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Getting Old Might Soon Get Easier

category_bug_ageism.gif Last week, one of the fluorescent tubes, hidden behind a decorative panel at the top of my kitchen cupboards, burned out for the first time since I moved here last May. To remove it and see what I needed to buy as a replacement involved climbing up a too-short ladder onto the kitchen counter and, hanging on to that decorative panel – lightly in case it is not well-attached - peering over the top.

I cannot say I was frightened. At nearly 70, I have not noticed any balance difficulties. But I am aware that my legs, nowadays, don't have the springiness of youth and I didn't want to risk what might happen if, due to a mis-step in the awkward standing space, I needed to jump to the floor to keep from falling.

So I moved up, then down carefully and slowly.

I recall being furious when I first heard the baby boomer anthem “50 is the new 30” which, some say, was coined by AARP – blast them! Nothing could be further from the truth.

You can eat well, exercise, get plenty of sleep and still, in time, joints will stiffen, muscles will tighten, eyesight and hearing will fade to varying degrees and short-term memory lapses will give you fits. (Why am I standing here on the kitchen counter?) If you live long enough, it will all get worse. That is the nature of aging and it doesn't help any of us to deny it.

It is no secret that age demographics have been shifting upward for years. By 2050, the 60 and older population will grow from about 12 percent today to about 20 percent. Yet age is so abhorrent to the culture in general that business, manufacturers, retailers and advertisers have ignored the life realities of this growing market.

That may be about to change.

On Saturday, both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times published stories indicating that business is beginning to see the light – that is, realizing there is money to made from elders.

At my age and sensibility, I find it irritating that both articles make a big deal about how important it is, in targeting an older market, to camouflage the accommodation being made to old people's needs so not to insult baby boomers by indicating they are old now. But I'll take the improvements any way I can get them.

First, some out-takes from the Journal:

• “Surreptitiously, companies are making typefaces larger, lowering store shelves to make them more accessible and avoiding yellows and blues in packaging - two colors that don't appear as sharply distinct to older eyes.”

• “Depend has introduced gender-specific versions and briefs with fashionable prints that imitate regular underwear. Some Depend packaging is labeled "underwear" and disguised to look like packs of cloth underwear.”

• “Sherwin-Williams...has subtly redesigned its 3,400 stores to make them more comfortable to older browsers. They now have more lighting and seating and serve coffee in most locations. Product displays feature less fine print, hence fewer squinting shoppers.”

• “After noticing older shoppers struggling to read its cat-litter packaging, Arm & Hammer began sharpening the color contrast for the text and gradually increasing the font size, which is now about 20% bigger than it was five years ago.”

• “Diamond Foods Inc. carefully engineered the packaging of its Emerald snack nut line to accommodate the declining agility of baby boomers' hands.”

• “Walgreen has introduced easier-to-open packages on its private-label painkillers and incontinence products, and expanded its vitamin aisles.”

The Times' story takes a more empathetic and long-term view of the business opportunities presented by elders starting with the MIT Age Lab aging suit officially known as AGNES or Age Gain Now Empathy System that helps designers create or modify products to the benefit of elders.

The newspaper produced this little video of the reporter, 45-year-old Natasha Singer, trying it out.

It is not just everyday products that are being designed with elders in mind, but overall, daily livability. There is a project here in Portland, Oregon, reported on in the Times story, that is testing home health technology and concepts that will help elders live longer independently than in the past.

Volunteers are testing these concepts at Mirabella, a high-rise, luxury building outfitted with new aging technology that,

“...conveniently located next to Oregon Health and Science University, enables residents to stay as healthy, engaged and socially connected as possible...

“...wireless motion sensors, installed in their apartments, track their mobility and, by extension, their health status in real time.”

Some other technologies include a wireless pillbox that reminds residents to take their medication, fall prevention sensors and an experimental robot that provides a variety of services.

This is an expensive proposition, although as the idea grows, costs should come down. But according to Eric Dishman, the global director of health innovation at Intel, there is a snag:

“Because of ageism, Mr. Dishman says, many retailers aren’t ready to make space for such products and many companies don’t even want to develop them.

“'Life enhancement technology for boomers is a chicken-and-egg problem,' he says. Is 'the market going to take the first plunge, or are companies going to create technologies without knowing whether we can sell it?'”

Meanwhile, lacking a robot to help, I am now going to climb up on the kitchen counter again – slowly and carefully - to install the new tube.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ralph Lymburner: Discrimination



Huge Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security Cuts Proposed

category_bug_politics.gif Since former Senator Alan Simpson holds no position in government (he has been out of office since 1997, and the catfood commission he co-chaired shut down in December without producing an official report), it's hard to know why CNN host Candy Crowley found in necessary to book him on her State of the Union program Sunday where he was allowed to reiterate his now-habitual attack on old people:

“I'm waiting for the politician to get up and say, 'There's only one way to do this: You dig into the big four - Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and defense.'”

Perhaps Simpson was as out of pocket last week as I was during my trip to Astoria and, like me, missed reports of newly proposed legislation that would surely satisfy his lust to impoverish elders and the disabled.

Catching up on my reading after that broadcast, I discovered The Commitment to American Prosperity Act (CAP), legislation co-sponsored by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Bob Corker (R-TN), which takes a meat ax approach to government spending that would require automatic, simultaneous cuts to the entire federal budget if Congress does not cap spending at 20.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product from its current level of 24.7 percent of GDP.

The bill removes historical exemptions for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and such other programs as food stamps, the Veterans Administration and unemployment compensation. In fact, the single exemption from cuts would be interest on debt.

Never before in history has Social Security been included in the federal budget.

The bill also specifies that the percentage reduction in each federal program must be “in proportion to the growth of outlays from the previous year.” With an aging population and increasing health care costs, that means Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid – programs that primarily benefit elders - would see huge and disproportionately high reductions compared to other areas of governement.

As Pat Garofalo notes at thinkprogress.org,

“In fact, McCaskill and Corker's cap would actually hold federal spending below the level at which it was under President Reagan, even though there are now tens of millions more seniors reliant on Social Security and Medicare than there were in the 1980s.

The proposed budget legislation relies entirely on spending cuts without any tax increases.

As soon as McCaskill and Corker announced their bill last Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who, along with independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is elders' most reliable best friend in Congress, took to the microphones:

“I will do everything that I can in throwing my legislative body in front any efforts to weaken Social Security,” he said. “Social Security has not contributed one penny to the debt, and as I've said before, people should leave Social Security alone.”

We can only hope he is not outnumbered by the know-nothings - yes, some of them in Congress - who do not understand that Social Security is a self-funded program.

Tons of legislation is written that never reaches the floor of Congress and this bill may be buried too. But McCaskill, the lone Democrat among CAP's nine co-sponsors, is up for re-election next year and in this era of rabid tea partiers, needs to prove her slash-and-burn bona fides.

Announcing the bill, McCaskill said that

”if this bill is distorted and twisted, it could cost me my Senate seat, but it's a price I'm willing to pay. It's a price I'm willing to pay for my country and, more importantly, it's a price I'm willing to pay for my grandchildren.”

It is just such statements that create cynics; she's depending on the bill to help with right-wing votes.

During this Congress and next year's, re-election will be uppermost in the minds of all representatives and the third of senators facing voters in 2012. That thought will affect every vote they take and I fear we will see too many more Congressional Democrats align themselves with Republicans.

Which is why we can't let anything in Congress slide from our view.

The full text of the Commitment to American Prosperity Act is not published yet, but there is a one-page overview [pdf] at Senator McCaskill's website.

And here is a list of the nine Senate co-sponsors:

Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri)
Bob Corker (R-Tennessee)
Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee)
Richard Burr (R-North Carolina)
Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia)
Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma)
Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia)
Mark Kirk (R-Illinois)
John McCain (R-Arizona)


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, D. Sugar: Travels With Deb



ELDER MUSIC: Hello

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 Hello. I don't think I've said that to you before so I'll say it now. Hello.

This is another postprandial idea that started out as Hello Goodbye but I decided that would be too restrictive, allowing only Tim Buckley and the Beatles.

Goodbye has an enormous number of songs so I thought there wouldn't be too many for Hello. Boy, was I wrong, but I've gone for Hello nonetheless.

Any column where I can feature Elvis, Bob and The Beatles can't be all bad. Add to that Miz Emmylou and I figure I'm on a winner.

The Beatles were a rather successful pop group from Liverpool, England in the Sixties. I probably don't need to say anything else about them but you can hear some more of their music here or you can put on a record at home as I'm pretty sure you have some because Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, is the only person I know who is totally bereft of Beatles records.

I'll just play their Hello song, Hello Goodbye.

The Beatles

♫ The Beatles - Hello Goodbye

I saw Tim Buckley at Winterland in San Francisco in 1970, along with the Mothers of Invention. It was an interesting experience to say the least. I seemed to be the only person present who thought it was a little, er, unorthodox shall we say, that Tim played the bagpipes for half an hour of his set. Those were the days.

No bagpipes on this track though, but it's not your standard folk song, a category in which he was often included. Tim wasn't like the other kiddies. The track is Goodbye and Hello.

Tim Buckley

♫ Tim Buckley - Goodbye and Hello

Hello Walls was written by Willie Nelson and I could have played his version but the first time I heard this song, it was done by Faron Young back in 1961.

Faron Young

Indeed, I liked it so much at the time I bought the 45. The A.M. looked at me a bit sideways when I mentioned that to her. I still have that disk and that's what you're going to hear today through the magic of electronics stuff.

This tune has the unmistakable sound of the great Floyd Cramer playing the piano and the Jordanaires singing backuup.

♫ Faron Young - Hello Walls

It could be argued - indeed, I'm always up for one where music is concerned - that The Doors produced the best first album in pop history.

The Doors

The Doors resembled a supernova, blazing brighter than anyone else initially, then slowing fading away with a brief kick at the end with "L.A. Woman". However, their Hello song isn't from that first album or the last one; it's from the third album, "Waiting for the Sun.” That album has aged better than people thought it would when it was released.

♫ The Doors - Hello, I Love You

I think John Prine's Hello song is the pick of the bunch.

John Prine

John writes songs of wit, intelligence, imagination and silliness. He writes powerful songs that can break your heart. Why he's not more famous is beyond me. Bob Dylan has said of him,

"Prine's stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mindtrips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs."

Again, Bob has hit some sort of nail on the head. The words of this song are appropriate for TimeGoesBy, it's Hello in There.

♫ John Prine - Hello In There

The general consensus is that the quality of Elvis's music after he returned from the army was not anywhere as good as his earlier work. I won't argue with that. However, with such a talent as he had there are always going to be gems. One could say that the 1968 comeback concert is one of the finest concerts in pop music history.

This column has nothing to do with that, I just threw it in as an illustration of my previous point. It is all about Hello songs and the next is another where the A.M. looks rather astonished when I say that I really like it  This is Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello.

Elvis

♫ Elvis Presley - Just Tell Her Jim Said Hello

The only person who could follow Elvis is Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan

Bob's Hello song is from that brilliant but bitter album, "Blood on the Tracks". This is considered his "divorce" album. He always produced his best work when he was unhappy. He's not alone there. The song is If You See Her, Say Hello.

♫ Bob Dylan - If You See Her, Say Hello

I think the first song people would think about when I mention Hello songs is Ricky Nelson's. Well, people who'd be reading TimeGoesBy anyway.

Ricky Nelson

I always liked Ricky when I was a young person. I think it was because I got to see him every week on TV, something that didn't happen with any of the other early rockers.

This is Hello Mary Lou with the inimitable James Burton on guitar as usual.

♫ Ricky Nelson - Hello Mary Lou

Okay, I've kept Citizen K on tenterhooks long enough. Here's Emmylou Harris.

Emmylou Harris

What can I say about Emmy that won't have me gushing all over the place? Indeed, I've already gushed enough in a previous column about her.

Emmy sings Hello Stranger with the late, lamented Nicolette Larson on harmony. This is from the album "Luxury Liner," a pretty good early album of hers. More than pretty good.

♫ Emmylou Harris - Hello Stranger



INTERESTING STUFF: 5 February 2011

Category_bug_interestingstuff Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.


SNOW COMMUTE
Reader Sheila Halet sent this image which made me think of drivers in many places across the United States this week.

Snow Commute

AMAZING KINETIC CREATURES
Theo Jansen makes fantastic kinetic creatures that move and live on their own on the beaches of Holland. They are – oh, never mind. Just watch this BBC report. It is magical. (Hat tip to my old friend, Kent McKamy)

TEA PARTY HERO FALLS OFF HER PEDESTAL
This is too delicious not to share with you. In life Ayn Rand upheld a “moral philosophy” that justified the “deserved” privilege of the wealthy while railing against “moochers” who received such government benefits as Medicare and Social Security.

Now it is revealed that

”Rand herself received Social Security payments and Medicare benefits under the name of Ann O'Connor (her husband was Frank O'Connor).”

Yes, I'm indulging in some shadenfreude by enjoying this so much. You can read more here.

SISTINE CHAPEL INTERACTIVE
From Darlene Costner of Darlene's Hodgepodge came this amazing interactive view of the Sistine Chapel. Here is a still shot from it.

Sistine Chapel

Never mind that. Just go to Vatican website and plunge in. You can see every surface of the chapel, floor to ceiling and wall-to-wall, every nook and cranny and image up close by moving the arrows and the plus and minus signs. Even in person you could not get this kind of detail.

50-TO-DEATH RETURNS
Some of you will recall that in the past we have featured an online video series about a group of elder actors in New York titled 50 to Death. It has been awhile, but writers/producers/actors Joan Barber, Norm Golden and Jon Freda are back now with new episodes beginning with a four-parter titled "2010: A Space Odyssey."

Part 1 premiers next Monday 7 February (mark you calendar) on their YouTube page (where there are also previous episodes) and you can read more about them on the 50toDeath website.

KHAN ACADEMY
A young man named Salman Khan runs a free, online academy where there is a large and growing database of 12-minute lessons learners can use at their own pace. It is a phenomenal undertaking that - well, lets have Khan and Bill Gates tell you about it:

Currently, most of the topics are mathematics related, but more in all disciplines are coming. Here's the Khan Academy website.

IN CASE OF FIRE
Out of tragedy, some excellent advice. After her house burned down, a young mother named Melanie posted a list of nine things to do to be prepared, just in case. They are all good, but this one stood out for me: “Put your phones in a consistent place each night.”

I miss many phone calls in the evenings because I can't hear the phone left somewhere in another room. Imagine not being able to find it or get to it in a fire situation. Read more here.

STUCK KITTY
For being pretty smart most of the time, cats have a penchant for getting stuck in places they can't get out of. This time a neighbor comes to the rescue:

IDENTITY THEFT
This is a zillion times more fun than you think from the title which is a clever word/photo pun. I couldn't choose a favorite, so here are all seven. There is no one to credit on this except Sheila Halet for emailing it. (I guess maybe my favorite is the last one.)

Penguins

GoldFish

Bunnies

Flamingos

Raccoons

Elephants

Sheep



The Never-Ending Recession

category_bug_politics.gif Due to my trip to the coast and other obligations, I gave you some easy, fun posts this week. Lightweight maybe, but contrary to one reader's comments (and thank you for coming to my defense), bucket lists and the changes we make in our lives as we age are as much about “what it's really like to get old” as what Congress does with Medicare and Social Security.

Now it's time to do some more serious thinking.

There was celebration on Wall Street when the DOW closed above 12,000 on Tuesday. It hasn't been that high since 2008, and with few exceptions, the “experts” in government and business hail this milestone as further proof that the economy is on the mend.

Say what?

The richest one percent of Americans own more than 50 percent of the shares traded on Wall Street. The next nine percent own 40 percent. So for 90 percent of the population, a 12,000 DOW means nothing. Less than nothing when corporations' increasing revenue does not translate into jobs.

(For an infuriating interactive graphic of who gains when incomes rise, see this page at the Economic Policy Institute website which tracks income from 1917 to 2008 by income level.)

Real unemployment is stuck somewhere between 17 and 20 percent while growing numbers of economists predict that the job picture won't improve anytime soon.

It's hard to disagree when it is apparent that corporations, whose sole legal responsibility is to their stockholders, are fulfilling that obligation quite well with the number of employees they have now – or hiring overseas when needed.

Banks, still raking in billions in free money from the federal government, continue to refuse to lend to small businesses, crippling that historically rich source of new jobs.

This year the number of home foreclosures is expected to top last year's astronomical number and tent cities, not much reported, are growing across America.

Bank fraud in the mortgage business goes unpunished. Food prices are increasing. Gasoline prices rise alarmingly while the new turmoil in the middle east will undoubtedly push them even higher.

Facts and numbers, however, don't tell the human story. Millions of families forced out of their homes, some quite illegally. Millions of lost careers that will never be recovered. Children who will not go to college. Life savings destroyed that cannot be recouped. Untold numbers of once-middle class earners who will live out their lives in poverty.

In an attempt to shift blame for the troubles of our nation's people (which do not affect them), the banksters try to tell us that all those people bought homes beyond their means. Undoubtedly some did, but – HEL-LO - who gave them those loans they couldn't afford? Who lied about the integrity of those loans when they chopped them up into securities and who lost, forged or never executed the required documents so that large numbers of homes cannot be sold now because there is no ownership paper trail?

Maybe in a generation or two, the banking system will become trustworthy again. But in my lifetime, I will never trust a bank or corporation. In any transaction I am required to have with them, I assume there is a lie somewhere that exists to part me from more of my money than they are owed.

Now, to get around to elders. In 2008, many retired people lost a third and more of their life savings, money that was invested to provide a supplement to Social Security. While young and mid-age people may have a shot at accumulating more savings, no retired person does.

In addition, many of those close to retirement who intended to sell their homes to downsize in old age, cannot do so now, stuck with homes on which they owe more than the property is worth – and if not that, stuck in a market in which no one is buying.

People nearing retirement who have lost their jobs have used up savings trying to keep their heads above water and if they ever find a job again, will not be paid enough to catch up by the time when they become too old to work.

And now, Republicans and tea partiers in Congress are dedicating themselves to privatizing Medicare and slashing Social Security – the only lifeline anyone has left.

Almost everyone who reads Time Goes By knows that without these two programs, they would be close to penniless. Contrary to what the slash-and-burn contingent in Congress believes, these are not giveaways.

We paid into Social Security all our working lives. And Medicare is not free as some people seem to believe. We pay for it. Personally, premiums for the various parts cost me 15 percent of my income. It would be higher, but I gamble by going cheap on Part D. That will cost me dearly if or when I become sick enough to need expensive drugs.

I cannot count the number of times I tell myself that I am grateful to be old in the world we live in now. Unlike younger people, I am not pounding the pavement with little hope of finding decent-paying work. (And by the way, out of curiosity I checked job listings for the kind of work I was doing when I was forced into retirement six years ago. The few that list salaries are paying about half what I was earning.)

I own my home and my car which are both in good condition. I have no debt and if my health remains good, no large expenses. How lucky I am that I sold my home in New York just before the housing market crashed and that my home in Maine, when I wanted to sell last year, had retained its value allowing me to squeak out a move to Oregon.

If I believed in karma, I'd say that I must have been a much more wonderful person in my past life than in this one, and that I was born early enough to not be in the awful position so many younger people are today.

When Congress tries to cut Medicare and Social Security, they will grandfather those of us who are current recipients and who are 55 and older. We are the lucky ones in this recession that continues for everyone who isn't rich. And that means we must fight tooth and nail to make sure these programs will be available to younger people when they become elders.

I'm going to be banging on you like crazy in the coming months to do everything we can to accomplish that.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kathleen Noble: The Leather Journal



Midweek Astoria Trip

category_bug_journal2.gif Unlike where many of you live in the United States this week, the weather here is mild and sunny (translation: no snow or ice) - a perfect day to drive to the coast of Oregon on Tuesday and back late yesterday.

When I posted photos from my last visit to Astoria after Christmas, Steve who blogs at Projections, said he had hoped for a picture of the bridge that crosses the Columbia River to Washington state. Here you go, Steve – just for you.

Astoria Bridge

My brother, his wife and I spent a couple of hours Tuesday afternoon at the Columbia River Maritime Museum – a gorgeous building. I swiped this photo from its website.

Museum

Surprisingly – at least, to me – for such a small town, the museum is massive, filled with full size fishing boats of different types, photos and artifacts from the city's maritime history. There are also exquisite models of famous sailing ships. This is Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind which may or may not have made it to the Columbia River. Historians disagree.

Golden HindModel

It is no more, but there was a time in the early 20th century when Astoria was the largest salmon canning location in the country. There is a huge collage of labels from the various canning factories.

Tinned Fish Labels

This beautiful cupboard was once installed on a sailing ship. My brother said he wouldn't mind having it in his dining room – nor would I.

Ship Cupboard

I couldn't resist shooting this old-fashioned diving suit. It shows how far we have come in our lifetimes – divers used this sort of gear when I was a little girl.

Diving Suit

Driving home yesterday, I stopped to pick up cup of coffee and noticed this fire hydrant. If they add any more wood chips, firemen will have a helluva time finding it.

Hydrant

This trip was the first time I've given my new GPS a workout. Mostly, it's amazingly accurate but I am not. When I made wrong turns a couple of times, I felt chastised by the little woman who talks to me from the device. When she said, “Recalculating directions,” there was a distinct tone of disapproval in her voice.

Nearing home, I was in the wrong lane to make a turn and was forced to cross a bridge in Portland to the east side of town. When I pulled into a gas station to turn around, I saw this across the street - much the worse for wear from its heyday:

Aladdin Theater

When I was a kid in Portland, I spent uncounted Saturday afternoons at the Aladdin movie theater watching a bunch of cartoons, a couple of serials, a newsreel and two features. It cost 25 cents.

This was the first time I've left Ollie the cat alone overnight and was eager to see how he had survived. When I walked in the house, he looked up from his nap, blinked and went back to sleep. Cats are expert at deflating human egos.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jim Kittelberger: What Was the Best Purchase You Ever Made?



What Have You Stopped Doing in Old Age?

I am on an overnight visit to Astoria and although there is a list of posts I want to write, most require research and reporting. It's a matter of available time.

Writing yesterday's post reminded me of this TGB golden oldie from 2007, slightly updated, that some of you may remember, but it could be fun to reprise.


Two readers – Nikki of From Where I Sit and Chancy of driftwoodinspiration – mentioned that, like me, they hate changing bed linen. Nikki brought up the difficulty in getting duvet covers on and off. No kidding. I once zipped the cat into the duvet and couldn't find him until bedtime. He didn't complain all day.

About eight years ago, I gave up the quilt/duvet hassle every week in favor of think/cotton quilts. They wash as easily as sheets and I just add more in winter.

Here are some of the other things I've given up in the past decade or so:

• High-heeled shoes. And oh, how I miss them – their beauty, their sexiness, the added height. But nowadays I can't from the bedroom to the door without crying out in pain. Lately, there have been some beautiful, low-heeled and flat shoes, so my fetish continues.

• Bathroom scale. From puberty to about ten years ago, I counted every forkful that went into my mouth. I was always hungry, but when the scale inched up, I ate even less. Now I eat when and what I want and I may befat, but I'm easier to get along with.

• Hair color. I suppose, due to my point of view on aging, gray hair could be a political statement for me. But more important is the freedom from a chore that rival bed changing on the tedium scale. Since my has no style now – I just clip it back – I trim it myself allowing me to forgo even a moment in a dreaded hair shop.

• Makeup. At about 15 minutes a day for 45 years or so, I spent nearly six months of my life applying makeup. No more. Well, except for the occasional social engagement.

• Pantyhose. For decades I inflicted this torture on myself. Now, if an outfit requires pantyhose, I don't buy it.

• Finishing books I don't like. Whatever possessed me for so many years to think that once begun, a book – no matter how boring, badly-written or unenlightening – must be finished.

• Buying music. There are well more than 10,000 MP3s (some singles; some albums) on my computer now and my music organizer/player informs me that to listen to them all would take 36 days, 21 hours, 18 minutes and 43 seconds. That's enough to last the rest of my life. (And Peter Tibbles, on Sundays here, supplies some terrific old favorites I'm missing and other, new-to-me good music.

• Celebrity gossip. For the years I spent working at The Barbara Walters Specials and some other shows, it was my job to know who was who and what they were doing with whomever else was a boldfaced name. Now I can't tell the difference between Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, and I don't care.

• Deadlines. I spent nearly 50 years working on deadline, sometimes hourly all day, every day. I don't do that anymore – at least, not when someone else tries to impose them.

In addition to reducing stress and irritation in my life, many of these deletions from my life save time and others save a lot of money which is a good thing since I don't have as much of that as I once did.

I know, I know – there are plenty of TGB readers who have never done any of these things; on some things I'm a slow learner. But I'm pretty sure there is other stuff you have forsaken in recent years as a bad idea or no longer necessary, too expensive or too boriing. Let' hear about them.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcia Mayo: The Night of the Screaming Rabbit Babies and Other Tales from a Leaky Vessel



Old Woman, Old Clothes

category_bug_journal2.gif Nearly 20 years ago when my mother died at age 75 and I was clearing out her home, I was surprised at how few clothes she had. A couple of dresses, three or four pairs of slacks, half a dozen blouses. There was one raincoat and even though she was a world-class knitter, no sweaters (she lived in Sacramento).

I was reminded of this last week when, bored with my winter uniform of teeshirt, sweater and pants, I was poking around for something different to wear.

It's not that there isn't a lot of choice. I counted 26 teeshirts, 16 pairs of pants, 10 shirts, nine skirts (six ankle-length), 14 sweaters, 11 sweatshirts, eight jackets of varying weights and one long, sleeveless sheath dress with matching duster that I haven't worn in at least six years.

You can tell from that list I'm not a fashion maven. (The people at Advanced Style won't be featuring me.) Comfort has been the main goal for my wardrobe in recent years. Beyond that, clean and presentable is all I'm interested in.

Well, if you don't count shoes. I can no longer tolerate the pain of gorgeous, three-inch heels, but peaking out from beneath an ordinary pair of pants on any given day, you would be likely to see low-heeled, fancy slip-ons in velvet or suede or even satin, heavily decorated with beads or glitter or raised embroidery.

Aside from indulging that shoe fetish, however, I opt for simplicity, ease and washable. Now that I'm not working, I have no intention of paying for my clothes five times over in dry-cleaning bills.

What struck me in this inventory, in addition to how abundant it is compared to my mother, is how old everything is. Years and years. And years. I know for sure that the black pants I'm wearing at this moment were bought in 2003. I have two more that are identical because when I like something, I buy in bulk and there is no such thing as too many pairs of black pants. I have others in different fabrics.

Two of those sweatshirts are about 20 years old, worn thin and comfy from hundreds of washings and I'm eager for the newer ones to catch up. Unfortunately, that sweet spot between too thick and too threadbare is short, a couple of years.

It's distressing that my seven or eight chenille sweaters will soon be too tattered to wear. No others are as warm over a teeshirt or hang quite as nicely and I haven't figured out what I will substitute now that they are out of fashion again and can't be found.

My newest shirt, worn only once so far, was bought on sale last fall, but the rest go back half a dozen years and more.

One reason my clothes are so old is that I dislike shopping for them. Even in my young and mid-years when I needed to look fashionable and enjoyed it, I shopped only twice a year (not counting shoes). I made a list of what I needed, how much I wanted to spend and did it all in one day each spring and fall.

It always felt like a chore. I'd have preferred, as was so with one television star I worked with for several years, to have a professional shopper, after a preliminary consultation, show up at my home with a rack of selections to choose from.

Like me, during her working years, my mother was well dressed and had a reasonably large choice in her closet. I'm wondering now if her paltry wardrobe at the end of her life was due to lack of interest in shopping. That she just didn't replace anything when it was worn and hoped she'd come out even when the bell tolled for her.

At least I know those sweatshirts have another 20 years or so to go.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Terry Hamburg: Marriage, American Style