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Never Having to Say You’re Sorry About a Blog Post

[EDITORIAL NOTE: While I was sleeping standup comedian, Mrs. Hughes, left a note (scroll way down) in the comments of her TGB Interview with some good news about an upcoming television appearance. You can track the dates of upcoming guests on the show's website.]

A couple of days ago, Grannie Annie of Fools Rush In, published a story about deleting blog posts.

“My entry will be written and posted and then I will hear my father’s voice, saying: ‘When in doubt, don’t.’ I will look at my post again and if I have doubts about what I have said, it gets the big old D-E-L-E-T-E.”

I was surprised. I can remember deleting only one post on the advice of an attorney while I was considering a lawsuit regarding the subject of the post. Otherwise, it has never occurred to me to remove a post. Plus, it has become so much second nature now that I hardly need to remind myself to ask my daily question as the mouse pointer hovers over the Publish button: Would it bother me if this were printed on the front page of The New York Times?

In the earliest days of this blog, I occasionally didn’t click the Publish button, but looking at it in retrospect, that had more to do with the shyness of a newbie than any impropriety in the post.

Certainly there are posts I wish I had written better. There are some others that were so lightweight they nearly float off the screen and seem, when I look back, a waste of my time and yours. And sometimes, weeks or months later, I’ve changed my opinion, but that doesn’t invalidate what I believed when I wrote it. So those remain in place, too, waiting for someone to discover them and shout, “Gotcha.”

Because few people read much of past blog posts, so far no one has.

There are certain items any blogger would be foolish to publish:

  • Anything at all about coworkers or place of employment
  • Photographs of children
  • Street address or any other personal contact data except, if you want readers to contact you, email address

Plus, of course, it is a violation of copyright to publish:

  • Entire stories from other publications without permission
  • Photographs for which you do not own the rights
  • Cartoons are copyrighted too

Copyright law is more complex than that short list, but a good, general rule-of-thumb is, if you didn’t write or draw it or take the photo, don’t publish it unless you have obtained permission or are invited to do so as on such sites as YouTube.

But none of that is the point Grannie Annie was making.

In the earliest days of blogging, before it became widely popular, it was a point of pride to never change previous posts – to, in essence, treat your blog as a print publication; when it’s published, it’s set in stone. I hadn’t realized, until I read Grannie Annie’s post, how deeply I had internalized that edict.

However, one of the best improvements of the internet over hard copy publishing is the ease with which wrong information can be corrected after publishing, and the convention is to do so either by inserting an update or with a strikethrough which allows you to acknowledge errors and correct them in the same breath.

Although I’m tired of the repetition surrounding the idea, authenticity is highly prized in the blogosphere: “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” I think keeping that in mind together with "the New York Times question" as your finger aims the cursor at the Publish button goes a long way toward never having to say you’re sorry - or deleting posts.

On the other hand, maybe bloggers don’t care about the issue and delete willy-nilly. What about you?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Celia Jones continues with Part 2 of Derbyshire County: Something in the Water?]

Blog and Internet Annoyances

Crabby Old Lady can’t prove it and she doesn’t have the wherewithal for a scientific study, but there appears to be a dramatic uptick recently in the annoyances of using the internet. And what really gets her knickers in a twist about these irritations is that they could mostly be eliminated if people who run websites and blogs were less sloppy and/or more considerate of their readers.

The list today is by no means complete, just the ones Crabby has encountered most frequently in the past week or two.

  • How many times does Crabby have to repeat this: no light text on dark backgrounds. It is impossible for old people to read and Crabby has heard tell from young ‘uns that they don’t like it much either. Besides, the style is soooo 20th century.
  • A similar annoyance is capital letters missing at beginning of sentences. There is a reason they are standard: ease of reading. If it is inconvenient for you to push the Shift key, it is also inconvenient for Crabby to try to read. So she doesn’t.
  • Another similar irritation is lack of paragraphs. No one can read long chunks of text minus breaks without getting a headache. If what you have to say is important enough to spend the time writing it, you might want to make sure people can read it. It takes only two taps on the Enter key to start a new paragraph with a line break between them.
  • Crabby Old Lady subscribes to many email newsletters from newspapers, magazines, websites, political and other organizations, universities, retail websites and aggregators. In the past week alone, about half the links she clicked – many from big-name publications - were broken, leading nowhere or to 404 pages. What in god’s name, Crabby wonders, is the purpose of the newsletter if the senders don’t care if the links function?
  • An increase in the number of animated ad images on the sides of websites is driving Crabby to distraction and she doubts she is the only web user who makes a point to never click on them and to avoid buying products of advertisers who do this. No product is unique and there are always alternatives if Crabby is really interested.
  • All kinds of retail sites lose Crabby’s business by burying the price behind seven or eight or more clicks. Tell Crabby the price on the first page and you might get a sale. If it is beyond the third click, you won’t no matter what it is. Software vendors are big offenders in this area.
  • Non-dated pages render the information useless. Health and medical sites are particularly guilty, but many others don’t include dates, even some blogs. Unless Crabby knows how recent or old the story is, she has no way to evaluate the information or know if she needs to do further research.
  • These last two apply particularly to blogs, although some news and political sites are guilty too: pop-ups on mouseover with a large thumbnail of the linked page or, more frequently these days, a product link. The pop-ups always cover the precise words Crabby is reading and most blogs have so many of them that, when Crabby moves her mouse, another pops up, then another and another. Anyone who thinks this is reader-friendly was probably the most obnoxious kid in school.
  • And finally, widgets. There is nothing inherently wrong with widgets; some are modestly interesting. However, the kind of bloggers who use one widget, invariably use many. Perhaps what they don’t understand is that each widget is fed to their page by a different server. If one of those servers is down, the page won’t load for up to a minute or more. And the more widgets there are, the more likely this will happen. Multitudes of widgets on a page are a sure reader killer.
  • Crabby Old Lady gets a fair amount of email from bloggers asking how they can increase their readership. If you are among those or know someone who is, you might want to go through this checklist and see what improvements can be made. Crabby is not the only reader who just moves on when she encounters these annoyances.

    [At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Celia Jones gives us Part 1 of a colorful and detailed account of a trip to England in Derbyshire County: Something in the Water? Part 2 will be published tomorrow.]

The TGB Interview: Alex Bennett

AlexbennettsmCategory_bug_interview Full disclosure: Alex Bennett is my former husband. We met when I was 17, married when I was 25 and divorced when I was 31. He has known me longer than anyone else alive which I find comforting in some manner. Although we didn't speak for a decade or so following our divorce, these days we're friendly.

Alex has been a radio host since his teen years, having done shows in San Rafael, Reno, Houston, Minneapolis, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami and New York. He is opinionated, outspoken and funny - on air and in life. I produced his show when we were married and we were better as professional colleagues than life partners.

These days, he can be heard live on The Alex Bennett Program on Sirius Left satellite radio, channel 146 from 9AM to noon ET. He describes his show as "political discussion punctuated by tap dancing." For awhile, some years ago, he hosted a television show and has won two local Emmy Awards. Alex is a regular contributor to Hustler magazine.

Ronni Bennett: How is getting older different from what you expected it to be when you were young?
Alex Bennett:
I thought I was immune to it and that I could compensate for its effects.

RB: What do you like best about getting old?
These days, absolutely nothing. Years ago it at least got you a seat on the subway. Today forget even that.

RB: What do you like least?
The endless procession of doctors who see you as a new yacht.

RB: A lot of older workers run into age discrimination in the workplace. Does being on radio rather than television insulate you from that?
No doubt about it. Besides that, Sirius has a lot of gray running around the place and any younger person working there can learn from the best.

RB: Does your audience know how old you are? Does it matter?
They have an idea. To some, it is used as a weapon, especially those who support Obama and would like to push us to the margins of society.

RB: John McCain is being attacked more frequently lately as being too old -€“ 72 at inauguration if he is elected - to be president. What do you think?
Well, death or incapacity could be more of a reality at his age as it is for the rest of us, so who he chooses as his VP is crucial. Obama will no doubt use his age as a negative.

RB: How are you different as a radio host at age 68 than you were at - oh, say 30 or 35?
Sure, I'm better. I have more of a skill set.

RB: How well do you think old people are represented on television and in movies?
Not as badly as in some other areas of show business. There have been, however, a preponderance of ageist jokes on TV lately where McCain is concerned, but no racist ones about Obama or overtly sexist jokes about Hillary.

RB: What are some of the differences between being old today and when we were young, do you think?
I think there was more respect. Prior to the rock 'n' roll revolution in the '50s, there wasn't even a youth culture to be venerated.

RB: What do you think of the younger generations today?
Basically they are selfish. It's the generation of "Me". But they were made that way by their parents who kept telling them how wonderful they were.

RB: What, if anything, bothers you about being old in the United States today?
There are no perks.

RB: How do you think getting old in the United States is different for men and women?
I think that it has to be worse for a woman. My woman friend was very lucky that she landed a good job at 55 and she is delighted. But I saw her looking for one and it was a frightening experience for her. For men, old age starts at say 55, but for women it may be as young now as 45.

RB: What's the biggest surprise - positive or negative - about getting old?
That I actually got old.

RB: Who are your role models for getting old?
Sean Connery. He played old before he truly was.

RB: We were still married when your father died at a young age - 60, I believe. He was very special to me. What do you remember most about your father?
He was my idol. I still live by the rules he taught me. He also gave me my sense of humor.

RB: What old people, in your life, have been an inspiration?
Our old cat Shabbas. He lived to be 18 and lived by the mantra, "If there's food in the bowl, then how bad can things be?"

RB: What, if anything, do you miss about your youth?
Jumping up and down a lot without getting winded.

RB: How are you different from when you were young?
It now takes me all night, what I used to be able to do all night.

RB: Do you have any age-related diseases or ailments? How do they affect your daily life?
The usual, enlarged prostate and IBS. The prostate is back to normal due to the medicines they have today. The biggest problem with them is their effect on the libido. As for the IBS, it has become manageable. So neither, once managed, have affected my daily life.

RB: You are 68 years old. How much longer do you want to continue working? What are you plans for the future?
I want to die while on the air.

RB: What do you believe is the purpose of life?
If I had that answer, I'd be doing it.

RB: Is the world better or worse off now than when you were young?
Better technologically. Worse politically and economically.

RB: Do you think about dying?

RB: Do you believe in an afterlife? If so, what is it like?
Not really. Maybe a continuation of this one. But then I'd have to get into string theory and that would be long and involved.

RB: What one thing have you learned about life you'd like people to know?
Never, ever argue with an ex-wife.

RB: Are you ever sorry we didn't stay married?
Like I said, never, ever argue with an ex-wife!

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia explains how she dealt with an age-old childhood fear in Bogeyman.]


category_bug_gayandgray.gif [EDITORIAL NOTE: Today, I am pleased to announce the launch of a new Time Goes By category, Gay and Gray, which will address issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Some of the issues will cross over with those of straight elders, and some will be unique to homosexuals. Because this is not in my personal experience, I asked Jan Adams to become the Gay and Gray columnist and she graciously agreed.

Jan lives in San Francisco and has been a political activist for most of her 60 years. You will find more about her here. She has been blogging at Happening-Here since 2005, and her Gay and Gray column will appear at Time Goes By on the 26th day of each month, or thereabouts. I know you will welcome her to the TGB fold.]

I didn't really want to "listen." Who does, when listening is a matter of duty?

But because of one of the projects I am doing for work these days, I felt I had to listen. You see, I am organizing within the Episcopal Church for the full inclusion of our gay members within the life of the community.

Compared to most Christian outfits, we're not that bad on this, especially locally. Many parishes have gay members; there are gay, lesbian, even transsexual priests; heck, to the horror of the fundies and our own conservatives, this denomination even made a partnered gay man a bishop.

But it would be great if we could move from "not bad" to good at this elementary facet of respect each others' dignity, so I'm working for the folks who are organizing to get us over the hump.

One of the steps along the way has been a thing called "The Listening Process." Gay people wanted to stop being talked about and start having real conversations with our more conventional brethren and sistren. We persuaded the official bodies of the church to say that such things should take place about 30 years ago, but mostly this "listening" has been a good idea that doesn't happen. And despite not always playing out the whole process, we, this particular church, have muddled toward putting up with and even loving each other.

However this season, the small, very gay parish where I am a member, St. John the Evangelist in the San Francisco Mission District, was invited to engage in some listening events with the people of a suburban church. Uh oh. I knew I had to put my body where my mouth is and go to these things.

It seemed an odd idea. I've been out so long in the world and in the church that I've almost forgotten the angst that too many LGBT folks still suffer in hetero-Christian-land. I'm an "I'm here, I'm queer, get used to it!" kind of person. So I didn't know what to think.

Off a little bunch of us, gays and friends, trooped on Sunday to a very friendly, suburban congregation. We shared worship followed by a very nice potluck lunch. One of our folks quite bravely told the story of how hurt he had been by being forced by another denomination's authorities to hide his relationship with his partner. Then we broke up into tables of about six people each to discuss further. Each table consisted of one or two of us visitors and the rest from the local congregation.

I found myself at a table with several mature parishioners from the suburban church and several of their quite elderly visiting parents. Now this was in a room with a low ceiling and some 40-50 people. That is, once we started talking, the din was cacophonous. Though we could barely hear each other, we gamely attempted to address the discussion questions.

After a few minutes, the elderly woman seated next to me reached out and gripped my arm. She was elegantly dressed and groomed, every hair in place, carefully made up. She seemed tiny to me, wispy. Her very white skin was almost transparent; I could see a bit of blue vein peeking through her scalp. She whispered with a slight accent I couldn’t place.

"I worked in fashion. They all worked there,” she said. “There were so many of them. They were so creative. There was a young man, he used to ask me to go places with him, to be seen with him. We'd go places together. You know, so he'd be safe."

"When was that?" I asked.

"The Hitler times," she answered. "Then we came to this country and I worked in fashion. There were so many of them. They were so beautiful."

The din overcame us both. We stopped trying to talk, but she squeezed my arm.

Here is the sort of thing that happened in "the Hitler times":

"An account of a gay Holocaust survivor, Pierre Seel, details life for gay men during Nazi control. In his account he states that he participated in his local gay community in the town of Mulhouse. When the Nazis gained power over the town his name was on a list of local gay men ordered to the police station. He obeyed the directive to protect his family from any retaliation.

"Upon arriving at the police station, he notes that he and other gay men were beaten. Some gay men who resisted the SS had their fingernails pulled out. Others were raped with broken rulers and had their bowels punctured, causing them to bleed profusely.

"After his arrest he was sent to the concentration camp at Schirmeck. There, Seel stated that during a morning roll-call, the Nazi commander announced a public execution. A man was brought out and Seel recognized his face. It was the face of his eighteen-year-old lover from Mulhouse.

"Seel then claims that the Nazi guards stripped the clothes of his lover and placed a metal bucket over his head. Then the guards released trained German shepherd dogs on him, which mauled him to death."

- Wikipedia

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Darlene Costner explains how her mother prevented potential disaster during Sunday drives in Grandpa.]

Good News/Bad News of Elder Brains

category_bug_journal2.gif A new study published in the journal, Alzheimer’s & Dementia [pdf], reports a reduced incidence among elders of memory problems and other forms of cognitive impairment including dementia.

“…between 1993 and 2002, the prevalence of cognitive impairment among Americans aged 70 and over went down 3.5 percent (from 12.2 to 8.7 percent over the decade). This translates to a reduction of impairment in hundreds of thousands of U.S. seniors.”
Medical News Today (1), 21 February 2008

Some of the improvement, say the researchers, may be that elders were more likely during the decade of the study to receive improved care for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking than people did prior to 1993.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, although the researchers caution that a link is not clear, it appears that the more formal education in early years and greater personal wealth correlate with fewer cognitive difficulties, at least among the 11,000 in the study group.

Oops. I’m 0 for 2 with no college and certainly no wealth. Oh, well - too late now.

Lead researcher, Dr. Kenneth M. Langa of the University of Michigan, explains that “Mental stimulation affects how the brain is ‘wired’, and education in early life appears to help people build up cognitive reserve.”

“We also know cardiovascular health has a close link with brain health,” he said, “so what we may be seeing here is the accumulated effects of better education and better cardiovascular prevention among people who were over age 70 in 2002, compared with those who were over age 70 in 1993.”
Medical News Today (2), 21 February 2008

The researchers attribute about 40 percent of the decrease in cognitive impairment to increases in education and wealth.

Nevertheless, the researchers urge elders to pursue activities that keep their brains sharp and their cardiovascular risk low to prevent decline in years to come.

“More and more studies suggest that walking and other types of physical activity are important for preventing cognitive and memory declines,” says co-author Eric Larson, M.D., M.P.H., executive director of the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle, where he has led many studies of the relationship between physical activity and brain health.

“’The evidence seems to be showing that staying mentally engaged with the world in any fashion – reading, talking with friends, going to church, going to movies – is also likely to help reduce your risk down the road,’ says Langa.”

Medical News Today (2), 21 February 2008

Elderbloggers have the mentally engaged part of the package covered. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I need to get out of this chair and movearound more often.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mort Reichek gives us a memoir that is funny and warm and full of love in How I Met My Wife Sybil.]

This Week in Elder News: 23 February 2008

In this regular Saturday feature you will find links to news items from the preceding week related to elders and aging, along with whatever else catches my fancy that I think you might like to know. Suggestions are welcome with, however, no promises of publication.

I realize I’m about ten days behind on this, but in case you are too - did you see this Google Valentine’s Day logo? Nice. (Hat tip Nancy Belle at eChronicles)


As we reported last Tuesday, stimulus package rebates are not taxable next year on your 2008 federal tax return. Apparently, that is not necessarily so for your 2008 state tax returns. On Friday, New York and Pennsylvania governments announced the rebates will not be taxed. For those of you in any of the other 48 states, you’ll need to check with your local tax department.

Columnist Ellen Goodman has written a fascinating piece on how eating in the U.S. has been transformed into “a science rather than an art. How did food become conflated with medicine?" she asks. "We now have shelves full of boxes with bragging rights promising better eating through chemistry. Meanwhile, our uncertainty is growing as quickly as our waistlines.” More here.

Senior Journal reports that several cell phone providers, including Verizon and AT&T have introduced new, cheaper plans for elders who don’t use their phones as much or for as many services as younger people. Maybe you can find a less expensive plan.

We recently discussed the phenomenon of time seeming to speed up as we get older. Thirty-year-old, Grammy-winning blues artist and songwriter, John Mayer, has already felt the poignancy of it in regard his parents’ getting older in this video of his tune, Stop This Train. (4:44 minutes)

The ageist attacks on Republican presidential candidate John McCain continue apace. This past week, Wonkette reached for new depths of bigotry starting with, “The only person surprised by John McCain’s win in Wisconsin tonight is apparently John McCain himself, who was rudely awakened from his daily 19-hour nap…”

Quote of the Week:

“How to get people to vote against their interests and to really think against their interests is very clever. It’s the cleverest ruling class that I have ever come across in history. It’s been 200 years at it. It’s superb.”
- Gore Vidal

Bush Medicare Proposal

category_bug_politics.gif Just because a president is generally awful doesn’t mean he is always wrong.

A week ago, President Bush sent a proposal to Congress that would raise Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) premiums for affluent elders. The premiums, for example, would increase for individuals with incomes higher than $82,000 per year and for couples whose incomes exceed $205,000 annually. According to The New York Times, premiums would triple for couples with incomes of more than $410,000.

Given that the average monthly premium this year for Part D coverage is $28 (and several plans cost a good deal less), this increase for only the well-off is not unreasonable. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, quoted in the Washington Post, says the proposal would reduce government Medicare spending over five years by $3.2 billion.

This shouldn’t be taken as a reason to stop thinking about universal coverage as people consider who they will support for president this year. Even if the new president begins working with Congress on a healthcare initiative on day one – and they succeed - it will be several years until it takes effect. Until that happens, this proposal is a small stop-gap in money flow from Medicare.

Two other provisions of the proposal would allow the HHS Secretary to require the use of electronic records, and to collect and release price and cost information to Medicare beneficiaries to, according to The Times, “help them select treatment options and choose among doctors, hospitals and health plans.”

“Currently, Medicare is a price-setting system in which the government makes decisions about who is covered and how much is paid,” [HHS Secretary] Mr. Leavitt said. “We have a better option, to provide beneficiaries with reliable information about the cost and quality of their care. When given that kind of information, we know that consumers will make decisions that drive costs down and the quality up.”
- The New York Times, 16 February 2008

Although the healthcare industry must move to electronic records for efficiency, safety and as a money-saving measure, and more transparency is always good, I can’t help wondering how such a program would be administered, particularly when a patient is sick, injured or unconscious. On the simplest level, when my leg is broken or I’ve had a heart attack, I won’t ask what the emergency room bill is and go to another hospital if I think it’s too high.

In the end, Mr. Bush’s proposal is as cynical as this last year of his presidency has become and he undoubtedly submitted it only because he is required to do so by law. $3.2 billion savings over five years is chump change to someone who happily spends that much on a war with no purpose about every ten days.

None of which matters because Democrats in Congress immediately pronounced the proposal “dead on arrival.” They prefer reducing federal payments to private – that is, Medicare Advantage – plans. That’s a good idea too, since those plans are subsidized by the 80 percent of beneficiaries in the regular Medicare plan. But Congress (and the president) are more focused on thwarting one another than coming up with money-saving devices and not one of these ideas will be seriously considered this year.

Meanwhile, the number of uninsured in the country grows.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Rabon Saip explores one of the exquisite - and mysterious - pleasures of life in The Feeling.]

Elders in the Blogosphere

There is a new demographic study about adult bloggers (18 and older) from BIGresearch, reported here, that has a large enough sampling to mean something – 15,727 people.

Overall, the study reports, a little more than half – 53.7 percent – are male; 44.7 percent are married; one-tenth – 10.4 percent – are students; and 28.4 percent hold professional or managerial positions.

The largest political bloc - 37.6 percent - are Libertarians. Democrats and Independents, 26.9 percent 25.7 respectively, come next and the smallest group, 22.9 percent, are Republicans.

Ethnic minorities are represented in larger percentages than their distribution in the general population: 12.2 percent African-American; 20 percent Hispanic; 3.7 percent Asian.

Then we come to age. While the average in the adult U.S. population is 44.8 years, bloggers are younger - average age, 37.6. But look at this chart.


You can see that while adults 65 and older make up about 16 percent of the population, 6 percent, or 1,821,000 of us are bloggers. And of the 55-64 age group, about 8 percent or 2,428,000 are bloggers. Four-and-a-quarter million of us. (Oh dear. How will I get all those on the Elderbloggers List?)

UPDATE: Jonathan Boehman, in the comments below, explains how I misinterpreted the graph above. He's correct and I've reworked the number of elderbloggers based on current U.S. population and making a fairly well-educated, low-end guess that there are 20 million blogs in the U.S. That means there are about 1,200,000 bloggers 65 and older (6 percent of bloggers), and 1,600,000 in the 55-64 age range (8 percent of bloggers). A total of 2,800,000 of us. So I still wonder how I'll get them all on the Elderbloggers List.

For comparison, nearly two years ago, in May 2006, an infoZine survey reported that 5 percent of Americans age 50 and older had created blogs. It is a different survey with different age parameters so the comparison is not exact, but it is clear that the number of elders in the blogosphere has zoomed upward. The latest Pew research, published 15 February, reports that 72 percent of U.S. people 55-64 are online (not necessarily blogging) and 37 percent of the 65-plus age group.

This is remarkable considering that many people older than 65 had never used computers before they retired.

If I had my way, every elder with the barest interest would be encouraged to blog. It expands social circles, teaches new skills, requires quiet reflection and active thinking to organize facts and thoughts and to write coherent stories. Elderbloggers are also sharing expertise, telling our life stories, teaching and learning from one another and having more than a few laughs too.

God knows I could be wrong, but I suspect that as the younger set continues to move to quick-hit, social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and whatever the next iterations may be where the emphasis is on collecting friends and “poking” each other, elders will stick with blogging. Writing is what we know and telling our stories is important to us.

That doesn’t mean, as the technologies get easier, elders won’t add audio, video and other improvements as they are developed. Some elders already have. (The one thing about technology you can be certain of is that it will change.)

But I’m betting most elders will stick mostly with words, complete sentences and well-developed thought. It’s what we’ve known best since our school days. It could even be that in time, blogging will become an elder ghetto. And that is fine with me.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia tells of her experience fighting a local social custom in No Baking Zone.]

Rejected By a Green Group

When Crabby Old Lady gets over having her feelings hurt, she’ll undoubtedly be angry.

Crabby does what she can to keep her carbon footprint on planet Earth as small as possible. She has done so for many years. She diligently sorts and recycles trash, she always washes clothes in cold water and does so in the evening during off-peak power hours. She doesn’t run the dishwasher until it is packed to capacity. She uses green cleaning products when they work. (Seventh Generation brand paper towels are worse than useless; they just move the mess around without absorbing a drop of it.)

She takes time to recycle printer ink cartridges and batteries, careful to deliver them to drop off places during other necessary driving trips so she's not wasting gas. She dutifully takes yard waste, left-over paint and other non-recyclables to the town dump, and she has installed those funny-looking light bulbs in every socket and lamp even though florescent light at home is as ugly and unappealing as it is in offices.

She is mildly maniacal about turning off lights in empty rooms. She also uses ceiling fans instead of air conditioners, and last year, she spent a small fortune having 14 energy-efficient windows installed in her home. (They are actually saving a little money on heating fuel this winter.)

Crabby also contributes to organizations she believes are helping the planet on a larger scale than she can do alone, particularly The Nature Conservancy. When the time comes for a new car, she will sadly give up “cute” for whatever fuel-efficient vehicle she can afford because it is the right thing to do. If Crabby could find a way to dispose of cat box droppings in something other than plastic bags, she would do it. But at least she doesn’t buy the bags; she reuses what she gets at stores.

Crabby is always looking for new, small ways she can help, so she perked up when she read about Freecycle – a network of local organizations which, according to the website,

“…is made up of 4,251 groups with 4,518,000 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them's good people). Membership is free.”

It works like this: when you have reusable stuff you don’t want anymore, you can list it on the pages of your local group where other members can peruse and choose. And, you can find stuff you might want. No one is allowed to charge for items or to pay for them. Everything is free.

Thinking that Freecycle is a remarkably good idea, Crabby Old Lady found the Portland, Maine, group where she applied for membership by filling in the form and waited. On Tuesday morning, she received this message in her inbox:

“Your request to join the freecyclePortlandME group was not approved.

“The moderator of each Yahoo! group chooses whether to restrict membership in the group. Moderators who choose to restrict membership also choose whom to admit.

“Please note that this decision is final...”

"Them's good people" indeed. Crabby is at a loss to understand on what basis she has been rejected. The only questions asked on the signup form were her name, email address and why she wanted to join. Duh! (which, she assures you, is not what she answered.) Not much to go on in regard to rejecting someone.

Having recently been banned by Google AdSense too, Crabby Old Lady is wondering if she smells bad these days and should shower more than once a day.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, David Wolfe recalls a moment of youthful revelation in A Teen's Discovery of Humility.]

Elders and the Stimulus Package

category_bug_politics.gif In hopes of staving off recession, on 13 February, President Bush signed an economic stimulus package. In an early version of the legislation, elders who receive Social Security benefits were excluded from the rebate, but the Senate pushed back and elders were included in the final bill.

Because our economic problems are long-term in the making and deeply entrenched, the idea that people running right over to the local Wal-Mart to spend their one-time mini-windfall will get the economy back on track didn't make sense to me. Now it appears the people aren't even going to spend that money:

“An Associated Press-Ipsos poll found that only 19 percent of those surveyed said they planned to spend their rebate checks. Forty-five percent said they would pay bills, while 32 percent said they planned to invest the money.”
AP, 14 February 2008

But the legislation is a done deal, so here are the facts and what you need to do to receive your rebate. It’s pretty simple.

People who earn at least $3,000 adjusted gross income through wages, Social Security or veteran’s disability benefits are eligible for the rebate. Amounts range from $300 at the lowest level of income to $1200 for couples at the high end. Individuals who earn more than $75,000 and couples who earn more than $150,000 in adjusted gross income are not eligible.

You must have a valid Social Security Number. Those with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) are not eligible. And you must file a 2007 tax return even if you did not earn enough to owe any tax. Rebates are determined by your 2007 tax return.

The rebates are not taxable on your 2008 income tax return. In researching this story, I ran across several reports stating that any refund due taxpayers on their 2008 returns will be reduced by the amount of their rebate. According to the IRS, this is not true:

“The stimulus payment will not reduce or increase your refund when you file your 2008 return.”

There is a lot of good information in Q&A format on details of the rebate package at the IRS website.

Payments will start being mailed out (or direct deposited if that is what you select on your 2007 tax return for any refund) in early May, so it would behoove you to file by the 15 April deadline.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz writes an engaging, childhood recollection in My Brother the Pope.]

The TGB Interview: Mrs. Hughes

Coy_carol_150Category_bug_interview A couple of months ago, I posted a video of standup comic Mrs. Hughes. Many readers loved it and "Mrs. Hughes" has since become the top search term that brings readers to Time Goes By. Both lilalia of Yum Yum Café and Cowtown Pattie of Texas Trifles suggested I do a TGB Interview with the comedian, and so today, here it is.

Mrs. Hughes was 40 when she began doing standup and 26 years later she’s still at it. Why we aren’t seeing more of this funny woman on television is beyond me, but she has taped an interview with Florence Henderson on Retirement Living TV and I’ll let you know when it will be broadcast.

She also appears frequently on cruise ships (“The Funniest Grandma on the Seven Seas”) and around the country. You can see her upcoming schedule here. And she has released two CDs. Information on how to order them is at the bottom of the interview.

Before we get started, here is Mrs. Hughes’ video for those who have not seen it or would like to see it again. She is an elder who does us proud, and will make you laugh out loud.

RONNI BENNETT: Comedians don't generally make their debut at age 40. How did that come about for you?
I was at Weight Watchers and the lecturer was a comic. I asked how to become one and she said write five funny minutes and go to open mike night at the Improv. I had five funny minutes already so she and I went. I went on at midnight and got a standing ovation. That was the start of it all.

RB: Did you work before you became a full-time comedian?
I used to lecture on antiques, do craft fairs but never a real job.

RB: When did you first discover that you're funny?
I don't know, I could always tell a good story. My Dad was funny and a great story teller.

RB:Is being a standup comedian fun?
Yes, you get to sleep all day, you're the center of attention, and make pots of money. The travel is the only not fun part. Sitting around airports can get very dull.

RB: What or who makes you laugh out loud?
My kids and grandkids make me laugh. Do you know who Craig Ferguson is? He is on after Letterman. He always makes me laugh. I love Ellen as well.

RB: Some of your humor is distinctly women-oriented - menopause, being a wife, etc. Do men and women react differently to your act?
Not really. Kids have even told me they love my act (PG).

RB: Aging is also a good part of your act, so let's talk about that a bit. What's the best part of getting older for you?
People help my put my bags in the overhead on the plane.

RB: And the worst?
How do these people know I need help?

RB:How is getting old different from what you imagined when you were young?
I don't know. My husband is older and I just thought he was cranky. Now I'm getting cranky. I am just waiting to pick a fight.

RB: What, if anything, do you miss about your youth?
I didn't know how pretty I was. I wish I had known so I could enjoy it instead of missing it. I look in the mirror and I am horrified at how old I look.

RB: What's the biggest surprise - positive or negative - you've encountered about getting older?
I couldn't wait to get boobs and now I just want to get them out of the way of my putt.

RB: Who are your role models for getting older?
Betty White. I adore her.

RB: How comfortable are you thinking of yourself as old?
I'm okay with it. I loved being 40. Fifty was hard, but I'm okay with 60.

RB: Age discrimination in the workplace is a big difficulty for many older workers. What affect, if any, does it have on a 66-year-old comedian?
This has been a problem since I started stand up. It was very difficult to get many people to realize that I was serious about being a comic. Even my husband thought it would end up in the attic with the Afghan I started knitting. I thought my fabulous career was waning and that's when I went on the ships. Now with the amazing success of my video I am in demand again. I guess I am an overnight sensation after 25 years.

RB: From what I've seen on your video, your personal life is a big inspiration for your comedy. How true is that?
Almost everything in my act is actually a part of my life. That is why it is so difficult for people who want to write for me. My act rings true and all of it has made me laugh.

RB: The subject of getting old has a long tradition in standup comedy. Jack Benny was 39 forever. Phyllis Diller has had a good run with it. So did George Burns. What did you learn from them?
All the comics you cited were inspirational. I admire and loved Henny Youngman, Myron Cohen, Totie fields. They were funny without the language that permeates everyones act today.

RB: What contemporary comedians do you admire?
Again Craig Ferguson, Ellen. I love the Blue Collar Guys. There are some not so famous comics that I adore - Tom McGillen, Woody Pittman, Lizette Mizelle, to mention a few.

RB: There's an old belief that clowns - comedians - are laughing on the outside, crying on the inside. Do you think that's true?
Yeah. There have been so many suicides and drug overdoses that it is impossible to overlook the underlying sadness. Nearly every comic I know has had major trauma in their lives.

RB: Why "Mrs. Hughes" and not your full name?
I started out as Mrs. John Hughes. For some reason, that confused people and they thought my husband was the comic. I dropped the John mainly because I hate to type and not using John made my name shorter. I think we are way too familiar with each other. There is no respect for teachers, seniors, any authority. I hate having to tell some pimply-faced pizza boy my first name. I don't want to be chummy with the teller at the bank. I prefer to do business with some one efficient rather than a pal.

RB: Have your kids inherited your humor?
Yes, my kids are the funniest people I know.

RB: What is one lesson you've learned about life you would like everyone to know?
You can do any thing you want. You just have to work at it. It may be harder to achieve things when you are older, but you can succeed.

Mrs. Hughes has released two CDs - one is PG and the other, she says, is R-lite. You may order one for $15 or both for $25 by sending a check or money order to:

Mrs. Hughes
P.O. Box 1507
Pismo Beach, CA 93448

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Susan Gulliford recalls a special Valentine's Day Dinner.]

This Week in Elder News: 16 February 2008

In this regular Saturday feature you will find links to news items from the preceding week related to elders and aging, along with whatever else catches my fancy that I think you might like to know. Suggestions are welcome with, however, no promises of publication.

When 65-year-old Joan Anderson retired in 2007, she named her new blog, Peace in Retirement and vowed to work for peace and justice now that she has the time. I’m not sure about the justice, but peace is in short supply. Joan was arrested, tried and convicted of trespassing while participating in a non-violent demonstration on a military installation, Fort Benning, Georgia, and now faces 30 days in federal prison and a $500 fine. You can read about her trial on her blog and a recent update. Do stop by and lend some moral support. (Hat tip to Joan's daughter, Tara Anderson, of I Quit For Lijit.)

I'm not a John McCain supporter in the presidential sweepstakes, but I’m not pleased about the growing number of ageist attacks on him. Jay Dyckman, who blogs at 23/6, in a post titled, "Not So Fast, Pops", had this to say: “Simply put, I can't vote for a president whose motorcade will constantly have the left-turn blinker on. I can't vote for a president who comes to the door of the White House in a bathrobe and yells at protesters to get off his lawn. I can't vote for a president who holds White House dinners at 4:30PM.” Unfortunately, there’s more.

Given how generally ticked off I am with Google, I’m not unhappy to see that the company may get nailed for age discrimination. The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of 58-year-old Brian Reid who says he was fired from Google because of his age. In his suit, he alleges that just two percent of Google’s 1900 employees in 2004 were older than 40. I’ll be watching this case carefully. (Hat tip to ptmeridian)

Pat Temiz, who has contributed some wonderful stories about her adopted country, Turkey, at The Elder Storytelling Place, can now be seen in a YouTube video. She and five other British ex-pats perform in a local folk-dancing group. Pat is the female singer and the routine, she says, is a well known, classic Turkish folk dance about a man bringing gifts to the local women. However, the ladies who present themselves have various disabilities including a club foot much to the distaste of the gift giver.

This would be funny if it didn’t cost taxpayers money. A psychiatrist and minister in Tennessee with the unlikely name of Cupid Poe has allegedly been billing Medicare for sending untrained church members to pray with his psychiatric patients in nursing homes. Between 2004 and 2006, according to Newschannel 5 in Nashville, Poe billed Medicare $250,000 for this service. Medicare fraud is not an uncommon occurrence and it could be I’m telling you this only because the doctor’s name amuses me.

Three years ago, President Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security met with resounding failure, but he hasn’t given up his distaste for the federal program. Now he’s trying an end run in his 2009 budget by slashing more than $100 million in administrative funds for local Social Security offices around the country which could force some to close just when we need them now that the first wave of baby boomers is signing up for Social Security.

The end-of-life information website, Agis, has partnered with the Hospice Foundation of America to offer personalized information for caregivers with their new Ask the Expert service. Their End of Life section abounds with excellent and useful information too.

In a New York Times Op-Ed piece this week, Robert Reich, who served as Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton and is now a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley, published one of the smartest pieces I’ve read in a long time concerning our country’s current economic woes. His solutions are long overdue.

You’ve probably heard of the vacuum cleaning robot, Roomba. I dislike pushing a vacuum cleaner around as much as I dislike changing beds, but I don’t believe the Roomba really works, especially in corners and it certainly won’t do anything for upholstered furniture. But for others kinds of tasks, robots might do the trick. Researchers in Norway are developing elder-specific robots to help with house cleaning, monitor vital signs and other health-related work. Maybe by the time I need one, they will be available. (Hat tip to George of I’ve Been Mugged)

In an attempt to counteract what it calls “myths” about HR.1955/S.1959 - The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act - the House Committee on Homeland Security published a so-called Fact Sheet [pdf] on the bill which is currently awaiting action in the Senate. If you believe what they’re saying, I’m sure I can find a bridge here in Maine you'd be willing to buy. Find out about the real dangers of the thought crime bill here.

I enjoyed this well-done rant on body-size bigotry from newly discovered elderblogger, Daniel Will-Harris at FrickinGenius.

Quote of the Week:

“The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western World. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent.”
- Gore Vidal

Some Theories on "Elder Time"

Part of Mel’s lament about aging that we addressed earlier this week is how fast time flies. Her original post is even titled, “Time Marches On” followed by a few expletives, and as she noted in a comment here:

“…time seems to be moving rather quickly - and I would rather it not be so!”

Another commenter, Martin, gave this explanation for the apparent increase in the speed of time as we get older:

“Time is only a construct. Pay attention to it and it speeds up. Ignore it and it disappears - for awhile. And when again you pay attention to it, as you will, you will find that a whopping big chunk of it has zipped on by while you weren't looking.”

That’s one explanation, although it has never worked that way for me. Another came to my attention in a fortune cookie I kept taped to my desk for years, although it doesn’t address the speed specifically:

“Time is nature’s way of making sure everything doesn’t happen all at once.”

The phenomenon of the apparent increase, as we get older, in the speed at which time passes is ancient. We all know it doesn’t really speed up (well, I could write a rather long and fanciful treatise opposing that point of view – maybe another day), but almost everyone experiences it as such to some degree, sometimes.

A long time ago, during the first year of this blog, I did a little research into possible explanations and came up with these, both reasonable and crackpot to which I gave names:

  1. Proportional Time: The most common reason advanced is that time is perceived as a proportion of time lived. That is, to a five-year-old, a year is 20 percent of his entire existence. To a 60 year-year-old, one year is it only 1.67 percent of his life.
  2. Complex Time: Another well-worn theory is that as we get older, life gets busier and with more things to do, there is less downtime so life speeds by. This is a weaker argument as there are plenty of not-so-busy people who perceive time as moving faster than in youth.
  3. Stupid Time: It’s forgetfulness according to this theory. Memory weakens as the years pass and because we can’t remember what we did yesterday, let alone last week or last month, time flies. Perhaps my mind has flown, but the logic of this one escapes me.
  4. Routine Time: This argument postulates that as we age, our time is taken up with increasing numbers of practiced pleasures and predictable tasks that provide little intellectual stimulation. If, instead, we spent our time in new pursuits, this argument suggests, time would slow down. This almost works because it blends nicely with my theory on this phenomenon -

  5. Tense Time: Time is perceived at different rates of speed depending on whether your mindset is primarily in the past, present or future tense.

Children generally are future tense types. They can’t wait to be big enough to ride a bicycle or stay up later or go to the movies alone. Their anticipation of holidays, birthdays and summer vacations in addition to the constantly moving target of age-related privileges guarantees that each wait will feel like eternity.

Young adults live mainly in the future tense too, looking forward anxiously to that promotion, finding the perfect wife or husband, affording a fancier car or bigger house. Even raising kids is on future time – vying for the best schools and saving for the right college. Time moves more slowly during the first half of life because we are anticipating the next thing we want rather than enjoying what is here and now.

When I originally postulated my Tense Time theory in 2004, I suggested that elders tend to live in the past tense which could make time appear to move faster because there is less anticipation involved in living than in younger years.

But I’ve learned a lot about elders in these subsequent four years and I would like to be clear that I don’t think elders live only or entirely in the past. Personally, I have more than enough to anticipate.

However, the theory may still hold up because we have so many years of memories and experience to apply to current living and many of us are involved – consciously or otherwise - in Jung’s seven tasks of aging, two of which involve life review and determining the meaning of one’s life.

Or, this could just be another crackpot theory of my own.

In response to my long-ago post on the time speed phenomenon, Eric Antonow who blogs these days at Aux Input, offered a sixth possible explanation he called Cache Time, which owes something to the workings of computers:

“For the sake of intellectual efficiency, our minds cache vast amounts of information for quick, later reference. Just as Web browsers store images of frequently and recently visited sites, the human brain stores parts of the world that we interact with everyday such as the shape of an eggplant, the golden retriever that belongs to our neighbor, our neighbors themselves.

“As a result, much of what we think of as experience is actually the act of accessing the cached data rather than processing the real-life visual or auditory or other experience.

“As there are fewer experiences, over time, involving new data and an increased number using cached data, the world seems to move faster because we are processing old data for the second, fiftieth, hundredth time (so it really is faster).”

There is more of Eric’s theory here.

One more item about how fast time passes: a few months ago, I lamented to Millie Garfield of My Mom's Blog that it feels like I've just filled up my seven-day vitamin dispenser when it's empty again. Millie laughed and suggested I buy another so I could fill up two containers at a time. That worked for awhile, but nowadays I'm shocked at how fast two weeks go by instead of one.

What do you think? Are there any new theories out there – crackpot or otherwise?

Surprising New Longevity Research

category_bug_journal2.gif So you want to live to be 100? It might be easier than you think - if you follow the rules you already know and if you have a physician who believes in treating old people as aggressively as the young.

According to two new studies published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine (subscription required), even people with heart disease or diabetes can live to a riper old age than previously believed.

“For the study, Boston University researchers did phone interviews and health assessments of more than 500 women and 200 men who had reached 100. They found that roughly two-thirds of them had avoided significant age-related ailments.

“But the rest, dubbed ‘survivors,’ had developed an age-related disease before reaching 85, including high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes. Yet many functioned remarkably well – nearly as well as their disease-free peers.”

- Yahoo News, 12 February 2008

Almost three-quarters of the men in the study functioned better than women with most able to to bathe and dress themselves. Only a third of the women could.

“The researchers think that may be because the men had to be in exceptional condition to reach 100. ‘Women, on the other hand, may be better physically and socially adept at living with chronic and often disabling conditions,’ wrote lead author Dr. Dellare Terry and her colleague.”
- Yahoo News, 12 February 2008

Only men were followed in the second study, 2,357 of them for 25 years or until death beginning in their early 70s. Forty percent survived at least to age 90.

“’It’s not just luck, it’s not just genetics…It’s lifestyle’ that seems to make a big difference, said lead author Dr. Laurel Yates of Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. ‘It’s get your shoes on, get out there, and do some exercise,’ she said.”
- Yahoo News, 12 February 2008
“’Smoking, diabetes, obesity and hypertension significantly reduced the likelihood of a 90-year lifespan, while regular exercise substantially improved it,’ Yates said.
- Guardian UK, 12 February 2008

Dr. Yates and her colleagues were willing to put numbers to risk factors for longevity or lack of it. They estimated that a 70-year-old man who did not smoke, maintained normal weight and blood pressure, exercised two to four times a week and was diabetes free has a 54 percent chance of living to age 90.

Adverse risk factors, however, cut his chances of living that long depending on which factor is in play. Each one reduces the 54 percent as follows:

  • Sedentary lifestyle reduced the chances of living to 90 from 54 to 44 percent

  • High blood pressure reduced it to 36 percent

  • Obesity, 26 percent

  • Smoking, 22 percent

  • Three factors together, such as sedentary lifestyle, obesity and diabetes, 14 percent

  • Five factors, 4 percent
- Medical News Today, 12 February 2008

Aside from what we can do for ourselves to extend our healthy lives, the medical community needs to adjust their attitude too.

"To the extend that physicians use old age as the explanation for ailments and illnesses, they assume that nothing can be done about the ailment and that improvement is unlikely," writes Erdman B. Palmore. "These negative attitudes may also convince their patients that nothing can be done and thus destroy the motivation necessary for patients' recovery."
- Encyclopedia of Ageism, 2005 - p.161

In an editorial in Archives of Internal Medicine where the two studies were published, Dr. William Hall of the University of Rochester writes:

“’It has been generally assumed that living to 100 years of age was limited to those who had not developed chronic illness.

“Hall has a theory for how these people could live to that might be thanks to doctors who aggressively treat these older folks’ health problems, rather than taking an ‘ageist’ approach that assumes they wouldn’t benefit.”

- Yahoo News, 12 February 2008

[Hat tip to Kyrielle.]

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, a special announcement.]

The Wisdom of (Time Goes By) Elders

Wow! I’m knocked out by your responses to Mel in yesterday’s post. What a lot of wise and thoughtful writing that can benefit people of any age. But I already knew that about the Time Goes By community.

People like to collect quotations. They are usually culled from the writings of the famous, but as I read the comments yesterday, I was amazed at how quotable they are. We could publish our own book of quotations about getting old and it could compete with any “professional” publications. Here are some of them:

“I think the first step in overcoming some of the ageism in society is for those who are over a certain age to stop feeling the need to prove their relevance to a youth culture.”
- Neil of Citizen of the Month
“You can approach aging (elderhood) with curiosity, or with fear and loathing. It’s a choice.”
- Steven of Projections
“If I am blessed to have the gift of many years on this earth, I for one want them to be filled with people applauding my arrival into each decade of life, while I hold out my arms to welcome the legions coming behind me.”
- Jackie
“…she hasn't met everyone she's going to meet or gone everywhere she's going to go or done everything she's going to do. She hasn't received a big ol' hug from her grandchild.”
- AQ of Always Question
“The youthful look is replaced with the acceptance of the fact that your physical appearance is not very important.”
- Darlene
“If you're not really enjoying it right now, well, this will pass. And if you're having a blast right now, well, this too will pass. But it's still a great trip.”
- Anne of Mzedell’s Page
“We are individuals and you won't age like the books or even your friends.”
- Rain of Rainy Day Thoughts
“The future is a blank page and it's your choice what you do with it.”
- Kay Dennison of Kay’s Thinking Cap
“I no longer have to justify any action I make or word I speak other [than] to myself and my gods.”
- Lilalia of Yum Yum Café
“To my complete surprise, my world opened up at age 50. I decided to do the things I'd always wanted to do, but did not have the time.”
- Claire Jean
“I enrich my life with what brings me joy, endeavor to be as authentic as I know how, and experience every interaction with grace, compassion and encouragement.”
- Bridgemor
“If it weren't for the five minutes I spend in front of the bathroom mirror every morning, I doubt if I'd ever realize how old I am.”
- Mythster
“That is not to say I don't have moments of melancholy when I dreadfully miss dear ones. For that, I've made up a comforting excuse. Without shadows, one can't fully appreciate sunshine.”
- Roberta S of Elusive Abstractions

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia finishes up her series on humiliation and mortification with a story about herself titled Meeting My In-Laws.]

What Our Youth Culture Has Wrought

category_bug_ageism.gif A post titled Time Marches On….&*^#%@$! at a blog named Freak Parade came to my attention yesterday. It is written by Mel - the mother of a girl about five and a boy age ten - who is, I’m guessing, somewhere in her thirties. Here are some excerpts:

“With each year that passes, I get more and more disgusted with the whole stinking process [of aging].”
“True or not, it feels like all of the fun stuff has already been done. Dating, falling in love, the proposal, marriage, getting pregnant, seeing the tiny babies for the first time. All done.”
“I made a trip back to where I had grown up, and was pained at the effect the passing years had wrought on the place I knew as home. I was confronted with the effects of aging on the faces of those who had cared for me when I was small.”
“I long for a rewind button, or a time machine, perhaps. I tell myself to savor every moment, and am making an effort to do just that, but sometimes it just is not enough.”
“I want to reclaim what once was. I am at a place where an old photograph brings heartache just as easily as a wistful smile.”

My initial, visceral reaction was to smack her because in lamenting her loss of youth, she is piling on the stereotypes of age that smack old people in the face every day. But on quick, second thought, she is writing about what she honestly feels and deserves to be taken seriously.

How did Mel come to feel so awful about getting older? Since no one is born with an abhorrence of aging, it must be something else: our youth-centric culture, do you think?

From the cradle we are bombarded with unrelenting, negative images of age while youth – the acceptable reaches of which seem to be defined further downward each year - is extolled as the gold standard of life. Lip service is paid to experience and knowledge ("go to school, study hard, get that degree"), but apparently have no value in life or the workplace after 35 or 40. Elders are consistently portrayed as sick, crotchety, ugly and/or dim.

No wonder Mel is in such a state over her age, living with such fear and loathing day in and day out. At the end of her post, Mel issues this plea:

“So what does one do to get past this particular issue? How do you overcome a phobia of time? Tell me your thoughts, your insights. But do it quickly, please - I’m not getting any younger.”

The comments at Mel’s blog agree with her, that they too fear the passage of time which may be comforting, but is not very useful.

So here is my proposal for today: let’s do our best to help Mel from the vantage point of our experience and years. Who better to do this than old people who have been where she is and have overcome or, at least, made peace with getting old.

Many times here at Time Goes By – in my posts and your comments – we have spoken of the pleasures, advantages and enjoyment we have found in old age. Mel's plea gives us a terrific opportunity to pass on some of that learning – how we faced similar fears, wrestled with them and where we are now.

I’ve left a message on Mel’s blog to check out the comments here today. Please do leave your story below and give Mel your best thinking about getting old.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia tells another tale of humiliation - this time concerning high school when appearing "cool" is so important: The Blond Beauty.]

The Flip-Flop Fallacy

category_bug_politics.gif Opponents of John Kerry made flip-flopping a devastating campaign issue in 2004 which, it can be argued, was second only to swiftboating in sinking his bid for the presidency.

This year, Mitt Romney was labeled “the king of flip-flop” by at least one adversary, but he isn’t the only candidate who is a target of the accusation. Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and Barack Obama have all been attacked for flip-flopping on issues as crucial as the Iraq War and as insignificant as smoking in public. So far, with the exception of Romney, the accusation hasn’t had the sticking power it had with Kerry, but the campaign has nine months to go and the right (or wrong) flip-flop could yet become a vote killer for someone.

The candidates themselves are partially to blame. Too often, in speeches to minor constituencies, they advocate positions they would not consider voicing in a national campaign ad, which leaves them wide open for the flip-flop label. And it is hard to find an instance when any explained how they came to alter their point of view.

But most of the flip-flop attacks cast negative meaning to change itself which is ironic in a campaign in which polls unanimously show that the nation wants change and every presidential candidate has tried to position him- or herself as the greatest agent of change.

In four years, the act of changing one’s mind has become an act of political - with more than a whiff of moral - turpitude. No one asks the candidate for reasons; a flip-flop is proof on its face of patent dishonesty. Deviation from a position held for as long as 25 years or announced as recently as the last debate marks a candidate with a red-letter F.

This begs the question, when are candidates – or any person – supposed to have chiseled their beliefs in stone? Should they be set for life at age 20? Or should we be given another decade to arrive at our thereafter immutable opinions? What if at any age reason - someone’s argument, events or new information - causes one to reconsider? Can we never decide we were wrong about an issue?

To live is to grow and to grow is to change. To remain steadfast in beliefs when evidence and circumstances change is the definition of hidebound. It denies learning and prevents progress. Is that what the flip-flop accusers want in a leader? Isn't that what we've suffered through for the past seven years? I’m looking for a presidential candidate who will flip-flop (for a change) when reason demands it.

A little lightness on the subject (2:01 minutes):

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia explains why she sees a therapist in her son's future in Outer Space Cow.]

This Week in Elder News: 9 February 2008

In this regular Saturday feature you will find links to news items from the preceding week related to elders and aging, along with whatever else catches my fancy that I think you might like to know. Suggestions are welcome with, however, no promises of publication.

Joshua McKenty, whom I met at the Gnomedex conference in Seattle last summer, has written a remarkable post titled How-To Change Your Life: 11 Steps to Carbon Neutral. It is based on his father’s four directives for “taking responsibility for who you are, and how you behave. The obvious corollary was learning how to change.” It’s thoughtful, doable and brilliant. Don’t miss it.

Mary Jamison sent a link this week to a story in The Christian Science Monitor with advice about resumes for “the over-50 crowd.” I haven’t covered this topic for a long time, but CSM is handing out the same old, patronizing stuff that can be found on dozens of employment websites. It’s always about how elder job seekers must jump through hoops to overcome the admitted prejudice against them from corporations and young interviewers. Will mainstream media and job advisors ever suggest that employers follow the law?

There was a powerful story in The New York Times this week from health reporter Jane Brody titled Graceful Exit making a case for choosing to die when life is never going to get any better. Calling it “assisted suicide” is, for me, too clinical for such a personal and momentous decision, and Brody’s piece is worth every word.

That bane of all airline travelers, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has launched a blog titled Evolution of Security that, in just a week of operation, has taking on all complaints – and they are many. To their credit, they are cheerfully acknowledging mistakes, offering solutions and clearly explaining their policies. You too can complain or leave suggestions on the blog. (Hat tip to Cop Car who used to blog at Cop Car’s Beat.)

While experts argue whether the U.S. is yet in an “official” recession, everyone knows we are in serious economic trouble and the national debt has reached more than $9 trillion dollars. A large portion of that is due to the money squandered on an unnecessary war on which the Bush government spends $720 million per day. Here’s a little video from the American Friends Service Committee about what good that money might otherwise have done for us. (1:46 minutes)

Quote of the Week:

“The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return.”
- Gore Vidal

New Additions to the Geezer Flicks List

Well, this is an embarrassment. It has been a year since I last updated the Geezer Flicks list and it's not that I've forgotten it; I use it all the time to select movies to rent.

I’ve added six new films today, indicated on the list by this icon: NEW. The movie titles link to their pages at the Internet Movie Database.

In the past, some of you have voiced objections to the name “Geezer Flicks” but it makes me laugh so if you’re one of those, live with it. It doesn't hurt the many great movies on the list.

Everyone is welcome to suggest additions; there must be some I’ve missed over the course of a year. You can email me from the link at the top of the left sidebar or leave suggestions in the comments below. You’ll find the criteria on the Geezer Flicks page and I’ll try to be more diligent about keeping the list up to date in the future.

Documentaries about elders are welcome too as long they are easily available for rental or purchase. (You can always find a link to the list in the right sidebar under the TGB Features header.)

Here are the titles of the newly added films:

Checking Out
Notes on a Scandal
Oh, God
Rocket Gibralter

A winter weekend is a good time to cozy up with a movie and a bowl of popcorn, and there are now more than a hundred geezer flicks to choose from.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Rabon Saip tells of his search for a particular and elusive aroma in Whiff.]

The Folly of Single-Issue Politics

category_bug_politics.gif There is much ado around the web this week about proto-second-wave-feminist Robin Morgan’s new essay, Goodbye to All That (#2) (following on her well-known, 1970 essay of the same name) in rabid support of Hillary Clinton and against every man on earth.

Bloggers and others are falling all over themselves in support of it and in disagreement with it. The supporters are well in the lead, most of them posting nothing more than a version of “Hear, hear” and reprinting Morgan’s book-length screed written in the worst kind of feminist polemic, the kind that embarrasses me by over- and understating as needed to make her point, and in several cases in this essay, mis-stating the facts.

You’ll need to follow the link above to read it as I’m quoting only her summation:

“Me, I'm voting for Hillary not because she's a woman - but because I am.”

Turn that sentence around every way possible and it still means the same thing: vote based on gender. And that is sexism.

The United States is in such deep trouble on so many fronts we cannot, we dare not, fall prey to voting on isms. Has Hillary Clinton been attacked unfairly for being a woman? You betcha. Has Barack Obama been attacked unfairly for being black? Sure enough. That, unfortunately, is politics. It comes from ignorance, it is not new and it is the wrong reason to vote for either one.

Nor should the relative oppression of blacks and women be pitted or measured against each other.

Choosing a candidate to vote for is always a crapshoot. They never live up to their campaign promises whether they had been only pandering to constituencies or due to the intervention of circumstances. Presidents can push all they want for their pet issues – healthcare, war, fiscal responsibility, whatever – but the fact is, Congress and not the president makes law.

This election and the future of our country are too important to take sides based on the irrelevant issues of race and gender. And as to voting for a woman because she’s a woman, all you need do to see the folly in that is ask what the person third in line for presidential succession, Nancy Pelosi, has done for us lately.

Robin Morgan’s explosive essay is divisive, sexist and counterproductive. With this campaign, we have arrived at a time in American history when we have proved a woman or a black can be elected. Whether it is now, next time or the time after that doesn’t matter and anyone who votes based on race or gender is failing in their responsibilities to their country and its future.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia is back with another in her embarrassment and mortification series: Trying Unsuccessfully to Emanate Sophistication.]