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February 2009

Time Goes By Takes a Sabbatical

As the headline indicates, there is no Elder Music today.

I started planning Time Goes By in the summer of 2003. I wasn’t posting yet, but it took all my free time (I was still working then) for two or three months planning what the blog would be, creating the design, layout, general look-and-feel, and tweaking the code until it was just right.

Soon thereafter, I was laid off work and spent one year making employment search my full-time job and when that failed, another year preparing my New York home for sale, looking for a new one in Portland, Maine, and making the move, at last, in June of 2006.

In all these years, I’ve never taken more than a week at a time off from the blog and rarely that. I’m feeling a bit weary, stale and in need of refreshing my mind. Not that there isn’t a lot of research and reading to do and plenty to write about – I have a list of dozens of stories I want to do. But I’m supposedly retired, damn it, and have no idea what I would do faced with a period of unstructured time with no daily obligation.

So I’m taking off the next two weeks. I won’t be traveling and I’ve made no plans beyond a stack of books I haven’t found time to read and a movie or two I want to see. Maybe I’ll take a couple of days to paint the dining room. Or maybe I won’t.

For the interim, I have collected from hither and yon a fabulous group of original guest posts from elderbloggers along with a couple of columns from regular TGB contributors and some other goodies to entertain, instruct and amuse you while I’m absent. I know you will give the writers the same attention and contribute the same thoughtful, funny and compelling comments you so graciously leave on my own scribblings.

And if not, I’ll be checking in to urge you on.

The Elder Storytelling Place will also appear, as usual, five days a week, so please continue to send your excellent stories. It’s not like I’m going to shut down the computer and email, and I look forward to whatever you come up with next, as I always do.

Elder News, Elder Music, Crabby Old Lady, Ollie the cat and I will return in our regular places in two weeks and who knows, maybe I’ll think up some new features while I have a rest.

Since I won't be at Time Goes By for the day of the the most extraordinary inauguration in my lifetime, here is a video of all 44 presidents. (Hat tip to Melinda Applegate) [3:58 minutes]


This Week in Elder News: 10 January 2009

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.

Various versions of a list of humorous benefits of old age have been around the web for a long time, but they still tickle me. In this one, my favorite is the last: “Your supply of brain cells is finally down to a manageable size.” (Hat tip to Lia of Yum Yum Café)

Another hat tip to Lia for this video, circa 2000, from star Canadian slam poet, Shane Koyczan. It's terrific and it's titled, Grandma’s Got It Going On. [3:26 minutes]

David Pogue, the Thursday technology columnist at The New York Times, has an excellent story this week on ways to save thousands of dollars annually on your tech equipment. Well worth the read.

Crabby Old Lady had been planning a blog post along these lines, but Kevin Drum at Mother Jones beat her to it with his top ten whiny, blog-related pet peeves.

Although untrue, it is a common belief that people need less sleep as they age. A new study from researchers at the University of Chicago reveals that “too little sleep can promote calcium buildup in the heart arteries, leading to the plaques that can then break apart and cause heart attacks and strokes.” More here. (Hat tip to Melinda Applegate)

Relatedly, researchers at the University of California have found that “traits associated with conscientiousness, like persistence, industriousness, being organized and disciplined, are linked to longevity and health.” Not only that, such people also tend to be happier and have more stable lives. More here.

Darlene Costner of Darlene’s Hodgepodge sent along a link to this Lay’s potato chip commercial. What’s that old saying? Age and craftiness beat youth and skill every time. [:22 seconds]

Saul Friedman contributes two Reflections columns each month here at Time Goes By, but his day job is his Gray Matters column at Newsday published each Saturday. Last week’s, titled, Growing Older By Indulging Pleasures of Life, is a lovely way to start the new year.

Marian Van Eyk McCain, who blogs at elderwomanblog, and I share a meeting of the minds on many topics related to aging. In her New Year’s Eve post, she argues against those who say they don’t feel as old as they are:

“Your heart is the same age as the rest of your internal organs. It may beat strongly and you may be full of joy and zest and enthusiasm for living, but that doesn't make you young. It simply means you are full of joy and zest and enthusiasm for living, and so we should all be, whether we are 5 or 50 or 93 or any other age.”

Read the entire post on feeling one's age.

The oldest person in the world seems usually to live in the Peruvian mountains where he or she has eaten only yogurt during a long life. Currently, however, the world’s oldest person is a Los Angeles woman, Gertrude Baines, who is 114. She is a resident in a convalescent hospital now, but she lived alone with the help of a caretaker until she was 107. More here. (Hat tip to Donna Woodka of Changing Places)

Many elders (like me) grew up not with television, but radio. I have many memories of evenings at home playing board games or whatever with my brother while Mom knitted and Dad fixed a broken toy or something similar while we all listened to such shows as Inner Sanctum, The Shadow, Lux Radio Theater and many more. There is a website with 12,000 episodes of dozens of old-time radio shows available for free listening. (Hat tip to Melinda Applegate)

January must be Old Folks Month at book publishers. I’ve been swamped with news of new releases. Among them is Somewhere Toward the End by 91-year-old British editor Diane Athill. Ian Bertram of Pancromatica pointed me to this excerpt in the UK Daily Mail plus a video interview with her.

A new survey from AARP reports on how boomers and elders are coping with the recession. Fifty-two percent, they say, are having trouble paying for such necessities as food, gas and medicine. More numbers here.

Four-and-a-half million people have watched this video on YouTube so you may have seen it. I hadn’t and I couldn’t stop laughing. It has nothing to do with elders – just fun and silliness. God, cats are weird. (Hat tip to Jeanne of Cooksister) [1:07 minutes]


It’s “Only” About Old People

category_bug_ageism.gif A lot of cultural ageism is unintentional, the product of conditioning from childhood similar to the racism - use of the N word, as a mild example - before the civil rights movement.

Children grow up hearing adults make negative references to old people in general, their appearance and behavior, and then repeat it throughout their lives, never questioning the prejudice involved. It is embedded in the culture to abhor old age.

That belief is so taken for granted than many people (most?) accept such comments as “You don’t look your age” as compliments and cannot, even when it is pointed out, see the ageism attached to it because almost everyone believes that to get old, look old and to be old is bad.

It is this belief that allows age discrimination in the workplace, substandard health care and general dismissal of elders from mainstream of life to continue unchallenged and even unnoticed.

Everyday ageism is so common (and often subtle) that most people don’t recognize, let alone question it. Sometimes, however, something comes along that makes it shockingly evident that ageism is as normal as breathing.

One instance came to my attention from Elaine Franconis who blogs at Kalilily Time. It is (supposedly) a comedy sketch. I’ve wrestled with myself about posting it and decided in favor of doing so because it’s impossible to discuss this without a viewing.

Titled Old People News, it was posted three days ago at atom.com, written, produced and directed by Kevin Maher. [3:24 minutes]

Old People News

Make no mistake, this is deliberate hate speech. When someone says, “You don’t look that old,” it is a kneejerk response conditioned from the cradle which takes no thought. A three-minute sketch, however, takes a lot of thought: it must first be conceived, then a script written, actors hired, costumes found, a studio arranged for, a set decorated, the TelePrompTer and lighting tweaked and then it can be recorded, possibly through many takes.

All that is several days’ work. Is it possible in that time and the number of people involved that no one said, “Hey, wait a minute. This is bigotry and it’s not funny.”

If a similar “comedy” sketch were done based on stereotypes of African Americans and titled Black People News, it would be the lead story all day on CNN. But no one notices when it is “only” about elders.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Old Woman has something to say about Food and Life.]


Caroline Kennedy and the U.S. Senate

Apparently you can take the old woman out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the old woman. Even though Crabby Old Lady now lives in Maine, she has been following the public discussion of Caroline Kennedy's bid to fill out Hillary Clinton’s Senate term, and she is annoyed about the growing chorus of criticism.

They say Ms. Kennedy says "you know" too frequently. Piffle. So she's not a great public speaker (yet). Neither was Barack Obama two years ago and now he is renowned for it. Ms. Kennedy too will improve if she remains in public life. Even Crabby Old Lady has gotten better at it over the years and she isn't called upon to speak nearly as often as a senator would be. Practice does wonders.

The greater charge is that Ms. Kennedy has no experience. Crabby disagrees. No one grows up in the political dynasty of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Jr., Patrick Kennedy and some other cousins without picking up some reasonably good knowledge about how politics and government work.

But that’s not Crabby’s main point. The Constitution has only this to say about qualifications to be a senator:

“No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.”

(Now don’t go getting picky about that male pronoun. You know as well as Crabby that we fixed that with an amendment.)

At the dawn of our republic, service in Congress was not envisioned as a professional career open only to politicians who worked their way up from dogcatcher. It was a duty and responsibility for those who were so inclined after which, it was expected they would return to private life.

(Too bad that idea didn’t hang on. Crabby Old Lady has, in general, had enough of professional politicians almost all of whom spend more time in Washington raising money for their next election campaign than governing.)

Ms. Kennedy is an attorney, writer and advocate for public education. She has co-authored two books on civil liberties including The Right to Privacy which Crabby found useful during her internet career. Kennedy is also a member of the boards of directors of the Commission on Presidential Debates and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund – all of which entails a great deal more day-to-day involvement in public issues than a lot of congressional legislators have.

Crabby Old Lady is certain there are other New Yorkers equally qualified for Senator Clinton’s seat in Congress, and Crabby isn’t lobbying for the appointment of Ms. Kennedy. She just believes the “unqualified” argument is bunk. A smart, thoughtful, serious-minded, middle-aged woman (or man) with any surname would be qualified and probably better than long-time political animals.

Or maybe Crabby wrote this post today only because she wanted an excuse to publish this recent photo of Caroline Kennedy who, at 51 and on the cusp of early elderhood, has more than enough means to undergo any procedures she wants in an attempt to maintain a youthful appearance. Instead, she has chosen to age as she naturally is and Crabby thinks she looks terrific, wrinkles and all.

It’s not a qualification for senator, but good to see among a certain class of women who often choose otherwise.

CarolineKennedy

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Virginia DeBolt tells us about a special item she had owned since childhood in The Gift.]


When to Sign Up for Social Security

The leading edge of the baby boomer generation turns 63 this year. Last year, at age 62, the oldest boomers became eligible for early Social Security, so there is an important question about when to sign up.

The Social Security website has recently launched a new Retirement Estimator that will calculate your monthly benefit, based on your actual earnings, at different retirement dates. The amount is an estimate due to various parameters used, but it isn’t far off and is a big help in deciding when to retire.

Sixty-five was once the absolute age for full benefits for everyone, but the SSA has been gradually raising the age to 67, depending on year of birth. I, for example, born in April 1941, was not eligible for full benefits until age 65 and eight months – October 2006. (See my story about the Social Security ritual I created for myself here.)

There is a good-sized monetary benefit for delaying benefits. Every year you wait between ages 62 and 65, your monthly payment increases by five or six percent. After age 66, each additional year adds about eight percent.

If you can wait until age 70 your benefit, compared to age 62, increases by about $1,000 per month. $12,000 a year is a big difference.

Of course, many factors, personal and professional, enter into the decision: whether you have another pension plan, whether you have a job or have been laid off, investments, your health, the amount of debt you are carrying, etc.

The Social Security Retirement Estimator is a useful, new tool to show you your benefit at different ages and help you make the decision.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia tells the tale of family secrets and denials in I Just Got Off the Phone.]


Reflections: Of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Obama

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman writes the bi-monthly Reflections column for Time Goes By in which he comments on news, politics and social issues from his perspective as one of the younger members of the greatest generation. He also publishes a weekly column, Gray Matters, on aging for Newsday.

Category_bug_reflections Two of our greatest presidents are in fashion for the coming of the Barack Obama administration - Abraham Lincoln, who unarguably saved the Union, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who, it can be argued, saved the civilized world.

They are in vogue, in part, because Obama venerates Lincoln for his vision and imitates his eloquence, and the president-elect studied the lessons of Roosevelt whose New Deal resurrected the government of the people from a dozen years in the cold, dead hands of Republican money changers who bequeathed the nation a Great Depression. History may not repeat, but it is an echo.

And it should not be forgotten that the 16th and 32nd presidents demonstrated the resilience of American democracy by standing for re-election during the course of the country’s real and most perilous wars without appealing to people’s fears. Few nations have done that.

Virtually every American of any age (and many non-Americas) knows of Lincoln, for his bearded and brooding visage is almost universally iconic. His speech at Gettysburg is memorized for its poetry. That face is on the five dollar bill and the ubiquitous penny. His marble memorial has been the backdrop for great events like Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream.”

But how well known to younger Americans is the face of FDR, the longest serving and most important president of the 20th Century?

A year or so ago, my wife and I were having dessert one evening at P.J. Clarke’s on New York’s Lincoln Square, and we fell into conversation with the couple in their thirties, at the next table. At some point I asked them if they knew whose photograph it was that hung on the wall nearby. Neither of them knew. “That’s FDR, Franklin Roosevelt,” I said, without expression.

“I thought he looked familiar,” said the young man.

“So that’s Roosevelt,” said the woman.

I should not have been surprised; while Middle Eastern memories are too long, American memories are too short. Roosevelt was the president of my youth, the only president I knew until I was 16. (I tell people that my birthday, March 4, 1929, was also Herbert Hoover’s inauguration day, which helps explain my politics.)

Roosevelt’s death, after 12 years in office, through depression, the rise of fascism and the bloodiest war in history, left a hole in the nation’s heart that my generation has never gotten over. It still shocks me to realize how young FDR was when he died at age 63. John Kennedy’s murder was a national shock, but he had not been with us long. Yet more of young Americans remember him, than know much about FDR.

Now, for newer generations, the Roosevelt legacy is being recalled as the nation grapples with economic troubles not seen since his time. And the activist government he brought in out of the cold is still at our service, when Republicans let it: the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Federal Housing Administration, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Export Import Bank, and, of course, the Social Security Act, which provides for unemployment compensation that jobless workers depend on today.

Obama, we hope, will put government and those agencies to better use. There is talk of re-creating the Home Owners Loan Corporation and public works programs. And perhaps Obama will restore the firewall built by FDR, the Glass-Stegall Act, that barred commercial banks from speculating in far-out schemes with depositors’ money.

It was torn down in 1999, by slick modern bankers who scoffed that Rooseveltian regulation was old fashioned, then made off with billions. That happened when the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, declared the “era of big government is over” and sought to “triangulate,” govern towards the center. He lost the Congress.

Obama might also learn from Roosevelt how to avoid the isolating “bubble,” that the president-elect said he fears. FDR had a novel way of staying in touch with what people were really thinking and saying and needing: Although most of the nation’s publishers fought Roosevelt, he was on great terms with the reporters covering the White House.

Within a few days of becoming president in March 1933, Roosevelt called reporters into the Oval Office. One historian recalls the scene: “‘They tell me that this won’t work,’ FDR told a shocked group of newsmen. The reporters were standing around the president’s desk and they were going to ask him questions that were not prepared in advance. Many an old newsman in that room must have thought the new president was mad.

“The old president, Hoover, had said indignantly that the President of the United States does not stand around being questioned like a common thief. FDR’s idea worked. It worked for 998 news conferences during the course of a little over 12 years.”

Until then reporters submitted written questions, but Roosevelt said he had no time for that. Thus, about once a week, when FDR gathered the reporters around him, he had the first question: “What’s on your mind, boys?” (The “boys” did include May Craig, a fine reporter with her signature funny hats). And with that he learned what was on the minds of the reporters, their publishers and their readers.

Roosevelt mostly spoke off the record, but his information could be used and occasionally he permitted reporters to use his quotes. His news conferences were conversational, filled with banter and humor – and news.

Could this work now, with 24-hour news, television, and bloggers? As a veteran of the White House press, I believe the answer is yes. The president is free to call into his office any group of reporters he chooses, as long as he shows no favoritism. And he may set the ground rules for the questions and the use of what he says. Bush has done this, but only with admiring right-wing journalists.

In 1934, Roosevelt, who ignored warnings to not go too far with his liberal programs, smashed the tradition in which the president’s party loses seats in off-year elections. Democrats and FDR strengthened their control of Congress (that has not happened since) to pass key elements of the New Deal. And in 1936, while most newspapers vigorously opposes Roosevelt and Gallup predicted he would lose, FDR won in a landslide, 523 electoral votes to eight for Alfred Landon of Kansas; the Democrats became the majority party for more than 30 years.

Roosevelt stumbled the following year, in 1937, according to New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman, when he yielded to critics and sought to balance the federal budget and spend less. The economy, which had begun to recover, went into another slump and came out of it only when government spending soared at the dawn of the Second World War.

There is this, final lesson for Obama from the Lincoln and Roosevelt presidencies – their commitment to an activist, people-oriented federal government. During the worst days of the Civil War, Lincoln overruled his moribund Democratic predecessor, James Buchanan (who rivals George Bush as the worst of our presidents), and approved the 1862 Morrill Land Grant College Act, which brought higher education to farmers and workers.

Roosevelt, in the midst of World War II, gave millions of Americans, including me, the GI Bill of Rights, which provided a college education, homes and even businesses to the greatest generation.

Roosevelt, the “liberal,” led his country into a war that he believed could not be avoided. Lincoln, under great pressure, would not allow the South to go its own way. Neither man, Mr. Obama, governed to the center.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kate Dudding works out the ways she is My Father's Daughter.]


Elder Media Moments

[EDITORIAL NOTE: In Saturday’s Elder News list, I included a link to a media story about Time Goes By with a photo of me that I actually like. In a comment, Lydia of Writerquake suggested I add it to the banner. Obviously, I can’t add it without redesigning the entire banner, so I replaced the last photo on the right with the new one.

That means there are about 20 years between the ninth and tenth photos, but I couldn’t figure which earlier one to delete. Not that you should care about this particularly, but I’ve aged a lot since the original final photo, which is five years old, so this is more honest.]

category_bug_ageism.gif A year and a half ago, I published a story here I called Best Media Effort to Combat Ageism Award. It was about a small scene in an episode of the TNT series, The Closer titled “The Round File.” The story concerned a retired police reporter, Mr. Baxter, who confesses to the poisoning murders of seven residents in the nursing home where he lives.

Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson, played by Kyra Sedgwick, is ready to book him when he recants, explaining that the confession was a ruse to get the police department to pay attention to the murders which he had reported in the past and been ignored.

Although the homicide squad doubts there is a previous complaint from Baxter and is suspicious of his recantation, that changes when a file of his past report turns up. As Commander Taylor, played by Robert Gossett, hands over the complaint file to Chief Johnson, the following exchange takes place:

TAYLOR: [The officer who took Baxter’s first complaint] found Baxter uncooperative. In fact, the old guy was more interested in asking questions than answering them. So Detective Gordon dumped his complaint in the round file. You know, Chief, we get this kind of stuff all the time. It’s hard enough staying on top of the crimes we find, much less the ones people make up.

JOHNSON: (perusing file) I know exactly what happened. Mr. Baxter is old and difficult and because of that he was just dismissed out of hand. [I know] that’s what happened because that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do to him myself.

It was a short scene, not even a minute long, but it is just this kind of moment, if repeated often enough in the context of larger stories, that can change a culture’s attitudes, beliefs and behavior.

Think of how MADD’s campaign with Hollywood producers to insert small moments about appointing designated drivers in drinking scenes has made that a common practice. And undoubtedly the fact that no one smokes cigarettes in movies and television shows anymore (well, sometimes the bad guys do, but that’s how you know who the bad guys are these days) has contributed to the reduced number of smokers in the U.S.

There is no reason this can’t work to improve attitudes toward old people, ageism and age discrimination in the culture, and there are a few recent incidences on television, in addition to The Closer scene, that hearten me.

A recent episode of Law & Order titled “Zero” dealt with the hard facts of age-related memory problems and possible dementia when a respected judge, played by Ned Beatty, is revealed to be reading decisions from the bench off a laptop screen, word-for-word, supplied by his law clerk typing nearby.

It was a not uncommon story of a widower, an old and lonely man trying to hang on to the only part of his life he still enjoys. It is important to portray these aspects of life along with all the youthful ones, and Law & Order presented it well as part of the overall plot.

An amusing thread in the same episode had District Attorney Jack McCoy, played by Sam Waterston who is a few months older than I, complaining that he can’t read now that the City has replaced incandescent bulbs with new CFLs. I have the same problem.

A reader emailed about a recent episode of Boston Legal titled “Juiced” in which Catherine Piper, played by 84-year-old Betty White, tries to enlist an attorney’s help in suing the television networks for not programming more for senior citizens. (In real life, Ms. White has testified before Congress a couple of times about the prejudiced portrayal of elders on television.)

I have never watched Boston Legal and unfortunately, ABC’s execrable episode viewer will not work on any browser on my computer, so I wasn’t able to view it. Maybe in repeats on TNT or USA some day, since this is the series’ last season.

As few as these moments are so far, it is encouraging that they seem to be increasing. As MADD and cigarette opponents have shown – and advertisers have always known – repetition works. It would be good if there were more “elder moments” on television.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Gullible tells of a magical evening with friends in The Boulder Creek Journal: The Spell of the Campfire.]


Elder Music: 4 January 2009

category_bug_eldermusic The importance of San Francisco to the 60s music scene cannot be overstated. To list the bands that came out of that city and its surrounds or made their mark there are too numerous to mention, but the Grateful Dead is certainly iconic of the era.

This is a vintage news report from Harry Reasoner of CBS-TV, broadcast in 1967, including an interview with the Dead and footage of a free concert they gave in Golden Gate Park. It is priceless for the point of view of a “straight” adult trying to make sense of hippies. And, were the Dead ever this young? [7:04 minutes]

Australian Peter Tibbles, who occasionally contributes to The Elder Storytelling Place, sent along this story about the loudest rock band ever to which I have added some 60s era video clips – some you will be familiar with and others, Australian, Americans may never have heard of.

Peter begins…

Which was the loudest rock band ever? Or the loudest you ever heard, perhaps. Now I know this isn't a question of great import but come on, I know we're all responsible adults now but didn't we have fun when we were younger?

We'd go out and listen to music that now we think, oh maybe we shouldn't have done that. Too late now. Isn't this a question we have asked ourselves over the years? Well, I've asked it and received the answer years ago. I posit this with the proviso that I didn't ever see Led Zeppelin play live. However, I think I can beat even them. Well, not personally. Let me explain.

I spent much of 1970 in the San Francisco Bay area, mostly in Berkeley, but other places as well. This is a tale of a different color and I won't dwell on it here. I went to many concerts at The Fillmore, Winterland, The Family Dog, local clubs. The bigger venues are what I'm talking about here.

If you want big venues, try Woodstock. Peter doesn’t mention Janis Joplin, who was from Austin but became identified with the San Francisco music scene, and I remember this performance of Ball and Chain from Janis with her Kosmic Blues Band at Woodstock. God, I wish she’d lived. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see and hear how she developed over the years. [5:24 minutes]

Peter continues…

I saw the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore a number of times. I would go to the front, and stand near the speakers (okay, sit eventually - they did play for a long time). Jefferson Airplane at Winterland (did they ever play in tune?) Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Byrds, lots of others.

One of my favorites was The Youngbloods (with Jesse Colin Young) at the Family Dog. Another I remember was Tim Buckley at Winterland supporting the Mothers of Invention. Tim played the bagpipes for his part of the concert, about three quarters of an hour. That's all he did. I may have been the only person at the gig who thought this was, well, a little unusual.

None of these were as loud as an earlier concert in Melbourne at Festival Hall in 1966 when Bob Dylan was doing his first electric tour with a band who later became The Band. This concert was louder than any I heard during my time in San Francisco. But not the loudest ever.

Okay, this isn’t loud or electric, but I was at Madison Square Garden on 1 August 1971, in the fourth row for the Bangladesh Concert. Rumors were rife that Dylan would appear, but no one knew for sure until he walked out onto the stage toward the end of the concert. [7:00 minutes]

Peter goes on…

In 1971 I went to a concert in the Melbourne Town Hall with a lovely lady who later became my wife (briefly). We went to see Daddy Cool (still my favorite Australian band). Last on the bill was Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs. They came on and after two songs we decided to leave rather than suffer immediate deafness.

The Melbourne Town Hall was built during the gold rush in Victoria and is made from bluestones, each a metre square. This concert was in the basement and when we emerged on to Swanston Street, Billy was still louder than the Grateful Dead a foot from the speakers.

You’ll understand what Peter is talking about when Billy gets to the instrumental bridge of this tune, Most People I Know. Turn down your speakers. [8:21 minutes]

Peter again…

Alas, Billy is no longer with us. He died of a heart attack a couple of years ago at the age of sixty. He wrote a couple of entertaining memoirs of his life in rock music. One chapter was called "Billy Killed the Fish". This recounts a concert in a club that had an aquarium along one wall. His music was so loud the pressure of it killed all the fish.

My initial statement is not quite correct. Led Zeppelin played at Kooyong in the early seventies. This was the site of the Australian Tennis Open for lots of years until the Europeans decided they didn't want another grass court tournament (as the Australians and Americans kept winning them) so the Open was moved to a vast complex on the banks of the Yarra River (home to rock concerts too when tennis is not played there).

I lived about ten kilometres from Kooyong and, as it was a balmy summer evening, I sat out on my balcony and listened to the show. I caught the Rolling Stones the same way. I can't imagine either played louder than Billy though.

To wind up today’s Elder Music, here is Peter’s (still) favorite Australian band, Daddy Cool, performing Eagle Rock in 1971 (notable for the fashion of the era too.) [3:44 minutes]

Unlike Peter, I'd never thought about the loudest concert I ever attended, but I did have a funny, age-related experience to loud rock. A couple of years after I had turned 40, a friend, who was about my age and was producing a television show about the band, Kiss, invited me to go along when she attended one of their concerts at the Palladium in New York City.

As we handed over our tickets, the extraordinarily large "enforcer" at the entrance who was also extraordinarily young, pointed us toward the ladies room and suggested we get some bathroom tissue to stuff in our ears. He had not so advised the teens who had been in front of us in line.


This Week in Elder News: 03 January 2009

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 an amusing story in the Port Townsend, Washington newspaper about people, mostly old, who still use rotary phones and an increase in sales of vinyl recordings. In a sidebar, a list compares technologies we grew up with to those that Gen X, Y and Z use. (I’m mildly ticked off at old technology being identified with boomers. There are 35 million people in the U.S. older than boomers. We’re still alive.)

Over the holidays, I received more than a dozen emails from people who said they read about Time Goes By and me in Working Wealth, a quarterly publication sent to clients of Smith Barney. Why would they write about me, I wondered. When I finally tracked it down, I vaguely recalled doing the interview nearly a year ago.

There is a photo of me that I actually like and Millie Garfield of My Mom’s Blog is interviewed too. Millie’s son, Steve, posted the story to his Flickr page where you can see it.

Chancy of driftwoodinspiration sent this video of a 66-year-old chair balancer. If you, like me, get the creepy crawlies at heights, it might not be your cup of tea, but it is amazing. [1:43 minutes]

Forbes reports that in the third quarter of 2008 alone, the world’s largest drug maker, Pfizer, spent nearly $3.1 million lobbying the federal government on various issues including their efforts to maintain the ban on Medicare negotiating drug prices. Pfizer makes the world’s largest-selling drug, Lipitor. I recently switched to a generic. More here.

Alexandra Grabbe of Wellfleet ChezSven Blog sent along a link to a story about elder crime in Japan. Petty crimes like pick-pocketing and shoplifting have doubled over the past five years, attributed to bad economic times and loneliness. The elder perpetrators are rarely prosecuted. More here.

In a Memo to Washington, Money magazine provides the incoming federal administration with three ways to help elders weather the financial crisis. I’m particularly in favor of the first one: to rescind the requirement to begin withdrawing funds from 401(k) plans at age 70-1/2. This is the worst bear market since the Depression, not the time to cash out if you don’t need to. More here. (Hat tip to Mary Jamison.)

There is a good story at alternet.org on 10 Reasons to be Hopeful about 2009 and 3 Reasons to be Terrified. You can skip the three, but the ten really do give hope for the future.

Digging my car out of the snow a dozen times each year has diminished the charm of winter storms for me. But the joy of the dog in this video knows no bounds. I dare you to watch it and not be grinning before the end. (Hint: it's even better with the sound turned off.) [2:36 minutes]


Do You Lie About Your Age? (Part 2)

category_bug_ageism.gif More than three years ago in these pages, I wrote a story titled, Do You Lie About Your Age? A few day ago, an “almost 25” year-old named Sue left this comment on that story that reflects the sentiments I see regularly on blogs by 20-somethings (30-somethings and up too):

“I didn’t read the whole article and yes, I hate getting older. Since society thinks old=bad, used, bitter, worn out, just "OLD"...not new, not active, so yesterday.”

For such a short comment, there is a lot to be disturbed about. Sue isn’t wrong about the culture’s prevailing definition of old and she “hates getting older” at 25? What, I wonder, could she be reacting to? What are we teaching our young women (and men?) about life?

Youth is a wonderful time. I wouldn’t have skipped it for anything even though, from this vantage point, I realize I could be superficial, overconfident, silly and, among other things, dumb about too much then – sort of like I am now sometimes.

But youth is not a time when anyone should be worried about getting old. I couldn’t imagine what life would be like at 67 when I was 25 (nor did I care much; it seemed so impossibly far in the future), and I spent a whole lot more time fearing death than age.

Now the concern is reversed in the sense that I hope not to continue living should physical or mental debility render me helpless.

As to Sue’s other point, that old equals “used, bitter, worn out, not new, not active, so yesterday”, let’s dispense with “not new” and “so yesterday” first. Those two characteristics are usually of importance only to young people to whom being au courant is essential. There was a time when I wouldn’t be caught dead in last year’s shoes or hair style. Young people eventually outgrow it.

What bothers me more are “used” and “bitter,” particularly the latter. Where did that idea come from? I’ve known a few bitter people over the years, but they were not old. They were all ages (one at age 37) and just bitter whatever their reasons. Old and bitter are not synonyms.

Negative beliefs about elders keep young people from wanting to know us leading to age discrimination in the workplace and healthcare industry, scare the bejesus out of young people and allow us to be portrayed on television, in books and movies and in general conversation as Sue describes, perpetuating those beliefs. (There is some small amount of improvement recently, which I’ll write about next week.)

Which brings me back to lying about our age.

How are young people going to get past the cultural myths about old people if we don’t show them? There are many ways to do that, but one is be real about the number of years we have lived. If we lie about our age, we are telling our children and other young people that it is shameful to grow old and that’s not something I’ve noticed among TGB readers here or on their blogs. Almost to a man and woman, we repeatedly say we wouldn’t want to be younger.

So: I’m 67 and will be 68 in about three months. How about you?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kate Johnston writes about Outliving My Mother.]