Previous month:
October 2011
Next month:
December 2011

A Day Off to Celebrate

category_bug_politics.gif Actually, I just need a break for a day. But because I'm writing this on Wednesday, we could call it a celebration of the Tuesday election results.

Just when you thought the nation was doomed to a future of a right-wing freak show running things, voters said otherwise.

Mississippi rejected the propoal to define personhood as beginning at fertilization.

Maine voters retained same-day voter registration.

Ohio defeated Governor John Kasich's anti-labor union law by a resounding 69-31 percent.

Kentucky Democratic Governor Steve Beshear cruised to a second term victory by more than 20 points.

Democrats held onto the state senate in Iowa which means the marriage equality is safe there for the time being.

And more. It was a good day for sanity. But a year is a long, long time in American politics. Anything can happen before next year's presidential election.

Meanwhile, these Tuesday wins were not accidental. Thousands of people like you and me worked hard to convince voters of their position and to get them to the polls. They should all be congratulated.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: Skin Show

Boney Butt Syndrome

Such an education you all gave Crabby Old Lady on Monday about panties – um, in deference to Lee who finds that word “creepy,” Crabby will stick with “underwear” today.

The older she gets, the more strongly Crabby believes/knows there isn't much new or different in human behavior and most certainly, there is nothing she does that others would find odd. Nevertheless, she was surprised to read how many of you too own dozens of pairs of undies. Although it works for us, it does seem excessive, don't you think.

Also, Crabby was amazed to read how neat and tidy Darlene Costner is about storing her clean underwear:

”When I put them away after laundering, I put the new stack under the old so they all get the same amount of wear.”

Some years ago, Crabby finally figured out that underwear doesn't wrinkle and anyway, who is to see if it does. So she gave up folding them, now just dumps all the undies into a basket she keeps on a shelf in the closet and pulls out a clean pair each morning from the scrambled mess.

Elizabeth Rogers noted an advantage to the brand of undies she buys [emphasis added]:

“Terrific fit and feel and as they claim, no panty line.

In the parlance of technology, women have always considered panty lines a bug and to the extent that we could tolerate pantihose, we were/are happy that they eliminate panty lines. But it could be that we have been misled and they are, instead, a feature.

For a number of years a long while ago, Crabby dated a wonderful man who had a delightful sense of humor about sexual attraction in all its guises and possibilities for fun.

To him, panty lines were sexy and he despised pantihose for removing an innocent, small pleasure he could indulge just walking about the neighborhood on his daily or weekly errands. Crabby has often wondered if other men feel that way.

But that's not why she came here today. Crabby wants to talk about her newly boney butt.

Well, it's not really boney – she hasn't lost that much weight, but that phrase is the best way she can describe the problem succinctly: that Crabby Old Lady can no longer sit for any length of time without her bottom aching.

Soft chairs or hard, with and without cushions or pillows, even reading in bed – after 20 or 30 minutes, the ache is so painful that Crabby needs to get up and walk around for awhile.

As noted last February in a post titled, What Happened to My Butt,

”But I still have to ask, what happened to my cute keister? It's not exactly flat now but there is no shape. I know this because – only for the purpose of this blog post, you understand - I checked it in an angled mirror.”

Having then only just begun her 2012 diet, Crabby had yet to lose any discernible amount of weight and had no trouble sitting for as long as she wanted. But that's no longer so.

It took only a short tour around the web via Google to find that this may not be just a minor manifestation of aging that we can get silly about. Crabby's boney butt pain is probably due to loss of muscle mass which is common in elders.

According to the experts, this results in weakness and fatigue, loss of strength, contributes to poor balance, slower gait, falling and reduced ability to carry out activities of daily living – among other difficulties in a long list. In other words, it is not to be laughed off.

What prevents all these problems is strength training. Oh dear. Now Crabby must consider how to work that into her schedule and all she really wanted to do today was bitch a little and have some fun with an issue she thought was only a mild irritant.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ralph Lymburner: The Circus is Coming

Romney Plan Would Balance Budget...

category_bug_politics.gif ...on the backs of elders. So what else is new.

In a speech last Friday at a gathering of the Koch brothers' organization, Americans for Prosperity, Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney laid out his plan to cut government spending and reduce the federal deficit.

Romney's is very much like the draconian Paul Ryan plan from last year with a tweak or two. In fact, it is so close to Ryan's that Ryan himself is ecstatic, according to a Washington Post reporter:

"...Ryan was downright effusive about the contents of the plan. Ryan told me, 'Look at what he put out! This is a great development. It shows that the elusive adult conversation is taking place, but all on one side.'"

One of the reasons conservatives keep winning the war of words over the direction of the nation is that they relentlessly repeat the same talking points until, like repetitive advertising, it comes to seem to be the truth and then they repeat them some more.

A big one that seems to be winning no matter how much evidence there is to the contrary, is that cutting Social Security and Medicare will solve all the debt and deficit problems – if you believe there are any. (You can read the plan at Romney's website.)

Although there are the usual Republican talking points contained in Romney's Medicare proposals (less coverage; higher price), today, let's concentrate on the other one – Social Security – that is crucial to elders:

• Raise the Social Security retirement age to reflect increases in longevity.

Don't any of these Republicans so eager for elders to work longer know that the age for full benefits is already being raised to 67? For example, I was not eligible for full benefits until I was 65 and ten months. Romney does not say how much more he wants to raise the Social Security retirement age.

Secondly, increase in longevity is due almost entirely to improved infant mortality over the past hundred years. We don't live much longer than those of our parents' and grandparents' generations who survived infancy; the statistic increases because fewer babies die in infancy and childhood now.

Both points leave one to wonder if Romney and other conservatives who spout this nonsense are stupid or if they think we are.

Like every other conservative whose usually unstated, long-term goal is to privatize or eliminate Social Security, Mr. Romney states that “tax hikes cannot be on the table” and that no one currently retired or near retirement will be affected by the changes he wants to make.

The nasty assumption in that final point from Romney gives me major heartburn every time I hear it (and they all use it) from Republicans. These people think you and I are willing to throw our children and grandchildren under the bus as long as our benefit is untouched. Personally, I think that says more about their values than ours.

Last week, reporter Lori Montgomery raised a storm among liberals and progressives when, in the Washington Post, she concocted a phony Social Security crisis by erroneously reporting that the program has gone “cash negative” and is “sucking money from the treasury.”

More rational and informed writers all over the media set the record straight (although the WaPo ombudsman continued to support her false contention). But the best response came from Gene Lyons of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, writing in Salon.

Lyons clearly and succinctly explains the Social Security trust fund. It is inexplicable that no one on the political right understands this:

"Again, this is the beneficiaries’ money, invested by the Social Security trustees in U.S. Treasury bonds drawn upon 'the full faith and credit of the United States.'

“Far from being 'meaningless IOUs' as right-wing cant has it, they represent the same legally binding promise between the U.S. government and its people that it makes with Wall Street banks and the Chinese government, which also hold Treasury Bonds.”

It is that simple and anyone who says otherwise is stupid or lying.

So many of you sent me the link to Lyons' column that I can't list you all. Everyone else: be sure to read it and keep it close for future reference. It's gonna be a hard fight to keep those conservatives from slashing Social Security. This would be ho-hum stuff except that they never, ever let up and so neither can we.

* * *

I can't resist mentioning that later today, a gigantic asteroid will pass closer to Earth than even the moon does. The experts, who are excited to have the chance to see a heavenly body – named YU 55 - so up close and personal, say there is no chance it will collide with either Earth or the moon.

The closest encounter of the asteroid will take place at 6:28PM eastern U.S. time today. You'll need a fairly good telescope to see it, but I'll bet there will be plenty of photos online tomorrow. You can read more here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Roses

Elder Women and Underpants

Last week, there was good number of comments on the post responding to Jackie's question about brassieres with a lot of good suggestions for readers who are dissatisfied with what they are wearing to hold up their boobies.

Online and in a couple of emails, there were requests for a similar discussion about underpants and like brassieres, I am at unqualified to lead such a conversation. Let me explain.

During the last three years of my working life, I commuted every day from Manhattan to Stamford, Connecticut – a round trip of about four-and-a-half hours. That left me time during the week for nothing except travel, work and sleep.

Weekends were for catching up with the necessities of life – laundry, housecleaning, food shopping, perhaps cooking ahead so I had meals I could easily heat during the week before falling into bed to be rested enough when the alarm sounded at 4:30AM.

That pretty much described my entire life for those years. The only time left for personal shopping was on my return to Manhattan in the evenings and because I had, by then, been awake for 15 hours, I didn't stray far from the shops in Grand Central Station.

The only place to buy underpants at the Station was Rite-Aid and over those three years, I bought several dozen pairs of plain, cotton panties. Not high-cut, not hip huggers, not lace-y, not silky, not anything except white or black panties. I just wanted to get home as soon as possible, so anything beyond practicality and quick purchase was not on my agenda.

I'm guessing that before I began tossing the ones that have become worn and ragged in the past few years, I owned 30 or 40 pairs. I bought so many because some weekends I was too exhausted to do the laundry.

Sometimes, I was too tired to do the laundry for two weekends in a row. I'm pretty sure it must have been three weekends in a row on occasion. And one does need clean undies every day.

One of the cool things about owning a lot of any one kind of clothing item is that you wear each one so few times that they hardly ever wear out (this worked well for me with shoes for many years too) and only recently is my pantie supply low enough that it will soon be time to shop again.

If I ever had preferences about panties, I have long forgotten what they were and I haven't found any problems with the ones I own. So I am turning over this discussion to you. Here is what one reader, Martel, asked:

”I would like to know if there is some source of well-made 'granny drawers' I am unaware of. I am looking for cotton, boy legs with no elastic, and (please god) enough of a rise for the top to be at my waist without the bottom riding up my crack. The ones I'm wearing now are so thin and poor quality.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today: Barbara Sloan: Morning Coffee – An Elder Tradition


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.

What happened in 1967?

  • Well, I entered the work force in the I.T. Industry. Okay, there wasn’t any such thing back then; we just made it up as we went along.
  • The Doors’ great first album was released.
  • The town of Winneconne, Wisconsin, announced secession from the United States because it was not included in the official maps, and declared war. Nobody noticed.
  • Pink Floyd released their debut album. Nobody noticed.
  • Elvis and Priscilla were married in Las Vegas (where else?).
  • The Monterey Pop Festival was held; the first and arguably the best of its kind.
  • Charlie DeGaulle visited Canada and shot his mouth off.
  • Australia won the Davis Cup (again).
  • Che Guevera died.

This was the year of...

All You Need Is Love
Light My Fire
For What It's Worth
Penny Lane
Ruby Tuesday
White Rabbit
I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)
Strawberry Fields Forever
A Whiter Shade of Pale

None of which will be featured here today.

I’ll start with "possibly the most beautiful song of the rock and roll era" as it’s been called by someone or other - I’ve forgotten who. Not too far off the mark though. This is, rather surprisingly, by THE KINKS.

The Kinks

You could put the best work by The Kinks on to a gold record and say to anyone, “This is what a great pop song should be.” Of course, when you listen to the rest you’d ease slowly out of the room, closing the door behind you.

They only had two modes of songs – great and lousy, nothing in between. Fortunately, there are enough of the great ones to satisfy me.

The Kinks were the brothers Ray and Dave Davies who have been the constants throughout the group’s life in spite of their pretty much continual bickering with each other. Originally, Peter Quaife and Mick Avory made up the foursome. They were replaced in 1969 by John Dalton and Bob Henrit, and the comings and goings within the group continued for the life of The Kinks.

Anyway, this is the song referenced above, Waterloo Sunset.

♫ The Kinks - Waterloo Sunset

THE EASYBEATS formed in Sydney; however, all its members were born elsewhere.

The Easybeats

Stevie Wright and Snowy Fleet were from England, George Young from Scotland and Harry Vanda and Dick Diamonde were from the Netherlands. They all met when they were in a migrant hostel at the same time. George is the big brother of Malcolm and Angus, who started AC/DC.

In 1965 and ’66, The Easybeats took Australia by storm and the fan reaction at their concerts resembled that which greeted The Beatles. They decided to expand their horizons and left for England where they recorded Friday On My Mind which was a world-wide hit.

They were the most successful Australian rock group of the Sixties until they fell apart in 1969.

♫ The Easybeats - Friday on My Mind

THE YOUNG RASCALS or The Rascals as they became as they aged a bit, have a song that might rival that of The Kinks mentioned above.

The Rascals

The group originally consisted of Eddie Brigati, Felix Cavaliere, Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli and they all got together in their hometown of Garfield, New Jersey. Eddie, Felix and Gene had previously been members of Joey Dee and the Starlighters, so I guess they could twist a bit.

They wanted to call their group The Rascals but another group objected so they added the Young. I imagine the other one wasn’t around when they reverted to their original choice of names.

Anyway, they had a bunch of hits in a style that seems to be called blue-eyed soul to distinguish them from purveyors of some-other-color-eyed soul. This is Groovin'.

♫ The Rascals - Groovin'

THE DELLS lineup remained constant for nearly 40 years. Only The Four Tops could beat that record of consistency.

The Dells

For all those years, the group consisted of Johnny Carter, Marvin Junior, Mickey McGill, Verne Allison and Chuck Barksdale. The group formed in 1952 after attending school together, originally calling themselves The El-Rays. They changed their name to The Dells and had a hit with the song, Oh, What a Night. They re-recorded it in the late Sixties and had a hit with it all over again.

In 1958, one of the original members, Lucius McGill, not mentioned above, was seriously injured in a car accident and the group decided to call it a day. That only lasted about a year and the core of the group got back together again and lasted until 2009 when Johnny Carter died.

The Dells’ song from this year is called O-O I Love You. It sounds rather like a throwback to the previous decade.

♫ The Dells - O-O I Love You

THE SMALL FACES were Steve Marriott, Ronnie Lane, Kenney Jones, and Ian McLagan by the time this song was recorded. They used the adjective small for the group as each member was rather short. Later, they evolved into The Faces, dropping the small when Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart joined them, as these two were considerably taller than the others.

 Small Faces

They started out playing covers of R&B songs and developed their own songs in this style. They became favorites of the Mods at the time. The song today is a departure from that style and has been dubbed psychedelic, a term that was heaped on many bands from San Francisco at the time.

The effort was caused by flanging, which really means just putting your finger on the tape reel to alter its speed while recording or overdubbing. It’s an interesting effect but I wouldn’t want to listen to too many songs done this way. This is Itchycoo Park.

♫ Small Faces - Itchycoo Park

I’ll take any opportunity to include SMOKEY ROBINSON and here he is with THE MIRACLES.

Smokey & the Miracles

Smokey and the gang were probably the most successful group on Motown records until The Supremes came along. William Robinson gained the nickname as a kid because of his love of cowboy films. I can’t see the connection myself, but I’m sure there’s one somewhere.

In the early days of Motown, Smokey not only wrote songs for his own group, he pretty much wrote them for everyone else as well. Here’s one of those, well one he wrote for the Miracles, I Second That Emotion.

♫ Smokey & the Miracles - I Second That Emotion

Okay, here’s my bit of ordinariness. You didn’t think I was just going to include good songs, did you? The Sixties weren’t all rock & roll or soul music. This is VIKKI CARR.

Vikki Carr

Shh, don’t tell anyone. Especially don’t mention it to anyone I know, but I quite like Vikki.

Vikki, or Florencia Bisenta de Casillas Martinez Cardona as she was known to her folks, was from El Paso. She was the first to record He’s a Rebel. Phil Spector heard her while she was recording it and rushed out a version by The Crystals – an interesting reversal of what usually happened back then.

Her next album produced the rather overwrought song, It Must Be Him which sold a million. Here it is.

♫ Vikki Carr - It Must Be Him

THE LOVIN' SPOONFUL are often lumped in the category of folk-rock. However, their musical influences are much wider, including blues, jug band music and full tilt rock & roll. Even a bit of country at times. There was also a more melodic touch to their songs than others in the genre.

Lovin' Spoonful

The main man from the Spoonful, John Sebastian, had already been in a couple of bands, including one with future members of The Mamas and The Papas. He was also in demand as a session musician, particularly on harmonica but also on autoharp (not too many players of that instrument around outside the Carter family) and guitar.

This is one of a couple of hits they had this year, their tribute to country session musicians, Nashville Cats.

♫ Lovin' Spoonful - Nashville Cats

THE BEE GEES are known these days for singing meaningless songs in very high voices. However, before the disco craze made them rich beyond imagining, they were pretty decent crafters of pop songs.

The Bee Gees

The core group was made of the three brothers, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb. They were born in England and moved to Brisbane, Australia, before they were teenagers. They didn’t ever lose their English accents.

They started performing very young and appeared on TV in their adopted country when barely teenagers. They had a score of songs in this country that weren’t quite hits where it mattered (Melbourne and Sydney) and they returned to Britain at the height of Beatlemania.

Their first recordings there were thought to be the fab four under an assumed name. We here in Oz knew who they were.

In the Seventies, they went to America where they were asked to do the soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever. Boy oh boy oh boy, did that set them up for life (several lives, really). Here is one of their early songs, New York Mining Disaster, 1941.

♫ The BeeGees - New York Mining Disaster 1941

I’ve mentioned beautiful songs above, now we have a singer whose voice is so beautiful it makes angels weep with jealousy, AARON NEVILLE.

Aaron Neville

Aaron was the third of the Neville Brothers and he had a considerable solo career before the band got together (and during and after as well). He was the first of the brothers who came to be noticed by the general public with this song, Tell It Like It Is.

♫ Aaron Neville - Tell It Like It Is

1968 will appear here in two weeks.

INTERESTING STUFF: 5 November 2011

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.

Back in 1986, I attended a gigantic fireworks display in New York harbor to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. It was a spectacular evening. This is an artists rendition of the dedication of Lady Liberty in 1886.

Lady Liberty 1886

On 28 October, the 125th anniversary took place. In celebration, TalkingPointsMemo published a remarkable series of photographs of the statue from its construction in Paris up through today. Be sure to read the historical tidbits under the large photos.

Also in celebration, five snazzy, new, live, high-res webcams, donated by Earthcam, have been installed at the Statue of Liberty. They're fun to watch and you will find them here.

When I came to live in Oregon last year, I opened checking and savings accounts at a small, local bank – the Bank of Oswego. There are no charges for elders. Period. Unless you count the ATM fee at other machines but those are not BofO charges.

On the rare occasion I need to see a bank employee in person, I am always greeted with an offer of coffee and cookies. A teller takes care of my needs with no waiting. They even count my bags of change without requiring the coins to be rolled. Plus, the president publishes his home phone number and customers are encouraged to call him with any complaints.

So I have no need to move my money.

For any of you who want to disentangle yourselves from the big banks, today is move your money day. I know it's a hassle, particularly if you have direct deposit of your salary checks or Social Security benefits. If you use online bill pay, that's an additional pain to set up.

However, there are plenty of available suggestions. This Firedoglake story has links to a lot of online help pages and this is the main MoveYourMoney page. It doesn't matter if you don't do it today. Next week would be good too. Or next month. And there is more good information here.

In our high-tech world, old-fashioned magic acts might seem outdated, but I love them still. I have never wanted to know how the switches, changes and disappearances are done; it's much more fun to remain in the dark about how someone charmingly fooled me. Here's an astonishing example Darlene Costner found.

Finding a toilet has been a difficult problem for Occupy protesters of all ages and it especially affects involved elders. As one young demonstrator noted,

“'It’s not cool, at all, and a big hassle when you have to go,' says Eugene [Oregon] protester Shelly, while pointing to her mother and father as 'backing us up 100 percent, but they had to go home to use the bathroom.'”

Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich concurs in a story at The Los Angeles Times:

“Anyone with restroom-related issues — arising from age, pregnancy, prostate problems or irritable bowel syndrome — should prepare to join the revolution in diapers.”

Elderblogger Kay Dennison of Kay's Thinking Cap has joined the Occupy movement where she lives in Canton, Ohio. Here's one report from her. Is anyone else who reads TGB joined the occupation? If so, tell us about it.

On Thursday, FireDogLake sent off its first shipment of good to Occupy demonstrators in cold climates: 500 pairs of UFCW union-made socks made to withstand minus-40 degree weather.

“Of the $51,000 we have raised to date, we’ve already spent $42,000,” writes Jane Hamsher, “most of it on heavy-duty cold weather gear: thinsulate-lined masks and beanies, wool watch caps, polar fleece scarves and blankets, double base-layer, self-wicking long underwear, quilted jackets and vests, fleece pullovers, as well as the aforementioned -40 degree socks will all be going out to FDL members who will deliver them to occupations across the country.”

Read more here. You can donate to FireDogLake's Occupy supply program here by credit card. Or you can donate directly to Occupy Wall Street here. Scroll down on that latter page a bit to order food to be delivered to Zuccotti Park in New York City.

Maybe this video from Japan is really old and you have all seen, but I hadn't and I think it's adorable.

When the 2008 financial crisis hit us and I lost a sickening amount of money overnight, I realized that finally in my old age (then 67), I would need to apply myself to learn something about economics so that I could make reasoned decisions for myself (and, not incidentally, this blog).

Since then I have read popular economics widely and studied a (very) few more complicated texts. One of the people I turn to regularly to explain events and cut through the bull that politicians feed us is Nobel winner Paul Krugman who writes a twice-weekly column for The New York Times.

Last week, as the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) celebrated its 25th anniversary, the organization gave Krugman their first Distinguished Economist Award. That's nice, but I was much more interested in a short video interview with Krugman in his home with his wife, Robin Wells.

I spent more than 30 years interviewing celebrities and know that the single question most people want answered about the people we are interested in is, “What is he/she really like?”

This video doesn't go nearly far enough in answering that and there is a lot of fawning from other people (well, it's an award video, after all), but I enjoyed this more casual glimpse of Paul Krugman who helps me learn.

I'm guessing there is hardly anyone reading this blog who has not also read Up the Down Staircase - probably back when it was first published in 1965.

The novel, about an idealistic, young teacher who learns the gritty realities of life in a New York City high school, captured the imagination of millions of readers, made us all laugh a lot and remained on The New York Times best seller list for 64 weeks, becoming a movie of the same name in 1967.

Undoubtedly, Bel Kaufman's humor owes something to her grandfather, Yiddish humorist Sholom Aleichem whose Tevye stories became the basis for Fiddler on the Roof.

Recently, Ms. Kaufman was interviewed for a Guideposts video. (Hat tip to Tamar Orvel of Only Connect blog)

Darlene Costner found another good one. This is a story about the annual elk invasion in Estes, Colorado.

Retiring to a Hotel

Way back in 2004, I posted what one supposes is a joke email titled, Let's Retire to the Hilton. It relates the advantages of moving into a hotel over renting or buying a home in old age and I still find it delightful. You can read it here.

I suggest you do that and then come back for the rest of today's post.

Okay, 79-year-old Joy Bricker was still working when she moved into a hotel in Falls Church, Virginia 10 years ago and now that she has retired, she is moving to New York state to live with her daughter. Still, it's the same idea as retiring to the Hilton and it worked well for Joy beginning in 2001.

”For less than the price of many apartment rentals in the Washington metro area (roughly $1,500-$1,700 a month) Bricker's room was supplied with wifi, which fueled her hours of daily online research and reading a day, and the added benefit of daily room cleaning, and round-the-clock security.”

It gets harder as we age to take of house cleaning and hiring someone is expensive. Cable and internet connections get go up year to year (mine increases by about $3 every January) and monthly fees for security, if you feel you need it, add up too. It certainly can help when all that comes with price of the room or suite. Apparently, long-term hotel guests are not as uncommon as I thought:

”Extended hotel stays are not so unusual, according to Carla Berberich, a general manager at the Towne Place Suites, especially for business travelers. This Virginia location is nearly half-filled, at 46 percent.

"But, no one has stayed as long as Bricker, who checked in on August 4, 2001. She is the longest extended-stay guest any Marriott hotel has seen.”

And don't think living in a hotel is lonely existence – at least not for Joy:

”Bricker has become a pillar of the transient, makeshift community. She's made friends of staff and short-term neighbors alike. Next door, her new Kuwaiti friend brings traditional meals of spiced stew for them to share.

"'It's helped my appetite,' says Bricker as she acknowledges her frail frame. 'I call it community planning," she adds, 'I turned it into a community.'"

When Joy fell and broke her hip last year, it was the hospital staff who called the emergency medical service and were at the hospital when she woke following surgery.

Perhaps this story and the original joke-y email from seven years ago delights me so much because the only people I've known who actually live in hotels are rich. For many years late in her life, actor Bette Davis lived at the Ritz Carlton in New York City. Other well-known people make New York and Los Angeles hotels their homes away from home although few do so permanently or for as long as Joy Bricker.

I guess it delights me to know this because it is just so unexpected that people of ordinary means might actually make this kind of living work. I sort of wish I had looked into it for myself – or maybe not. You can read more about Joy's long-term stay at the hotel here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: Kerplunk!

Brassieres and Elder Women

An email arrives from TGB reader, Judith:

I am a 36B, take my bra off whenever I hit the door, feel dragged down by breasts when tired or hot, hate the bra pressure under my breasts, chafe in the summer, long for a comfy, modestly shapely bra at 75.

“Bet you and your readers would have a plethora of experiences and suggestions.”

When I was about 14, my mother took me to the Meier & Frank department store in downtown Portland, Oregon, to the bra department. There wasn't much reason for me to be there yet but do recall that in the mid-1950s, women and girls were not supposed to jiggle or bounce and it was time, my mother determined, to initiate me into the world of grownup underwear.

Within the intimate apparel department on an upper floor, brassieres were laid out flat on tables inside dividers that were labeled by size. My mother's breasts were modestly sized and as we walked among the field of bras toward the sales clerk behind a counter in the back, I remember being shocked at the expansive dimensions of D and E sizes. “Do women really come THAT big?” I asked.

Apparently I said this loudly enough for everyone in the department to hear. Chagrined, my mother grabbed my hand, pulled me quickly toward the sales clerk and asked – at top volume - “Do you have bras for beginners?”

Of course, all the shoppers again turned to look at us and now it was my turn to be embarrassed. It was many years until I appreciated my mother's retaliatory humor.

From day one, I hated that harness. It never fit right, always cut into my shoulders or ribs and even a year later when I was fully developed, I never filled out an A cup so my bras were always wrinkly. No stretchy materials yet in those days.

Fast forward 12 or 15 years. “Women's Lib.” Marches. Bra burning. It is in dispute whether any feminists actually burned their bras but the idea, then, was much discussed among my friends and it gave me a reason to stop wearing that garment that was so itchy and binding.

It was the end of my association with brassieres so I am uniquely unqualified to deal with Judith's question. The only additional, personal information I have is that I'm surprised at how saggy these tiny tits have become by age 70, but it's still not enough to stuff into even a small bra.

Looking around the web for information is discouraging. Almost every website related to elders and bras is concerned primarily with “adaptive” clothing, clothing for women with “special needs” or those who live in nursing homes – that is, bras that are easy to get into and out of for women with, for example, arthritis or for caregivers who help elders dress.

This is so pervasive I can only call it ageism – that bra sellers and those who write about the topic assume all women past a certain age are impaired. It's good these are available for people who need them but there are many more women with Judith's dilemma.

This story at a website called brawise assumes all old women of unstated age have a variety of ailments and trouble dressing themselves.

This one, although titled, Fashions for Elderly Women, speaks to people who shop for and dress elder women and not to women who wear the clothes. The language is really quite bizarre.

Another, targeting what the writer calls “mature gals,” was the most informative article about bras - which tells you all you need to know about the availability of good information online.

There appear to be two main online stores for these kinds of brassieres: Buck & Buck and Silvert's although the latter is labeled “disabled adaptive clothing.” As I said, it's discouraging.

At Yahoo!, someone asked when old women stop wearing bras as if it were a fait accompli to do so. This is the best answer from someone calling herself Mother Hen who directly addresses Judith's problem and also has a sense of humor about it:

”Every night from the time a girl starts wearing a bra, she is ready to abandon it. They are the most binding things I have ever been forced to wear. As I grew older, I found that they really [are] a necessary evil.

“While we are young, we may be able to get away without a bra and it's quite becoming to many people. But, when we get old, just sweating is enough to encourage any rational woman of age to wear a bra.

“I hope I have enlightened you on this subject. Now, I'm ready to rip mine off and let the flab fly free.”

Just in passing, I came across a number of histories of the brassiere. Wikipedia's is thorough with some wonderfully fun graphics and this one, less comprehensive, has some additional images that are worth seeing.

I hope some of you can be more helpful for Judith than I have been.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Pain

Medicare Part B Premium for 2012

category_bug_journal2.gif You may have heard the "big" Medicare news from the Department of Health and Human Services last week: the 2012 premium for Part B coverage – which pays for physician visits, outpatient hospital, certain home health and some other services - will not increase as much as anticipated for the majority of Medicare beneficiaries.

Most elders have been paying $96.40 during the years 2009-2011 in which there have been no Social Security cost-of-living increases. Now that there is a COLA of 3.6 percent for 2012, the Part B premium will rise by $3.50 to $99.90. This amount is deducted each month from Social Security payments.

However, some Medicare beneficiaries will see a real decrease in their Part B premium. If you turned 65 and joined traditional Medicare during the years with no Social Security COLA increases, you have been paying $115.40 for Part B.

That's because Part B premiums did increase during the no-COLA years and new enrollees have paid the higher premium. But the "hold harmless" clause of the Medicare legislation kept the premium at the lower amount for longer-term Medicare recipients so their Social Security payments would not be reduced.

Therefore, if you have been paying $115.40 for Part B, your monthly premium will decrease by $15.50 to $99.90 thereby increasing your Social Security check by that amount in addition to your 3.6 percent COLA. That's a help.

Certainly this reduction (even though it is actually a $3.50 increase for most Medicare beneficiaries) has not gone unnoticed by the Congressional supercommittee that is currently at work deciding what in the federal budget to slash by several trillion dollars.

It is an ideal excuse, from the Republican point of view, to meet the demands of lobbyists for the business/banker/Wall Street one-percenter crowd who have the committee's collective ear to slash Medicare and Social Security benefits, don't you think.

Okay, I'm being cynically snarky, but probably not far off the mark of what's happening behind those closed supercommittee doors.

Leaving that aside for the moment and getting back to the 2012 changes...

The above numbers apply to the majority of traditional Medicare recipients (none of this applies to Medicare Advantage participants) - those whose annual income is $85,000 or less for a single person or $170,000 or less for those filing joint income tax returns.

Part B premiums are means tested (the more polite phrase for this is "income adjusted") so above those two lowest income levels, there are several more, the highest being joint-return couples with income at or above $428,000 who pay $319.70 a month for Part B.

The Part B deductible for 2012 will be $140, a drop of $22 and note this from the Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) about the prescription drug premium:

"The estimate for the average 2012 Part D premium for basic coverage is $30. This is slightly lower than the actual average for 2011 of $30.76."

Whoopee! Another 76 cents a month in our pockets. Except that in my case, the Part D premium has increased – only by about a dollar a month but it is still an increase, not a reduction.

You will find all this information together with the income adjusted premiums and other information at the CMS website.

So overall, taking into consideration

• the 3.6 percent COLA
• smaller than expected increase in the Part B premium
• the 76-cent reduction in the Part D premium

the average retiree enrolled in traditional Medicare (about 75 percent of the 65-plus population) whose income is below $85,000 ($170,000 for those filing jointly) will see a monthly increase in Social Security income of about $53 a month.

While this is better than a poke in the eye, forgive me if I don't rejoice. Can't you hear the Congressional supercommittee gunning for that $53 they are certain to say old people must give up so that sacrifice is shared.

There have and continue to be many leaks from the supercommittee and it's hard to know what is true and what is not. However, in an interview with Politico on Monday, supercommittee co-chair Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) was asked specifically about Social Security:

"Everything is on the table," she said, "and we've made no decisions."

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Reunion

Elders Worry About Today and Tomorrow

category_bug_journal2.gif A new report from the AARP Public Policy Institute highlights the pessimism of elders (50-plus) about the economy in general and their job opportunities.

A large number, 76 percent were “not too” or “not at all” confident that they could find a good job within the next six months. (Asked of people working and people no longer in workforce.)

Find Job

[For larger images within the entire survey report, click here (pdf).]

Asked about whether job opportunities and the economy in general have gotten better, worse or stayed about the same in the year since October 2010, elders were overwhelmingly gloomy.

77 percent of respondents believe job opportunities have worsened or stayed the same and wait for this: 93 percent say the overall economy has worsened or stayed the same.

Job Opportunity Changes Since 2010

Although the 6.1 percent unemployment rate for people older than 50 is lower than the overall rate of 9.1 percent, it takes them, on average, a bit more than a year to find a new job compared to an average of 38.6 weeks for younger workers.

This survey is a followup to a similar one conducted by the AARP Public Policy Institute a year ago. Of the more than 5,027 people interviewed then, they were able to locate about 1304 of the same people for this survey.

From a list of nine choices, the number one worry among these elders was about whether the president and Congress to work together to solve the nation's economic woes. 91 percent were “very” or “somewhat” worried about this. The other worries in descending order – very or somewhat worred:

80%  Another recession
77%  Inflation
72%  Further Wall Street decline
72%  Rising taxes
63%  Having enough money for healthcare
52%  Rising interest rates
35%  Able to pay rent/mortgage
32%  Losing job

Other topics covered in the report include retirement income confidence, savings balances compared to pre-recession, living standards compared to parents' and expected children's living standards, among others.

How do these compare with your worries?

(H/T to Arthur Delaney of Huffington Post)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: A Senior's First White Water Rafting