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Elders and Fair Hiring Practices

category_bug_ageism.gif Since 1967 in the U.S., The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) has made it unlawful to discriminate against employees and job applicants age 40 and older with respect to any term, condition or privilege of employment including hiring, firing, compensation, training, benefits, promotion and job assignments.

By federal statute then, the burden is on employers, recruiters, career counselors, hiring managers, human resources offices, etc. to treat older adults no differently from younger ones. But you wouldn't know that from the offensive job search advice that universally spews forth from employment “experts.”

Most recently, in a story titled, (with some misrepresentation of the content) Turning One's Age into a Job-Market Asset, The Washington Post tacitly acknowledges, supports and perpetuates age discrimination:

  • “...don't walk in looking old. Walk in looking young...”

  • ”...people seem more intelligent if they talk more quickly...”

  • ”...buy new glasses – no aviators or oversize ones, please...

  • ”...consider coloring [your] hair if it's gray.”

  • ”...don't give away your age by saying exactly how long you have been in your field.”

Gail Geary, identified in the story as an Atlanta career counselor, goes further:

“You may want to model yourself after a successful 30- or 35-year-old, she said, with a wardrobe and credentials that are current.” [And further]

“'Ask your children or grandchildren what they think...if they say it's hip, you know you're moving along.'”

Oh, yeah. I'm going to take fashion advice from young men who wear their jeans hanging off their butts and young women who show up at work with four inches of bare midriff on display.

The only conclusion to be made from this advice, is that unless you deny your valuable experience and knowledge, and remake yourself into a grotesque facsimile of a 30-year-old, you are unemployable.

Far from turning one's age into an “asset,” as the story headline purports, these advisers are complicit in encouraging employers to break the law by sending them tarted-up job applicants whose goal is to deceive their potential employers.

Oddly, too, in a journalism environment that for years has operated on the assumption that there is an argument to offset even the most heinous point of view (on the other hand, Hitler loved dogs), the reporter, Vickie Elmer, provides nothing to counter her “expert” sources, implicitly accepting the existence of age discrimination in the workplace while noting, without comment, that age discrimination legal complaints rose by 29 percent in 2008.

Let us be clear: employers who reject job applicants because they are old are breaking the law. Only an attorney could say if career counselors, recruiters, etc. who promote deception by job applicants are operating illegally too, but they are certainly skirting the law.

More, in today's devastating economic environment, these advisers are repellent. Millions of elders have been stripped of 30, 40, 50 percent and more of the savings they they worked hard to accumulate for their retirement over a lifetime of employment. As Dean Baker noted in a recent story at alternet,

“...the recent collapse of the housing bubble and the resulting stock market plunge have reduced the wealth of older workers and retirees by close to $15 trillion."

In case you skipped over that, it is 15 trillion dollars (more than seven times the astronomical U.S. budget deficit projected for this year) in collective loss to retirees, many of whom have been forced back into the workplace in minimum wage jobs such as bagging groceries to afford to eat.

Having been robbed of their savings, old people are also being robbed of their dignity by asinine know-nothings who tell them all they need to do to get a job is dye their hair, talk fast and lie. This advice is not only insulting, it reeks with discrimination.

It is long past time for the media to tell the real story - that employers, with the collusion of the job search industry, regularly break the law - and to demand that the burden for fair hiring practices be placed where it belongs, on the people doing the hiring.

(Hat tip to Marian of And the Beat Goes On.)

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson writes of Spring Love Among the Elderly.]


THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Readability

EDITORIAL NOTE: Virginia DeBolt (bio) writes the bi-weekly Elder Geek column for Time Goes By in which she takes the mystery out of techie things all bloggers and internet users need to know to simplify computer use. She has written several books on technology and keeps two blogs herself, Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

In my last Elder Geek post, I talked about how you can use Zooming in your browser to make reading easier. On that same theme, I want to tell you about a nifty little gizmo called "Readability" that will make reading articles online even easier.

Readability is a bookmarklet that will eliminate clutter from a web page and leave you with a clean and readable version of the article you want to read.

Are you wondering what a bookmarklet is? That's the geeky part of the article. It's a small bit of JavaScript that you add to your browser's bookmarks bar. If you aren't sure what your browser's bookmarks bar is, I'll get to that in a minute. When you click the bookmarklet, the script runs. In the case of the Readability bookmarklet, the script removes all the extra material from the page and leaves you with just the article in a very easy-to-read format.

Find the Website
Go to the Readability [http://lab.arc90.com/experiments/readability/] site. The page is an experimental project from the arc90 company. I sincerely hope they keep it going, because it is a great help.

Readability-settings

Start by selecting the settings you want. You can choose the style of display you like, the size of the text you need, and the amount of margin you want.

Drag and Drop the Bookmarklet
Next drag and drop the Readability bookmarklet from the web page to your browser's bookmarks bar. If your browser's bookmarks toolbar is not visible, you can make it visible by going to View > Toolbars > Bookmarks Toolbar.

Readability-bookmarklet

To drag and drop the Readabilty bookmarklet, left-click on the big button that says Readabilty and hold the mouse button down. Move the mouse, dragging a ghost-like image of the Readabilty button along, until your mouse is over the Bookmarks Toolbar. Then release the left mouse button. You should see the word Readability appear where you "dropped" the button. It no longer looks like a button, it's just a word.

Readability-toolbar

What happens when you click it?
For example, suppose this is an article you want to read. There is a lot of extra material on the page. The article is squeezed in among it.

Readability-before

Click the "Readability" bookmarklet in your bookmarks bar. The result is a clean and easy to read version of the article with no clutter, as you see in the image here.

Readability-after

Isn't that just the best thing since sliced bread?

Okay. I read the article. Now what?
To return to the original display with the navigation and other material you need after reading, use the "Reload Page" link at the bottom of the article after you read the article. If you don't read the entire article and don't reach the "Reload Page" link, you can click the browser's Reload or Refresh button to return to the original display.

Reload

In most browsers, the Reload or Refresh button is a spiral looking, going-around-again kind of button located in the upper left.

An important thing to remember is that you don't use the Back button to get back to the article in its original view. You are still on the same web page, but through the magic of the script in the bookmarklet you are seeing it displayed in a different way. To see it in the original way, reload the page.

I hope that between the zooming with the NoSquint Firefox add-on and the Readability bookmarklet you will find a comfortable way to read everything that interests you on the Internet.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sydney Halet tells us about his father and a Note.]


Good Old Television

[PERSONAL NOTE: What a wonderful cascade of birthday greetings from you yesterday. What can I say but thank you all. It was a lovely day made extra-special by all of you. Thank you so much.]

category_bug_journal2.gif Until a friend pointed it out several months ago, I had not realized I am a fan of police procedurals – cop shows - on television. I've been watching them since Dragnet and I'm fairly indiscriminate about my choices. Often I don't watch a show until it is in reruns, but sooner or later I see most of them.

I couldn't tell you what I like about them unless it's the orderliness. Problems solved in 44 minutes which is a relief from the messiness of real life where some things go unresolved for years, even forever. Law and Order fools me now and then when the prosecution fails leaving the bad guy on the loose. But the structure of the show never changes: crime, investigation, court, judgment.

My current favorite is N.C.I.S.. Someone accused me of having a crush on Mark Harmon, but he's not my type. I'd be more likely to fall for David McCallum, who plays the medical examiner Ducky. Years ago, he played Illya Kuryakin in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. spy series and there was a nice, little inside joke in one N.C.I.S. episode where someone can't place who Ducky reminds him of. “Illya Kuryakin,” says the other character.

Of course, that went right over the heads of any young viewers. You need to be old enough to have watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to get it.

An added value of N.C.I.S. is the multi-generational cast who are given equal screen time. There are the three young agents in their 30s, the young forensic scientist Abby, their leader Jethro Gibbs, in his 50s, and Ducky who is old enough to be the young agents' grandfather. Plus, Ducky's aging mother, who is quite dotty, nuts even, and imperial in her early stages of dementia, is a recurring character. Four generations.

In recent years, those who give advice about succeeding in the workplace, write about difficulties between young and old, often making it seem that conflicts are inevitable and hard to overcome. But week after week, the N.C.I.S. writers portray the generations working well together, displaying their differences through misunderstandings, arguments, jokes and, in the end, respect. These are better lessons – taking dramatic license into consideration - than what the employment “experts” give us.

Still, there are few enough elders in anything but out-of-date, stereotyped roles on television. Recently, Peter Tibbles, who lives in Melbourne, turned me on to a British cop show, New Tricks (as in old dogs, etc.), about three old men – well, let Peter tell you as he did in a recent email:

“The premise is that they get three retired detectives to investigate old crimes. Ho-hum usually, but this is excellent. The three are played by Alun Armstrong, Dennis Waterman and James Bolam. Amanda Redman (no spring chicken herself) plays their governor and Susan Jameson has a continuing role (as Alun Armstrong's character's wife). As these are old crimes, they always have excellent elder actors in various roles.”

The program is in its fifth season in Britain and Australia and it has never been broadcast in the United States. But hey, we live in the internet age where you can find almost anything online if you look far enough.

The Internet Movie Database lists the particulars and 68 readers give it a (deserved) 9-out-of-10 rating. And here is the BBC webpage about the series. Much has been made of the opening theme song, titled It's All Right, which apparently is hard to find. However, YouTube has it, introducing the characters [42 seconds]:

But wait - there's more. Although they are a bit difficult to locate, YouTube has several full episodes broken up into 10-minute segments which is where I've spent a good deal of time for the past few days.

So if you are interested in some really good cop drama with a soupcon of comedy starring some fine actors who are our age, here are the first two segments of a New Tricks episode titled, “A Face for Radio” [10:28 minutes]:

“A Face for Radio” - Part 2 [10:16 minutes]

You can find the rest of the episode by following these links. Each segment is about 10 minutes long:

New Tricks, A Face for Radio – Part 3
New Tricks, A Face for Radio – Part 4
New Tricks, A Face for Radio – Part 5
New Tricks, A Face for Radio – Part 6 (end)

Now if you are hooked, there are four more episodes posted at YouTube. It's tricky to search for them, so here are links to the first segment of each episode. You'll find the succeeding segments of each show below the view screen on the right under “Related Videos.”

Magic Majestic
Loyalties and Royalties
Couldn't Organize One
Mad Dogs

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carol Gardner is dreaming again, this time titled Tomorrow, Just You Wait and See.]


Birth and Rebirth

category_bug_journal2.gif It's nice having a springtime birthday. After having been hunkered down while the earth rests from last year's summer exuberance, we emerge from the monochrome months together – the Earth and I – ready for a new season of activity and color.

Just this week, the crocuses bloomed on my block. Already, there are buds on some tree branches and before long, daffodils and tulips will burst forth. It has happened this way all my life – as though Earth is reborn just for me, just in time for the annual celebration of my arrival - 68 years ago in today's case.

Birthday parties are mostly the province of children – party hats, games and cake – and on one hand it seems silly, toward the end of one's seventh decade, to make anything special of another year's passage. But for about 50 of those years, whatever else I've done to mark the day, I have made room for some private, quiet time to look at where I've been for the past year, what's changed, what hasn't and perhaps make a mental note or two about what's next.

There are two big changes this year. The first is a new president – almost the polar opposite of the previous one – who is smart, thoughtful and already working hard to lead us out of the darkness of the past eight years.

The second change, our collective economic abyss, is more personal and, as is true for so many, it has altered my plans. I know for certain that my choice of Portland, Maine to live out my late years was a mistake. Since I can't afford New York City, I'd rather be in that other Portland, in Oregon. That's unlikely in the near future due to the loss of so much of my savings and the slump in home sales. Nevertheless, I'll do some fix-up and painting this spring in anticipation of figuring out how to make the move.

Other than that decision, there have been no momentous personal changes, so I decided to look way, way back this year. I dug out my baby book which I doubt I've opened in 10 or 15 years. How good of parents to keep such a record – it's filled with stuff about yourself of which you have no memory. Here are the basic facts of my birth recorded, apparently, by the hospital. (My birth surname was Haist.)

BirthAnnouncement

There is no first name yet. My mother, so the story goes, was certain I was a boy (no tests in those days for the sex of babies) and intended to name me Gregory Michael. She was so surprised to have produced a girl that it took her three weeks to think up a name.

In 1941, as now, the hospital attached a wristband to “Babe Haist,” including the doctor's name so they wouldn't confuse me with some other baby. Nowadays, wristbands are made of plastic; 68 years ago, they were made of cloth and my mother saved it.

Wristband

My mother also made a notation that I had “a lot of dark hair” and preserved in an envelope is this lock of it. Do people still do this?

Hair

According to my mother's notes, my first word was “pretty” when I was nine months old, and I was walking – at one year and two months – four months before I said “mama.” That must have irritated her.

At about the same time, August 1942, there is another note: “Says 'hello' and 'bye-bye' to everyone on the street and stops to talk to everybody.”

And she hasn't stopped talking since except these days, at least it's more often silent – in print on this blog – which I'm certain my mother, if she were here, would be grateful for. I can still hear her saying repeatedly, “Ronni, give your brother a chance to talk.”

As I grew older, my mother asked each year what I wanted to do for my birthday. It was always the same: an outdoor birthday party in the back yard, and my mother always agreed with the caveat, “if it doesn't rain.” It always rained and some things never change; it's raining today.

But that's the irony, isn't it. Without spring rains, the Earth and I would not celebrate our rebirth together.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz recounts another birth in The Day Chris was Born.]


Elders Online

In January, the Pew Internet & American Life Project published its latest survey of online usage by age group. Compared to 2005 figures, the 70-75 year olds made the biggest leap, increasing from 26 percent to 45. Even the oldest age group, 76-plus grew from 17 percent to 27.

[NOTE: All the charts and graphs are too large to reproduce here and be readable. You can find them all on this page. The full report is here.]

That's not many compared to the two youngest age groups. Ninety-three percent of kids 12-17 are online as well as 89 percent of 18-24 year olds. But these are people who have never known life without computers and the internet, and I'm impressed with how many elders have learned the internet in three years – particularly those who probably retired before being trained on computers at work.

Still, the internet is a young world; only 24 percent of online users are 55 and older.

What are old people doing online? Mostly email, following by search and researching health information. Lots of elders shop online ranging from 72 percent of older boomers to 47 percent of those 73 and older. Nearly half (49 percent) of older boomers bank online while only 24 percent of those 73 and older do.

We're doing other things in larger numbers too. Well more than half of the three oldest age groups use the internet to research products, make travel reservations and read news. But few of us use social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace – just 9, 11 and 4 percent of those three oldest age groups.

We spend more of our time with blogs. Probably because I'm so immersed in the world of elderblogging, however, I'm surprised that the numbers are not higher:

Read Blogs
Age 56-63: 25%
Age 64-72: 23%
Age 73+: 15%

Keep Blogs
Age 56-63: 7%
Age 64-72: 6%
Age 73+: 6%

As I've said so frequently, blogging is a near-ideal pastime for elders. At a time in life when we no longer have the daily social camaraderies of the workplace, when old friends move away or die and for some, mobility becomes an issue, blogging does many good things for us. It helps keep us mentally fit, gives us a place to tell our stories, share interests, make new friends and increasingly, I think, discuss issues of national importance.

So although I wish more elders were blogging, I'm heartened by the increase in all kinds of internet use by old people.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Karen Swift explains what T.A.S. is and how it came to be in her life.


Elder Music: Australian Pop

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Today's guest elder music blogger is Peter Tibbles of Melbourne. Peter doesn't keep a blog, but he comments on TGB from time to time and occasionally contributes to The Elder Storytelling Place. He's here today to take us on a musical tour of Australian popular music decade by decade – which often parallels U.S. pop music.]

I'm of a certain age, as I imagine most of you who are reading are also, so I first took notice of music in the early fifties. This period has been characterised since as somewhat of a wasteland before rock n roll hit us. It wasn't quite.

I remember enjoying Johnnie Ray, Guy Mitchell, Fats Domino and one or two others. Indeed, the first song I can remember hearing was Guy Mitchell's The Roving Kind. No doubt there were others before that but it's the one that's stuck in my brain all these years. But that's neither here nor there.

I was going to do "history of Pete's listening over the years" or some such nonsense. This would mean musicians you probably all know about and would include in your own histories. I was born and bred in Australia so I've decided to include only Australian music this time. There have already been two clips in a previous Elder Music piece - the great Daddy Cool and the loud Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs.

Back to the fifties. Along came Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis and the rest. We took notice and developed our own home-grown rockers. The earliest and best of these was Johnny O'Keefe, known at the time as the "Wild One". There are a bunch of his clips around but only one I discovered that gives even a hint of what he was like in concert at the time.

Here he does a cover of The Isley Brothers song Shout. The backing vocal group is The Delltones, themselves a popular DooWop style group. [3:55 minutes]


Johnny's main rival at the time was Col Joye. He was preferred by parents and young girls. This is Oh Yeah, Uh Huh from 1959, backed by The Joy Boys. [2:05 minutes]


The late fifties and early sixties saw a decline in rock n roll here but it gave rise to "Trad Jazz" (insipid copies of old style New Orleans jazz) that reigned supreme until The Beatles hit the scene. Then everyone picked up electric guitars.

The best of these from jazz was The Loved Ones. This group was blessed with a singular singer of extraordinary quality named Gerry Humphreys. They made a bunch of singles, an album, played sell-out shows around the country and split up. This is Ever Lovin' Man. The primitive TV audio recording wasn't really up to the task of capturing Gerry's voice. [2:04 minutes]


Another from the time was Max Merritt & The Meteors. Max is still around today, but only just. He was originally from New Zealand, as were quite a number of famous "Australian" performers. Their biggest hit was Slipping Away. (Really from 1976). Unfortunately, they truncate it. The second half is better than the first (but I would say that). [3:18 minutes]


As the sixties rolled on, like elsewhere, music got groovy. Life's too short to search for examples of this except for Russell Morris The Real Thing. This was a giant hit and the album track went for seven or eight minutes, about half of which was out of phase noodling, chanting and such. This clip is just the basic song. The full version is also on YouTube if you're really interested and have nothing better to do. [3:16 minutes]


The seventies were a better bet. As elsewhere, we saw the rise of the singer/songwriter. The best of these were (and still are) Mike McClellan, Doug Ashdown and Glenn Cardier. These were joined in the eighties by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody. I searched in vain for Mike's Saturday Dance (my favorite of his), Song and Dance Man (his biggest hit), Rock n Roll Lady, and - well, you get the picture. I found just one clip (from 1973), Another Grey Day. [2:49 minutes]


Doug seems to be missing completely from YouTube apart from his most famous song, Winter in America which, alas, is just a slide show showing that very thing.

There's a lot of Glen, all worth watching. These are from shows from the last year or two (which I attended). It was hard picking one, but here is Close Encounter (With a UFO). [2:54 minutes]


In the sixties, our stupid government dragged us into the Vietnam miasma. We remained there until Gough Whitlam's Labor Party was elected in 1972. The best songs about this were not protest songs from the time but those written afterwards. Reflective songs, I guess. A good example is Cold Chisel's Khe Sanh. Another is a song by Redgum that seems to have two titles, A Walk in the Light Green and I Was Only 19. [4:32 minutes]


Around the same time an earlier, equally pointless war (World War I) was featured in a song. Eric Bogle, originally a Scot, wrote a fine song about the disastrous Gallipoli campaign when Britain, Australia, New Zealand and others tried, unsuccessfully, to invade Turkey in 1915. The song is The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. [7:09 minutes]


To lighten things up: a bit of glam rock. Skyhooks sent up the whole genre.  Check out "Horror Movie" from 1975. [3:46 minutes]


This Week in Elder News: 4 April 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.

My favorite, Curbside Consultation of the Colon, came in only second in the annual Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. Who knew there was such an award. But it amuses me and perhaps you too. Read more here.

Bill Moyers' interview with William Greider last week is a must-see for anyone who cares about where our country is headed. The video below is a short taste of the conversation [1:42 minutes] and you can see the entire hour here. For those of you who get impatient with video as I do, you can read the transcript here.

Frontline's most recent documentary, Sick in America, is devastating indictment of America's health care system. If you missed it when it was broadcast on PBS on 31 March, do try to make time for it; it's a good background to have for the coming health care reform debate. The entire program here.

MoveOn is hosting a petition from Dr. Howard Dean arguing for publicly-funded health care which, according to the petition, is being lobbied against by – who else? - insurance companies and HMOs. You can sign it here. (Hat tip to Mary E. Davies of Mary's Real Life)

A few months ago, I wrote about 50toDeath, a web comedy series about three friends – New York actors Joan Barber, Norm Golden and Jon Freda – growing old together. I just caught up with several back episodes which you can find here. They're all good but, for sure, don't miss Cartmen. And you can find out more about the three actors in this recent Newsday story.

There have been some scare headlines that due to the recession, Social Security will soon not be able to meet its benefit obligations. Not so, as you can read at the NCPSSM:

“Social Security was created in times much like today to provide Americans with a foundation of security they could count on in uncertain economic times. Social Security smooths the risks of these economic cycles over large groups of people and long periods of time, and it remains the most secure retirement income in America.”

Whatever your opinion of or experience with government bureaucracies, one of the things our federal government does really well is agency websites. The post office and IRS sites are among the best online tools there are - user-friendly and packed with easy-to-find information. The Federal Trade Commission has just opened a new section on their website called Money Matters with tips on credit cards, debt management, job searches, home financial matters and there is a scam watch.

In our grim economic year, it is old people who lived through the Depression who can tell us about stretching a dollar and even living with no dollars at all. New York Times reporter Joyce Wadler spoke with several of them for her story, Making Ends Meet in the Great Depression.


Elders' Triple Economic Whammy

When we – people 65 and older – were starting out in the world, there were no investment opportunities for ordinary workers. That was for rich people. If we were lucky, our employers offered pension plans (I never worked for one), but what we did have was a habit of saving.

Growing up during the Depression or as children of people who did, we learned the importance of putting money aside. Mostly, we did that in individual bank accounts which paid, back then, about two percent.

Mutual funds had been around since the 1920s, but they did not catch on until after a 1975 IRS change allowing individual retirement accounts (IRAs). In 1978, 401(k) plans (named for a new section of the IRS code) allowed workers to defer paying taxes on a percentage of their salaries until after retirement.

Then, in the 1990s, the internet happened, brokerage houses offered cheap, online trades and suddenly anyone could invest in the stock market. Advertising made it seem easy and we were exhorted to jump into Wall Street. It was mostly young people who did. Many who were older, like me, did not feel competent to choose investments wisely and continued to rely on more traditional financial advisers if we had enough to warrant the fees.

Through all these changes, we were led to believe that our diligence, together with Social Security, would see us through our old age in relative comfort.

Whammy No. 1: Drained Savings
In 2008, all that changed. We discovered that the people with whom we had invested our life savings had made themselves wealthy – obscenely so in many cases – while plundering 30, 40, even 50 percent and more of the modest nest eggs we had accumulated. As investment income was slashed over the past year, it has been devastating.

"About 433,000 unemployed Americans age 65 and older were actively seeking employment in February, more than twice as many as in November 2007, just before the recession began.

"Another 1.3 million adults age 55 to 64 were unemployed. 'This is a daunting economy for older people. A lot of older people are coming to see us that are scared or bewildered,” says Cynthia Metzler, president and CEO of Experience Works, a nonprofit organization that helps older people retrain for new jobs. 'We have people who are in their 80s who are taking on new jobs.'"
- U.S. News & World Report, 31 March 2009

Whammy No. 2: Forced Early Retirement
Those numbers don't include millions of older people who are seriously underemployed in supermarkets, fast-food joints or as helpers at Home Depot making salaries that don't begin to cover even modest expenses their savings had allowed and they are now committed to.

The media is only now beginning to notice – and barely - that many old people are in a desperate bind with much of their savings wiped out and no possibility of future employment as companies lay off more than half a million people each month. March figures report 663,000 layoffs in that month alone, in addition to 706,000 in February and 655,000 in January – a total of more than 2 million people out of work in the first quarter of 2009.

For older workers, this amounts to forced early retirement. Just as the medical advances of the 20th century have given us an average of 30 years more life – healthy life in most cases – and the children are finished with college allowing old people to increase their amount of retirement savings, the employment rug has been ripped out from under them along with their evaporated investments.

Whammy No. 3: Stuck in Their Homes
In addition, elders who had been planning to move into continuing care communities – those that provide health care starting with independence through assisted living and nursing care – find that their homes have lost as much as 20 percent of their value (much more in some regions) - if they can find a buyer at all.

“...hundreds of thousands of older Americans...are sitting on homes they cannot sell, watching dividends disappear and, in many cases, putting off much-anticipated moves into retirement communities.”
- The New York Times, 2 April 2009

Some of these people are in need of care now, but are going without because with the crash of the housing market they do not have the cash they expected and planned for from the sale of their homes.

So: lost savings, lost jobs, lost home value – a triple whammy. But wait. There's more.

On top of the triple whammy, meals on wheels programs, home health care visits and senior centers around the country are cutting back services and in some cases, closing. People who were able to continue to live independently due to these services, now cannot. Because selling their homes is not likely, they are left adrift, sometimes in actual danger without help.

Additionally, some physicians are "firing" their Medicare patients while fewer doctors are accepting new Medicare patients and even when they do, the number of internists, who have been taking up the slack from the dramatically diminishing number of geriatricians, is decreasing.

Let's go through this again, then: lost savings, lost jobs, lost home value, lost community services and lost medical care.

Further, yesterday, Senator John McCain announced his alternative to President Obama's budget and to that of Congress. It includes taking an axe to Social Security and Medicare:

“McCain would achieve those cuts mostly from entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, spending $922 billion less than Obama over the next five years on those and other 'mandatory' programs and $3.1 trillion less over 10 years, according to his office.

“'There is no expert or ordinary citizen in America that doesn’t agree that we have to reform Medicare, Social Security and the other mandatory spending programs which are consuming a larger and larger part of our budget,' McCain said on the Senate floor.”
- CQ Politics, 1 April 2009

Easy for Senator McCain to say with his ten homes, rich wife, $2000 monthly Social Security benefit for pocket change and Senate health care. His budget plan would create a commission to “retool” those programs, although not to affect people 55 and older. “Retool” means “cut.”

McCain's budget has no chance of passing Congress, but it is the highest-level opening salvo in the conservative agenda to eviscerate Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - which would be a sixth or seventh whammy (I've lost count) that affects elders more than younger people.

It is not that I wish to make light of the suffering of all Americans at this time. But elders are my special interest on this blog and unlike the youngest adults whose careers may be delayed, and unlike midlife adults whose retirements may need to be postponed (which, if you believe surveys, they say they want to do anyway), old people are taking the brunt of it.

I don't mind tightening my belt along with everyone else in the country. As the old saying goes, shit happens and we all, necessarily, will live with less for a long time to come. What I don't like is the apparently willful disinterest in how deeply elders are being disproportionately affected.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marvin Waldman is back after a long absence with a poem, A Wake for My Dick, Please.]


GAY AND GRAY: Film Festival on Aging

category_bug_gayandgray.gif [EDITORIAL NOTE: Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams (bio) in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here.]

Last month I had the chance to see two programs that were part of the First Annual International Film Festival on Aging staged in San Francisco and Berkeley. I didn't know what to expect - I'm not much of a moviegoer, but how could I not be curious?

In the city, the festival had taken over the seventh floor (top) of a multiplex; going up all those escalators really felt like leaving everyday reality for some hidden attic. Each program was preceded by a promotional clip from one of the sponsors, an expensive looking assisted living community. I found their video cloyingly sugary. If you are strong of stomach, you can watch it here.

Obviously film festival organizers had to find sponsors somewhere. Not having had the job of raising the money, I probably shouldn't knock their accomplishments.

That said, I greatly enjoyed the Saturday program. A short celebrated 85-year-old Margaret Hagerty of Concord, North Carolina who had run her 80th marathon at the time of the filming. It's available on YouTube [4:02 minutes]:

The Canadian Film Board contributed Mabel's Saga, a cartoon about a woman at menopause deciding to make the most of being "over the hill." Not for the first time, I reflected on how creative, simply antic, Canadian filmmakers are able to be with the government support the arts enjoy up north.

The program's feature film was Hats Off, a profile of 93–year–old New York City actress Mimi Weddell. My goodness, that woman works at her craft! I guarantee if you get the chance to see this, you'll be tired just contemplating Mimi's schedule.

Filmmaker Jyll Johnstone has made available many clips from the full length movie online. Here's the trailer: [1:56 minutes]

Naturally, as TGB's gay and gray columnist, I had to see the festival's gay program. Unfortunately, I found it disappointing. The headline feature was a quite interesting documentary about a young transgendered Canadian, Madison, going through transition from male to female. The only aging element to it was that her grandmother was the person in her family most emotionally able to support her through her changes. That didn't seem to me quite enough aging content to warrant placing it in this film festival.

The other gay-themed film followed 88-year-old Lorraine Barr as she goes on a lesbian-oriented cruise. Here's the trailer for that one.

Barr, like many lesbians in her generation, lived a quiet, hidden life with a long-term female partner, never able to publicly acknowledge their sexual orientation. Late in life she dared to share her story in a letter to Newsweek:

”...Now I write this after living for 44 years with the most loved and loving, giving, understanding and delightful partner imaginable. For all our time together, we were 'in the closet.'

“For so long, if you were a known homosexual you could lose your job. We kept our relationship from our families - or at least we thought we did. After my partner died, her son told me that her family knew about us, but kept our secret because they believed our relationship was our own business.

“But our silence for all those years was also partially a self-induced caution. Looking back, I think it's possible that as the world changed, we didn't change fast enough...”

Certainly we all feel ourselves caught up in fast changes.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Brenton "Sandy" Dickson has a few things to say about Juxtaposition.]


Old Friends: Sali Ariel

category_bug_journal2.gif When I left my husband in 1971, I also left my job producing his radio talk show. I had two suitcases of clothes, temporary residence in a friend's extra bedroom and was an emotional wreck. Unlike my parents, I had always said, I would never divorce.

Now I'd started the ball rolling in that direction and felt disconnected, unattached, with nowhere to belong. No home, no job, no money and no sense of what the next day would bring, let alone the rest of my life. Like many women of my age and in that era, when things went wrong with a man, I wallowed in my misery listening Carole King's Tapestry album - in retrospect, not one of the better ideas I ever had.

The one smart thing I did was give myself time to become accustomed to my new state of being. I went where whim directed me each day and one of those was to spend some afternoons with my friend, Sali Ariel.

She probably doesn't know it (and I doubt I've ever said thank you), but those days with Sali and her then-husband, Terry, helped ground me through one of the top two or three roughest periods of my life.

It's not that we did anything special: we talked, listened to music, Bob Dylan came by for his Hebrew lessons with Terry and to play backgammon. These good people just let me be for a few weeks while time worked its magic until I returned to something resembling normal.

One of the things about old friends is that you don't have to explain yourself. They were there with you for the good and the bad which gives them an understanding of you that new friends – welcome as they are – cannot know.

And one of the things about keeping a blog is that you can write about anything or anyone you want. Today it is Sali.

SaliPhoto Sali reminded me in a recent email that we met probably in 1969 when all of the disparate “movements” of the day were held together by their common objection to the Nixon administration and the Vietnam War. I booked a lot of those people on my husband's radio show – Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Paul Krassner, Sali's husband Terry, even “Dylanologist” A. J. Weberman. And without my noticing it as it happened, in all our hanging out together with these mutual friends and acquaintances, Sali became my friend.

Not much later, Sali and Terry moved to Israel. No internet in those days, but we kept in touch by letter and Sali sometimes stayed with me when she visited New York. What was happening in her life, in addition to her own divorce, was her emergence as a remarkable and respected artist.

One of my visits with her in Israel coincided with a show of a series of her large paintings of nudes. Besides being beautiful, they were gigantic, but Sali gave me a set of miniature prints she'd had made which are now grouped on a wall across from my bed so they are the first thing I see when I wake; Sali comes to mind pretty much every morning of my life.

SaliWallPaintings

Here is a closeup of the middle painting which is my favorite - or maybe not. I like them all.

SaliNudeWoman

Three weeks ago, Sali sent an invitation to the opening of her new show of paintings celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of Tel Aviv's founding. It is times like this I lament I don't have the kind of money that allows me to jump on an airplane to be there with an old friend when something special happens. About the paintings, she told an Israeli blogger:

“I started seeing the Ramat Gan business district going up and all the big tall buildings on Rothschild Boulevard and while I don’t think that’s bad, I was afraid we would forget how Tel Aviv looked. I also felt inevitably, Tel Aviv had to change, but I didn’t know if it was for better or for worse. I wanted to document it for people in the future so they would know how Tel Aviv was in our time.”

Sali has been painting Tel Aviv for several years and what I love about them is they perfectly capture the feel and memory I have of the city from my visits. Here are a few:

Sali_ariel_balfour


Sali_ariel_fantasy_architecture


SaliTelAviv

I forwarded the invitation for the show opening to Tamar Orvel who blogs at Only Connect and lives in Tel Aviv for half the year. She had to be out of town that day, but said she would visit the show when she returns which, if memory serves, is about now.

If anyone reading this happens to live in Tel Aviv or knows someone who does, it would be nice if you let them know about Sali's show. It is at the Rosen Center Gallery through 22 April. And if you see Sali, give her a hug for me.

2 Dresner Street
Ramat Aviv Gimmel
Tel Aviv

You can see paintings from Sali's earlier shows at her website.

God I wish I could just stop by Sali's place and hang out again for an afternoon.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson recounts a tale of chess and automobiles in Catching Zs.]