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Announcement: Retirement Survey

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Even though he thinks it's too messy for public consumption, newly-listed elderblogger, Mike Nichols of Anxiety, Panic & Health, sent in a photo of his blog workspace for the Where Elders Blog feature. How about some of the rest of you who haven't done this yet? And quarterstaff photos too.]

Web searches for various phrases about and including “retirement” return hundreds of thousands of results of which a majority is advice on financial planning for later years primarily aimed at younger workers. Many of the rest are for websites of (usually expensive) retirement communities not infrequently containing the word “active.”

And while news stories abound in regard to workers remaining employed past standard retirement age and, conversely, retiring early, trustworthy statistics are hard to come by.

So I have constructed our own retirement survey. Like the previous survey on elder use of technology and blogging, the results will not be scientifically valid against the U.S. or any other population. But it will give us a sense of retirement in relation to elders who enjoy reading and producing blogs.

It is really three different surveys, one for three different conditions of retirement and you need complete only one. These surveys, for people age 50 and older only, are much shorter than the tech/blog survey – it will take no more than two or three minutes to finish.

The surveys are anonymous. You will not be asked for your name, email address or any other personally identifiable information. The surveys will remain open until 12 midnight, eastern U.S. time on 18 July 2008, and results will appear here on three successive days during the week of 21 July.

As during the last survey, I’ve prepared a little graphic. If you would like to help get as many respondents as possible, you are welcome to post it on your blog and link it to this page. Or, you could write a short post linking to this page. (You can’t link directly to the survey from the badge because there are three different ones.)

Here are links to the three surveys. Choose the one that applies to you, and enjoy.

Currently Retired

Not Retired

Retired, Then Returned to Work

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Granny Annie recalls a most embarrassing moment in Hair Today, Hair Gone – Today.]

Weekend Blog Changes

The long holiday weekend gave me an opportunity to do a little housekeeping around the ol’ blog homestead.

Elderbloggers List
It’s been a long time since I last updated the Elderbloggers List on the left sidebar. The bookmarks have been piling up and some people became impatient enough to have sent email inquiries about when new additions might appear. Mea culpa.

A number of the blogs I had marked have disappeared or been abandoned, which is why I generally wait until new elderblogs are at least three months old before listing them. A few have not posted in a long while, so I’ve added only those with regular, up-to-date entries. A handful of others are designed with light text on a dark background which isn’t elder-friendly enough for Time Goes By. I make no attempt to read them (or any white-on-black website) and don’t expect anyone else to do so either.

Sadly, the link to Joyceyn Ward's blog, Maya's Granny, has been grayed to indicate that she died last month. The blog is still available and Joycelyn's daughter added some photos from Joycelyn's life.

There are 41 new elderblogs (bringing the total on the list to 302) each marked with a bullet ( • ) in front of its name so you can easily find them. Whatever the topic of the newly-listed blogs, they are all well-done and I recommend them to anyone who wants to expand their elderblog reading. Please keep sending suggestions for future updates.

Join the Quarterstaff Revolution
In his most recent column, The TGB Geriatrician, Dr. Bill Thomas, called for a quarterstaff revolution among elders and suggested readers send in photos of themselves with their staffs to me. Enough have arrived that I have created a new TGB Feature, Quarterstaff Revolution, where the photos are collected in one place. Check it out.

I urge anyone who has a new staff or has been using one for a long time to send in a photo. Instructions are on the main Join the Quarterstaff Revolution page. It works like the Where Elders Blog section.

Where Elders Blog
A reminder that there is a fine collection of photos of blog work spaces in the Where Elders Blog section and more are welcome any time. Links to Where Elders Blog and Quarterstaff sections are always available under the TGB Features header in the right sidebar.

Also, links to clickable lists of The TGB Geriatrician and Gay and Gray columns can be found in the “Category” dropdown menu further down on the right sidebar. I'm proud to have both Dr. Thomas and Jan Adams as regular contributors to Time Goes By.

Remember Personal Info
For all you who have bitched to me about the Comments template not remembering your personal information, I am pretty sure it is now working again. If your information doesn’t show up, try entering it one more time and checking the Remember box before submitting a comment.

That’s it. That’s all the housekeeping I can tolerate in one go.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz found a clever way to not disappoint the kids which she relates in Have You Ever Been in Sandusky, Mom?]

This Week in Elder News: 5 July 2008

In this regular weekend 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.

During election campaigns, it is our job to educate ourselves on many issues so to choose a candidate who most closely matches what we believe is the best course for the country.

That isn’t always easy to do and the candidates themselves don't help whether from ignorance, confusion, pandering or, sometimes, in trying to have it two ways at once. Watch this astonishing video of Senator John McCain’s double-talk in which he says, in one breath, that he will not privatize Social Security and will privatize Social Security. [1:20 minutes]

New York Times health reporter, Jane Gross, has started a blog - The New Old Age - at the paper about traversing the trials, difficulties and questions surrounding the care of aging parents. You can find the first post here.

When you need a nursing home, there is almost no way to find trustworthy information about a home’s quality except word of mouth. Now, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will rate nursing homes on a five-point scale. Ratings should begin to appear on their website by the end of 2008. More here.

If healthcare reform is not yet the voting public’s leading issue of the 2008 presidential election campaign, it will be soon. Here is a column from my fellow NCPSSM award-winner last month, Saul Friedman, that clearly explains the reasons Senator John McCain’s proposal won’t work, why Senator Barack Obama’s falls short and what can be done instead – if Congress has the will.

In an Op-Ed piece last week in The New York Times, Geoffrey R. Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, called for the creation of a new White House position, a civil liberties advisor to the president. Given how much work there is to do to restore the liberties snatched away by the Bush administration, this seems a good idea to ensure that the restoration gets done – if the Democrat is elected. If the Republican wins, it is doubtful such a move would be considered. What do you think?

Interested in what a couple of GenX pundits think of elders? Take a look at this video titled, “Tyranny of the Old.” [4:30 minutes]

For a long time, I’ve believed that what we pay for broadband internet access could be considered gouging - $45 a month in my case – and there is no other comparable service available. Did you know that the U.S. is ranked 15th in the world in broadband access, and subscribers in other countries pay much less? More here.

Last Tuesday, while complaining about computer problems, Crabby Old Lady wondered if her ISP might be slowing cable modem service to induce customers to cough up more for faster service. It was, Crabby thought, a paranoid fantasy – until she read this near the bottom of a Pew report on the rate of broadband adoption:

Premium broadband users do an average of 19% more online tasks on the typical day than the average broadband user does.” [emphasis added]

No explanation of the difference between “broadband” and “premium broadband” users was given in the Pew report.

Remember several months ago when Google canceled my Adsense ads and confiscated my earnings because, they said, I was violating their terms of service, which I was not? They refused my appeal and unlike the U.S. court system, there is no recourse once Google has accused you of dishonesty.

Well, look out now if you use Google Adsense and also have a Google-owned Blogger blog. If they decide you’re cheating, not only will your ads and earned money disappear, as mine did, so will your entire blog. All on no evidence except Google’s accusation. Isn’t Google’s motto supposed to be “do no evil”? More here.

Retired film writer and agent, Lorenzo Semple and former film producer Marcia Nasatir are appearing regularly on YouTube as movie reviewers on their series, Reel Geezers. Both octogenarians, they have more than 80 years of film production experience between them. Here is their latest review - of Wanted. [6:18 minutes] (Hat tip to Rain of Rainy Day Thoughts)

Summer Campaign Doldrums

[EDITORIAL NOTE: If you missed Millie Garfield's appearance on ABC-TV World News with Charles Gibson last evening, you can see the segment and some behind-the-scenes video at her place, My Mom's Blog.]

Maybe it happens during every presidential campaign. Unfortunately, they roll around only every four years, so Crabby Old Lady can’t remember if it’s always been this unproductive leading up to the conventions. The candidates and their surrogates are doing nothing but sniping at each other over who is more patriotic and other non-issues.

The media is saying Senator Obama has fallen off his pedestal, Senator McCain is contradicting himself and some of those Senator Clinton diehards are refusing to die easy. Meanwhile, what of the economy?

Flip-flops have entertained the media in recent weeks. Crabby has never understood why changing one’s mind is a negative trait in a politician. One would hope they are flexible enough to take a new position when information or circumstance warrants it.

Of course, the candidates don’t handle their flip-flops well. Instead of laying out their reasons for moving in another direction, they get defensive. It’s hard to know if that’s a chicken or an egg question: are they defensive because the other candidate and media attack them for flip-flopping? Or are they attacked because they are defensive about their flip-flops?

Political pandering aside, Crabby yearns to hear a candidate say, “For a long time I believed X was the right thing to do. Now, however, because of A, B and C, I’ve come to a different conclusion. Let me explain…”

The dog days of August haven’t even arrived yet, but these are certainly the dog days of the campaign. Is Bill Clinton being stingy in his support of Senator Obama? Crabby Old Lady doesn’t care. Has the media found another tainted advisor or donor to Senator McCain’s or Senator Obama’s campaign? Even if they have, it’s not headline news. Crabby knows and you know that politics has always been thus.

These months between the presumptive nominees having been selected and the full-throttle campaign following the conventions would be an ideal time for the candidates, the parties and particularly the media to fully explore, examine and explain the details underlying the crucial issues the country faces. There is an overwhelming number:

  • the war(s), of course
  • health care
  • Medicare
  • Social Security
  • education
  • the housing/mortgage meltdown
  • consumer debt
  • gas prices
  • food prices
  • water shortages
  • the economy in general
  • the environment
  • job offshoring
  • restoration of civil rights and the Constitution
  • the demise of the middle class
  • trade policies and
  • the home heating fuel crisis that is certain to hit when the weather cools in the fall

Do you understand all these issues? Really understand them well enough to make a reasoned determination of what you think needs to be done? Crabby Old Lady doesn’t and occasional 500-word editorials in newspapers don’t cut it when so much has gone wrong and so much is at stake for the future of the United States, even the world and American life.

Instead of thoroughly investigating these issues and potential solutions pro and con to actually educate we-the-electorate, the media is interested only in uncovering political “scandals” and most of all, playing political strategist. Every newscast, every newspaper and too many blogs daily discuss, ad nauseum, what a candidate should say and do next to counter the other candidate’s empty accusations. That is an internal matter for the campaigns - or should be.

None of this does anything to illuminate the terrifying, complicated issues on our collective plate. Local media should already be investigating Congressional candidates’ positions on these issues too. Crabby doesn’t know what’s going on in your town, but there is nothing being said or written here in Maine except the occasional newsletter from a candidate filled with manipulative buzzwords.

Come to think of it, defined as Crabby has done above, the entire campaign from the beginning of the primaries has been in the doldrums. The Democratic primary appeared to be exciting, but only due to the exceptional nature of the two final candidates and the wire-finish horse race. It was never about the critical issues confronting us. And now, the candidates and the media are hell-bent on making the general election campaign about no more than the non-significance of flag pins.

If you are wondering why this is so, Crabby Old Lady suggests that it may be worth taking a second look at the George Carlin riff published here at TGB last Saturday. [4:49 minutes]

It may be too late to alter the trajectory of the United States into the clutches of the international corporatocracy, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Independence Day is a good time to ponder our past, our future and our individual responsibilities to them.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Camille Koepnick Shaffer recalls the torture of anticipating her First Boy-Girl Party.]

New Survey of Elders’ Online Usage

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This evening on ABC-TV's World News with Charles Gibson, a story about "innovative retirement" will feature elderblogger Millie Garfield of My Mom's Blog. The program usually airs at 6:30PM on the coasts and 5:30PM Central Time, but check your local listings to be sure.]

The eighth annual survey by the Center for the Digital Future of trends in internet usage was published a couple of weeks ago and according to findings released in conjunction with AARP, Americans aged 50-plus are doing a lot more than dabbling in the internet these days and in some activities, they match their younger counterparts: Examples:

Online Games: play daily
Under age 50 – 22%
Over age 50 – 18%

Shopping: browse in stores, buy online
Under age 50 – 72%
Over age 50 – 68%

Important to Maintaining Social Relationships
Under age 50 – 46%
Over age 70- 46%

In the third dataset, you may be asking yourself where people between the ages of 50 and 70 went. Good question. Unknowable – at least to the budgetarily challenged.

The Center for the Digital Future, administered at the University of Southern California by the Annenberg School for Communication, releases only selected information. The entire study is available for a price: $500 for individuals, so you won’t be getting answers from me.

Obviously, AARP made a deal of some sort with the Center to publish limited data relating to elders. But making a comparison with a 20-year gap in age groups - particularly crucial middle years - isn’t useful, or valid in determining how elders use the internet compared to others.

It gets worse. In all the rest of the findings published by AARP, people 50 and older are compared only to people age 16 (the lowest end of the 2000 respondents in the survey age range) to 19 - two groups known to have interests as widely differing as their ages.

The Center for the Digital Future may have withheld their data on people in the absent 30-year age bracket, or AARP may have chosen not to publish it. There is no way to know since no mention is made of the discrepancy. Either way, from the information given, it is impossible to form conclusions on this important survey of age-comparative internet usage.

Nevertheless, here are some other findings which at least give us percentages of people older than 50 who participate in certain internet acitivities:

Internet as News Source: at least once a day
Under age 20 – 18%
Over age 50 – 42%

Important Source of Information
Under age 20 – 85%
Over age 50 – 76%

(The percentage of people over 50 who say the internet is an important source of information grew by 51 percent over five years, 2002-2007.)

Participation in Online Communities: at least once a day
Under age 20 – 47%
Over age 50 – 58%

Social Activism – increased since joining communities for social causes
Under age 20 - 29%
Over age 50 – 36%

Online Communities Important to Them
Under age 20 – 68%
Over age 50 – 70%

You can find out more from the AARP information here. Some additional data about other kinds of online usage is contained in this release from the Center for the Digital Future (pdf).

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Robert Lamb gives us an enigmatic tale titled Black Coffee.]

Crabby Old Lady's Computer Complaints

[EDITORIAL NOTE: There an elderbloggers story by Candice Novak today at U.S. News and World Report about financial aspects of retirement that quotes me and Chuck Nyren of Advertising to Baby Boomers. Nice to see "Elderbloggers" in the headline.]

Crabby Old Lady has long been of the opinion that the minor irritations of life are more stressful than big problems which, in their tendency toward life-stopping disruption, usually get immediate attention.

Small difficulties, however, are often ignored until, in the accumulation of their numbers and repetition, turn every day into an unbroken series of time-sucking annoyances. Crabby’s list has now reached the level of hair-tearing, which her thinning follicles can little tolerate. Her complaints are almost exclusively computer and internet related.

Many years ago at the dawn of the personal computer era, internet executive Barry Diller, when he was still a television executive, remarked that computers would someday become useful tools, but not until they were as easy to use as a light switch.

Any non-geek with a PC knows of what Mr. Diller speaks. Crabby’s laptop, which was in perfect working order after a major crash in December required reinstallation of Windows, has gone all to hell:

  • Her nifty, multi-tasking printer/copier/scanner, which she bought about four months ago when the old one gave up after five or six years of devoted service, refuses to print, although its other functions are fine.
  • Her email program, which for years has worked as she asked, now suddenly shuts down at its own whim several times a day.
  • Windows has stopped recognizing the CD/DVD drive meaning any repair that requires the original software cannot be made.
  • MSWord, which Crabby uses for all her writing, hiccups three or four times a day and tells Crabby there is a malfunction for which it must shut down and restart.
  • Page loading at Typepad, Crabby’s blog host for as long as TGB has existed, has recently and randomly slowed to snail’s pace. Typepad says they are upgrading the entire system. Not too soon for Crabby, but they've been saying that for months.
  • Typepad’s email help desk, which for years responded in under 24 hours, now takes four days to get back to Crabby.
  • And in five years(!), Typepad has still not provided Pro Account users with a template for the ugly comment confirmation page, although they keep saying it is in the works.
  • Crabby could be wrong, but the number of websites, software programs and blogs using light text on a dark background, which is painful if not impossible for old eyes to read, seems to be growing like weeds.

Additionally, web surfing is becoming a nightmare of delays. Crabby uses a cable modem but sometimes she might as well be back on a dialup connection. Lacking the technical expertise to determine what the hangups might be, Crabby can only guess: the web itself? the increasingly bloated Firefox browser she uses? (don't get her started on the new Firefox 3.0) Or could it be her ISP?

Crabby has never been a conspiracy theorist – she figures possible conspiracies involve too many people for the secret to remain secret – but the current net neutrality confrontation between those who want to keep the web equal for all and the mega-corporations who want to charge big bucks for premium internet access leaves her wondering.

Crabby Old Lady’s ISP has, in the months corresponding to her apparent surfing slowdown, heavily promoted a new, high-speed, “business class” internet service at $10 more per month than residential broadband service. The ads are fuzzy about what a customer gains from the extra charge, but combined with the apparent slowing of Crabby’s web-surfing capability, she has entertained the idea that either businesses get faster access or the speed of residential service has been slowed to force people to pay more.

Crabby is only speculating. She doesn’t even know if this is technically possible and anyway, a great, big, national telecommunications corporation wouldn’t do anything underhanded like that, would they? Crabby, in her computer frustrations, must be having conspiracy fantasies, right?

Over the past month or two, Crabby Old Lady has spent hours - undoubtedly adding up to a few days snatched from her life - trying to fix her computer problems without much success. Although she is not a computer naïf, she is also no expert and has read more impenetrable instructions – often conflicting - than any human should be required to endure in a lifetime.

Ahhhh. There now. Crabby realizes she has now wasted your time too, but her stress level has abated a bit for having aired her complaints and she can now get back to looking for solutions while she waits – impatiently - for Barry Diller’s computer light-switch to take effect.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kathi W. reflects on her impending Big Six-Oh.]