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ELDER MUSIC: Singing with Emmylou

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.


category_bug_eldermusic Emmylou Harris is on track to challenge Willie Nelson’s record of singing duets with every person on the planet. Or at least every person who can sing in tune (although that last isn’t a necessary criterion).

So today I’m going to feature Emmylou Harris singing duets. It’s also an excuse to include lots of photos of her.

Emmylou Harris

This one is easy for me as there are three (to my knowledge) CDs available entirely devoted to duets with Emmylou (and I have them all). It’s just a matter of going through them and selecting the best. I would have liked to include all, or most, but that would mean more than fifty songs and I think Ronni might object to that.

Emmy was discovered singing folk songs in various bars in Washington D.C. by Chris Hillman. Chris mentioned her to his one-time band mate from The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons. Gram was recording his first solo album and was on the lookout for someone to sing with him. Boy, did he strike the jackpot.

Emmy with Gram Parsons

Emmy sang on the first album, “GP,” and on Gram’s second, “Grievous Angel.” Gram died before this last one was released of a (well multiple really) drug overdose. He was 26, didn’t quite make the traditional 27 for dying rock stars.

Gram was born into an extremely wealthy but extremely dysfunctional family. Throughout his life he had an annuity that, even today, would see me very comfortable indeed. This was a point of contention with other members of various bands he was in because he didn’t really care if they were successful or not. He just wanted to make the best music he could.

Here he and Emmylou sing We'll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning from the “GP” album.

♫ Emmylou and Gram Parsons - We'll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning

Gary Stewart was named after Gary Cooper. He was one of nine kids all of whose names began with “G”. Well, his parents were George and Georgia. I imagine towards the end of that run they’d be making up names.

Emmy with Gary Stewart

His was a music of dangerous, wild abandon and for a few years there in the seventies, Gazza cut a string of ferocious, magnificent recordings - some of them hits, most of them not.

He was too rock for country, too honky tonk for rock. He wasn’t country rock. He was one of a kind. When he sang, you held your breath wondering if he'd get out of the song alive.

Like Hank Williams, he didn’t get out of this world alive. In December 2003, he was found in his Florida home dead by his own hand, days after his wife of 43 years died of pneumonia.

Here is a song called Rachel from one of his great albums from the seventies, “Your Place or Mine.”

♫ Emmy with Gary Stewart - Rachel

I have to include the Queenston Trio, a joke name they gave themselves when Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton all came to town on the same day.

Queenston

They recorded a couple of albums together called “Trio” and “Trio II”. This track is an outtake from the latter album. How it didn’t make the cut is beyond me as it’s the best thing they have ever done. Anyone who doesn’t get goose-bumps when Linda comes in on the last verse has a heart of stone. This is a great track: Softly and Tenderly.

♫ Emmylou, Linda, Dolly - Softly and Tenderly

For those who came in late, Mark Knopfler was the singer, lead guitarist and song writer for the rock group Dire Straits.

Emmylou with Mark Knopfler

Dire Straits started out as a really fine four-piece band. Eventually they became more and more successful and started doing huge gigs reminiscent of U2 and Led Zeppelin at their bombastic worst. Mark pulled the plug on all this and just did things he wanted to.

One of those things was a fine album with Emmy a couple of years ago called “All the Roadrunning.” This is a song from that album called Love and Happiness.

♫ Mark Knopfler and Emmylou - Love and Happiness

The next is the car crash song. It’s not actually about a car crash, but you know when you’re driving and up ahead there’s a commotion and you see the flashing lights, the ambulance, police, tow trucks and you realise there’s been a serious accident.

You slow down because there’s usually a lane or two blocked, but you’d have slowed down anyway. Even though you claim to be above that sort of thing, you’re going to gawk as you pass. This is that sort of song. I wasn’t going to include it but I knew that I would anyway.

This has peddle steel guitars, talkie bits, unread letters, people dying, the full country catastrophe. It does, however, also have Steve Goodman, one of the most interesting and entertaining singer/songwriters. Alas, Steve died of leukemia at age 36.

Emmy with Steve Goodman

This is one of his little ditties called Fourteen Days.

♫ Emmy with Steve Goodman - Fourteen Days

Yes, yes, I’ve featured Linda Ronstadt already with the Queenston Trio but I’m going with her again. When Chris Hillman introduced Linda and Emmy, he suggested they’d probably become good friends. He was right. Chris was good at introducing Emmy to people. I wish he‘d introduce her to me. Oh, did I say that out loud? Just ignore it.

Emmy with Linda Ronstadt

Anyway, what is there that I can add to what’s already been said about Linda? Nothing really. Any area of music she chooses to sing, she does it better than anyone else and she’s recorded just about every style.

This is Linda and Emmylou with Across the Border from their terrific album “Western Wall.”

♫ Emmylou and Linda - Across the Border

By the way, if you’re looking for those “Trio” albums, don’t ask for the Queenston Trio. They won’t know what you’re talking about.

Here’s another gratuitous photo of Emmy.

Emmylou Harris



GRAY MATTERS: New Medicare Services (CMS) Administrator

SaulFriedman75x75 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman (bio) writes the weekly Gray Matters column which appears here each Saturday. Links to past Gray Matters columns can be found here. Saul's Reflections column, in which he comments on news, politics and social issues from his perspective as one of the younger members of the greatest generation, also appears at Time Goes By twice each month.


While we await the hoped for improvements in the health care reforms, the latest news about the irrational, fragmented and profit-driven American health care system is not good.

In a report released last month by the respected Commonwealth Fund, the United States, which spends twice as much money on health care than other advanced nations, ranks lower than all of them on the quality, efficiency and the cost of care for their citizens.

Most important, the care given and available in these countries is more equitable than in the U.S. The disparity in the care available here for more affluent whites, compared to the poor, blacks and Hispanics is too obvious. There are no uninsured in the countries cited.

The report ranked the United States last when compared to six other nations – Britain, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand - all of which have some form of universal, nationalized or socialized health care.

The report uses data from patient and physician surveys in the seven nations in 2007, 2008 and 2009. In 2007, the U.S. spent $7,290 per person on health care. The per person spending in the six other countries ranged from $2,454 for New Zealand to $2,992 in Britain to $3,895 in Canada. Overall, the survey found that Britain’s National Health Service ranked first in patient and physician satisfaction.

“The findings demonstrate the need to quickly implement provisions in the new health reform law,” said the report. “The new legislation should begin to improve the affordability of health insurance and access to care when fully implemented in 2014.”

The other piece of sorry news is that despite meetings with the president to implement the reforms and warnings from the White House and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, insurance companies have raised the premiums on 14 million private policies and Medicare Advantage by an average of 20 percent.

That survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation [pdf] which found that double digit premium increases were not unusual, was released on June 21. The president ignored that when he met on June 22 with insurance company CEOs and spoke glowingly about the reforms and the hope that the insurance industry would cooperate.

He had warned earlier that “health insurance companies should not use the new health care reform laws as an opportunity to enact unjustifiable rate increases.” But they did and chances are that conduct will continue.

One reason is the trend reported by Wall Street analysts and Bloomberg that U.S. health insurers are “moving towards an oligopoly” in which only a few companies will dominate so much of the market that they will have the power to thwart the already weak regulations. Don McCanne, of Physicians for a National Health Plan, said,

“The insurers will keep 15 to 20 percent of the (increasing) premiums to sell us plans that cover only 60 to 70 percent of our care and they won’t really have to compete with each other.”

Many policyholders have fled to cheaper insurance but their deductibles, now averaging more than $5,000, will go even higher while their coverage will decline. One in five policyholders complain that they or a family member did not get the care they paid for. And four in ten policy holders (38 percent) reported having a problem getting their insurer to pay a bill.

Under the reforms, the insurers must spend 85 percent of their premiums on patient care. But who is to closely enforce that? The answer may be found in why the insurance industry, conservatives who oppose regulations of all kinds and most public health programs and Republicans in the Congress who seek to privatize Medicare have joined in opposition to the President’s choice to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

For the last eight years the leadership of CMS has been benign at best, going along with every Republican effort to weaken Medicare. Medicare was shut out of the Part D prescription drug program which is wholly private and increasingly expensive. The Republican administration increased by billions of dollars the slush fund that finances privatized Medicare Advantage to the financial disadvantage of original Medicare.

Expectations that the weakening of Medicare will cease rest with the president’s CMS nominee, Dr. Donald Berwick, a pediatrician, Harvard Medical School professor and head of the Institute for Health Care Improvement in Boston. And judging from his background, there is little doubt he’d be a strong advocate for Medicare which often influences the conduct and standards for private insurance.

I expect Berwick to be a the strongest defender of Medicare since Bruce Vladeck, who ran what was then the Health Care Financing Administration under President Clinton. That was killed by the Republican Congress and then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Vladeck’s successor, Nancy De Parle, now chief adviser on health reform in the White House, agreed to allow HMOs to sell Medicare policies which began the slow privatization of Medicare. (De Parle became an executive for health care firms, earning $3.5 million in 2006-2007).

Berwick would be an advocate for a stronger Medicare, which would weaken the power of the health insurance lobby. That, I believe, is a major reason Senate Republicans have vowed to kill his nomination which had languished since April in Senator Max Baucus’ Senate Finance Committee. He has yet to schedule hearings or give a reason for the delay.

Tired of Republican stalling, the president gave Dr. Berwick a recess appointment this past week to run CMS. He will still have to be confirmed when the Congress returns, but that should be easier. And in the meantime, CMS will have the strong leadership It's been lacking for too long.

Praise for Berwick has been universal among the academic health community including Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth. He has won praise from AARP executive vice president John Rother who said Berwick’s Institute has “saved lives and money” and that his “appointment is welcome news to Medicare beneficiaries.” The American Hospital Association praised Berwick for leading a movement to make hospitals safer. And Kaiser Health News called Berwick an “inspirational leader.”

So why are Republicans calling him a “radical?” One of his sins was to give limited praise for the British National Health Service although, as Linda Bergthold pointed out in Huffington Post on June 1, Berwick has criticized its faults and is not seeking a government takeover of U.S. health care.

Republicans and Fox News commentators have also jumped on part of a 2008 speech, in which he said,

“Any health care funding plan that is just equitable, civilized and humane must – must – redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate. Excellent health care is by definition, redistributional.”

Berwick was charged with wanting to “spread the wealth around” as if that’s a bad idea.

Berwick was also accused of supporting health care rationing because he spoke truth when he said,

“the decision is not whether or not we will ration care – the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open. And right now we are doing it blindly...”

That is, allowing insurance companies to decide who and what they will cover.

One cannot write about Berwick without recalling his personal encounter with the dangers in American health care, when his wife almost died from a medical error when she was receiving powerful chemotherapy. He was at her bedside to save her from what might have been a fatal overdose of the medicine. Reducing medical errors in hospitals, said Bergthold, has become Berwick's life’s work.

Write to saulfriedman@comcast.net


Reverse Mortgages – Part 3: Finding a Lender

category_bug_journal2.gif First, two EDITORIAL NOTES about reverse mortgages:

Item 1: They are not as complex as some would have you believe, but there are a lot of details and they are not to be taken on lightly. Ninety-five percent of all reverse mortgages are HECMs (Home Equity Conversion Mortgages) - that is, insured by the FHA under regulations of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Jumbo reverse mortgages, sometimes made by private lenders, are not insured by the FHA or regulated by HUD. These would be reverse mortgages for amounts larger than $625,500, which is the lending limit of a HECM.

Personally, I would consider no other kind and HECMs are the only ones about which I am writing in this series. I cannot answer questions about any other sort of reverse mortgage.

Item 2: You may have seen a short piece about reverse mortgages in the current Time magazine written by Stephen Gandel. Nearly every sentence contains false or misinformation and half-truths including this:

“[A reverse mortgage] gives the homeowner the value of their house minus the cost of the loan in exchange for the right to sell the property when the person or persons die or move out.”

No, you do not get the full value of your home, only a percentage of it, and the bank does not have the right to sell the property when the owner dies or leaves.

You or your heirs have the right to pay back the mortgage and retain ownership if you or they choose to do so - a sort of first refusal before the bank may sell the property. If the bank sale nets more than the mortgage, that amount it returned to the owner or heirs.

So only the part about “minus the cost of the loan” is correct.

AN EXCELLENT RESOURCE
If you are seriously considering a reverse mortgage for yourself, I recommend you download an informative and easy-to-understand booklet recommended to me by Dr. Barbara Stucki, vice president of home equity initiatives at the National Council on Aging.

Researched and produced by the MetLife Mature Market Institute with the National Council on Aging and titled The Essentials: Reverse Mortgages [pdf], the Q&A format clearly answers almost any question about HECMs you can imagine.

QUALIFYING FOR A REVERSE MORTGAGE
There are only two criteria to qualify for a reverse mortgage: you (and all other borrowers who are co-owners) must be at least 62 years old and you must live in your home as your principal residence for at least six months of the year. That's it. There are no employment, credit, income or other requirements common to traditional “forward” mortgages.

Eligible properties include single family homes, town homes, certain condominiums (condominia?) and some mobile homes.

Any existing traditional mortgages and lines of credit must be paid off at closing with funds from the reverse mortgage. So, obviously, if existing liens are larger than the allowed reverse mortgage amount, you will not be eligible for a HECM.

LOAN AMOUNT
The maximum allowed HECM mortgage is $625,500. The amount is based on a formula of age, current interest rates, value of your home and the type of reverse mortgage you select. You can get a general idea of the amount from several anonymous reverse mortgage calculators on the web. Here are a few:

AARP
All Reverse Mortgage Company
Ibis Reverse Calculator

The results may vary slightly from one to another, but are good for a ballpark figure.

WARNING: There are many online reverse mortgage calculators, most from mortgage lenders. Do not use a calculator that requires your name, address, phone number, email, etc. unless you look forward to being spammed from reverse mortgage companies and whomever they sell their lists to for the rest of your life.

FINDING A LENDER
One of my first questions was, how do I find a reputable HECM lender? (Are there disreputable HECM lenders?) Do I just walk into banks and ask about a HECM loan? How do I find banks that makes these loans?

It's the one question none of the reverse mortgage informational websites directly address.

Fortunately, the HUD website maintains a list of HUD-approved reverse mortgage lenders in every state which eliminates the reputation question leaving only competency to be determined on your own.

Fill in the form and you'll get a page with lenders in your area. A couple of clues to make it easier:

Uncheck “title 1” to reduce the number of returns
Be sure to check the HECM box
Ignore the 203k box; it doesn't apply

I limited my search to those in the suburban town where I live. HUD came up with eleven matches each of which included company name and address, date it was approved to handle HECM mortgages, telephone number and email address – the last sometimes a person and sometimes a generic email box.

Last Monday evening, I sent this query note, including my name, email address and telephone number:

I obtained your email address from the HECM-approved lender list at the HUD website. I live in Lake Oswego and am looking into the possibility of a reverse mortgage. I am 69, own my home outright and am interested in what you can offer. May we speak on the telephone sometime this week?”

Of the eleven email messages, three were immediately returned as undeliverable due to this or that technical problem. Of the remaining eight, three contacted me within 24 hours. As of today (Thursday afternoon), I have not heard from the other five and am now as disinterested in them as they apparently are in my business.

A lesson from this is that if, in searching for a lender, you want more choices than three, enlarge the search area on the HUD website from, for example, your town to your state. Until or unless a reason appears to talk with more lenders, I am sticking with these three.

They are all friendly, well informed about HECMs and two in particular (let's call them A and B) had as much enthusiasm for helping elders improve their lives via reverse mortgages as I have for the topic of aging in general. All three have years of experience as reverse mortgage originators; they know the issues and facts, and have the answers.

A and B skillfully talked me through the information they needed to help me make choices about a reverse mortgage and on a couple of points, both were perceptive enough to ask questions that gave me valuable, new insight to my notions about money at this stage of my life. This is not to say that C did not ask the right questions, only that the conversation was more superficial than with A and B.

Soon after our conversations, all three emailed me estimates of the mortgage terms with costs spelled out for several types of funds disbursement such as:

  • a lump sum

  • a line of credit

  • monthly payments to me

  • several combinations of two or three of those options

Of course, the numbers are only estimates until my home has been appraised by the FHA. When I have selected a lender to work with, I will try to get a sample “estimate page” to show you online.

WHAT'S NEXT?
All three lenders asked to see me in person to go over the choices, costs, possibilities and to answer all my questions and concerns. I have appointments with each for next week and will report back to you.

The FHA requires all HECM applicants to undergo counseling with an FHA-trained expert in reverse mortgages. The price is $125 which can be paid up front or added onto the loan. After I have met with all three lenders next week, I'll schedule the counseling and when that is finished, I will make my choice about whether to go ahead with a reverse mortgage and if so, with which lender.

Please leave any questions in the comments.

Reverse Mortgage Series
Part 1: One Reason For a Reverse Mortgage
Part 2: The Basics
Part 4: Do Not Fear HECMs
Part 5: The Mandatory Counseling Session
Part 6: The Home Appraisal
Part 7: Lender Conditions


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcia Mayo: Doggie Day Care


My Late Life Angst

category_bug_journal2.gif During the entire 12 months following my 39th birthday, I annoyed most of my friends and colleagues with frequent hang-wringing about the impending black day in April 1981, when I would turn the dreaded 40. I couldn't stop thinking about how awful it sounded and that I would, when the day arrived, be “officially” old.

If you have been reading this blog for a length of time, you might think that I have long made peace with the passing years, and I would be the first one on that band wagon with you. Except – surprise to me, too – not so.

Three months ago, my 69th birthday came and went. Since it did not end in a zero or even a five so that it could be celebrated as a milestone, and because the number itself is a sex joke, I mostly ignored it. I thought my birthday was boring this year.

Besides, it fell right in the middle of packing up house in Maine, finding a new home in Oregon and moving across the country. Who had time to be concerned with the passing of one more year?

Well, I did – and still do. Suddenly, 30 years after I survived 40 without turning into a frog, I am having panic attacks about turning 70 in nine months.

Not paralyzing, oh-god-I-can't-leave-the-house panic attacks. But not to ignore either. All those existential conundrums debated into the wee hours on many nights during my teen and twenties years are no longer theoretical. Questions bearing on the meaning and essence of life are serious at this age. Although I sleep well these days, when I am occasionally awake in the dark, silent hours, so then are the thoughts dark and silent, a wordless dread of not being.

Knowing that unavoidable event draws closer each day and would not be too unusual if it happened tomorrow, I ask:

Have I led a good enough life?

What values have I lived by? Why have I never thought them through, named them to myself? Do I even have any values? On what have I based the choices I have made?

Does my life mean anything?

What, if asked, would I say has given my life meaning through the years?

What have I left undone that still can be done? (Good thing I don't regret not having children.)

For sure, I have been too timid, failing to take chances it would have been good to do. Nothing for that now except to not shy away from future ones that present themselves. Will there be any at nearly 70?

I can't even answer that perennial talk show question, If you had one piece of advice... There is nothing I have learned or believe in enough to want to pass on.

Hold it. When I stoop to talk show silliness, I am avoiding the essence of this existential dread - the hardest, darkest fact of becoming 70: the ending, the stopping of being.

No, no, I silently shout (think Edvard Munch). I'm not done yet. I need more time to make sense of what I have seen and heard and think I know. I've only just begun - it has taken all these decades - to begin to understand a few things.

The one thing I have always known is this: time is the only thing of value anyone has. But I have not lived well enough by that truth.

Am I really going to die without knowing what life is for? Does, perhaps, everyone? When I was a kid, I had such high hopes for those answers by now.

Seventy for me – and I don't mean to be anywhere near as flip as this sounds - is crunch time. It is a perfectly respectable age to die. No one can say, “she died so young,” and it's not so old that I've lost my memory and mind yet.

Already I have lived more years than my father and have only five to go to match my mother. Or will I take after my family's next previous generation and be granted 89 or 92 years as my great aunt and grandmother were? Is it a tragedy or blessing that the length of our stay in this mortal realm is a mystery?

Irritating all my friends 30 years ago as I worried for a year about turning 40 was about a bunch of superficial nonsense and looking back, I'm amazed they were so tolerant of me. I feel slightly better about inflicting this new panic on you, TGB readers.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: The Trash Woman



Elders Have Lost a Great Man

The news was shocking when it dropped into my mailbox yesterday: geriatrician Robert N. Butler had died on Sunday due to complications from leukemia. He was 83.

Robertbutlersm If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you at least know of this man because no one - certainly not I - can write intelligently about aging without knowing the work of Dr. Butler. In the 1960s, he coined the term “ageism” and he won a Pulitzer Price in 1972 for his first book about aging, Why Survive in America?. And that's just for starters. I won't repeat his other accomplishments here – they are many, immensely valuable to mankind and you can read about some in the AP story.

At about this time last year, I spent a week with Dr. Butler and his staff in New York City when I was privileged to attend his annual Age Boom Academy at the International Longevity Center he founded. It was a crash course in everything up to date about aging from 25 or 30 experts in their fields. They and we attendees were all guided in those sessions and discussions by Dr. Butler's brilliance, enthusiasm, kindness and vast knowledge.

Here is another TGB story about the conference which includes a video of one of Dr. Butler's presentations.

In 2008, on the publication of his then-new and important book on the future of aging, The Longevity Revolution – The Benefits and Challenges of Living a Long Life, Dr. Butler was kind enough to sit still for an email interview with me for this blog. You can read it here.

Just a couple of months ago, Dr. Butler published a followup to that book, The Longevity Prescription – The 8 Proven Keys to a Long, Healthy Life. I had been scheduled to interview him again about the new book and of course, I am sorry now that it was postponed due to my move from Maine to Oregon. Certainly I could have made time even during those busy days if I had tried harder.

We who are elders now and anyone who will be old one day owe this man a debt of gratitude; all our lives are meaningfully better because of his work. I cannot say he and I were friends, only brief acquaintances. But I am proud to have met, on those few occasions, a man who has left the world an unambiguously better place than what it was when he arrived.

A TGB reader who is studying for a master's degree in gerontology, spent time with Dr. Butler just a couple of weeks ago for a video biography of him. You can read her remembrance here and I urge you to do so; she is much more eloquent than I am.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Walt Grant: Uncle George Comes to America



Morning Walk in a Lake Oswego Park

category_bug_journal2.gif Almost exactly four years ago, I showed you my then-new morning walk along Casco Bay in Portland, Maine.

Now, five weeks after having moved into my new home near Portland, Oregon, I have another new morning walk, this one in a city park next to the neighborhood where I live in Lake Oswego.

When I walk, in the early morning between about 6AM and 7AM, hardly anyone else it out and I have long stretches like this to myself.

Along the Path

That pink flowering tree on the right is at its peak now, maybe a couple of more weeks before all the blossoms are gone.

Flowering Bush

In another section of my walk are a lot of what might be blueberry bushes. But I remember blueberries that grew at the country house I once had in upstate New York as dangling on longer stems than the ones in the this photo and having quite different leaves. Maybe these are Oregon-style blueberries or, maybe, they are just berries of some kind that happen to be blue.

Blueberries

When I was a kid growing up here, there were lots of drinking fountains in downtown Portland. Unless I am misremembering, there appear not to be so many now, but this one, along a park path is similar in style, set among a couple of slabs of rock for walkers to rest if they need or want.

Fountain

At the beginning of my walk is a gathering area with an an amphitheater (I'll be attending a free R&B concert there tomorrow evening) and a large lawn. At the top of the area is a picnic pavilion and this being Oregon - famed for the amount of its rain - of course, the pavilion is covered.

Picnic Pavilion

On the other side of the covered pavilion are tables and chairs for dryer days along a shallow reflecting pool.

Pavilion Tables

Nearby is a sort of tent over a jetty that is built out into the river. I'm sure there is name for this shape and I'm sure there is something mathematical to be said about it too, but that's not my area of expertise; I just think it's interesting to look at.

Tent

The river is the Willamette – the one that a little farther north divides the city of Portland east and west and eventually flows into the mighty Columbia River. This is the Sellwood Bridge I can see on my walk, the southernmost of Portland's many bridges.

Bridge

There is remarkable number of plaques, rocks and stelae in the park that are commemorative or inspirational. In one end are these pillars that remind me of a small Stonehenge although the arrangement is wrong and there are not cross pieces at the top of the pillars. Here they are in the early morning sunlight with the Sellwood Bridge in the background.

Stelae

Each of the stelae contains a quotation from someone whose name I don't remember. If you're interested, I'll write it down next time. Here are a couple of them:

Stela Closeup 1

Stela Closeup 2

There are more, but you get the idea.

One morning, not much after dawn, I came across these rowers practicing on the river. The guy in the motorboat on the left set the pace - “Pull. Pull. Pull” - while matching their speed. (Sometime I'll tell you about the Portland dragon boat races.)

Rowers

Because I walk so early, most of the wildlife isn't awake yet, but yesterday I had a nice little nostalgia trip when I saw these ducks on the river. Not more than a mile from here, when I was a little girl, my mother would take me down to the lake (not this river) to feed the ducks there that looked just like these.

Ducks


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Madonna Dries Christensen: Antique Trunk Holds Family History


Happy Fourth of July 2010

I have always lavishly loved fireworks. Sometimes I wonder how they do it; how are all those shapes, sizes and colors so perfectly created and how are the displays synchronized with music? But I have never looked into it - maybe because, as with magicians, I like the surprise more than I care about the secrets.

Undoubtedly the tradition of Independence Day fireworks is related to the “rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air” part of the national anthem. Don't you think?

[By the way, did you know that The Star-Spangled Banner did not become the official national anthem until 1931? Before then, Hail, Columbia was most often sung at official functions. Nowadays, that tune is used as the entrance song for the vice president as Hail to the Chief is played for the entrance of the president. Thus ends today's history lesson, kiddies.]

A drawback to fireworks for me is the accompanying noise that I find to be a distraction from the beauty of the displays. This explains how I became a devotee of YouTube videos of fireworks – I can turn off the audio.

I have also been known to turn off all the lights in the house at night, flip the video to full screen and let the burst of colors and patterns wash over me in complete darkness with the silence. (If you think this sounds a bit like I might be smoking something funny, you might not be wrong.)

Recently, I have become a fan of Japanese fireworks. Without denigrating America's efforts, which can be magnificent, there is a subtlety to the design of some Japanese displays I like and a creative use of repetition. The latter is what you will see in the first minute of this video – which doesn't take anything away from the more traditional second half.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY, EVERYONE. I HOPE YOU ARE ENJOYING THE LONG HOLIDAY WEEKEND.



ELDER MUSIC: The Band

PeterTibbles75x75You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.


category_bug_eldermusic

I’ll be down to get you in a taxi, honey
Better be ready by half past eight
Now, honey don’t be late
I want to be there
When THE BAND starts playing...

That’s from The Darktown Strutters’ Ball and is quoted on the back of The Band’s second album. If they can do it, so can I. If you’re going to steal ideas, steal from the best.

The Band

Today, as is obvious by now, I turn to The Band, the best group ever in rock music. That’ll get the Beatles fans agitated.

I’m not alone in this assessment. Someone who should know, George Harrison, said The Band was “the best band in the history of the universe.” Eric Clapton, upon hearing the basement tapes and their first album, disbanded Cream and flew to America to visit The Band. He wanted to become a member of the group. They refused the offer. Well, they already had a better guitarist.

Why don’t I just play all of Big Pink, The Band and Stage Fright? There would be few better ways to spend the next three hours. Okay, better not.

For those who came in late, The Band consisted of four Canadians and one American. They were Robbie Robertson: Guitar, keyboards, main songwriter.

Robbie Robertson


Richard Manuel: Piano, drums, early songwriter, high falsetto and deep soul vocals.

Richard Manuel


Garth Hudson: Organ, piano, clavinet – any keyboard really – saxophone, accordion, you name it, he’ll play it. Garth was classically trained which gave the group an edge in musicianship over their rivals, particularly early in their career.

Garth Hudson


Levon Helm: Drums, mandolin, guitar, vocals.

Levon Helm


Rick Danko: Bass, guitar, violin, trombone, vocals.

Rick Danko

Among them, these men could play more than seventeen instruments, sang with three distinct voices and had watched and listened to rock’s greatest songwriter from a metre away for years.

The story starts with rockabilly artist Ronnie Hawkins who was from Arkansas. He was looking for a drummer for his band and happened upon a teenaged Levon Helm, also from Arkansas. Levon jumped at the chance of joining a professional band.

Ronnie had heard there were lucrative pickings for his style of music in Canada, especially Toronto, so he headed north. Gradually, over a couple of very interesting years indeed, the members of his band, who had become disenchanted with the Canadian weather and wished to return to warmer climes, were replaced by the Canadians mentioned above.

Last on board was Garth. His nice, middle class parents didn’t want him to be in a rock & roll band so he was hired as a music teacher for the band. This wasn’t completely a fib as he did teach the others elements of music and so on.

At first, a couple of them resented this until they saw the results in considerably improved musicianship. Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks traveled throughout Canada and the south of America pretty much blowing everyone else who dared share a bill with them off the stage.

The Hawks

Here’s Ronnie and the Hawks with Hey Bo Diddley, a song Ronnie claimed to have performed years before Bo Diddley himself. Who knows?

♫ Ronnie Hawkins - Hey Bo Diddley

After some time, The Hawks, especially Robbie and Levon, were producing music away from rockabilly and they wanted to proceed further, so they went out on their own as Levon and the Hawks. They pretty much traveled the same highways and byways as they had with Ronnie.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – sorry. Meanwhile, Bob Dylan needed a touring band as the one he had had all hightailed it out of there as they got sick of the booing and people throwing things at them. Interestingly, this happened only in the effete north, not in the south where they were accustomed to full tilt rock & roll.

The Hawks were recommended to Bob by several people including John Hammond (the blues singer, son of John Hammond, the discoverer of musical talent). So they hit the road with Bob performing the concerts that changed the face of popular music.

I saw them in Melbourne in 1966. Bob, in that black and brown hounds tooth checked suit, was so stoned he kept hitting the microphone with his guitar and he nearly fell off the stage a couple of times.

Bob Dylan with The Hawks

Here are Bob and the band performing Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues. Remember on the back of certain albums the tag, “This should be played loud”? Well, it goes for this as well. Pretend you’re 21 again for six minutes.

♫ Bob Dylan and The Band - Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues

After some months of touring, Bob had a motor cycle accident. The rest of the tour was canceled. The accident either broke his neck, slightly injured his wrist or neck or was a good excuse to recover from amphetamine psychosis that made those concerts such interesting events. Whatever the reason, Bob retired to his house in Woodstock, New York, to recover.

Four of the band joined him there. Levon had dipped out early in the concert tour as he had had enough of it all. He was sent a message to return to the fold. However, in his absence, the centre of gravity in the group had switched from him to Robbie where it remained for the rest of the group’s existence.

Several members of the band rented a large house in West Saugerties (near Woodstock) that was painted pink.

Big Pink

Over time, they (and Bob) would play music in the basement of this house. Garth set up a two track machine and recorded a lot of this. Some of these songs were eventually sent around to various artists – The Byrds, Peter Paul and Mary, The Rolling Stones and so on – as demo records to see if they wanted to record any of them.

These tapes escaped and became the first rock bootleg album, The Great White Wonder. Years later, when they were officially released and sold really well, Bob remarked that he was surprised at that as he thought everyone had a copy.

TheBand5

Bob and others urged the band to make a recording and that’s what happened. The band was signed to Capitol records making them only the third rock band on the label at the time. You’d wonder how Capitol could have survived except that the other two were the Beatles and the Beach Boys, so I guess they did okay.

They were originally signed under the name “The Crackers,” a joke of Levon’s. Eventually Capitol saw through this and “Music From Big Pink” came out with The Band as its band’s name.

I played the album for Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and asked her which track I should feature. After hearing it she suggested, “All of them.” Well, as I said above, I wish I could, but just the one, and that one is Caledonia Mission.

♫ The Band - Caledonia Mission

The Band

Now we come to the best album of them all, simply called “The Band.” I won’t play one of the obvious tracks which, come to think of it, probably also means all of them. However, since this is an Elders’ website, I’ll choose Rockin’ Chair.

As you listen to it remember that this was written by a man in his twenties. I think it captures the ambivalence we feel about getting older. Others may see something quite different, but that’s okay. That’s what good music is all about.

♫ The Bank - Rockin' Chair

The Band

“Stage Fright” is the album that separates the real fans of The Band from the others. The others rather dismiss it. Well, not dismiss so much as downgrade it in the canon. Probably because it followed “The Band” and who could follow that?

I think it’s the group’s second best album, just missing by that much equaling its predecessor. This is the title song, Stage Fright.

♫ The Band - Stage Fright

As the seventies wore on, the group was suffering from a touch of the henries, or a dose of ennui to be pedantic about it. A combination of years of constant touring, drug problems (well, three of them), bickering and boredom were tearing them apart. They produced a few lacklustre albums (at least by their standards; almost anyone else would have been proud to have called them their own). There was a fine live album, “Rock of Ages,” that encapsulated their career till then.

However, The Band still had another masterpiece left in them and it came in 1975 with the album “Northern Lights – Southern Cross.”

The Band

For the first time in his writing career, Robbie explored his country of birth, particularly with the song Acadian Driftwood.

After the defeat of the French by the British on the Plains of Abraham, the Acadians (French settlers) were given the choice of swearing allegiance to the British or lose their land. Some did just that. Others went back to France, some went to various Caribbean islands. Some went south to Louisiana and became Cajuns. This song is about the last group.

♫ The Band - Acadian Driftwood

After a contractual agreement album, they decided to call it a day. Well, I believe Robbie decided to call it a day; I don’t know about the others. They went out with a bang with a Thanksgiving dinner and concert that was one of the major events in rock history.

This was recorded and a film was produced by Martin Scorsese called, The Last Waltz that is one of the best musical concert films ever. The cream of rock (and other) musicians were there. I won’t dwell on this - rent or buy a copy.

Three of The Band made solo albums after The Last Waltz. These were good but they weren’t as good as The Band’s albums. But then, nobody else has made albums as good as The Band’s either.

Although Robbie was the main songwriter and guiding force in The Band, he was the fourth best singer in the group. Still, he’s made some interesting albums. This is Night Parade from “Storyville.” I include it as it is a departure from the sound of The Band.

♫ Robbie Robertson - Night Parade

Levon continues to make good albums. He has also had an intermittent acting career, most notably playing Sissy Spacek’s father in Coal Miner’s Daughter. This is Even a Fool Would Let Go.

♫ Levon Helm - Even a Fool Would Let Go

The Band recorded the song Twilight for the “Islands” (the contractual agreement) album but it wasn’t on that record. I don’t know why as it was better than everything else on it. Fortunately, it has appeared on the remastered, bonus-tracked release. Rick has recorded the song several times on his solo albums. This is one of his versions.

♫ Rick Danko - Twilight

The Band reformed for a while without Robbie and made a few records, one of which, “Jericho,” wasn’t bad. They toured again but were a shadow of their former selves so I’ll gloss over this as if it didn’t happen.

Richard committed suicide in 1986 after a lifetime of alcoholism and drug addiction.

Rick died in his sleep of a heart attack in 1999 after a lifetime of enjoying himself.

The Band


GRAY MATTERS: Celebration of Our Union

SaulFriedman75x75 Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman (bio) writes the weekly Gray Matters column which appears here each Saturday. Links to past Gray Matters columns can be found here. Saul's Reflections column, in which he comments on news, politics and social issues from his perspective as one of the younger members of the greatest generation, also appears at Time Goes By twice each month.


On the occasion of the holiday we celebrate tomorrow, here is a story I wrote in 2008 for another publication. But because there has been such a resurgence of all the forces that sought to weaken or destroy the American union more than 145 years ago under the phony mantra of “states rights,” I thought it worthwhile to repeat the column, with a few changes.

Despite the naysayers and thinly disguised racists who would divide us today, we have a new reason to celebrate this Independence Day. For if you take the long view of history, as I do, you could say that the events on another Fourth of July, in 1863, saved the America that was envisioned by the founders and made possible in our time the presidency Barack Obama.

When that day arrived, decisive Union victories over the Confederacy at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Vicksburg, Mississippi effectively ended the threat that the United States would be permanently broken in two. And when he spoke at Gettysburg that November, Abraham Lincoln declared that the nation that had been "conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal...shall have a new birth of freedom."

The union had been preserved. But with these words at Gettysburg, scholars say that Lincoln, who had been seen as ambiguous on the issue of slavery, became more fully committed to the abolition of slavery, and the unconditional surrender of the Confederacy.

Thus, in 1865, soon after the end of the Civil War, the nation adopted the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, ending and forbidding slavery through the country and its territories. That was followed by the 14th and 15th amendments guaranteeing equal protection of the laws and the rights of citizens, including former slaves, to vote.

These amendments, resisted then and now by segregationists and states' righters, became the basis for the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision and the civil rights movement which also were part of the history of my generation and the greatest generation.

We forget these generations' part in this great social movement. For blacks, many of whom moved out of the South along with whites, came through the Great Depression and two world wars to become the leaders of that movement on the streets, in the courts and in Congress.

I covered the civil rights movement as a Southern reporter in Houston and followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he campaigned through the South from Montgomery and Birmingham to Selma, and in Chicago and Washington. In 1960, when presidential candidate John F. Kennedy offered to intercede for King, who was in jail for participating in a lunch-counter sit-in, many black voters deserted the little that remained of Lincoln's Republican Party.

After Kennedy's election, members of the greatest generation in the Congress, led by Kennedy and later Lyndon Johnson and a fine group of postwar legislators, mostly Democrats and a few Republicans, broke through die-hard Southern filibusters to pass civil rights laws that have enforced the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments.

Johnson predicted that supporting King and the passage of the civil rights bills would hasten the defection of many Southern whites to the Republicans and that the once-solid South would be lost to Democrats for years. He was right; racism is still alive like the sections of a snake that won’t die.

In 1968, amid the tumult following the murder of King in April and Robert Kennedy in June, the riotous Democratic convention and the demonstrations against the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon won the presidency with the help of a "Southern strategy" based on states' rights and law and order.

Thus, while the Democrats, under Franklin D. Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson, had evolved into the party of blacks as well as white workers favoring social insurance and civil rights, the Republicans of Lincoln, who had waged a war for a strong federal government, had become, under Nixon and his successors, the party of whites and states' rights.

Ronald Reagan underscored his hostility to Washington and his states' rights sentiment when he began his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town where three civil rights workers had been murdered years before when they sought to register blacks to vote.

Despite the Southern Strategy and Republican dominance in much of the Old Confederacy, the civil rights bills and the legacies of Martin Luther King had their effect. Slowly the black vote has grown and together with newer, more enlightened generations of whites, black men and women have won key congressional, city and state elections in the North and South. King's home, Atlanta, has had black mayors.

But every black member of Congress is a Democrat. So are the vast majority of blacks who hold elective office throughout the country. President George W. Bush's failure to provide timely aid to the mostly black victims of Hurricane Katrina seemed to personify, for many critics, another racist facet of the Southern strategy.

Bush was the first president to refuse to meet with the NAACP. His 2004 campaign manager and then Republican chairman Ken Mehlman told the group in 2005 that the "Southern Strategy" was "wrong," because it "benefited from racial polarization."

While all the Republican presidential candidates this year were white, male, conservative and Christian, the Democrats included a Hispanic as well as a woman, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. The winner, Barack Hussein Obama, is heir to all that has come before and he has acknowledged that heritage.

He made his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, on August 28, 45 years to the day after Martin Luther King told the vast throng at the Lincoln Memorial: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"

Despite repeated Republican vows that they would reach out to black voters, the opposite has happened. And their Libertarian and Tea Party followers have outdone their confederate forebears in their efforts to undermine the federal union. Indeed, Republicans have probably ended any hope of getting any black votes for a generation with their shameless opposition to virtually every Obama proposal.

From the beginning, the Republicans have sought to destroy an historic presidency. How else to explain their voting record or their loyalty to vicious, lying radio demagogues? Will no Republican have the courage to disagree with them in public?

Consider the blasphemy of radio racist Glenn Beck who intends to hold a rally for white people at the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of King’s historic speech. Beck should be excoriated by all decent people, especially Republicans. Their party’s first president would be ashamed of his heirs.

Write to saulfriedman@comcast.net


Reverse Mortgages – Part 2: The Basics

category_bug_journal2.gif Because there are many small details to know about reverse mortgages and enough individual questions to fill a book, I am going to start broadly and drill down in subsequent posts so that we can absorb the needed information in bites (bytes?) we can easily digest.

Let's start today with a definition.

At least once in their lives, the majority of U.S. grownups go through the process of getting a traditional mortgage to pay for the purchase of a home. We pretty much understand what it is: a bank lends the money to pay for the property; the borrower repays the loan at an agreed-upon interest rate over a set period of years.

It is not much more complicated than that.

Although there are different requirements and more caveats associated with a reverse mortgage, at its most basic level, it is just that – the reverse of a traditional (“forward”) mortgage: a bank loan, secured by your home, that gives you regular payments or a lump sum based on the value of your home at the time the reverse mortgage is made.

Interest is charged on the outstanding balance which continues to grow, due to continuing interest, even when you do not take out additional funds. But you owe nothing, make no payments until the loan is due when you permanently move out of the home through a sale or death.

Eligibility Requirements
You (or the youngest borrower, if more than one) must be at least 62 years old.

You must have sufficient equity in your home to pay off any traditional mortgage with the proceeds of the reverse mortgage, a requirement to obtaining the reverse mortgage.

That's it. Income, health, credit rating or score are not considered.

Your Obligations
You are required to keep homeowners insurance and property taxes paid and to keep the property in good repair. Failure to do so can result in the loan being called due.

Remember, you continue to hold the title to your home and no matter what rumors you've heard or what others have told you, as long as you keep up those three obligations, you cannot be thrown out of your home. Also, you pay nothing until you sell or move out and you will never owe more than the value of your home.

Types of Reverse Mortgages
Reverse mortgages come with various interest rates and differing up-front costs. Some fees may he high, but the interest low and vice versa. One kind, called proprietary, is designed for people with extremely high-value homes offered by a few banks and other lending institutions. If you are rich enough to qualify for one of these, you're on your own. In this series, I am concerned only with HECMs because that is the type I am considering.

About 95 percent of all reverse mortgages are HECMs (pronounced HECK um by those in the business), the acronym for Home Equity Conversion Mortgages – administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and insured by the FHA.

The FHA insurance protects the lender if the sale price of a home (when you move out) does not cover balance of the loan. It also protects you, the borrower, so that if the lending institution that holds your reverse mortgage files for bankruptcy or otherwise stops servicing your loan, your reverse mortgage will not be affected.

HECMs are as safe and secure as traditional mortgages and you should not be afraid of them. There was a time, early in the program, when large lenders with many kinds of financial products could give you a reverse mortgage with one hand and lock you into an inappropriate annuity, for example, with the other. But that is no longer allowed.

Problems today are not with the mortgage lenders, but with how people use the proceeds from the reverse mortgages. We'll talk about this in a future installment.

Benefits of a Reverse Mortgage
These are the five most common reasons people give for taking out reverse mortgages:

  1. To pay for ongoing medical treatments, prescription drugs or a large, one-time medical bill

  2. To make home improvements, modify a home for aging needs or pay off a traditional mortgage

  3. To pay off large, high-interest debts

  4. To take a long-awaited, lavish, dream vacation

  5. To supplement Social Security and/or other monthly income

Number four seems a frivolous reason to take on large, expensive debt, but who is to say what is important to each of us.

Number five is my reason. As I explained in Part 1, the financial collapse of 2008 took a huge chunk of my savings and I don't have the stomach now to reinvest what remains, so my income is uncomfortably reduced.

For me, a reverse mortgage will provide a cushion to pay for future medical or other unforeseen needs and therefore return some of the peace of mind I lost in the 2008 crash. It also will give me some breathing room around normal expenses and, maybe, allow for some modest travel now and then which I can't otherwise afford. I don't have expensive needs so mostly, it's that peace of mind I'm going for.

Disadvantages of a Reverse Mortgage
There are good reasons to think very carefully before taking out a reverse mortgage.

If you were planning on leaving your home to the kids or grandchildren, they may not be able to afford to pay off the HECM after you die.

If you live alone and need to stay in a rehab, assisted living or nursing home for more than a year, you are required to pay off the mortgage.

Costs are high. They include all the fees you paid when you purchasedd your home (title search and insurance, FHA appraisal, document preparation, flood certification, credit report, etc.) plus an origination fee to the lender based on the appraisal of your home. The least it can be is $2,500 and there is an upper cap of $6,000. And there is the MIP - mortgage insurance premium - for the FHA mortgage insurance which is two percent of the amount of the reverse mortgage up front and, annually thereafter, one-half of one percent of the loan amount.

Usually, closing costs and fees are tacked onto the mortgage, but keep in mind that you pay interest on that money throughout the life of the loan in addition to the lender's ongoing service fe which is $30 or $35 per month.

Recently, lenders have been offering reverse mortgages with low or no origination fees and lower service fees. I'll look into this and let you know details as this series proceeds.

This is a general overview, the basic information needed to think clearly and rationally about a reverse mortgage. More next week. If I have been unclear, please leave questions in the comments. You can leave other questions too that you would like answered in future installments.

Reverse Mortgage Series
Part 1: One Reason For a Reverse Mortgage
Part 3: Finding a Lender
Part 4: Do Not Fear HECMs
Part 5: The Mandatory Counseling Session
Part 6: The Home Appraisal
Part 7: Lender Conditions


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, D. Sugar: Circa 1980



Health Cost Fears

[EDITORIAL NOTE: LC, who blogs at Retirement Daze, has sent in her photo for the Where Elder Blog feature. You can see it here. And you can find out how to submit a photo of your own blogging place here.]

category_bug_journal2.gif According to a recent survey, 73.6 percent of women and 44.1 percent of men use the internet over other sources to research their aches and pains. The women say they have grown frustrated with trying to see their primary care physicians; men say they don't know how to describe symptoms when using the internet. (Men reading this – you'll have to explain that reason; I sure can't.)

Here are some other, more specific findings:

  • 85.1% women and 50.1% of men don't even think to call their doctor when they think something is wrong

  • 90.6% of women and 75% of men believe trying to get in to see the doctor is a waste of time

  • 81.5% of women and 71.6% of men think seeing their doctor will be too expensive even with insurance coverage

  • 71.3% of women and 64.2% of men say hidden costs and fees not covered by insurance keep them from seeing their doctor

Also, women who turn to the Internet before or instead of consulting their physicians said they are comfortable doing so because they aren’t looking for answers to life-threatening illnesses but rather, information on general aches and pains.

The percentages are astonishing – much higher than I would have guessed. According to Tamer Elsafy, CEO and founder of Flexcin:

“Although the Internet doesn’t replace your doctor, I think these results speak to the fact that both women and men are very frustrated with the healthcare industry. If you have general aches and pains or a case of the sniffles, people today are more inclined to research the Internet rather than wait several days to see a doctor and then pay the high cost of prescriptions.”

[This survey was conducted by Flexcin International, Inc. which, according to the email about this survey, is “a manufacturer and marketer of leading natural supplements that provide joint inflammation relief.”]

Oddly, given the kind of supplement this company deals in, the 1,034 survey respondents, equally divided between men and women who live in 10 U.S. states, were age 35 to 60. So none of them has experience with Medicare.

Nevertheless, the survey is useful for elders too. I realized that it's been years since I've consulted a physician for anything other than an annual checkup. I use community or local government programs for my annual flu shot and because I haven't found a primary care physician here yet, I used a nearby drop-in clinic when my eye got itchy, red and swollen enough that I believed it needed professional attention.

Since I've never tried, I don't know what the wait time might be to see my (Medicare) physician about an immediate problem. But unlike the survey respondents, thanks to Medicare, I have never feared the expense or hidden fees of seeing him or her.

After four years of Medicare coverage, I can no longer imagine living with the worries the survey uncovered. These are just one good reason we still need to work toward a single-payer health care system.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Lighted Windows