodgate's View)


ENLISTING JESUS TO SUPPORT YOUR POLITICAL CAMPAIGN

That headline is no typo. Last Tuesday, North Miami held an election for mayor. One candidate, Anna Pierre, used this campaign poster – note the endorsement I've circled in green:

Anna Pierre Poster

I'm not sure if it's funny or shocking. Either way, it didn't help Ms. Pierre who came in last in a field of seven with only 56 votes. You can see full results here.


SPACE ODDITY

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I included a video of International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield doing a show-and-tell about how astronauts brush their teeth?

Well, Hadfield's current tour of duty there came to an end last week but not before recording a new video of himself singing a revised version of David Bowie's 1969 hit, Space Oddity (“Ground control to Major Tom”).

This is no funky, home-style basement tape; it is a full-blown, beautifully produced music video. It's been seen already by more than 13 million people so it's probably not new to some of you. But that's okay – it's still worth it. (Hat tip to Nancy Hutto)


SAVOUR EVERY MOMENT

That the title of a new short film by Keith Hopkin that was an instant hit when it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on 27 April. From the notes on the YouTube site:

”Dogs and cats seem to possess some inner secret to enjoying life. They're able to savour every single moment of the day; all the fun moments, and the goofy ones. The playful moments, the loving moments.

“If our pets could talk, they might tell us: 'When you're happy, don't forget to tell your face. Napping is beauty sleep for the soul. Eat like nobody's watching.'"

You'll find Keith Hopkin's Facebook page here.


Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.


Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Part 1

My gradual balding, which I have mentioned in the past, becomes more noticeable by the day so because I am tired to death of thinking about it, over several months, I have spent serious time and effort looking for a solution.

This, then, is a report on one old woman's odyssey in search of hair.

Before I treat you to that narrative, let us be clear: nothing, not anything, zilch, zero, nada regrows hair in women (nor many men).

Unless there is a medical cause, no matter what anyone tells you or what advertisements promise, it's all snakeoil.

That said, two-percent Rogaine (minoxidil) for women is the only FDA-approved hair loss drug in the United States. It comes in liquid or foam and must be applied twice a day producing only minimal regrowth in about 20 percent of women. But you won't know if you are in that minority for about six months of use. If you are, any improvement will be lost if you ever stop using Rogaine.

There has been some small success with the higher-dosage Rogaine but not much. Here is part of what WebMD says about the use of the five-percent version which is available under a physician's supervision:

”Results from clinical studies of mostly white women ages 18 to 45 years with mild to moderate degrees of hair loss report that after using minoxidil for eight months, 19% of users had moderate regrowth and 40% had minimal regrowth.”

There are a few annoying and, sometimes, possibly dangerous side effects so all-in-all, Rogaine is not for me. Remember, aside from these minimally successful treatments, hair loss is permanent.

And if you still believe hair can be regrown, just back up a minute and take a breath: don't you think if there were anything that successfully regrows hair it would be headline news with millions of people standing in line to get it at any price? Of course that's true. It would not be a secret.

There are those colored powders that supposedly fill in and make bald areas less noticeable but they look exactly like what they are and you're in big trouble when caught in the rain. It is not a reasonable solution.

So, other remedies must be found.

My hair has been thinning for at least ten years and all treatable causes have been ruled out. Both my great grandmother and grandmother on my father's side became bald – my great grandmother after childbirth (which may not count), my grandmother in old age.

My mother's hair, by the time she died at age 75, was much thinner than mine is now so you could say I come by my own hair loss honestly.

It's called androgenetic alopecia, sometimes referred to as female pattern baldness which is more diffuse over the head than male pattern baldness. It is usually inherited and although it does occur in young women, it is far more common after menopause affecting at least 30 million women in the U.S.

Here is a photo from Wednesday of my crown:

Ronni's Hair Loss

Now really – would you want to walk around looking like that? I sure don't.

What I have been doing for several years is twisting my long hair in a updo and securing it with a clip to cover the growing empty area. But that is less effective now than in the past and doesn't do anything for the front hairline area that is becoming bald even faster these days than the crown.

Here are some of the solutions I have entertained seriously and not so seriously:

Learn to tie scarves
Buy a lot of hats
See if there is a hair style that will cover it
Shave what's left and go bald
Buy wigs

Hair extensions and weaves are, of course, out of the question as they would cause more strain on the hair and more baldness.

Scarves? I've never been any good at arranging them around my neck so I doubt I can learn the more intricate skill of making them work on my head. They, along with full-time hats, feel like a nuisance that would quickly become a daily irritant.

Going bald is a solution that is attractive for its ease – no work except regular shaving. I'm tempted and may yet wind up there. But the downside is that it would create an identity I don't relish: “Oh, you know who Ronni Bennett is – that old lady with the bald head.”

I don't want that to be the main way people describe me.

So I set off some weeks ago to see if I could find a hair stylist who has experience with balding women's hair and if there are styles that can minimize the pink scalp exposure.

To be continued...

UPDATE: Although as someone below suggests, arthritis is a good topic for us sometime in the future, today's topic is hair loss. Nothing kills an online conversation faster than off-topic comments so as is routine at this blog, arthritis comments have been removed.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow - Part 2
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow - Part 3


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Judith Dubin: On Sailing


Forced Time Out

Apparently, I have offended the gods of ordinary life. Yesterday was a disaster beginning at 5AM - even before the coffee was ready or the cat fed.

To keep it short, there was no internet leading to the discovery of a dead router. It took an hour of tinkering and phone calls to deduce that the router was a goner and to revive the laptop internet connection via hard wire.

Since life at Chez Bennett requires several Wi-Fi connections, a couple more hours were lost to researching how to buy a router (it had been seven or eight years since I had last done so), deciding how fancy a router I could or should afford, finding a well-reviewed one at the best price and ordering it.

By then it was past 8AM and I still needed to shower and organize myself for a couple of appointments away from home. But wait.

As I was getting up from the desk, an email popped in from the router vendor saying my credit card had been denied. Huh?

That required another hour on phone calls with the vendor and the card company to learn that overnight, a criminal had been trying to use my card number to buy some free stuff.

Hurray to Chase for catching it and making the remedy easy, but time was bearing down on me and I still had not showered. During those ablutions I idly wondered if, given the amount of electronic disarray, it was wise for me to drive to my appointments.

I did and as you can see, I survived without harm to myself or others.

There's more – it was an infuriating day of one damned thing after another. But you've been there and don't need chapter and verse. For me, this rendition is just a place holder to have a page to put today's Elder Storytelling Place link (below).

Come to think of it, however, maybe from this there is an amusing question for us to fool around with: why, do you suppose, time-consuming nuisance problems come about in clusters that waste entire days? It's not like I have a whole lot of them left, you know.

Personally, I'll stick with blaming the gods who enjoy finding opportunities to remind me that any control over time I believe I have occurs only at their indulgence.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: 1942


Elder Breast Cancer and Celebrities

It's no secret that the risk of breast cancer increases with age but did you know that 80 percent of breast cancers are found in women older than 50, and 60 percent of them in women older than 65?

It is also deadlier for old women. Those who are 75 and older die at a much higher rate from breast cancer than younger women. My mother was one of them.

These thoughts came to mind yesterday after reading actor Angelina Jolie's Op-Ed story in The New York Times about her bilateral mastectomy. She chose it as a preventive measure because she carries the BRCA1 gene defect which sharply increases the risk for breast and ovarian cancers:

”My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.”

Ms. Jolie, who acknowledged that BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing costs $3,000 in the United States, says she decided to go public about her surgery and reconstruction because

“...there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer.

"It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.”

Is it possible she means strong options like the elite Pink Lotus Breast Center in Beverly Hills where she was treated.

Jolie's cavalier attitude toward cost ($3,000 just for the BRCA screening which is covered by Medicare only under severe restrictions) infuriated me. But I don't have to tell you about that because Ruth Fowler, writing at Counterpunch, has done a fine job of taking on the subject of a rich woman's privilege.

In response to Jolie's stated reason for her Op-Ed, Fowler writes:

”Really, Angelina? You honestly think that the 27 million (20%) of women in the US who don’t have health care, and the 77% who apparently have it, but still have to forego care because they can’t afford it even with insurance — you think that your Op Ed is actually going to do anything for these women except remind them that they don’t have access to the expensive screening tests you seem to think people don’t undertake simply because they haven’t read your article?”

And that's just the clean part of Fowler's rant. She is one pissed off woman – righteously so in my book even is she does put it a bit more profanely than I would - although not by much.

An important fact that Jolie omitted (among others) is that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations cause only about five to ten percent of breast cancers. Another is that Ashkenazi Jews are more likely than other ethnic groups to carry the gene mutation.

It is hard to discern the point of a 37-year-old privileged woman of wealth writing about her expensive preventive and reconstructive surgery – something hardly any other women in the U.S., let alone the world, could even dream of affording.

I might be impressed if Ms. Jolie used her celebrity to promote more money for breast cancer research so that fewer people would die of it each year. But the media and others around the web I read mostly seem to think she has done something important and many say she is “brave” to write this.

I don't get it. Do you?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Day Dream


Growing Old with Grace

Recently, I've been running across a lot of online writing about growing old with grace. Most of them are saccharine and say the same few things:

Stay active
Be social
Serve others
Laugh

Some throw in the phrase “stay in love.” That's how you can tell it is mostly young people who write this stuff. They aren't old enough to have lost a spouse of many decades yet. As to the first four – well, duh. But they speak more to health than grace.

Yes, that overused, well-worn idea that no two people define the same way. What I have come to after nearly 20 years of reading, studying and thinking about age is that a graceful old age cannot happen (whatever the definition) without accepting our age and saying farewell to our youth.

There is the perennial question about when is someone old. Many people – some who have commented on the subject at this blog – think 50 or 55 is still young.

Really? Anyone who hangs on to that belief hasn't had to look for a job at that age. Workplace age discrimination starts at 40 – even 35 in the case of women – and it becomes painfully obvious in job interviews that even people your own age think you're old.

In western culture, 50 to 55 is the beginning of old age. But that's a good thing. Geriatricians and researchers who study aging tell us that on average these days, the diseases of old age don't start to kick in until about age 75.

So if we do not deny that aging is inevitable and do not obsessively try to prolong youth, we have 20 or 25 years before we hit old-old age to discover, move toward and live in a stage of life that is as different and distinct as childhood is from adolescence and adulthood.

Oh, the books and movies and TV shows and 50-plus websites and anti-aging “experts” will incessantly proclaim that we must and can maintain the appearance and behavior of people 20 and 30 years younger by whatever means they are touting – chemical, surgical, pharmaceutical.

They foist examples upon us of “supergrans” and “supergrandads” who climb mountains at age 80 and skydive at 90, strongly implying that we who don't are failing to keep up.

The best thing we can do is ignore them and rejoice in our aliveness for they believe only exteriors matter. If we don't listen to them, we can continue to love ourselves however different our bodies become.

Be honest, now: does having a saggy, old body prevent you from being happy, prevent you from knowing pleasure, however you derive it? Of course, it doesn't.

What makes any- and everyone beautiful in old age is acceptance of their years, of themselves as they are.

After about 60, it is a victory of sorts just to awaken in the morning. We can face each new day with sadness for our lost youth or with joy for our luck at reaching this time of life. It's a personal choice.

We eagerly said farewell to childhood when adolescence beckoned and goodbye to that stage of life when adulthood was upon us. It is a mistake – one of monumental proportions, I believe – to cling to adulthood when age arrives.

Instead, when we accept the losses age imposes on us – youth, physical power, our position in society – say yes to old age, open ourselves to its mysteries and live every day in the present tense with passion and an open heart, we can't help but experience this time as an opportunity for happiness, fulfillment, joy and in time, serenity.

In moving on from adulthood, we allow ourselves to grow into new dimensions of life and we get a chance at completion.

That is, at our own pace over the remaining years, we can review our pasts, learn to forgive our failures and trespasses, face our regrets – those coulda, shoulda, wouldas – find some peace and, maybe, wisdom.

I don't want to waste those wonderful opportunities by pretending I'm not old enough for them.

In no way do I mean to dismiss the debilities and diseases that can shadow old age and make everyday life difficult. But I do mean to say that we can explore distant horizons even as our physical worlds may shrink. All we need to do is ignore the charlatans of anti-aging and most of all:

Adapt as circumstances require
Accept our limits with humor
Find new pleasures to replace the ones we must surrender

In these acts, I believe, we find grace in old age.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Famous Folks I Have Known


Early or Late Retirement?

For all my life, 65 was the traditional retirement age. In the United States, that number came into general use for this purpose when Social Security was created in 1935, and 65 was set then as the age to receive full benefits.

In fact, before Social Security, the idea of retirement barely existed. It's invention is traditionally attributed to then-Chancellor Otto von Bismarck of Germany in 1865, when he announced a government pension to any non-working German 65 or older thereby inventing in one fell swoop both Social Security and the year at which old age is said to begin.

(There were, of course, political reasons for Bismarck's move. If you're interested, look it up – it doesn't apply to today's post.)

Nowadays, the age for full Social Security benefits in the U.S. is 66 and rising. By 2027 it will have reached the “new normal” of age 67 – one of the oldest in the developed world. Only Germany at 67 and the U.K. at age 68 match or surpass the U.S. although some other countries are beginning to increase retirement age.

Over the weekend, I came across a new study from Merrill Lynch [pdf] about retirement. Of course, because Merrill is an investment firm, it is mostly about financially well-off people – the kind with money to invest which I doubt is a majority. But a couple of their charts caught my attention.

This one, for example, about the percentage of people who retired early, at the age planned or later than scheduled (asked of retirees only):

Percent Retiring on Time

(The survey was conducted from December 2012 through January 2013 of 6300 people age 45 and older - approximately half with investable assets of between $250,000 and $3 million.)

I was struck by what seems to me to be a huge number who retired earlier than intended – 57 percent. What could be the reason for such a high number leaving the workforce?

At age 63, I retired long before I had any thought of doing so. A year after being laid off, I had not found work, was digging myself into a gigantic debt hole and the only way out was to sell my home. Not an ideal situation.

So I wondered how many others, particularly after the financial collapse, had been forced into a path similar to mine.

Well, there's a Merrill Lynch chart for that giving five reasons:

• Personal health problem
• Sufficient financial resources to retire
• Lost my job
• More time with family
• Had to look after a family member

Here's the chart with the percentages. It's obviously way too tiny to read so click it for a larger view.

Reasons for Early Retirement

Nearly one-quarter, like me, retired because they lost their job. Unfortunately, the survey doesn't give ages at which that 24 percent retired or tell us if they spent a lot of time working their tails off to find work only to be thwarted by age discrimination.

It's true I can't prove that last statement but it's a good indication what's going on when an interviewer who thought you were hot stuff at 4PM yesterday on the telephone informs you in person at 10AM the next day that the job has been filled and oh, my – so sorry someone forgot to phone you.

And although the number of people age 55 and older who are working is up by more than 4 million since 2009, it takes a full year – 51.3 months – for old people to find work. And that's counting only the ones who do find work. Two million more, as of December 2012, were still looking.

As awful as unemployment is for workers of all ages, for older ones there are not the years left to make up the lost wages and savings that (hopefully) the younger ones will have.

So what happens when a person is forced to take early Social Security is that the benefit amount is reduced from about 25 percent (at age 62) to 6.7 percent (at age 65) for the rest of your life.

I was luckier than many people. Although I was laid off at age 63, spent until age 64 looking for work and another year waiting for my home to sell, I was able to squeak by – thanks to a good price for my home – with careful frugality until I reached full Social Security age of 65 and eight months.

The question today is, did you retire early and if so, under what circumstances? If you are not yet retired, what are your plans and will you be able to fulfill them?

As always with personal questions, feel free to post anonymously in the comments.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deb Cavel-Greant: Sometimes It's Best to Keep Your Mouth Shut


ELDER MUSIC: Sleepless Nights

PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


I started writing this the morning after a sleepless night caused by extreme heat. Here in Melbourne the temperature overnight didn’t get down below 30 degrees (that’s 86 of your obsolete American degrees) and for most of the time was way above that.

Naturally, it’s the middle of summer as I write this. It may not be when you read it or it might be your summer so you can sympathise with me if that’s the case.

I did a search for sleepless and came up with one song, many versions, but just the one. It’s going to kick off this column. The rest may involve sleep in some manner or other, however, as it transpires, some of them do involve sleeplessness in some way.

I had the help of Don, the D.A.M. (Deputy Assistant Musicologist), for this one. He suggested some I’d missed.

Okay, here is the song that inspired the column, Sleepless Nights. Now which version of this song to play was a bit of a problem. Gram Parsons had a good one. Emmylou Harris an even better one. However, both of these were based on the one by the EVERLY BROTHERS.

Everly Brothers

I don't need to tell you about the Everlys, at least not until I finish my column on them. I'll just let their singing and playing inform you.

♫ Everly Brothers - Sleepless Nights

My first wife (well actually, she’s been the only one) used to talk in her sleep (she may still do that but I wouldn’t know). I would lie there amused by what she was saying.

She’d ask me next morning what she said and I’d smile enigmatically and say nothing. At least, I hope it was enigmatic. This had nothing to do with our divorce, I don’t think.

Indeed, she and I used to joke about this next song and its appropriateness. At least I think she was joking. GORDON LIGHTFOOT summed up the situation perfectly in his song, Talking in Your Sleep.

Gordon Lightfoot

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Talking in Your Sleep

Talking in your sleep is one thing, walking in your sleep is another. It seems that SANTO & JOHNNY know about that as their biggest hit was called Sleepwalk.

Santo & Johnny

Santo and Johnny Farina’s father learnt to play the pedal steel guitar when he was stationed in Oklahoma during the war (that’s the big one, WWII). He later taught his sons to play the instrument.

However, Johnny decided he preferred playing a regular guitar so the pair has an interesting combination of sound that made this track so memorable. This is probably the best instrumental of the early rock & roll era.

♫ Santo & Johnny - Sleepwalk

While we’re on the subject of sleep walking, we have another song about it by SMILIN’ JOE.

Joe Pleasant

That’s one name by which he’s known. He was also called Pleasant Joe, Cousin Joe, Cos (probably a shortening of Cousin Joe) and quite a few other names.

The CD seems to think his name was Joe Harris however, other sources claim that he was born Joseph Pleasant. He recorded with many other artists throughout his life and helped some of them get the recognition they deserved.

According to the CD notes Joe was a sharp dresser who didn’t need songs to impress women but sang them anyway. Here we have whatever his name was singing Sleep Walking Woman.

♫ Joe Harris - Sleep Walking Woman

From someone who talks in her sleep, and walks in her sleep to crying in her sleep. To tell us about that is the great HANK WILLIAMS.

Hank Williams

I have a hell of a lot of Hank's music (I have a hell of a lot of many people's music) but this is one that I didn't know before I performed this search.

That’s the great thing about writing this column – I often come upon music with which I'm unfamiliar even though it's sitting there on my data base or in my CD collection. Sometimes I discover gems.

I don't know if this is a gem, but it's pretty good. It's (Last Night) I Heard You Crying In Your Sleep.

♫ Hank Williams - (Last Night) I Heard You Crying In Your Sleep

T-BONE WALKER is always welcome in my columns.

T-Bone Walker

The line between blues and jazz is blurred in T-Bone's music. Although he's often lumped into the blues category, he more often than not incorporates jazz players into his music. Besides, he was as good a jazz guitarist as he was playing the blues.

This is the case in this song, She's the No Sleepin'est Woman.

♫ T-Bone Walker - She's The No Sleepin'est Woman

I eventually found another sleepless song, but not from its title, so it was a bit difficult to find. But the D.A.M. starting singing it and from that we eventually figured out what it was called. Ah yes, I’ve got that one, I said, You’re the Reason. The singer is BOBBY EDWARDS.

Bobby Edwards

♫ Bobby Edwards - You're The Reason

Now and then I throw in a song by Canadian singer/songwriter WILF CARTER. This is another of those times.

Wilf Carter

Wilf spent a lot of his musical time in America where he was known as Montana Slim. He really liked a bit of a yodel and this song is no exception. I don't know if that would put you to sleep or wake you up. This is Sleep, Little One, Sleep.

♫ Wilf Carter - Sleep, Little One, Sleep

JODY REYNOLDS’ song Endless Sleep always seems to be included in the “death disks” category. If you listen to the words, it really doesn’t belong there as he saved her in the end.

Jody Reynolds

Jody wrote the song in an afternoon and after its success he did, well, nothing terribly much in the entertainment industry. He released a bunch of songs but they went nowhere. Here is the song that charted.

♫ Jody Reynolds - Endless Sleep

That great songwriter from the first half of last century has the last say today. I'm talking about HOAGY CARMICHAEL who sang a bit as well.

Hoagy Carmichael

He has a couple of songs in contention but I've decided not to go with the more famous one, Two Sleepy People, and instead use Shh, The Old Man's Sleeping.

♫ Hoagy Carmichael - Shh, The Old Man's Sleeping

I hope you appreciate that I resisted the temptation to play Nessun dorma; that would have been too pretentious in the current circumstances.