The Poorest Elders
Sunday Election Issues - 24 August 2008

This Week in Elder News: 23 August 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.

There’s a controversy in Baltimore over the proposed construction of a retirement home that would be built on 17 acres of a country club that hardly anyone uses anymore. The residents of Roland Park are against it, but the space is needed in Baltimore, as everywhere, as the proportion of elders increases. I can’t help wondering if there would be as much outrage if the proposed building were a playground or school. Read more here.

Whatever complaints can be made about CNN and many are valid, I have a soft spot for Jack Cafferty. Maybe it’s that I’m familiar with him from more than 20 years on local news in New York City or perhaps I feel I have an ally in curmudgeonliness.

While I wasn’t paying attention, he seems to have begun an online-only op-ed type of column. Here is what he fears about Senator McCain.

My friend Sophy Merrick, who lives in London these days, sent this story about a controversy over a long-time traffic image warning drivers to slow down for elders. Some say it’s ageist and not representative of today’s old people. They are lobbying for a generic sign that would warn drivers to slow down for any reason. What do you think? Read more here.


Thirty-something Chris Collins who blogs at Fleep’s Deep Thoughts emails with some good suggestions for elders who need a little help reading things in their browser. Both apply to the new Firefox 3.0.1 (download here)

  1. Hold down the Ctrl key on your keyboard and use your mouse scroll wheel to enlarge ANY webpage - text, images, graphics, anything in the browser window.
  2. The Fast Dial add-on for Firefox 3 gives you large icons in your default browser window for frequently visited websites. No more squinting at the bookmarks list for the sites you visit every day! Fast Dial is free and available here.

A new study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine indicates that fat doesn’t always mean unfit.

“…despite their excess pounds, many overweight and obese adults have healthy levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose and other risks for heart disease.”

And about 25 percent of slim people in the study whose weight falls into the “healthy” category carry at least two cardiovascular risk factors often associated with obesity. Read more here.

Among all the discouraging news in the world, it was fun to read about a bank in Missouri named – after the town where it is located – Tightwad Bank. Given current revelations in mortgage lending by the big banks, we could use a few more tightwad banks. More here.

If you live long enough, you will slow down, you will have some physical limitations. The trick is to adapt to your new circumstance. Sharon Brown, who lives on Kauai, sent this photo of a man who, served lemons in the form of a walker, has made lemonade. As Sharon explains:

"When we walked past him, I noticed the walker had a piece of PVC pipe strapped on the leg to hold the poles. His tackle bag was hooked around the rim and even a plastic sack was tied on to hold garbage. He smiled and wished us a good day. It was easy to tell he was enjoying his morning adventure."



Regarding the elderly crossing sign: I don't have a problem with it and I think everyone risks being too picky about little things. There are much more important issues affecting elders than a simple warning sign.

Pick your battles and take the money needed to replace the signs to increase the funding for meals on wheels or some other real need of elders.

Being an elder is in the eyes of the beholder (ie: the physical ability of those considered elderly). At 65 I didn't feel old either, but at 83 I know darn well I am and I use a cane.

Posting those tips from Chris Collins has changed my life. Thank you both!

I enjoy Jack Cafferty also. I'm currently reading his book. "It's Getting Ugly Out There . . .", and find little to disagree with. One thing I like best about him is that he is pretty much objective -- he'll skewer anyone if he thinks he/she deserves it.

As I've written on my blog several times, I'm tired of all the Bush apologists -- often folks who I thought were reasonably intelligent people -- who keep defending him or tell me that I don't understand what's happening. These are the same people who a year ago were telling me that McCain was an idiot but are now supporting him. I'm sorry (actually I'm not) but I don't ANY candidate because of his/her political party when I feel they are wrong, wrong, wrong. The biggest hypocrites are the ones who claim to be Constitutionalists. I want to throw all the bums out of both parties because damn few of them appear to even have a nodding acquaintance with with that fine document.

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" appear to have been forgotten and I am in mourning for their loss.

I have no idea who I am voting for in November and there are a lot of people just like me.

To follow up on Chris's tip: if your mouse does not have a scroll wheel, you can adjust the font size through the keyboard: hold down the Ctrl key and tap the +/= key until it gets to the size you want (twice usually does it for me). To decrease, hold down Ctrl and tap the _/- key next to it.

I don't have a problem with the sign if it works. I'm all for using whatever image it takes to get car drivers to slow down. When we climb into our cars we often leave our care and concern for real people on the kerb.

And the guy with the walker, very cool. Other day, I saw an older guy riding his bike very slowly up the road, holding a cane in one hand pointed straight up so you couldn't miss it. I was impressed, and I hope the car drivers were too!

The traffic sign in question is not ageist. It simply warns motorists to slow down because there may be some people with canes walking slowly. It doesn't imply that all old people walk slowly.
There's one of these signs just before the care home where my 92-year old aunt lives (which is also near a dangerous corner). Believe me, all the residents in that care home walk slowly and use a walker or a cane and none of them could move fast enough to get out of the way of a speeding car.
Slowing down for children requires a different kind of watchfulness because children can move fast - but often erratically (e.g. suddenly running into the road to get a ball). So the idea of having a one-size-fits-all sign is silly, IMO.

On a mac, ctrl-+ becomes command-+ to enlarge and ctrl--becomes command--
Thanks for the tip!

I too like Cafferty. Mostly I get no news from TV, but occasionally I find myself with someone who has CNN on and I am usually pleasantly surprised when they go to him. He was even sensible about the Georgia-Russia fight which rendered most of our politicians pretty idiotic.

And I loved that NYT article on fitness/fatness. I'm sure it is the former that matters for the enjoyment of a life well lived.

I can see why that sign would bother some people, but at the same time, I don't see it as saying "all elderly people are slow" but rather "elderly people who may use assistive devices and be slow are in this area, please slow down." If the people objecting to it have an image to replace it with that will be just as clear, that's great; otherwise, I think they're making a mistake of placing a potential insult (I don't think one is intended, and I'm not entirely sure if it is even there) over people's lives. They also mention other possible measures besides a sign but don't cover what those might be. (All I can think of are speed bumps, which I'm not sure are really effective as most people seem to brake, ease over, and floor it.)

Following up on Claude's tip about the Mac:

There is a Preference Panel named "Universal Access," found under the Apple symbol at the top left of the screen.

It lets you do a number of things to assist using the computer, such as have the computer speak text; turn on the zooming feature Claude spoke of; change the display to black on white, white on black, grayscale, and enhance the contrast; and change the way the keyboard and mouse work for slower hands.

These work for anything on the screen, not just the browser window. I often change the way the screen looks for hard-to-read text, especially those danged white-on-black pages.

Concerning the elderly people sign: Such signs are desperately needed in our city in the areas where there are a lot of elderly folk. Just the other day I saw an older man shuffling across the street (without a cane). He had barely gotten half way when the light changed, and rude and inconsiderate drivers were honking at him and trying to pull around him. He looked terrified.

I wonder if those signs in the UK are backed up with any sort of penalty for treating the elderly like I have described. It's an unfortunate fact about human nature: Unless there's a traffic fine involved, many drivers will behave badly despite this sort of signage.

Oh boy, the Annals article on cardio risk gives new license to all the fat people to stay fat. Even if the cardio risks are ok, and I'm glad to know some are, isn't there pride in appearance any more?

By the way, I'm one of those skinny diabetics, so I am not questioning the Annals findings...I live with that every day.


For a really funny take on the "ageist" sign, read Big John's blog from yesterday.

Ronni, I think you will appreciate this excellent article about ageism, written by the novelist, Margaret Drabble for The Observer:

The old have a powerful role to play. We're going to enjoy it

She mentions the offensive road signs, "We don't like being portrayed officially as dodderers with sticks and bent backs who are a menace on the roads..."

I think it's ironic that you are complaining about a sign about elders using canes, and then two paragraphs down you're praising a man for creative use of his walker.

Elders do sometimes use canes - and walkers - and move slowly, and as such could benefit from signs alerting drivers to their specific presence. Like we have a sign in my neighborhood for a deaf child, so that drivers know that blowing their horn at her won't work.

Come ON now - let's lighten up a little, hmmmm?

Christina, you must learn to read more carefully. I strenuously object to having opinions attributed to me that I do not hold and are not present.

I did not complain about the elder sign; I merely reported what the news story stated and asked what readers think. Personally, I'm neutral - whatever gets people to slow down is fine with me.

Thanks for the alert a new version 3.0.1 of Firefox out. I must have missed any announcement of its release in July, so I quickly installed.

They have so many great features, I must find time to learn how to implement and use. Maybe when I retire.

Appreciate the info from Chris Collins, too.

Now if I just knew how to make the content print on my blog blacker or darker.....someday.

I just noticed "Alltop" on your right sidebar. In checking I finally found TGB under "Life." Did I miss an announcement of this?

Looks like some really good websites and links -- "everything I ever wanted to know about ..." everything in which I'm interested and then some.

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