What It's Like to Get Old
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This Week in Elder News - 25 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.

That 47-year-old, YouTube singing sensation, Susan Boyle, has gone and got herself a makeover which you can see here. What do you think?

Good Grief. The greatest Ponzi schemer in all of history, Bernie Madoff, is already being made into a movie. Read more here.

Elaine Frankonis, who blogs at Kalilily Time posted an excellent story this week pulling together several sources of information on the developing health care reform from the Obama Administration. Well worth a read here.

Darlene Costner of Darlene's Hodgepodge post a story about how funny she looks trying to get about since she broke her hip last November. “A stranger watching me would wonder what that poor inebriated old granny had to drink,” she writes. Read more here.

A week or so ago, my friend NancyB became another of the millions who are among the unemployed thanks to our recession. For several years, she blogged at her employer's website and now she has started her own blog, The Tempered Optimist. It would be nice for you to go welcome her to the elder blogosphere.

Marion of And the Beat Goes On sent this video: Sculpting the Aging Process in 4:51 minutes.

If that sculpting isn't fast enough for you, here it is done photographically in 40 seconds.

In a blog post titled, “Sick and Twisted: Anti-Aging and Cosmeceutical Ads” from a website called Jezebel – Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women, comes a marvelous take-down of print advertising for anti-aging products. An example:

Ad headline for an Andrew Weil product: “Rest Easy. Overnight Repair Comes Easily”

Jezebel: “You're broken! But don't worry. Rest easy. We'll repair you overnight.”

Many more with images of the ads here.

In several scenes from one of my favorite novels, Jack Finney's Time and Again, the protagonist is able to travel back to the late 1800s by living in the Dakota in New York in an apartment that is recreated to be exactly as it was in his target time travel year. Now, a Harvard researcher has duplicated this experiment with a group of old men by “retrofitting an isolated old New England hotel so that every visible sign said it was 20 years earlier.” The results were

“...stunning [according to a reviewer of the researcher's book]. After just one week, the men in the experimental group (compared with controls of the same age] had more joint flexibility, increased dexterity and less arthritis in their hands. Their mental acuity had risen measurably, and they had improved gait and posture.”

The important thing about this is that we are bombarded with signals that tell us getting old means poor health. When is that going to end? Read more about this study here. (Hat tip to Paula Kimbrough)

No link on this item. My friend, Sophy, who lives in London forwarded an email “joke” that is making the rounds. I found amusing and maybe you will too. It is in the form of a short letter to a bank:

“Just checking - one of my cheques has been returned marked 'insufficient funds.' In view of current events in the banking market, does that refer to me or to you?”


The studies that highlight how we internalize external clues that we should feel sickly-old are fascinating.

I don't "dress my age" much because I never have and have avoided most contexts that would press me to do so. I wonder how this contributes to my self-concept.

Just a quick comment as I am passing through en route to an appointment this morning - but - I say good for Susan Boyle. She didn't stray from her prior look much, and who doesn't love a day at the spa with a hair cut and color, along with some new clothes? I love her new look - I think she looks great - and I love her new heels too! :)

It was amazing to watch a master sculptor age a bust from childhood into old age. I couldn't help but notice that many of the modifications involved adding clay to the face, as if the years were measured by migrations of extra flesh to the face. I'm glad he made the final product laughing at the decades!

It's disgusting to me to see that, in order to accept the reality of her talent, the world demands that the exterior of Susan Boyle meet expectations of how that talent should look. I would have a lot more respect for her if she had stayed just as she was rather than tarting herself up.

Ronni, Time After Time is also one of my most favorite books. I don't know if you have every read any of John Dunning's books(which include Two O'clock Eastern War Time and The Bookman's Wake), but he, John Dunning, once told me that Time After Time was the only book written by another author that he wished he had written himself.

This study by Ellen Langer is just as fascinating to me as the premise presented in Time After Time. Both are about opening the mind and letting go of our preconceived ideas of what is possible. Mind blowing (pun intended) stuff.

Insufficient funds probably applies to most of the banks these days. :)

Thank you, Ronni, for the link to my post.

Ronni, thank you for mentioning my blog and for helping me find a way to continue blogging, for myself now. And to all of you who visited my blog and gave me encouragement and words of wisdom, I can't tell you how much those words mean to me.

I know I will feel better again and find the me in myself though for now, it is a struggle.

A couple of things I've noticed about being older, which by the way happens to everyone who lives long enough. (And plastic surgery can only do so much---everyone looks old at age 80.). Although good genes do matter, and I've come to appreciate how Mother Nature just goes ahead and takes those who need to
go so that they don't suffer and suffer needlessly in old age, your body does change as you age, and you do feel it, no matter how well actors portray a 58 or a 63 year old. Sometimes, no matter how terrifically you took care of yourself through the years, you can develop problems/diseases that are beyond your control and are debilitating, such as deteriorating joints, spinal issues, chronic breathing problems, etc. This can then completely change your life and consume much of your time and focus--going to doctors'appointments, therapies, moving to new locations to be closer to those who can help you. Here's an example: I had a friend, who was well off and who took care of herself all the time, but who suddenly "went blind," mainly from diabetes, in her mid 50s. She lost her job, could no longer drive, her husband left her, she had to give up her beloved pets, her parents were deceased and she never had children to help care for her. Her whole life changed over a period of 6 months. She had to move across three states to be closer to some of her relatives. In old age, old injuries, bad decisions in life, neglect of your health, teeth, education, friendships, and finances can come back to haunt you in more terrible ways. If you spent your entire youth married to an alcoholic or an abusive person (thinking you could change them), you will often have nothing but regrets and bad memories in old age, which makes those long, cold nights even more difficult. Build great memories while you are young to keep you smiling throughout old age.
If you had a severe personality disorder in life such as narcissism, aging can be hell. Yet, sometimes being older can work in your favor since some well brought up, younger folks like to "help" you get the best rate on your cable and phone service, help you out by spending a little more time with you on the phone explaining services or how to do something...the modern day equivalent of helping the old lady/old man across the street. But there are just as many young people who see you as an easy target. You may not view your body as aged, even though your body HAS INDEED AGED. There are psychopaths out there who do see your vulnerabilities, even if you don't acknowledge them, so be careful. Like everyone tells you, have a plan and something to do that you enjoy before you retire, if you have a choice. Otherwise, retirement can be lonely, isolating...and poor. Your grandchildren will outgrow you, and although they still love you, they will have their own friends soon enough. And your kids have their own lives. Most adults my age do not always have a great relationship with their kids, so consider yourself lucky if you do have terrific kids and grand kids. If you make it to age 62 with your original wife /husband, in this day and age, that is almost a miracle, and is to be cherished, although more and more women do not want to play nursemaid to their aging husbands. Still women will usually stay in that situation longer than most men, who will usually leave a sick wife within a few years. Living alone in old age is harder, in my opinion. So try to be a good friend and have good friends , continue to build great memories and relationships with others, get involved in a good church or spiritual organization of your choice, get a dog , take free courses at your local university, paint, read, share your wisdom and life experiences with any youth who will listen, and try to enjoy the time you have left.

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