Old People, Fraud and the 2020 Census

Not long ago, I mentioned here that although more young people (age 20 to 29) are victims of fraud, older people (50 and older) lose larger amounts of money to fraud, according to an AARP survey.

Now, it seems, the upcoming U.S. Census will be a big opportunity for fraudsters.

The survey, titled The Impostors: Stealing Money, Damaging Lives, focused in part on government imposters who pretend to be from the Census Bureau, Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service or other agency types of scams.

According to the AARP survey, 77 percent of U.S. adults are not familiar with Census scams which, of course, would make them more vulnerable to one. The upcoming Census – as with any public event – is expected to “substantially” raise the number of scams.

First, here is the official Census schedule – what you can expect and when:

March 12 – 20
Households begin received a snailmail notification from the Census Bureau with instructions on how to respond to the 2020 Census via snailmail, telephone or online.

March 30 – April 1
During these three days, the Census Bureau will count homeless people.

April 1
This is Census Day, observed nationwide, by which date every home in the U.S. will have received their Census form. When you respond, tell the Census Bureau where you live on April 1.

The Month of April
Census takers will begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers, and others who live among large groups of people.

May – July
Census takers will visit homes that haven't responded to the 2020 Census to help make sure everyone is counted.

Now take a look at this short video on five ways to avoid Census scams:

Here are some warning signs that someone is a scammer:

You get an unsolicited email purporting to be from the Census Bureau. For household surveys and the decennial Census, the agency almost always makes contact by snailmail.

A supposed census agent asks you for money or financial data, such as the number of and amount in your bank account.

A supposed census taker threatens you with arrest. Taking part in the Census is required by law, and you can be fined for not doing so, but you can’t be imprisoned.

Here are other important do's and don'ts.

DO check the URL of any supposed Census website. Make sure it has a census.gov domain and is encrypted — look for https:// or a lock symbol in the browser window.

DO NOT give your Social Security number, mother’s maiden name, or bank or credit card numbers to someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau. Genuine Census representatives will not ask for this information.

DO NOT reply, click links or open attachments in a suspicious census email. Forward the message to ois.fraud.reporting@census.gov.

DO NOT trust caller ID — scammers can use “spoofing” tools to make it appear they’re calling from a real Census Bureau number. Call the National Processing Center at 800-523-3205, 800-642-0469 or 800-877-8339 (TDD/TTY) to verify that a phone survey is legitimate.

If you keep all this mind you should be safe from scams and scammers. Here are links to further information:

The U.S. Census 2020 Website

AARP Census Scams

Key Findings from the AARP Survey

Have you or someone you know been scammed? If so, what did you learn from the experience?

A TGB READER STORY: What Have They Done to the Dictionary?

By Elizabeth Megyesi

I used to think I had a fairly good understanding of the English language. After all, English is the language I spoke as a child, adding words and their meanings steadily as I grew, first at home, then at school.

Throughout the years the words got longer and meanings more complex, but I kept adding them to my vocabulary. Upon hearing a new word, there was always the dictionary to look up the meaning and probably the definition made sense.

But all of a sudden, as if overnight, someone added dozens of new pages to the dictionary with hundreds of brand new words. When you start looking up their meanings, most of the definitions consist of other brand new words.

OK, It didn’t really happen overnight and I should have paid more attention at the beginning of the computer age. At first I learned enough to get by but apparently that wasn’t enough. Sort of like knowing how to drive a car but without understanding how it works. When something goes wrong you are in big trouble.

So now I am at the bottom of the class when it comes to my technical vocabulary words. Not just computers but phones, TV’s, and even cars are becoming a puzzle.

Calling a help desk only works when you know enough to ask the right questions to get your answer. You are advised to click this button or open that file. At some point you have to admit you haven’t got a clue.

Thank goodness for grandkids who seem to have been born with electronic devices in their hands and these words in their vocabulary.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]

Old Age is Greedy

There sits on my desk a black, seven- by 10-inch, spiral note book filled with about 100 lined pages that I use to jot down notes about potential stories for this blog.

Because old age has robbed me of the ability to remember any “brilliant” thought for longer than few seconds, it is imperative that I immediately scribble down anything useful at the moment it occurs to me, or lose it forever.

Sometimes these notes are baffling, like that headline above. What was I thinking when I wrote that? And why – especially knowing how fleeting these thoughts can be - couldn't I have bothered to write even a handful of additional words to provide a hint or two about the idea?

But I still like the phrase and after spending 10 or 15 minutes trying my best to recall the original thought (to no avail), I've decided to run with it today in relation to time.

Old age is greedy: it wants all my time.

You name it, it takes longer now than even two or three years ago. Walking, because it is our primary mode of transportation, is a big culprit. I'm slower now and when I think, for example, I'll make a quick stop at the market – just a quart of milk and loaf of bread – it takes 30 minutes and that's not counting the drive to and from.

This is a different phenomenon than the one I mentioned not long ago about time disappearing as though I had blacked out for awhile.

In this case, I am aware of time's passage and I suppose it's irritating because I am still unaccustomed to how much I have slowed down, making my time estimates all wrong.

Not to mention that there are things I can't or don't do anymore and so need to find someone to help out. Change a light bulb? Are you kidding? No more ladders for me. But even when someone is here for a visit, I'm as likely as not to forget to ask.

It's perfectly true that finding oneself in the bedroom and wondering why is not an act exclusive to old people but I'm pretty sure the number of occurrences has increased. More time gone to old age.

The experts tell us it is not uncommon for old people to have trouble concentrating and that's another way old age has been greedy with me - my distraction level seems to increase by the day which lengthens any project.

Recently, I was picking up stuff I'd left lying around the living room, found a note to myself about a quotation I wanted to check out so I hopped on the computer to track it down. I couldn't have waited until I finished the task at hand? Apparently not.

That led to another click and another and you how that goes. Next thing I knew it was dinner time and I still hadn't straightened up the living room.

Folding clean laundry is instant distraction territory for me. Once I've wandered on to something else, it might be bedtime before I get it done and then only because I fold laundry on the bed and need space to sleep.

The biggest aid to old age's greed for my time is tiredness which has shortened my days to about eight useful hours. It takes near two hours each morning for me to get enough coffee and news in me to be ready to shower, dress and eat breakfast.

By then, it's 9AM and I know weariness will overtake me by 3PM after which little gets done. It takes careful planning to get all the things I once did in 12-plus hours a day crammed into such a short period of time.

In terms of slowing down, the trick, I think, is to make the effort to adjust to it as a new normal. I have been trying and I make small inroads. Occasionally now, I deliberately shorten the day's to-do list so that I can finish it.

There is no point in lamenting the slowdown in old age and there might be an upside. As much as I worry about what daffodils blooming in February portends for the planet's future, they put a smile on my face last week. At my previous speedy walking pace, I might have missed seeing them.

As with just about everything I have discovered about old age, I doubt I am alone in these changes. If we live long enough, they come to most of us. Is any of this familiar to you?

ELDER MUSIC: Mexico is Different Like the Travel Folder Says

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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Mexican Flag

Mexico has featured in quite a lot of songs. That’s not too surprising considering that the country borders Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, all of which harbor very talented songwriters. Some of those will appear today.

Of course, Belize and Guatemala also border Mexico, but their songwriters are less well known, at least in the English speaking world.

Had the album “Waitress in a Donut Shop” been MARIA MULDAUR’s first solo album everyone would have raved about how good it was. Justifiably so.

However, her first was an eponymous album that is one of the finest ever recorded, so anything that followed that one was certain to be downgraded. It’s time to lift up that second one and give it the kudos it deserves.

Maria Muldaur

From that one we have Gringo en Mexico.

♫ Maria Muldaur - Gringo en Mexico

Here’s just another band from East L.A., as they like to call themselves – LOS LOBOS.

Los Lobos

Much of their music is Mexican in origin or very much influenced by the music of that country. Their song references both their antecedents and the country in which they live: Mexico Americano.

♫ Los Lobos - Mexico Americano

When I was first selecting songs for this column, I chose a bunch and let them roll. When this next one came up, after a single line I knew it had to be present.

The harmony vocals were gorgeous. I wondered who they were and checked it. It was JANN BROWNE, sometime lead singer for Asleep at the Wheel, and EMMYLOU HARRIS (no more needs to be said).

Jann Browne & Emmylou Harris

They perform a song written by Jann along with Pat Gallagher and Roger Stebner. It’s called Mexican Wind.

♫ Emmylou Harris - Mexican Wind

It’s understandable that Americans would write about Mexico, but it’s not so obvious that an Australian would do so. After all, it’s a long way away, and it’s not just a matter of hopping in the car and driving down there.

One of my countrymen, however, seems to be the expert on writing songs about the country, some of the best around really. That person is KEVIN JOHNSON.

Kevin Johnson

I like films (and songs) with an enigmatic ending, and this is one of those: Grab the Money and Run.

♫ Kevin Johnson - Grab The Money And Run

This next song was a really difficult choice for me, not the song itself, it was an automatic inclusion. The choice was which version to include. Normally, I’d go with the writer, and he was one of the two about whom I was tossing and turning.

He is Ian Tyson. However, for once I’ve gone for a cover version. It’s not too surprising that I’ve gone with my musical crush, JENNIFER WARNES.

Jennifer Warnes

If anyone can equal a performance of Ian’s, it’s Jennifer. Here she sings Blue Mountains of Mexico.

♫ Jennifer Warnes - Blue Mountains Of Mexico

Here’s a group I bet you haven’t thought about for some considerable time - KATRINA AND THE WAVES.

Katrina & the Waves

Katrina is an American who found fame in Britain in the eighties, particularly with the song Walking on Sunshine. One song that didn’t get much airplay is simply called Mexico.

♫ Katrina and the Waves - Mexico

It’s not too surprising that MARTY ROBBINS would be present.

Marty Robbins

After all, if you listen to some of his biggest hits they sound as if they were recorded in Mexico. They weren’t of course, but he was really fond of Mariachi trumpets in many of his songs, including this one, Bound for Old Mexico.

♫ Marty Robbins - Bound for Old Mexico

The song Mexican Divorce was written by Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard. It was first recorded by The Drifters who did a fine job of singing it. It was later covered by Ry Cooder and later still by NICOLETTE LARSON.

Nicolette Larson

As good as the other versions are, I really like Nicolette’s and that’s the one we have today.

♫ Nicolette Larson - Mexican Divorce

DELBERT MCCLINTON has a story not too dissimilar to Kevin Johnson’s.

Delbert McClinton

Unfortunately for Delbert, it ended worse than it did for Kev. You can never tell the consequences of a falling out among thieves. Delbert goes (or at least he started to go) Down Into Mexico.

♫ Delbert McClinton - Down Into Mexico

Back in the late seventies, STEVE FORBERT was touted as the next big thing, the new Bob Dylan (there was a bit of that at the time).

Steve Forbert

That didn’t eventuate, not through lack of talent; Steve has that in spades. It was due to management issues and disagreements with his record company that prevented him from recording for many years.

He performed during that time and has been recording again for the last couple of decades. His song is Mexico, a different song from Katrina’s.

♫ Steve Forbert - Mexico

You were probably expecting this one, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint you. I’m talking about the song, rather than the singer. Enough waffle, here is the singing cowboy (or one of them), GENE AUTRY.

Gene Autry

Gene was the first of the famous singing cowboys – there were others before him but they didn’t catch on to any great extent. Of course, there was another who followed him, and he was Roy Rogers. However, here is Gene with South of the Border.

♫ Gene Autry - South Of The Border

INTERESTING STUFF – 21 February 2020


Justine Haupt, an engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, called it a "quick and dirty project" - a rotary cell phone. Here's her photo of it:


It doesn't do much except make telephone calls. As Digital Trends explains:

"Some of the physical buttons on the device, for example, can be set up to link to frequently called numbers, eliminating the need for a touchscreen and menu. Just to be clear, the dialer does work, and can be used for other numbers that you don’t save."

There has been enough interest in the rotary cell phone that Haupt has decided to make it available for sale at $240. But there's a catch – at least for me: it comes as a kit you have to put it together and even supply some of the parts:


You can read more here and here. Justine Haupt's website is here and the purchase page is here.


As long as we're discussing old-fashioned telephones, let's revisit a golden oldie video of two teens trying to figure out how to operate a rotary phone.

(I've never decided if I think this video is a prank – the kids just pretending – or if they really can't figure it out.)

Can you think of other things that are common to our generation that would puzzle young people?


Google Maps, USA Today tells us, is now 15 years old. Continuing on a theme here, they also tell us that not everyone has given up paper street maps in favor electronic ones with GPS directions.


“'Do they still make, even sell, paper maps?' That question from retired New York marketing executive Michael Lissauer is emblematic of our daily reliance on digital navigation. 'Other than in a history class, Europe before World War II, who needs a paper map?'

“It may surprise Lissauer and others that the answer to the question is yes. They're actually on the rise. U.S. sales of print maps and road atlases had have had a five-year compound annual growth rate of 10%, according to the NPD BookScan. For context, in 2019, the travel maps and atlases category sold 666,000 units, with year-over-year sales up 7%.”

Plus, maps are fun to read. More about this trend at USA Today.


Pink is amazing. For the third year in a row at the Westminster Dog Show this month in New York, the border collie won her class in the agility competition. In under 30 seconds. Wait till you see this – what an athlete:


It's called 1040-SR and it is only for people age 65 or older.


Here is some of what Richard Eisenberg at Next Avenue says about it:

This new 24-line, two-page form was devised by Congress in 2018, with a push from AARP and others, to make tax filing a little easier for older Americans. Those taxpayers couldn’t use the previous simplified 1040-EZ because it lacked lines for Social Security benefits or Individual Retirement Account distributions...

“You can fill out the 1040-SR regardless of your filing status or whether you itemize or claim the standard deduction, as long as you were 65 or older in 2019 — or if you were married filing jointly, at least one of you was.

“If you will itemize and file the 1040-SR, you’ll need to fill out Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.

“Interestingly, the 1040-SR is tied to your age, not whether you’re retired...If you’re over sixty-five and still working, you can use it. And if you’re retired and under sixty-five, you can’t.

Of COURSE it's more complicated than the snippet I've quoted (after all, it's from the IRS) but Next Avenue does a decent job of explaining.


Unclaimed baggage goes to the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. It is the only store in America that buys and resells unclaimed baggage from the airline industry.

Here are some of what happens behind the scenes and some of the strange items that get left behind.


The Washington Post last week published a too-short, interesting story about how the Amish use technology. That they do so at all was a surprise to me (but what do I know).

”When a church member asks to use a new technology, the families discuss the idea and vote to accept or reject. The conversation centers on how a device will strengthen or weaken relationships within the community and within families....

“Friends of mine belonged to an Amish church in Michigan. One of the church members wanted to purchase a hay baler that promised to be more efficient, even as it enabled him to work alone.

“The members discussed the proposal — yes, the new machine might increase productivity, but how would community connections be affected if he began haying without the help of others, and what would happen if his neighbors adopted the same technology?

“The risk to social cohesion, they decided, wasn’t worth the potential gains.”

More at the Washington Post.


This short video was published to YouTube on Valentine's Day by National Geographic in celebration of the 30 years since that gorgeous photograph was made.

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

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

Respite Recap Plus The Alex and Ronni Show

It was a surprise - even, perhaps, a shock - to me how many commenters on Wednesday's post (Trying to Make a Respite...) misunderstood me. I am not depressed, I don't feel the need to grieve about anything, I don't want to be young again, I have a reasonable social life for someone of my age and energy-level and so far, one psilocybin trip a year ago has been enough.

In the past when I have occasionally been misunderstood in these pages, I believe it has been my fault for not being clear or clear enough. After re-reading the respite post several times, I don't think that is so this time, although I could be wrong.

I used the word “respite” carefully and deliberately as a comparison to 24/7 caregivers for whom there are programs, important ones, to give them a break from the work and emotional intensity for a few hours once or twice a week.

There is a difference, however: in my case (and I'm sure, many others), I am both patient AND caregiver.

And one of us needs a respite.

I don't dream of having my pre-cancer life returned to me; I have always been too much a realist for any such daydreams.

And (so far), I find this journey toward my death via two serious diseases (and old age itself) to be genuinely interesting both tracking physical changes and keeping a watch on how I respond – to the degree any person can be his or her own observer.

So much for another whack at clarity. That's enough of that. Moving on.

When Alex and I recorded our Skype chat on Tuesday, we did some follow up on Monday's post on Successful Ageing.

Looking at the video before preparing today's post, I think perhaps I have now carried on way too long about something that isn't all that important, and it's time to let it go.

We also discussed a few other things. Here's the video.

Trying to Make a Respite From and For Myself

Following a diagnostic procedure the day before, on 1 June 2017, a surgeon stood in my hospital room and told me I had pancreatic cancer.

Oof. I wouldn't wish that moment on anyone.

I had no illusions about the disease. My father had died of it and I knew that although few people get it (compared to breast or lung or prostate cancer), most of them die within a year or so.

A week later in a meeting with that surgeon and an oncologist, I was told that I was a good candidate for surgery because the lesion was located at one end of my pancreas and I was in excellent physical shape despite my 76 years.

They didn't pull any punches about what that surgery – called the Whipple Procedure – involves. In addition to removing a whole lot of one's innards (half the pancreas, the entire duodenum and gall bladder, a portion of the stomach and some other, smaller bits and pieces), all the connectors among organs would be rearranged and after more than 12 hours in surgery, it would be up to six months before I was completely recovered.

However, it would give me more months of life than I would have without the surgery.

A funny thing happens when you hear something like that: I found out how much more deeply I care about being alive than I'd ever thought about before.

As I've mentioned here, I made the choice right away to follow instructions of my surgeon and other physicians as closely as possible and let them run the show because they had so much more experience at this than I did or do.

That strategy has worked well for me. In June it will be three years since the surgery and although I've now also been diagnosed with COPD, pulmonary rehab gave me good tools to use to live as well as possible with that.

Here's why I'm doing this recap today: I've felt good or good enough for so long that I would like to experience – make that RE-experience - normal life, life before cancer. Because for the most part that's how I feel.

Yes, my energy is way below what it was pre-cancer and by mid-afternoon, I'm done for anything much more taxing then a book or movie. Residual pain, mostly minor, and some other physical artifacts get in the way sometimes but they are not debilitating.

Pills, inhalers and diet requirements need daily attention. And when I forget my new circumstance and walk at my previous speed, COPD forcefully reminds me that is no longer possible, as I heave to catch my breath.

Then there are the medical appointments. In person check-ups and check-ins, blood draws, port flushes, scans and more. I know all the doctors, RNs, technicians, schedulers and medical assistants quite well now. I think of them as friends but I wouldn't mind less time dealing with cancer and COPD.

If you've been hanging around here since this journey began, you know how I railed against becoming a “professional patient,” but that's what I've been now for a long time and it's not going to change.

I'm not complaining about the facts of all this which, under the circumstances, keep me rolling along quite well. And with a little practice, as new needs came about, I've folded them into daily routine not too much different from brushing my teeth.

But it's been long time and I'm tired now of accommodating cancer and COPD. I'm tired of so much of what I do every day being related to two deadly diseases. I'm tired of wondering if every twitch is a sign that the end is nigh.

Please don't think that I am wishing to die – far from it. Nor am I slipping into fantasy.

What I want is to figure out a way of being, of carving out a space to live in that doesn't always include disease at the edge – and forefront, too - of my consciousness.

Sometimes the wish comes to me as empty space and time, when cancer and COPD take a nap for awhile and leave me as I was before all this happened. A mini-vacation. Maybe even a whole day of it now and then.

Don't get me wrong. I am acutely aware of how lucky I am. Most people with my cancer are dead long before now. But I wish I could figure out how to make a respite for myself, some time to pretend – nay, forget - for a little while that this didn't happen to me.

Am I asking too much? I think I can't be alone in wanting this and that I can continue to be the realist that I am while taking a little vacation. I just haven't figured out how to do it yet.


By Ellen Rand

(Note: names have been changed to protect their privacy)

The afternoon that I went for a walk with Linda for the first time was one of the moments I’ve been proudest of as a hospice volunteer, odd though that may seem.

I’d first met Linda a few months prior to that, when the late fall and winter light made her and her husband Joseph’s small and cluttered apartment dark in the early afternoons.

I was there mainly to visit Joseph who was immobile and unspeaking in his hospital bed in the living room following a devastating stroke.

In theory, a volunteer’s role is to keep ill people company and give their caregivers a break. But I’ve found that caregivers often opt to stay home with their loved ones instead. Why? It may be a fear that something awful will happen in their absence, worry that only they know how to best care for their loved one, or a simple desire to have company themselves once a week for a couple of hours.

Whatever the reason, this was the case with Linda too and over several months, I came to understand the fierceness of this diminutive woman’s devotion to her husband.

She made sure that he was always clean, that he was turned often enough to avoid bed sores, that he would eat his favorite foods that she’d cooked and blended so she could feed him one spoonful at a time, however long it took.

At night, she slept, fitfully, in a reclining chair next to his hospital bed.

The standing cliché about volunteering is that the volunteer gets more out of it than the people he or she helps. That’s certainly been true for me. Over a period of months I learned about how limitless love and devotion could be.

It wasn’t just Linda. Their grown children visited regularly, too, always talking with Joseph, being affectionate with him, including him in their conversations.

I wondered how much Joseph understood about what was going on as he lay, locked in his own body without being able to move or speak. I wondered about the strength of the human spirit, about the bonds that connect us to one another. I wondered about how limited we may be in thinking about what it means to be human, or about what constitutes a life worth living.

What seemed clear to me was that Joseph, despite his illness and innumerable, dire complications, was still very much with his family and continued to live, likely thanks to all of Linda’s and their children’s love and care.

But caregiving takes its toll and Linda was exhausted. So when I visited, I would try to persuade her to go out for a while, but she preferred to stay in, and we would talk over tea and the treats she would urge me to indulge in. That was how I got to know the happier contours of their lives, before illness struck.

Then one glorious spring day, it happened. “Let’s go out for a walk,” I said to Linda and she finally said yes. She disappeared into the bathroom for a while and when she came out, she had put makeup on, changed her clothes and fixed her hair.

We linked arms, the way I’d done with my mother when she’d been ill, and we walked slowly around her neighborhood. Maybe a couple of blocks at first, but that increased gradually as we walked several more times that spring and early summer, until Joseph died.

I like to think that offering my friendship and a little respite helped her to continue bearing her burden. I still speak with Linda from time to time. She has said that she still feels lost, which breaks my heart.

She asks me about my family and we say “I love you” at the end of our conversations. I don’t know if she goes out for walks anymore. I hope so.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: Reader's stories are welcome. If you have not published here or not recently, please read submission instructions. Only one story per email.]

Successful Aging

DONATION WEEK IS DONE – aren't you glad about that – and I thank each and every one of you for your generous support.

Quite a few of you included nice messages with your donations and I had intended to answer each one. But there are just too many and not enough time. I hope you understand.

Thank you all, you are the best.

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The phrase in that headline always sets my teeth on edge. As popular as it is in newspaper, magazine and online headers, and particularly as a book title (I stopped counting at Amazon when I got to 24), it always makes me wonder this: Successful as opposed to what? Unsuccessful aging? Failed aging?

A percentage of old and retired people live in poverty. Is that failed aging? A lot of old people refuse to acknowledge they are getting old. Does that fall on the success or the failure side of aging? And who sets the criteria?

I'm not even sure it's possible for anyone to fail at aging.

This is not new material to me but it came 'round again when a friend and TGB reader who uses the name doctafil to comment here emailed a link to the Montreal Gazette review of yet another book titled, Successful Aging.

The author, 62-year-old Daniel J. Levitin, a cognitive psychologist, musician and neuroscientist (hence the subtitle, “A Neuroscientist Explores the Power and Potential of Our Lives”) believes current popular writing on old age has not kept up with the science:

“'Part of the societal narrative that I want to push back on,” he told the Gazette, “is that we tend to think of life as comprising these developmental stages — prenatal, infancy, toddlerhood, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and so on, and that after some point — 65, 70, whatever — it’s just decline,' Levitin said. 'And that’s not borne out by the research.

“'(Old age) is a distinct developmental stage,' he continues, 'and as with any other, there are pluses and minuses. So I wanted to write about what science had to say about the course of aging and what happens in the brain, from the womb right up to old age.'”

[STOP RIGHT HERE FOR A MOMENT: I'm not going to tell you what that science is because the review skips that part and I haven't read the book. If that seems unfair to you, I would agree. But the title and review became such a mental “ear worm” (as when you get a tune stuck in your head) that I decided to riff on it and see what happens.]

What the review does give us is a list of the usual suspects about how to grow old such as choose carefully where you live and be sure to get enough sleep:

”Older people tend to get less sleep,” says Levitin, “but they need eight or nine hours just like the rest of us. Many cases of Alzheimer’s are misdiagnosed cases of sleep deprivation.”

I didn't know that about Alzheimer's and sleep. However, a quick trip around the internet tells me that research shows lack of sleep MAY lead to dementia but it is a long way from being proved.

Not surprisingly, Levitin says that too much time online isn't good for a person's well-being and face-to-face conversation is important to help avoid loneliness, a problem for people who are more inclined to introspection and solitude than some others.

“You can’t just will yourself out of that,” Levitin says. “But for many adults, after a certain age neurochemical shifts cause them to be more outgoing.”

That may be true for some but Levitin makes a welcome point that I've not run across much from other writers on successful aging:

“...I would add a distinction that I maybe didn’t make enough of in the book — that loneliness and solitude are not the same. Some people enjoy solitude and don’t feel lonely; other people are lonely in a crowded room.

“Loneliness is the killer, not solitude.”

Ageism in general and in the workplace plays a role in Levitin's idea of successful aging:

“It’s a huge battle,” Levitin concurred. “Even within the neuroscience community it’s not talked about. When you think about all of the different isms or prejudices that face society, whether it’s sexism, racism, prejudice against LGBTQ people...all of these are far from solved, but at least they’re part of the national conversation. They’re on the table. Ageism is not.”

Most of this confirms my personal positions on these issues but it still doesn't explain what “successful aging” is which no one seems to have adequately defined.

Again, I am not critiquing the book – I haven't read it. But you would think I'd have gained a sense of what people who spend a lot of time writing an entire book mean by successful aging. And I don't.

That's what irritates me and undoubtedly caused my mental ear worm. If successful aging is going to be a “thing” for old people, as it has appeared to be for 15 or 20 years, it would be a good idea to know what the failure is that these writers want us to avoid.

Or is it just another way of saying saying, take good care of yourself?

Old folks get plenty of useful information about sleep, nutrition, loneliness, falls prevention, etc. from our physicians, AARP and dozens of other good resources. Until someone tells me how “successful aging“ books are different, I'm done with it (except I'm interested in what new things neuroscience has discovered about old brains).

What do you think?


Yes, finally - this is the final day of the TGB annual donation drive to help support the costs of maintaining Time Goes By. You can read the details on last Monday's post.

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

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Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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Dave Brubeck

DAVE BRUBECK probably did more than any other musician, except Louis Armstrong, to bring jazz to the notice of the general public.

Dave was destined to be a cattle rancher like his father, but his mother, a piano teacher, taught him (and his brothers) to play piano. He went to college to study veterinary science but switched to music.

The war intervened, he was drafted and after hearing him play, the bigwigs in the army ordered him to start a band. Around about then he met his long-time band member Paul Desmond.

There’s a lot more to his background than I have room to cover. He eventually started his famous quartet with Paul on alto sax, Eugene Wright on bass and Joe Morello on drums. Let’s hear them.

I’ll start with something from an album with which you might be familiar. It’s the follow up to his most famous album. When you’re on a good thing, I think was Dave’s thought process.

The album is “Time Further Out”, and the tune is It's a Raggy Waltz, in the not too unusual time signature of 3/4 time.

♫ It's a Raggy Waltz

Brubeck & Desmond

Besides their being half the quartet, Dave and Paul Desmond recorded some albums as a duo. One of those was called, rather unimaginatively, “Dave Brubeck & Paul Desmond ~ The Duets”. From that we have a tune you’ll all know, one of the most recorded ever: Stardust.

♫ Stardust

Dave Brubeck

The quartet went into middle-of-the-road territory with the album “Angel Eyes”. Of course, their middle-of-the-road is far superior to most who perform this style of music.

On this album they play other people’s tunes. I think they should stick to their own as they are far more innovative and interesting. However, this isn’t bad for late night listening in front of the fire (or air conditioner), glass of wine in hand, and other things nearby. Here is Angel Eyes.

♫ Angel Eyes

JIMMY RUSHING was a long time singer in the Count Basie orchestra.

Brubeck & Rushing

He had a wide range in his vocals and could sing tenor all the way down to baritone. He could also sing the blues with the best of them. He teamed up with the Dave Brubeck Quartet to record an album called “Brubeck & Rushing”, and from that one we have the old Fats Waller song Ain't Misbehavin'.

♫ Ain't Misbehavin'

Here is Dave on his own playing his own music from an album prosaically titled “Brubeck Plays Brubeck”. The tune is called When I Was Young.

♫ When I Was Young

Brubeck & Mulligan

The quartet that played at the Berlin Philharmonie in 1970 wasn’t his usual quartet. This one consisted of the great baritone saxophonist GERRY MULLIGAN along with Alan Dawson on drums and Jack Six on bass.

The song I’ve selected from that concert is the old Limehouse Blues. As is obvious, this is a live recording which features Gerry quite prominently. Of course, there’s also quite a bit of fine piano playing by Dave.

♫ Limehouse Blues

Dave Brubeck

The next is included for my friend Ann, it’s her favourite song. It’s another nice gentle-by-the-fire sort of tune - one you all know, Georgia on My Mind.

♫ Georgia on My Mind

Here is another vocal track, there aren’t too many of these, and what a vocalist he has: TONY BENNETT.

Tony Bennett     & Dave Brubeck

Dave and Tony were invited to the White House back in 1962. This was when there was a real president in residence. Their concert was recorded and I decided to go with Tony’s most famous song, I Left My Heart in San Francisco.

♫ Tony Bennett & Dave Brubeck - I Left My Heart In San Francisco (Live)

A further example of when you’re on a good thing, something else from “Time Further Out”. From that album we have Unsquare Dance, in 7/4 time.

♫ Unsquare Dance

Dave Brubeck

Dave and the quartet recorded several albums called Jazz Impressions of… Fill in the dots with various places. One of those places, and the most successful of this series, is “Jazz Impressions of New York”. From that we get Autumn in Washington Square.

♫ Autumn in Washington Square

DaveBrubeck~Time Out

You knew this one had to be present, so I won’t disappoint you. Take Five started as a drum vamp by Joe, but Paul took it on board and the following day came up with the finished tune.

In keeping with the album, his is in 5/4 time, thus the name. In his will, he died in 1977, Paul left the royalties for the tune to the Red Cross and they have received in the region of a hundred grand each year since then.

♫ Take Five