899 posts categorized "Culture"

Happy Thanksgiving 2017, Everyone

Given the condition of the national government (not to mention some state governments), we in the United States could be forgiven for wondering what there is to be thankful for this year.

May I suggest we go micro, local, personal.

The biggest for me is old and new friends including all of you at this blog who have been so open, generous, understanding, giving and loving. Not that you haven't always been so but without your constant and powerful support since my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer earlier this year, I know I would not be nearly as positive as I am.

You are all wonderful people.

Secondly, I am thankful to the gods or to whomever arranges such things in the universe that I was among the 10 percent of people with this diagnosis who are eligible for the Whipple procedure.

In addition, the chemotherapy has so far been relatively easy with none of the gruesome side effects that can happen. How did I get so lucky?

And then there are the innumerable staff at the Oregon Health & Science University clinics and hospital where, without exception, every one is smart, thoughtful, experienced, caring and as far as I can tell, never has a bad day.

Moving on then to the celebration of this year's holiday...

In 2013, I vowed that due to my delight at rediscovering Arlo Guthrie's epic Thanksgiving fable, Alice's Restaurant, after the decade or two it lay somewhere in memory limbo, I would make the song the annual holiday anthem of TimeGoesBy.

As I noted that year, I was equally delighted to discover that with a couple of minor lapses, I still knew the entire monologue by heart. I can't say why but it gives me a great deal of pleasure to sing along for the entire 18 minutes, which I took the time to do (with gusto again this year) while readying this post.

Maybe you would enjoy doing that too. All together now...

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

At this point, I need to slip in a practical note: Last weekend, a huge, big box of baklava arrived at my door from Libanais Sweets. It has been a favorite treat – baklava – for many years.

Alas, there was no card enclosed nor could the nice woman at Libanais help me with a name when I telephoned so I have no idea who to thank. Please do let me know – the baklava, in several types, is wonderful.

Just because I can, I'm taking tomorrow off from the blog but will be back here on Saturday with the a new edition of Interesting Stuff.

For my baklava benefactor and everyone who honors me year 'round by reading, commenting and/or generally hanging out here,

Thanksgiving


Elders and Dog Sharing

Day in and day out, there is so much bad news, I decided that in keeping with the holiday tomorrow, we should have a week of light news and commentary. God knows such things as sexual misconduct, tax reform, net neutrality and whatever else comes up will need our full attention next week.

Meanwhile, in a recent story in 1843 Magazine, Edward McBride discusses dog sharing in London. Mostly, he is talking about working people whose dogs get lonely during the day:

”For those whose schedules make it hard to pay their dog enough attention, outfits like BorrowMyDoggy are a godsend.

“They match owners, who need someone to stop Fido getting so bored he chews the skirting boards and pees on the sofa, with people who volunteer to walk or dogsit lonely pooches because they want the fun of having a dog to play with occasionally without the hassle and expense of owning one full-time.”

Personally, I think such people have no business having a pet but let's go with premise for the sake of this story.

It's more than just dog walking, it's an actual visit and the idea has spread to Canada (Part-time Pooch) and Australia (Dogshare). It's that name “Dogshare” that got me thinking about pets (well, dogs in particular) and old people.

I'm perfectly happy with my cat Ollie, I'm home most of the time so he doesn't need a drop-by friend and it is in the nature of most cats that they are slow to warm up to new people so I'm applying my idea to dogs.

Ollie is 13 now. My previous cat lived to be nearly 20, but what if Ollie doesn't and what if I would like a new pet when he is gone? It is widely understood that pets and people are good for one another and that dogs are amenable to more than one person at a time:

"Most of the world’s dogs [says Alexandra Horowitz, who teaches canine psychology at Columbia University in New York], are strays living in the developing world.

"Their natural habitat, as it were, is the proximity of humans, but they do not have a specific owner. Instead, they attach themselves temporarily to whoever is nice to them.

"There is good evidence that dogs form genuine attachments to humans, and can become depressed when these bonds of affection are sundered. But they need not be exclusive. As Roger Mugford, an animal psychologist who helped to train the queen’s corgis, puts it, “'You can overplay the idea of loyalty to the last gasp.'”

Most people want kittens or puppies but there are services that pair up elder people with elder pets. A good idea. But do I really want to face outliving another pet, if it comes to that?

So taking a page from Part-time Pooch and Dogshare, what about a real shared ownership between an elder and a younger person? The dog could live at each person's house for a week at a time, then switch.

It should start when the dog is a puppy, of course, so that having two homes feels normal to him or her. Each person can enjoy the pet in a week on/week off relationship, share expenses, work out vacation time with one another and when the older person dies, there is no worry that the dog won't have a home.

Give it some thought and let us know what you think.


Making Hearing Aids as Cool as Eyeglasses

A neighbor leaned in close, putting her ear near mine. “Can you hear it?” she asked, referring to her new hearing aid? Yes. Yes, I could hear her hearing aid announcing that it had been inserted correctly.

They haven't gotten any cheaper (the average price for a pair of hearing aids hovers around $4,000) and users often find them less than satisfactory. Further, many who could benefit don't use hearing aids because there is a cultural stigma attached to them.

Recently, Barnard College professor, Jennifer Finney Boylan, in an opinion piece in The New York Times, wrote about the cultural acceptance gap between eyeglasses and hearing aids:

”Why, I wonder, is it that devices to keep you from being blind are celebrated as fashion, but devices to keep you from being deaf are embarrassing and uncool? Why is it that the biggest compliment someone can give you about your hearing aids is 'I can hardly see them'?”

I've often wondered that myself. Hearing aids may not work as well as eyeglasses do, but that or the need to feel “cool” shouldn't be a reason for so many people to choose silence. Ms. Boylan continues:

”Among those in their 50s, 4.5 million people have some hearing loss. How many wear devices that would enable them to better hear the world? Less than 5 percent.

“Wearing hearing aids can change your life in an instant — not to mention that of the people you love, whose actual voices you may have been unable to hear. But we don’t get help.

“Because coverage by insurance carriers is inconsistent. Because we don’t know where or how to get our hearing tested. Because we’re afraid of what others might think. Because hearing loss is uncool.”

And they are wildly expensive but Boylan takes that on too while explaining some of the advances that are making hearing aids more successful for users.

Earlier this year, CNN reported on 78-year-old New Yorker, Peter Sprague, another who wants to make hearing aids cool. He's gone so far as to create a prototype of his idea, to start a company and to seek venture capital funding. Here he is in a short video explaining it all:

The hearing aids are called HearGlass which is, according to Sprague's company website, a

”...disruptive wearable device that incorporates full audio spectrum HiFi [hearing aids] into eyeglasses, allowing for a directional hearing experience superior to traditional [hearing aids]. Bluetooth/WiFi capabilities allow for hands-free music streaming, telephony, voice-activated commands and on-the-fly setting changes.”

You can find out more at the website. HearGlass is not yet available, Sprague is still in the fundraising phase and I have no idea if they work well. I'm not here to sell them.

I just like the idea that there are some people trying to remove the stigma from hearing aids so maybe more people will use them.


The Democratic Wins in Tuesday's Election

Let's have a little political talk around here today as a switch from too much health chitchat.

Democratic candidates got an amazing number of wins over their Republican opponents in Tuesday's election and in some cases did it in a walk. The biggest spread in the vote count was in the Virginia race for governor between Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie – a vast nine points dividing them.

The Democrats had a good run that night too in Virginia's House of Delegates. Four seats are still too close to call as I write this on Thursday afternoon and the final count could end up with a 50/50 split in the formerly bright red House.

Not as dramatically, some other states leaned heavily toward blue in this election, notably the Democratic win for governor in New Jersey, which is giving Republicans heartburn for the 2018 midterm election.

Yastreblyansky posted a cogent response to these developments at The Rectification of Names blog which I will quote more extensively than I usually do,

First he points out that of the 16 Virginia districts that went to Northam on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton won 15 of them in 2016.

”...one reason [this election] was so like 2016 is that so many people voted — 47%, the highest turnout in a Virginia gubernatorial election in 20 years,” writes Yastreblyansky.

“In a normal off-off-year election, the same kind of idiocy we're stuck with in New York City and New Jersey, the candidate of the leisured, the management, the retired, has an advantage. Not this year: voters just came out.

“And not just voters; candidates too. In 2013, 56 out of 100 districts had no opposition (mostly Republican seats), and no election was required at all; 71 of them in 2015.

“But in 2017 there were just 12 Republican seats with no opposition (28 Democratic seats unopposed by Republicans), because Democrats came out in Virginia to challenge everybody they could, and they won such a startling number those seats because they showed up.

“That simple. (Apparently Trump really inspired folks to run, particularly women, just by being so disgusting.) (Guy on MSNBC—Stuart Stevens, Wikipedia says he's a travel writer—saying every woman running as a Democrat nationwide just won her race.)”

The New York Times followed up on how much this Democratic Party-leaning vote involving wins by so many women and minorities means or does not mean for the midterms that are still a year away:

”Some are skeptical of reading too much into one off-year election. And even Democrats have had heated disagreements over whether identity politics help the party or drive people away.

“But David Ramadan, a Republican who served in the Virginia General Assembly from 2012 to 2016 said the warning for his party was clear.

“'Tuesday’s results show that unless the Republicans go back to being mainstream conservatives and run on issues like education, jobs and transportation instead of sanctuary cities and Confederate statues, they will hand not only Virginia to liberals, but they will hand the country to liberals and Congress to liberals next year,' Mr. Ramadan said.”

At New York magazine, Ed Kilgore walked readers through the various county vote numbers vis a vis the same counties in 2016, concluding:

One would be tempted to guess Northam won a good number of anti-Trump Republicans. But the exits suggest he won only 4 percent of self-identified members of the GOP. What seems to have mattered more is that self-identified Democrats were 41 percent of the electorate, as opposed to only 31 percent who were Republicans.

“That is a testament to the Democratic voter targeting and turnout operation, and possibly an indication that Republicans are losing a significant number of Virginia’s white suburban voters altogether.”

Two things about that: The daily effort the resistance has been making day-in-and-day-out since the 2016 election is working. It's fallen off my radar a bit since June with the distraction of my health issue and I haven't been reminding you to keep after your D.C. representatives on votes as they come up. Do keep at it for the coming year. If you can, help out your local grassroots efforts too.

Second, what do you make of this week's elections? Depending on your political leanings, are you encouraged, worried or, like me, concerned that so much happens, so much changes, every day in our current Trump world, everything is forgotten in the worldwind and almost nothing applies anymore after a week has gone by.


Crabby Old Lady and End of Literacy

Okay, maybe Crabby Old Lady is overstating it in that headline, but voice and and tiny little pictographs appear to be taking over human communication at the expense of the written word.

060915_Top100Emoji_Header

It's not just email and texting. When you add Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterist, Snapchat, etc. - all of which often use more photos, video and emoji than words – it appears that the written word is in danger of disappearing.

Before she goes any further, let Crabby admit that since last January, she has owned two Amazon Echo devices – one re-gifted from a TGB reader who didn't want it and another that Crabby, who was amused by the first one, bought for the bedroom at the other end of her home.

She doesn't use them as extensively as many people (and she certainly does not have a “smart home” to command with them), but just by asking she can find out the weather forecast, set a timer, listen to radio or to music or order up the latest news to be read to her, or a book, add items to her grocery shopping list, check the instructions on a recipe while she is cooking and much more.

You can see the insidious attraction.

California entertainment lawyer, Jon Pfeiffer, reported recently on a Harris poll that asked people of varying ages if emoji communicate better than the written word:

”...36% of millennials said that emojis convey their thoughts and emotions better than traditional words. About half as many baby boomers agree.

“However, when you look only at emotion, around 40% of baby boomers prefer emojis. This is not quite as many as the 66% of millennials, but it is still a huge percentage nonetheless.'”

Pfeiffer also quotes Professor John Sutherland on the subject:

“'In the future, less words and letters will be used in messaging as pictures and icons take over the text speak language.'”

(Crabby would be more inclined to take Sutherland seriously, however, if he – a professor of modern English literature at University College London - did not have such a poor grasp of English language grammar.)

Nevertheless, she still worries that these two men are on to something.

Crabby knows that every generation, especially as it ages, believes the world, now run by younger generations, is going to hell in a handbasket. So far that hasn't happened but the loss of widespread literacy would have devastating effect on civilization.

This loss seems to be progressing on several fronts beyond pictures replacing words.

Consider the assault on thought, focus and concentration of the modern workplace. Even before Crabby retired in 2004, cubicles had taken over and she, a writer and editor then, had been give a “cube” next to sales people on two sides of her who were on the phone all day. Yak, yak, yak as Crabby tried to bring clarity to her own and others' writing.

Nowadays, they've even removed cubicle dividers in favor of open space and shared tables, and as voice commands increasingly become the norm over typewriting and tapping, it's not just literacy that is in peril, but thought itself.

Another development is the increased use online of video news reports without an accompanying print story. Even though Crabby produced television shows for more than two decades, she was keenly aware that pictures are an enhancement that are incapable of transmitting nuance and detail in a two- or even five-minute story.

Not to mention that is takes much longer to watch a video news story than read it in print.

Plus, we're talking to our screens almost as much as we are reading them or writing onto them. Some business researchers expect that 50 percent of searches will be done by voice by 2020. If you're not concerned about literacy, at least consider the cacophany – yet another way to prevent reason, intellect and understanding.

Crabby's concern about all this was raised by Lori Orlov's bi-weekly online column, Aging in Place Technology Watch. On Monday, Orlov concluded:

”Our devices, our adult selves – what happened to words? So we are speaking (or shouting) 50% of our queries to our devices, texting selfie animojis and receiving a word or two plus more emojis in return.

“And to add to our not-so-smart phone use, we are overwhelmed by auto-play videos in Facebook, Twitter, and Google Chrome...

“Imagine those noisy employee meetings at Apple (median age 31), Google (median age 30), and Facebook (median age 28) as staffers hunch over their emoji menus, play videos by accident and spend quality time searching for a charging location.”

Those age demographics Orlov includes are not about how youngsters are befouling our literacy. The greater importance is that they will grow older and this will be their normal when it's their turn (not so far off) to run the world.

In case you're not up to speed on this stuff (Crabby was not until now), here are links to what may soon pass for communication and thought, an emojipedia and an emoji keyboard. These are hardly the only ones.

What's your take on all this?


Ursula K. Le Guin on Growing Old

TGB reader John Starbuck recently forwarded to me an old issue of Brain Pickings, Maria Popova's weekly blog post of her thoughtful writing on books, art, philosophy, the internet and, over the years, just about anything that captures her interest and attention.

The operative word in that paragraph is “thoughtful.”

TheWaveoftheMindBI recalled that article immediately because it had given me a perspective on a certain essay from a book that sits on my favorites shelf, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader and the Imagination, by Ursula K. Le Guin.

The book gained favorite status as soon as I read it the first time, when it was published in 2004. The essays go back in Le Guin's life even farther, the oldest having been published in 1988.

On re-reading it this week, what surprised me is that in all the years I've been writing Time Goes By, since 2004, I've have never mentioned the book or – most particularly - the essay that Popova featured in 2014.

To rectify that oversight, I'm going to give you a taste of it today. It is titled, “Dogs, Cats, and Dancers: Thoughts About Beauty” and it is about all those things. All those things and another omitted from the title, growing old.

For some perspective, you should know that Ms. Le Guin is speaking from life, from experience. She was born in 1929; this essay was written in 1992, when she was 63.

Selections from Dogs, Cats, and Dancers: Thoughts About Beauty by Ursula K. Le Guin.

“One rule of the game, in most times and places, is that it's the young who are beautiful. The beauty ideal is always a youthful one. This is partly simple realism. The young are beautiful. The whole lot of 'em. The older I get, the more clearly I see that and enjoy it.”

Le Guin tells us it's hard to look in the mirror, wondering who that old lady is and what happened to her waist. “How large can a knuckle get,” she wonders before it becomes a kneejoint?”

”And yet I look at men and women my age and older, and their scalps and knuckles and spots and bulges, though various and interesting, don't affect what I think of them. Some of these people I consider to be very beautiful, and others I don't.

“For old people, beauty doesn't come free with the hormones, the way it does for the young. It has to do with bones. It has to do with who the person is. More and more clearly it has to do with what shines through those gnarly faces and bodies.”

Further on, Le Guin discusses how, even though children supposedly look forward to becoming adults, puberty isn't always welcome to them. "When I was thirteen and fourteen," she writes, "I felt like a whippet suddenly trapped inside a great lumpy St. Bernard. I wonder if boys don't often feel something like that as they get their growth."

"The change is hard," she writes. "And then it happens again, when you're sixty or seventy."

"But all the same, there's something about me that doesn't change, hasn't changed, through all the remarkable, exciting, alarming, and disappointing transformations my body has gone through. There is a person there who isn't only what she looks like, and to find her and know her I have to look through, look in, look deep. Not only in space, but in time."

Speaking of her mother, who died at age 83, Le Guin wonders how we remember, how we see a beloved person who has died - particularly, as in the case of her mother, one who was, at the end, in pain from cancer, her body misshapen from disease.

”It is a true image, yet it blurs, it clouds, a truer image. It is one memory among fifty years of memories of my mother. It is the last in time. Beneath it, behind it is a deeper, complex, every-changing image, made from imagination, hearsay, photographs, memories.

“I see a little red-haired child in the mountains of Colorado, a sad-faced, delicate college girl, a kind, smiling young mother, a brilliantly intellectual woman, a peerless flirt, a serious artist, a splendid cook – I see her rocking, weeding, writing, laughing – I see the turquoise bracelets on her delicate, freckled arm – I see, for a moment, all that at once, I glimpse what no mirror can reflect, the spirit flashing out across the years, beautiful.

“That must be what the great artists see and paint. That must be why the tired, aged faces in Rembrandt's portraits give us such delight: they show us beauty not skin-deep but life-deep.

“In Brian Lanker's album of photographs I Dream a World, face after wrinkled face tells us that getting old can be worth the trouble if it gives you time to do some soul making.”

You've noticed, I'm sure, that I've left out the dogs and cats and dancers of the essay's title. They are absolutely germane, they enrich the subject further and so these excerpts are not entirely fair.

If you want to read the rest of Ms. Le Guin's essay, not to mention others in the book, it is available at all the usual online sources.


Blogging and Privacy

We live in an age of oversharing, of what many consider TMI (Too Much Information), of social media websites that make it easy for millions to bestow upon the world the most mundane aspects of their lives as though the rest of us care what they had for dinner last night.

So widespread is the belief that the world is waiting with bated breath for any given person's (usually misspelled) thoughts on watching paint dry that the president is hardly the only one who can be labeled narcissist.

(You can be forgiven at this point if you're thinking now that I fall into the same category, and move on to some other webpage.)

Today's post was prompted a few days ago when a TGB reader and friend named Ann emailed to ask about how my chemotherapy is going, that I hadn't written lately about any cancer developments. She was quick to note too, however, that she believes

“...I speak for many who understand and respect your need to keep the private, private.”

As chance would have it, I had just finished writing Monday's post with an update on the chemo treatments that had taken me awhile to get around to because there was nothing useful to say: it's going well. Next?

But it did get me thinking about privacy and the choices I make about what and how much personal information to reveal on this blog.

It was easy to decide to write about my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Such a thing is so shocking to hear, so hard to believe at first, accompanied for awhile by a near certainty someone has made a mistake that there was no room in my brain for anything else.

In that regard. I hardly had a choice. If I hadn't made it public, Time Goes By would have disappeared because I could think of nothing except cancer.

On the other hand, writing about growing old is what I do, it orders my days, and when the initial impact wore off I remembered that cancer is more common in old age than any other time of life. It is one of the "diseases of age", as they say, one of the topics of this blog – or should be - so perhaps my diagnosis and I get to be the guinea pig.

There was more. As I explained to Ann, my silence about the cancer was

”...not about privacy. I don't believe in it. Privacy, that is, although I do believe it is up to each individual to choose how much to say. I long ago learned that if it has happened to me, if I have done it or it has been done to me - so it has been with millions of others.

“And that, for me, pretty well removes any sense of privacy and more, perhaps requires that we DO talk about things many people don't want to mention.

“That thought came to me eight or ten years ago when I wrote about urinary incontinence for the first time. I wrote the blog post and let it sit in the computer for several days because it seemed there was some propriety involved. We just don't discuss such things.

“But it's a common affliction of old age so finally one day, I took a deep breath and hit the publish button. It was hours before I had the nerve to check comments and nearly fell off my chair when I did - dozens and dozens of people talking about their difficulties and/or solutions, pleased that someone had given them permission to talk about it openly.

"So nowadays, I consider privacy only if the subject involves another person whose story or information I have no right to share without permission.”

That doesn't mean my life is an open book. In general, whatever personal information I reveal relates to some aspect of ageing although I've allowed myself to stretch that definition here and there.

The thing about blogs, at least for a former journalist like me, is that they are a hybrid. It is important when I report on Medicare, Social Security, health issues, age-related politics and so on, that it be straightforward, factual and trustworthy.

But TGB is also a personal blog that hardly has a raison d'etre without my opinion of whatever is being discussed which often requires some degree of personal disclosure.

Over the years, finding the balance has been a challenge. In the earliest years, there was hardly anything about me. Nowadays, as in regard to the cancer, my personal experience is sometimes the example from which to expand and explore.

It's not always easy to decide what is or is not going too far with that – I definitely am not writing an autobiography or memoir. The goal here, while still coloring mostly within the lines, is to try to figure out what it's really like to get old.


A Portrait of Elders on the Internet and a Book Giveaway

Did you know that the number one reason people 65 and older use social networking websites is to connect with family? I suppose I could have guessed that but since I don't participate in social networks beyond publishing Time Goes By on Facebook (it is set up to happen automatically) in addition to this blog, I was mildly surprised.

The next two reasons for using social networks in this age group are to stay in touch with friends and the number three position is related to work and career although that has dropped from the number one between 2013 and 2016.

EBook_SocialSilverSurfers2016-web250

I know these things and a lot more due to a new eBook, Social Silver Surfers – Where to Find (and How to Win!) Mature Consumers Online written by my cyberfriend Erin Read and Kimberly Hulett, published this week by their employer, Creative Results.

The company specializes in branding and other useful and usable information for marketing professionals, home builders and developers, and C-suite executives concerned with figuring out ROI (return on investment) in the digital marketplace of old people.

It's not immediately apparent that it's the sort of website I would need or want to read for this blog but it is packed with good, solid information about what old people do online that has been invaluable to me over a lot of years providing of variety of insights about how we grow old on the internet.

I'm featuring some of the findings from their newest survey today because it's always interesting to find out what's going on with one's own tribe (and not, of course, because Erin and her co-writer/researcher have quoted both me and Crabby Old Lady in the book).

SOCIAL MEDIA WEBSITES ARE MUCH MORE POPULAR THAN BLOGS
Here's a chart of the most popular social networks. Certainly it was easy to guess number one, Facebook by more than half of even the second most popular:

ErinMostUsedSocialNetworks

Although email shows up at the bottom of that list as a social network, no one mentions blogs.

Per this latest survey, 38% of social silver surfers say they read or post blogs. And only 28% subscribe to blogs. As Erin and Kimberly explain in the eBook:

”Now, many of them may not realize when they’re reading a blog. Some blogs look just like news websites. Others are considered 'newsletters' or 'messages' by older adults because their subscriptions are delivered by email.

“For example, Erin suggested her mother sign up to receive Erin’s favorite blog. Time Goes By is a fantastically well-written, intelligent, thoughtful and, at times, emotional study of aging in America by journalist Ronni Bennett.

“With permission, Erin entered mom’s email address at timegoesby.net and subscribed her. It’s a rare day that Erin’s mom doesn’t start a conversation with 'You’ll never guess what Ronni said in her email today' or 'Ronni’s note to me this morning had the most amazing thing…'

“As if they’re having a personal, one-to-one email conversation, mom and Ronni. (Erin actually does have one-to-one conversations with Ronni and she tattled on her mom. Ronni’s response? 'Oh, I love that I’m writing just for her. Perfect.'

“Which is exactly why so many older adults believe this warm and intelligent writer is sending them personal emails.)”

(You didn't think I'd leave out that part, did you? What's the internet for if not to boast a bit now and then.)

The authors' conclusion about blogs and older people online:

The percentage of social, silver surfers saying they use blogs has increased 9% since 2010.

When mature consumers do subscribe to a blog, it has greater impact. They trust the content coming into their inboxes. They read it and feel personally touched.

OLDER ADULTS STILL LAG IN INTERNET USE
It makes sense that old adults have been slower to adopt the internet than younger ones but I was surprised at how few still don't use it:

ErinTechAdoption

Here is what Erin and Kimberly say about that:

“Household income, educational attainment and geography play a part – rural Americans are about 2x as likely as urban Americans to never use the internet. Per the US Census, the median age for a rural citizen is 51 years old, vs. 45 years for someone who dwells in an urban area.”

In addition, rural area access to the internet is more limited than for those who live in cities. They are often stuck with dialup because broadband has not reached them yet and so it can be too slow to see the usefulness or entertainment value.

DECIDING TO BUY THINGS DUE TO SOCIAL NETWORKS
A lot of social media users make purchasing decisions based on what they read on social networks. But take a look at this graph, organized by age group, at what happens as people grow older:

ErinPurchaseInfluenceGraphic

I wonder if that happens because many older people have less money in retirement than when they were working or if they have become more discerning in old age? I can't decide.

This post doesn't scratch the surface of the survey's findings about elders' online lives. There is plenty more to know and if you are not or were not a marketing professional, you can skip those conclusion sections of the book. It's still a great read – a snapshot of us in time.

You can find out more about the book at the Silver Surfers website.

BOOK GIVEAWAY
Social Silver Surfers – Where to Find (and How to Win!) Mature Consumers Online, Third Edition, is available to purchase now on Amazon for download to Kindle for $5.95, and will be available at iBooks next week. But Erin and I worked out a deal just for TGB readers. Three winners will receive a PDF copy of the book.

To enter the giveaway, just tell me in the comments below that, “Yes, I want to win one of the books.” Or, you could say, “Me, me, me.” or anything else that indicates your interest.

Winners (you can live in any country) are selected by a random number generator and I will have your email addresses via the comment form to arrange your PDF copy. The contest will remain open through the weekend until 12 midnight Pacific Time on 1 October 2017, and the three winners will be announced in Monday morning's regular post, 2 October 2017.

For non-winners (so sorry), I will supply the link to the Apple iBook version when it becomes available next week.

Congratulations to my friend Erin and to Kimberly for an intriguing and useful update on my age cohort's internet lives.


A Question of Organ Recitals

Friends

A few days ago in a comment, a reader made an approving reference to a friend who refused to take part in groups of old people who indulge in “organ recitals” - that supposedly clever but disparaging phrase for discussion of medical problems.

(It is always applied to elders. Young people who talk about their health are never accused of being boring but we'll save discussion of that kind of ageism for another day.)

Certainly we have all known people who carry on at mind-numbing length or go through the details of their surgery at inappropriate moments – Thanksgiving dinner comes to mind. But there is another side to this issue.

A couple of weeks ago, on a post here in which Crabby Old Lady was writing about her cancer, reader Rina Rosselson who blogs at age, ageing and feature films, left this note in the comments:

”Thanks for your crabby post. At 82 I still have not heard what my friends had been going through when struck by a serious illness. There is such reluctance and fear to communicate and share these feelings. Your posts make it easier to talk about these changes.”

Rina is right. As much as some organ recitals can be excessive, plenty of other people go too far in their silence about serious medical issues. It helped me a lot, eased my mind to a degree, especially when I was first diagnosed, that people I know – in “real life” and on this blog – passed on what they had experienced during cancer treatment.

Conversation

Even if it would not closely match my experience, it helped me understand how difficult or easy my treatment might be and, most important, that those people had got through it - a real question when facing so much that is frightening and new.

Here is another thing that happened – to me, anyway – after the surgery and during recovery from it; even as I desperately wanted to not become a “professional patient” and wanted to hang on to my pre-diagnosis life, cancer is insidious in at least one additional way beyond the physical attack on the body:

Over time, and not all that long a period, it creeps into every cell of your brain. Trying to read a newspaper or a book? The mind strays to cancer. Watching a movie on TV? Next thing you know you're wondering if the chemo will actually work, and you've lost the thread of the film story.

Even washing dishes or making the bed, you suddenly worry that you forgot to take your pre-meal pill at lunch.

But perhaps the worst? Those ubiquitous commercials for various cancer treatment centers scattered in cities around the U.S. that always imply that they can cure cancer.

They enrage me. As much as I suspect a generally positive attitude is helpful in treating cancer, I resent being lied to as though I'm incompetent. And although, if you listen carefully to every word, they don't promise a cure, few of us pay that kind of close attention and it sounds like that's what they are saying.

Either way, there you go down the cancer rabbit hole again.

One thing I've noticed is that too often when I've told people about my diagnosis, they don't know what to say – they are stunned - understandable - and I think part of that is our general reluctance to discuss such things at all.

So I'm with Rina. I think discussing details of our serious diseases and conditions (appropriately, for sure) is a big help in reducing fear in everyone involved – friends and family as well as patients. Talking about these dramatic changes, when they hit us, with loved ones goes a long way to finding a way to live with them.

I am reminded of the large number of doctors and nurses I have been dealing with through these months. They answer every question with the truth, even the hard truths, with compassion, understanding and a good deal of humor. The rest of us should be doing that too.

Friends Having Lunch


Some Advantages of Being Old

Advantagetobeing102

Crabby Old Lady and I have spent a lot of time here in the past couple of months writing about one of the big downsides of old age, serious medical problems. Let's do something different today.

Here is a list of some of the advantages to growing old. I forgot to note where this came from so apologies to whomever I've cribbed it from.

Oh, and if you think some of these are ageist, don't. It's okay among ourselves as you'll see when you realize you're nodding in recognition at each one.

You no longer think of speed limits as a challenge.

It's okay to talk to yourself.

You can't remember when you last laid on the floor to watch television.

You can nap whenever you feel like it.

You can reread old books because you've forgotten the ending anyway (similarly for TV shows and movies).

Your eyes won't get much worse.

Your secrets are safe because your friends' memories are no better than your own.

Almost all the difficult, major decisions in life are behind you.

You can stop trying to keep up with technology.

You could call that list a bunch of silliness, but admit, you've had these thoughts yourself.

The list came to mind recently when I read a story at Lifehack titled 6 Benefits of Getting Older You Probably Never Expected.

You can tell from the headline that it is written for people who are much younger than you and I and in fact, there is nothing in the article that I didn't already know.

But it is good thing nonetheless because it is important that young people and American culture at large be repeatedly reminded that life doesn't end at age 40 or 50 and often gets better as the years pile up.

Noting that no one escapes growing old and that young people's fears of old age are not necessarily invalid, they probably have not considered the advantages. Here are writer Devon Dings' six benefits:

1. We Have Much Clearer Priorities
As we grow older, we are able to differentiate our needs from our wants while focusing on the matters and goals in our lives that are relevant.

2. We Don’t Care As Much What Others Think
It is when we realize that others’ judgment isn’t fatal that we will finally be able to start taking the chances and risks that we’ve held back from.

3. It’s Easier to Manage Our Emotions
We realize how little the opinions of others really affect us, and are able to transform the anger and sadness that we receive into motivational thoughts.

4. Headaches Are Fewer and Further Between
At the start of the study [in 1994] all patients claimed to suffer from one to six migraines a month. When Dr. Dahlof followed up with the patients in 2006, at least 30% of them had not experienced a migraine within the last two years.

PERSONAL NOTE: I never suffered migraines but I had a headache several times a week for most of my adulthood. They diminished as I got older and disappeared entirely 10-15 years ago.)

5. We Have Higher Sense of Self-Worth
At this point in time we have proven over and over that we can do it, and that there isn’t a better way to learn than by failing.... We base our choices [now] on what we can do, or are interested in achieving.

6. We Can Learn From Our Children and Grandchildren
Our children and grandchildren, who have grown up in this new world, will have the capability to assist us and fill in any information gaps. We will have taught these individuals the necessities of living, and the skills required to survive, now they will assist us to do the same.

You can read Dings' full explanations for each one at Lifehack and I am wondering what you would add to his list. Let us know below in the comments.


INTERESTING STUFF – 26 August 2017

THE GREAT SOLAR ECLIPSE OF 2017

It's all over now but let's have one more go at the 2017 total solar eclipse. This video was shot from the shores of Palisades Reservoir, Idaho:

A COMIC ABOUT GROWING OLD

By comic strip artist Dan Dougherty, this series features a dad and his daughter growing up and beyond.It is charming. A sample:

GrowingOldComic1

GrowingOldComic2

GrowingOldComic3

Visit Bored Panda for the entire strip and keep scrolling for the full effect.

ENGLAND'S POISON GARDEN

I've seen this video before and can't recall if I've posted it so, what the hell. Maybe it's the second time around. Here's the intro from the YouTube page:

”Locked behind black steel doors in Northumberland, England, the Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle grows around 100 infamous killers. From deadly nightshade to hemlock, the only way a plant can take root in this garden is if it is lethal to humans.

“Created by the Duchess of Northumberland, this is one garden where you won't want to stop and smell the flowers.”

THE SECRET OF LIFE

Although I've been reading the 16th century essayist, Michel de Montaigne for as long as I can remember now, I have discovered a marvelous companion volume I'm reading now.

In How to Live or A Life of Montaigne, Author Sarah Bakewell makes strides toward answering that universal question about how to live based on her years-long study of Montaigne's essays.

Montaigne isn't the only person to discover that paying attention to the present moment is the secret to a good life; he's just the first (if you don't count the ancients he studied).

Here is Alan Watts take on the same issue:

ALPHORN PLAYERS COMPETITION

I didn't even know there was such a thing as a alphorn, let alone an international competition. Here's what the YouTube page tells us:

”The Valais Drink Pure Festival in Nendaz, Switzerland, is an international meeting of alphorn players where the best of the best come to play the iconic elongated horn in its traditional Swiss setting.

“While 16-year-old Tim Lin might seem like an unlikely alphorn enthusiast, he is quite the prodigy. Born in Germany to a Chinese father and a Belarusian mother, Lin took home last year’s top prize in the youth category, and hopes to do it again this year.”

WHAT TRUMP HAS UNDONE

Although President Trump has no legislative accomplishments to brag about, he frequently insists that he has surpassed all previous presidents' accomplishments in his first six months. It is simply not true:

What Trump HAS done, however, is reverse a lot of important rules, tools and policies and it can make you cry. Washington Post reporter Philip Bump has compiled a comprehensive list of them. Here are a few of the most terrible:

⚫ Withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership

⚫ Repeal of a rule allowing states to create retirement savings plans for private-sector workers

⚫ Withdrew from the Paris climate agreement

⚫ Blocked the Clean Power Plan

⚫ Ended a study on the health effects of mountaintop-removal mining

⚫ Reversed an Obama ban on drilling for oil in the Arctic

⚫ Rescinded a limit on the number of sea animals that can be trapped or killed in fishing nets

⚫ Ended a rule banning dumping waste from mining into streams

⚫ Removed a bike-sharing station at the White House

⚫ Withdrew federal protections for transgender students in schools

There are many more that will break your heart and even if we could stop Trump now, it would be years before we could restore these important policies. Read the entire list here.

THE BRITISH POLITENESS POLICE

These are the Burlington Beadles which YouTube tells us is “possibly the oldest and smallest private police force in the world.”

”For nearly 200 years, the beadles have stood guard over one of London’s most exclusive shopping centers, preventing shoppers from committing brash acts of rudeness—such as whistling, singing and hurrying.

“Dressed in period clothing, head beadle Mark Lord still makes sure that people mind their manners in this most (proper) English way.”

SMALLEST TOWNS IN THE U.S

Mental Floss has compiled a list of the smallest town in each one of the 50 American states. A surprising number of them boast states with just one resident.

In my state, Oregon, the smallest town, with a population of two, is Greenhorn which also has the distinction of being at the highest city at 6,306 feet.

Greenhorn oregon sign

The town was founded during the gold rush and today

”...serves as a vacation retreat and hunting outpost for a handful of part-time residents. Two people, Joyce Pappel and Ron Bergstrom, account for the town’s entire permanent population. Greenhorn collects no taxes and has no sewers, power lines, or police.”

You can look up the smallest town in your state at Mental Floss.

FAINTING GOATS

Have you ever heard of these? Fainting goats? I never had until a house guest, my friend Jim Stone, showed me a couple of videos. Here's another video about them from National Geographic. They make me laugh every time.

* * *

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.


Being a Professional Patient

As I have mentioned once or twice since my pancreatic cancer diagnosis, I have always said I never wanted to become a professional patient. Nevertheless, here I am doing just that and there is a surprise: some aspects are quite pleasurable.

One of those is visits to the hospital.

On Tuesday, in preparation for my upcoming six months of chemotherapy, I underwent a short, minor surgical procedure to implant a port, sometimes called a port-a-cath, under the skin of my upper chest through which the chemo medications will be administered.

RonniChemoPort2

(It's hard to tell in this photograph, but the port raises the skin about a quarter of an inch. I have no idea what that bruised area on my neck is although it is related to the placement of the port.)

The surgeon who performed my Whipple procedure in June was there on Tuesday to lead the team and I was glad to see him; I feel safe in his hands.

In addition, even though the nurses, CNAs, two anesthesiologists and other caregivers who looked after me were not the same people who did so in June, they were equally patient, kind, caring, knowledgeable and expert at their jobs.

Each one carefully explained the parts of the procedure that were in their bailiwick, answered all my questions in layman's language I could understand and in a situation where just about any patient would be apprehensive, even frightened, their manner made it seem almost like we were just having a friendly visit. As it was the day after the eclipse, we shared our stories about that in between the medical information.

Given the ambience they created, if it hadn't been 6AM I might have expected drinks to be served.

With this diagnosis, I entered a world almost as different from my life's experience as landing on another planet would be. It is fascinating, if you pay attention, in a way that is similar to reading Studs Terkel's book, Working, from years ago for which he interviewed many dozens of people about what their jobs were like.

A hospital is a self-contained universe expressly designed to give aid and comfort to people whose bodies have betrayed them in some manner. The people who work in that domain have their own language, their own tools, rules, rituals, practices, customs, protocols and codes of conduct.

And when you – the patient – are lucid enough, you get an intriguing peak into this alien environment. Safety is, as you would imagine, paramount. About nine or ten people came to talk with me in the curtained pre-op room on Tuesday. Every one of them first asked me to repeat my full name and birth date which they checked against my computer record.

Undoubtedly that is to ensure they don't amputate the wrong leg, as it were.

I am impressed that although my legal name, listed on all my records and documents is Veronica, they had taken the time to determine that I prefer to be called Ronni – also in my records – and not one ever missed that nicety.

Each one, too, is careful never to overstate the bounds of his or her area of expertise. When I asked an RN if it would be possible to insert the port on the left side of my chest, she deferred to the surgeon – it was his call, not hers.

When a couple of physicians were explaining the release I needed to sign, a group of nurses just outside my room were having a coffee klatch and getting quite loud. The doctors stopped our discussion, went out to quiet the nurses and when they returned, started from the top to be sure I knew what I was signing.

Some hospital personnel apparently have prodigious memories. As I was wheeled toward the operating room, the woman at the desk where I had checked in an hour earlier waved and said with a big smile, “See you when you get back here, Ronni.”

How many people had she checked in that morning? And she remembered my name?

All this accommodation is to the good and is a result of the relatively new doctrine of “patient-centered care”, a concept physicians' offices, clinics and hospitals have been developing over the last decade or so. Quite successfully as far as “my hospital” is concerned.

So if I must become a professional patient, I'm having a fine ol' time investigating hospital culture.

In that regard, here's a nugget of information worth knowing: at this hospital, operating rooms are numbered 1 through 25 but there is no number 13. Even in a place where cutting edge medicine is practiced every day, superstition remains.


Crabby Old Lady's Silly Complaints

This post is so silly that Crabby Old Lady almost left today's page blank. Her excuse is that it is all she had time for (it's amazing how busy doctors keep you when you have a serious disease) and she implores you not to laugh or make fun when you realize how ephemeral these are.

Two of her complaints involve fashion – one she is sorry to have missed and a second that is fairly serious if you like to dress nicely or, maybe Crabby is alone on this one.

Sparkly Makeup
These days, Crabby indulges only in a little blusher and light lipstick now and then but otherwise goes about her business with a naked face. That wasn't always so.

For most of her adult life, Crabby wore a lot of makeup although few noticed. She had the advantage of many years working with top makeup artists to the stars in television and they taught her a lot of tricks involved with enhancing one's better facial qualities and diminishing others without making the cosmetics obvious.

Crabby always liked playing around with makeup but when she retired and was getting older, it seemed excessive. And then, THEN, she discovered one day in a drug store sparkly blusher, sparkly eye shadow, even sparkly foundation.

Wow. What a great idea. It could be subtle for daytime or blatant for night. But it looked – and still looks – fantastic, but on young women, not old ones like Crabby although she might have some fun with it next Halloween.

This is a rare instance of Crabby Old Lady lamenting that she got too old too soon.

Sleeveless Clothing
What is it with sleeveless clothing? For the past few years, this has been driving Crabby nuts. She sees a shirt or blouse she likes, it works for her, the color is nice and then, second look – NO SLEEVES.

If you're shopping for clothes online, you can scroll for pages and pages without seeing sleeves. Even in winter clothes. Worse are those skimpy sleeves that stop just below the elbow – they look sloppy, unfinished.

Crabby suspects that it is just another way – in addition to overseas manufacturing and flimsy fabric (unless you can afford designer clothes) to make a greater profit. Imagine the amount of fabric no sleeves saves.

Crabby wonders if the clothing manufacturers know how much less clothing Crabby buys these days for lack of sleeves. And can she be alone?

Whatever Happened to Saying “You're Welcome”?
Since when, Crabby wants to know, is the response to “thank you” not “you're welcome”?

It is most obvious on the cable news programs when a host thanks a guest for taking time to be there and the guest says, “Thank you,” instead of “You're welcome.”

It has happened to Crabby Old Lady in “real life” too, although not as universally as on television. For example, on leaving a restaurant, she might thank a maitre d' for a nice meal and he/she almost always says “Thank you for coming.”

Can't anyone take a compliment anymore or just acknowledge a thank you with “you're welcome”?

Crabby is the first person to admit that these three old-lady complaints, especially given the problems in the world, are lighter than helium. But if Crabby has learned nothing else in her life, it is that she is never, ever the only person thinking whatever is on her mind.

So maybe you have some silly complaints too. Let us know below. And please forgive Crabby for this – she just ran out of time and brain power for anything more ambitious.


A Reverse Bucket List

Not many people with pancreatic cancer survive for long. As a reminder, here is how I explained my condition after surgery:

”The tumor was determined to be 'clean at the margins' - that is, cancer had not escaped the pancreas.

”In addition, 17 lymph nodes touching the pancreas were removed and tested for cancer cells; two were positive. Here is what that means for me.

”There are types of chemotherapy to treat this cancer and I will meet with a medical oncologist about that sometime in the next month or two. According to my surgeon and his team, a few people respond to this treatment and live up to ten more years.

”Sounds good except that 80 percent in my circumstance who take this treatment are dead from the disease in five or fewer years. Numbers may vary from other sources but not enough to talk about.”

Yes, as some TGB readers have noted, statistics are not destiny, but they can't be ignored and further, they can certainly be used as one kind of guide when life throws up such a devastating bump in the road as this.

For now, a month since surgery, I am seeing small improvements in daily life. I'm generally pain free now, am finally catching on to how I need to eat for the foreseeable future and I've learned not to scrimp on rest. The smallest exertions still deplete me of energy so I nap a lot.

The many rest and sleep periods have given me plenty of time consider what I want to do with the time remaining to me – whether a year or two or a decade.

I don't have anywhere near a complete answer, but I do have this: a strong suggestion of one's shortened mortality makes it easy to ditch projects you were not all that interested in to begin with while shedding guilt about not keeping up with the zeitgeist.

Most of what I have so far added to my list to ignore relate to technology.

ITEM: I have now absolved myself of learning to text. It's too hard to hit those itty-bitty letters on my phone and in general, I don't have anything to say in what's meant to be a short format. “Hi there – thinking of you” doesn't strike me as meaningful communication.

ITEM: Given the extraordinary number of videos, news reports, promotions, reviews, actor interviews and more, it is clear that Game of Thrones has become a cultural icon of enormous proportions, something anyone who pretends to knowledge of American pop culture must be familiar with.

Although I have deduced that GoT is a television program (are there books too?), I have zero knowledge of what makes it noteworthy and now I don't have to try to figure it out.

ITEM: “They” are now at it again, telling us in recent months that virtual reality and augmented reality are the next big thing. (I suppose that's why Google Glass failed so spectacularly and was pulled from the market two years ago.) This new iteration has yet to materialize and I'm ignoring it – happy to go to my grave steeped in the real world.

ITEM: And I've stopped feeling guilty about my deficiencies – based on dislike – in Facebook and Twitter. Yes, I know that a billion people on earth use FB. That doesn't mean I must and I use it minimally to accommodate readers of this blog. Beyond that, I'm done with thinking I really should put my mind to mastering it.

As for Twitter, there is nothing I have to say in 140 characters or fewer that is worth anyone's time. And I have blacklisted Twitter's daily emails telling me how to “get more people to pay attention to me.” That wasn't a goal in my life before my diagnosis and certainly not now.

It feels great to free myself of these “shoulds” and they are just the tech-related items. I've also made peace, for example, with the idea that I am unlikely to re-read all of Shakespeare before I die. And I have a tentative list of other items I'm considering adding to what I now think of as my reverse bucket list.

How about you?


Memorial Day 2017 and a 92nd Birthday

PlacingFlags2680

That is one of the U.S. soldiers who spent a good deal of time last week placing a flag at each and every one of the more than 400,000 military graves at Arlington Cemetery.

Today, beginning at 2PM EDT, there will be the National Memorial Day Parade down Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. to honor those who died during their service to our country.

The other two big, national events - the National Memorial Day Concert and the Indianapolis 500 auto race - took place yesterday. I have no idea why this car race is always held on Memorial Day.

Other traditions on this holiday are small-town parades, picincs, backyard barbecues for family and friends along with fireworks in many cities and towns tonight.

And there is is one more celebration this Memorial Day weekend, a big one for us at here at Time Goes by: the 92nd birthday(!) of Darlene Costner today.

If you read the comments, you know her name, and you know she never pulls any punches. Darlene always says exactly what she means and I'm proud to call her a friend for at least a decade now.

So, everyone, please join me in wishing Darlene a fabulous and beautiful 92nd birthday.

BirthdayFlowers

EDITORIAL NOTE: I had plans for a more elaborate post today – you know, Darlene's big deal birthday, the holiday and maybe something about patriotism in the age of Trump.

But I've been under the weather for the past couple of days (nothing serious) and just ran out of steam so this will have to do. I'll see you back here soon.


Cheating Death is an Ancient Dream

PROTEST FCC CHANGES TO NET NEUTRALITY
Finally, John Oliver's direct link to the FCC comment page on the agency's net neutrality changes is up and running again.

To get there, go to this URL, click on the word, “express” at the far right of the page. At the next page, you can fill in the form and let them know that you support net neutrality and Title 2.

Again, here is the procedure – Oliver has made it so much easier than the FCC does:

  1. Navigate in your browser to gofccyourself.com
  2. Click the word “express” on the right side of the page
  3. Fill in the form to support net neutrality and Title 2

It will take you only a few minutes to do this and if enough people do, we can save net neutrality – like last time, three years ago. (If you need a refresher about this issue, click here and scroll down about halfway.)

* * *

A month ago, I told you about the quest of a bunch of billionaire tech executives who are spending large chunks of their personal wealth on longevity research convinced they can conquer death in their lifetimes and live forever.

Founders of Facebook, eBay, Napster and Netscape among others, reported the Washington Post, are driven by a certainty that rebuilding, regenerating and reprogramming patients’ organs, limbs, cells and DNA will enable people to live longer and better.

Oracle founder Larry Ellison says, “Death has never made any sense to me.” Google has backed a project called Calico with the ambition of “curing death.”

As I mentioned in that March post, the creepiest research so far is what I couldn't help but label “the vampire project” in which scientists say that old mice show remarkable rejuvenation when transfused with the blood of young mice. And the research hasn't stopped with rodents.

At a private clinic called Ambrosia in Monterey, California, people can pay $8,000 to have blood plasma from teenagers and young adults pumped into their veins.

Many of us were taught in school that 16th century Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon made it his mission in Florida to find the fountain of youth. That's probably a myth but tales of such magical waters have been told since at least the 5th century BCE.

Fountainofyouth3

I was reminded of this ancient pursuit of mankind a few days ago in a newsletter I receive from H.R. Moody, editor of the Teaching Gerontology at the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education.

Moody linked to a wonderful story about the extreme ways humanity has tried to cheat death throughout history. Amazingly, blood transfers from young to old are far from being a new idea. Here is a sampling:

6TH CENTURY BCE
Those who want to live a longer life are advised to consume a mix of root powder, gold, honey and butter after a morning bath according to the Sushruta Samhita, an ancient Sanskrit medical text.

1ST CENTURY CE
Pliny the Elder reports of Romans with epilepsy rushing to drink blood of gladiators to cure their ailment and gain strength and vigor. (Pliny did not think this was a good idea.)

4TH CENTURY CE
The alchemist Ge Hong describes a medicine made from the brains of a certain kind of monkey that, mixed with herbs, would lengthen life up to 500 years.

1489
Philosopher Marsilio Ficini suggests the elderly drink the blood of young men to rejuvenate themselves. A few years later, Pope Innocent VIII tried it. He died shortly after.

1667
French doctor Jean-Baptiste Denis performs the first animal-human blood transfusion. The human patient recovered afterwards.

1920
Eugene Steinach experiments with a popular procedure that involves a partial vasectomy. Among his patients were W.B. Yeats and Sigmund Freud. The latter hoped it might slow his jaw cancer. It didn't.

1930
British newspapers report that a man named Giocondo Protti successfully rejuvenated the elderly by performing blood transfusions from young donors.

And if you believe that...

These are just a few of the various historical attempts to avoid the grim reaper that you'll find listed at the Time magazine story.

I wonder if the tech billionaires will eventually join the likes of Ge Hong, Marsilio Ficini, Jean-Baptiste Denis, etc. as amusing sidebars in misbegotten pipe dreams or become more famous for their longevity success than for their technology companies.

Science-cheat-death



Old and Young Having Fun Together

Three or four years ago, I was invited to a “Brownie Day” at the Adult Community Center (ACC) – the name my town gives the senior center.

The nine-year-old members of a local Brownie troop (young Girl Scouts) each made a batch of brownies herself from a family recipe as refreshments for an afternoon of board games with members of the ACC, elders all.

At first, we were a little shy with one another; after exchanging names we were not sure what to talk about. But the ACC manager, who knows what she's doing, soon had us settled down at tables for the games.

By the end of the afternoon, thanks to the silly board games we played together with the sugar high from the brownies that had us all laughing and giggling together as if we were drunk, we actually shared some real conversation about our lives.

[You can find out more about that afternoon in this post from 2014.]

There is, in recent years, a lot of conversation around the need for more intergenerationality. That word is a mouthful and it sounds dull as hell. In most cases, it is.

Meetings are held, studies are done and with a few excellent exceptions, nothing happens beyond bureaucratic-sounding checklists of items that don't produce much substance. Like this one:

Get local foundations to support intergenerational projects
Lobby local government to make intergenerationalism a core value
Ask organizations that work with the young to collaborate with the old

You can't say anything is wrong with those ideas except that there is nothing specific to hang on to, nothing that says, “Hey, let's give this a try.”

What if people whose hearts and minds are moving in the right direction talked about, instead – oh, say

Young folks helping elders with technology
Young and old making music together
Playing games – silly ones and, for example, chess too
A hike and picnic with one another
Cooking meals together

I'm sure you can come up with more activities that old and young can participate in equally – the kinds of things that grease the wheels of conversation among age groups that don't get to spend much time together, and especially that lead them to laugh with one anther.

Something close to that has been happening recently in and around the U.S. Capitol.

GTG tech three girls

Last week, the Washington Post published a story about three 17-year-old high school students - Hannah Docter-Loeb, Kaela Marcus-Kurn and Aviah Krupnic - who started a group they named GTG Tech which, they say, stands for Generation to Generation and Grandkids to Grandparents and Giving the Gift.

”...they hold free training sessions at libraries, senior centers and community halls once a month [in the Washington, D.C. area]. It’s a nonprofit, volunteer group that’s growing as their friends join in to help.

“But it’s not like they’re trained computer experts, the girls reminded me. They’re working on the simple, everyday tasks that digital natives take for granted.

“'We just grew up in this, so we know how to do it,' said Kaela, a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.”

Here's a short video produced by One News Page about GTG Tech:

A whole lot more is going on than showing an 80-year-old how to text her boyfriend, or helping an 87-year-old who didn't understand how to use Wi-Fi:

”...there is also something magic about the formula, the intergenerational exchange that happens when young and old interact, especially when they aren’t related.

“'It’s like a blood transfusion. It’s about more than computers,' said Renee Dunham, 78, after the teens helped her with text messaging. 'I learn a little bit about their lives. How they organize their lives, their phones. What they’re listening to or what tech they’re using.'

“And, Dunham observed, it came with no strings attached. No long debates with her granddaughter about her hair and make-up, no reminders to tell her grandson not to slouch.

“'Like you can’t teach a family member to drive. That never works,' Dunham said.”

GTG tech one-on-one teaching

I'm not a sociologist nor a child psychologist, but those clauses I bolded strike me as right on the money with families. GTG Tech has been wildly successful both in terms of popularity and what young and old are getting out of it which is much more than instruction.

”Although it might be easy to make fun of Grandpa when he brings in his three maxed-out Hotmail accounts and isn’t sure how to delete emails,” writes the WaPo reporter, Petula Dvorak, “the teens have learned that he was once a hottie who flew warplanes. Or the lady walking with a cane used to be a ballet dancer.

“On a recent rainy Saturday at the Chevy Chase library, every GTG Tech slot was full. And for three hours, the teens gave digital advice to many interesting seniors: a retired linguistics professor, a pioneer FORTRAN programmer, a former wire service reporter.”

Grandchildren notwithstanding, few of us have opportunities to spend real time with people of a generation so different from our own, nor do many young people have reasons to hang out much with elders unrelated to them.

But in the case of GTG Tech, everyone is getting an up close and personal insight into what each other's lives are like - which is what happened to me with Brownie troop.

Do they give you any ideas? (The photos in this story are from the GTG Tech website which you will find here.)

Wide shot GTG Tech teaching


Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder

Earlier this week, I received this email note from Peter Tibbles, he who runs the Sunday Elder Music column and is a handful of years younger than I am:

”This morning I decided to take some cardboard down to the recycle bin (and yes, they were empty wine boxes). So with laden hands, I unlocked the door and attempted to pull the key out of the lock (I have a deadlock and I leave the key in the lock when I'm home).

“It wouldn't come out. I tried and tried, but nothing. Well, the door was open so I decided to take the cardboard downstairs and check it later, making sure that the downstairs door was snibbed open.

Lock

“Well, I got back and the key still wouldn't come out of the lock no matter what I did. Then it occurred to me that it should be aligned at 3 o'clock to come out, not 6 o'clock as I was trying to do.

“Thirty years I've been here.

“I offer these mitigating circumstances: the lock on the other side of the door requires the 6 o'clock orientation to remove the key. Perhaps I didn't know if I was inside or outside.”

Oh, I know all about such a memory lapse. They happen to me all the time. It takes a good deal longer than necessary to get blog posts done because I frequently have to hunt for the feature I want in OpenOffice or paint.net or my email.

Peter has his 30 years using that lock. I have two decades using these computer programs; I should be able to function with them in my sleep. But nooooooo.

A few days ago, my Kindle needed charging. I opened the drawer where the cable lives and – oops, nothing there. I stared in disbelief; I'm good at returning items to where they belong.

It took a few hours for me to recall that a month or two ago I had moved the cable to a drawer in another room.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. I had broken one of my own long-standing rules for being old: never, ever change the place where you have stored a tool for a long time because the first storage place will stick in your mind forever and you might never find the tool again.

These – Peter's and my own memory-related mistakes – will not be unfamiliar to most of you who read this blog. I have dozens of other examples and I'm sure you do too.

Yesterday, I heard from cyber-friend and fellow New Yorker, Esther Harriott. You may remember her name from the story here two years ago about her excellent book, Writers and Age: Essays on and Interviews with Five Authors.

Esther included a link to a video that has a load of fun with the topic of today's post. It may be as vaguely familiar to some of you as it was to me yesterday. I was surprised find that it had been posted in these pages as a written joke in 2007, and in 2011, this self-same video - which further underlines the transitory nature of elder memory - or, at least, mine. Enjoy.

I'm no doctor or medical researcher but I'm pretty sure none of these incidents should be read as incipient dementia. It's just, as the video says, age-activated attention deficit disorder. Nothing to do but live with it.


December/May Romance

When I was in my twenties, I came to know for awhile a couple in which the wife was 18 or 20 years older than her husband who was about my age.

Although I enjoyed meals, day trips and other get-togethers with them, I was still young enough to feel some discomfort hanging out with a woman who was closer in age to my mother than to me.

My failing, but I was young then without much experience with people a good deal older than I was who by definition were intimidating: parents, teachers and employers.

Many years later, I dated for a year or so, a man who was 14 or 15 years younger than I was. He was 27 when we met and I was in my early 40s. Most of my friends thought there were far fewer years between us than there were because, I suspect, we were in our middle years – 30-ish and 50-ish - when it is often easy to be way off when guessing a person's age.

While it lasted, it was a lovely romance and our breakup had nothing to do with age.

Undoubtedly you have heard by now that the new French president, Emmanuel Macron, age 39, has been married to Brigitte Macron (nee Trogneaux) since 2007, and that she is 64 years old.

That age difference has made for fascinating reading in newspapers and magazines. First, here is a short backgrounder:

This December/May marriage has generated a large amount of commentary in France and abroad, and unlike the same age difference – 24 years - between U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, some of it has been quite mean.

Town and Country magazine reports that
”News outlets snidely pointed to her deep tan, thin frame, and honey blonde hair, calling her a 'menopausal Barbie.' Some said he was 'hot for teacher,' or had mommy issues, and rumors flew that he was gay and theirs was a marriage of convenience.”

Others portrayed President Macron “as a 'mummy’s boy' who needs Mme Macron to wipe his mouth or give him 'a smack' for misbehaving.”

Glamour magazine reports that Macron has no patience with what he sees as the sexism and homophobia behind the attacks and has criticized the double standard

”... that allows men to marry much younger women while treating older women who do the same thing as deviants—or as covers for homosexuality. 'If I had been 20 years older than my wife, nobody would have thought for a single second that I couldn't be [an intimate partner],' he said.

"'It's because she is 20 years older than me that lots of people say, 'This relationship can't be tenable.'"

On Sunday, Brigitte Macron's youngest daughter from her first marriage, Tiphaine Auzière who is an attorney, defended her mother from those sexist and ageist remarks:

”'I find it totally outrageous in France in the 21st century to make such attacks...These are attacks that we wouldn’t direct at male politicians or at a man who would accompany a female politician. So I think there’s a lot of jealousy, and that this is very inappropriate.'”

No kidding.

The Telegraph in the U.K. saw the December/May romance in a lovelier light:

”The French want their women to be chic, witty, have charm; all characteristics that have little to do with youth; in fact which require experience.

“In fact, there are few more powerful words to a young Frenchman than 'une femme expérimentée'. Literature abounds with stories of young men 'déniaisés” (literally: made less stupid) by women who know what they are about.”

On the U.S. side of the Atlantic, Roger Cohen refused to acknowledge any French ageism, sexism or mysogyny in his New York Times column, and saw nothing but grace in the French reaction to the Macrons' age difference:

”People come to France for its beauty, but what finally beguiles them is its civilization, at once formal and sensual, an art of living and loving. I have been thinking of this non-judgmental French gift as the newly elected president, Emmanuel Macron, and his wife, Brigitte, prepare to move into the Élysée Palace next week.

“They are an unusual couple. He is 39; she is 64. They met, as everyone knows by now, when he was a teenager and she was his drama teacher, a married woman with three children. Macron, through her, now has seven grandchildren whom he embraces as his own.

“To all of which the chief French response has been: Who cares?”

Well, maybe not quite but certainly as it ought to be.

Here in the U.S., it has always been acceptable for old men - often with a wink and a nod toward their masculinity - to take beautiful women young enough to be their daughters as their girlfriends and wives. (Some of those men have been known to turn in those wives for younger models when the first ones don't look quite as fresh and nubile as they once did.) But any woman who does the same is almost always viewed, in the words of Macron himself, a deviant or a beard.

I'm hoping that President and Madame Macron, who appear from outside to be as happy together as newlyweds, will help move women toward parity with men in romance because love isn't all that easy to find at any stage of life and no one should let age get in the way of it.


Sex and Old People

On Monday we talked about language, certain words that are offensive to some people, so why not move right along to talking about sex today, elder sex, and see how it goes.

Up movie still

When I began this blog in 2004, the words “old people” and “sex” almost never appeared in the same sentence in general-interest publications, especially when young adults were doing the writing. It was just too “eeew” for them to think about mom and dad or their grandparents doing the nasty.

In the years since then, this has changed. Google it and you'll get more than 30 million returns ranging from scientific studies to videos of actual sex acts with old people.

Before we go any further and so you know where I'm coming from, let me confess that the latter of those extremes is problematic for me. I get ootchy – always have at every age - viewing even the most artistic presentations of sex in movies whether the actors have gorgeous young bodies or wrinkly old ones.

However, do not let that lead you to believe that I find sex distasteful in any way. We'll leave my history out of this beyond saying that it has been joyful and abundant. Sex is a wonderful thing. I just think it's better in private – at least for me.

As that Google search indicates, there is little reticence in any media these days about elder sex. Everybody seems to be talking about it and the idea that old people don't get it on after some certain, unspecified age has been fading. As Huffington Post reported in January,

”...The New England Journal of Medicine...surveyed 3,005 men and women, between the ages of 57 and 85 and living in the US, about their sex lives. It found that the majority of older adults who were married or had intimate partners remained sexually active well into their 80s.

“In general, sexual activity tended to decline with age, but a significant number of men and women reported engaging in intercourse, oral sex and masturbation even in their eighth and ninth decades.”

That's one of the better surveys that didn't cut off the age range at about 70 as so many others do. Another study, reported in the Daily Beast a couple of years ago, revealed similar results:

”...sex among the senior set is important, with 46 percent of men and 33 percent of women over 70 reporting that they masturbate, and 43 percent of men and 22 of women in the same age bracket saying they engage in sexual intercourse.”

I'm not so sure these studies are not undertaken so much for general knowledge as to reassure young people that sex won't stop when they get old – or doesn't need to, anyway. What isn't often discussed, however, is that the urge diminishes over time.

For 10 or 15 years, in my case, it has felt like my hormone level must have dropped by about 90 percent. Even so, I continue to believe that if the opportunity presented itself, I would be as eager as at any previous time in life.

Not that anyone has lately given me a reason to test that theory which, according to one report (HuffPo again), may limit my libido:

"Janet Gibbens, MD, a gynecologist at Providence Health Systems in Portland, OR, says: 'Use it or lose it’ has to do with the fact that regular sexual acts bring more blood flow, and therefore more oxygen, to the vagina and to the penis.

"It promotes healthier sexual organs and improves lubrication and elasticity, particularly for women. Non-intercourse forms of sex are helpful with this as well.”

As wonderful as sex is, what I miss these days of living alone is what a friend calls "skin hunger" – the deep human desire to be touched, not necessarily sexually. In answer to that need, my birthday present to myself this year was an hour-long, full-body massage which I now schedule once a month.

Lovely Still movie

It is affordable for me because the local senior center provides a masseuse at a much reduced price compared to commercial services. A highly recommend it if you aren't already way ahead of me.

Another issue with old people and sex is that it may become physically difficult depending on health conditions. The internet's long-time guru of sex in old age, Joan Price, had some nice suggestions about that at Senior Planet last year:

“Explore each other’s entire bodies,” she writes. “Our skin is our largest sex organ. Invite your partner to touch your body all over—no goals, just pleasure. On a different day, switch to exploring your partner.

“Whether you’ve known each other for a long time or just a little while, this is the body you live in now, and there’s plenty to discover about how it looks and responds.”

Just about any article you read about old people and sex includes a reminder sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have been on the rise among elders in particular for a few years, and practicing safe sex is essential.

That makes it good to know that since 2012, Medicare Part B has allowed for free annual screenings for senior citizens for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis and/or hepatitis B.

It's been awhile since I checked around the web for what it is saying about old people and sex and it has changed mostly for the better. There is little reticence about it now even when the language is sometimes ageist or too cutesy.

What shows nowadays is that old sex is a lot like young sex if you don't count frequency or athleticism, as U.S. News reported last year:

”One of the biggest misconceptions about older adults is that they lack passion, Foley says. 'Some people have had this extraordinary long-term partnership where they remain very passionate,' she says.

“'And other people who are widowed or divorced, when they fall in love and they’re in their 70s or their 80s, they feel the same way as people who fall in love in their 20s. They’re gaga for the person. And their sex is great.'”

As I've always said (and forgotten who I'm quoting), sex is the friendliest thing two people can do.

Vicious TV show