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Elders and Technology

PERSONAL NOTE: In December, freelancereporter Debbie Reslock interviewed me about my pancreatic cancer experience for the Next Avenue website. Her story was published this week and you can read it here.

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Do you use Facebook? How about Twitter? Or Snapchat, Instagram, Reddit? Have you got a smartphone? A tablet? A home assistant like Alexa maybe?

For many years, polls showed that elders' use of technology trailed way behind that of youth and younger adults. That's changed now. We're catching up.

According to the recent Technology Use and Attitudes among Mid-Life and Older Americans report from AARP, more than 90 percent of Americans age 50 and older own a desktop or laptop, 70 percent own a smartphone and more than 40 percent own a tablet.

Here's a chart showing device usage by the 50-and-older cohort. (Larger version here [pdf] – scroll down to page 7)

DesktopVSmartphone680

As the report explains:

”Traditional activities dominate computer use for adults over 50, but a sizeable minority are using their device to manage medical care or learn online.

“Among those who own such devices, top activities include surfing the internet, making purchases, getting news, and banking.

“Adults 70+ do fewer activities on their computers than those under 70, with a couple exceptions such as gaming (over half play games on their computer) and email.”

According to another factoid, apparently I am not keeping up by abstaining from texting:

”Nine in ten (91%) of those with devices say they use technology to stay in touch with friends and family.

“Among those under 70, text messaging has overtaken email as the tool most used to stay connected, though most use three channels (email, texts, and social media).”

In addition, 72 percent of the 50-plus crowd use some form(s) of social media - 75 percent of those age 50-69; 65 percent of people 70 and older.

Most frequent online activities start with email (68%), browing the internet (63%), getting weather (63%) and checking social media (58%). It looks like not many of us are dating which comes in dead last on the activities list at one percent.

Me? Well, I'm not dating online (or anywhere else) but if you don't count texting, most of my life is online. I read a large number of news, information and opinion sites, fool around on YouTube and other video websites, email, weather, banking, bill paying, Skype, track all my medical information (including making appointments, asking questions, etc.), shopping, research for this blog and for personal curiosity, not to mention writing and coding the blog, track down podcasts and music – and I'm certain I've left out more.

One other thing: unlike the 58 percent of 50-plus Americans who spend time with social media, I use Facebook and Twitter ONLY as automatic distribution channels for TimeGoesBy - which accounts for my lack of response to readers who leave comments and questions on Facebook.

My goal is to spend less time online, not more, but that's not going well.

It is gratifying to see the growth of internet use by old people. So much of our lives is moving online that a growing amount of important and/or useful information is not even available anywhere else. Note the growing number of times you see in print such directives as “For more information, visit our website at ...” whether we like it that way or not.

It is the oldest old who either do not use the internet at all or use much less of it than younger people but that will change as they (we?) die off.

So, your job to day is to tell us how you use the internet, what you like, what you don't like, what you wish you could change and your thoughts in general on how the internet has become such a large part of daily life.

Here are links to the Technology Use and Attitudes among Mid-Life and Older Americans report from AARP:

Overview
Infographic
Full report (lots of charts)



An Extraordinary Personal Health Essay

When, last year, the shock of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer had subsided to a small degree, I set about deciding whether to write about it in these pages.

A whole bunch of thoughts filled my head: This is blog about ageing, not illness. This blog is not a personal diary, it is an exploration of growing old in general. Writing about my experience with cancer in real time is overly self-indulgent.

On the other hand, since I am unlikely to be able to concentrate on much else for awhile, I may as well let readers in on what's happening so they will understand if I post on a reduced schedule.

And Sunday's TGB music columnist Peter Tibbles, when I consulted him, said that “it's best to tell readers what's going on. They're a smart bunch.”

All this came flooding back when I read New York Times Op-Ed columnist Frank Bruni's remarkable column yesterday. If I retained any doubts about my decision to be as open and honest as possible about the cancer, Bruni crushed them yesterday with his riveting account of life with a condition known as nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (N.A.I.O.N.).

It could, in time, leave him blind in both eyes. The manifestation for Bruni happened about four months ago in his right eye,

“...a thick, dappled fog across the right half of my field of vision, which was sometimes tilted and off-kilter. I felt drunk without being drunk, dizzy but not exactly dizzy.”

Bruni, who is 53, was told this usually occurs after age 50.

”It typically strikes during sleep, when blood pressure drops, and is sometimes associated with sleep apnea, diabetes, hypertension or the use of pills for erectile dysfunction — none of which applied to me. I was a mystery.”

The doctor said that in time the brain would adjust letting Bruni's left eye help give him useful vision. He might even get some clearer vision back in his right eye.

“But there was a much better possibility that I wouldn’t. There was nothing I could do — no diet, no exercise, zilch — to influence the outcome. Worse, the 'stroke' revealed anatomical vulnerabilities that meant that my left eye was potentially in jeopardy, too, and there was no proven script for protecting it.”

Bruni gives us a lot more detail about N.A.I.O.N. and his treatment but what grabbed me are his continuing thoughts and fears about the possibility of permanent blindness.

”What if I’d had another 'stroke'? It was the same every morning: a stab of suspense, then a gale-force sigh of relief. I could still see.

“And I can still see. The oddity of my situation — the emotional riddle — is the distance between the manageability of my current circumstances and what tomorrow could bring.”

Further:

”I’ve learned that the best response to weakness is strength: Prove to yourself what you can still accomplish. I had a column due three days after I woke up to my newly blurred vision. I wrote it on time — and kept to my usual pace from then on.”

Bruni met a 75-year-old judge, David Tatel, who has been blind since his late 30s:

”He adapted to his disability; his workplace adapted to him,” writes Bruni. “Various digital advances — in particular, text-to-speech technology — helped hugely. 'I’m really looking forward to self-driving cars,' [Tatel] laughed...”

Bruni also met Peter Wallsten, 45, the senior politics editor at the Washington Post who lost his vision in his thirties:

”He works on an enormous screen that shows letters in a gigantic font,” explains Bruni, “and he listens to writers’ stories and does some of his editing by dictation.

“'This is the important thing to remember: It’s not your brain that’s affected,' he told me. 'It’s your eyesight. He added, 'There are things much harder than this.'”

No kidding. There are things much harder than a pancreatic cancer diagnosis too. Bruni also quotes Joe Lovett, 72, a filmmaker who documented his slowly developing glaucoma in the film, Going Blind. Lovett counseled,

“'...you cannot spend your life preparing for future losses.' It disrespects the blessings of the here and now. Besides, everyone lives in a state of uncertainty.”

I recognized some of Bruni's and the other people's thoughts and conclusions; I had arrived at similar ideas for myself over the months since last June.

But what I most appreciated were the feelings he describes that I hadn't been able to find words for yet. And I get now why my personal celebration a couple of weeks ago at being told I am cancer-free has been more subdued that I would have expected.

Now too, I understand why so many of you, dear readers, have responded so positively to my chronicle of cancer treatment.

Frank Bruni's full essay is a stunningly good and important read that you will find here at The Times. If you do not have access, let me know (use the “Contact” link at the top of this page) and we'll work something out.



ELDER MUSIC: The Everly Brothers

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

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Everly Brothers

THE EVERLY BROTHERS were unusual in the first blossoming of rock & roll. There were two of them for a start and they brought a country music sensibility to their music. Okay, Elvis and Buddy Holly did the same but it was more up-front with the Everlys.

They had Chet Atkins as producer on many of their records as well as playing lead guitar. With Don, the older brother, they had one of the best rhythm guitarists around as well as a great lead singer. With Phil they had the finest harmony singer in rock & roll.

Their influence was huge – The Beatles, The Hollies, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds and the Beach Boys (and many lesser musicians) have all acknowledged the debt they owe to the brothers.

There was the famous rift when, the story goes, they didn't speak to each other for ten years. Although he denies it, it's pretty certain that guitar whiz Albert Lee was instrumental in getting them back performing again.

Albert was their guitarist and musical director for the rest of their career (about a quarter of a century).

Everly Brothers

From the beginning both Don and Phil wrote songs but early on they also had Felice and Boudleaux Bryant writing them as well. Most of their early hits were written by them, including Take A Message To Mary.

♫ Take A Message To Mary


Everly Brothers

Skipping forward a little, the brothers changed record companies so they'd have greater control over their music.

Unfortunately, because of silly contractual arrangements they weren't allowed to record new Felice and Boudleaux songs. It means they wrote more themselves, including Cathy's Clown, one of Don's, and it was their biggest selling single.

♫ Cathy's Clown


Everly Brothers

One of my favorites from back then, although seldom mentioned whenever their top songs are discussed, is That's Old Fashioned. I think it was more to do with what I was doing at the time (final year of high school).

♫ That's Old Fashioned (That's the Way Love Should Be)


I originally had the song Why Worry penciled in at this spot. It was from their wonderful album "Born Yesterday", from the eighties, on which they performed as well as they did in their heyday.

I have since discovered this Youtube clip featuring Mark Knopfler, who wrote the song and originally performed it with Dire Straits, and Chet Atkins playing guitar. Mark has said that he wrote the song with the Everlys in Mind.

Everly Brothers

I'm a sucker for totally out there songs that make Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, look at me sideways and say, "Oh really?" I mention this as when I was a whippersnapper I bought a 45 of the Everlys' record Ebony Eyes. After a few plays I turned it over and discovered Walk Right Back on the flip side (well, it was really the A side).

♫ Walk Right Back


Everly Brothers

In 1972, not too long before their decade long split, they released a rather fine album called "Stories We Could Tell". This included songs by contemporary (at the time) songwriters like Kris Kristofferson, Rod Stewart, Jesse Winchester as well as some of their own.

From the album, here is the title track Stories We Could Tell, written by John Sebastian.

♫ Stories We Could Tell


Everly Brothers

On a whim, Carole King (who usually wrote songs with Gerry Goffin) and Howard Greenfield (usually with Jack Keller) decided to switch partners for a day (we're talking about writing partners, don't read anything into that).

The song they came up with is Crying in the Rain, which became yet another hit.

♫ Crying in the Rain


Everly Brothers

Wake Up Little Susie was a very early song, and the Everlys' first number one. It's another Felice and Boudleaux composition. For some reason, it was banned in some of the more "respectable" places in the world. Not here in Melbourne, fortunately.

♫ Wake Up Little Susie


Everly Brothers

Don wrote So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad) that they took to the pointy end of the charts in 1960. This has been recorded by many performers over the years, most notably, from my point of view, Emmylou Harris.

♫ So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)


Everly Brothers

Arms of Mary was written by Iain Sutherland who performed the song with his group The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver (who were really two groups shoehorned together).

The Everlys recorded it on one of the come-back albums ("Born Yesterday") and did an even better version than the original, itself pretty good.

♫ Arms Of Mary

Phil died in 2014, but as of this writing, Don is still with us.



INTERESTING STUFF – 24 February 2018

WHAT IT'S LIKE TO RIDE A FOUR-PERSON BOBSLED

This video, shot with a GoPro camera, gives us a glimpse of the excitement involved with bobsledding. This is a four-person bobsled but the camera is at the front so we don't see the driver of other three men.

FEMALE VERSIONS OF MALE U.S. PRESIDENTS

A Reddit user who calls him/herself ygdrssl created these makeovers of American presidents with an app called FaceApp using only an iPhone.

There is no reason for this. There is no statement to be made. But it's fun to look at – every president since 1900. Thank Jim Stone for sending this. Here are some samples.

FemalePresidents

There are more at the Bored Panda website and this is the Reddit page.

JOHN OLIVER ON WHAT TRUMP HAS DONE TO AMERICA

Hurray! John Oliver is back hosting a new season of his HBO program, Last Week Tonight. Among the questions he tackles is this: Is anything about Trump funny anymore?

Be sure to stick around for the end where Oliver manages to work dinosaurs and the New York Gay Men's Chorus into the finale.

SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT WINTER

It's been extra cold for the past week where I live in Oregon. Even a bit of snow. But the crocuses are already up and the daphne is blooming so spring can't be too far behind.

But before we leave this season behind, here are some surprising facts about winter:

More than 22 million tons of salt are used on U.S. Roads Each Winter. That comes to about 137 pounds of salt per person.

The Snowiest City on Earth is in Japan. Aomori City in northern Japan receives more snowfall than any major city on the planet. Each year citizens are pummeled with 312 inches, or about 26 feet, of snow on average.

Snowflakes aren't always unique. Snow crystals usually form unique patterns, but there’s at least one instance of identical snowflakes in the record books. In 1988, two snowflakes collected from a Wisconsin storm were confirmed to be twins at an atmospheric research center in Colorado.

There are 12 more facts about winter at Mental Floss.

A SHORT HISTORY OF SPORTS

According to this video, the first recorded sport in history was spear throwing which started in about 70,000 BC. Bowling was the first known ball game – in Egypt in 3200 B.C.

There is plenty more to know about the history of sports in this video.

5 PLACES REPUBLICANS BAN GUNS FOR THEIR OWN SAFETY

It is doubtful you have missed the news of the terrible shooting in Florida last week and the continuing inspiration of the high school's survivors to confront our lawmakers about better gun control.

During all the discussion, town halls, funerals, sadness and pain, this turned up - a list of five places Republican ban guns for their own personal safety:

  1. The White House
  2. The Republican National Convention
  3. Mar-a-Lago
  4. U.S. Capitol Building
  5. Republican Town Halls

It's worth your time to read the full story at Alternet.

TEMPERATURE DROPS 70 DEGREES IN 40 HOURS IN DENVER

A lot of winter items in this list today. This one is ab out the astonishing 72-degree drop in the temperaturfe in Denver in fewer than 48 hours:

There is a bit more information at CBSnews.

HEDGEHOG HIGHWAYS IN LONDON

They are cute little buggers, hedgehogs are. London has always had a large population of hedgehogs but numbers have been dropping precipitously due to habitat destruction.

To the rescue is an organization building tiny little highways to help the critters get to the parks and gardens wooded areas and other vegetation they like. Here are some photos:

HedghogHighway

Hedghog

Find out a lot more at Atlas Obscura.

YALE WHIFFENPOOFS ADMIT FIRST WOMAN EVER

Yale's Whiffenpoofs just admitted the first woman into their a capella singing group.

”The campaign for the Whiffs to accept women gained momentum only recently,” reports The New York Times. “After the Whiffenpoofs voted against admitting them in 2016, a record number of female singers auditioned anyway and an online petition circulated urging the Whiffs to reverse the decision.”

Here are the 2017 Wiffenpoofs singing their signature song.

Read more about the first woman Wiffenpoof and how it came about here.

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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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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 include the name of the blog and its URL.



Net Neutrality Dies on 23 April Plus The Alex and Ronni Show

It surprised me to find that the first interview I did via Skype with my former husband Alex Bennett was published here way back last September. (Blame that damned time-goes-faster-as-you-get-older phenomenon.)

Ever since, Alex has been nudging me to do more of such chats and from my end, there never seemed to be time until earlier this week.

Below is the full interview, about 30 minutes. For the second time, we had audio sync difficulties - it appears to be a feature, not a bug, of Skype. Oh well.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests after me, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube or Vimeo.

NET NEUTALITY SET TO BITE THE DUST
As Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai has been threatening since before he was appointed to that post, yesterday the agency filed its net neutrality revocation order in the Federal Register.

The ruling, misleadingly titled The Restoring Internet Freedom Order which can be found online here, goes into effect, if not stopped, on 23 April 2018.

A simple explanation of what that will mean to your internet life can be found here at TGB but even better is this easy, one-sentence explanation from Engadget:

”Net neutrality forced ISPs [internet service providers] to treat all content equally; without these rules in place, providers can charge more for certain types of content and can throttle access to specific websites as they see fit.”
So, for example, big rich companies could afford hefty fees to providers so their web pages arrive faster in your browser than – oh, let's say political groups that depend on donations or blogs like yours and mine that are throttled because they can't bear the increased cost.

Also, ISPs may offer new tiered systems of subscription where we, the users, could be required to choose websites and content based on the price we are willing or able to pay for a certain package level.

There are many more ways ISPs can favor one kind of content. The Verge explains another:

”One current practice that’s a sign of things to come is zero-rating, where internet providers offer free data when you use certain services. This sounds great on the surface (who wouldn’t want free data?), but it gives a huge advantage to the sites and services that the internet provider chooses to support.

“AT&T, for instance, offers free streaming of its own video services, like DirecTV Now, whereas subscribers still have to pay in order to stream Hulu. That means an AT&T customer may be more inclined to sign up for DirecTV than Hulu, which would make life harder for Hulu and other streaming video competitors.

“Over the long run, this could allow established tech and telecom giants to pick the services that win and lose, rather than having them all compete on an even playing field and letting consumers pick which they like better.”

Publication of the FCC order in the Federal Register is important because now, notes Reuters,

”...state attorneys general and advocacy groups will be able to sue in a bid to block the order from taking effect.”

Engadget again:

”...the attorney general of New York is set to sue the FCC over the repeal of net neutrality, and more states and advocacy groups will follow.

“Democrats in the Senate have the votes to restore net neutrality (but not the two-thirds majority required to override the president's veto, which would surely follow any action on their part.)”

Most of the news coverage of this filing yesterday suggested it will be difficult if not impossible for Democrats in Congress to override Republican approval of the revocation order. Reuters again:

”Even if Democrats could win a majority in the Senate, a repeal would also require winning a vote in the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a larger majority, and would still be subject to a likely veto by President Donald Trump.

“Democrats need 51 votes to win any proposal in the Republican-controlled Senate because Vice President Mike Pence can break any tie...

“The approval of Pai’s proposal by the FCC marked a victory for internet service providers like AT&T Inc, Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc and hands them power over what content consumers can access.

“Earlier this month, technology companies including Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc threw their weight behind the congressional bid to reverse the Trump administration’s plan to repeal Obama-era rules designed to protect an open internet.”

Do recall, everyone, that during the public comment period for this order, the FCC received more than a million fake comments supporting their proposed repeal of net neutrality.

Rather than investigate the false comments to get an honest count of the public's position, Chairman Pai ignored the intrusion and went forward with safeguarding the internet for corporations. (See this Salon story.)

Net neutrality is a consumer issue but it is also an important free speech issue. Because the internet has become indespensible for almost everything we do in life, it is crucial to individual wellbeing, support of the Constitution and equality.

Between now and 23 April, please contact your federal representatives and urge them to vote down the hypocritically named Restoring Internet Freedom Order.



Pet Adoption and Old People

A few days ago, TGB reader Trudy Kappel emailed about elders and pets:

I am the same age as you and my beloved and aged cat died a few weeks ago,” wrote Trudy.

“Right now it is much too soon for me to adopt another one but I wonder if it is really too late. My most recent cats lived between 18 and 20 years. I think it is unlikely that I will live that long and worry about what would happen to kitty when I'm not able to care for her.

“My friends remind me of the benefits of pet ownership (not clear who owns who) and that 'The only reason Grandpa got out of bed was to care for Fluffy.' I'm not there yet but it could happen.”

I “think” I wrote about adopting senior pets in the past but if I'm right (I didn't check) it was long enough ago that it's worth a second go.

Puppy-and-Kitten

During the months I spent recovering from my surgery for pancreatic cancer and the followup chemotherapy, I thought a lot of about Ollie the cat (he is 13 years old) and what would happen to him if I died. He's not the friendliest fellow you ever met and a scaredy-cat too about anything new so that might be a stumbling block for adoption by a friend or stranger.

At other times I have wondered about adopting another cat if Ollie dies before I do. I've always had a cat and it wouldn't feel like home without one. But during that surgery recovery, I learned a bit about what the difficulties might be having a pet as we grow older.

For two months following the surgery, I was not allowed to bend over or twist my body. That made feeding Ollie and keeping his litter box clean a difficult endeavor. Fortunately, I have a wonderful neighbor who helped out every day.

But there are a lot of less deadly afflictions that could make it difficult or prevent an old person from the daily care of a cat or walking a dog and cleaning up behind him/her.

In addition, one of the hard parts of being old is that even if you are physically capable now, anything could happen tomorrow (and does from time to time) to change that. There is no way to know.

On the other hand, there are many positives to having a pet: companionship, stress relief, entertainment, unconditional love, and the sense of wellbeing that comes from being responsible for another living being.

So in addition to one's age, there is one's health to consider in adopting a new pet along with arrangements for a new home should we die.

Like a lot of other things in life, age and health are a crap shoot – mostly we don't know beforehand how healthy we are going to remain and how long we will live. If it's important enough to us, sometimes we just have to close our eyes and take the leap. I don't have a better solution.

One solution to the third question, however, is adopting an old pet. In doing so, you are probably saving a life because most people want kittens or puppies so abandoned elder pets are often euthanized.

In addition, older pets are calmer than kittens and puppies (they probably won't climb the curtains or tear up the sofa), and their personalities are set so you know what you're getting.

Old pets may also be less expensive to adopt – they have had the vaccinations that don't need repeating and reputable adoption services will know about any medical problems.

Speaking of that, there appear to be organizations that provide financial aid to pet owners in need of such assistance. The Humane Society has a list on their website.

There are other national (U.S.) websites to help with local pet adoption. Here are two:

Pets For the Elderly is a non-profit organization that promotes adoption of older pets and can help pay veterinarian costs if they are part of the adoption fee. There is a list of participating shelters alphabetically by state here.

Petfinder is another elder pet locator. Follow that link and then click “Find a Pet” at the top of the page. On the next page, when you enter your location and choose from other criteria (dog, cat, breed, gender, etc.), you will get a list of cats or dogs or other kinds of pets that are available for adoption.

Here are a couple of short videos about adopting an older dog or cat:

Do you have any experience with adopting an older pet?



Thank You. President's Day. The Parody Project.

Thank-You

Yesterday, the annual TGB donation drive ended. I'll bet you're glad to get rid of those notices at the top of last week's posts.

As in the past, I am dismayed at your generosity and there are so many of you, I cannot thank everyone individually so I must do it this way, collectively. It will be easy now to meet the expenses of the blog without having to hold my breath. You are more than kind.

Also, it was terrific to read the personal notes some of you included with your donations and it has been a load of fun seeing so many names from many different places worldwide that are new to me.

So I thank you all - those who donated and every one of you who didn't too. The community we have created here is unique among blogs and you, the readers, do that with your thoughtful responses, generously sharing your information, your knowledge, humor and opinions that make this web spot a special place on the internet.

PRESIDENTS DAY
Today is a holiday, Presidents Day which, if I recall correctly, replaces the two holidays for the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln that we celebrated in February when I was kid.

I choke on the idea of including the current president's name along with those two illustrious forerunners among the people who have held the highest office in the land. It feels particularly ludicrous following drama throughout this past weekend.

President Donald Trump's contemptible responses to the tragic school shooting in Florida and to the grand jury indictments for conspiracy, fraud, identity theft and other crimes in relation to the 2016 U.S. election against 13 Russian nationals make a particularly embarrassing conparison.

So I think it's time for a little parody. I only recently discovered a group that calls itself The Parody Project. It was founded, the YouTube page tells us,

”...in August of 2017 by film-maker/composer Don Caron, as a means of surviving the current political and social mire by laughing and helping others to do the same.”

What the group does is write and sing new lyrics to familiar songs we all know. This one was released in December, titled 12 Months of Trump's Mess (Parody of 12 Days of Christmas). Enjoy.

You can find out more about The Parody Project and see all their previous parodies (political, social, Trump, Christmas) here.



ELDER MUSIC: The Night They Invented Champagne

TIME GOES BY DONATION WEEK - LAST DAY
Hurray. This is the last day of the 2018 TGB donation drive to help support the increasing costs of maintaining Time Goes By. You can read the details on Monday's post.

Whether you donate or not, nothing will change. TGB will always remain advertising-free with never a membership fee or paid firewall. If you would like to help support the work that goes on here, click the button below. If not, which is perfectly fine, scroll down for today's post.

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Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

* * *

Champs

With a title like that, I'd have to start with that song. It's from the musical (and film in this case) of "Gigi". Throughout the tune you have the voices of LESLIE CARON, LOUIS JOURDAN and HERMIONE GINGOLD.

Leslie Caron etc.

However, the main singing voice, lip-synched by Leslie in the film, is BETTY WAND.

Betty Wand

The track is quite short. In the film it goes on for considerably longer but the second half of the song is instrumental with Leslie dancing around, pouring champagne for everyone, including herself. This would not be acceptable today as her character (Gigi) was quite young. That's okay with me; I was quite young when I first drank champagne.

♫ Gigi - The Night They Invented Champagne


EFFIE SMITH, like many of us, has a champagne mind with a soda water income.

Effie Smith

I know that's a problem for me. Effie's song had the backing of the vocal group The Squires, two of whose members went on to become the fifties rock & roll duo Don and Dewey, who weren't very successful, but the songs they wrote were huge hits for others. Effie's song, as you can possibly guess, is Champagne Mind.

♫ Effie Smith - Champagne Mind


Like Effie, ERIC BIBB has champagne habits on a beer salary. The same thought, different beverage.

Eric Bibb

If Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, has a say in it, Eric would be in pretty much every column where it was appropriate. It's a good thing it's appropriate today. He performs Champagne Habits.

♫ Eric Bibb - Champagne Habits


If I have any say in it, and of course I do as I write these things, OTIS REDDING would appear quite often.

Otis Redding

He's here today with Champagne and Wine.

♫ Otis Redding - Champagne And Wine


I suppose if you're only going to eat French fries you might as well drink champagne with them. At least, that's what THE HOT SARDINES think. Hmm, there's certainly a food thing going on here.

Hot Sardines

The Sardines are pretty much the brainchild of Evan Palazzo and Elizabeth Bougerol. They got their start when they were asked to sing some French songs for a gig on Bastille Day. That turned out to be at the Lincoln Center in New York and they were an instant success.

They perform French Fries and Champagne from the album of the same name.

♫ The Hot Sardines - French Fries & Champagne


WILLIE NELSON is well known for imbibing other substances, but I'm sure he's quite happy to get into the bubbly.

Willie Nelson

That's pretty obvious from his lovely, gentle song Drinking Champagne.

♫ Willie Nelson - Drinking Champagne


JOHNNIE RAY was a bit of an oddity in the music of the early fifties.

Johnnie Ray

He was obviously a proto-rock and roller while still performing music that harked back to an earlier generation. The song today could fit into both categories (if you consider Doowop-style music rock and roll), but probably closer to earlier music. The song is The Lady Drinks Champagne.

♫ Johnnie Ray - The Lady Drinks Champagne


Although usually lumped into the country camp, JERRY JEFF WALKER, just like his friend Willie, covers a far wider spectrum of music than that.

Jerry Jeff Walker

His song today mentions pretty much everything a person could partake of, both legal and illegal. However, he suggests that it's nobody's business but mine (well, his actually). The song is Champagne Don't Hurt Me, Baby.

♫ Jerry Jeff Walker - Champagne Don't Hurt Me Baby


Champagne Charlie is an old music hall song that goes back a long way. I could have chosen any of the old performers, however, I've always liked the way LEON REDBONE sings the old songs.

Leon Redbone

He manages to be true to the original while not being too slavish about that, bringing a modern spirit to his performance.

♫ Leon Redbone - Champagne Charlie


All the previous songs celebrated champagne to one degree or another. However, ROSEMARY CLOONEY gets no kick from champagne.

Rosemary Clooney

Anyone who has listened to music sometime in the last hundred years or so will know where I'm going with the final song. I had a plethora of choices, just about everyone sang it well. It pretty much came down to how I felt about the backing musicians. Although there's a lot going on in this one, I rather liked it. Even the vibes didn't offend me too much. I Get A Kick Out Of You.

♫ Rosemary Clooney - I Get A Kick Out Of You



INTERESTING STUFF – 17 February 2018

TIME GOES BY DONATION WEEK
Hurray. Just one more day left of the 2018 TGB donation drive to help support the increasing costs of maintaining Time Goes By. You can read the details on Monday's post.

Whether you donate or not, nothing will change. TGB will always remain advertising-free with never a membership fee or paid firewall. If you would like to help support the work that goes on here, click the button below. If not, which is perfectly fine, scroll down for today's post.

* * *

MAN SURPRISED TO FIND OUT HE'S 99 YEARS OLD

A lot of people have gotten a good laugh out of this video from Jukin Media: It got more then 3.5 million views on YouTube in only 10 days:

JIMMY KIMMEL'S OLYMPIC COVERAGE

As he reminds the audience, NBC, where the Olympics is being broadcast in the U.S., does not allowed Kimmel to show clips on his ABC show. So he did this.

THOSE MAGAZINES JUST KEEP COMING

Thank TGB's Sunday music columnist, Peter Tibbles, for this cartoon from Pearls Before Swine. I know just how the guy feels and for me, it's about this particular magazine.

As much as I love The New Yorker, I'm always playing catchup with it.

PearlsBeforeSwineCartoon

Find more Pearls Before Swine cartoons here.

B.B. KING IN A DRESS

That headline is what a commenter said about Sister Rosetta Tharp on the YouTube page. A lot of people don't remember her or never heard of her but my mother was a fan so I grew up singing along with recordings of Ms. Tharp.

She is often referred to as “The Godmother of Rock and Roll” or “The Original Soul Sister”. This video is from 1964 in Manchester, England: Didn't It Rain. See what you think.

WATERFALL SWING

Wait 'till you see this: Swinging in the rain (ahem) without getting wet.

The Big Geek Daddy page explains how swingers stay dry:

”Sensors mounted on the swing set send data to a software program that determines when to release the water so it misses the person swinging beneath the waterfall. The water used for this is recirculated from the collection pool beneath the swings so it’s not using a lot of water.”

STUNNING REPORT ON COST OF SOLAR/WIND POWER

The U.S. president is doing everything he can to promote old, dirty energy production which, as it turns out, is actually more expensive that renewable energy.

”A widely-used yearly benchmarking study — the Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis (LCOE) from the financial firm Lazard Ltd. — reached this stunning conclusion: In many regions 'the full-lifecycle costs of building and operating renewables-based projects have dropped below the operating costs alone of conventional generation technologies such as coal or nuclear,” reports ThinkProgress...

“Since power from new renewables is cheaper than power from existing coal and nuclear, it’s no surprise that the lifetime cost of new renewables is much cheaper than new coal and nuclear power. And that gap is growing.

“Lazard notes that in North America, the cost for utility scale solar and wind power dropped 6 percent last year, while the price for coal remained flat and the cost of nuclear soared.”

The cost savings are even greater in some other countries. Read more at ThinkProgress.

THE SNOW GUARDIAN

Gothic, Colorado is one of the coldest places in the United States. It is also been a ghost town since the 1920s. As the YouTube page further explains:

”For more than 40 years, current resident billy barr has lived in a small cabin, recording data about the snowpack to pass the time.

“In this short film, Morgan Heim of Day’s Edge Productions profiles the legendary local who inadvertently provided scientists with a treasure trove of climate change data.}

AT LAST, JOHN OLIVER RETURNS

Tomorrow night, Sunday, the inimitable John Oliver returns for Season 5 of his HBO show, Last Week Tonight. My god I've missed him. Here's the trailer for his new season:

If you don't subscribe to HBO, you can watch it on the YouTube page or see the best part here next Saturday.

SHE SAYS SHE IS NOT A CRAZY CAT LADY

Lynea Lattanzio is a certified cat lady who would "rather have 800 cats than another man." The founder of The Cat House on The Kings oversees a 12-acre sanctuary in California with close to 800 adults and 300 kittens.

* * *

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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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 include the name of the blog and its URL.


Crabby Old Lady and Kids' Names for Grandparents

TIME GOES BY DONATION WEEK REMINDER
We are nearly at the end of the 2018 TGB donation drive to help support the costs of maintaining Time Goes By. Just two more days to go. You can read the donation drive details on Monday's post.

Whether you donate or not, nothing will change. TGB will always remain advertising-free with never a membership fee or paid firewall. If you would like to help support the work that goes on here, click the button below. If not, which is perfectly fine, scroll down for today's post.

* * *

The news this week has been loathsome (White House security-clearance scam), and also unbearably sad (Parkland, Florida, school massacre). Without disregarding either of those events, Crabby Old Lady thought that this might be a good week to give ourselves a break with something a lot less consequential.

For as long as Crabby has been writing this blog, about every year or two there has been a flurry of news stories about names grandparents want the grandchildren to call them.

They apparently take a different direction from days of yore when we were children. None of this grandpa or grandma stuff for today's elders. Not even the old-country traditions of bubbe, opa or nana.

Jane Brody, writing in The New York Times last month, tells us that a new book, Georgia Witkin’s The Modern Grandparent’s Handbook, lists 251 grandparental names,

”...divided by gender into three categories: Traditional, Trendy and Playful. I wouldn’t volunteer to be known as Sweetums, G-dawg, Faux Pa or Grandude, however playfully, but apparently some folks have,” writes Brody.

You can bet your booty that a grandchild of Crabby's (if she had any) would call her “Sweetums” only once.

Like most of the past stories Crabby Old Lady has seen on grandparent names, Brody blames the boomer generation for the untraditional new names, who will do pretty much everything possible to pretend they are not getting old, including this name silliness.

'...here’s my deeper suspicion:” she writes. “However mightily my peers may pine for grandchildren and adore them when they arrive, some don’t want to acknowledge being old enough to be dubbed Grandpop or Granny.

“Such names conjure up gray hair and orthopedic shoes, along with a status our society may honor in the abstract but few boomers actually welcome. We too often won’t use hearing aids, even if we need them. We may not claim the senior discount at the movie theater.

“We don’t want these wondrous new creatures calling us names that signify old age, either.”

This is where Brody – or, more specifically, the boomers she knows – goes off the rails: what is wrong with gray hair, Crabby wants to know? Or with orthopedic shoes? Or movie discounts?

Worst of all, if you don't wear needed hearing aids, you are too stupid for Crabby Old Lady to bother with you.

If Crabby were a grandmother, she'd go with Grandma or Granny. Both of them state a fact – always a good thing – and slide off the tongue nicely. What about you? Accusations of boomer ageism notwithstanding, let's see if there is a consensus about grandparent names around this blog.

What do the grandchildren call you? Do you like it? Who chose it? And what's the most inventive or interesting or odd name you've heard for Grandma or Grandpa?



Ivanka Trump, Social Security and Valentine's Day

TIME GOES BY DONATION WEEK REMINDER
This is day three of the 2018 TGB donation drive to help support the increasing costs of maintaining Time Goes By. You can read the details on Monday's post.

Whether you donate or not, nothing will change. TGB will always remain advertising-free with never a membership fee or paid firewall. If you would like to help support the work that goes on here, click the button below. If not, which is perfectly fine, scroll down for today's post.

* * *

IVANKA TRUMP AND SOCIAL SECURITY
To create a fund for family leave, presidential daughter Ivanka wants to take the money from Social Security recipients, a move that would delay retirees' benefit start date.

Actually, it's Senator Marco Rubio's idea to which Ivanka has hitched her paid family leave proposal, the idea being to fund the program on the backs of old people who have spent a lifetime paying into Social Security.

It would work something like this: the bill would allow

"...people to draw Social Security benefits when they want to take time off for a new baby or other family-related matters, and then delay their checks when they hit retirement age." reports Politico.

"For instance, a person who would begin receiving full benefits when he or she turns 67 years old but wants to take six weeks of paid leave wouldn’t draw Social Security benefits until six weeks after his or her 67th birthday."

Long-time Social Security advocate and president of Social Security Works, Nancy Altman, released this statement after hearing about Rubio's Ivanka-approved proposal.

“It’s well past time for our country to join the rest of the world in providing workers with paid family and medical leave. But we should not undermine our retirement security to achieve it.

“In light of the decline of traditional pensions and the proven inadequacy of 401(k) plans for everyone but the wealthiest, Social Security’s modest benefits will be even more important in the future.

“We are the wealthiest nation in the world at the wealthiest moment in our history. Our country can afford to increase, not cut, Social Security’s modest benefits, while also adding paid family and medical leave.

“Other less-wealthy nations have those benefits. We can too if we simply require the wealthiest among us to pay more to our commonwealth (i.e., “common wealth”) from which they have benefited so enormously.

A admirable and reasonable approach but it won't gain a foothold during a Trump administration. Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has exchanged email with Ivanka about a paid family leave program, has a different approach. She argues

”..that paid leave has to be national,” reports the Daily Beast, [it] must be structured as a social insurance program (i.e., have a finance stream that a wide swath of the population contributes to), must be gender neutral, and must cover not just the birth of a child but also time that workers spend caring for sick family members.”

That would get it off the backs of elders but if you believe a Republican Congress is going to buy it, you haven't been paying attention:

”Republican leadership has never wavered in their opposition to Gillibrand’s approach. [House Majority Leader Paul] Ryan has said he opposes any leave policy that requires employers to give their workers paid time off for the birth of a child—favoring, instead, legislation that would allow workers to bank overtime hours to use at a later date for comp time.”

Huffington Post reports that the Ivanka/Rubio plan is a disaster for women who generally make less money throughout their lifetimes than men, they are also the ones who would make most use of a family leave program:

"The plan’s backers suggest that a person applying for Social Security benefits would just have to wait six more weeks to collect, [former SSA analyst, Kathleen] Romig explained. In reality, the recipient would receive a lower benefit, she said.

“'It’s cutting your benefit for the rest of your life,' said Romig, who is now a senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities...

"Perhaps most alarming: The very idea of using Social Security funds as a private piggy bank threatens to destabilize the very notion of a social insurance program.

“'If we start treating Social Security, really the bedrock of financial security for elderly people, as just another asset to tap, we are imperiling people’s financial security,' Romig said."

It is unlikely that there will be much, if any, movement on paid family leave legislation this year, but it behooves us - people who know how important Social Security is to retirement – to keep our eye on Congress.

Small sneak attacks like this one and other big-time privatization schemes such as President George W. Bush's failed attempt at that 10 years ago along Paul Ryan's almost constant barrage of attacks on Social Security are only the most recent assaults on old people's retirement income.

Republicans have been trying to kill Social Security since President Franklin Roosevelt signed it into being in 1935.

The problem for them is that Social Security is the most successful and most beloved program in the federal government. Hardly anyone in the U.S. supports cutting Social Security (or Medicare/Medicaid).

In a May 2017 Pew survey, only three percent of Democrats or those who lean Democratic support “decreasing federal spending on Social Security.”

Among Republicans and those who lean Republican, in the same survey, just ten percent support “decreasing federal spending on Social Security.” So the Trump administration and the current Congress need to be careful about floating ideas to cut any of the programs they too often refer to as “entitlements.”

Don't forget, Americans pay into Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid all their working lives – that's why it is called an earned benefit and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I would be alarmed by this latest attempt to chip away at Social Security but I don't think the plan to fund family leave on the backs of elders has a much chance of flying with the public. Nevertheless, it's important that we keep track of the attacks and who is trying to sneak them past us.

* * *

One more thing: perhaps you have noticed that this is Valentine's Day – a perfect time for me to again thank you all for your continuing support of this blog and especially your many good thoughts during the past eight months of my, ahem - medical interlude.

Happy valentine's day heart banner

Sending much love and hugs and good cheer to each and every one of you from Ronni, Crabby Old Lady and Ollie the cat.



Annual TimeGoesBy Donation Week 2018

Here I am having been annoyed all week by the constant drumbeat of NPR's winter donation drive and now find myself kicking off the annual donation drive for TimeGoesBy.

Inconsistency thy name is Ronni. I'll try to keep the irritation level as low as possible for the next seven days.

This year feels different to me from the two previous donation drives in 2016 and 2017. It may be that this time we have spent a good part of the past eight months discussing my journey through treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Your care, concern, support, good thoughts, personal experiences with frightening diseases, prayers, candle lighting and hard-earned wisdom have cheered me through the bad patches and there is no doubt in my mind that all your energy contributed to the positive medical outcome this week. “Go live your life,” my surgeon said.

The last two donation drives were big successes. Readers were amazingly generous which means I have not needed to sweat the always increasing blog costs.

For example, with a paid email delivery system, subscribers now receive the TGB emails ad-free - no small thing as the ad-supported version had become almost unreadable due to the clutter of advertising. It also pays for the #$%^&* increase twice each year in the price of internet access.

Donations also allow me to subscribe to the most important news and information sites as more of them put up paywalls, and to keep the TGB website itself an ad-free zone on the internet.

Which brings us to the third annual pitch for donations. As in the previous years, I will make this as unobtrusive as possible so let's get started.

How To Donate
The campaign consists of this introductory blog post (including a nice, little surprise at the end) with a link to the Paypal donation page and a MUCH shorter version of this invitation to contribute at the top of each post through next Sunday. The “rules” are these:

  • No one is required to donate. Nothing about TGB will change if you do not. This is entirely voluntary.

  • If you do choose to donate, no amount is too small. Whatever is comfortable for you is all that matters.

  • You do not need a Paypal account to donate. When you click on the link below, the Paypal donation page will open (it's a little slow sometimes) where you can donate via credit card, debit card or, if you have a Paypal account, by a money transfer - each in any amount you want.

  • The Paypal site works in the United States and internationally.

To repeat: Donations are voluntary. Nothing changes if you do not donate. Here is the Paypal link which you will also find near the top of the right sidebar.

Although the donation button is a permanent piece of the furniture in the right sidebar, you will need to suffer through this campaign only one week a year in February.

* * *

Having cancer certainly does rearrange one's priorities and I have thought hard about this extra time on Earth I have been granted. I've never been interested in a bucket list and unless you count my longing to live again in New York City, nothing I yearn for.

What I like these days is my quiet life with Ollie the cat in a comfortable apartment while making the main part of my days the production of TimeGoesBy. It has become much more to me than a blog; it is a gathering place for like-minded elders to talk about what it's like growing old, and I learn so much from you.

And now, because you have been so patient throughout this post, here is tiny, little treat for you. Banksy the German Shepherd and his best friend, Prince the prairie dog. TGB reader, Cathy Johnson sent this video so blame her for any cuteness overdose you experience.



ELDER MUSIC: LPs and EPs

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

* * *

Way back when I was a whippersnapper, my dad bought a record player. Initially, we had no records but over the next few years we acquired some. Most of mine were because of birthday or Christmas presents (with a bit of gentle hinting on my part).

Anyway, we all managed to collect some records. Not too many as we couldn't afford a lot, but enough to keep us entertained. Also, we lived in a small country town, so there was only one place that sold records and they didn't have a big selection. Here are some of them.

I'll start with me as this is my column. In the fifties, I think I liked BUDDY HOLLY more than any other performer at the time.

Buddy Holly

The record company powers that be brought out the album "The Buddy Holly Story" very shortly after Buddy died. For once, they chose the songs well; every track on it was a classic so it was difficult for me to choose one of them.

I've decided to go with one that's perhaps not as well known as the others (unless you're a Buddy fan, of course). Early in the Morning.

♫ Buddy Holly - Early In The Morning


An LP we had was MARIO LANZA with the soundtrack for "The Student Prince".

Mario Lanza

I think this might have been mine, but it's a bit hard to remember. Mario didn't appear in the film due to a dispute of some sort but his voice did courtesy of lip-synching by Edmund Purdom. One of those songs is Serenade.

♫ Mario Lanza - Serenade


Another soundtrack LP was for "My Fair Lady". This was the Broadway cast recording, not the one from the film (that was quite a bit later than the time this column covers). Thus we had JULIE ANDREWS, not Marni Nixon.

Julie Andrews

There are many well known songs from the musical that were a hit at the time and are still played today. Rather than one of those, I'm going with one from when Eliza was somewhat cheesed off about the men in her life and how they liked to rabbit on at great length (just as I'm doing now). She sings Show Me.

♫ Julie Andrews - Show Me


Dad was a big fan of BING CROSBY, so there were several of his albums from which to choose.

Bing Crosby

For me to choose one of Bing it was almost a case of putting all the names of the songs in a hat and drawing one out. I didn't do that but it was almost the same. In the end I chose one of his most popular early songs, Please

.

♫ Bing Crosby - Please


I have a confession to make, a guilty secret: I quite liked PAUL ANKA when I was a teenager.

Paul Anka

Okay, he was a songwriter of considerable skill – he wrote Buddy Holly's biggest (posthumous) hit. He also co-wrote one of Frank Sinatra's biggest songs, so he has something going for him. However, I'm talking about when he was teenage idol, and writing and singing songs in that vein.

The album I had of his was the first of many of his called "Greatest Hits". From that one we have Put Your Head on My Shoulder.

♫ Paul Anka - Put Your Head on My Shoulder


Yet another musical - they were big back then and I guess some members of the family liked them. This time it's "West Side Story". One of the most famous songs from the musical is Tonight.

It was apparently sung by Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer in the film, but they were only acting. The real singers were MARNI NIXON and JIMMY BRYANT.

Marni Nixon

That's Marni, but the only pics I could find of Jimmy were for a guitarist with the same name. Anyway, it seems that Natalie was somewhat miffed when they didn't use her singing voice, but Richard was fine with it, going out of his way to mention and complement Jimmy at all opportunities in interviews.

♫ Marni Nixon & Jimmy Bryant - Tonight


I'm certainly not alone when I say that I had a bit of a thing for BUDDY HOLLY. I mentioned that above.

Buddy Holly

Besides "The Buddy Holly Story", I had volume 2 that was rushed out when it was discovered that the first one sold really well. The second one was mostly songs that Buddy was working on just before he died and had recorded with just an acoustic guitar. Naturally, a backing group was added for the record.

I now have the originals in my collection and prefer them that way, but that's not the way they appeared on the record I had back then. One of those songs is Peggy Sue Got Married.

♫ Buddy Holly - Peggy Sue Got Married


My sister was a big fan of JOHNNIE RAY. She had a couple of his EPs, and one or two singles.

Johnnie Ray

Besides being a proto-rock & roller, he also harked back to an earlier generation of music. On one of the EPs he showed that with Walkin' My Baby Back Home (which, I think, is the song for which she acquired it) but it also had the old standard All of Me.

♫ Johnnie Ray - All Of Me


Between my sister and me, we had quite a few singles, and several EPs of ELVIS.

Elvis Presley

One of those EPs, and I don't know who lays claim to it, is "Jailhouse Rock". This had the five songs from the film on it, so it was good value. One of those songs is (You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care.

♫ Elvis - (You're So Square) Baby I Don't Care


We were friendly with the family next door. Alas, they moved away (only a couple of years before we did the same thing).

About a year after their move, the father made a return visit (he was with the Lands Department, a government body, that meant he moved around a bit for his job). He brought a gift for me, an EP of LITTLE RICHARD. He said his son (another Peter) really liked it.

Little Richard

This might be the best EP of all time as it contained Richard's four best known, and best, songs. One of those is Rip it Up.

♫ Little Richard - Rip It Up


Here is a late entry I've just remembered and the irony is giving me a smack around the chops. It's another EP and it certainly wasn't mine. It had four or five songs from the musical "Salad Days".

I have no idea who performed it as that EP has long flown the coop. I do have a version on my computer and I have no idea who performs on that one either. It sounds like the one we had, but I suppose it would. Anyway, as a final joke on me, We Said We'd Never Look Back.

♫ Salad Days - We Said We'd Never Look Back



INTERESTING STUFF – 10 February 2018

THE OLDEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD

Botin Restaurant has been open for business every day for the past 293 years. In that time, since 1725, the oven fire has never been extinguished.

”According to deputy manager Luis Javier Sànchez Alvarez, the oven is the crown jewel of the restaurant and the fundamental element of their most popular dish, the roast suckling pig.

“The recipes used today have been passed down from generation to generation, keeping the legacy of these traditional dishes alive. With the honor of being the oldest restaurant in the world, Alvarez hopes to keep the doors open for centuries to come.”

Take a look:

PLANT CONSCIOUSNESS

Remember 20 or 25 years ago or so when the idea that plants can feel pain, communicate with one another and respond to audio input.

Although the idea lost some of its cache over time, it's never gone away and now some scientists are saying that plants can count and can even communicate with caterpillers.

“'Plants are not just robotic, stimulus-response devices,' said Frantisek Baluska, a plant cell biologist at the University of Bonn in Germany and co-author of the study. 'They’re living organisms which have their own problems, maybe something like with humans feeling pain or joy. In order to navigate this complex life, they must have some compass.'

“Plants sometimes use that compass to deal with stress, competition or development. They take in information from their environment and produce their own anesthetics like menthol, ethanol and cocaine, similar to how humans release chemicals that dull pain during trauma. These may act within the plant itself or float off in the air to affect neighboring plants.

“Our anesthetics work on plants too, the study confirmed, although what exactly they’re working on is unclear.”

Read more at The New York Times.

COMEDIAN CHRIS ROCK ON DOCTORS AND DRUGS

In reference to Crabby Old Lady's post on Monday about advertising prescription drugs to elders, TGB reader Richard Lombard, sent this video from several years ago of comedian Chris Rock's take on the same subject.

The usual disclaimers about language apply.

NOW, DORITOS ONLY FOR WOMEN

Late night comedians have been having a fine ol' funny time this week with the announcement that Pepsico is developing a Dorito chip just for women.

The idea, apparently, is that women are not supposed to make audible crunching noises when they eat chips and Pepsico has taken a lot of heat for considering such a dumb product.

Here's a video about some other misbegotten women-only products. The voice at the beginning of the vid is Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsico:

You can read more at the Washington Post.

PESSIMISM ABOUT OLD AGE AND DEMENTIA

It is all but established fact now that people who hold positive views of ageing and of old people live a lot longer – up to seven-plus years – than people who hold negative views.

Now comes a new study suggesting that negative attitudes toward ageing are a risk factor for dementia.

”The difference was hardly trivial: Study participants who had positive beliefs about aging were 44% less likely to develop dementia over the next four years than were their counterparts with negative beliefs.

“Even after the researchers accounted for other risk factors for dementia — including smoking, diabetes and cardiovascular disease — they still found that the odds for the condition were lower among those with a positive attitude toward aging.

“Also striking: The apparent benefits of positivity were even greater among the subgroup of adults whose genes put them at greater risk of dementia. In fact, the researchers said, a positive attitude toward aging could essentially erase the handicap associated with carrying a risky variant of the APOE gene.”

Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

THE LAST PALESTINIAN KAFFIYEH MAKER

As the YouTube page tells us, the traditional Arab headdress, the kaffiyeh, is a symbol of the Palestinian struggle and an important part of Palestinian heritage.

”Unfortunately, the Al Hirbawi factory is the last remaining institution in the Palestinian territories producing the original kaffiyeh. Brothers Jouda, Abdelazim and Ezzat have been working in the factory since they were kids, inheriting the family business and continuing the proud legacy.”

Here is a video about them:

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION WANTS TO STEAL WORKERS' TIPS

Last December, the Editorial Board of The New York Times objected to a proposal from the Trump administration's Department of Labor. It would allow

”...employers to pool tips and use them as they see fit...Officials argue that this will free restaurants to use some of the tip money to reward lowly dishwashers, line cooks and other workers who toil in the less glamorous quarters and presumably make less than servers who get tips.

“[However,] a simple reading of the government’s proposal makes clear that business owners...would be free to pocket some or all of that cash, spend it to spiff up the dining room or use it to underwrite $2 margaritas at happy hour. And that’s what makes this proposal so disturbing.”

What it boils down to is allowing employers to pick the pockets of their employees. Legally. Since The Times editorial, the public has made its objection loud and clear, as reported at Daily Kos:

”The tip-stealing proposal is also unpopular with the public: a poll conducted for the National Employment Law Project found 82 percent of people opposed.

“None of this means that Trump’s labor secretary, Alexander Acosta, is going to back down. But once again the Trump administration is making clear where it stands—definitely not with workers.”

You might think about joining the chorus and let that Labor Secretary know where you stand.

ANY ELVIS FANS HERE?

Elvis impersonators have been an entertainment fixture for about 40 years, nearly a dime a dozen. But I like this short documentary about one of them. As the YouTube page tells us:

”When Dave Groh began impersonating Elvis Presley, he felt it made him 'a sexier person than I had been just being Dave.' In the short documentary Cab Elvis, director Andrew Franks follows Grohl, a cab driver, across Seattle as he picks up passengers—some of whom describe the experience as the best taxi ride of their lives.”

Read more at The Atlantic.

BABY BEAR AT THE GOLF COURSE

This baby bear was having himself a grand time on the Mountainside Golf Course at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort in British Columbia, Canada.

Lovely to watch and a nice mini-vacation from the constant drumbeat of political news, don't you think?

* * *

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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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 include the name of the blog and its URL.



When You are Well Again

”...the thing is, once something goes wrong, forever after you know that something CAN go wrong. Up until then, we're all blessed with kind of an ignorant sense of invincibility...

“None of us know what's going to hit us out of the blue, or when, but once we get winged by something, I think, we are all a little bit more fearful...

“The passage of time helps, and with enough time, we regain some of that feeling of invincibility.

Think of today's post as an extension, a follow-up to Wednesday's which was little more than a jump-start for the many thoughtful, useful and inspiring reader comments about what comes after recovery from a serious disease.

The quotation above is one of them, left by TGB reader Patty-in-New-York who nailed my pre-cancer sense of invincibility. Until that diagnosis last June, I thought I understood what it is like to face a life-threatening illness.

Wrong. I didn't have a clue.

The long weeks of recovery from surgery taught me about disability. About giving over my independence to the kind people who helped me during that time with the everyday, ordinary necessities of living. About constraints on the physical things I could do. And about how those new limitations gave me a smaller world view than I had before or want to have.

Isn't it interesting how, when the doctor hands you a terrible diagnosis or an outside force, an accident for example, leaves you with a broken hip or worse, you are plunged into the world of the sick in no more than a minute, but it can take weeks and months after you have healed to recover your place in the world of the healthy.

Or, as Patty-in-New-York suggests, you arrive at a different kind of normal. I doubt I will ever feel invincible again but since I wrote Wednesday's post (on Tuesday), I received an unexpected boost toward whatever my new normal will be.

On Wednesday morning, I met with the surgeon who performed the Whipple Procedure on me in June. As regular readers know, on Monday this week, a CT scan had matched earlier blood tests in showing my body to be clean of cancer.

A good-sized part of me had never expected that and as I mentioned on Wednesday, I wanted to celebrate but somehow wasn't feeling it. That changed when the surgeon told me in person, face-to-face, that there is no cancer, “Go live your life,” he said.

Although I didn't know it until that moment, it was important to me to hear that sentence out loud, not in a written scan analysis. To be reminded again that the remarkable doctor who, with his great knowledge of pancreatic cancer and his excellent surgical team, spent 12 hours on his feet last June, 12 hours that saved my life.

After meeting with him, I wept and I rejoiced and I had lunch with a friend and then I went home and celebrated by dancing to Joe Cocker singing live in a 1992 concert, Cry Me a River.

It will take a little more time but now I know I'm going to be just fine.



Cancer and an Altered Self-Image

We don't much think about – or, perhaps, it is I who has not done so – who we are. What descriptions we have of ourselves accumulate, I think, over our lifetimes and we hardly notice it happening: doctor, lawyer, Indian chief, mother, father, brother, sister, fat, skinny, young, old, married, single and so on.

For example, since in the United States we mostly identify ourselves with what we are paid money to do, I am a former radio producer, TV producer, internet news managing editor, New Yorker morphed now into a retiree who blogs about what it's like to be old and who, way near the top of the list, thinks of herself as healthy.

No more. Last June, “cancer patient” was added to my list of personal descriptors, something I see in retrospect was an easier change to make than I would have thought.

All it takes is a massive surgery and lengthy recovery period accompanied by pain, pills and doctor visits to self-identify as a sick person Or, at minimum, no longer healthy.

I didn't see it coming, didn't even notice, consciously, that the switch had happened until this week. One way I suspect that happens is the medical checklist.

When you have a serious ongoing disease, you are asked to fill out a lot of forms. They are mostly identical and involve checking yes or no on long, long lists of diseases, conditions and symptoms. I've checked off no in all of them all my life. And then eight months ago, I had to check yes on cancer.

I was not healthy anymore. As I may have related to you in the past, a more light-hearted take on the issue was spoken by my primary care physician: “Ronni,” he said, “except for the cancer, you're very healthy.”

Riiiiight – and other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play. That doctor and I have had several good laughs about his bon mot gone awry.

Who we are in our minds, in our bones, affects how we understand ourselves, present ourselves to the world and informs many of the choices we make. Cancer patient is not what I want to be part of my self-image but it happened.

Then, this week, another change took place. On Monday, I had a CT scan, a more definitive test for cancer cells than the test I told you about a couple of weeks ago. Like that first test, this one came back with the best news any cancer patient can hope for:

“CT looks good,” wrote my medical oncologist in her test results analysis. “There is no sign of the cancer at this time.”

That's two tests two weeks apart with the same great, good news. Only a tiny minority of pancreatic cancer patients get this far so I should be ecstatic.

How come I'm not, then?

Intellectually, I'm over the moon but the the thought lacks the emotional joy I expected, the urge to dance around the house, for example, to Joe Cocker's Cry Me a River at full volume.

Instead, even if I am not shrugging off the news, my mind slipped straight into anticipation of the apprehension I felt this time as I waited for the test results that will be repeated every four months or so when they continue to check for cancer. What is the matter with me?

Here's what I think happened:

That added definition of sickly person crept up on me so quietly I hardly noticed it these past months. Even as I have felt increasingly better physically, the daily pills, the chemo treatments, the blood tests, the transfusions along with the many doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers all became silent markers of my new status which I internalized without any thought, made part of my self-image.

While I wasn't paying attention, I became a different person than I have known for my 76 years, someone identified by a terrible disease, and I suspect I am not alone in this phenomenon.

Major life events, good and bad, are stressors that can alter our self-image. There is even a scale for it called the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory on which my recent life event, “Major personal injury or illness,” is listed at number six out of 43 items.

Since Monday when I received the good test news and recognized that I wasn't feeling like a kid on Christmas morning, I realized I need another change in self-image – from sickly to healthy again or, perhaps, in the more familiar vernacular of the cancer world, survivor.

It may take awhile to make the switch back, but at least I am doing it consciously this time instead of it sneaking up on me while I wasn't paying attention.

Does this resonate with you? Have major life events changed your sense of yourself? For better or worse?



Crabby Old Lady on Advertising Drugs to Old People

To many television and print advertisers, poor health is the essential and most noteworthy characteristic of old people. As far as Crabby Old Lady can tell, it could be the only thing advertisers know about elders.

Diabetic nerve pain, rheumatoid arthritis, heart arrhythmia, blood clots, insomnia, hepatitis C, osteoporosis, dry eye, dementia, COPD, shingles and cancer – lots of cancer: cervical, breast, melanoma, lung and more.

So familiar is the constant barrage of television commercials for drugs to treat those diseases, conditions and more, Crabby was able to make that list off the top of her head. She's betting you could do that too.

No prescription drug commercial can end without a recitation of the often horrendous side effects, delivered at the verbal speed of an auctioneer and almost always ending with “death.”

Like Crabby Old Lady, you may have noticed that none of these drugs, at least as described in television commercials, actually cure any of the ailments they were created for.

That is because (here is Crabby at her most cynical) the pharmaceutical companies know there is no profit in making people healthy. Treatment – ongoing, lifetime treatment – is the business of big pharma that keeps the big bucks rolling in via refill after refill after refill for a patient's lifetime.

Did you know that New Zealand and the United States are the only countries in the world that permit advertising to consumers of prescription drugs? There is a reason the other 191 countries disallow it: only doctors have the training, knowledge and understanding of an individual patient's medical issues to choose appropriate medications.

If that isn't a good enough reason, think of how much money all that TV advertising adds to the price of prescription drugs.

All those are just the straightforward, direct-to-consumer drug commercials. But Crabby Old Lady's cyber-friend, Chuck Nyren, who blogs at Advertising for Baby Boomers and has written a book with that title, has noticed a new, more insidious development in drug advertisements aimed at old people.

Not long ago, Chuck titled a blog post We're All Sick and led with this:

”No matter what the product or service, when Mad Ave tries to ‘reach’ us we’re always sick. Or something’s horribly wrong. Even if they want us to buy a car we have to be sick first:

This commercial takes the universally-assumed poor health of elders to a whole new level: Lookee here, it says - we the car company have a cure for whatever ails you. Chuck continues:

“What happened to this lady? Did she have a heart attack? The doctor says she has to ‘go slow’. Well, whatever her affliction is, she’ll get better if she buys this car. And exercises. And is looked after by her daughter.

“According to most ads selling stuff to Boomers, we have to be sick before we can buy anything. Or, we’re naturally ill all the time and the only reason we’d buy anything is to make us well...When you’re old, you only buy products for medical reasons.

“I googled the car and it’s a pretty good car. But the spot tells me nothing about the car. Of course, why would I want to know anything about the car? All I need to know is that it has healing powers.”

You can read more of Chuck at his blog.

There is a kind of awful genius to deliberately portraying old people as sick and vulnerable to sell them an expensive car. Or how about laundry detergent. Or a new sofa. "Game changer," as the actor says in one home furnishings commercial.

Expect to see more, many more sick old people portrayed in all kinds of commercials. In December, The New York Times reported on the enormous increase in the number of television prescription drug commercials. Some excerpts:

”According to Kantar Media, a firm that tracks multimedia advertising, 771,368 such ads were shown in 2016, the last full year for which data is available, an increase of almost 65 percent over 2012.

“'TV ad spending by pharmaceutical companies has more than doubled in the past four years, making it the second-fastest-growing category on television during that time, Jon Swallen, Kantar’s chief research officer, said.”

As The Times also points out, it is old people who use the majority of prescription drugs and that's why big pharma saturates TV with commercials for diseases of age:

“'In the old days, it was allergies and acid reflux and whatnot, [Thomas Lom, a consultant and former senior executive at several health care ad agencies] said. 'Now, it’s cardiology issues. It’s cancer.'

That, of course, reflects the medical issues facing audiences that skew older.

“'The drug companies aren’t generally marketing to people in their 30s; they’re marketing to the 65-plus, and that’s the population that tends to still be watching television,' said Allen Adamson, a brand strategy consultant.”

Certainly they will have no trouble figuring out other media buys for commercials as younger generations age.

Now that Ford has broken the ice by implying their car can cure a sick old person of an unnamed malady, Crabby Old Lady has no doubt other non-medical consumer products will soon follow suit, possibly sharing commercial production costs by partnering with the manufacturer of a brand-name prescription drug. (Oh, is Crabby being too cynical?)

What this means for Crabby and all elders is that the main description of old people as sickly will be perpetuated indefinitely in the minds of everyone.



ELDER MUSIC: Secrets

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

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Even in this age of Facebook and Twitter, there are still some secrets out there. Mostly by governments, although less so as time passes, but people like to keep them as well.

Those secrets really make the basis of many books, films, TV shows and the like. Fortunately, there are a lot of them in songs too. Here are some (from a very long list).

Back in the early sixties, LEROY VAN DYKE made a career of recycling the same theme. Perhaps not recycling, building on the previous song would be a better description.

Leroy Van Dyke

Not the same songs, they were different, but it seems that from his first big one, Walk on By, through If a Woman Answers (Hang Up the Phone), he was trying to tell us something.

He kept that going with How Long Must You Keep Me a Secret. I said the songs were different, but they were all distinctly Leroy.

♫ Leroy Van Dyke - How Long Must You Keep Me a Secret


Once upon a time ROSEMARY CLOONEY was the most famous Clooney in show biz.

Rosemary Clooney

Her nephew has sort of usurped that position, but she was the better singer. Actually, she's better than most. Here she lets us in on the Secret of Life.

♫ Rosemary Clooney - Secret Of Life


The song that inspired this column was by THE BEATLES.

The Beatles

Not too surprising, I'm sure they've inspired many columns (and other things) over the years. The song is from very early, indeed, their first album "Please Please Me". It is Do You Want To Know a Secret, not surprisingly, a Lennon/McCartney song (although they were still recording a few by other writers at that stage).

♫ The Beatles - Do You Want To Know A Secret


I bet you imagined that Doris Day was going to be present with one of her biggest hits. She certainly made the short list and then I discovered that someone else had recorded the song you were expecting.

Normally, I'd go with the original, but I was so taken with this one by FREDDY FENDER that I thought I must include it.

Freddy Fender

Some of you, probably most, will disagree, but it's interesting to get a different perspective on a song you know so well. Freddy doesn't call it Secret Love. For him it's Amor Secreto.

♫ Freddy Fender - Amor Secreto (Secret Love)


JIMMIE RODGERS always seemed to be on the charts when I was growing up. That's Jimmie the folk/pop singer, not the country/blues singer. They weren't related.

Jimmie Rodgers

Jimmie's career continued until the end of the sixties when he had a car accident and an altercation with police, the mob or someone else. It's not entirely clear. As I write this Jimmie is still with us although he's suffered several health-related problems in recent years.

His song is Secretly, one of his big hits from the fifties.

♫ Jimmie Rodgers - Secretly


When I was searching for songs I found this one by ERIC ANDERSEN.

Eric Andersen

I thought: I really like Eric, that will probably be included. When I played it I thought, "Hang on, that's a Fred Neil song", and I'm a big fan of Fred's too. Then I thought longer and remembered that it was also an Elizabeth Cotton song, from considerably earlier. I was on the horns of a dilemma about which to include.

In the end I went for the first one I encountered. I've Got a Secret. It's also sometimes called Didn't We Shake Sugaree.

♫ Eric Andersen - I've Got A Secret


There's always room for PATSY CLINE in just about any column.

Patsy Cline

The song is interesting in that it's not like her country or pop songs. Rather, it seems to hark back a decade or two in its style. It's still really good though. How could it not be, it's Patsy. Too Many Secrets.

♫ Patsy Cline - Too Many Secrets


It seems that many of my favorite performers have secrets, and here's another, Z.Z. HILL.

ZZ Hill

Z.Z. was a fine soul singer who didn't get the recognition that others did, although he certainly deserved it. His song is I Don't Want Our Love To Be No Secret. Upon listening to it, Norma, the Assistant Musicologist suggested that "it was turning into Midnight Train to Georgia, which, of course, is no bad thing".

♫ Z.Z. Hill - I Don't Want Our Love To Be No Secret


WILLIE NELSON seems to be channelling his inner Brokeback Mountain with his song.

Willie Nelson

I'd forgotten about this one but when I listened to it I knew it had to be present. Willie suggests that Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other.

♫ Willie Nelson - Cowboys Are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other


When I saw the name GORDON MACRAE, I thought: ah good, he'll bring some quality singing, maybe something from a musical.

Gordon MacRae

Imagine my surprise when I listened to it. He sounded like any old pop singer from the fifties. I was ready to throw it out, but thought that perhaps you all are unfamiliar with this aspect of his career (as was I).

It wasn't all “Carousel” and “Oklahoma”. Gordon tells us The Secret.

♫ Gordon MacRae - The Secret



INTERESTING STUFF – 3 February 2018

SOME OF THE OLDEST IN U.S. IN 1929

My friend Jim Stone, who has been visiting from Massachusetts, sent this fascinating video of some of the oldest old in the U.S. talking on camera about their lives in 1929.

ONE DAY IN TRUMP CORRUPTION

The Washington Post, now famously, posted Donald Trump's 2000 lies during his first year as president.

At New York magazine this week, Jonathan Chait wrote about Trump's four newest corruption stories that broke in just one day. One example:

”A report yesterday found that Trump’s infrastructure council is filled with business owners who stand to benefit from the policies Trump is advancing. For instance, Richard LeFrak, one of the developers on Trump’s

“The plan writ large would steer public funding toward privately owned infrastructure projects that would benefit the developers on Trump’s committee, as well as potentially members of his own family.”

You can read more here.

WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A LONDON CABBIE

London cabbies famously study for several years before they are allowed to get behind the wheel of a London taxi. As the YouTube page explains, they

”...must pass The Knowledge, universally regarded as the world’s toughest taxi test. Applicants often take two to four years to prepare for the infamous exam, memorizing over 25,000 street names and 20,000 points of interest.

“Only one in five applicants pass the test, giving The Knowledge the same success rate as the U.S. Navy SEALs.”

Take a look:

STRANDBEAST

TGB reader Pat Trimbell sent this video of artist Theo Janzen's Strandbeast creations.

”Not pollen or seeds but plastic yellow tubes are used as the basic materials of this new nature. I make skeletons that are able to walk on the wind so they don't have to eat,” writes the artist on his webpage.”

WHAT WOLVES BROUGHT TO YELLOWSTONE PARK

Although this video about wolves' return to Yellowstone Park was made four years ago, it is still valid. I wonder if the changes will survive Trump.

VOTING AT HOME INCREASES TURNOUT

When I moved to Oregon in 2010, I was pleased to discover that all voting is done at home and submitted via snailmail. Now there is some research showing what Oregon has known since they began this kind of voting:

”The study found that vote at home increased overall turnout by 3.3 percent, and by even more among young and low-propensity voters. The implication is clear: Anyone who cares about improving turnout should make expanding vote at home a top priority.

“...Turnout rates in the states where everyone can vote at home — Oregon, Washington and Colorado — have increased since the system was adopted, and they’re now among the highest in the country.”

The issue is a bit more complex than that excerpt makes clear and you can read more here.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A DOG PHOTOGRAPHER

Many years ago, I produced a TV segment about dog photographer William Wegman and have been delighted with his work every since. (Long before his stint began on the Today Show, a young Matt Lauer was the interviewer on that program.)

As the YouTube page explains:

”Welcome to Wegman’s Wild World of Weimaraners, where dogs bake cakes and lounge like royalty. Known to the world as the 'dog photographer,' William Wegman has spent the past 45 years dressing and posing his canine muses in elaborate ensembles, finding whimsy in the absurd.”

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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” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I 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 include the name of the blog and its URL.



The Question of a Loneliness Epidemic

Just last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May created a new government position: Minister for Loneliness.

According to a 2017 report, more than 9 million people in Britain often or always feel lonely. May, quoted in The New York Times, said in announcing the new ministry,

“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.”

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones — people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.”

(More about how the Ministry will tackle the problem is reported at gov.uk.)

It's not just a British problem. According to a U.S. study of 218 studies, loneliness is not only a social problem, it is harmful to our health:

"They discovered that lonely people had a 50 per cent increased risk of early death, compared to those with good social connections. In contrast, obesity raises the chance of dying before the age of 70 by around 30 per cent,” as reported in The Telegraph.

As the American Psychological Association [APA] reported on the same study:

”Approximately 42.6 million adults over age 45 in the United States are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness, according to AARP’s Loneliness Study...

“'These trends suggest that Americans are becoming less socially connected and experiencing more loneliness,' said [researcher Julianne] Holt-Lunstad.”

I do not doubt for a moment that there are millions of old people who are lonely but I think there is something else at work on this topic that the researchers won't understand until they are old: that many old people voluntarily withdraw from social life to greater or smaller degrees as the years pile up.

I can't prove that and I haven't seen a single study that addresses it, let alone agrees. But a growing body of anecdotal evidence, just in my own small circle, seem to indicate something the loneliness researchers don't know.

A reader named Albert Williams left this note on a TGB post about making friends in old age. It's a bit lengthy but worth it:

”Whew! I'm glad I found this site,” wrote Williams. “I was beginning to think that I was the only person with such problems, and that, perhaps, there was something wrong with me.

“However, after a bit of introspection, I realize that this is not completely true. (Completely? Try old, ugly, curmudgeonly, short-tempered, cynical, and a few more applicable adjectives...)

“Time has, indeed, taken its toll. I am now an old man. Most of my life-long friends are gone. I've never had any kids; I've outlived two wives; and almost all of my family on both sides have already died.

“I find it very easy to make new acquaintances, but these seem to never develop into the deep, trusting, abiding friendships I had when I was young. Loneliness, apparently, has become a permanent part of my remaining days, and my best friends nowadays are my dogs and my computer.”

In addition, a long-time internet/blog friend, Cowtown Patty, recently wrote in an email:

”Found that as I age, while I enjoy people to a degree, I am happier when I am at our 'farm' out puttering in the 'garden' or in the house somewhere alone. Even Kent, who is the easiest person in the world to get along with, can be an irritating intruder sometimes.

“Do you think we 'cocoon' as we age? Protection? Preparing? Insulating ourselves from a world grown too noisy?”

That may be true for me. Although I have always seemed to need a lot more alone time that many people I know, in recent years I've purposely chosen fewer social engagements in exhange for time alone (reduced energy may be a contibutor too).

It's not that I don't like people or don't enjoy time with them. I do. But as I follow my innate nature these days, I am eager for less of that than during most of my adult life and as far as I can tell, the biggest change that would bear upon the desire for fewer social engagements is that I've grown older.

Which doesn't sound too far off from Patty's “cocooning” idea – perhaps even subconsciously, we begin separating ourselves from a world we know we will be leaving much sooner than people who are younger than we are.

There is an interesting entry at the Wikipedia Old Age page on this subject (emphasis added):

”Johnson and Barer did a pioneering study of Life Beyond 85 Years by interviews over a six-year period. In talking with 85+ year olds, they found some popular conceptions about old age to be erroneous.

“Such erroneous conceptions include (1) people in old age have at least one family member for support, (2) old age well-being requires social activity, and (3) 'successful adaptation' to age-related changes demands a continuity of self-concept.

“In their interviews, Johnson and Barer found that 24% of the 85+ had no face-to-face family relationships; many have outlived their families. Second, that contrary to popular notions, the interviews revealed that the reduced activity and socializing of the over 85s does not harm their well-being; they 'welcome increased detachment.

The researchers spoke only with people 85 and older. I strongly suspect that if they talked with 60- and 70-somethings, the trend would be there already.

Certainly there are millions of old people yearning to make connections with others who are having trouble doing that.

But as with all things related to elders, I don't believe you can bundle all of us into one handy explanation for any issue and it could be that what looks like loneliness to younger researchers is a personal choice some elders make.

What do you think?