894 posts categorized "Culture"

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


Profanity and Crabby Old Lady

EDITORIAL NOTE: Ted Carr, who worked in the tech industry during some its most exciting years, retired about six years ago. He now hosts a podcast called Retirement Journeys – Real-Life Experience that Informs, Engages and Inspires and in February, he invited me to be a guest on his show.

We had a wonderful time talking about growing old, ageism, retirement, my career before that and much more. Ted has now posted the podcast at his website which you can listen to here. It's about 21 minutes long and there are more such podcasts you might find interesting.

Thank you, Ted. I am pleased and honored to have been asked.

* * *

Every now and then, Crabby Old Lady has been known to publish words in these pages that in her youth were never said in “polite company” and certainly not used in newspapers and magazines targeting general audiences.

When TimeGoesBy was new, back in 2004 and for some years beyond, she would never use “dirty words” any more than The New York Times or the Washington Post or The New Yorker would do so those days.

But time passes, tastes change and those venerable publications along with TGB sometimes allow such “profanities” as shit, fuck, cock, etc.

Crabby is certain that those titans of mainstream print have codified editorial guidelines for the approved use of such informal language. Crabby? She just goes with what feels right at the moment. Quotations, of course, are acceptable. And on rare occasions – particularly when a politician has said something exceptionally stupid or loathsome – she'll let fly a “What the fuck.”

What Crabby can be sure of when she does that is that a cluster of unsubscribe notices will arrive indicating “offensive” as the reason for canceling. So be it.

A week ago, in his monologue, Late Night host Stephen Colbert ran afoul of people with similar pristine sensibilities and before the show ended, #firecolbert was trending on Twitter.

Here is his transgression prompted by President Trump having dissed Colbert's CBS coworker, John Dickerson:

Crabby is pretty sure you can figure out what he said. If not, here is how Inside Edition published the remark on their website including their coy abbreviation:

“You attract more skinheads than Rogaine... You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla who got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is for Vladimir Putin’s c*** holster."

The usual suspects, mostly those of the conservative persuasion, erupted as expected and it didn't take long for FCC Chairman Agit Pai (you know, the guy who wants to gut net neutrality so the big internet providers can make more money) to threaten Colbert with “appropriate action.”

”The FCC's response will depend on whether Colbert’s remarks are considered 'obscene,'” Pai said according to The Hill.

“'We are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it’s been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we’ll take the appropriate action,” [Pai] told Talk Radio 1210 WPHT Thursday.

“'Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be,' he said. 'A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do.'”

To do that, the FCC will need to meet the U.S. Supreme Court's test for obscenity and blah, blah, blah.

All this had Crabby Old Lady assuming that, based on nothing more than conventional wisdom and her experience with blog unsubscribers, old people are a large percentage of those taking umbrage with Colbert's somewhat unusual choice of words.

But maybe not. A quick (very quick, no big-time research involved) trip around the internet turned up this, for example, from a 2011 report about a then-new Broadway show. From the New York Post [their abbreviations, not mine]:

”Standing under the marquee for Broadway smash The Book of Mormon, 92-year-old theatergoer Gloria Lewis is shocked by the musical she just saw. Packed with profane lyrics, such as 'F – – – you, God, in the a – -, mouth and c – – – ’' and characters with names like 'General Butt-F – – – ing Naked,' you can hardly blame the sweet little old lady for being a bit ruffled.

“But Lewis isn’t agitated in any negative sense. In fact, she’s blown away by the 14-time Tony-nominated musical, which is drawing enthusiastic, raving crowds of seniors just like her nightly.

“Very brilliant!” says the feisty senior citizen from Queens, who is a retired investigator for the Department of Labor and laughs in the face of anyone who thinks she or either of her octogenarian pals might be offended by the language.

“As her girlfriends, 85 and 88, smile and giggle by her side, Lewis says matter-of-factly: 'F – – – is a very common word today. Offended? Not at all.'”

Last fall, Stanford University published a widely reported study titled Frankly, We Do Give a Damn on the relationship between profanity and honesty. The researchers concluded:

"On the one hand, profane individuals are widely perceived as violating moral and social codes, and thus deemed untrustworthy and potentially antisocial and dishonest.

"On the other hand, profane language is considered as more authentic and unfiltered, thus making its users appear more honest and genuine.

"These opposing views on profanity raise the question of whether profane individuals tend to be more or less dishonest..."

"We found a consistent positive relationship between profanity and honesty; profanity was associated with less lying and deception at the individual level, and with higher integrity at the society level."

The study did not differentiate among age groups but Crabby Old Lady now feels free to assert that when she lets loose a long string profane invective after having banged a toe or includes a mild “what the fuck” on this blog in reference to a latest political idiocy, she is being authentic, genuine and honest.

Anyone who disagrees is free to unsubscribe.

Meanwhile, last Wednesday, Stephen Colbert issued on his show, a non-apology while including an acknowledgement to the overly sensitive who believed his original comedic tirade was homophobic. (Oh please):

And so go the culture wars. What do you think?



Making a Good Life in Retirement

WorkRetireSign

An acquaintance, looking to discuss his recent unsought retirement, emailed to arrange lunch. His efforts to deal with retirement, he said, have been “futile” so far and he hopes my “advice will inspire” him.

Oy vey. Advice is not an item on my resume.

Two or three weeks ago I published a story here about how retirement is a good time to discover being in a world that prizes doing. It was a useful enough post but it doesn't cover the larger, existential shift from career to the next stage of life.

I'm probably not far off to say that about 99 percent of the 21 million results in a Google search, “planning for retirement,” is about finance and almost all of those are aimed at people who have both money to save or invest and many more years to do it.

But there are a lot more ways to arrive at retirement than planning for it. I'm one of them, one of the people who was age-discriminated (is that a verb?) out of the workforce long before I had intended.

And that was five years before 2008 when tens of millions of U.S. workers much younger than I were laid off 15, 20 or more years before their expected retirement date. Millions of them have never again worked in their fields nor for anywhere near the salary they had been making before the crash.

Retirementburlapbag

So they were forced to retire only halfway through their expected career span living now on god knows what money or are eking out their years at minimum wage jobs until they are old enough for Social Security.

(An excellent piece of reporting on the latter circumstance can be found in a story titled “Too Poor to Retire and Too Young to Die” at the Los Angeles Times.)

But today, I'm concerned with the people in the middle, people like the friend I'm having lunch with next week and me and a lot of TGB readers: that is, people who may or may not have been surprised at finding themselves retired one day, who likely had to cut back expenditures but are not in dire monetary straits.

As I've related here more than once, I was lucky. I had begun this blog a year or so before I was laid off. It wasn't all smooth sailing – I flailed around working out money and living arrangements, and how to order my days without an outside schedule. But essentially I glided from a writing/editing web job with a four-hour, round-trip commute to a writing/editing web job with a two-minute commute, and it is still satisfying after 13 years at it.

In no way, when I started TimeGoesBy, did I have an inkling that it would become my main retirement interest - it was simple luck - and most people hit with unexpected retirement aren't even that well prepared.

Before settling into a new life, there are the practical realities, of course: money, location, healthcare. Once those are arranged, however, what comes next? What do I want to do with my time now? What will get me out of bed each morning? The questions are mostly short but hardly simple. Here are a few:

What gives me pleasure?
What do I most care about?
Can I use my career experience in new ways now?
What's been missing from my life?
What have I always dreamed about doing?
What gives me a sense of purpose?
What and who are most important to me?
What does an ideal day look like?

There are many others and the hard part is that no one can answer for you.

So for those of you who have already navigated to a satisfying life in retirement, how did you do that? And for those of you who haven't got there yet, how are you thinking about it? Or, maybe, what questions are you pondering?

Remember, this isn't about whether to move to a new city, state or country. Or whether to sell your home or what are the best investments for old people.

Instead, how did you or will you address these existential or life questions. How did you decide how to live these last years – maybe decades – in the most satisfying way for you?

This is important stuff for all older people and there may be hints in your thoughts for the rest of us.


Are Old People (and Everyone Else) Sleeping All Wrong?


Edouard_Vuillard_-_In_Bed_-_Google_Art_Project

ITEM 1: Everyone knows that insomnia is a common condition of growing old; it just comes with age, like wrinkles.

ITEM 2: We also know that the proper and natural way to get a good night's sleep is to bed down in a dark, dedicated room sometime in the evening either alone or with a spouse, sleep for seven or eight hours straight and wake refreshed in the morning.

Well, not so fast. Item 1 is definitely wrong. Statistics for insomnia are about the same among all age groups. And there is growing evidence that Item 2 has been the “norm” for only the past 200 years or so, and much to our detriment according to a new book.

AtDaysCloseBack in 2012, I told you about the interesting thesis of British historian Roger Ekirch. Until the invention and widespread use of artificial light in the 19th century, he reported, people in Europe had generally slept in two shifts – first sleep and second sleep.

From Ekirch's book, At Day's Close – Night in Times Past,

”...fragments in several languages...give clues to the essential features of this puzzling pattern of repose.

“Both phases of sleep lasted roughly the same length of time, with individuals waking sometime after midnight before returning to rest...Men and women referred to both intervals as if the prospect of awakening in the middle of the night was common knowledge that required no elaboration...”

“After midnight, pre-industrial households usually began to stir. Many of those who left their beds merely needed to urinate...Some persons, however, after arising, took the opportunity to smoke tobacco, check the time, or tend a fire.”

More evidence for the second sleep idea has emerged since Ekirch's book was published in 2005.

When I first read about this phenomenon five or six years ago, it seemed to explain my difficulty with sleeping: regularly waking after three or four hours and unable to return to sleep for an hour or two or even three sometimes.

It's not a nightly occurrence but happens more often than not. Now and then I try to find ways to sleep through the night but mostly I just live with it. Now I may embrace it. Read on.

However sleeplessness manifests itself from individual to individual, a good night's sleep is widely difficult to achieve and the billions of dollars a year spent by millions of people on physicians, medications, nostrums, self-help books, products and clinics in an effort to get a full night of restful sleep don't help anyone much.

WildNightsNow, in a new book titled Wild Nights – How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World – Benjamin Reiss, while acknowledging that Ekirch's thesis that electric lights reordered our sense of time and, perhaps, evolutionary rhythms, another at least equal contributor to widespread disordered sleep is the industrial revolution.

Before then, for many centuries in many countries, sleep was a social event involving adults and children together and even visitors:

”For starters, the notion of sleeping in a private bedroom, out of view of strangers or even most other family members, turns out to have shallow roots,” writes Reiss...

“Historian Sasha Handley reveals that even the idea of a 'bedroom,' denoting a room primarily associated with sleep, is rather new.

“Throughout the eighteenth century in England, most homes had rooms with overlapping functions depending on the time of day; and well into the nineteenth century, it was common for travelers to share beds with strangers.”

Sleeping-beauty-painting

Reiss writes that along with gas and then electric lighting, the arrival of the railroad with speeds no one in history had experienced before contributed to loss of sleep, he attributes it mostly to the migration of workers from farm to factory.

When employers needed to count on employees arriving on schedule to keep production humming, they even used wake-up bells to rouse the people in the factory towns:

”Time itself became a chief product of the industrial age,” Reiss continues, “and when clock time did not correspond to natural rhythms, artificial lighting could enforce it.

“Despite, or perhaps because of, the factory system's role in creating havoc with sleep schedules, the idea of a standard model for healthful sleep – eight unbroken hours – took hold.”

The change was helped along in no small manner by do-gooders who didn't like adults, children and strangers of both sexes mixing it up all together under one blanket.

Benjamin Reiss explains up front that his goal with his book was to unravel the reasons for our current sleep-obsessed society with ”a blend of literature, the social and medical history of sleep, cross-cultural analysis, and some brief forays into science...”

It is a fascinating read revealing that our current definition of “normal” sleep is far from being so, and our relentless pursuit of that norm may even be a, if not the, culprit in our widespread cultural insomnia.

The story is much more complex than I have space to explain, but below are a few more quotations that may help you, as I have, think about reordering your beliefs about sleep.

And who has more time than retired people who no longer need to waken to an alarm to try out different ways of finding satisfying sleep.

“...those who argue that there is no single way to sleep naturally or correctly give us license to be more forgiving of our own sleep patterns, to stop thinking that there is a 'right' way that we're failing to achieve.”
“...it's arguable that when sleep began to be shut off from social life, walled away behind closed doors, it became less pleasurable, more pressurized, more fragile, and more subject to the vagaries of individual psychology.”
“Other scientific research gives the lie to the notion that humans are wired to sleep the same way every night...

And one more thing:

“...ducks sleep in a row, with the ones on the edges keeping an outer eye open.”

Did you know that? I didn't know that.

Sleepinginpark1


Staying Sane in This Dark Night of the American Soul

It is no secret around here that I think John Oliver is the most brilliant of the bumper crop of smart, left-wing comedians we have now who help keep non-Trumpers a bit sane during this dark night of the American soul we are living through.

In keeping with that state of mind, I am taking a mental health break today and instead of a regular blog post that would require actual thought, I have for you Oliver's video essay broadcast last Sunday night on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight.

In it, he takes on Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner – something I've been itching to do but knowing I cannot possibly match Oliver's intelligence, wit and talent, I have not made the attempt. So thank god he has now done it for all of us and I don't have to.

Oliver is good every week but this one surpasses anything he has done so far this season. There are so many great, true and fall-down funny moments that to choose among them is impossible. But I do like this giggle a lot, referring to Ivanka: “The apple doesn't fall far from the orange.”

And by the way – here's a question for you: How come there are no right-wing comedians as funny as the ones who lean left?

Anyway, here is John Oliver from last Sunday. Enjoy, and I'll see you back here on Friday.


Books Today, Just Books, No Ageing

Bookstore

A friend said to me in an email that a certain non-fiction book is one of a shelf full that makes you understand why books have mattered for so many thousands of years.

People who are life-long readers instantly understand the truth of that. Which, of course, doesn't mean everything we read is so profound as to evoke such recognition.

But it sent me scurrying through my own shelves to track down a book I had set aside some years ago, The Book Lovers' Anthology, from the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford.

It is a compendium of quotations about books and about reading from more than 250 authors through hundreds of years. One of my many favorites is this:

”The advice I would give to any one who is disposed really to read for the sake of knowledge is, that he should have two or three books in course of reading at the same time. He will read a great deal more in that time and with much greater profit.” (Robert Southey)

True. True. True. Except that too often it takes so long for me to get back to one I've laid down for another I am eager to begin that I must start over. Right now there are – among the ones I can easily locate:

Wild Nights - Benjamin Reiss
City of Dreams - Tyler Anbinder
If Our Bodies Could Talk - James Hamblin
Weirdo Parfait - (friend of TGB) Brenda Henry
The Lonely City - Olivia Laing
The Genius of Judaism - Bernard-Henri Levy

Books3

When I was a little girl, younger than school age, on Sundays my father read the funny papers to me. As he did so, his finger followed the words and I remember still the exact moment and the thrill when I could suddenly read one of the word bubbles without his help.

Since then there has been no stopping me. Here is how Samuel Johnson explains the lure of reading, from the Bodleian anthology:

”It is difficult to enumerate the several motives which procure to books the honour of perusal: spite, vanity, and curiosity, hope and fear, love and hatred, every passion which incites to any other action, serves at one time or another to stimulate a reader.

“...but the most general and prevalent reason of study is the impossibility of finding another amusement equally cheap or constant, equally independent of the hour or the weather.” (Samuel Johnson)

Reading-cat

It has been clear from the beginning of this blog 13 years ago that TGB readers, or at least those who comment, are readers too and I suspect you will enjoy a few more quotations from the Bodleian:

”Much reading is like much eating, wholly useless without digestion.” (Robert South)

”In hours of high mental activity we sometimes do the book too much honour, reading out of it better things than the author wrote, - reading, as we say, between the lines. You have had the like experience in conversation: the wit was in what you heard, not in what the speakers said...

“Our best thought came from others. We heard in their words a deeper sense than the speakers put into them, and could express ourselves in other people's phrases to finer purpose than they knew.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“I would rather be a poor man in a garret with plenty of books than a king who did not love reading.” (Thomas Macaulay)

Today's headline notwithstanding, I can't end this without one good bookish reference to ageing:

”Alonso of Aragon was wont to say, on commendation of Age, that Age appeared to be the best in four things; Old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, old authors to read.” (Francis Bacon)

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