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INTERESTING STUFF – 30 November 2013


ALL EARTH'S HISTORY IN TWO MINUTES

Cutaway Productions is a student-run video production company working out of Stillwater Area High School in Minnesota. A student who uses the screen name drivinman687 wrote this on the YouTube page about his video:

”My final project I made for my video productions class Cutaway Productions at my high school. I don't own the rights to the song or the pictures and I am not trying to claim them, I just did this video for fun and i spent many a hour on it.”

And what a terrific job he did. Thank Darlene Costner for getting this video to us.


WHY CARE ABOUT NSA SURVEILLANCE?

Los Angeles-based filmmaker Brian Knappenberger explained the background of this video:

”This short film addresses the most common arguments I’ve heard from people who are not concerned about online surveillance, such as: 'I’m not doing anything wrong, so why should I care?' and 'We need this to keep us safe.'

"...Edward Snowden has ignited a debate, and for that I am grateful. But now that he’s done his part, it’s time for all Americans to decide how to respond to his revelations. That is to say, it is no longer his story. It is ours.”

Here is Knappenberger's film:

You can read more from Brian Knappenberger at The New York Times.


FIVE-YEAR-OLD GEOGRAPHY WHIZ

Whatever would I do for Saturday's Interesting Stuff without Darlene. This too is from her, young Arden Hayes appearing on Jimmy Kimmel's TV show:


MINIATURE WONDERLAND

I have always liked doll houses. At least one person has suggested that they allow us to have complete control of our environment. I suppose that applies to miniature trains too. This one, in Hamburg, Germany, is breathtakingly fantastic. (Thanks again, Darlene)

You can read about it and see more videos here.


LES PETITS FRERES

Many studies confirm that loneliness and isolation in old age is deadly leading to anxiety, depression, suicide, heart disease and other health conditions.

"Peter McGrail...worked for decades at Eaton’s, decorating store windows from Toronto to Halifax. After he retired he enjoyed attending concerts, tinkering with antique clocks and gardening at his cabin. But then McGrail’s health and his finances went south.

"By the time he was 80, life was grim. His only friends were the birds and chipmunks he fed in the park.

“'I thought of suicide a few times,' he says, 'When you are down and out at Christmas time, you look out the window and see a cement wall, and it is snowing out and you don’t know what to think, what to do, so you just lie down.'"

Then Les Petits Freres stepped in and today, McGrail has a new home, takes many meals at Les Petits Freres Montreal headquarters and he has been paired with a volunteer who visits him at home regularly.

Les Petits Freres is a worldwide organization that has been changing the lives of lonely elders since it was founded in 1939:

”Today, Little Brothers - Friends of the Elderly as it is known in English - flourishes in eight countries, including the United States. It’s almost impossible to keep up with the growing demand for what it has to offer...

“To get help you must be 75 years old and have no family members living nearby. Seniors are referred by social workers, nurses or neighbours. It doesn’t matter whether they live alone or in a residence, whether they are sick or healthy, rich or poor - they just have to say they are lonely...

“Les Petits Frères has no religious or government affiliation. The organization is financed by private donations and is fiercely independent.”

I had never heard of Les Petits Freres until doctafil, who blogs at Jive Chalkin', send me the link to this story about it. You should go read some more.


MOVIES WITH ELDERS

There are a lot of complaints that there are not enough movies for and/or about old people and there certainly are a lot fewer than there are shoot-'em-ups and zombie films. But just in time for the holidays, at least four have turned up – all of which I intend to see.

So the rest of today's Interesting Stuff is stacked with what look to be four compelling films about elders.


NEBRASKA

This one stars 77-year-old Bruce Dern as an alcoholic making a trip with his son from Montana to Nebraska to claim a lottery prize.


PHILOMENA

Judi Dench, age 78, plays Philomena who searches for the son who was taken away from her when he was an infant and she was then forced to enter a convent.


LAST VEGAS

Who can resist it when these four old Hollywood pros get together on screen in a comedy about a bachelor party in Vegas when the last of them finally gets married. Kevin Kline (66), Morgan Freeman (76), Robert DeNiro (70) and Michael Douglas (69) as the holdout groom.


COUSIN JULES

This French documentary was first released in 1973, but few theaters could handle its advanced technology. Now, it has been digitally remastered and is winning awards a festivals.

Written and directed by Dominique Benicheti and shot from 1968 to 1973, it is the story of a rural couple, Benicheti's cousin Jules and Félicie Guiteaux.

Some reviewers reject the slow-moving pace of this story of everyday life but Zachary Wigon in the Village Voice notes that

”...we begin to experience the film as a kind of mindfulness in action, the viewing of the picture as an immersion in a meditative state.

“Thoroughly transporting, the peacefulness and clarity of Cousin Jules can't help but reveal, by contrast, the restlessness and agitation too common to life today.”

You can read more about the documentary here.


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

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


The Day After Thanksgiving 2013

Is everyone appropriately stuffed from their feast yesterday? I've always thought Thanksgiving leftovers were more fun the meal itself.

As we discussed a couple of days ago, neither I nor any of the 30-plus people who commented are the sort to venture into overcrowded stores on black Friday no matter what sales incentives they have.

Even so, I'm taking a day off from blogging to lie around and not do much – back tomorrow with Interesting Stuff – and there is a new story today at The Elder Storytelling Place.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Dear Gabby


Thanksgiving Day 2013

I was a week late last year in discovering that 2012 was the 45th anniversary of Arlo Guthrie's epic Thanksgiving fable, Alice's Restaurant. I also discovered, all these years later, that with a couple of minor lapses, I still know the entire monologue by heart.

Equally important, I still love it. So I vowed last year that from then on, Alice's Restaurant would become a TGB tradition on Thanks giving and here is again on its 46th anniversary.

It's a fine ol' song, don't you think.

Cornucopia


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Thanksgiving in the Desert


Hannukah 5774

It is just weird that the first day of Hannukah this year comes on American Thanksgiving day – or vice versa depending on your point of view. The first candle is lit tonight and it is fortunate for tomorrow's meal that it's not too hard to make the traditional foods compatible with both holidays.

My good friend, Yaakov Kirschen, has been writing and drawing his Dry Bones cartoon for 40 years. (You can follow him at The Dry Bones Blog.) This is his entry for Hannukah 2011 - a repeat from my post last year but I still like the gentleness of the reminder.

Yaakov Hannukah

And here's something new: Chanukah: Rock of Ages. As the YouTube page explains, it

”...is a parody of Jewish holiday parody songs that have become so popular. It tells the Chanukah story in 8 hit songs, capturing the history of contemporary music and dance.”

Happy Hanukkah, everyone.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Thanksgiving


Crabby Old Lady and Thanksgiving Shopping

(Before Crabby Old Lady gets into this rant, she needs to tell you that she abhors crowds and has never in her life gone shopping on black Friday or any other crunch shopping day. There is no sale on earth that could temp her.)

For many years, Americans have been cajoled, enticed, coerced, pressured, seduced and, most of all, expected to spend a lot of money for Christmas on black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving. It was (and still is) almost considered unpatriotic not to do so.

The poor schnooks who bought the hype barely finished their Thanksgiving feast before lining up overnight to be the first of hundreds or even thousands of people through the doors of big box and department stores when they opened at 6AM.

If Crabby Old Lady is not mistaken, at least one person on a past black Friday was killed in that crush of people and others have been seriously injured. But never mind safety. What's a broken arm or rib or even a life in giant corporations' pursuit of profit and astronomical executive pay.

The best that could be said about black Friday through the years was that at least everyone had one day with family and friends before the commercial onslaught.

Thanksgiving is one of 11 official federal holidays in the United States. It is often noted that it is the single holiday with no obligations for gifts or revelry or spending. Just the warmth of a good meal and general conviviality at home with family and friends.

Thanksgiving is the biggest travel day of year as millions cover great distances to be with family and some make it a tradition to invite strangers to dinner who have no family of their own.

Even if that doesn't warm your heart, the downtime from the hubbub of work and constant commercialism of our lives is a pleasant relief. It has been that way in all of Crabby Old Lady's 72 years.

Until last year. In 2012, some stores opened on Thanksgiving Day for the first time and many more have joined them this year. Crabby suspects there is no going back. Ever.

From now on Thanksgiving will be a shopping day in America. According to DailyKos, here is a partial list of stores that will be open on Thursday:

Walmart
AKMart
Sears
Target
Old Navy
OfficeMax
Staples
Medieval Times
Toys "R" Us
Michaels
Macy's
J.C. Penney
Kohl's
Dollar General
Dick's Sporting Goods
Best Buy

Although the majority of these stores are opening at 8PM on Thanksgiving, Walmart begins at 6PM and Old Navy is way ahead of everyone at 9AM – just about the time Crabby is getting the stuffing together for the turkey.

Crabby would like to remind you that these stores cannot be open on this national holiday without the sales staff – you know, thousands of minimum-wage workers, people with families (some of whom have traveled those great distances to visit) - who will have to jump up from the table to be at work before the 6PM or 8PM opening.

It is not inappropriate for Crabby to further remind you that at least two Walmarts have held food drives for their own employees who cannot afford Thanksgiving dinner on what the company pays them.

In the face of this holiday travesty along the millions of long-term unemployed, other millions of underpaid workers and the many who are still stuck with underwater mortgages, Crabby is having a hard time enjoying her good fortune to not be among them this holiday.

For the record, here are some of the big retailers who are giving their employees their deserved holiday by closing on Thanksgiving according, again, to DailyKos:

Costco
Nordstrom
BJ's Wholesale Club
Home Depot
T.J. Maxx
Marshalls
Burlington Coat Factory
Apple
Radio Shack
American Girl
Patagonia
REI
Dillard's
Ross
Menards


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: I Used to Think That Sleep Was Not For Me


Elder Quality of Life

Referring to a most amazingly fleet-of-foot dancer in a video on Saturday's Interesting Stuff post, Darlene Costner commented,

”I would be grateful if I could still walk without staggering like an old drunk.”

I certainly understand that and when I read it, I was reminded of a new Pew Research Center study about the views of various age groups on what constitutes quality of life in old age.

Well, actually most of the survey is about end-of-life medical treatment and we can/should discuss that another day. What caught my immediate interest, however, are these related questions about how we measure our quality of life.

Here is one of the charts showing the percentage of respondents who judge their lives now as better, the same as or worse than 10 years ago, by age group:

Quality of Life Looking Back

The Pew analysts looked at these numbers and, it appears to me, mimicked the media's general negatvism about old age, writing:

"...older adults are much less inclined than younger ones to see improvement. Just three-in-ten adults ages 75 and older say their lives today are better than they were a decade earlier.

”By contrast, about twice as many adults ages 18-49 (66%) say their lives are better today than in the past.”

I see it differently. I look at the chart and see that 70 percent of people 75 and older see their lives as better today or the same as it was 10 years previously, and in one's eighth or ninth decade, maintaining the status quo should not be ignored as a good thing.

The Pew study also has a chart for the reverse assessment: the percentage who say their lives will be better, the same as or worse ten years from now:

Quality of Life Forward

Once again, the Pew analysts see the numbers pessimistically:

”Only about a fifth (19%) of adults ages 75 and older expect their lives to get better in the future.”

What I see, instead, is 63 percent of people 75 and older believe their quality of life will be the same or better in ten years. (In both these charts, the “don't knows” are not shown.)

To feel good enough at 75 to believe your quality of life will remain the same is an achievement that Pew overlooks.

I'm not quite that old but given my good health throughout my life and now at 72.5, I am cautiously optimistic about my how good my life will be in 10 years.

I am fully aware that compared to 30 or 40 years ago I have a much higher chance of running into health problems that can decrease my enjoyment of life. But I see no reason to let that curtail my optimism and will cross those bridges if and when they appear.

Perhaps Pew analysts need to consult some people who are older than they are about these results to understand the optimism of choosing “same as” at age 75.

Of course, with all of this, we do need to ask what we mean by quality of life and Pew does that. Here are the results for what is “extremely important to quality of life” in what Pew calls “older age” (undoubtedly because no one is allowed to use the word “old” in our age-phobic culture).

Important for quality of life

It amuses me that no age group ranks “having short term memory” above 32 percent as “extremely important” for quality of life in old age and all ages place it last on the list. Maybe I'm making too much of it when I can't remember why I've walked into the kitchen.

How does all this jibe with your ideas about what contributes to your quality of life in old age?

You can read the entire Pew Research Center study here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: The Lima Bean Caper


ELDER MUSIC: Lead Guitarists – Commenters' Choice

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.


This is your column, you the Time Goes By Music readers.

Not too long ago I did a column on Lead Guitarists. Those were my personal choices. However, you left enough suggestions for another complete column, so here are the ones you mentioned in those comments.

Just because they were omitted from my original column doesn't mean I don't like them - indeed, I would have selected some of them myself in part 2 or 3 if I ever got around to it. So, it's your choice today, and that will save me having to think who should be included.

I'll start with LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM.

Lindsey Buckingham

Lindsay is the guitarist for the most successful incarnation of Fleetwood Mac. There were several guitarists before him in that group, in particular one of the founder members, Peter Green. However, it's Lindsay's turn in the limelight today.

Here is the Mac with Lindsay singing and playing Blue Letter. There's a fine live version of the song on YouTube for those who'd like to hear more.

♫ Fleetwood Mac - Blue Letter

STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN was the real deal.

Stevie Ray Vaughan

He had already established himself as one of the finest guitarists around, respected by both rock and blues audiences when he met his death in a helicopter accident. Although thought of as a loud rock/blues player, he could also play jazz equally proficiently. Indeed, it is this style of his that I prefer.

However, today it's the blues and The Sky Is Crying from the album of the same name.

♫ Stevie Ray Vaughan - The Sky Is Crying

CARLOS SANTANA learned the violin when he was five and took up the guitar at age eight.

Carlos Santana

His family moved from Mexico to San Francisco but Carlos stayed behind. Not for long though, he joined them there and went to school in the city.

He first came to notice for his guitar work when the Paul Butterfield Band couldn't play at the Fillmore (various substances were involved). Bill Graham put together a band of musicians he knew or had heard of and Carlos blew everyone away with his playing.

He formed the band Santana and they were a regular act at the Fillmore. Here they perform Samba Pa Ti.

♫ Santana - Samba Pa Ti

ANGUS YOUNG plays for the Australian rock group AC/DC.

Angus Young

He and his brother Malcolm were founder members of the band. They have rock & roll in their genes as their older brother George was a member of one of the finest of Oz rock bands, The Easybeats.

Acker-Dacker (as they are universally known in Oz) are one of the hardest rocking bands around. Here's an example of that: Highway To Hell.

♫ AC_DC - Highway To Hell

I was a little surprised at MICKEY BAKER's inclusion. Not because he wasn't a fine guitarist, but because he isn't exactly a household name.

Mickey Baker

I should have realized that you, the readers, have great musical depth. That sounds as if I'm sucking up to you all. Well, of course I am.

Mickey was half of the fifties’ R&B duo Mickey and Sylvia (with Sylvia Robinson). He was also a much sort after session musician. As well, he recorded under his own name, mostly instrumental tunes. This is one of them, Midnight Midnight.

♫ Mickey Baker - Midnight Midnight

FREDDIE KING (or Freddy King, he used both spellings) was one of the great "King" bluesmen.

Freddie King

There were a bunch of these and I've even done a column on them all. However, it's Freddie's day in the spotlight with Five Long Years.

♫ Freddie King - Five Long Years

MARK KNOPFLER nearly made the cut in my first column, but he missed by that much. He wasn't alone in that regard.

Mark Knopfler

Mark first came to prominence as the main man for Dire Straits, a really fine group – particularly early on before all the overblown theatrics kicked in. I couldn't go past the first song of his I ever heard, Sultans of Swing.

♫ Dire Straits - Sultans of Swing

I mentioned JIMMY PAGE in the original column, but he didn't get an actual spot. I'll remedy that today.

Jimmy Page

Jimmy started his career as a session musician and he would also play at various clubs around London. When Eric Clapton left The Yardbirds, he recommended Jimmy as his replacement.

Jimmy didn't want to give up his lucrative session work so he suggested his friend Jeff Beck for the gig. Later on he joined Jeff in the group. After much coming and going Jimmy decided to form his own band.

Upon hearing them, The Who's drummer Keith Moon dismissed them suggesting they would go over like a lead zeppelin. They thought that was a good name for the band and changed its spelling to Led Zeppelin so there wouldn't be any misunderstanding on how to pronounce the first word of the group's name.

Here they are with Whole Lotta Love from their second album.

♫ Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love

I also mentioned DUANE ALLMAN in my first column. He missed out then too, but here he is today.

Duane Allman

Besides playing in his own band, he was in demand as a session guitarist. He plays that beautiful slide guitar part in Eric Clapton's Layla as well as letting it rip alongside Boz Scaggs on his first album after leaving the Steve Miller Band.

Here are the Allman Brothers from their first album with Black Hearted Woman.

♫ Allman Brothers - Black Hearted Woman

I finished my first column with Chuck Berry. I'll end this one with another influential guitarist from the early days of rock & roll, BO DIDDLEY.

Bo Diddley

Like Chuck, Bo's trademark way of playing has been pinched by many later guitarists. The Rolling Stones built their early career on Bo's style. You have to admire someone who made a career performing songs named after himself.

This is one of them, Bo Diddley.

♫ Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley

Joe Walsh was the other one mentioned but I had my quota so he missed out.


INTERESTING STUFF – 23 November 2013


FORCED TO MOVE HIS WIFE'S GRAVE

Remember back in October when I told you about Jim Davis's court battle to keep the grave of his wife, Patsy, in their front yard? Now he has lost that fight.

”With husband James Davis, his five children and some grandchildren standing by the log home, a crew unearthed the body of Patsy Davis from beside the front porch. Flowers still sat atop her tombstone.”

Patsy Davis's remains have now been cremated. I suppose the law is the law, but it was such a sweet love story and the man fought four long years to keep his promise to his wife to bury her where she wanted to be. You can read more here.


NATURE PHOTOGRAPHER'S BEAUTIFUL LEGACY

Early this year, French wildlife photographer Laurent Schwebel was murdered, stabbed to death in Buenas Aires.

Until TGB reader Darlene Costner sent me a video montage of his work, I had never heard of Schwebel but surely wish I had. Here are a couple of his astonishing photographs:

Schwebel ant

Schwebe lsquirrel

In Darlene's note accompanying the link to the video, she said she didn't like all the cross-fades in the montage and I agree. Still shots are meant to be contemplated, especially when they are this exquisite and I think the video presentation does a disservice to the remarkable work of Schwebel.

Even so, in case you disagree, here is the video:

If the video is as annoying or disappointing to you as it is to Darlene and me, there is a slide show here with most of the photos in the video. And you will find Schwebel's Flickrstream here.


GIANT BEAR INTERRUPTS PHOTO SHOOT

This also is from Darlene. In our advertising-saturated culture, there are a gazillion boring, awful, irritating or just stupidly ordinary television commercials. Every now and then, something marvelously clever comes along and when that happens, we should stop and enjoy it.


SLATE MAGAZINE'S GUN DEATHS TALLY

It is just three weeks until the first anniversary of the unspeakable shootings at the school in Newtown, Connecticut. Since then, Slate magazine has been keeping a tally of gun death in the U.S.

Slate Gun Death Map

As of yesterday, that total has reached 10,771 and Slate reports that the number is probably low.

The map at its source is interactive and you can sort the deaths by age, gender, location, date and keywords.


LIKE A ROLLING STONE FINALLY GETS A VIDEO

Back when Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone was released in 1965, music videos hardly existed so now 48 years later, Dylan's iconic song finally has one (in conjunction with the commercial release a Dylan album collection, of course).

Still, it is worth notice and what a video it is. Interactive. 16 channels. Here's a (non-interactive) preview:

Reviews of the full interactive video have been mixed. You can see it here and fool around with the various channels as it plays.


HOW SIMON'S CAT GOT STARTED

Simon's Cat has been an internet star for four or five years now. Here is a new video animation of how he came to be.


WHEN THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS ARE CAUGHT OUT

No commentary needed. Oh, except that it's okay to laugh at this poor jerk's stupidity.

Leviticus Tweet

Leviticus 19:28: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”


BOB THE HAMSTER

Darlene's been busy lately sending a lot of good candidates for Interesting Stuff. Be sure to watch clear to end – past the initial credits.


HAPPY FEET

In her email with a link to this video, Nikki Lindquist wrote:

“When you asked us a couple of years ago, something like - as you're aging, what are some of the things you miss being able to do? - my immediate response was that I miss the feeling of being light on my feet.

“It's sooo many years since I've had that feeling. THIS young man has it in spades. His feet barely touch the ground! Quite remarkable! He's a perfect example of what I miss!!

Take a look. The song is All Night from Parov Stelar.


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.


Kennedy Assassination

An orgy of remembrance has saturated the media this week leading up to today, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

I'm not so sure about people younger than 40 or 45, but for anyone old enough to recall where they were that day – as old as most readers of this blog - it is the largest public milestone of our lives. Only a handful of others match or come close.

So important is this event to our national psyche that for years and years and years, decades really, we have asked one other how we heard about the shooting of President Kennedy in Dallas.

So let's do that one more time today. I'll go first, although it is an ordinary story.

These 50 years and a gazillion books, movies, conspiracies, government reports, magazine and newspaper stories have dulled my personal memories – it is mostly bare facts that remain.

I was 22 years old, working at a numbingly boring office job in a building on California Street in San Francisco. It was late morning, nearly lunch time when an announcement came over the loudspeaker telling us that the president had been shot and was dead.

We were told to go home, to take the rest of the day off and what I most remember is that when I stepped into the street, newsboys (remember them?) were already hawking an “extra” of the San Francisco Chronicle - eight pages of mostly photographs from Dallas with little text.

November 22 that year was a Friday. I was living in Mill Valley and was too poor to own a television set so I spent a lot of time over the weekend at the bus station watching the TV coverage.

Others gathered there too – undoubtedly many owned television sets but we all, that long weekend, seemed to need to be with other people, even strangers.

I must have been told to stay home from work on Monday 25 November too because I can picture the crush of people in the waiting room of that bus station – all of us with our heads tilted back to see the screen that was mounted eight feet or so above the floor - watching the funeral that day.

And what about you? Where did you hear about the assassination of President Kennedy?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ross Middleton: Keeping Involved


Senator Elizabeth Warren's Important Values Speech

On Monday, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts gave an important speech on the floor of U.S. Senate about our retirement crisis. It's only about five-and-a-half minutes and if you haven't watched it, please do:

As you know, to end the 16-day government shutdown a few weeks ago, Congress extended current spending levels through 15 January 2014 and the debt cushion through 7 February. The country must have a new budget before that first date or face the shutdown predicament again in mid-January.

It continues to be widely reported that Republicans, some Democrats and President Barack Obama, in negotiating a new budget, are willing to cutting Social Security benefits by adopting chained CPI to calculate cost-of-living increases.

Fortunately, Senator Warren is not alone in working to fend off chained CPI. There is a growing push in Congress for the reverse - to expand Social Security via legislation and raising the salary cap which is currently at $113,700. The names of the most vocal other senators who support and encourage these moves are:

Mark Begich (D-Alaska)
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont)

Earlier this week, a petition signed by more than 700,000 Americans was delivered to the office of Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) who is co-chair with Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) of the Budget Conference Committee that is tasked with creating a 2014 budget before that January deadline.

“No grand bargain in exchange for cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits,” was the point of the petition organized by Senator Sanders who is also a member of that same Budget Conference Committee. But as Reuters recently reported, Sanders

”...complained about the secret negotiations and vowed to stop efforts to cut the Social Security pension program and Medicare and Medicaid healthcare benefits...

"'I'm not a great fan of background negotiations,' Sanders told Reuters Insider Television. 'I will do my best to make sure that we don't cut these very important programs, which are life and death to millions of Americans.'"

Given the long-held intention of Republicans to cut Social Security any way they can manage, Sanders' pessimism is understandable, but Sanders' commitment is genuine and deep. In addition, Senator Warren's speech helps keep the issue in front of the public and Congress.

One of the smartest, most reliable progressive thinkers around, Richard RJ Eskow, a senior fellow at Campaign for America's Future, made note that the importance of Warren's speech is that she addresses something hardly anyone in Washington does anymore - values.

Eskow is worth quoting in that regard at some length:

”Sen. Warren's speech was important for a number of reasons. One that wasn't the most important, at least for the moment, was the speculation about a Presidential run.

“The next Presidential election year ends with a '6.' Last we looked, the current year ends with a '3.'

“Before a party picks a candidate it should decide what it stands for. It should tell voters what it thinks is worth fighting for. That's been an open question for the Democratic Party for two decades now. Leaders like Elizabeth Warren are articulating beliefs and goals that Democrats should be proud to embrace.

“For too long, Democratic leaders have left the beleaguered middle-class without a champion. Leaders like Elizabeth Warren are showing them what a champion looks like - and the battles a champion chooses to fight.

“Elizabeth Warren is speaking for those generations whose prospects are being lost to lost educational opportunity, stagnant wages - and, yes, a very real retirement crisis.

“Speeches like these help point the way to a renewed set of American values. If that keeps happening, the math - electoral, as well as economic - is bound to follow.”

We – you and I - need to support and encourage senators and representatives who hold such values. This video from the AFL-CIO explains how that works:


At The Elder Storytelling Place today6, Janet Thompson: Life Lessons Learned


We Grow Eyelashes – Why Not Hair?

Some of you were nice enough to say kind things about my appearance in this photograph taken during the conference I attended at the Business Innovation Factory in Providence, Rhode Island a couple of weeks ago.

Ronni Providence 2013

If you have been reading TGB for awhile, you know that I'm losing large amounts of hair at the crown and top of my head and after a lot of (futile) research into regrowing hair (nothing works), I've adopted hats as my solution for the foreseeable future.

Last week, at my annual vision checkup, I spotted an advertisement on a shelf for Latisse, the prescription drug that grows eyelashes. You may recall that four or five years ago, actor Brooke Shields was the spokesperson for the product in television commercials. Later, actor Claire Danes took her place:

I mentioned to my eye doctor that if we can regrow eyelashes, we ought to be able to regrow hair on our heads with the same method and it seems odd to me that no one is talking about using or adapting Latisse for that purpose.

He said there are researchers hard at work on that so I checked around the internet. At least one person whose hair is thinning has tried Latisse on his head:

“'I just put three or four drops on each side of my temple once a day,' said Mr. [Richard] Paduda, 32, an insurance worker from Boca Raton, Fla. 'The hair in that area, which was real thin and wispy — all those hairs got thick again, dark,” he told The New York Times in 2011.

That is what is called an "off label" use and although not approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), nothing prevents physicians from prescribing Latisse for hair loss treatment.

Dr. Alan Bauman has been prescribing bimatoprost, the generic form of the active ingredient in Latisse, to his patients. He says it has regrown hair in 70 percent of his cases:

“'What we found is that where patients were applying Latisse, especially in areas where the hair was thinner and wispier and less pigmented, the hair grew thicker, stronger and healthier,' he said.

"Though some users of Latisse have experienced skin discoloration, Dr. Bauman said he had never seen any such reaction on the scalp of his patients."

Richard Paduda liked the results but stopped using Latisse after several months because it was too expensive – up to $150 a month and that's only in the small amounts needed for eyelash growth.

Dr. Bauman says his patients have had no side effects but the Mayo Clinic and other medical websites list these difficulties with Latisse:

• Itchy, red eyes
• Dry eyes
• Darkened eyelids
• Darkened brown pigmentation in the colored part of the eye (iris)
• Hair growth around the eyes if the medication regularly runs or drips off the eyelids

I suppose those are relatively minor problems, especially on a head, for anyone who hates his/her baldness and the last one would be a definite plus (but it makes me giggle to think about hair surrounding a person's eyes. Werewolf, anyone?

Dr. Bauman's stated results notwithstanding, according to The Times, neither Latisse nor bimatoprost, is the answer to baldness. The treatment

”...can strengthen and darken hair that grows from a dying follicle, but none can bring a dead one back to life. The result is an enhanced, refortified hairline rather than a brand new head of hair.”

Well, damn. Until I can get over my aversion to walking around with my bald head hanging out in public, I'm stuck with hats.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Roberta Teller: Age Never Mattered to Me Until Now


The Beauty of Aging

In the United States, beauty and aging are believed not to be related. But that is only because our idea of beauty is so crabbed and stunted – applied only to physical beauty and then to only one kind: youthful.

(There is nothing wrong with gorgeous young people but we do need to expand our definition of human beauty.)

Unless you live as a hermit far from a hookup to television and internet, not a day passes without seeing several advertisements touting anti-wrinkle creams and potions and other “anti-aging” remedies.

Does anyone get away with talking about “anti-black” or “anti-gay” or “anti-Christian” remedies? Except for a few fringe-dwellers, of course not. So why are we allowed to talk about aging as a condition of life to be remedied?

Let's save that for another day because I recently ran across a short film titled The Beauty of Aging that simply ignores America's limited vision and shows how easy to find a much broader idea of beauty.

Social worker and film maker, Laurie Shur, began this project a few years ago intending, from what I can find online, a feature-length documentary about women age 80 and older who may have some health issues but are doing fine, fully engaged in living.

The full-length film seems not to have happened but there is a 35-minute version titled Greedy For Life about two of the women Shur interviewed for the longer project that appears to be available only through purchase of the DVD.

It is too bad the entire documentary has not been finished because this nine-minute trailer with six of the women left me wanting to hear more from them all. See if you agree.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: What We Think and What We Do


Doris Lessing Dies at Age 94

When a news alert box popped onto my computer screen that Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing had died at her home in London on Sunday, I stopped what I was doing and thought about how I have reached the age when icons of my youth – particularly the literary ones (or perhaps I just notice them more than others) - are dropping off at an increasing pace.

Lessing was a prolific writer – novels, short stories, poems, plays, biographies and more.

The names of her works you would most readily recognize are probably The Golden Notebook, The Summer Before Dark, The Fifth Child, Martha Quest and possibly the other four in her autobiographical Children of Violence series.

She wrote some terrific cat books too.

I've been reading Lessing, or trying to, since high school in the 1950s. I say “trying” because she can be an exasperating writer, dense and even impenetrable at times. There are a number of half-read Lessing books on my shelves.

Nevertheless, I have always kept a file of Doris Lessing quotations – some from her books (including those I didn't finish), others from interviews I ran across. What I didn't do, particularly in the early years, it cite the sources. Sorry.

Memory is, of course, untrustworthy but it could be that it was Lessing who helped me shed any remaining sense of inferiority I had about not having attended college:

"I didn't go to school much, so I taught myself what I knew from reading.”
"Any human anywhere will blossom in a hundred unexpected talents and capacities simply by being given the opportunity to do so.”
“I am sure everyone has had the experience of reading a book and finding it vibrating with aliveness, with colour and immediacy. And then, perhaps some weeks later, reading it again and finding it flat and empty. Well, the book hasn't changed: you have.”
"That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you've understood all your life, but in a new way.”

On Growing Old:

"All one's life as a young woman one is on show, a focus of attention, people notice you. You set yourself up to be noticed and admired.

"And then, not expecting it, you become middle-aged and anonymous. No one notices you. You achieve a wonderful freedom. It's a positive thing. You can move about unnoticed and invisible.”
"For the last third of life there remains only work. It alone is always stimulating, rejuvenating, exciting and satisfying.” (I read somewhere that this is misattributed to Lessing but I like it anyway)

We should not ignore her most well-known take on old age. Although it is well-stated, I happen not to agree:

"The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven't changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don't change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.”

And there must be one cat quotation. This one is a beauty:

“What a luxury a cat is, the moments of shocking and startling pleasure in a day, the feel of the beast, the soft sleekness under your palm, the warmth when you wake on a cold night, the grace and charm even in a quite ordinary workaday puss.

“Cat walks across your room, and in that lonely stalk you see leopard or even panther, or it turns its head to acknowledge you and the yellow blaze of those eyes tells you what an exotic visitor you have here, in this household friend, the cat who purrs as you stroke, or rub his chin, or scratch his head.”

It was nice, writing this post, to pretend that another touchstone from my life is still with us.

The AP obituary is good. And you might find Doris Lessing's 1988 interview in the Paris Review worth your time.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Thomas Moore: To Mother


ELDER MUSIC: 1939

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.


WHAT HAPPENED IN 1939?

  • Judy Collins was born
  • Word War II began
  • The Vienna Boys' Choir was stranded in Australia for the duration
  • Victoria experienced the worst bushfire in its history (until a worse one in 2009)
  • Patrick White published his first novel, Happy Valley
  • The Wizard of Oz premiered in New York
  • Australia won the Davis Cup
  • Melbourne were premiers

ART TATUM was one of the greatest jazz pianists and was a huge influence on later pianists.

Art Tatum

On Tea for Two, a tune written by Vincent Youmans (with words by Irving Caesar, but they're not in evidence in this version), he took stride piano playing to such heights that nobody could improve on it, so I guess they had to try something else, and BeBop was born.

♫ Art Tatum - Tea For Two

A signature tune (these years are full of them). This time it's GENE AUTRY.

Gene Autry

Gene wrote this himself with some help from Ray Whitley. I don't know if Gene was the first of the singing cowboys but he certainly the most famous (at least until Roy Rogers came along).

He invested wisely over the years and made a fortune such that he regularly made Forbes' 400 list. This is Back in the Saddle Again.

♫ Gene Autry - Back In The Saddle Again

Thank goodness for FATS WALLER to bring a little levity to the year.

Fats Waller

The song is Your Feet's Too Big which was written by Fred Fisher and Ada Benson. Naturally, Fats couldn't just sing the words as written but adlibbed his way through the song.

♫ Fats Waller - Your Feet's Too Big

As I mentioned in the introduction, this was the year of the Wiz, so you know who's coming up next. Yes, Frank Morgan. Just kidding. Here's JUDY GARLAND.

Judy Garland

The song needs no introduction but I'm going to give you one anyway: Over the Rainbow.

♫ Judy Garland - Over The Rainbow

WOODY HERMAN was a fine clarinet player as well being good on several types of saxophones.

Woody Herman

However, his most lasting legacy would be that he encouraged young talented musicians, more than any other band leader from the period. He also changed his repertoire to keep up with the times. Here he is with At the Woodchopper's Ball.

♫ Woody Herman - At The Woodchopper's Ball

THE INK SPOTS recording of If I Didn't Care is one of the biggest selling records of all time. So far it's clocked up more than 19 million copies.

The Ink Spots

Before all that happened, Jack Lawrence, who wrote the song, sent a copy to a bunch of his friends and asked them what they thought about it. The result was overwhelmingly that it was a lousy song and wouldn't sell a bean. He got the Ink Spots to record it anyway.

♫ The Ink Spots - If I Didn't Care

We had a few signature tunes back in 1938, not forgetting the one above, now here's one for GLENN MILLER.

Glenn Miller

It is, of course, Moonlight Serenade, that Glenn wrote himself. It's not music to my taste but folks at the time loved it. I imagine a lot still do.

♫ Glenn Miller - Moonlight Serenade

Easily the most serious and thought-provoking song in this whole series is this one by BILLIE HOLIDAY.

Billie Holiday

Certainly the most important. It is Strange Fruit, written as a poem by Abel Meeropol and put to music by him and his wife, Laura Duncan.

♫ Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit

Begin the Beguine is a Cole Porter song recorded by many people. The version I know about is by CHICK HENDERSON.

Chick Henderson

The reason I'm familiar with this one is that my mum hated it. That's because she said it always seemed to be playing while she was waiting around for my sister to pop out (that was before my time). They seemed to play it every five minutes, she said.

I won't go into any further details, I'll just play it. Chick is backed by the Joe Loss band.

♫ Chick Henderson - Begin the Beguine

CRIPPLE CLARENCE LOFTON was a boogie woogie pianist and singer of considerable acclaim.

Cripple Clarence Lofton

He didn't just play and sing, he'd snap his fingers, whistle, bang the wood of the piano to accompany himself. He occasionally had Big Bill Broonzy accompany him on guitar.

He had a limp from birth which is how he acquired his nickname. In spite of that, he started his career as a tap dancer. This is I Don't Know.

♫ Cripple Clarence Lofton - I Don't Know

1940 will appear in two weeks' time.


INTERESTING STUFF – 16 November 2013


CHEAP FLIGHTS

As you know, I didn't have the most pleasant flights to and from Rhode Island in early November so when TGB reader [oops - I've misplaced her name, so sorry] sent this video from the Fascinating Aida comedy group, I got a great laugh. Be sure to watch clear to the end.


12-YEAR-OLD SMACKS DOWN A SEVEN-TERM SENATOR

Watch young Madison Kimrey set the adults straight on what democracy and voting rights are all about. I'm pretty sure she and Malala Yousafzai, with a little coaching from Senator Elizabeth Warren could save the world.

You can read more about Madison Kimrey at the YouTube page.


THE WEEKLY CAT FIX

British TGB reader Hilary Blackstock introduced me to a blog from London called Spitalfields Life and a post there with a eulogy to a favorite feline friend, For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry.

The blogger, who styles himself “gentle author,” writes:

”Whenever I walk along Old St, I always think of the brilliant eighteenth century poet Christopher Smart who once resided here in St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics, with only his cat Jeoffry for solace.”

Jeoffry-SL1-lores1_370

If you are a cat fancier, you will be as delighted with Smart's poem as I am. A small taste:

“...For this he performs in ten degrees.
For First he looks upon his fore-paws to see if they are clean.
For Secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For Thirdly he works it upon stretch with the fore-paws extended.
For Fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For Fifthly he washes himself.
For Sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For Seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For Eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For Ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For Tenthly he goes in quest of food.”

Go to Spitalsfields Life to read the entire eulogy to Jeoffry the cat, find out why the author was stuck in a looney bin of the era and see the rest of the charming poster drawing of the poem.


HOW TO GET TO MARS

In January 2004, NASA successfully landed the robot Spirit on the surface of Mars. Like the more recent 2011 Mars landing, it was a nail biter for the engineers who waited seven months to see if their work would succeed or crash and burn.

Darlene Costner sent this video – a clip from the from the IMAX movie Roving Mars released in 2006. I dare you not to tear up at six-minutes plus when the engineers know for sure the rover arrived safely.

Read more information on the YouTube page.


80-YEAR-OLD WILLIE NELSON ON OLD AGE

As far as I can tell, nobody doesn't like Willie Nelson and to me, he is ageless so I'm surprised to find out he celebrated his 80th birthday this year.

My friend Bill Pederson sent this ditty he received via email. It's titled, I Have Outlived My Pecker – A Poem by Willie Nelson. If you're offended by any of it, go read another blog.

My nookie days are over,
My pilot light is out.
What used to be my pride and joy,
Is now my water spout.
Time was when, on its own accord,
From my trousers it would spring.
But now I've got a full time job,
To find the friggin' thing.
It used to be embarrassing,
The way it would behave.
For every single morning,
It would stand and watch me shave.
Now as old age approaches,
It sure gives me the blues.
To see it hang its little head,
And watch me tie my shoes!


ANOTHER FANTASTIC DOMINO CHAIN

This one, from Peter Tibbles, is more intricate than most I've seen. And, apparently, there are professional or, anyway, semi-professional “domino magicians." From the Open Culture website:

” It took 3 months and 25,000 dominoes to make the video you’re watching...Actually you’re really watching two videos in one.

The fIrst part was made by Hevesh5 in the US. Then, at the 1:35 mark, it switches to millionendollarboy’s segment created in Germany. It’s amazing to watch the domino structures come down.”

You can read more at OpenCulture.


GERIATRIC TRAFFIC JAM

From the pranksters at Just for Laughs comes this candid camera style caper shot in Canada. Another video discovered by Darlene Costner.


WHAT IF YOU HAD TO LIE ABOUT WHO YOU LOVE

The video speaks for itself.

Read more at the YouTube page.


DOUBLE MASTECTOMY OPERATING ROOM DANCE

On 5 November, Deborah Cohan was scheduled for a double mastectomy. What happened in the OR just before they got started is brave and joyful and wonderful. (Thank you to reader Alan Goldsmith)

The song is Beyonce's hit, Get Me Bodied. You can read more at Huffington Post.


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.


Conspiring to Pretend We Are Not Old

EDITORIAL NOTE: Following the Business Innovation Factory conference I attended last week in Providence, Rhode Island, the organizers asked me to write a guest post about my experience with them.

You can read it, titled Participatory Design Studio on Aging, at their blog along with some nifty photographs of moi.


Meanwhile, here at TimeGoesBy:

”Everyone wants to live a long life but nobody wants to be old.”

It can be argued whether that was first said by Jonathan Swift, Johann von Goethe, Bernard Baruch or several others but its point has not changed in more than a 200 years: that we twist ourselves in knots trying to find ways to deny that we are old.

Instead, we reach for euphemisms. Golden ager, senior, third ager, older, boomer, mature, x years young are some of the conventional substitutes for “old.”

Since none of those words and phrases fool anyone, it makes no sense to use them; we all know what they stand for and worse, when they are spoken or written, the widely-held belief that it is shameful to be old is further reinforced.

In that way, every time someone uses a euphemism about my age, I am demeaned. They are saying that because my age makes me deficient, courtesy requires that the two of us – the person using the euphemism and me on the receiving end – must conspire to pretend I am not old. And further, I am supposed to be grateful that we do so.

The late, great George Carlin has an outstanding riff on the abomination of euphemisms for “old.”


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Funeral Goody Bags


The Cantaloupe Story

RONNI HERE: I met Jonathan Wang back in June when he contacted me about an ebook on fitness for elders and arranged a giveaway of the book for TGB readers.

Jon is a smart, young entrepreneur - managing partner of The ScaleUp Group with clients who specialize in building technology for elders. While working on the ebook, we found that we have interests and ideas in common, and we have kept in touch.

In August, I published his story about his grandfather and The Chinese Pizza. Now he has sent this one that is again about food and differing cultures but also about the tiny events everywhere in the world that can change the future in large ways.


By Jonathan Wang

Truthfully, my sister and I don't know a lot about how our parents came to be - well, our parents. Most of what we end up hearing are just lopsided, biased accounts from my mother, with my father on defense the entire time.

This is certainly one of the more entertaining stories and it was told to us while we ate dinner in Berkeley before we attended the football game.

Somewhere in Taiwan, where my mother and father had just met in their twenties, (my mother married my father in 1978), my dad thought it would be a great idea to take my mom to see some theatrical re-release of Gone With the Wind. According to the historical records, this was their second date.

Logistically my mother agreed to meet my father in front of the theater and then go in together 10-15 minutes before showtime. My dad ended up 10 minutes late, though, and when he arrived with his large smile he was also carrying a heavy knapsack. The contents would soon be revealed shortly after.

Halfway through the showing, my father got to work. He reached down and began rummaging through this knapsack that he brought with him, all while making a gigantic ruckus. According to my mother this goes on for at least three minutes and she was thankful he didn't bring a flashlight.

My father then pulls out a cantaloupe from the bag, fresh and uncut, the size of a small five- or six-pound bowling ball. He then brandishes a knife and not just any knife, but a large serrated knife used to flay meats and cut through bone.

I don't know how my dad would think this is okay. In public. In the dark. And with a young woman he barely knows.

He also didn't bring a cutting board but he did bring a plastic bag for rinds and seeds. He was about to position the melon between his thighs for a nice cut down the middle when my mother just looked at him and glared.

At this point, my Dad jumped in to defend himself and explained his romantic strategy.

Apparently, cantaloupes were very rare at that time in Taiwan and he really wanted to impress my mother by obtaining this fruit. He had also waited in a long line at the market before the showing to pick it up.

His plan was to cut the melon down the middle, spoon out the seeds and hand one half to my mother to enjoy while he ate the other half. I thought it was a most excellent gesture in theory, but just unfortunately very poorly executed.

My mother agreed and said that, to give my father credit, had he ignored my mom's now patented eye of disapproval and proceeded to cut the cantaloupe then and there in the theater, there would not have been a third date and therefore WE WOULDN'T BE A FAMILY.

How's that for a butterfly effect?

John Wang's Parents 1980


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The Day My Parents Disappeared


What's Your Secret to Long Life?

Let's have some silly fun with our old age today.

I ran across yet another instance of a centenarian answering that moldy old reporter's question: What's the secret to your longevity?

Over my lifetime, the most frequent response has been that he had smoked two packs of cigarettes and drunk a quart of whisky every day of his life or some equally “yeah, sure” kind of answer.

For a long time I've suspected these folks just make up the most outlandish stuff they can think of that might shock the young whippersnapper who has the temerity to ask such a dumb question. That may be what happened with this latest guy.

Ben Burlingham, having been born in London in 1909, was celebrating his 104th birthday on Monday with family and cake:

”...the former bus driver," writes reporter Anthony Carroll, "...says his secret [to long life] is eating raw onions and also having a glass of sherry before bed.”

Either item, raw onions or sherry, are not individually interesting but together they are original and side-by-side it's kinda funny although I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Burlingham wasn't pulling the reporter's leg.

That's probably the direction I'd go – maybe talking about all the weed I smoked along with eating a quart of Haagen Dazs a day.

But that's only an exaggeration of my reality – or what I wish could be my reality if I weren't being so health-conscious in recent years. Given the world they live in today, it's hard to come up with anything that would actually shock young people.

Can you do better? Just for fun, pretend that today is your 100th birthday and the cub reporter at your local rag has stopped by for some advice on how to live as long as you have. What would you say?


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: What is Retirement to Me?


The Gatekeepers Program

In a related but entirely separate event from my trip to the Business Innovation Factory last week, back home on Thursday I attended a training session for the local Gatekeepers Program.

”Gatekeepers are people who come in to contact with at-risk older adults and persons with disabilities through their everyday work or day-to-day activities.

“People like meter readers, bank tellers, letter carriers, pharmacists, newspaper deliverers, neighbors, friends, or family members - the list is virtually endless,” explains the Gatekeeper website of Clackamas County where I live.

“Gatekeepers keep a watchful eye and attentive ear and call the...Helpline number...to make a confidential referral if they have identified any warning signs that indicate a vulnerable adult may be in need of assistance.”

My training session was conducted by Margaret McNamara, program planner for the Gatekeepers Program in the Clackamas County Health, Housing & Human Services department.

As Margaret explained, when a Gatekeeper becomes concerned about someone, he or she calls the program's local phone number to report those concerns along with name, telephone number or address to help identify the person. Echoing Margaret, the website of a Gatekeeper Program in Connecticut explains further:

”The Gatekeeper’s name is kept confidential and their role ends with the call. Next, a trained professional senior advocate will establish contact with the referred senior to ask if they would like some helpful information or a visit that may result in a referral to the appropriate community service.

“Should the older adult refuse help the Gatekeeper will ask permission to call again in a month to check on their situation. This service is voluntary and forcing assistance is not the goal except in extreme cases where the advocate feels a referral to protective services is warranted.”

In more than 30 years since the first Gatekeeper Program was created in Spokane, Washington, the service has proliferated throughout the U.S. (and, possibly, in Canada) - sometimes called Gatekeeper or such similar names as Senior Reach as referenced in this abstract of a 2009 study done comparing its success with Spokane's program:

”The two programs were compared for seniors served on service variables and outcome ratings for isolation, depression, and functioning. Approximately 41% of seniors served by both programs were referred by nontraditional sources: community gatekeepers.

“Findings indicate that individuals served by the Senior Reach program demonstrated significant improvement in reduction of isolators (such as social isolation), improved functioning, increased optimism about the future, increased positive activities with others, decreased emotional disturbance, and improvements on the Geriatric Depression Scale.”

At my training session, I asked Margaret about reports from busybodies. Undoubtedly you too have known a few of those know-it-alls who are certain everyone else is doing things wrong. I wondered how Gatekeeper programs make distinctions between reports from gossipy troublemakers and those of honest concern.

Margaret convinced me that the trained social workers who take Gatekeeper calls know how to ferret out the nosy parkers.

Gatekeepers programs save lives and you don't need to be a grocery checkout clerk, a policeman or firefighter. All of us can be Gatekeepers and more that ever before, after my Business Innovation Factory day in Providence, I am convinced that it is elders ourselves who can do the best job of looking out for and helping one another.

If you are interested in Gatekeepers training – it's only about 90 minutes – search “gatekeepers program” in your favorite search engine to find out of there is one in your community. Then you can phone to find out about the next training session.

Gatekeepers is a useful, important and successful program, and retired people in particular, I believe, are in a good position to help other elders who may be at risk because unlike working-age people, we are more frequently out and about in our communities every day.

Here's a video I found from the Gatekeepers Program at St. Luke's Eldercare Services in Middletown, Connecticut. It was made about three years ago by Tom Hickman Films and although it is about twice as long as it needs to be, it will answer just about all the questions you might have.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: Letters From Vietnam


How Do You Want to Live?

In last Monday's post, I told you that I was in Providence, Rhode Island for a conference on “Connected Aging” at the Business Innovation Factory (BIF) and that the overall issue to be addressed was the need for our culture

”to look at aging differently, that by framing aging through the lens of care and increasing weakness, we’re missing whole opportunities to facilitate healthy aging – ones that support optimal personal choice in how we age...”

Among many interesting comments, Frank Paynter of Listics Review responded:

”That bit about seeing 'aging through the lens of care and increasing weakness' really spoke to me. How do we realistically re-frame that perspective while taking into account the limitations that have been piling up over the last few decades? I'm looking forward to your report!”

It will take more than one report to fill you in on what was for me an exciting day of new perspectives about aging.

To begin, I often write here about how, in retirement, we lose the daily camaraderie of the workplace, that can contribute to isolation and loneliness if we don't find other ways to connect with people.

Last Monday, I discovered that - at least for me (and probably many of you) - it's not just the general day-to-day, give-and-take of office banter. More importantly, I desperately miss the ongoing exchange of ideas that can't be avoided with a bunch of really smart, interested and interesting people. I got to do that again on Monday and it was thrilling to be in that milieu again.

Along with five talented and knowledgeable BIF facilitators, we were 12 invited participants from around the U.S. Without meaning to slight any others, here are a few:

• a woman who runs a dance class for aging Parkinson's patients

• a woman who for the past four years has been sharing a real-life Golden Girls home

• a man living in a condo that is a naturally occurring retirement community who for 12 years there has made it his daily job to show his neighbors how to enjoy their lives – with amazing results

• a man who teaches poetry writing at an assisted living center who says it is his work to “connect the dots in life”

• a woman who runs a rural non-profit where volunteers, mostly old women, make urgently needed home repairs such as roofing for those who can't afford them

• a corporate manager who is creating new visual experience and design solutions to aid elders and others navigate large retail stores

Most of these people are elders themselves – or they can hear it knocking on their door – and in the coming weeks and months, I'll do my best to get some of them to sit still for an interview for TGB so we all can benefit from their ideas and perspectives. You will find every one of them an inspiration.

There are so many new thoughts running about in my head that I will need to parcel them out one post at time.

One big takeaway from the meeting is that old and old-ish people all over America are individually “reframing the care and weakness lens” of aging by applying their knowledge and experience to enhance the lives of other people, often elders who may not be equipped, either physically or constitutionally, to do it for themselves.

Or, they are experimenting with new ways of being old – the Parkinson's dance class; community living arrangements; other projects that refuse to operate under the decline and disease definition of old age by focusing on people's assets rather than their debits.

These dynamic people I met are putting their personal talents, past training and experience to work on a small, sometimes individual, one-on-one scale to improve the experience of aging for others and, thereby, for themselves. The BIF people want to harness their innovation to apply on a larger scale.

Sometime during the afternoon session, there emerged a question that embodied the day's goal of finding new ways for us to continue to contribute, to grow, to stay connected and maintain purpose as we age.

When I heard it I said, ”YES” in as big a way as that looks in print because in six simple words, the question makes clear everything I've been trying to say about old age for the past decade.

Here it is: How do you want to live?

It can be applied broadly to the public policy sphere as would include Frank Paynter's (and my own) concern with accounting for the inevitable exigencies of age without defining old age by them and it is equally relevant to personal, individual lives.

Either and both ways, it is a crucial question. Nothing can change in regard to aging without find good answers to it.

Therefore, if you are so inclined today, I would like you to take a whack at that question and consider what it means to you personally, to your community or to our overall culture - or all three.

Does thinking about it change what you personally want in your elderhood? Does it give you some ideas about how we might work to change the culture of aging? What new ways could we find for elders to continue to use their experience and knowledge to contribute?

Give it a try. There are no dumb answers.


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