Previous month:
April 2009
Next month:
June 2009


While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Peter Tibbles who says of himself:

I'm an Australian from a small country town with a strange name (the town that is; oh me too, I guess) who now lives in the big smoke (Melbourne). I'm divorced with no kids (which means, of course, that I never grew up). A mathematician by training, I've worked for more than 40 years in the IT industry (which may be some sort of a record). In a nutshell:

I drink wine
I listen to music
I read books
Often at the same time.

I've been thinking about recorded music in the fifties. I do that quite a bit. We had everything back then. Okay, I hear what you saying, there were no CDs, no MP3s, no iPods. You've made your point, you young folks. We had 78s, 45s, 33s  All of those things. Singles and Long Players. We also had EPs, Extended Plays, 7 inch 45s.

These were great value for money. I still have one of my sister's with its price tag on it. It cost about one-and-a-half times the price of a single. Great value, because these had four or five songs on them. Back then, whenever an artist recorded an album, it usually consisted of two or three hits, maybe another good song or two and a bunch of filler.

The EP came out with the best four or five songs from the album and no fillers. And it cost a lot less than having to buy three or four singles or the album. No wonder we liked them.

JohnnieRay-MrEmotion The first EP was that very one of my sister's with the price tag. This is Johnnie Ray. What a great one this is. (Pam, if you're reading this, I still have it if you want it.) It was called Mr Emotion and it has on it Cry, Walkin' My Baby Back Home, All of Me and I'm Gonna Walk and Talk with My Lord. Okay, three out of four songs ain't bad and here is Cry.

JohnnieRay The second was also Pam's. Now, this may come as a surprise to you all, but this was Johnnie Ray as well. This had the rather prosaic title of Johnnie Ray. There was Just Walking in the Rain, Please Mr. Sun, All of Me and Tell the Lady I said Goodbye. Again, three out of four. I guess Johnnie was fond of All of Me. Instead, here is Walking in the Rain.

ElvisPresley-JailhouseRock The third one (I think - I'm getting a bit hazy about the order of these) was Elvis. I can't remember whose this was but now we're talking. This was the Jailhouse Rock EP, and what a beauty this was. Five tracks on this one. The songs are Jailhouse Rock, Don't Leave Me Now, I Want to be Free, Baby, I Don't Care and Treat Me Nice. Five out of five. Here's the last cut.

I recall other Elvis EPs we had. Old Shep springs to mind but I don't think either of us wishes to claim that one. It's not in the box. I believe Poor Boy was on that one.

LittleRichard The next (or previous) was definitely mine. Little Richard. This one has gone as well, but what a fine disk it was. I played it and played it. Mum wasn't impressed but didn't say anything unless I turned it up too high. The tracks were Tutti Frutti, Rip It Up, Ready Teddy and Long Tall Sally. Four out of four. Maybe the best EP ever.

I can't do a cover so I attached a photo. And here is Ready Teddy from the 1956 movie, The Girl Can't Help It.

BobLuman There were others: Bob Luman with Let's Think about Living and three other songs that have slipped my mind  Not really slipped, I can read them from the back cover and I could always put on the record and play it but I don't really want to.

StonePoneys-DifferentDrum The Stone Poneys' EP Different Drum was probably the last I ever bought. That's where I discovered and fell in love with Linda Ronstadt. She remained the love of my life until Emmylou Harris smiled at me one day. This one had Different Drum, Some of Shelly's Blues, Hobo, Up to my Neck in High Muddy Water. Four out of four. We're into the era of groovy covers. Here is Different Drum.

By this stage I was buying albums and I think everyone else was as well, as EPs went the way of 78s. This is a far from an exhaustive survey, even of what I still have in the box in the music room, but they are notable ones I remember fondly.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger doctafil: What's So Funny About That?

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is doctafil aka Brenda Henry, who is semi-retired from teaching high school. She lives in the suburbs of Montreal with her husband and cat. She writes, gardens and supervises student teachers.

Days after my sister moved to Florida, I became so despondent. I was going down. I knew I had to do something bold to combat the blues.

I spotted a tiny ad in the Montreal Gazette offering lessons writing and performing stand up comedy. The ad seemed to be pointing straight at me, so I tore it out and stuck it on my fridge, alongside assorted tropical fruit magnets and old photos of my sister and me shoehorned into a two-dollar, instant photo booth.

A couple days later, I called the comedy club, told them I was interested and omitted to mention my age.

I was fifty then, and would rather have walked barefoot over smoking coals than speak in front of an audience, but that was my secret.

So how did I wind up standing in front of a downtown comedy club at six o'clock sharp on a Monday night?

"This is probably the dumbest thing I've ever done, but it's better than bawling at home," I mumbled, swaying like a metronome on the sidewalk.

Obstacle number one: How would I get past the crusty, disheveled, tooth-deprived dude spread-eagled across the bottom steps of the club?

Was he a graduate comedian, the comedy teacher or the owner of the club?

His straight-line cowboy mouth and wrong-foot winter boots in summer radiated he was in no mood to dance the polka. In fact, he looked as though he was recuperating from a never-ending Molson Canadian beer bender.

As I gingerly stepped past him, he suddenly whipped around, looked me dead in the eye and said in a Gravel Gertie voice: "Hey baby, yawanna give me a kiss? I'd sure like to give you one."

"I'm good, thanks," I croaked in a freaky, way-high voice.

As I nervously entered the club, the downstairs bartender looked me over, asked what he could serve me. I said I was there for the comedy class. He shook his head sadly, then jerked his index finger sideways toward a set of steep stairs in the back. I climbed up and into a pitch black room. How many people were there, I had no idea.

My hands hit the back of a chair, I grabbed it and sat frozen.

A male voice cracked the quiet, welcoming us and claiming we have requirement one for stand up comedy - a big set of testicles for showing up.

Then the voice commenced to outline the rules of comedy. "Everyone thinks stand up comedy is easy. You will soon find out it's the hardest job in show business. It's all you and the audience, and when your lines go tits up, you have only yourself to blame. Get off the stage, go home, write more material and try again.

"No racist, homophobic, ageist or sexist jokes. We are not here to tell one liners. We will teach you how to write a monologue. Your own life is where you mine material. Tell the truth and use big gestures.

"If you think you can walk into a comedy club, stand at the mike and shoot off jokes like 'two nuns walked into a bar,' forget it. Montreal audiences will throw your ass out. Montreal audiences don't appreciate pea-brained jokes, and the whole goal of comedy is to get chosen for the Just for Laughs Festival, then land a sitcom.

"Do you see Seinfeld using the F-word?

"This is your comedy boot camp. Here you will learn how to take the stage, hold a mike properly, use your voice, gestures, come up with ten minutes of original material, and then we will throw you up on stage in front of a real audience.

"Drugs and alcohol don't mix with comedy. Remember John Belushi? Where is he now? I rest my case. Get a small tape recorder and any time you see or hear anything remotely funny, talk it out and write it down.

"Stealing jokes is a no-no. And when the red light goes on at the back of the club, wrap it up and get off the stage.

"I'm turning on the lights now, so any of you who didn't like what I just said, leave quietly and there will be no hard feelings. The rest of you get ready to work your butts off."

I heard major shuffling. Someone kicked the back of my chair as they left mumbling, "This is crap, man, I'm outta here."

The lights clicked on. I looked around and saw four twenty-something women sizing each other up. I was proud and terrified to be the oldest one in the group. Nobody pointed that out, though, and I was on my way to some adventure.

I carried my little tape recorder around, whispering lines, bits and pieces that might be remotely funny. Days shot by as we greenhorn comics went downtown every Monday night to wait our turn, throw out our bits and get critiqued.

Homework was doled out. Oh yes. We were told to go watch other comedians ply their trade at least two nights a week, not to steal their jokes, but to study their body language, timing and a hundred other subtleties of the trade.

I will never forget sitting backstage with my jagged piece of notes on paper, last-minute cramming with shaking hands and wobbly knees while other performers did their thing. A small, smoky window on the door was just big enough for me to see who was on stage and when my turn was up.

Unless you've done this yourself, you can't imagine the frisson of fear and excitement running along your spine when it's your turn to perform. The emcee introduces you, a piece of music is played while you run from the back through the crowd onto the stage, grab the mike and deliver your opening line.

"Hi everyone, how are you all doing tonight?

"I'm a dreamer. I used to dream about being a perfect little housewife - until mom slammed a three-piece Little Miss Homemaker set over my head. That's when I realized that housework and pain go hand in hand."

I'd like to brag and tell you I killed every night on stage, but I'd be stringing you a line. The truth is, some nights I did okay and other nights were back-tooth pullers.

Doing shot gun stand-up performances in front of hecklers, drunks and dodging waiters scared the blues far away. I was too busy trying to improve my act.

And when the laughs came, it was like being bombed with love. I'll never forget that feeling.

The best thing about being in the comedy club was the camaraderie between comedians. Sometimes famous comics would drop by the club while on tour and test drive a new act. They'd even hang around backstage and yak it up with us.

I kept on performing and found comedy clubs whenever we traveled to the USA and the UK.

Those were the days, my friends. Comedy turned into motivational seminars across Canada.

I carry a picture of me doing stand up in a Virginia Beach comedy club, just to remind myself to look up, think forward and welcome new experiences.

A few years later, my sister moved back to Montreal. She came to see my show.

We're still best friends.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Where TGB Readers Live and Going Home to New York City

This is a long, long post today, but most of the length is taken up with easy-to-read lists.

Where in the World are Time Goes By Readers
Wow – nice response to the question of where we live. Not everyone I know of checked in, but there are also a lot of people whose names I've never seen before. (Welcome and it's nice to see you.)

The majority who responded are scattered in all but eight U.S. states (I know they are represented too, but those readers didn't happen to stop by during this poll, and 15 countries are represented. They are:

Australia – 4
Canada – 4
England – 4
France – 1
Germany – 1
India – 1
Israel – 1
Japan – 1
Mexico – 1
The Netherlands – 1
Scotland – 1
South Africa - 1
Spain - 1
Sweden – 1
Turkey - 1

Within the U.S., California topped the list of those responding. I was surprised, although I don't know why, to see that Massachusetts followed closely behind and then Arizona. So many different towns are represented that I haven't listed them.

If you're interested to know if anyone is in your city, you'll need to comb through the original responses in the Comments on Wednesday – keep clicking “Next” at the bottom of the comments to see more.

Remember that for people who have blogs and included their URL in the comment form, just click their name to be taken to their blog.

Here is the state list in alphabetical order. Please be sure to check below this list for a special Time Goes By announcement.

Arizona – 7
Arkansas – 1
California – 14
Colorado – 4
Connecticut – 1
Delaware – 1
Florida – 2
Georgia – 3
Hawaii – 1
Illinois – 1
Indiana – 4
Iowa – 1
Kansas – 2
Kentucky – 2
Maine – 2
Maryland – 4
Massachusetts – 10
Michigan – 2
Minnesota – 4
Mississippi – 1
Missouri – 4
Nebraska – 1
Nevada – 2
New Hampshire - 3
New Jersey – 2
New Mexico – 2
New York – 3
North Carolina – 4
Ohio – 4
Oklahoma – 3
Oregon – 5
Pennsylvania – 4
Rhode Island – 2
South Carolina – 1
Tennessee – 2
Texas – 3
Vermont – 1
Virginia – 1
Washington – 5
Wisconsin – 2

Going Home to New York City
A month ago, I told you how honored I am to have been accepted for the week-long Age Boom Academy at the International Longevity Center in New York City – the first blogger among the dozen journalists who attend annually. It is five days of presentations and discussion with experts from a wide variety of areas related to aging.

This year's theme is “A New Deal for Longevity,” with special emphasis on entitlement programs, health care reform, retirement savings, science and technology, and caregiving issues. Saul Friedman, who writes the Reflections column for Time Goes By, attended the Academy ten years ago and says it is intense, packed with information and filled with fodder for future posts.

Well, the day has finally arrived. I leave early tomorrow morning and the sessions begin on Sunday.

Following the Academy, I'm moving from the hotel to a friend's apartment in Greenwich Village (just five blocks from where I lived) to spend a few more days seeing friends and soaking up the city I consider my real home.

While I'm away, some elderbloggers and elder blog readers have prepared excellent posts for you, so there won't be an empty space on these pages while I'm gone. I know you will welcome them with open arms and leave them lots and lots of comments. As I mentioned about The Elder Storytelling Place last week, everyone likes applause - and even a good argument. You will recognize most of the names from their own blogs or their comments here.

I won't be out of touch. I'm taking the little Eee PC I bought last December – its first big-time workout. I'll have access to email and I will check in with you here when I have time and maybe give you an update or two. Or not. Perhaps you'll enjoy a rest from my daily declamations.

See you in about two weeks.

Oh, wait. One more thing: It's Darlene Costner's birthday today - she's 84. Go wish her happy birthday.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Love Your Address Bar

As Claire Jean points at The Elder Storytelling Place today, I screwed up something yesterday and did not link to the ESP story by Leah Aronoff. Here is the link to And It's Only April. Please do go read it.

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.

Some of you can skip today's post. Some of you shouldn't. Here's how to decide whether to keep reading:

Do you know how to find a web site by going straight to the location? If so, you can skip.

Do you know what a location or address bar is but don't use it much? If so, maybe you can skip.

Do you search for everything on Google, even when you know what you want? If so, you should keep reading.

Do you struggle to type long URLs including the http:// in the location bar when you know where you want to go? If so, you should keep reading.

Still Reading?
Let's get right to a definition of terms. Every browser has a location bar, also known as an address bar, also known as a navigation bar. Different browsers use different names. It's the spot where you see the URL of the page you are reading. What's a URL? It's a web site address.


If you don't see this at the top of your browser, you can make it show by finding it in the View Menu. In this image from Firefox, you see that it is View > Toolbars > Navigation Toolbar.


Do You Know Where You are Going?
I'm not getting philosophical here, I'm talking about web sites. When you sit down before your browser, do you know where you're going?

Yes? Here's the important next question. How do you get where you're going? Let's use a specific example. Suppose you know you want to go to a local TV station's web site. One of my local TV stations is called KOB. How would I get to the KOB TV site?

Here's the slow and inefficient way to do it: Go to Google. Type KOB TV in the search bar. Wait for the search. When the web site link appears in the search results, click it.

Here's the quick and easy way to do it: Go to the address bar at the top of the window and delete whatever is already there. (Click anywhere in what it says there already; it should all be highlighted and you can just click delete.)


Then type in the blank space. In my example, I would type KOB. But you could put the name of any website you know there: Sprint, Southwest Airlines, Dell, New York Times, Time Goes By, whatever.


The browser will usually find what you want, unless it's a pretty obscure website. The browser will take you directly to the home page of the site. If there are a number of similarly named sites with different domain extensions (like .com, .org, and .edu), you get a page of search results so you can pick the one you meant.

If you type Web Teacher in a browser location bar you get a search result because there are a number of sites called Web Teacher. The one I recommend is Okay, full disclosure: it's my blog.

If you know that there are several sites called Web Teacher and you know that the absolute best one is, then go to the location bar and type You'll go straight to the right place. No http:// or anything else needed.

You've Got a History
In the extreme right end of your location bar, you see a triangle. If you click on that triangle, you see a list of some of the frequented web sites in your history. (Your browser keeps track of where you go and calls this data history.)


If you visit a site often, you can probably find it in this list. Scroll down to the name and click. You don't have to type anything.

If you read this far, I hope you learned something about using your browser a little more efficiently to help you get where you want to go as quickly as possible. URL, anyone?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, a note from Ronni.

Where in the World are TGB Readers

blogging bug image While prepping guest blogs for publishing during an upcoming trip, I was startled to notice that in addition to many points across the US, several are written by elders resident in Canada, Greece, Australia, Japan and the U.K.

If you have been using the internet for any reasonable length of time, you probably have friends now in faraway places you've never been and may never visit. We become accustomed to all this internationalism, although the time lag can be amusing.

When I'm perusing email with my morning coffee, it is time for Peter Tibbles' dinner in Melbourne - not to mention that his seasons are the reverse of North America's. I never could figure out what day or time it was there when I corresponded with a scientist who was working in Antarctica for a year. And no matter what time it is here in Portland, Maine, it is almost always tomorrow in Japan where Bob Brady (Pure Land Mountain) lives.

I've been thinking about Bob more than usual recently due to squirrels digging in my deck farm. His garden thieves are monkeys. Monkeys! The most exotic animal I've ever seen around my home is a moose who sauntered down my street during the first year I was here. But monkeys - it's like having your own zoo.

I might never have known there are places in the world where monkeys are yard pests if I hadn't started blogging.

Most Time Goes By readers live in the U.S., but some are scattered around the globe too. So I think it would be fun (and a good bit of relief) to ignore, for a day, Republican sniping at one another; what Nancy Pelosi knew about waterboarding and when she knew it; along with whether Republicans will lose what little Latino vote they have if they try to block the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Instead, let's give it all a rest and do an informal poll of where we live. There is no special survey page. Just post your city, state or province, and country in the comments. I will then tabulate the responses and have an ordered list with the number of people in each place for us on Friday.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Leah Aronoff: And It's Only April.

GAY AND GRAY: Outreach to Elders

[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.]

Jan couvillon offers water When I approached the table at the demonstraton to preserve services for elders, Jan Couvillon instantly sized me up as one of the people she works with and handed me a bottle of water. Couvillon is the actvities manager for New Leaf Outreach to Elders.

"I manage 24 social activities, put on five of them myself, and get out the newsletter too," she explained.

She stepped away from the table long enough to give me a quick overview of New Leaf programs. The gay friendly agency makes social service referrals, trains "friendly visitors” to buddy with lonely elders, conducts in-home assessments and keeps up a busy calendar of community building offerings.

Since this is famously expensive San Francisco, Couvillon told me much of New Leaf's work concerns affordable housing: keeping elders in affordable rentals they've long occupied; explaining the few protections that people have against owners seeking to turn their buildings into condos; and helping elders find alternative spaces if they lose the ones they have. Many poorer LGBT elders live alone in rooms in the Tenderloin, a densely-packed, low-income, center city district.

Couvillon's social activities programs seek to break the isolation that can lock LGBT elders off from community. She says many of her folks say they "don't know anyone like me." Once they find out they can meet others "like them," many will come to hear speakers, take gentle yoga classes, join writing groups and attend potlucks. She annually runs a series on sexuality in older women for older women.

Most of these groups are single gender. Couvillon explained: "Well, the men and the women don't want to be together. They say 'we're gay or lesbian after all.' I finally got the social groups to come together for Thanksgiving by cooking for them."

Couvillon explained that almost all the elders she works with are afraid - afraid for their safety as lesbians or gays. Many have been in the closet most of their lives. They fear that as they age, they might end up in a "senior living facility" or a nursing home. If other people were to know they are gay, they might be abused by other residents or staff. Or, perhaps worse, they might just be left alone, "stuck off in a room somewhere and no one would ever touch them."

"Does this happen?" I asked Couvillon.

She looked worried: "I think it happens more than New Leaf is aware of. Because so many of our elders are in the closet, they don't have anyone to tell."

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: A Little Boy's Worry.

“Old Feeble” People are Kindle Buyers

category_bug_ageism.gif A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the insidious subtlety of ageist language. Now and then, however, something turns up that is so blatant and egregiously repellent that you need to go back for a second and even third read to be certain you understood it correctly.

Mary Jamison forwarded a story about the Kindle, Amazon's electronic book and magazine reader. It's easiest to just show you the headline:


This appeared on 1 May 2009 at a website named 24/7 Wall Street. The reporter, Douglas A. McIntyre, may not have written that headline – editors often do that – but according to the byline, he did write the story and it is pockmarked with equally ageist bigotry. Some examples:

“People who should have fixed habits including reading physical books using reading glasses are buying an electronic book reader instead.”
“An issue of The Reader’s Digest for Kindle costs only $1.25, but that is a publication for older people, as are most of the Kindle magazines which include old people favorites Forbes, The Atlantic, and US News.”
“...old people with money are the largest consumers of a number of things besides multivitamins and sweaters...”
“...a great many of the people driving dangerously fast cars are in their late fifties and their sixties.”
“The Kindle is being bought by mature and well-to-do consumers. Amazon will just have to live with that.”

Nearly every sentence of this short, 550-word story contains a disparaging shot at elders. (I wonder if Douglas A. McIntyre kicks his grandmother – if he ever bothers to visit her.)

According to the rare fact contained in this diatribe against elders, from a Gallup poll, 50 percent of people who use Kindles are older than 50. Twenty-seven percent are older than 60. And according to Mr. McIntyre in that final quotation above, Amazon may not want potential customers to know that. Or, it is equally possible that McIntyre might be unfairly projecting his own prejudices on Amazon's marketing department.

Noting that Oprah Winfrey was born in the pre-historic year of 1954, McIntyre says it is understandable that Kindle sales spiked after she touted the reader on her television program because “most of the people who watch her on TV or read her magazine are probably middle aged or older.” (He is correct about that.)

If not for Douglas A. McIntyre's general prejudice against old people, this could have been a positive story – for the Amazon Kindle and elders.

Since it was supposed to be a business marketing piece, what if the headline had read, “Elders Boost Kindle Sales.” And what if the reporter had done the work he is paid for instead of just quoting two Gallup metrics, and had interviewed some old people about why they like the Kindle and how, since conventional wisdom dictates that elders can't learn new technology, they came to adopt it.

Apparently Doulas A. McIntyre is so deeply embedded in his bigotry that he couldn't see the real story in the Gallup numbers – that it is elders who are making Kindle the success it is so far.

Or maybe he just doesn't like old people butting in on technology he believes should belong to young people.

As to that headline, beyond its offensiveness, McIntyre or his editor needs a dictionary; it is unlikely that anyone who is “feeble” is using a Kindle.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Jo-Jo the Monkey Faced Girl.

Elder Music – or Maybe Not

Somehow I omitted “Elder Music” from my to-do list this week and today dawned with nothing to publish.

It wouldn't be a lot of work to hastily cobble together something for you, but it's a pleasant early morning here, the air washed clean from an overnight rain. The birds are twittering and the squirrels are already scrambling about the trees, fences and electrical wires, eagle eyes zeroing in on backyard kitchen gardens and deck farms from which to thieve their breakfast.

It is chilly, just 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but wrapped in a couple of sweater layers sipping a cup of freshly-brewed, hot coffee on the deck, I have no inclination to disturb this morning idyll with electronic sound and a jumble of html code.

So enjoy your Sunday, I'll be back tomorrow and if you are looking for some thoughtful reading to ponder, I recommend this story from today's New York Times Magazine - The Case for Working With Your Hands.

This Week in Elder News - 23 May 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.

Claude of Blogging in Paris alerted me to the work of her Flickr friend, 86-year-old artist, Norma McGuire (also known as Nonie Vogue) whose work ranges from photography to quilting, painting and recently she branched out into sketching. Here are some samples and you can see more here, here and here, plus Claude's birthday tribute to Norma.

 5 May 06 quilt 7

19 Pen and ink sketch

19 Nov 07 watercolour St. Johns, Newfoundland

Joan Didion's book about the year following her husband's death has been around for awhile now, but it's good to see a review from an elder's perspective. It's amba of ambivablog's 85-year-old mother, Jean Gottlieb. You can read it at amba's blog.

On Wednesday, I wrote again about Dr. Bill Thomas, Green Houses and his latest video campaigning to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show. In that video, Dr. Thomas asked viewers to make their own videos or write stories about the experiences with growing old. Darlene of Darlene's Hodgepodge followed through.

“My days are full of the simple pleasures,” she writes. “I am grateful for the parts that still work. I can read, watch programs that I enjoy, write and call friends, or simply do nothing. The choice is mine and mine alone.”

Read more of her beautiful and honest post here.

After a disgusting story like this one, there can be no doubt that we need more of Dr. Thomas's Green Houses than ever before. The New Jersey Department of Public Advocate reports that an assisted living company that operates eight facilities in their state threw out aging residents after having lied to them about being able to remain when their savings were depleted and they converted to Medicare.

“...the company, Wisconsin-based Assisted Living Concepts, instituted a policy of involuntarily discharging elderly residents once they had spent-down all of their life savings, leaving them essentially destitute, said Chen.”

Read more here. (Hat tip to Susan Gulliford)

Much ado is made about how much more dangerous childhood is these days that when we were kids. I don't believe it nor does Robin Hemley who recounts some of his childhood adventures:

"I built a bomb when I was nine. I rooted around under the sink and poured every chemical I could find (this was the 1960s, chemicals were never in short supply) and poured them into a Windex bottle and made a fuse out of a shoelace. Then I went outside and placed the bottle in a field full of dry brush.

"I didn't think it would work. It did. I set the field on fire, but luckily I was able to stamp it out before it spread and burned down the neighborhood. My sneakers melted."

More of his fright-producing adventures are here.

According to a new blog about funerals, the ancient Greeks hired professional mourners.

“...hired mourning continued; through the Middle Ages and the Age of Enlightenment it was practiced in Ireland, Egypt, Spain, Italy, Romania, and China. And then, sometime in the last century, for the most part, it stopped,” writes Justin Nobel.

There is at lot more information on the ways and means of sending the dear departed off into the great unknown at

This story from the BBC is about research that appears to show working past retirement age may ward off Alzheimer's Disease. There have been a lot of such news items in the past year and I'm just cynical enough to notice that they have turned up in force following the wipeout of retirees' savings in the economic collapse giving many elders no choice but to return to the workforce.

Last summer, I went on a rant about the oxymoron of fashion for elder bodies. Now at least one other person has taken up this cudgel against fashion designers who have an extreme preference for 20-year-old bodies. This graph from the story shows the change in spending on clothing by women between March 2008 and March 2009.


The story also contains some interesting information about new ways to purchase clothes online. Read more here. (Hat tip to Paula Kimbrough)

Like me, you have undoubtedly noticed over the years that photographs accompanying obituary notices in newspapers invariably show the newly deceased at a much younger age. A recent study of one Ohio newspaper over a period of 30 years revealed an increase of 17 percent in “age-inappropriate” obit photos.

"Families may want to show pictures or tell stories of their deceased family member at his or her peak," [said one of the researchers]. "We have a lot of pictures of young age, but how about pictures of old age? We might want to think about this related to ageism in society."

Read more here.

My Australian friend, Peter Tibbles, sent along this amazing story of a 94-year-old Japanese man who survived the nuclear bombings at BOTH Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You can read it here and listen to the interview.

The Deck Farm Chez Bennett

category_bug_journal2.gif On Monday afternoon, the weather service warned of an overnight frost and that delicate plants could die if not protected.

Damn. I had just moved the early season's plantings outdoors that morning. So I dragged them all inside - I haven't spent the past two months preparing what I am now referring to as the “deck farm” to lose everything to Maine's delayed spring.

It began in mid-March when I obtained this mini-greenhouse and sowed the seeds of what I intend to be summer's bounty. If you look closely, you can see the first few sprouts in the lower left only a week after I planted them.


Yesterday dawned bright, sunny and cool although, in contrast to Monday, an 85-degree day was forecast. The pink tree across the street glowed in the early morning light.


It is high season for lilacs in Portland, Maine so I picked up a big bunch at the farmers' market on Wednesday to brighten the dining table.


And I couldn't resist these long-stemmed narcissus. (Well, I think they aren't narcissus, but close enough.) It's an indulgence to spend money on cut flowers in these tough economic times, but I miss having them in the house year 'round.

In New York, unlike Portland, there are flower stalls on nearly every corner and I factored the weekly expense into my budget when I lived there because having fresh flowers in the house makes me happy.


But back to the deck farm. Making a leap of faith that Monday night had been the last frost, Farmer Ronni again dragged all the plantings out to the deck on Tuesday. And look at this: it won't be long until I'm picking my own lettuce for dinner.


The peppers, which I grew from seed are doing well.


For several years, photos of strawberries growing in bags like these have intrigued me, so I am trying it this year. They are already off to a good start.


Although it is only about half its original size, the blueberry bush survived the squirrel attack and he (or she) hasn't been seen since.


There appears to be a bumper crop of the long-tailed, furry little buggers this year - they are everywhere - and I'm hoping they don't like onions. There will be plenty of scallions for salads and stir-fries before long.


Did you notice the neighbor's lilac blooms peeking out between the scallions on the other side of the fence? I'd have saved my money at the farmer's market if I could have cut some, but they are just out of reach and it would ruin the summer if I fell off the deck and broke an arm or a leg.


What's in your garden this summer season?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: The Hike

Credit Card Loan Sharks

So even with tens of billions of dollars from you and Crabby Old Lady to save their sorry asses, credit card banks need legislation to keep them from acting like the local loan shark.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives overwhelming passed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 which the Senate had overwhelming passed on Tuesday. President Obama is expected to sign the new rules into law.

In their story immediately following the Senate vote yesterday, The New York Times reported:

"Democrats said the rules were needed because the companies were engaging in abusive practices at a time when Americans were more reliant on their cards because of the recession."

Crabby Old Lady can't help but wonder if that means Democrats believe abusive practices by the banks are acceptable during non-recessionary times.

The mandated changes in the Senate bill reveal the extent to which credit card banks have been abusiing customers for decades:

• Banks will now be required to send out bills at least 21 days before payment is due rather than 14 days or, as happened to Crabby once, seven days before the due date

• The cutoff time before late charges kick in on the due date would now be 5PM instead of an early morning hour as in the past

• No more late charges if the due date falls on a Sunday or holiday and your payment arrives a day later

• If there are charges on your bill with several different interest rates and you make a partial payment, now the payment would be applied first to the highest rate charges, not the lowest

• You must be given at least 45 days notice of increased interest rates (Crabby just received an increase that goes into effect in 30 days)

• Penalty fees and penalty interest rates can no longer be applied until you are at least 60 days late with the minimum payment

• Overdraft privileges are now “opt in” rather than applied automatically – with a big, fat fee – if you go over your credit limit

These are the major changes. There are others and more details in the full text of the bill.

It sounds pretty good, right? And the restrictions are needed. But did you notice the giant hole in this legislation? That's right – there is no cap on interest rates. Some individual states limit interest rates, but this bill is silent on the issue. You can thank the banking lobby our senators are beholden to for that.

While the bill was being written, Senator Bernie Sanders tried to add an amendment that would have capped interest rates at 15 percent which is still unreasonable, but better. It got only 33 votes of support.

"When banks are charging 30 percent interest rates, they are not making credit available," said Senator Sanders. "They are engaged in loan sharking."

But Congress is listening to the bank lobby, not one of their own, so we are stuck with credit card “reform” that leaves the biggest outrage intact. And mark Crabby's word – the banks will figure out new ways to further gouge us.

Oh, wait. They have already announced (threatened?) one such method - they will reinstitute annual fees:

“People who routinely pay off their credit card balances have been enjoying the equivalent of a free ride, [David Robertson, publisher of the Nilson Report, which tracks the credit card business], said, because many have not had to pay an annual fee even as they collect points for air travel and other perks.

“'Despite all the terrible things that have been said, you’re making out like a bandit,' he said. 'That’s a third of credit card customers, 50 million people who have gotten a great deal.'”
The New York Times, 19 May 2008

That's just horse pucky. Banks charge merchants up to six percent for each credit card transaction. They charge outrageously high fees to customers for cash advances and other transactions that don't relate to paying in full each month. And there is no requirement to offer cash back, travel points and other incentives - Crabby Old Lady has never used them anyway.

Whatever default trouble the credit card divisions of banks say they are suffering is similar to the bank housing collapse: they handed out billions of credit cards to people without the means to pay. That is just dumb and Crabby Old Lady is incensed that the banking industry will now require their customers to pay for their own bad business practices.

Congress and the media are crowing about the wonderful legislation that has been created. But it falls far short of real reform and leaves the banks a lot of room to continue their predator/prey business model.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Camille Koepnick Shaffer: The Tag Team Rascals.

Hello Oprah – An Elder Advocate's Appeal – Part 2

A week or so ago, I posted a story about Dr. Bill Thomas's campaign to appear on Oprah Winfrey's television program. Today, I have more for you.

Understand that I am a fan, a BIG fan of Dr. Bill Thomas. I cannot name another person who has done more and continues, non-stop, to do more for elders that has borne as much fruit as this smart, kind, caring, good man.

He didn't start out to be a geriatrician or an activist improving the lives of elders. Circumstances conspired to bring him to this calling. I'll let him tell you about how it happened in this video [15:23]:

[The Eden Alternative -- Discovering a Life Worth Living from Kavan Peterson on Vimeo].

Toward the end of that video you just watched, Dr. Thomas explains the philosophy of the Eden Alternative which he created with his wife. Out of it grew the idea for the Green House Project, a new kind of living place for elders that is beginning to make old-style, institutional nursing homes obsolete, and dramatically improving the lives of the elders who live in these homes.

Today, there are Green Houses in all 50 states and in ten or more countries around the world. Here is video about the first Green House in Tupelo, Mississippi [7:34 minutes].

If the day comes when I can no longer manage life on my own, I will do everything in my power to join a Green House. Take a look at this one in Tioga, New York [6:53 minutes]:

In his previous “Hello Oprah” video, Dr. Thomas asked you to contact Oprah to request his appearance on her show. In Part 2, he is asking you to do more. Here is his challenge for you [2:54 minutes]:

If you can make a video, please, please do so. It doesn't need to be long – a minute or two will do. Tell people – and Oprah – a personal story about getting old, then post it to YouTube.

If you can't make a video because you don't have the equipment or can't figure out how to do it, a written story – a personal one about your own aging – will also help. If you don't have a blog, post your story in the comments here – length doesn't matter. If you make a video or post to your own blog, let me know and I'll pass on the URLs from YouTube and your blogs to Dr. Thomas.

Every one of us can do our part to help convince Oprah that there is more to old age than anti-aging which she has spent years promoting. She is 55 years old now and it's time for her to use the phenomenal media power she has promote the richness of old age.

There are more videos by Dr. Thomas and about the Eden Alternative here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Pat Tomlinson: I Yelled at You Today.


[EDITORIAL NOTE: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman (bio) writes the bi-weekly 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 I’ve covered a couple of wars in my reporting days - the 1971 war between Pakistan and India, their second or maybe third, and the 1973 Yom Kippur Arab-Israeli conflict, their third or fourth. I say “covered,” but that’s not possible. All I could see and write about was my small corner of the wars. But that was enough to teach me how little the war makers really know about war.

For example, I watched a dog fight in the sky above Egypt during the Yom Kippur war from the top of an Israeli tank that had crossed the Suez Canal the night before. I couldn’t hear the sounds of the planes above the noise of the tank. But soon one plane, we thought it was the Egyptian, went down and crashed a mile or so away. There were no cheers, but I remember thinking, “someone died.” I wondered, did anybody watching realize that?

I had been called away from a European vacation with my wife and younger daughter to cover the war from the Israeli side. Israel was reeling from simultaneous Syrian and Egyptian invasions. The older daughter was wandering in Israel when the war broke out.

In the states, Watergate was coming to some sort of climax, but I was getting away to Europe because I had helped break the story about Vice President Spiro Agnew’s bribe-taking. Covering the Arab-Israeli War was a welcome change.

But it presented me with a new dilemma, as a Jew. I was driving back from the front in Sinai to Tel Aviv with a colleague from The New York Times when we were stopped by an Israeli convoy. It was carrying portable bridge sections, which meant the Israelis were planning a Suez Canal crossing to flank and surround the Egyptians.

Should we have reported that and killed the Israeli surprise? I doubt if we could have gotten it past the censors, but there was a way. Should we have taken it? We didn’t, for it would have meant a great loss of Israeli lives. As it turned out, the Israelis didn’t attack the Egyptians and at war’s end, Israel had lost territory for the first time. Would I have made the same decision reporting from the Arab side? I hope so.

That’s part of the trouble with modern war. Much of it is remote and surreal, like that silent dogfight. Not until later, when the tank reached the crash, did we see the body; it looked like a mannequin with arms and legs splayed like a stick figure. Even the dead in war often look unreal, undead. From the air or from afar, no one really knows what or who the bomb or rocket or artillery round may be killing.

Maybe that’s what makes it morally easier for Hamas to fire a rocket toward an unseen target, for Israeli planes and mortars to demolish Gaza homes and offices, for American planes to kill innocents in surgical strikes aimed at the Taliban. The dead are unseen; indeed under Jewish law and the Muslim faith, the dead are buried before the investigators can come.

And of course, everyone who was responsible regrets “the loss of innocent life,” as if the deaths of non-innocents are okay.

I am not a pacifist, though I admire a principled pacifist - to a point. Some wars against some enemies need to be fought. But I can’t think of a war that could not have been prevented. One reason I can dig pacifism is because I can no longer distinguish between the innocents and the non-innocents. Today’s innocent is tomorrow’s non-innocent. Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the U.S. support Iraq and Saddam Hussein against Iran after we sold arms to Iran, which was before Hussein invaded our innocent sheik friends in Kuwait?

Didn’t Israel encourage the formation of Hamas in Gaza as a fundamentalist Muslim counter to the then hated and decidedly secular Palestine Liberation Organization of Yassir Arafat? I was in Israel in those days and Hamas, which had been scorned in Egypt as too radical, took root with Israeli approval as a kind of community political and service organization.

Now the Palestinian Authority are the good guys, although they are walled off from Israel and their own lands. And Hamas, whose organizing paid off politically, became Israel’s worst enemy and was supposedly the target of a devastating 22-day attack that incidentally killed 1,300 people, including 400 children. Only the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch people who come in later, shuffling among the ruins and smelling death understand what happened, despite the predictable denials.

As long as we’re on the subject of unintended consequences (unintended, perhaps, but easily foreseen), was the U.S. not enthralled with the Taliban when their American-made, shoulder-fired missile-launchers brought down Soviet helicopters killing scores of Russians and running them Russians out of Afghanistan?

I remember American reporters in their bush jackets, singing the praises of the valiant Muhjahadeen fighters. Then they took over a secular government in Afghanistan, smashed ancient monuments, turned the country and its women back to the 13th century and gave cover to Osama Ben Laden. Now we bomb the Taliban and the civilians - killing innocents among the non-innocent with missile strikes with impersonal drones. And we and the Afghans send in investigators with the Red Cross and Human Rights watchers, some of whom had been investigating in Gaza.

Only when I saw war on the ground did I know for sure people died. Not just died; they were torn apart, and then they died. Seeing war up close is what ended the Vietnam tragedy; seeing war up close is what is ending our participation in the Iraq stupidity. That’s the reason the Bush and his other draft dodgers did not want us to see caskets, perhaps because they did not want to see them.

They were far removed from the killing. The writer E.L. Doctorow (Ragtime) wrote of George W. Bush in 2004, “I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our 21-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be.” Nor did he suffer the death of the Iraqi, Afghan, Israeli or Palestinian that his policies caused.

I knew death close-up from the other, earlier war, between India and Pakistan in 1971, over the land known as East Pakistan, until it became Bangladesh, thanks to the strength of the Indian Army which had the backing of the then Soviet Union, while the U.S. tilted towards Pakistan. I remember taking cover in a farmer’s field while the Indian and Pakistani artillery traded rounds and I was rooting for the Soviet-made guns.

A few minutes earlier, I had been chatting with three Indian soldiers in a small shack among the trees, comparing our watches. Suddenly, I thought that shack would make a target for a Pakistani gunner and I left. Sure enough, the guns opened fire and I lay between furrows in the field until the firing stopped.

I went back to the shack to find it had been demolished and my three friends were dead, torn apart by shrapnel. But their watches still kept time. Cruel anomalies when allies become enemies and enemies become friends until next time - that’s the absurdity that is war.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Claudia Chyle Smith: The Wedding Gown.

The Elder Storytelling Place: Applause is Good

blogging bug image It is just a little more two years ago – April 2007 - that a companion blog to Time Goes By, The Elder Storytelling Place, was launched. I no longer remember the reason I started it, but I have no doubt that it was and is still one of the better ideas I ever had. Every week I am delighted with the new batch of stories. It's some of the most entertaining reading I do – from all sources.

We seem to be hardwired for storytelling and indeed, experts say it is important to collect and organize our stories for ourselves as we get older - it helps give meaning to the lives we have lived. And it is good to share those stories.

Some say storytelling is a necessity, second only to food and ahead of love and shelter in its importance. It is not just books, movies and TV shows which tell us stories; everything is storytelling – advertisements, news, politics, television commercials, the back of the cereal box. Each one, however short, contains a beginning, middle and end and engages us in its plot.

Recently, a new contributor to The Elder Storytelling Place emailed supposing that many stories are rejected for not meeting some standard or criteria I have set. Not so. In these two years, I have rejected no more than three or four, maybe five stories and then only for bigotry or similar objectionable material. One execrable piece objectifying women comes to mind.

A handful of misguided people aside, I am awed by the storytelling ability that is on display at The Elder Storytelling Place. Certainly some are better than others, but overall the stories cover the gamut of emotions, are well told and entertaining. They amuse and teach, make me laugh and cry and never bore me.

I suppose one could guess that only people who are good at storytelling bother to submit any. But after two years and more than 500 stories, I suspect it has more to do with the fact that storytelling is bred in our bones.

And, perhaps, elders have simply spent more time with the written word than some younger people, many of whose blogs leave me cringing at the poor writing. I try to be generous and hope they will improve with time.

Having grown up without the distractions of 24/7 television and, in the past 20 years, video games and now with Twitter, Facebook and other social phenomena encouraging one- or two-sentence communication, elders may simply have more practice both at reading and telling stories.

Some contributors have submitted many stories over these two years. If there is a writer you particularly like, you can find past stories in the drop down menu in the right sidebar of The Elder Storytelling Place under the header, The Storytellers. Just click on a name and you will be taken to a page with links to all their stories.

Readership continues to grow at The Elder Storytelling Place but lately, the number of comments on stories has fallen off quite a bit. So I'm writing today to urge readers, when you have enjoyed a story, to take a couple of minutes to let the writer know. Or to add some information. Or pass on something the story may remind you of.

The Elder Storytelling Place is a community blog with many authors, a place to meet and talk and share. And, applause is good; everyone likes to be recognized for what they have accomplished.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, is Brenton “Sandy” Dickson: Catching Old Age.

ELDER MUSIC: Songs You Love to Hate

Today's Elder Music post is from Peter Tibbles – I'll let him tell you about himself:

I'm an Australian from a small country town with a strange name (the town that is; oh me too, I guess) who now lives in the big smoke (Melbourne). I'm divorced with no kids (which means, of course, that I never grew up). A mathematician by training, I've worked for more than 40 years in the IT industry (which may be some sort of a record). In a nutshell:

I drink wine
I listen to music
I read books
Often at the same time.

There will be something in this article guaranteed to offend everyone. At the very least, it should make you go "Eeeuuuu yuck". I'll consider myself a failure if it doesn't.

These are songs you refuse to admit to anyone else that you like (but really do). Or is that just me? I'm happy to shout it from the rooftops or write it in a blog. I liked these songs when they came out. Well, most of them. Okay, some of them. The "best" of these came from that interesting musical period: the cusp of the fifties into the sixties. These are (mostly teenage) Death Disks.

I'll start at the top. At the pinnacle of Death Diskdom (try saying that three times quickly) was the king of them all, the all time champion Tell Laura I Love Her. This was recorded by Ray Peterson.

Incidentally, there was a follow up to this called Tell Tommy I Miss Him by Skeeter Davis (and others). I won't bother with this as it's the same song with different words told from Laura's point of view. "Reply" songs were a bit of a fad around that time.

The next, about the same time, and the only rival to "Laura" is Mark Dinning's Teen Angel. Now, you have to have some sympathy for the previous bloke driving around trying to earn some money for a wedding ring, but I have nothing but scorn for the Teen Angel of the title. After all, "I pulled you out and we were safe, but you went running back". What a cretin.

I don't know what the Everly Brothers were thinking of when they recorded Ebony Eyes. Well, they needed something for the flip side of Walk Right Back, I suppose. It seems that they have never performed the song in concert. Indeed, this recording was the only time they've sung it (or so they say).

The song Endless Sleep by Jody Reynolds is technically not a death song as no one actually died in it. At least I don't think so - the ending's a bit enigmatic. It just sounds as if it should be one (if it isn't).

Pat Boone. Ah, Pat. What a wonderful song you gave us in Moody River. I can almost forgive you for your appalling Fats Domino and Little Richard covers because of this one. Almost, but not quite. Fortunately, here in Melbourne we had a great DJ called Stan Rofe, on radio station 3KZ, who played the originals, so it wasn't till much later I heard Pat do those songs. However, back to Moody River. What's with this "vainest knife" business, Pat?

There's a song about real people, not made up ones as I've featured so far, that must be included. This doesn't make it any better than the others though. Indeed, it's probably worse. The real people mentioned in it are Charles Holley, Jiles Richardson and Richard Valenzuela. Richardson wrote a song that was on my short list called Running Bear but I thought that it wasn't as bad as this one so it missed the cut. This is Tommy Dee, The Three Stars.

Alright, now to the really appalling stuff. This next song even I can't bear to listen to, but for the sake of you all I've done just that. I wouldn't recommend that for amateurs. Don't try it unless you've spent a lifetime listening to dreadful songs. Even then, I had to have a good lie down in a darkened room for several hours to try to get over it.

I should warn you that anyone suffering from diabetes definitely skip this one. Bobby Goldsboro Honey.

Oh dear, that's awful. Sold a lot, though.

Getting away from the 50s/60s cusp to the 70s we come to my all time favorite death song. I still have a 45 of this in my box. It's a little different in style from the others but I'm including it because I like it. This one makes up for Honey. It makes up for Hello, This is Joannie (Remember that one? I couldn't bring myself to include it). Here is Jack Kittel, Psycho.

When Jimmy Cross recorded I Want My Baby Back he pretty much made the Death Disk obsolete. No one could take it seriously after this one.

But wait, there's still one more. Last and definitely least we have Pat Campbell with The Deal. Anyone who doesn't roll around on the floor laughing while listening to this has a heart of stone.

This Week in Elder News – 16 May 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. Suggestions are welcome with, however, no promises of publication.

An email note arrived from Peter Tibbles about a recent program on Australian television:

“There was a doco on TV tonight on Brigitte Bardot. I watched it (well, I am a bloke of a certain age). She was more interesting and thoughtful than I expected (besides the animal rights stuff that I knew about). I had to write this down: she said,

“'I was sick of having to be pretty every day. Now I'm hideous every day and I'm making up for lost time'.

“How can you not admire a woman with such perspective?”

The annual Trustees' Report on Social Security was released last week announcing that the trust fund will run out of assets in 2037, four years earlier that previous predictions. Undoubtedly, you've read the all the shrill headlines since then.

In reality, nothing has changed except the date when it becomes necessary to begin dipping into the trust fund to pay benefits, and if President Bush had made a few tweaks to the Social Security system instead of wasting two years trying to destroy it with his privatization plan, there wouldn't be a problem, even in a recession.

Here are a couple of links to more thoughtful writing on Social Security:
How Social Security Can Save Us, James K. Galbraith in Mother Jones
The Truth Behind the Social Security and Medicare Alarm Bells, Robert Reich

Healthcare reform is in the wind. One way you can track some of the information is at the Obama administration's new website,

Unfortunately, I lost track of where I read about this video, The Story of Stuff, but I remember there is some controversy about it being shown in schools. It's not anything you don't know, but it brings home sharply how important it is for future life on planet earth to change entirely the way we produce and consume “stuff.” Take the 21:16 minutes to look at this.

This has nothing in particular to do with elders, but my friend Sophy in London sent along a website with some amusing math calculations such as Botox = skin – time – emotion. There are plenty more here.

For the past three years, on his blog at, Andrew Sullivan has been publishing readers' photo submissions in a feature titled, “The View Out My Window” (damn, I wish I'd thought of that).

It's one of my favorite web features. He has amassed more than 1,000 submissions from more than 100 countries and now he has announced that he is publishing an on-demand coffee table book with the best of the photos. Sullivan held a contest to choose one photo for the cover of the book. You can see the winner and the finalists here.

I have no useful knowledge of the science of economics, so I've kept the thought to myself that the entrenched goal of unending growth of economies is deeply stupid, unsustainable, harmful to the planet and its inhabitants. (I can't be sure, but I think our current, worldwide, economic debacle proves that idea – that in trying to create wealth out of nothing, economies of the world have been destroyed). Why, I've wondered, hasn't someone invented an economy that works while shrinking to sustainable levels and then maintains that level?

Journalist William Greider doesn't address that idea directly in Future of the American Dream, but he's getting close. It's a long article and worth reading every word.

When I was a very little girl, my mother took me to see the film, The Red Shoes and it stands as one of my favorites to this day. At the Cannes Film Festival last week, director Martin Scorsese introduced a restored print of the classic, gorgeous movie. Here's a story about how Michael Powell, director of The Red Shoes influenced Scorsese and his work. The new print will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on 29 June when I will be first in line.

In another movie event this week, The Guardian's David Thomson wrote a fascinating tribute to actor James Mason who would have been 100 years old this year. There is a bit of Mason at the beginning of this clip (which mostly features Cary Grant) from Alfred Hitchcock's magnificent North By Northwest. I miss the elegance of this kind of film production. [9:48 minutes]

Childhood Memories and My Recession Garden

category_bug_journal2.gif Even though I got to the farmers' market on Wednesday by 8:30AM, the arugula was gone and it's too early in the season for there to be much other food; I didn't need onions. But there were plenty of plantings available so I bought some lettuce, scallions, green peppers and sweet basil to grow in containers on my deck this year.

At the garden nursery yesterday, I picked up some new pots, additional potting soil, a pair of gardening gloves and a couple of flowering plants to brighten up the vegetables. These will go along with the vines, candy-corn-colored snapdragons and a few other flowers I've grown from seed in the past couple of months.

The strawberries I'm growing in hanging bags arrived from the seed company last week, as did the blueberry bush they say will produce 10 pounds of berries over the season. Blueberries went for $7.50 a pint last year and I paid $7 for the bush, so even if they are exaggerating and I get five pounds, I win.

Or, maybe not. It is still too chilly to hang out on my deck, so a couple of days after potting up the blueberry bush, I went out to check on it and half was missing, chewed off by a @#$%^& squirrel.

I never had squirrels on the deck before, but then I never grew food before either. I've now attached some thin, plastic webbing around the plant, but those furry little buggers have thumbs, you know, so I suspect there will be war between the squirrels and me this year. I invested three dollars in a big bag of raw, in-the-shell peanuts with which I will to try to distract them. If that fails, I'll shoot them. (Just kidding)

All this put me in mind of my childhood when my mother kept a kitchen garden, a left-over habit, perhaps, from World War II victory gardens. She would send me out to the garden when she was preparing dinner to pull carrots, pick beans or peas, bring in a lettuce or gather sweet peas to put in a vase for the table.

I had earlier helped with the planting and what amazes me today is how much I remember about how to do all this. It's a bit different in that I do container gardening now rather than in the yard and outside of a few pots of flowers, I haven't had much practice in the intervening 60 years – but Mom's lessons are still there.

“Just scatter these seeds on top of the ground.” “Now these seeds have to be planted deeper, like this.” “Ronni, it hasn't rained in a couple of days; you'd better go water the garden.” “Don't forget to salt the slugs or they'll eat our tomatoes.”

What else remains from those years is the wonderment. I remember asking my mother how such big carrots or so many flowers could grow from those tiny, little seeds we stuck in the ground together. She didn't have much of an answer, as I recall, and the question came to mind again this week, moreso now that I'm growing vegetables rather than flowers.

The mystery seems larger to me when I can eat the result that is, quite literally, the fruit of my labor. Outside of some water and a little plant food, it really isn't labor at all. It just happens, like the sun coming up each morning.

I read somewhere once that as we get older, we remember our youth more sharply than we did during our midyears. You couldn't prove that by me, but lately it seems to be happening - and just in time for my recession garden.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Norm Jenson admits a thievery in The Shopping Cart.

Respect for the Debilities of Age

On yesterday's post about ageism, a comment from Tamar, who blogs at Only Connect, caught my attention. She wrote about her “shock” at seeing the old people at her new Tai Chi class, some of whom are becoming frail and dependent, and others who use breathing aids:

“Joining them triggered instant negative feelings: Oh, I can't be here, I'm too young, too this, too that...” she said. “Fears appeared to dominate my negative feelings. What to do with my own stuff? Share honestly, join the conversation at TGB, and embrace me today.”

Right on, Tamar - your instincts are perfect. One of the best ways to deal with uncomfortable feelings is to air them openly (and where better than here among ourselves).

As I wrote yesterday, we have spent a lifetime hearing and reading ageist remarks and no matter what we believe intellectually is the right attitude, it's hard to overcome those prejudices. Plus, we don't wake up one day suddenly old. It comes to us gradually that we have entered new territory and if we are among the lucky ones who (so far) have no serious debilities, we resist aligning ourselves with those who do.

That's all right as long as we recognize what we are doing, as Tamar does. Becoming the oldest generation is a learning experience and an opportunity to begin to overcome the biases against elders everyone is subject to given the pervasive dominance of the youth culture. Just because we are old, doesn't mean we are immune to ageist thought, but it is our job to work at improving our attitude.

I have an advantage over some people in that I have read or thought or written about aspects of aging every day for more than a dozen years, so I have a lot of practice at winnowing out my own subtle prejudices. A simplistic example: when I began this blog, I determined never to use cutesy euphemisms for age and I would not avoid the word “old.”

That word was and still is considered an insult by many, but it shouldn't be – it is only a description. In the beginning, it was so foreign to me in that neutral context, that I recoiled (I think I groaned out loud once trying to write it) and my fingers would barely type the letters.

But it took only about three months of forcing myself to write “old” to get over it - for the word to lose its prejudicial baggage. Now it amuses me to see the verbal gyrations some people engage in to avoid using “old.”

We grow and we learn. We rightly fear becoming debilitated as we age. At the most basic level for me, it would be a pain in the ass to have difficulty getting around or breathing or whatever else might one day limit me. But them's the breaks for some of us and the best we can do is accommodate changes when they occur.

Until then, when we presumably adopt a more charitable attitude toward the debilities of age, we can confront our fears and prejudices against others who are not as lucky as we are (although it doesn't need to be in public as Tamar is bravely doing) and in that way overcome them.

If we want the respect of younger people and the culture at large as we get older, we must also respect and accept all elders as members of our tribe, whatever their condition. Sometimes it just takes practice.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sybil Reichek considers one of those big, round-number birthdays in An Octogenarian's Lament.

The Subtlety of Ageism

category_bug_ageism.gif In his forward to the Encyclopedia of Ageism, gerontologist Robert N. Butler writes:

“I first confronted ageism in medical school. We were not taught much about older people, and, indeed, basic knowledge of human aging was minimal. I was shocked at the medical lexicon concerning older persons, abounding as it did with cruel and pejorative terms, such as crock...

Ageism, of course is not isolated within the medical culture. It is pervasive, gross and subtle, and omnipresent.” [emphasis added]

That last sentence cannot be emphasized enough. So common are subtle ageist references that hardly anyone notices the hundreds, perhaps thousands that appear in various media each day. I had intended to hold off writing this piece until I had 15 or 20 examples, but that would be painfully redundant to read. Five will do, four from The New York Times which I read first thing in the morning when my mind is fresh and easily catches ageist lapses:

Columnist Frank Rich:
“But the former party of Lincoln and liberty has now melted down to a fundamentalist core of aging, rural Dixiecrats and intrusive scolds...”

Lloyd Braun quoted by reporter Brooks Barnes:
“We didn’t want to be nasty, and we didn’t want to be your grandmother’s take on celebrity,”

Columnist David Pogue quoting a reader of his Twitter feed:
“ least one person has carefully compiled a list of the 99 videos he thinks you need for a basic education (as he puts it, 'unless you're a loser or old or something').”

Book reviewer Janet Maslin:
“Mr. Leonard, now 83, still writes with high style, great energy, unflappable cool and a jubilant love of the game.”

So in the space of four sentences from a variety of what are undoubtedly normal, ordinary, nice people, elders are subtlely and gratuitously maligned - in passing while discussing something else - to be political fundamentalists, scolds, sickly sweet, losers and surprisingly able to “still” write a good story at an advanced age.

These may seem like small indiscretions not worth mentioning, but when we are bombarded with them every day in all media, they are effective in perpetuating the stereotypes of age. Even, supposedly targeting readers in the third and last age of life, consistently undermines elders with messages promoting the preservation of youth by any means:

“We can slow the clock by maintaining good health habits, and we can also take advantage of cosmetic surgery to keep ourselves looking youthful.”

Why are old people so widely and frequently stigmatized? Because people have heard these disparaging remarks nearly every day from the cradle and since hardly anyone objects, assume they are acceptable. Repetition dulls critical thinking so when old women are repeatedly referred to, for example, as old bags, people believe it's okay.

One way I've tried, in the past, to demonstrate the offensiveness of ageist speech is to apply The TGB Bias Test which substitutes racial or gender references in place of the original ageist ones. Let's give it a whirl on the quotations above:

• “a fundamentalist core of aging female, rural Dixiecrats and intrusive scolds...”

• “we didn’t want to be your grandmother’s black person’s take on celebrity”

• “unless you're a loser or old a woman or something”

• “Mr. Leonard, now 83 who is black, still writes with high style”

• “take advantage of cosmetic surgery to keep ourselves looking youthful white.

Ridiculous? Of course. Offensive? Definitely. They would not get past the editor's blue pencil as the original references did; but no one notices when the words refer to age.

Many people, including some elders, dismiss ageism as not on a par with racism and sexism, but I believe it is not only equal, it affects more people because everyone, no matter their race or gender, gets old.

Ageism is also harmful to our health as Yale psychology professor, Becca Levy, has shown in numerous studies. In one, she and her colleagues tried

“...a method that was used to study the effects of stereotypes about race and gender. The idea is to flash provocative words too quickly for people to be aware they read them.

“In her first study, Dr. Levy tested the memories of 90 healthy older people. Then she flashed positive words about aging like 'guidance,' 'wise,' 'alert,' 'sage' and 'learned' and tested them again. Their memories were better and they even walked faster.

“Next, she flashed negative words like 'dementia, 'decline,' 'senile,' 'confused' and 'decrepit.' This time, her subjects' memories were worse, and their walking paces slowed.”
- The New York Times, 5 October 2006

Writing in the Encyclopedia of Ageism, Professor Levy notes,

“Ageism operates on two levels: conscious (aware, controlled, or explicit) and unconscious (unaware, automatic, or implicit). Both levels apply to the targets as well as the targeters. That is, individuals can perpetuate ageism or be victimized by it, whether or not they are aware of the process.”

I am inclined to believe that the subtle and consistently negative media stereotyping of elders is due to unconscious ageism instilled and repeated from childhood which makes it hard to counter. The only way I know is to point it out – again and again and again and...

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine is thinking about gray hair in her poem, Silver Threads.

THE TGB ELDER GEEK: Blog Subscriptions

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.

A blog updates regularly. Which means you read it regularly, like a magazine or a newspaper. How do you keep track of all the updates from the various blogs you read? There are ways to make it easy to keep up.

Just like the newspaper, you can subscribe to a blog. The subscription comes to you as an RSS feed in a feed reader, or by email. Ronni's blog offers both choices.


I know a number of Ronni's readers subscribe to her blog by email, so I'll talk about that method first.

Subscribe by Email
Simply put your email address in the form and click Subscribe. Each new post will arrive in your inbox as email.

It isn't quite like email, however, even though it comes to you by email. You don't respond to it like email. That is, you don't click Reply to comment on the post. You must click through to the actual website to comment in the comment box under the blog post. Usually, the title of the post is a link that will take you right to the post on Ronni's site.


If anyone has left a comment on the post, you won't see that in your email.

On the other hand, you can forward the email to others in the same way you would share regular email.

Subscribe by RSS Feed
There are special software tools for RSS feeds, called feed readers, or in Google's case, Google Reader. Google Reader is probably the most popular. It's free. It's handy if you're at your computer and have a browser open; you can use Google Reader to read your blogs while you are browsing.

After the problems we had with those of you using Windows in my post about Readability, I wanted to be sure my instructions for Google Reader were going to work for Windows. Thanks to some lovely folks on Twitter, I was able to get images of how you use Google Reader on Windows. My helpers were Elaine Nelson (@epersonae), @RiverGirlCancun and Jason Mobarak (@silverjam).

To get started,

  1. If you don't already have one, establish a Google account at
  2. Sign in to your Google account
  3. Click the link in the upper right that says My Account
  4. Find and click the link for Reader in the list of Google Products
  5. Googleproducts2

  6. You are now in Google Reader and ready to start saving subscriptions
  7. Now, any time you sign in to your Google account, Reader will show up in the links at the top left, along with Gmail and other options. To use the Reader, just click the link.

Three areas marked with ovals are important.


There is a button with a plus sign in it that says "Add Subscription." Under that you see something called Your Stuff. This is where you will store and organize your subscriptions. On the right you see links and buttons that let you see only unread items, or mark everything as read. The large area on the right is where the actual blog posts will appear. It looks quite a bit like email software.

Add Some Subscriptions
Click the Add Subscription button while in Google Reader and you can search for the blog you want to subscribe to.


If you are on a blog site, like Time Goes By, you can click the subscribe button on the blog. A new page will ask you if you want to subscribe by RSS or Atom (these are basically the same thing, either one usually works) and if you want to use Google Reader to do it. Click the Subscribe Now button and the feed will be in your reader whenever you go to Google Reader.


You can create folders to organize your subscriptions; give the folders names you choose yourself. Read the posts from any folder when you are ready. In the following image, you see the list of folders on the left. One called Blogger Friends is selected. On the right, you see the titles of blog posts in that folder. To read a specific one, just double click the title.


Each post includes a link to the actual blog, which you can click to open so you can leave or read comments.


There are additional ways to organize the folders (or subfolders) that will hold your feeds, and different ways to display them in the reader, depending on what you decide to do in the settings for the Google Reader. Or, to put it another way, be sure to go through the Settings for the Google Reader to arrange it the way you want.


The reason Google Reader is so popular is that it works on any computer with any browser. You don't have to download and install anything.

I personally don't use Google Reader. I use feed reader software meant only for Mac users called NetNewsWire that I downloaded and installed. It does basically the same thing Google Reader does, but in a separate application. A similar one for Windows is Feed Demon from NewsGator. Most RSS feed readers like these two are free to download.

The advantage of using a feed reader is that everything you want is in one place, ready to be perused when you are ready to do your daily blog reading.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: If you have a question for Virginia or a suggestion for an Elder Geek column, you may email it using the Contact link in the upper left corner of this page.]

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary E. Davies brings us another Mother's Day story: M is for the Million Things.