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Outside of a Small Circle of Friends

[PERSONAL NOTE:] Summer break. Mental health week. Vacation. Breather. Whatever you call it, it means time away and I'm putting some distance between me and this blog for a week.

Posts here will be a combination of new that I've written ahead and golden oldies. Note, however, that all posts at The Elder Storytelling Place linked at the bottom of each post on this blog are new so please do read them.

I'll check in occasionally during the week to see how it's going around here.


A good while back Peter Tibbles, Time Goes By's estimable music guru who holds forth here on Sundays, sent me a collection of one-off music tracks he calls interludes for me to use when a want I day off.

Among those tunes is one from American protest singer of the 60s and 70s, Phil Ochs, titled Miranda:

♫ Phil Ochs - Miranda

If you were of a certain age and disposition back in that era, you know of Phil and that, tragically, he committed suicide in 1976.

I knew Phil. Sort of. He was more than an acquaintance – we shared a few dinners and the occasional joint with mutual friends – and on a number of occasions I booked him on the radio program I produced in those days. But I did not know him well enough to say we were friends.

Peter's selection of Miranda brought back those memories and reminded me, too, of another Phil Ochs song, Outside of a Small Circle of Friends.

It was – and still is - one of Phil's most seering songs, an attack on apathy that was inspired by the murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens, New York in 1964, whose screams were heard and ignored by dozens of neighbors.

As an appeal to our better nature, the song is a reminder that we are all in this together, responsible for one another and our communities, that we are our brother's keeper.

I was thinking how the lyric could be turned on it side only a little bit to be applied these many decades later to the gigantic rift going on between the one percent and the rest of us. Take a listen and see what you think.

♫ Phil Ochs - Outside of a Small Circle of Friends


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Brenda Verbeck Mortensen: Times Do Change


Medicare and You – An Anniversary

[PERSONAL NOTE:] Summer break. Mental health week. Vacation. Breather. Whatever you call it, it means time away and I'm putting some distance between me and this blog this week.

Posts here will be a combination of new that I've written ahead and golden oldies. Note that everything at The Elder Storytelling Place linked at the bottom of each post here are new so please go read them.

I'll be checking in here occasionally to see how it goes.


Exactly 48 years ago today, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare into law. Back then 50 percent of elders had no medical coverage, Today, all citizens 65 and older – about 50 million - are guaranteed health benefits through Medicare.

As the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) reminds us:

”Over half of Medicare beneficiaries have annual incomes of less than $23,000 and savings of less than $77,500.

“Forty percent have three or more chronic conditions, and

“Almost a quarter have a cognitive/mental impairment.

Having guaranteed health insurance coverage without regard to health status is particularly beneficial for members of minority groups. Two-thirds of African Americans and Hispanics have incomes below $23,000, and communities of color have a higher risk than whites for certain chronic conditions such as diabetes.”

Thousands of people are alive today who would not be without Medicare but it's not all a bowl of cherries. Medicare's solvency is a challenge. The good news is that President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) addresses some of that – although many Republicans in Congress want to destroy those fixes along with the ACA altogether.

Here is a 48th anniversary message from the president and CEO of the NCPSSM, Max Richtman:

“In spite of Medicare’s success in keeping America’s seniors healthy and out of poverty, Medicare’s guaranteed coverage is under nearly constant attack in Washington.

The budget plan passed in the House would end traditional Medicare, privatize it and leave seniors on their own to negotiate with private insurance companies. It would require seniors to pay $6,000 more each year for fewer benefits, making it harder to choose their own doctors while also giving the wealthiest Americans a massive tax break.

Too many Members of Congress who’ve advocated the dismantling of Medicare camouflage their plans with promises to 'save' the program.

“However, the American people know you don’t have to destroy Medicare to strengthen it. That’s the message our activists are delivering directly to Congress on this 48th anniversary.”

There is much more from the NCPSSM here. We all know, of course, that Medicare is not perfect. My biggest pet Medicare peeves are these two:

  1. It is way too complex. There are so many rules to understand both when signing up for Medicare the first time and when choosing or updating a supplemental plan that hardly anyone can understand it without help.

  2. The drug plan (Part D) is a financial disaster designed to enrich corporations more than elders. Yes, the dreaded doughnut hole is shrinking now and will be closed entirely by 2020. But although Part D is the largest drug plan in the country, it is still not allowed to negotiate prices as the Veterans Administration does.

In addition, it is easy to argue that enormous amounts of money would be saved if we switched to a single payer system for everyone and if, instead of the need for an Affordable Care Act, we just made it Medicare For All.

We may still, in the future, accomplish those sane goals but for today, let's celebrate what we have because without Medicare, I – among many elders - would be unable to afford any kind of healthcare at today's private insurance premium rates.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Bed Yoga


Using Speed of Time for Advantage

[PERSONAL NOTE:] Summer break. Mental health week. Vacation. Breather. Whatever you call it, it means time away and I'm putting some distance between me and this blog for a week.

Posts here will be a combination of new that I've written ahead and golden oldies. Note, however, that all posts at The Elder Storytelling Place linked at the bottom of each post on this blog are new so please do read them.

I'll check in occasionally during the week to see how it's going around here.


Back in April, I told you about my fitness plan begun early this year out of fear. Make that FEAR.

Compared to many people, I have been remarkably healthy all my life but it is well understood among the medical community and old age researchers that the diseases of age – heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc. - begin kicking in, on average, when people reach their mid-70s. I am already 72.

It is my strong suspicion that I would (will?) be terrible at following necessary regimens to control such diseases so I've taken on a routine I can easily do because I have a lot of on-again, off-again weight loss and exercise practice over the past half century.

Of course, there are no guarantees that this works; terrible health problems befall people who are fit all the time. But the science is on my side so it seems prudent to do this.

Here are some new personal stats: Since that April blog post, I have lost 13 more pounds and moved my body mass index (BMI) from 2.1 points below the high end of overweight (25 – 29.9) to .4 points above the low end of overweight. Four or five more pounds and I'll be at the high end of normal BMI.

When I first starting tracking my weight in March, I was losing about five pounds a month. That has now has slowed to three-to-four pounds a month. The drop is not unexpected – weigh less, lose fewer pounds.

A few weeks ago, I posted a story about an ebook filled with inspiration to help keep people motivated on their fitness plans. Now I have discovered another kind of inspiration that works only for old people.

You know how we often lament that time speeds up as we grow older, that here it is nearly August but it feels like New Years was yesterday? Usually, it is not a good thing that the months and years rip by in a blur. But now I've discovered the upside.

When I was younger and wanted to take off a few pounds to fit into a dress or for a special date, time crawled by and it seemed to take forever – while my impatience grew each day - to lose the weight.

But nowadays, with the speed of weeks and months giving me whiplash, I hardly notice how long the weight loss takes.

Combine that phenomenon with the paradox I've written about in the past - that the older I get (when it is demonstrably true that I have less time to live than I have already lived), I'm no longer in the rush I was as a younger women to accomplish anything quickly.

So with those two time perception changes, it makes no difference to me if it takes a couple of months or a couple of years to reach my weight goal. I'll get there when I get there.

The terrific bonus to my efforts to change my health behavior is that I haven't felt this good physically since I was a kid and didn't notice how good I felt because it was normal then.

And that's a bonus after the real changes the weight loss has made in what I can do. There is a hill near my home I could not walk up or, rather, not without having to stop to catch my breath every few feet. It was so hard that I'd quit even trying, instead driving short distances to avoid trudging up the hill.

But just this Saturday, I walked that hill twice in the span of 15 minutes while breathing as easily as if the street were flat. I was almost giddy with the improvement in my body.

Half of how I live now involves food and this time of year I do 95 percent of my shopping at the farmer's market. Here's what I brought home this week - the only things missing from the photo are a piece of fresh, local salmon that will give me two meals this week and giant pile of Rainier cherries.

Every week when I unpack the bags from the market, I'm surprised again and thrilled at how beautiful a pile of fruit and vegetables is. No wonder so many artists make still life paintings:

Weekly Veggies Fruit

For anyone who knows they should do something about their fitness, I've found yet another reason to skip the ice cream and do those dreary exercises every day even when I don't feel like it: as the changes happen to my body, I feel so damned proud of myself for sticking with it.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Compulsive Hoarding


ELDER MUSIC: Country Chain Part 2

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.


Here is a chain of country musicians who were associated with each other. I began this last week and somewhere in the middle of that column was Johnny Cash. He's the trigger for today's column.

John had a daughter named ROSANNE CASH who went into her father's business.

Rosanne Cash

Rosanne can sing rock or country music with the best of them, often in the same song. Although she's a fine songwriter, I've gone with a cover of John Hiatt's The Way We Make a Broken Heart.

♫ Rosanne Cash - The Way We Make A Broken Heart

Rosanne for a while was married to RODNEY CROWELL.

Rodney Crowell

Rodney is one of the finest singer/songwriters of the last several decades and really deserves to be better known. As this is a country chain where everyone is connected to all the others, the obvious song for Rodney is I Walk the Line (Revisited) with the assistance of his ex-father-in-law, the great man himself.

♫ Rodney Crowell - I Walk the Line (Revisited)

Rodney was, for quite some time, an integral member of the Hot Band who backed EMMYLOU HARRIS.

Emmylou Harris

I could have had her sing a duet with Rodney as they're recently made a record together. Indeed, I could have had Rodney duet with Rosanne as well but I restrained myself.

Emmy's song is How She Could Sing the Wildwood Flower, a song she wrote with Kate and Anna McGarrigle. This is a bit of a nod to other links in the chain as Maybelle Carter wrote the original Wildwood Flower.

♫ Emmylou Harris - How She Could Sing the Wildwood Flower

Another long-time member of the Hot Band is ALBERT LEE.

Albert Lee

Albert's probably the best guitarist around at the moment (non-classical, non-jazz category). I've seen him a few times and I'm always amazed. He's also a pretty decent singer.

This track doesn't really show his picking skills as much as some other of his others but that doesn't matter. The song is On the Verge.

♫ Albert Lee - On The Verge

Albert has been in several bands over the years – Eric Clapton's, Bill Wyman's, several he organised himself. However, most notably, he was the guitarist and musical arranger for quite some time for the EVERLY BROTHERS.

Everly Brothers

I'll play a track from one of the albums they recorded after their comeback (after they reputedly hadn't spoken to each other for about ten years). It is a Mark Knopfler song and Albert Lee is prominent on guitar, Why Worry.

♫ Everly Brothers - Why Worry

Returning to The Hot Band for just a minute, a founder member of that group is another great guitarist JAMES BURTON.

James Burton

It’s not just the Hot Band that James played for. He has been an in-demand session musician for about 60 years now so there are any number of tracks I could play with him on.

He’s also recorded several albums himself, some on his own, others with such notables as Chet Atkins. There are also a couple of records out there he recorded under the name Jimmy Burton (as if that’d fool anybody).

Here is one of those tracks, Love Lost. A bit heavy on the fiddles for my liking.

♫ Jimmy Burton - Love Lost

I first noticed James, although I didn’t know who he was at time, backing RICKY NELSON when Ricky would sing at the end of each episode of The Nelsons (or whatever the program was called where you were back then – it had this name here in Oz).

You can see James over Ricky's left shoulder in the photo.

Ricky Nelson

The obvious track to play is Hello Mary Lou as it has some fine rocking guitar playing by James.

♫ Ricky Nelson - Hello Mary Lou

Climbing back a few rungs to Rodney Crowell who is a good friend, and occasional singing partner, of GUY CLARK.

Guy Clark

I keep saying this about a number of writers but my goodness, Guy can write some wonderful songs. This is just one of them, New Cut Road.

♫ Guy Clark - New Cut Road

Another in the mix with Rodney and Guy is TOWNES VAN ZANDT.

Townes Van Zandt

What a talent was Townes - alas, he liked to indulge in, well, everything really. He could have been a contender but he remained a cult figure known to those who appreciate interesting music.

He's no longer with us but he left some great music behind. Here is a sample, (Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria.

♫ Townes Van Zandt - (Quicksilver Daydreams Of) Maria

One final person to round things out, one who was also in the group The Highwaymen with Johnny, Willie and Waylon and that is KRIS KRISTOFFERSON.

Kris Kristofferson

Kris has written some terrific songs over the years, covered by many artists but I still like his versions. I've decided not to use one of his really famous songs. Instead, here is The Silver Tongued Devil and I.

♫ Kris Kristofferson - The Silver Tongued Devil and I

There are even more links in this chain but this will do for now.


INTERESTING STUFF: 27 July 2013


GRANDMA DRUMMER

Colleen Skinner of Meanderings was the first of half a dozen readers to send this video. What's to say but Wow – not what I expected at all.

One of the commenters at the YouTube page wrote, “I found out my grandmother played the guitar by reading her obituary.” If you've got a hidden talent that would surprise your grandkids, you might want to tell them about it now.

There is another video of this unidentified grandmother and a bit more information at Gawker.


FRONTLINE PROGRAM INVESTIGATES ASSISTED LIVING

Frontline and ProPublica have put together a documentary on assisted living homes in the U.S. that will be broadcast on many PBS channels next Tuesday 30 July. Here's a promotional video. It's a bit too sensationalized for my taste but that doesn't mean you shouldn't make time for the program:

You can check your local listings here or the full documentary will become available for screening online at 10PM eastern time on Tuesday on this page.


CLEVER WATER-PHOBIC FROG

Now isn't this the cutest thing:

FROG-UMBRELLA

The photographer said,

“I couldn’t believe it when I saw one hugging the leaf and using it like an umbrella. I was a bit shocked that a frog seemed so scared of water but it was very overcast and drizzly – he must have been trying to protect himself.

“He stayed there for almost 30 minutes and hopped away after the rain stopped suddenly.”

I'm still not sure this isn't a Photoshop stunt especially after seeing this shot:

Frogbrolly

You can read more here and decide what you think about it. Fake or not, you have to smile.


MUSIC FROM A PARAGUAYAN LANDFILL

Wait till you see this video of an orchestra in Cateura, Paraguay using instruments made from landfill trash:

A full-length film is being produced about the orchestra thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised much more than the $175,000 goal before the 14 May 2013 deadline.

You can learn more about the “landfillharmonic” here. (Hat tip to John Starbuck of For a Dancer)


NO CELL PHONES IN CHURCH

And this church really means it. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner.)


AQUARIUM FENCE

Lots of houses have fences. There are so many we hardly notice them. Believe me, no one will ignore this fence at a home in Turkey. A glass tank 165 feet long housing thousands of fish including a bunch of octopuses (octopi?). Take a look.


GOOGLE STREET VIEW OF DAIGON ALLEY

Although I didn't stand in line at bookstores waiting for midnight book releases, I was (still am) a Harry Potter fan as eager an any 10-year-old for each new installment.

Daigon 1

That's Daigon Alley, the wizards' shopping center in Harry Potterland now in Google Street View. Here's another shot of it:

Daigon 2

You can “walk” down Daigon Alley and peer in the windows at Google Street View – it's much more fun when the photos are full screen.

The street, along with Dumbledore's office and other locations within Hogwarts school can be visited at the Warner Bros. Studio in London. If you don't live there, you can read more here today.


SNAIL SKIN BEAUTY TREATMENT

If you believe the hype, the best new beauty treatment is to allow snails to crawl all over your face.

I guess you need to overcome the ick factor but it won't be me; I have zero patience for this sort of crap. Nevertheless, it's been all over the web this week and I thought you might want to see it. There is more to read here.


SLEEPY PETS

After those snails we need an antidote and Lauren Nelson of perPETuity supplied just the thing - a video compilation of tired baby animals.

That's all for this week.


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.


If You Could Live Your Life Again

A friend asked me – seriously asked, not joking around – what I would change if I could live my life again.

I know, it's an old question and the common answer, the quick one, the one that's supposed to reveal wise acceptance of life, is “nothing,” and although I don't recall, I would not be surprised to learn that I have said that in the past.

But I didn't do that this time. I actually thought about it – well, for as long, anyway, as is tolerable on a telephone call - and my answer then was that I would take life more seriously than I have, that I would take pains to learn more, learn it more thoroughly and better apply what I learned.

Writing it down like that makes me sound sappy but I do have, from the vantage point of age 72, a strong sense that I have lived life more frivolously than I would have liked.

After we ended the call, the question stuck with me and I wondered how other people – perhaps some more thoughtful than I – have answered.

Talullah Bankhead was her expected pithy self: “If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner,” she said.

I suspect people should read the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's harrowing take on the question early in life so not to be crushed by it later.

“What if a demon were to creep after you one night, in your loneliest loneliness, and say, 'This life which you live must be lived by you once again and innumerable times more; and every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence. The eternal hourglass will again and again be turned and you with it, dust of the dust!'

“Would you throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse that demon? Or would you answer, 'Never have I heard anything more divine'?”

Then I came across this poem variously attributed to the Argentine poet and essayist, Jorge Luis Borges and to the Columbian journalist and short story writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

If you believe Wikipedia – and I do, in this case – it was neither man. The first known version of the poem – titled Moments - was published as prose in 1953 in Reader's Digest titled, I'd Pick More Daisies.

The poem exists in Spanish as Instantes, in English as both Moments and Instants.

Whatever. It is well known, has been published and quoted in many places and distributed widely via internet email. See what you think.

If I could live again my life,
In the next – I’ll try,
- to make more mistakes,
I won’t try to be so perfect,
I’ll be more relaxed,
I’ll be more full – than I am now,
In fact, I’ll take fewer things seriously,
I’ll be less hygienic,
I’ll take more risks,
I’ll take more trips,
I’ll watch more sunsets,
I’ll climb more mountains,
I’ll swim more rivers,
I’ll go to more places – I’ve never been,
I’ll eat more ice creams and fewer lima beans,
I’ll have more real problems – and fewer imaginary ones,
I was one of those people who live
prudent and prolific lives -
each minute of his life,
Of course that I had moments of joy – but,
if I could go back I’ll try to have only good moments,

If you don’t know – that’s what life is made of,
Don’t lose the now!

I was one of those who never goes anywhere
without a thermometer,
without a hot-water bottle,
and without an umbrella and without a parachute,

If I could live again – I will travel light,
If I could live again – I’ll try to work bare feet
at the beginning of spring till the end of autumn,
I’ll ride more carts,
I’ll watch more sunrises and play with more children,
If I have the life to live – but now I am 85,
- and I know that I am dying …”

Finally, I found British-American journalist Christopher Hitchens who gave the question the sort of gravity I was looking for. This is from his book, Hitch-22: A Memoir - the one he wrote while he knew he was dying. Beware, it is the final sentence, below, that stabs at the heart.

“If you were offered the chance to live your own life again, would you seize the opportunity?

“The only real philosophical answer is automatically self-contradictory: 'Only if I did not know that I was doing so.' To go through the entire experience once more would be banal and Sisyphean - even if it did build muscle - whereas to wish to be young again and to have the benefit of one's learned and acquired existence is not at all to wish for a repeat performance, or a Groundhog Day.

“And the mind ought to, but cannot, set some limits to wish-thinking. All right, same me but with more money, an even sturdier penis, slightly different parents, a briefer latency period - the thing is absurd.

“I seriously would like to know what it was to be a woman, but like blind Tiresias would also want the option of re-metamorphosing if I wished. How terrible it is that we have so many more desires than opportunities.”

Indeed.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: Memories of My Son


Why Elders Need to Pay Attention to Detroit's Bankruptcy

On 18 July, a Chapter 9 bankruptcy petition was filed for the city of Detroit, Michigan – the largest city ever to find itself in such a predicament. (Chapter 9 is a special kind of bankruptcy reserved only for municipalities. You don't need to know more than that for this post – I won't be getting into the legal weeds.)

As Huffington Post and other news organizations reported,

”...pensions and health benefits for the city's 9,500 current employees and 21,000 retired workers account for $9.2 billion of the city's total debt [of] $18 billion. The city also owes money on more $1 billion in bonds it took out to pay into its pension when it could not afford the money.”

This is not the kind of news story I usually pay close attention to. I don't live in Detroit and it's bound to get – well, weedy (see first paragraph). But even a cursory reading raised one, big, fat, red flag for me:

What will happen to the pensions of Detroit's current and future retirees?

Here is how it is being answered:

”Kevyn D. Orr, the city’s emergency manager, has called for 'significant cuts' to the pensions of current retirees...”

But you knew that was coming, didn't you? Even if you have been following the news about Detroit's bankruptcy only vaguely, you know certain people want to fix every fiscal difficulty including Detroit on the backs of the poor and old people. It's always that way.

As to amounts of “significant cuts,” Steve Rattner in The New York Times tells a terrifying story:

“The city has suggested that it cut [pensions and health care] by 90 percent. Although retirees don’t have a lot of legal rights in the bankruptcy process, it is difficult to imagine — on either a human or a political level — an exit from bankruptcy that would include reductions of this magnitude.”

Talk about understatement. And remember, too, these pensions are all the retired police, firefighters and others of Detroit have – they don't get Social Security - and the average annual pension for city workers in Detroit is under $19,000.

So the city is suggesting that people currently living on $19,000 a year, do so in the future on $1900 a year. This is cruelty as extreme as I have ever heard. From another Times story:

“Retired city workers, police officers and 911 operators said in interviews that the promise of reliable retirement income had helped draw them to work for the City of Detroit in the first place, even if they sometimes had to accept smaller salaries or work nights or weekends.

“'Does Detroit have a problem?' asked William Shine, 76, a retired police sergeant. 'Absolutely. Did I create it? I don’t think so. They made me some promises, and I made them some promises. I kept my promises. They’re not going to keep theirs.'”

Cast your mind back to 2008, following the horrendous crash of our entire economy. Recall, if you will, that in the city of Detroit, the federal government bailed out Chrysler and General Motors for billions and billions of dollars and today, sales are solid. The companies are back on the feet.

Yet, yesterday afternoon following the president's speech in Illinois, a White House spokesperson apparently dismissed the idea of a federal bailout for retirees in Detroit. The difficulties there, the man said, are between that city and its creditors.

Really? If it was important to save two car companies, it is vital to help workers whose retired compensation is modest and who had nothing to do with Detroit's failure. It would be morally reprehensible to not bail out the city retirees.

So you don't live in Detroit and you think this has nothing to do with you. Think again. The forces that want to take 90 percent of Detroit retirees income are gunning for your Social Security too.

Richard Eskow of Campaign for America's Future lays it out, saying the suggestion for pension cuts “has all the markings of larger game.”

”The heavy doses of symbolism in the sell-offs and pension cuts serve a number of purposes,” he continues, “and one of the biggest is to reinforce the idea that the United States can no longer afford the financial security of its middle class.

“Next stop, Social Security. The same myths used to push pension fear – changing demographics and worker-to-retiree ratios, 'greedy geezers' – will have been subliminally 'verified' by these pension cuts.

“That opens a door that should remain closed, for sound economic reasons as well as ones of basic fairness.”

Which is why you and I need to pay attention to what is happening with pensions in Detroit and do what we can to resist those unconscionable cuts. We are all at risk.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The First Camping Trip


Sex Among Residents of Care Homes

That's a scene from the 2006 movie, Away From Her, with Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent. She is moving into a care home that day due to her Alzheimer's disease. The story gets more complicated from there but for now...

Let's talk about how old people with dementia and without are prevented from having sex in care homes of various kinds. In fact, according to reporter, Bryan Gruley, writing at Bloomberg.com this week,

Federal and state laws require elderly care facilities to respect residents’ rights to privacy and safety. Married couples in Iowa and 17 other states have legal rights to share rooms or have conjugal visits...”

The only acceptable response to that statement is: What's wrong with the other 32 states and why aren't the laws enforced everywhere?

There is no reason for anyone – federal or local governments, physicians, nurses, care home workers, adult children, etc. - to have a say in any person's sexuality no matter where they live.

But they do and it is another form ageism - prejudicial treatment of old people based on beliefs about how they should and should not behave.

In the first of his two-part report, Gruley relates the story of two residents at the Windmill Manor home in Iowa who were caught by nurses in December 2009, engaging in sex. Greatly abridged, here's what happened:

The encounter appeared to be consensual and when the woman's son was informed as well as the man's daughter, everyone seemed to agree that nothing needed to be reported to the state.

Nevertheless, the state did become involved, the man was discharged from the home, the administrator and the director were fired. The next year, the woman's family sued stating that she had been raped and it got more complicated from there even though both the man and woman died during the lengthy legal case.

Last May, a “veteran Iowa nursing home administrator” told the reporter,

”...the woman was 'confused to the extent that I don’t feel she was maybe realizing what was happening to her or she thought maybe it was her husband.'”

Let us count all the ways this incident is wrong:

  1. Why did the man and woman have no privacy from the nurses who walked in on them?
  2. Why would the staff call the adult children of the man and woman to report they were having sex?
  3. Why were the administrator and director fired over consensual sex of two residents?
  4. Since there is no way the woman's family could know if rape had occurred, why was the lawsuit allowed to proceed?
  5. How could the “veteran administrator” know the woman was “confused”?

These were adults – she age 87, he 78 - engaging in sex. They were deprived of their privacy, stripped of their dignity and forced to never be together again. Both had dementia but during the investigation a psychiatrist concluded that both parties had “the ability to consent.”

Although laws in most states would seem to assure care home residents their rights to privacy, dignity and self-determination, it doesn't necessarily work that way. In a 2009 piece in The Los Angeles Times, psychologist Ira Rosofsky explained why it is hard to remain sexually active in a nursing home:

”First, it's hard to find any privacy in nursing homes,” he wrote. “Doors are always open; a closed one is viewed with the suspicious eyes of a teenager's mother wondering what's going on in there.

“I recently had a resident referred to me for masturbating in front of an aide who had walked into the room. Why did she walk in without knocking? Well, you can't knock on an always open door. And in your room - typically shared with a total stranger after a lifetime of independence - you have only a curtain for privacy.

“When I'm having a session with a resident in a nursing home - even with the door closed - it's quite common for an aide to just walk right in and start making up the bed. The custodian might appear next with a mop, followed by the cable guy fiddling with the TV.

“Unless you're into exhibitionism, it's hard to imagine consenting adult residents having sex under these conditions.”

Here's what I have discovered in my research about many people who are in positions of authority in care homes: they think old people should not engage in any sexual activity and set up rules accordingly. As Gruley reports:

”A 2012 study by two Kansas State University researchers found sex among nursing home residents is often viewed as a behavior problem rather than an indication of an unmet need.”

There are exceptions and one of the best is the Hebrew Home in Riverdale just north of New York City which reporter Gruley writes about in part 2 of his elder sex story that includes this graphic about elders' sexual activity. (Click the image for a larger, readable version)

The Hebrew Home has had a rational, life-giving, respectful attitude toward the sexual life of its residents for nearly 20 years:

”The nurse was frantic,” as Gruley relates the story. “She’d just seen two elderly people having sex in a room at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, New York. She asked Daniel A. Reingold, then the home’s executive vice president, what she should do.

“'Tiptoe out and close the door so you don’t disturb them,' he told her.

“In 1995, the home adopted a four-page policy - considered the first of its kind - stating that residents 'have the right to seek out and engage in sexual expression,' including 'words, gestures, movements or activities which appear motivated by the desire for sexual gratification.'”

Nowadays, Daniel Reingold is the president and chief executive officer of the Hebrew Home and I had the pleasure to meet him four years ago when I attended a week-long seminar presented by the International Longevity Center in New York City and we spent most of one day visiting the Hebrew Home. I can attest to Reingold's and the Home's enlightened policies throughout.

You can read the Hebrew Home's Sexual Expression Policy here [pdf] which is, as Gruley reports,

”...intended to comply with federal law giving residents essentially the same rights they’d enjoy outside the facility. Sex is as much a civil right as the right to vote, Reingold said.”

Not enough care homes are as enlightened as the Hebrew Home and there is a lot of work to do to ensure elders' freedoms, dignity and rights wherever they live. To not do so is ageist in the extreme.

As a study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics in 2011 concluded about dementia residents in particular but it applies to all:

”...while every effort should be made to ensure that no resident comes to harm, RACFs [residential aged care facilities] must respect the rights of residents with dementia to make decisions about their sexuality, intimacy and physical relationships.

Bryan Gruley's two stories on sex in care homes contain a lot more information and much worth your time to read in their entirety. You'll find them here and here.

There is also a good interview with Bryan Gruley about this reporting at NPR.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon Ostrow: Thought for the Day


Senior Moments and Dementia

There was a big conference of the Alzheimer's Association in Boston last week and the news being reported is that you and I are now responsible for diagnosing our own dementia. From The New York Times:

"...in a significant shift highlighted at the conference, leading Alzheimer’s researchers are identifying a new category called 'subjective cognitive decline,' which is people’s own sense that their memory and thinking skills are slipping even before others have noticed.

“The whole field now is moving to this area, and saying ‘Hey, maybe there is something to this, and maybe we should pay attention to these people,’ said Dr. Ronald C. Petersen, chairman of the advisory panel to the federal government’s new National Alzheimer’s Project who is also director of the Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s center...

“'Lo and behold, those who had a concern about their memory in fact had more likelihood' of later developing mild cognitive impairment, an early phase of dementia, he said.

"He said study participants with memory concerns were 56 percent more likely to be given a diagnosis of such impairment, even when results were adjusted for factors like education, genetic risk and psychiatric issues like anxiety and depression."

Dr. Rebecca Amariglio, a neuropsychologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, quoted in The Times says

“'[A patient] insisted that things were changing, but he aced all of our tests.” But about seven years later, he began showing symptoms of dementia. Dr. Amariglio now believes he had recognized a cognitive change so subtle 'he was the only one who could identify it.'”

I'm pretty sure there is hardly one among us at this blog who, when having forgotten why he or she entered a room or arriving home from the market without the most important item on the list, hasn't felt a frisson of fear about incipient dementia.

For years, the experts have told us that senior moments are a normal part of aging. Now they are saying, hold it – not so fast: those irritating lapses may be “a potential precursor to a precursor” according to The Los Angeles Times which also reported on the Boston conference:

”There are still some serious hurdles to these connections, among them the recognition that some people with measurable cognitive declines don’t develop Alzheimer’s, and sometimes recover.

“Senior moments could also be related to stress, depression and cardiovascular disease. A consortium of researchers has been trying to come up with a framework that would negotiate those pitfalls and come up with workable data.”

In other words, they still don't know if a senior moment means anything serious or not.

Nevertheless, the direction the research is taking - even if it is preliminary in the extreme – gives me heartburn because I regularly notice small-bore changes in my thinking capabilities.

Such things as taking a tick longer than in the past to find a word I need or slight trouble organizing the order of chores for the day or losing the thread in the middle of what I'm saying.

Nothing big (yet). Let's call them mental hiccups - pinholes or small delays in the continuity of my thinking that I notice even if other people do not.

Dr. Amariglio gave The New York Times one of those lists of what is normal aging and what is not – pretty much like the ones you've read elsewhere:

Normal Aging
Walking into a room and forgetting why you entered
Having trouble retrieving the names of unfamiliar people
A change in memory compared with young adulthood
Memory changes similar to others of the same age

Abnormal Aging
Getting lost in familiar surroundings
Having difficulty remembering important details of recent events
Having difficulty following the plot of a television program or book because of memory
Memory changes that are worse than others of the same age

But how do we know we can trust these lists when the researchers have only now admitted that they haven't taken patients' complaints of senior moments seriously. Oy. We're on our own, my friends.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: Ruffled Fenders


Further Considering Elders' Working Lives

Last week in this space, we talked at length about how we earned our livings before retiring.

It was terrific opportunity for me to learn more about readers I've “known” here for many years along with now having a better sense of newer commenters.

Over the weekend I reread all those stories. As varied as they are, one thing many have in common is the long and winding road through various kinds of employment, some still continuing.

Another is the time and effort many women put into getting college degrees while marriages came and went and while raising children too. Ours is the first generation that went to college in large numbers and many of you worked against difficult odds to achieve those degrees, an effort I don't think is well appreciated.

But it is another kind of response I want us to consider today.

From Ruth-Ellen B. Joeres: “I feel vastly inexperienced when I read all of what you all have done.”

From Darlene: ”This is not the exciting career path that some of you experienced, but it was my rather mundane life.”

And Marcy Belson, who is a prolific contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place, emailed: "I've decided my life was quite boring and not worth writing about. I think I could sum it up in one short paragraph, 'Got lucky!'"

Inexperienced? Mundane? Boring? I don't think so. And that gives me an opportunity to reference a pertinent post from more than eight years ago.

It was titled (Extra)Ordinary Lives, and came about when a reader wrote to say she wouldn't be able to have a blog because her life had been so ordinary there was nothing to say about it. You can read the post here.

Which seems to be what the three quoted above are saying about their work lives. So I'll tell you (and any others who think you fit the category) what I said in that 2005 post: “There are no ordinary lives.”

It is a mistake to compare our lives to one another and anyway, I think old age is the great leveler. Here is why.

It doesn't matter if you were a rock star or a secretary, a bus driver or a captain of industry. After a certain age, your joints will probably ache, you will lose your hair or maybe your teeth, the diseases of age – cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc. - are way too common at our age, not to mention the eventual visit from the grim reaper himself will catch up with all of us no matter what kind of career we had or if we had none at all.

Some of you may have thought your jobs were boring or mundane, and perhaps they really were, but that does not make you either of those things.

In the United States more than in European countries, we define ourselves by the jobs we hold during our working lives. Let's not carry that over into our old age.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson: Seven Steps


ELDER MUSIC: Country Chain - Part 1

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 once did a column on classical music called the Classical Chain that showed the links between composers. I also did something similar with The Byrds a long time ago. I’ve decided to do it again, this time with country musicians.

Okay, you could say that they all pretty much know each other so it’s rather superfluous. However, I’m going for links that are a bit stronger than just knowing each other.

I’m starting the country chain, quite arbitrarily, with DUANE EDDY.

Duane Eddy

On the surface this may seem an odd place to begin but all will be revealed.

Duane was probably the first rock & roll guitar hero and he had quite a number of hits in the fifties and early sixties, all of them instrumentals. He started playing guitar at age five and began his professional career at 16 when he met Lee Hazlewood who produced his first records.

There are quite a few of his tunes worthy of inclusion - however, I’ve gone for his version of the theme for the TV series Peter Gunn.

♫ Duane Eddy - Peter Gunn

Duane was once married to JESSI COLTER who was born Miriam Johnson.

Jessi Colter

While they were married, Jessi wrote a bunch of songs under the name Miriam Eddy for Nancy Sinatra, Don Gibson and Dottie West. After she and Duane divorced, Jessi returned to Phoenix where she was raised.

There she met Waylon Jennings and he was taken with her voice (not just her voice, I imagine) and they recorded a couple of duets. He produced her first album and it was from her second album that her biggest hit, I’m Not Lisa, was taken.

However, the song I’ve decided to use is from her fourth album, “Diamond in the Rough.” The song is Oh Will (Who Made It Rain Last Night). That’s Jessi tinkling the piano.

♫ Jessi Colter - Oh Will (Who Made It Rain Last Night)

Jessi later married WAYLON JENNINGS.

Waylon Jennings

Waylon had one of the great voices in country music. He started as a disk jockey in Texas and his first musical gig was playing bass for Buddy Holly on Buddy’s fateful last concert tour.

From there he went on to become one of the most interesting country musicians. He had no truck with the established country music establishment and went his own way.

Here he performs Amanda. In later live performances, the line “Now I’m over 30” got updated until eventually it became “Now I’m over 60.” Alas, that’s as far as it went.

♫ Waylon Jennings - Amanda

Waylon was a long-time singing partner, off and on, with WILLIE NELSON.

Willie Nelson

Willie, likewise, went his own way and is still doing that producing some of the greatest country (and other) music of the last 50 years.

Willie is a living treasure and long may he continue. It’s hard selecting a single track of his but I’ve gone for Me and Paul where he sings about his early experiences on the road with his long time drummer Paul Nelson.

♫ Willie Nelson - Me And Paul

Later Waylon and Willie also worked in a group who called themselves The Highwaymen, not to be confused with a folk group from the early sixties who had the same name. Another member of that group was JOHNNY CASH.

Johnny Cash

I'll play what I think is the finest song he recorded, and that’s a sweeping statement given the quality of the songs he's recorded over the years. It's a Bruce Springsteen song, from his extraordinary “Nebraska” album.

Bruce does a fine, if rather low-key, version on that disk and for once I prefer the cover version. It's almost seems as if he wrote the song with John in mind. It is Highway Patrolman.

♫ Johnny Cash - Highway Patrolman

Johnny was married to JUNE CARTER.

June Carter

One of Johnny's most famous songs is Ring of Fire. This was actually written by June. Here is her version, accompanying herself on the autoharp.

♫ June Carter Cash - Ring Of Fire

June came from country music royalty. Her mother was MAYBELLE CARTER, an original member of the Carter Family.

Maybelle Carter

The Carter Family were Maybelle, her cousin Sara and Sara’s husband A.P. Carter. Maybelle was married to Ezra Carter, A.P.’s brother, so this was really a tight knit family group.

I've included their much-covered song, I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes, with Maybelle singing lead.

♫ Maybelle Carter - I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes

Getting back to June, before John, she was married to CARL SMITH.

Carl Smith

Carl was one of the biggest names in country music in the fifties but in spite of some of his music anticipating rock and roll, with the advent of the new style, he faded somewhat. Not completely, talent will always win out no matter the style.

Here is Carl with a traditional country weepie complete with spoken bits in the middle (that's how you know it's a country song, claims the A.M.), I Just Dropped In To Say Goodbye.

♫ Carl Smith - I Just Dropped In To Say Goodbye

June and Carl had a daughter named CARLENE CARTER.

Carlene Carter

Carlene started in show biz singing with her mother and two aunts in the Carter Sisters, a group that was the next generation of the Carter Family.

Although officially in the country camp, her music is closer to rock to my ears, although there's certainly a mix of both in her music. See what you think.

Carlene sings Baby Ride Easy with some help from Dave Edmunds who was in a rock group called Rockpile with Nick Lowe.

♫ Carlene Carter - Baby Ride Easy

Carlene was once married to NICK LOWE.

Nick Lowe

Okay, Nick isn’t usually considered country but he fits in the chain. Nick actually recorded a couple of albums with considerable country influence so enough of his music fits pretty well.

Nick is one of the most important figures in the development of punk rock in Britain. He wasn’t a punk rocker himself, his voice is too good, his songs too melodic and his playing too good.

However, he was also a record producer and recorded several of the earliest punks (as well as other styled musicians). Nick sings Faithless Lover.

♫ Nick Lowe - Faithless Lover

Nick was briefly in another group, somewhat later than Rockpile, called Little Village. They probably called it a “super group” at the time as it also included John Hiatt, Jim Keltner and Ry Cooder.

Ry and Jim have recorded with pretty much every musician in the world so this could go on forever. However, I won't go down that route - that's for another day.

Next week we’ll return to Johnny Cash and go down a different path.


INTERESTING STUFF – 20 July 2013


JON STEWART AND GEORGE CARLIN

He has been dead for five years but George Carlin's riffs are as fresh as if he had delivered them last evening.

Today we have Jon Stewart and his crew on The Daily Show to carry on Carlin's work tweaking the no-nothing politicians and pointing out the absurdities of the American cultural zeitgeist.

The compatibility of the two men's outlook makes this an interesting and very cool video – a 1997 interview of Carlin when he was in his prime conducted by an astonishingly young-looking Stewart. I think you'll enjoy it.


BUTTERCUP THE DUCK GETS A NEW FOOT

Those of you who read this Saturday column regularly have undoubtedly perceived that I am fascinated with 3D printing and its possibilities. Plus, anyone who is still, as I am, a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation cannot help but recognize the similarities to the Starship Enterprise's replicator.

So here comes a wonderful new use of 3D printing that undoubtedly will be applicable to humans in time.

Buttercup the duck who lives at the Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary in Tennessee, was born with a backward foot. Because it was prone to infection, the sanctuary owner decided to amputate and replace the foot with a 3D printed one. Here is Buttercup taking a walk with his fancy new foot:

You can read more about Buttercup here and at his own Facebook page.


TEXTING DURING SEX

I cannot figure out how to write a lead-in to this story that is more jaw-dropping than this first sentence from the press release:

”According to the new Mobile Consumer Habits study released today by Jumio, Inc. and conducted online by Harris Interactive, smartphone usage is so prevalent in Americans’ everyday lives that nearly one in ten (9%) smartphone owners admit to having used their phone during sex."

Further, when the survey breaks down the survey by age group, 20 percent of those 18 to 34 say they use their smartphones while shagging. [emphasis added]

Any guy who tried that with me would be out on his ass. His bare naked one. Instantly. Without his clothes. Gone. Finis. Over.

This is definitely an area of life where elders' know infinitely better than youth who are missing so much pleasure. You can read more here and here.


THE TIME YOU HAVE IN JELLY BEANS

Last week I showed you the facts of life of the mantis shrimp, a wonderful video by ZeFrank. This week I've got from him a much more personal video: The time you have in an average lifespan expressed in jelly beans.


WEIGHT LOSS AND MEMORY

As I mentioned some time back, I have been living on a new health and fitness regimen since March. I do not consider it a diet. Instead, it is a permanent lifestyle change but definitely involves weight reduction and to date I have lost just over 20 pounds with about 20 more to go.

The changes to my physical shape, general health, energy level, sense of wellbeing, life satisfaction and even mood are already large and I'll write about what I've learned so far sometime soon.

Meanwhile, however, there is some new research I'm just dying (if that's not a contradiction) to believe:

"According to the study, in addition to being a known risk factor for heart disease, cancer and a host of other diseases, obesity works on a number of different metabolic pathways that can affect the way we process information...

"Although the study was conducted on people that averaged 300 pounds the factor related to obesity that is causing their memory loss is related to weight loss improving memory for other folks too.

"Gunstad said he believes people who lose 20 to 25 pounds in more traditional ways should experience the same health benefits as those who underwent the gastric bypass surgery the study was based on."

You can read more here.


BOOKWORMS' BRAINS AGE BETTER

A lot of Time Goes By readers are bookworms and here's an interesting item sent to me by our Sunday musicologist, Peter Tibbles, you will be happy to know about. As mentalfloss reports:

"'Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as [reading, writing, and playing with puzzles] across a person's lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age,' says study co-author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, senior neuropsychologist at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center...

"Not a big reader? Never fear—it’s not too late to start. The study finds that people who challenged themselves later in life lowered cognitive deficits by 32 percent. The bad news: People who didn’t engage in mental acrobatics experienced cognitive decline 48 percent faster."

Which helps support, too, my long-held contention that blogging – writing them and reading them – helps maintain cognitive function in elders.

The full study is behind a paid firewall but in addition to the mentalfloss report linked above you can read the abstract here.


AN AMAZING DOG NAMED JUMPY

Darlene Costner sent this video of a really smart dog.


LOUIS C.K. DESTROYS ANTI-ENVIRONMENTALISTS

From the YouTube page:

“John Roney animated this segment from Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theatre in which Louis imagines that God would be totally disgusted by how humans have treated the environment. Some NSFW language, which is as funny coming from a deity as it is from Louis C.K.”


BEIJING STATE OF MIND

This video starring Andrew Doughtery and Princess Fortier was produced and shot in Beijing and Manhattan by Mark Griffith also known as Skarm Niffgurd. Let's let him explain:

"Andrew sent me a sample of the song which was based on Jay-z's Empire State of Mind but about Andrew's experience living as an expat in Beijing.

"Andrew mapped out a set of locations and he first recorded the track with a local artist so that when shooting he would be lip syncing to the same audio track in the video."

It's a whole different take on the music that most of us are familiar with. You can read more about the production and read the lyrics at Mark Griffith's blog.


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.


When You're Not Old Enough Yet for Medicare

[EDITORIAL NOTE: I know a lot of people who read Time Goes By are younger than 65 and this post today is specifically for you. But 65-plus readers may want to pay attention for your children and grandchildren.]

At age 65, every American becomes eligible for Medicare and I haven't met anyone yet who doesn't like it. There is a reason some single-payer advocates shout “Medicare for All” and it's a damned good one: even with some omissions and some other relatively minor difficulties, Medicare works well.

It's those pesky years from 1 or 65 that health insurance is so difficult for many if not most Americans; it's hideously expensive and limited in its coverage. That is what the Affordable Care Act – known in shorthand as Obamacare – is supposed to remedy.

Republicans in Congress are still trying to kill Obamacare and if they can't destroy it entirely, they are doing their best to bite off chunks of it.

Even so, in less than three months, on 1 October, open enrollment in the Obamacare state-based health insurance exchanges begins. As the Kiplinger website explains:

”...it will give many older consumers their first opportunity to sign up for health insurance plans that guarantee comprehensive coverage regardless of health status, in many cases subsidized by tax credits.

“Coverage will begin January 1, 2014, when most people are required to have insurance or pay a penalty.”

This means that people are no longer tied to jobs they would rather leave due to health coverage and that the 20 percent of people age 50 to 64 who have no health insurance and therefore skip seeing physicians will be able to rest easier.

Those subsidies will be a boon for low income people plus, it was announced that in New York (and will probably be so in other states too), rates for individual coverage will drop under Obamacare by a whopping 50 percent. See a sample chart here.

As you may have noticed in the news, some states have opted out of participating in the state insurance exchanges. In those cases, the federal government will step in with a federally-operated exchange.

You can check where your state stands on exchanges in this list or map (as of 28 May 2013) from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Kiplinger website has done a good job of explaining the coming changes in simple language even I can understand. Here is a sampling:

Will I be required to switch plans?
If you’re covered by a plan that you purchased on the individual market, you may not have to change plans, but you may want to shop on the exchange anyway.

One big reason: premium tax credits are only available to people who enroll in plans through the exchange.

What types of plans will be available?
Plans offered on the exchange will be categorized as bronze, silver, gold or platinum, based on the percentage of health care costs that they cover for a standard population of policyholders.

A bronze plan should cover at least 60% of costs, on average; a silver plan, 70%; a gold plan, 80%; and a platinum plan, 90%.

How can I find the plan that’s best for me?
While the metal categories offer a quick gauge of a plan’s coverage, consumers shouldn’t read too much into these labels.

To get a better sense of the plan that’s best for you, consider your out-of-pocket costs and deductibles, as well as they types of services that require co-payments and co-insurance. And when comparing plans, pay attention to drug coverage and the choice of providers in the plan’s network.

You'll find more thorough answers at the Kiplinger website along with answers to other questions.

Right now, states are in the process of creating their exchange – or marketplace – websites. You can read how each is coming along by choosing your state at this page from the Kaiser Family Foundation where there are, in some cases, links to the exchange websites of the states.

You will continue to hear a lot from Republicans that Obamacare is an abomination. (They voted for the 40th time on Wednesday – unsuccessfully - to kill the program.) Ignore them.

Obamacare leaves a lot to be desired, but it is a good beginning. Three big, important changes are:

  • Denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions is gone
  • So are lifetime caps on coverage
  • Children up to the age of 26 can be kept on their parents' coverage which helps families enormously in this terrible economy for kids just out school

And here's a big ol' sheet of Obamacare facts worth knowing.

Keep in mind that when Medicare went into effect 48 years ago in 1965, it was far from perfect. Through the years there have been glitches, unintended consequences and errors that are tweaked as needed.

No program as big as Medicare nor a switch in coverage as massive this new Affordable Care Act can be as workable as originally intended by its creators without mistakes. The idea is to get it started and then make those fixes as the need becomes apparent.

Obamacare is a good thing and we should all be supportive of it. Who knows, maybe it will lead some day to a single payer system.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Just One of the Guys


Images of Life: Then and Now

From a series titled Reflections by award-winning photographer, Tom Hussey:

Hussey2

It immediately brings a smile to my face - the man recalling his younger self in a moment of pride. It's been many years since then and now he seems pleased with the journey and comfortable in his old age.

Here's another of an old woman, obviously with some amount of debility now, contemplating her youthful self:

Hussey3

I had seen these (and their companion images) some time ago and I would have thought I'd shown them to you in Interesting Stuff on a Saturday. If I did, I can't find them and yesterday TGB reader Margie sent me a link to the series with this note that she has graciously allowed me to publish:

”My daughter sent me this today. Am I overreacting if I find it patronizing and offensive?”

I tried, but I can't see these Photoshopped images in that light. I think they are beautiful and in addition, are similar to my blog banner above expressing "time goes by" and here's what it looks like.

After I emailed Margie with that thought, she wrote back:

”I think my problem is that the posers seem (to me) to be valued only for who they were, and not for who they are now. I agree, though, that the concept is appealing and of course please do quote me; I'd like to see what other readers think.”

So let's do that. First, the website of photographer and Photoshopper Tom Hussey tells us this:

”Sometimes we need photography to create a complex interplay between reality and illusion.”

Well, I suppose to go along with that you need to believe that one's youthful self is now an illusion. Or would that be vice versa? Here is another image of an old, now pot-bellied man confronting his firefighter past:

Hussey4

You can see larger sizes of these images and the rest of the series of 10 beginning here.

Go visit and then come back and tell us how you interpret the photographs.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Night Thought


Elder Hunger and the Republican Party

Who says Congress can't do anything? Why just last week, the House voted to kill food stamps (SNAP). Well, it wasn't quite that straightforward but it's heading in that direction.

The first vote on the farm bill (which is due for its every five-year renewal) failed because 60 Republicans did not think the $20 billion cut to SNAP the bill contained was enough. So Oklahoma Republican Frank Lucas just lopped off the entire program. Then the bill passed along party-line vote.

Even if they are becoming a little ragged, there are good, historical reasons that the agricultural/farm program has always been married to the food stamp nutritional program. (Look it up; it's not salient to today's post.)

But after this vote, the future of SNAP which currently provides food assistance to 47.6 million Americans including about 10 million impoverished elders, is extremely unclear:

”When asked about what Republicans were planning on doing with the program, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters, 'We’ll get to that later.'”

Uh-huh - like all those other things the House will get to later.

The average SNAP payment is only $132 a month, equal to $4.25 a day which doesn't seem like much but it keeps a lot of people from starving and is one of our most vital safety net programs.

When SNAP elimination is coupled with the cuts to Meals on Wheels that Congress allowed to happen earlier this year, many more old people will go hungry. Here is a little infographic about the cuts to Meals on Wheels – click on it for a larger image [pdf]:

The House agricultural bill with the missing SNAP will go to the Senate later this month where it is expected to fail. The Senate has proposed only modest cuts to SNAP (bad enough) and President Barack Obama has vowed to veto the measure if it does not contain support for food stamps.

What's going to happen is too ambiguous right now to know anything specific.

Meanwhile, commentators and pundits have been rightly asking what is wrong with Republicans. Actually, they have been doing more than that. They are screaming bloody murder at the moral awfulness of the GOP.

”There really isn’t any other word. Congressional Republicans are simply appalling,” writes Katrina vanden Heuvel in the Washington Post...

“Republicans just passed a farm bill. It lards out $195 billion in subsidies for agribusiness. At the same time, they chose to drop food stamps — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — from the bill for the first time in 40 years.

“In this time of mass unemployment, 47 million Americans rely on food stamps. Nearly one-half are children under 18; nearly 10 percent are impoverished seniors...

“Now,” writes vanden Heuvel, “it looks like the 'stupid' wing of the Republican Party has taken over. Our nation suffers as a result.“

No kidding.

Last Monday in a column appropriately titled Hunger Games U.S.A. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman minced no words at all: “Something terrible has happened to the soul of the Republican Party,” he began.

After explaining that the farm bill passed by Republicans in the House kills the SNAP program while increasing boondoggle subsidies to giant agribusiness, Krugman tells us what he really thinks:

”So what’s going on here? Is it just racism? No doubt the old racist canards — like Ronald Reagan’s image of the 'strapping young buck' using food stamps to buy a T-bone steak — still have some traction.

“But these days almost half of food stamp recipients are non-Hispanic whites; in Tennessee, home of the Bible-quoting [Representative Stephen] Fincher, the number is 63 percent. So it’s not all about race...

“What is it about, then? Somehow, one of our nation’s two great parties has become infected by an almost pathological meanspiritedness, a contempt for what CNBC’s Rick Santelli, in the famous rant that launched the Tea Party, called 'losers.'

“If you’re an American, and you’re down on your luck, these people don’t want to help; they want to give you an extra kick. I don’t fully understand it, but it’s a terrible thing to behold."

Yes it is - a dreadful thing to behold. And food is only a small part of it. In dozens of other bills, Congress or, rather, mostly the Republicans in Congress are plenty busy kicking everyone in the U.S. to the curb except their patrons - the wealthy and well-connected.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: America the Loveless

Ronni here again: Oh dear. I did not intend today's post to match so closely with today's Elder Storytelling Place story. It just turned out that way.


How Did You Spend Your Working Life?

Back in June at The Elder Storytelling Place, Lyn Burnstine wrote about the progression of her career from writer to musician and back again to writer in her old age.

One reader, Karen Swift, left in part this comment:

”I wonder how many of us have had more than one career? I myself have had at least four different ones. Like you, each one pulled me to the next.”

Since then, I've been meaning to put together a post about how we who are retired or near the end of our working lives spent all those decades earning our living.

  • What kind of work did we do?
  • Did we choose it or fall into it somehow?
  • Did we stick with one career or switch to something different along the way?
  • Did we like the work we did?
  • Do those jobs relate to how we are spending our late years and if so, how?

Somewhat regularly here, I write about about how blogging (as writers and/or readers) opens us to a world of people we wouldn't have otherwise met and often leads to new friendships even if they are at a distance.

So such an exercise as this can help us get to know one another a bit better – particularly among those whose names we recognize from the comments and, perhaps, wonder about.

I'll start us off:

My first full-time job was as a typist at a mortgage loan company in San Francisco. I had no idea what I might want to study at Berkeley and it seemed easier to just get a job. In those days, if a “girl” could type, jobs were plentiful.

Also, then (the late 1950s and early 1960s), I had no more direction or ambition than supporting myself and indeed, we – women – were not encouraged to do much more. Marriage was the ultimate goal.

And so I did that in 1965. My husband was, at first, a disc jockey and then moved on to host a radio talk show in Houston in the earliest days of talk radio. It was otherwise a rock-and-roll station and management didn't understand that he needed a producer.

So I stepped in and we continued doing his show together – as producer and program host – in Minneapolis, Chicago and evenually New York where it became the number one talk show in town.

When we separated in 1971, it wasn't feasible to continue working together so a friend who was a producer at ABC-TV on The Dick Cavett Show got me a job there. After a couple of years, I moved on to producing local morning programs on several local channels and in the late 1970s, joined The Barbara Walters Specials while also producing stories for 20/20.

In the late 1980s, I moved on again to other television programs and then, in 1995, another friend asked me to take a job as managing editor at cbsnews.com – the network's first website that was just getting started, not even online yet.

That – and other web production positions later – was fantastic. Working in television, I had always been enthralled with the stories of the old-timers who had been in the business from the earliest days in the 1940s.

Like those guys then, I found myself in the 1990s in on the beginning a brand new medium with no rules yet. We were inventing it on the spot day to day, trying out new things, seeing what succeeded and what didn't.

And I did that – websites – until I was forced into retirement nine years ago.

As Karen said in her comment, each job pulled (or pushed) me on to the next. From radio to television to the internet and, for the past decade, to blogging about getting old.

Most of the time, I loved what I did through those transitions. I used the access that working at television networks gave me to talk to the people who made the news or were experts in dozens of fields.

None of those people would have spoken with Ronni Bennett but they are always eager to talk with anyone who has network letters behind their name, and I took full advantage to learn from them.

In that way, although it took my entire life and continues still, it was my college education. There was something new to learn just about every week if not every day and I took complete advantage of my access.

Of course, it wasn't as smooth sailing as that sounds. In between the good jobs, I once ran a high-end dating service ($1500 to join) for an acquaintance who owned it, edited chapters for a textbook publisher, wrote stories for the in-flight magazine of an all-first class airline that is now defunct and for two years tried to run my own film and TV research company just as the internet was becoming ubiquitous and no one needed that kind of service anymore.

The biggest difference today with this blog is that I can voice my opinion which is a 180-degree departure from everything else I did that can, at times, still feel like I'm crossing a line I shouldn't – but I'm mostly comfortable with that now.

An ancillary thought to all this is that as I look back, it all seems inevitable which is, sometimes, how I feel about all of life itself – as though I had nothing to say about each step of the way through these 72 years, that it is written in some book somewhere and I'm just following the arrows pointing the way.

On other days I feel differently – that I've made every choice myself. But that's getting way too existential for this post.

Now it's your turn. How have you spent your working life? And remember, on the internet you are not confined by space – use as much as you want. Just please, use paragraphs so it's readable.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Apprehension


The Trayvon/Zimmerman Verdict

Somewhere yesterday I read that approximately 11,000 black people have been murdered in the U.S. since young Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in February 2012.

Throughout the Florida trial of Zimmerman, I'd been wondering about exactly that question – how many others? With such a large number of those deaths, why this one? What was different about this case that the country was subjected to 24/7 trial coverage? I still don't know.

Unanswered questions notwithstanding, if like me you gave up trying to find any other news over the past three or four weeks and followed the testimony in as much detail as any of the six jurors (hard to do otherwise), perhaps you too were flummoxed by the verdict.

Without going into the many reasons (believe me, they are all online in profusion), had I been a member of the jury I would have voted to convict on second-degree murder. But the real jury acquitted Zimmerman of that charge along with the lesser one of manslaughter.

You wouldn't know it from the gloating of the Zimmerman defense attorneys, but there is – yes, IS – a dead kid involved at the center of this case. Please let us not forget that in the euphoria from some quarters of the killer going free.

I could rant for pages about this but so many other people are supplying news and commentary - some quite eloquent - I'll mostly let them speak for me today.

First, here is a terrible irony: during the trial, Illinois became the 50th state to make it legal to carry a concealed weapon. By coincidence, there were some other frightening gun-related laws that went into effect in tandem with the Zimmerman trial:

”Indiana enacted a measure that allows people to carry handguns without a license in their vehicle and in certain other situations.

“Florida has eliminated its age limit for concealed carry permits for active service members and veterans, while Tennessee is allowing permitted handgun owners to store their arms and ammo in cars in nearly all private and public parking lots, as long as the items are locked out of view.

“Virginia is enacting a rule giving concealed permit holders the right to carry inside bars, clubs and restaurants on the condition they don’t drink any alcohol, and as long as the establishment doesn’t specifically prohibit firearms.”

“In Kansas, school employees may now carry concealed handguns.”

If the success of the widespread liberalization of gun control laws – even after 20 little babies were murdered by a gunman in Connecticut - doesn't scare the pants off you, it should. And after this verdict, put yourself in the place of a young black man now – someone like Cord Jeffers, a reporter, who writes,

“Tonight a Florida man’s acquittal for hunting and killing a black teenager who was armed with only a bag of candy serves as a Rorschach test for the American public.

“For conservatives, it’s a triumph of permissive gun laws and a victory over the liberal media, which had been unfairly rooting for the dead kid all along.

“For liberals, it's a tragic and glaring example of the gaps that plague our criminal justice system.

“For people of color, it’s a vivid reminder that we must always be deferential to white people, or face the very real chance of getting killed.

As digby at Hullabaloo pointed out yesterday – and I don't disagree - with this verdict, in addition to so many new, looser gun laws, we are all at risk of winding up as dead as young Trayvon Martin:

”If a young black man is stalked by a stranger, he is not free to confront him. He must keep his head down, be obsequious, be prepared to be questioned not just by police, but by anyone...

”But it's not just him. In various parts of the country someone like George Zimmerman, a wannabe cop, a wannabe macho dude, is legally allowed to carry a concealed gun loaded with hollow point bullets.

“What if I did something to startle or frighten someone like him? Indeed, how can any of us know who's carrying a loaded gun and who isn't?

“So, I'll keep my head down too and be obsequious and subservient to every person I come across in public. I won't make any smart remarks. I won't express myself at all. I'll just hurry along in the hopes that I haven't drawn any undue attention.

“It's less likely that a white woman like me will be shot than it is a young black male, but it's foolish to take any chances in a world like this. Standing up for your principles or the constitution is really hard to do when you're dead.”

I thought it would be useful, even though this is (aside from the national interest of everyone) not directly related to aging, for us to talk about this today.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: My Last Softball Game


ELDER MUSIC: Drinking Songs Part 2

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.


Giaconda

Ah, my favorite Oz chardonnay.

This is an on-going series that could keep me in columns for some considerable time. As I mentioned in Part 1, this category is a staple of blues and country music but there are others included as well.

I’ll start as I did in the first part with an Australian song. Some might find that appropriate; I couldn’t possibly comment.

Yarralumla is where the Governor-General of Australia lives. She (for it currently is a she) is the nominal head of state of this country. It’s also reputed to have one of the best wine cellars in the country (and that’s saying something).

REDGUM has something to say about that. What they have to say is Yarralumla Wine.

Redgum

♫ Redgum - Yarralumla Wine

DELBERT MCCLINTON must have liked his song, Two More Bottles of Wine because he recorded two different versions of it.

Delbert McClinton

One of those is very country, the other less so. I’ve gone with the latter as it’s more in keeping with the other tracks in today’s column (well, mostly). Indeed, it’s more R&B than country.

Speaking of country, Emmylou Harris recorded a fine version as well. However, here's Delbert.

♫ Delbert McClinton - Two More Bottle of Wine

Any excuse to include NAT KING COLE. Here he is in his early incarnation with the trio.

Nat King Cole Trio

The tune is Bring Another Drink and what more needs to be said?

♫ Nat King Cole - Bring Another Drink

ROSE DAVIS was from New Orleans and her first release was a song called Sittin' and Drinkin'. She later had a bit of a hit with Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. Unfortunately, that's all I know about Rose and I can't even find a photo of her.

Rose Davis Record Label

♫ Rose Davis - Sittin' And Drinkin'

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, insisted on the next song. It's by KINGSTON TRIO.

Kingston Trio

She was always (and still is) a big fan of the Kingstons. This song though is not like their others; it doesn't sound at all like Tom Dooley and could pass for a jazz number.

It is Scotch and Soda. We don't know who wrote the song. The trio, especially Dave Guard, searched for years to find out who was the author. Maybe someone out there knows. Here it is.

♫ Kingston Trio - Scotch and Soda

I haven't had anything from THE EAGLES before. Well, I don't think I have.

Eagles

This is a band that tends to polarize listeners - you either love them or hate them (or ignore them, I suppose). I'm in the first category.

I saw them early in their career and they were one on the finest live bands I've seen. I haven't seen them recently - the ticket prices for their shows are ridiculous so I have those dreams to remember (oops, I'm channelling Otis). Anyway, here is Tequila Sunrise.

♫ The Eagles - Tequila Sunrise

Opera is another good source of drinking songs. I’ve chosen one by MOZART, whom I believe was not averse to a drop or two now and then.

Mozart

This is almost certainly the most famous drinking song in opera (okay, one of). It's Fin ch'han dal Vino from Don Giovanni. It's also very short. Ingvar Wixell sings the part of Don Giovanni.

♫ Mozart - Fin ch'han dal Vino

The song Dublin Blues by GUY CLARK isn’t really a drinking song. However, in the lyrics he mentions that he’d like to be back in Austin drinking mad-dog margaritas.

Now I know about margaritas, I’ve had a few in my time but I wonder about mad-dog margaritas. Perhaps someone from Texas will inform me.

Guy Clark

It also has one of the best last verses in country music (excluding the reprise of the first one).

♫ Guy Clark - Dublin Blues

Another fave of the A.M.'s is LAMBERT, HENDRICKS AND ROSS.

Lambert, Hendricks and Ross

I can relate to their song, Gimme That Wine - after all, how do you think these columns get written if not with the help of the juice?

♫ Lambert, Hendricks and Ross - Gimme That Wine

I'll finish with something very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very unusual: an Australian song about not drinking.

My fellow country-persons know of what I speak but for the rest of you, here is the most famous country singer in Oz. Sorry, wrong tense. Alas, SLIM DUSTY is no longer with us.

Slim Dusty

In spite of my usual policy of playing the original version of songs, this isn't the one that was a gigantic hit in 1957. It's a more modern one with a couple of tweeks to the lyrics that Slim recorded somewhat later.

It's also more comprehensible to those listeners who are not from the wide brown land. Here is Pub With No Beer.

♫ Slim Dusty - Pub With No Beer


INTERESTING STUFF – 13 July 2013


FASCINATING AIDA

We have featured the British comedy/singing group, Fascinating Aida, in the past. In this video, they take on the generations with their song, Down With the Kids. (Hat tip to Pamela of Costa de la Luz Gardening)

You can find out more about Fascinating Aida at their website.


BURIED IN A PILE OF BABY GOATS

There isn't anything more I need to say about this way too cute video.


TEXAS, WHERE FREE SPEECH IS DEAD

Apparently, speaking out against state lawmakers in the Texas Legislature is now an offense for which a person can be silenced and dragged off by state troopers. Look what happened this week when Sarah Slamen told the lawmakers what she thought about their abortion bill.

Here's some of what Ms. Slamen later told Daily Kos after the event:

”Senator Jane Nelson tried to say I was being disrespectful but how would she know? I barely got to give the complete performance review of every member on the committee.

“Pointing out that Sen. Donna Campbell is an ophthalmologist is not disrespectful when she asserts in a state hearing that she should be THE expert on reproductive health.

“What was disrespectful was the parade of anti-choice zealots and misogynists who got up for 13 hours and called women murderers, killers, promiscuous, thoughtless, and selfish. Not a peep from committee chair Nelson on those.”

PROMOTING OBAMACARE IN OREGON

It's time for the states who have not rejected Obamacare to begin educating their residents about the healthcare marketplace that will soon become available.

This one from my state, Oregon, proves that the studied weirdness presented in the cable drama, Portlandia - set and shot in Portland - is not, as advertised - fiction.


MOSCOW'S STRAY SUBWAY DOGS

Moscow's well-known populations of stray dogs go back at least as far as the Soviet Union and perhaps to pre-revolutionary times. Back then, the dogs were regulated and when there were complaints, they were destroyed:

”Strays were sometimes turned into fur caps, or used in scientific experiments.”

During the 90s, as Russia became more affluent and there was more garbage, the population of strays increased. Nowadays, one subset of the dogs rides the subway:

“'There are three models of metro dogs,' Andrei Neuronov explained: dogs who live in the subway but do not travel, dogs who use the subway to travel short distances instead of walking, and entrepreneurial dogs who spend the day riding back and forth, busking.

“This last type of dog takes long trips, working the crowd for treats and emotional contact. (On trains, dogs 'seeking tenderness' are particularly inclined to approach women over forty who are carrying large shopping bags.)

“And, according to the results of a study Neuronov conducted of the Red Line, some dogs hop on the train for purely recreational reasons. 'Like in human society,' he said, 'there are dogs who are inclined to see new places.'”

Moscow's subway dogs' have been tolerated for years but their days may now be numbered. Go read this fascinating story at The New Yorker.


FIRE FIGHTER REVIVES KITTEN

UPDATE: Sorry the video has been withdrawn from YouTube since I wrote this on Friday. I'm leaving this here in case it returns.

It's an old story, right? Fire fighters rescue cats stuck in trees, pull them out of other tight spots and even bring them back from the dead – well, at least one did so in this case.

The fire fighter is Cory Kalanick of Fresno, California and here's his heartwarming story.


TRUE FACTS ABOUT THE MANTIS CRAB

Now, now – don't go running off thinking this is too scientific or boring. No, it's not that. Ze Frank makes a little learning go down as easily as a bowl of ice cream and you'll laugh too. (Via Wonkblog)


AMAZING SHADOW PUPPETS

Let's give Peter Tibbles (who writes the TGB Eldermusic column on Sundays) a big hand for this fabulous shadow puppet show.

It's Australia's mime artist, magician, cabaret performer, Raymond Crowe, behind the stage light, set to Louis Armstrong's It's a Wonderful World.


WATCHING THE WATCHERS

I wish I had something this funny to end every Saturday column. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)

Lion watching watcher


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.


Are You a Senior Center Snob?

I was. Throughout my adulthood, when my ignorance of senior centers was total, they conjured never-ending bingo games in my mind, daycare for old people who hadn't the wit about them for anything more challenging.

When I started studying aging, still working and living in New York City then, I made brief visits to a couple of senior centers and to another one while I was living in Maine. Nothing I saw changed my initial impression.

But that was the result of my remarkably superficial survey compounded by falling for the media stereotype (which mostly continues today) of places where elders gather, accepting their assumption that nothing useful or worthwhile is going on there and so neither are the elders within worthy of attention.

Well, shame on me.

In my home now in Lake Oswego, Oregon, I am rectifying that failing and learning a whole lot about the importance of senior centers everywhere.

This first came about because the 50+ Advisory Board to the City Council on which I serve holds its meetings at the senior center, called the Adult Community Center (ACC) here. Soon, I will begin volunteering there in another capacity, but that's a story for another time.

There are many activities from which elders can choose at the ACC some of which are tai chi classes; a newly equipped gym; computer classes, demonstrations, discussion groups and free wifi; a writing group; a crafts group that donates finished creations to non-profits; scheduled sessions for bridge, pinochle, mah jongg and Scrabble. Most of all this is free or involves a small fee – often just a dollar.

There also is a library and a cafe, a hiking group and scheduled excursions to points of interest, sometimes with overnight stays.

From all that, you would not be wrong to conclude that there is a lot of choice for entertainment and education along with opportunities to meet others which, as we discuss on this blog from time to time, can be hard to do when we are no longer in the workforce.

All that is good, but the additional services offered, mostly free, are crucial to the wellbeing and health of elders in the community. Without the center, these services would not be available or certainly not all in one place where they are easy to find and use. There are so many that I will just give you a simple list of some of them:

Blood pressure monitoring
Flu shots
Foot care clinics
Legal assistance
Tax assistance
Medicare/Medicaid help
Rides to doctor appointments
Rides for grocery shopping
Medical equipment loans
Caregiver support
Home visits to assist independent living

Each of these services and others I have not listed are provided by the appropriate, certified professional.

In addition, three days a week, a hot, nutritional lunch is provided from the center's own kitchen and chef for a nominal fee of $4 or $5. And then, there is the Meals on Wheels program.

Did you know that Meals on Wheels is administered throughout the United States almost entirely by local senior centers? Here in my town, the meals are cooked in the ACC kitchen, packaged there and delivered by ACC volunteers. For some elders, this is the only food they get.

As you may know, the sequestration that Congress and a large portion of the media seem to believe hurts no one has forced funding cuts to Meals on Wheels programs. Senior centers are scrambling to find, raise and/or reallocate funds to feed as many people as possible.

Even so, as a direct result of sequestration, 40 percent of Meals on Wheels programs are being forced to eliminate staff, 50 percent are reducing the number of elders served and 70 percent are reducing the number of meals delivered.

But god forbid that Congress members can't leave Washington, D.C. at their whim. When sequestration caused cuts at area airports slowing the lawmakers' departures, they quickly reinstated the money needed to maintain their flights.

But none for Meal on Wheels (nor Head Start, for that matter.)

Maybe you would like to know just who the people are who benefit from local senior centers. Here's some information from the National Council on Aging (NCOA):

• Approximately 70% of senior center participants are women; half of them live alone.

• The majority are Caucasian, followed by African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians respectively.

• Compared with their peers, senior center participants have higher levels of health, social interaction and life satisfaction and lower levels of income.

• The average age of participants is 75.

In addition, NCOA research shows that participation in senior center programs helps elders learn to manage and delay the onset of chronic disease and improves their physical, social, spiritual, emotional, mental and economic well-being.

Not all senior centers provide as many options and services as the one in my town but as the baby boomers swell the ranks of elders, more and more are doing what they can to expand and improve what they offer. Those sequestration cuts are making that difficult.

So if you, like me before I learned better, dismissed senior centers as bingo daycare, now you know differently and maybe you'll look into your local centers for some entertainment, education, help you may need, and volunteer too, if you can.

Here are some links where you can read more about senior centers:

What You Don't Know About Your Local Senior Center
Senior Centers Fact Sheet
National Institute of Senior Centers


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The Girl Who Hated P.E.