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How Aging Changed the Lobster Story (from 2006)

EDITORIAL NOTE: One of the best things that can happen to a blogger is taking place for me this week – meeting in person an internet friend.

Yesterday, Time Goes By Elder Music columnist, Peter Tibbles, arrived to stay for a few days along with his Assistant Musicologist – all the way from Melbourne.

So I am taking off the week from blogging. In place of new posts are some vintage TGB stories that I kind of like and hope you will enjoy them in rerun. I won't disappear entirely. I'll be checking in now and then to see how it's going and perhaps join in the comments.

And, IMPORTANT, all Elder Storytelling Place stories linked at the bottom of these repeats are NEW.

category_bug_journal2.gif Many years ago, in the 1970s, I produced hundreds of local television shows in New York City that were similar to what Regis and Kelly and The View are now - morning programs aimed primarily at women which, over time, covered a wide variety of topics.

One of my favorite guests, when family issues were being discussed, was Eda LeShan. She was a family counselor who had once hosted a show on PBS titled How Do Your Children Grow?. She also wrote books, many of which are still available.

Eda opened one of those books with what she and I referred to as "The Lobster Story," which became, the more we talked about it, one of the important ideas we held about how we each chose to live. Here's the story:

One evening, Eda found herself at a formal dinner party, the kind where seats at the table are assigned with place cards. Following the cocktail hour, as Eda was settling herself in her chair, she realized her dinner partner was an oceanographer. "Oh, damn," Eda said to herself. "What am I ever going to find to talk about with this man?"

As the thought was running through her head, the man said, "Mrs. LeShan, I'll be bet you think we don't have anything in common. Let me tell you about the lobster.

"Every year, a lobster molts," the man continued. "It takes 72 hours for a new shell to form and harden, and during those three days, the lobster is the most vulnerable it can be. But, Mrs. LeShan, a lobster can't grow without making itself vulnerable."

Lobsters. People. No difference to Eda, after that story, in terms of vulnerability. She and her dinner companion had a sensational conversation that evening over good food and wine.

Eda and I came to believe that if we went for longer than a year or so without a crisis to overcome in our lives, we were not being challenged enough to continue growing.

In those days, I thought of "crisis" as always negative. If like me, you spent the majority of adulthood as a single woman, a crisis often involved a man - or lack of one. Other times it might be a difficult boss. Or being unemployed for a time. Or lacking confidence in one's ability to succeed in a new endeavor. Or the death of someone close.

Each of those events happened to me, some more than once, and they left me bereft for a time. But I never came out the other side of a difficult period without having gained a deeper understanding about myself, about another person, about life in general. So much so, that I came to rely on Eda's and my belief that one should have a crisis at least once a year and if too much time went by without one, I began to watch for something to overcome. It doesn't really work that way, but it's good to be on the lookout.

In recent years, I've come to see that the nature of the event that triggers some self- or life-examination doesn't need to be either a crisis or negative. Reading a new idea in a book, magazine, blog or in a movie - if it is original or striking enough (sometimes only its phrasing) - can set me on a new thought path and realization that I have changed in some manner.

For several weeks, I've been mulling a phrase from a statement made by Ang Lee, the director of Brokeback Mountain: "...the power of movies to change the way we're thinking..." which led me to consider how the power of blogging has changed the way I think (more on that some other time) in quiet, but dramatic ways. Who I am has been altered during two years of blogging, something I could not imagine when I began TGB.

And that thought, of course, led me back to Eda, who died in 2002, and how much I wish I could tell her what The Lobster Story, adapted to my later years, continues to mean to me.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Barbara Sloan: Collector or Hoarder?


PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

I’m not a fan of the flute and don’t get me started on the piccolo. I prefer instruments from the other end – cell, oboe, bassoon, French horn and so on.

However, I thought I’d try to overcome my antipathy to the instrument, and perhaps with some serious playing, get to like it. Or, at least, tolerate it. So here goes.

The obvious, and clichéd, place to start is with “The Magic Flute.” This is MOZART's last opera. Well, it’s usually tossed in the opera bag but to me it’s more akin to a musical. There’s a lot of recitative, that’s fancy talk for talky bits, too much if you ask me.

These are interspersed with some divine music. It’s also written in German rather than Italian, the language that Mozart used for his previous operas. The Italian language is just so suited to this sort of thing, even if they are just singing Don’t forget the carrots.

Actually, I don’t think that line was ever in an opera, but you never know.

Anyway, back to “The Magic Flute.” In this track we have Tamino, sung by Peter Schreier, playing the flute ecstatically because he’s just found out that Pamina is alive (I won’t go into the back story, there’s not enough room).

His playing draws to him animals of every description (not just rats as in another flute story) and Papagena and Pamina, although a long way away, hear him play and Papagena starts playing the bagpipes in response (although that’s not evident in the music) and then then...

Oh, it doesn’t matter, it’s just too silly for words. The music is great though. Here is Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton with some fluting going on as well.

♫ Mozart - Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton

The flute has only occasionally appeared in rock music, most notably in the works of Jethro Tull. I was really unfond of that group, probably due to the flute, so they won’t be appearing today.

Rather surprisingly, it turned up in some tracks from the BLUES PROJECT, the self styled “Jewish Beatles”. They were an influential band but not as influential as The Beatles.

Blues Project

One of their members, Al Kooper, went on to form Blood Sweat and Tears. He took guitarist Steve Katz along with him. In the way of these things, that band sacked Al after their first album.

Getting back to the Blues Project, they recorded only one studio album and from that we have Flute Thing. This has Andy Kulberg, normally the bass player, playing the flute and some fine guitar work from Danny Kalb. Al contributes on various keyboards and he also wrote and arranged the tune.

♫ Blues Project - Flute Thing

Mr. HANDEL liked to toss the flute into all sorts of his compositions.


That’s very handy for me today as there are any number of his works I could select. He also liked the trio sonata form and I’m quite fond of those usually. However, as I said in my introduction, I prefer those without the flutes. Not today though.

This is the first movement from his Trio Sonata for Flute, Violin and Continuo Op.2 No.1.

♫ Handel - Trio Sonata for Flute, Violin and Continuo Op.2 No.1

The flute is not often associated with BEETHOVEN but he wrote several pieces for the instrument.


These are all rather minor pieces but rather delightful, something else that’s seldom said about Ludwig’s music. This is the first movement of his Serenade in D major for flute, violin & viola Op.25.

♫ Beethoven - Serenade for flute, violin & viola Op.25

ROLAND KIRK was most known for playing the saxophone. Indeed, for playing several at once.

Roland Kirk

He didn’t restrict himself to that instrument (or those, perhaps); he played the flute as well. Other instruments too, but they’re not relevant today.

There’s at least one album he recorded, “I Talk With the Spirits,” where he just played the flute, so it’s to that one I turn. The tune is Serenade to a Cuckoo.

♫ Roland Kirk - Serenade To A Cuckoo

Time for a couple of Bachs. First the big cheese, JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH himself.

Johann Sebastian Bach

This is a particularly interesting composition as it was the only one old Jo wrote for the solo flute. Whenever he wrote for solo instruments he usually churned out a bunch of them, but not this time.

This is the second movement of the Partita for Solo Flute in A minor BWV 1013.

Johann Sebastian Bach - Partita for Solo Flute

The second Bach is one of Jo’s sons, JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH.

Johann Christian Bach

This Jo was the youngest of Papa Bach’s sons, the eleventh son and eighteenth child. Old Jo died when young Jo was 15. One of his older brothers took him in and continued the musical lessons started by their father.

He was a good friend of Mozart and their musical styles are quite similar. He’s often called “The English Bach” as he settled in London and remained there composing for one of the King Georges who liked that sort of thing. At least George had good taste in music.

Jo junior is a bit of a favorite of mine too. His flute thing is the first movement of the Flute Concerto in D.

♫ Johann Christian Bach - Flute Concerto in D

JEREMY AND THE SATYRS was the brain child of jazz flute player Jeremy Steig.

Jeremy Steig

That’s Jeremy, I couldn’t find any pics of the band.

Jeremy and the Satyrs was a jazz/rock/blues band that was way ahead of their time. Too far ahead, as they lasted only a short time and recorded just one album.

Jeremy started out playing with Bill Evans and later Gary Peacock, Carla Bley and others. Also Tim Hardin, who always preferred jazz musicians in his backing band. Unfortunately, Jeremy had a serious accident that damaged his face so he wasn’t able to play for some time.

He eventually healed, but it changed the way he played the flute. It sounds more interesting to me but that’s obvious on other tracks from the album rather than this one, Superbaby.

♫ Jeremey & the Satyrs - Superbaby

I’ll finish as I began with MOZART. Why not go with the best?


This is one of his most famous concertos, the one for flute and harp. This was pretty radical for its time as the harp was still a rather experimental instrument and it hadn’t found a place in the orchestras.

Mozart wrote only a couple of concertos that included the harp; he did write a bunch of things for the flute though. Here is the second movement of the Concerto in C for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, K. 299-297c.

♫ Mozart - Concerto for Flute and Harp


This 13-minute film follows Aldéa Pellerin-Cormier through one day from early morning until time for bed. Made by her great-grandson, Daniel Leger, Ms. Pellerin-Cormier's comments are in French with English subtitles. There is more information at the website. (Hat tip to doctafil of Jive Chalkin')

TEDx refers to independent, local TEDtalks events. At a recent TEDxSummit in Doha, this astonishing video opened the gathering and was meant to celebrate the power of x. (Hat tip to TGB reader, laura)

You might think that video was made with all kinds of fakery, CGI and fancy editing. Not so. It is a real kaleidoscope; everything happened inside the camera.

As amazing it is, the making-of video will make you appreciate it even more.

Past poet laureate, Charles Simic, has written a charming piece at The New York Review of Books website about bathroom reading material:

”Has there ever been any survey conducted among those who lock themselves in the bathroom inquiring how they spend their time? Do they read, smoke, talk to themselves, think things over, say their prayers, or just stare into space? If not, how come?

“All those lights burning in bathrooms late at night in large and small cities must indicate someone is doing much more in them than just answering the call of nature.”


”As a guest in homes of strangers, I have discovered bathroom libraries that took my breath away by their size and intellectual pretensions.

“It was unclear to me whether Plato’s dialogues in original Greek, together with Marx’s The Communist Manifesto, Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel were there to impress the visitor, or in the case of another fellow who had a pile of memoirs by ex-presidents going back to Reagan, to make him laugh.”

I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy reading the whole thing. In the bathroom?

I have known about the ability of octopuses (octopi?) to camouflage themselves by changing color, but I had no idea they could so dramatically change shape.

Apparently, there are other kinds of mimic octopi and you can find video of many of them at youtube - just query “mimic octopus”.

Just because political attacks on women's health issues have died down a bit in the media doesn't mean anything has gotten better. Nothing has changed and there are a growing number of states where pharmacists may refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control based on their personal beliefs.

This short video asks a startling question: What if pharmacists denied other medications for the same reason they deny contraceptives?

You can learn more and sign the petition here.

I have always had a passion for optical illusions and once gave up an entire weekend to make an overnight visit to Washington, D.C. for no other reason than to attend a major trompe l'oeil exhibit at the National Gallery.

I was lucky that this painting from 1874, titled Escaping Criticism (heh, heh) by Pere Borrel del Caso, was included in the show:


Trompe l'oeil (“deceive the eye”) has been around since ancient times. Wikipedia retells this story I first read many decades ago:

”A version of an oft-told ancient Greek story concerns a contest between two renowned painters. Zeuxis (born around 464 BC) produced a still life painting so convincing, that birds flew down from the sky to peck at the painted grapes.

“He then asked his rival, Parrhasius, to pull back a pair of very tattered curtains in order to judge the painting behind them. Parrhasius won the contest, as his painting was of the curtains themselves.”

Don'tcha love it?

Photographs of 3D street paintings that fool the eye are all over the web, but this is the first video I've seen of one being made. “The Crevasse” is by acknowledged master, Edgar Muller.

The Dalai Lama leads a life of complexity and contradiction juggling ancient devotions, quietly intense political activism and high levels of modern technology. Last week I ran across this note from him on Google+:

”Every one of us is getting older, which is a natural process. Time is constantly moving on, second by second. Nothing can stop it, but what we can do is use our time properly; that is in our hands.

“Whether we believe in a spiritual tradition or not, we need to use our time meaningfully. If over days, weeks, months and years, we have used our time in a meaningful way – when our last day comes, we'll be happy, we'll have no regrets.”

If you are unfamiliar with the British newspaper, The Daily Mail, just think any Rupert Murdoch paper (although he doesn't own this one) such as The New York Post.

Two fellows from Britain, Dan and Dan, perform The Daily Mail Song. It gave me a giggle – maybe you too.

Thanks to Nikki of From Where I Sit and Nancy Leitz, we have the video story of Henri (oh my, a lot of French going on in this post today), a black cat whose demeanor is as dark as his fur:

The video was made by Will Braden who posts other kinds of videos here. And this is Part 2, Henri, Paw de Deux.

This happened last Tuesday and you have probably seen it by now but what the hell - I really, really like it: President Barack Obama slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon and his house band, The Roots.

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.

Mom's 20th Yahrzeit

Category_bug_timeline Today is the 20th anniversary of my mother's death, her “yahrzeit” in Yiddish.

I am not religious. Not at all. In fact, I don't believe there is a god. But I like this ritual of lighting a 24-hour yahrzeit candle each year in remembrance of the people I have loved and still love.

Soon after the new year in 1992, my mother was told that her cancer was untreatable; she had three or four months to live, said the doctor. I was lucky. I was able to take my job with me to her home in Sacramento where I cared for her around the clock until this date in April when she died quietly in the early afternoon.

Those four months remain the most profound period of my life and unlike so many other events from my past, are as clear and fresh and immediate today as if it all happened last month instead of two decades ago.

It would be redundant to say much more. I wrote about the whole experience in a series of posts during the first couple of months after launching Time Goes By. You can read it here.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Grandpop's Eye


Orrin Onken Orrin Onken writes the twice-monthly TGB Elderlaw Attorney column in which he discusses legal issues of concern and interest to elders. He is an elderlaw attorney licensed to practice in the state of Oregon. He also keeps his own blog, Oregon Elder Law, and you can read more about his background here. All his Time Goes By columns are collected in this list.

In my last column, I attempted to demystify probate. If I succeeded at all, you no longer think of probate as something to fear.

In the comments to my probate post, people continued to wonder whether they should have a will or trust. I think people should be more concerned about having a plan.

Lawyers call it an estate plan for a reason. The plan comes first. The documents put the plan into action. In order to plan, we need to know about the three ways that property passes at death.

I own a house with my wife. Because of the way the deed is written, when I die, she owns it. She doesn’t have to do anything. We have a couple of joint checking accounts. The same applies. When I kick the bucket, she gets the house and all the money in the account.

If I wrote a will saying I really never loved her all that much and then willed everything I own to the Church of Elvis, my wife would still get the house and the money in the checking account.

You can pass property outside of probate using joint ownership. Just because you can do it does not mean you should. Joint ownership works well between husband and wife, but not so well between parent and child. Survivorship rights are tricky and present many hidden dangers.

Children have a tendency to approach elderly parents and say, for example, “Hey mom, why don’t you make things easy when you die by putting my name on the house.”

The child presents mom with a deed that he or she got at the stationery store and filled out at the kitchen table. So mom signs.

The next day the kid who wrote the deed gets run over by a bus. If the deed isn’t done exactly right, the dead child’s half of the property now belongs to the grandchildren and mom owns her home jointly with a pot smoking teenager and a ten year old. The deed ends up at my office in my museum of ugly deeds.

Joint ownership is part of my estate plan and part of most estate plans. But remember, the plan comes first. The deeds and joint accounts should follow. Don’t get it backwards. And always let your lawyer write the important documents.

Much of our accumulated wealth passes by contract. I have a contract with Fly-by-Nite Mutual that says that if I die the company will pay my wife a stack of money.

The contract is called life insurance and the document that really matters is called the beneficiary designation. The life insurance company is going to pay the person whose name is on the beneficiary designation form, not the person named in my will or trust.

If I divorce my wife and get a new trophy wife, I better change the beneficiary designation to the new wife or somebody is going to be sorely disappointed.

Beneficiary designations control the distribution of life insurance, most annuities, 401k plans, IRAs, and most retirement plans. In many cases, beneficiary designations will control the biggest chunk of an elder’s accumulated wealth.

In my case, I want one small retirement account to go to my son. I want the larger of my retirement accounts and the life insurance to go to my wife. This is my plan. The documents put it into effect.

What property doesn’t go by joint ownership and isn’t controlled by beneficiary designation, goes according to the directions in your will or trust. If you have no will, the state you live in has written one for you and your property will probably go to your children in equal shares.

If you have a trust and it has been properly funded, your property goes as directed in the trust. The administration of wills is done through probate. Trusts are administered similarly to wills, but without the court oversight.

I tell this story about the three ways that property passes when you die hundreds of time a year. When I tell it to middle-class married couples, I explain that I am going to write two wills - one for the husband and one for the wife - but one of them will probably end up as scrap paper.

The reason is that when the husband dies (husbands usually die before wives), all of the couple’s property will pass to the wife through joint ownership and beneficiary designations. The family home will go to the wife because it is owned jointly. The annuity and the retirement account will pass to the wife because of beneficiary designations.

Once that has happened, there is nothing left. With nothing to pass through probate, that expensive will becomes scrap paper.

When the wife then dies, however, that will is damn important. The jointly owned property is gone. The retirement accounts may well have paid out. Everything is controlled by the will.

I tell couples they could save money on their estate plan if they would promise to die in a predetermined order, but no one has ever taken me up on it.

The moral of today’s story is to de-emphasize the documents and emphasize a plan that takes into account all the ways in which your property passes at death. When the plan is made, use documents to put it into effect. If the plan changes, see your lawyer and change the documents.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Is there an elderlaw topic you would like Orrin Onken to discuss? Leave your suggestion in the comments below and it may turn up in a future column. Remember, Orrin cannot advise on specific personal legal issues.]

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Barb: Trauma as the Fat Lady Sings


By C. P. Cavafy
(Translated by Daniel Mendelsohn)

Half past twelve. The time has quickly passed
since nine o'clock when I first turned up the lamp
and sat down here. I've been sitting without reading,
without speaking. With whom should I speak,
so utterly alone within this house?

The apparition of my youthful body,
since nine o'clock when I first turned up the lamp,
has come and found me and reminded me
of shuttered perfumed rooms
and of pleasure spent—what wanton pleasure!
And it also brought before my eyes
streets made unrecognizable by time,
bustling city centres that are no more
and theatres and cafés that existed long ago.

The apparition of my youthful body
came and also brought me cause for pain:
deaths in the family; separations;
the feelings of my loved ones, the feelings of
those long dead which I so little valued.

Half past twelve. How the time has passed.
Half past twelve. How the years have passed.

Constantine P. Cavafy

Constantine P. Cavafy was a widely admired Greek poet born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1863. Following a few years with his family in Liverpool, England as a youth, he returned to and lived out his life in Alexandria.

He worked as a journalist, then as a public servant throughout his life while writing his poems. At first, he was recognized only in the Greek community of Alexandria, but later in his life became known in Greece itself. His poems were published privately until after his death in 1933 on his 70th birthday.

His home in Alexandria is now a museum where some of his original manuscripts and sketches on on view.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The Good Life on Olive Avenue

Elder Media: For Women Only? Dumb Ones?

As Crabby Old Lady has written here in the past, the largest impetus behiind this blog was the fact that after seven or eight years of diving deep into available research on aging and what it would be like for her to get old, there was nothing to be found that had anything positive to say. It was all about disease, decline and debility.

When Crabby began planning Time Goes By in 2003, with the idea of opposing that negative spin, there was hardly any attention paid by mainstream media to elders. The lives of old people in newspapers, magazines and on television were, for all intents and purposes, non-existent; there was even less of it online.

Soon, however - 2004, 2005 or so - the media checked their calendars and saw that the oldest baby boomers would soon hit the 60 milestone. There was a sudden flood of stories all pretty much on the same theme: boomers will “redefine” retirement, repeated ad infinitum based on not a whit of evidence (nor any since then, but that rant is for another day).

By last year, as the first wave of boomers became eligible for Medicare, the media had taken advantage of what they belatedly realized was an entirely new (to them) advertising demographic – old people.

One way that was manifest through these years, was a proliferation of websites meant to attract boomers. Crabby frequently checks the web looking for elder online trends and regularly disappointed that these websites are generally awful.

Crabby is not talking about the serious organizations that deal factually with crucial aspects of aging like Social Security, Medicare, caregiving, health and medical information, financial services, choosing new living arrangements, etc. Those serve specific purposes and the best of them, quite a few, do it well.

No, Crabby is talking about the brand-name, general-interest websites aimed at boomers and seniors - magazine-style publications meant to both entertain and inform.

When Crabby Old Lady was studying aging in her pre-blogging days, it was all about how terrible getting old is – might as well shoot yourself was the impression she got.

Nowadays, it is the opposite. Although the websites openly target their aging audiences by name – boomers and, sometimes, seniors – there is little in the topic selection to indicate the audience has left puberty.

According to the headlines, life in people's 50s, 60s and beyond hasn't changed since they were reading Seventeen magazine or maybe .

The headlines make Crabby cringe: Why We Marry the Wrong Men, 10 Weight Loss Myths, Five Steps to Healthier Nails, Is Your Relationship in Trouble? and the one that sent Crabby over the edge to this blog post: Spandex Done Right.


Like Crabby said, she is embarrassed. When she read those stories half a century ago (with only slight variations in the headlines), she had an excuse: she was young, unformed and uninformed.

Crabby is old now, smarter, much better informed and she resents being treated like nothing has changed, that she has learned nothing in the intervening 55 years.

In addition to the juvenilia – not to mention the anti-aging articles and advertisements - all of these websites are aimed at women. Most have home page links with such titles as Women's Health, Women's Health News or Women's Health Center without comparable links to men's health.

And as far as Crabby can find, there are no websites specifically for boomer and senior men which doesn't seem fair. If this blog is any indication, male readers – although fewer in number - are just as interested in what we talk about here as women readers.

But from the websites that target boomers and seniors, Crabby wouldn't know there were any elder men at all (except for those causing “relationship” problems).

All these years since Crabby Old Lady first began investigating what it is like to get old, the subject just gets more intense, complex and compelling. But you wouldn't know it from boomer and senior websites.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Michael Gorodezky: Metaphor

Elder Income

There has been plenty of reporting on the increasing inequality of wealth distribution between the top one percent of the population and the 99 percent of the rest of us.

The disparity is breathtaking. By most measurements, the top .01 percent of the population earn an average of something like $27 million per household per year while the average of everyone else is $31,244. Whether it is measuring income, accumulated wealth or whatever, this is the kind of chart we're accustomed to seeing these days:

Income inequality in US

A zillion words have been written about why such inequality is corrosive to society. Or not, if you subscribe to the right wing philosophy of wealth, trickle-down and job creation. We are sure to hear a lot more from both sides leading up to election day in November. But I'm not here to add to the cacophony today; I'm just setting the stage a bit.

A few facts:

According to the Social Security Administration, people 65 and older in the middle level of income distribution receive about 66 percent of their income from Social Security. For those in the lowest income level, Social Security is just under 85 percent of their income.

For 22.5 percent of married beneficiaries in 2010, Social Security was 90 percent or more of income. That percent held true for 46.1 percent of non-married beneficiaries that year. So says the Social Security Administration [pdf].

The current average Social Security benefit is $1230 per month or $14,760 annually. According to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the U.S. ranks fifth from the bottom among 30 countries with advanced economies in generosity of benefits for average earners.

Under a new measure of poverty, the Census Bureau [pdf] reports that in 2010, 15.9 percent of elders – one-sixth (!) - lived under the poverty line.

To bring this back to the inequality of wealth distribution, I wonder how much higher average Social Security benefits would be today if, during the past 30 years, salaries had not been stagnant?

With all this, presidential candidate Mitt Romney and just about every Republican in Congress wants to cut Social Security benefits via some means and President Barack Obama has revealed that he can be wobbly on the subject.

So I'm sitting here on a Sunday afternoon curious about Time Goes By readers, wondering how well we all get by. What percentage of our incomes derive from Social Security and how difficult is it to match our money to monthly requirements.

For me, Social Security provides 86.3 percent income. Because I have no mortgage, my fixed expenses are low and although I'm not fanatical about it, I watch the outgo carefully and never spend more than I can pay cash for.

What I've noticed in the past year, however, is a dramatic increase in the cost of food. I can't swear to it, but it feels like I am spending twice as much now on groceries.

I eat almost no meat and I usually buy the least expensive fish. But produce is now astronomical so I have begun substituting less costly frozen vegetables and fruit. Because they are frozen within 24 hours of picking, they are often more nutritious than fresh.

Anyway, as always when I ask personal questions on this blog, you are welcome to reply anonymously. An email address is still required in the comment form but it is never published.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia Hirtz: Adelaida


PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.


I thought there’d be so many songs about telephones I’d have to beat them off with a stick. That proved not to be so.

What I really mean is those with phone in the title. I found few of those and fewer still with telephone. Of course, there are a lot of songs that use the phone as a major point of the song so I won’t be lacking for anything in this category.


These tunes are all about landline phones, the old fashioned ones, not what Americans insist on calling cell phones and are referred to by the rest of the world as mobile phones.

Whatever you call them, I don’t have one. I plan to be the second last person in the country to get one. I’ll give regular readers one guess who’ll be the last.

I was born and bred in a country town and I remember that our phone number was 273. My current number has considerably more digits than that one.

I’ll start with an actual phone number, one of the old fashioned kind. The singer isn’t very well known these days and if his name does come up, it’s usually as an answer to a trivia quiz question.

We have HAWKSHAW HAWKINS who, along with Cowboy Copas, was in the plane that went down killing Patsy Cline (as well as the others).

Hawkshaw Hawkins

Harold Hawkins was from West Virginia and gained his nickname from a comic strip character (not one that I know, but that’s not surprising). He won a talent contest when he was 16.

I’ve found a considerable number of talent contest winners since I’ve been doing these columns but now that I think about it, generally the losers didn’t go on to do anything in show biz.

Hawkins performed on radio and joined the army during the war and fought at the Battle of the Bulge with great distinction. After the war, he continued performing and gained a record contract.

He was also a regular at the Grand Ole Opry. The song, Lonesome 7-7203, went to number one on the charts. Unfortunately, that was after he died.

♫ Hawkshaw Hawkins - Lonesome 7-7203

I just realized I have a bit of a theme going here (well, aside from the phones). I next have another musician who died in a plane crash. This time it’s JIM CROCE.

Jim Croce

This is one that Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, said had to be present when I mentioned the topic. I hadn’t considered it, but she was adamant and here it is.

The song reverts to an even earlier time when people called the operator, particularly for long distance calls. Poor old Jim, he had a number of hits in the seventies that pretty much everyone liked and he was going to be the next big thing. You never know. Here he is singing Operator.

♫ Jim Croce - Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)

AARON NEVILLE and his brothers epitomize New Orleans music – R&B, gospel, Cajun, pop, funk and even a little country in there if you listen hard enough.

Aaron Neville3

Rather surprisingly, this is the only song about a wrong number. I thought there’d be more of them but it looks as if all the others got through (much to the chagrin of some of them, as you’ll see and hear). This is Wrong Number, an early song of his from 1961.

♫ Aaron Neville - Wrong Number

Now for two variations on the same theme, infidelity, and with similar titles. The first of these is by country music artist LEROY VAN DYKE.


Leroy Van Dyke


Leroy had several country hits and then hit it really big with a crossover song that was huge on the pop charts as well, Walk On By. His next song was also a crossover hit. It wasn’t quite as successful as that other one but it’s the one we’re interested in today, If a Woman Answers.

♫ Leroy Van Dyke - If a Woman Answers (Hang Up the Phone)

I mentioned that there was going to be a variation on a theme and as the previous song is called If a Woman Answers, I know that you’re way ahead of me as to the title of this next one. You’d be right.

This second one is not by a country singer, but it’s probably the only area of music he didn’t visit in his lifetime: BOBBY DARIN.

Bobby Darin

The song is from the sound track of the film, If a Man Answers, which starred Bobby and Sandra Dee, his sometime wife. It’s not a film I remember seeing at the time (or since, for that matter) and I don’t think the song is as good as the previous one, but I’ve included it because of its name.

This is Bobby with the title track from the film.

♫ Bobby Darin - If a Man Answers

Here is another song suggested by the A.M. that wasn’t on my original list. Another got the flick to accommodate this one, but it is CHUCK BERRY so that’s okay with me. I wasn’t surprised with her suggestion as Chuck is a particular favorite of the A.M.

Chuck Berry

Chuck was the premier singer/songwriter of the early rock & roll period, but then Buddy Holly was really the only other one doing that at the time. He really needs no introduction to readers of this column. This is his phone song, Memphis.

♫ Chuck Berry - Memphis

Goodness, yet another who should have taken the train rather than the plane. Here is another song with a phone number for a title, but the more modern type. It’s a song with which Wilson Pickett had a big hit, but I’ve already played his version in another column. Instead, a version that’s just as good and how could it not be with OTIS REDDING singing?

Otis Redding

Otis was the greatest of the soul singers and no one has come along since to usurp that title. Wilson came close as did Solomon but they didn’t quite make it in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, these were a couple of great singers who, unlike poor Otis, had long careers. Oh well. Here is Otis’s version of 634-5789.

♫ Otis Redding - 634-5789 (Soulsville U.S.A)

STEELY DAN is, or was, officially a group but in reality, it was Donald Fagen and Walter Becker with whichever musicians met their exacting standards for the project they were on at the time.

Steely Dan

The phone song was from probably their most famous album, “Pretzel Logic,” and it featured, amongst others, the brilliant but tragic Jim Gordon on drums and the great Jeff Baxter on guitar rather than Walter.

It’s almost certainly the Dan’s most famous track, Rikki Don't Lose That Number. It seems there really was a Rikki who was a good friend of Donald’s. However, he refuses to confirm (or deny) the truth of the tale of the song.

♫ Steely Dan - Rikki Don't Lose That Number

SOLOMON BURKE was possibly the first of the great soul singers, along with Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, and he was definitely the last of them as well.


Solomon Burke


Solomon was not only a soul singer, he could rock it with the best of them and he even delved into country music at times predating Ray Charles on that. He certainly had a flair for the dramatic as will be shown in the song today. Boy, does Solomon get his rocks off on this one, 000000 You.

♫ Solomon Burke - 000000 You

Quite often you see or hear the phrase, “last but not least.” Well, I’m turning that on its head and I’m going to say last and definitely least. Not just least today. If there’s ever a contest for the worst song ever (and that sort of thing happens now and then) this song would have to be in contention.

Okay, there are worse songs out there but you’d have to have a good look at it nonetheless. It’s a song by PAUL EVANS whose most notable ditty before this one was Seven Little Girls (Sitting in the Back Seat). Remember that one? I sure do.

Paul Evans

Besides recording occasionally, Paul was a songwriter who had hits by the Kalin Twins (their most famous song), Elvis, Pat Boone, Jimmy Dean, Bobby Vinton and others.

Today’s is not so much a telephone song as an answering machine song, just like the previous one. However, it may be one of the first to use that device in a song.

For your delectation here is Hello, This is Joanie. I have seen the name also spelt Joni or Joannie. It doesn’t matter as they all sound the same.

♫ Paul Evans - Hello this is Joanie



Murray Gershenz runs the Music Man Murray's record shop in Los Angeles where he keeps what is probably the largest private collection of vinyl recordings in the world – tens of thousands of them.

His quest to sell the shop is not going well. Murray has lately taken up acting – character roles on television (e.g. Mad Men) and film. Murray is 89 years old.

Richard Parks has produced a charming documentary about Murray that is a beautiful tribute to the man, his life and his passion for music. Here is the trailer for the 20-minute film:

Music Man Murray premiers tonight at 8:30PM on the Documentary Channel (267 on DirecTV and 197 on DISH). You will find more information here.

It is also available for streaming online for one week beginning today at the NPR website, All Songs Considered – an elder movie you should not miss.

In the current anti-woman climate in which too many men (and some women) seem determined to turn back the cultural clock to about 1910, a story with the above title on the opinion section of last Sunday's New York Times leapt off the page for me.

In 1978, wrote Susan Heath, five years after the Roe v. Wade decision, she sought to end a pregnancy.

”I’m pregnant but I’m not trapped.

“All I had to do was call the clinic and make an appointment. I don’t have to be ashamed or terrified, because brave women before me fought to make abortion legal, have gone public with their stories of shame and terror and made sure that no woman ever again has to die from a back-alley abortion or bear an unwanted child.

“We park and walk up to the entrance. No running the gantlet between pickets shouting at me that I’m a murderer, no fear that someone will throw a bomb. The receptionist takes my name...”

Go read the whole thing – the story of how women's health is supposed to work and that we are in danger of losing. Thank you for the reminder and brava, Susan Heath.

As long as we are on the topic of reproduction, did you know lady kangaroos have three vaginas? I sure didn't, and other marsupials like koalas, wombats and Tasmanian devils also have three.


In addition, the males sometimes have two-pronged penises. At least, that's what Discover magazine tells me. It's all quite complicated compared to mammals like you and me. There is more explanation here.

The U.S. Postal Service is about to be drastically downsized due to draconian fiscal requirements initiated by Republicans that are imposed on no other federal agency. Their long-term goal is to privatize the service.

Everything possible should be done to stop these closures for many good reasons. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's reason last week is idiotic, ageist and is more a hindrance to defeating the downsizing than a help. Take a look:

Texting while driving is a growing civic problem. People have been killed when the driver was distracted by his or her smartphone. On the other hand, texting while walking usually harms only the texter as this video demonstrates.

The poor guy looks up from his tiny screen to confront a bear - yes, a bear - coming at him. It's a bit blurry and hard to see, but the news report provides a slomo version at the end so stick around for that.

It has been a long, hard-fought battle for gays and lesbians to achieve equality with heterosexuals in terms of marriage, but state bans are falling swiftly these days.

Nevertheless, after reading a news story sent by Jan Adams of Can It Happen Here?, homosexuals may want to rethink the goal of marriage parity.

”Because same-sex marriage laws vary from state to state, how a unioned couple may file in each state they live and work also varies. Civil unioned New Jerseyans who work in New York, for instance, have to prepare six or more tax forms while heterosexual couples need only prepare three.

“This year, Denelsbeck and Javins had to prepare seven, at a cost of $925.

"'Every year it’s more and more stressful and frustrating,' said Denelsbeck, who lives with Javins, 40, in Jersey City.”

Oy, the law of unintended consequences kicks in again. It may take several more years, but once the entire country is in agreement on gay marriage, this annual tribulation should end. You can read more here.

At first, Simon Cowell is his usual skeptical self in this audition of Only Boys Aloud Welsh Choir for the program, Britain's Got Talent. Watch what happens. (Hat tip to doctafil of Jive Chalkin')

When, on that now-infamous day in December 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, the birth of infant Barack Obama was still six years in the future.

Last Wednesday, while at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan to give a speech, Obama took a few minutes to sit a spell on that very bus. I like this photo of the moment.


I picked this up a few days ago from Jan Adams' blog. In honor of tax day, she posted the video of unemployed engineer, Anthony Adams, explaining the tax system and debunking the myth that cutting taxes creates jobs.

It really is as easy to understand as he shows which only means that our so-called representatives in Washington are deliberately trying to fog up the issue. But you already knew that, right?

This video look familiar, like something I've posted before. But my memory is that this one is better quality, a little longer and therefore more interesting. Or maybe it's my memory that's failing. Even if that's so, it's worth another view. Enjoy. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner)

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.

Lies, Damned Lies and Social Security

category_bug_politics.gif Yeah, yeah, I know. Some of you develop instant glazed eye syndrome when I repeatedly harp on the need to preserve Social Security and to flay those who want to kill it.

Here I go again.

As I keep pointing out, the media – either deliberately in concert with anti-Social Security politicians or out of ignorance and/or laziness – too often publish misinformation, untruths and maybe lies.

This week, Trudy Lieberman, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), a publication far more prestigious and well-known than this blog, has taken up this issue:

”For nearly three years CJR has observed that much of the press has reported only one side of this story using 'facts' that are misleading or flat-out wrong while ignoring others...” she writes.

“To be sure, Social Security is not in perfect financial health. But the fact is, the program can pay full benefits until 2036, and three-quarters of the benefits after that without new revenues.

“Many experts believe small fixes like lifting the cap on income subject to payroll taxes—$110,100 for 2012—will make Social Security solvent for decades. But that option is not on Washington’s table, nor has it been discussed much in the press.

“Why not? Because it doesn’t fit into the doom-and-gloom narrative that has proved politically expedient to tell.”

Sing it, Trudy! I am so grateful she is taking this on in a magazine widely read within the journalism community.

The result of the uninformed media narrative (as also happened during former President George W. Bush's attempt to cram Social Security privatization down the public's throat six years ago) is that young people do not believe in Social Security at all. Trudy again:

”A twenty-nine-year old web manager for a New York City agency recently told me she was opting out of the program, which the city pension system allows her to do.

“'I don’t think Social Security is a wise investment given the (availability) of a deferred compensation plan,' she said. 'It’s a known fact,' the woman explained, 'if it stays the way it is right now, it would run out of funds in 2035.' How did she know that? She listed the media outlets that helped shape her opinion.”

Ms. Lieberman has dug into the background of the (forgive me) War on Social Security much deeper than I have managed to do and discovered this:

”In 1983, Stuart Butler, now director of the Policy Innovation Center at the Heritage Foundation, crafted a manifesto called Achieving a ‘Leninist' Strategy outlining how the right could systematically attack the country’s most popular social program.

“The document advised 'one element involves what one might crudely call guerrilla warfare against both the current Social Security system and the coalition that supports it.'

“Butler and his coauthor identified key interest groups—the young, the middle-aged, and those nearing or in retirement—to target.

“The manifesto also described the need for 'an education campaign to gain the support of key individuals in the media as well as to win over vital constituencies for political reform,' and it called for exploring and formulating into legislative initiatives 'methods of neutralizing, buying out, or winning over key segments of the Social Security coalition.'”

Go read the entire story. It is packed with important information we need in our continuing efforts to fight back against these forces. Information like:

• the fact that Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, who once championed Social Security, has now gone over to the dark side

• a frightening report in a recent Esquire pitting “fat-cat elders” against the youth of America

• why you should not trust what Lori Montgomery writes about Social Security at the Washington Post.

I cannot recall the last time I could so totally recommend a piece of journalism. Trudy Lieberman's is a crucially important story for all citizens but especially we elders who will be doing as much as possible to hold back the tide against killing Social Security.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia Hirtz: The Rain


By Joyce Kilmer

With shameless and incessant lust
Thy tremulous hot hands are thrust
Upon my body's loveliness.
O loathsome Age, thy foul caress
Puts on my heart a deadly blight,
Withers my hair to leprous white,
Binds fetters on my eager feet
That once on Springtime's road were fleet
To bear me to Love's shining goal.
Now bitter tides of sorrow roll
To drown me in a sea of woe
And God looks on, and wills it so!

Give over thy pursuing, Age!
Fearest thou not my lover's rage?
For he is young and strong of limb,
Thou canst not stand a bout with him.
Ah, surely he will laugh to see
So wan a suitor wooing me.
Then with wild scorn his heart will swell
And he will fling thee back to hell.

O Love, that stronger art than Death,
Enfold me from the burning breath
Of Age that has grown amorous,
That sears and blasts me. Even thus,
Men say, his passionate embrace
Spoils maids and flowers of their grace,
And every woman's fate is cast
To be his paramour at last.
And so all lovely things are made
Shameful, and in the ashes laid,
To die alone, uncared for. Such
Is the pollution of his touch.

Stars that have shone since Time began,
Rivers that saw the birth of man,
And mountains that are fair and green,
And were, when Helen was a queen,
White dreams that never can grow old,
Stories of love and glory told
By Homer once, and ballads sung
Eons ago--ye still are young.
Tell me the secret of your youth.
Can any weeping fill with ruth
Age, that is harsh and pitiless?

Nay, they are blind to my distress.
They have not feared the grasping hand
Of Age, and cannot understand.
Love saw my whitened hair and laughed
And bid me drain my bitter draught.
While in my lover's startled eyes
A lurking terror strangely lies.
There is no place in which to hide
When Age comes seeking for his bride.

Joyce Kilmer

Joyce Kilmer was a prolific poet in the earliest years of the 20th century. He was born in 1886 and died young, age 31, killed in the second Battle of the Marne during World War I in 1918.

Interesting, don't you think, that Kilmer wrote this poem when he was about 26.

TGB readers may recognize Kilmer's name. I recall that when I was a kid in the late 1940s and 1950s, he was well-known as the writer of Trees, a poem that was as much disparaged for being simplistic and sentimental as it was praised. You probably remember how it goes...

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;


That's all I can stand. I fall into the contemptuous camp so if you're really interested, you will have to find the rest of it online for yourself.

However, on the other side of the critique equation, the poem was popular enough during the mid-20th century that it was set to music and recorded by several artists. Here is Robert Merrill singing Trees on a vintage television program:

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Retirement – The Greatest

Why Do So Many Elders Vote Conservative?

category_bug_politics.gif Back in January, I asked the question: Are you more conservative or more liberal than when you were younger?

The responses were nearly 100 percent “more liberal” or “always liberal” but that is to be expected on this blog. Conservatives don't hang out here for long.

However the majority of us at Time Goes By lean politically, the fact is that elders mostly vote conservative/Republican. According to a Project Vote study reported by McClatchy, in the 2010 midterm election, "It is fair to say that 2010 was the year of older, rich people.”

“Senior citizens turned out in force — their turnout was 16 percent higher than in the last midterm election of 2006, and 59 percent of them voted Republican, up 10 percentage points from 2006.

“While voters 65 and older are about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they made up 21 percent of this year's electorate.”

You can see the elder conservative bent in this year's Republican debate videos and in news footage of Mitt Romney's campaign rallies – not many young faces in those audiences.

A few weeks ago, Jack Cafferty – who, himself, leans conservative – asked on CNN: “Why is Mitt Romney so popular with senior citizens?” As he noted in his lead-in:

”Exit polls from Super Tuesday show voters 65 and older were among Romney's staunchest supporters. In the crucial state of Ohio, he beat Rick Santorum in this age group by 15 points. Even in Tennessee, where Romney lost, he still won seniors.

“Seniors were also key to Romney's earlier victories in Michigan, Nevada and Florida - and they were the only age group he won in Iowa.”

A large number of self-identified elders responded to Cafferty's question by exclaiming their dislike of Romney. (Many other commenters – not to mention Cafferty himself – were remarkably ageist, but that's a story for another day.)

It is not inconceivable that in the primaries, elder Republicans have been voting for Romney as the least conservative person on the ticket although personally, I do not believe for a second he is any less conservative than the other Republican candidates; he is just more reassuringly bland-looking than the others.

However all that shakes out, the numbers cannot be argued with. Elders as a group vote more for conservatives than for liberals/progressives which contradicts a study [pdf] I quoted in my January story that

”...analyzed data from the U.S. General Social Surveys of 46,510 Americans between 1972 and 2004...[and] assessed attitudes on politics, economics, race, gender, religion and sexuality issues.”

The research indicates the reverse of the elder, conservative stereotype:

"'It's just not true," says Nicholas Danigelis. 'More people are changing in a liberal direction than in a conservative direction.'”

Emerging newer studies are confirming Danigelis's work, which doesn't jibe with elder voting statistics.

A few days after the 2010 midterms Kevin Drum, writing at Mother Jones, asked “why did [elders] suddenly decide to vote en masse for Republicans?”

Drum quoted a Republican pollster who believed elders voted for conservatives because they were afraid that President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act would affect them negatively which was a complete misconception.

Why were seniors concerned about this?” wrote Drum. “No fancy political science is needed here: the answer is tens of millions of dollars spent on demagogic advertising like this. There's no need to get any more complicated about it.”

The problem, of course, is that there is not a word of truth in that campaign video and I think there is a lot to what Kevin Drum is saying. However, please do not take my agreement to mean that I think elders are dumber or more gullible than younger people. Voters of all ages see this stuff and unquestionably accept it.

Now, back to the question at the top: give all this some thought, if you will, and tell us what you think about elders voting for conservatives. Why do so many traditionally vote against their own best interests and do you think they will do so this year?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dorothy Moffitt: My Hospital Adventure

How Many Elders are Online?

Well, if you're reading this, you are definitely online. But many elders are not.

The annual Pew survey of internet usage always grabs me and because this blog is Time Goes By what it's really like to get old, I pay closest attention, of course, to the age demographics.

Here is what the growth look like from June 1995 through August 2011: (If this is too small to read, visit the website for larger versions of all the graphs I have reproduced here.)


[UPDATE NOTE: A reader advises that this graph does not agree with the numbers I discuss below. This graph refers to ALL internet users; what I discuss below are ELDER internet users.]

In the 65 and older group, in the year 2000, just 12 percent used the internet. In 2011 (when this newest survey was conducted), that number had more than tripled to 41 percent.

That is compared to 41 percent of people age 50 to 64 in 2000, which is up to 74 percent today.

Usage for the oldest people has grown less than at first glance because some percentage of the year 2000 50-64 user group has aged into the 65-plus cohort.

As I have frequently written here over the years, I want to see as many old people as possible online because I believe the internet is a godsend for our well-being.

When we retire, there is less opportunity for day-to-day camaraderie we had in the workplace. Old friends die or move away. The kids often live a plane flight or two away.

At the same time, we may need to stop driving, limiting our mobility. Sometimes we can't get around on foot as easily as we once did either. All these things conspire to shrink our social lives – a well-known indicator of depression which can lead to physical illness and early death.

The internet can change that and particularly, I believe, blogging an whether as a writer or as a reader who contributes in the comments. Many friendships are made on blogs (and other online gathering places) and sometimes we even get to meet in person.

Twenty-two percent of Americans age 18 and older – nearly one in four adults - does not use the internet. Here is a graph of the reasons respondents gave:


Four percent say they are “too old to learn” and as much as I don't like it, I know there are elders who will never even try. But the number three reason to not be online is that it is too expensive and that is surely so.

A shocking statistic from this survey is that while 60 percent of people 50 to 64 years old are using broadband to access the web, only 30 percent of 65-plus internet users have broadband.


They can't all be in rural areas where speedy connections are often unavailable at any price. Many simply cannot afford a service that averages about $47.00 a month. According to the Federal Communications Commission survey from 2010:

”About 36 percent of the 28 million adults who said they don't subscribe to broadband at home said that the monthly fee for broadband is too expensive, they can't afford a computer, or the installation fee is too high.”

Although medical appointments via the internet are still a long way from being common, the numbers are increasing – a development that can save time and money of both the physician and patent. But a huge barrier to adoption by elders will be the high price of a necessary broadband connection.

Go see the rest of the survey. There are some other interesting results including the usage of smartphones – not much in the elder age group.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: Push My Buttons Please

Hilary Rosen and Ann Romney

category_bug_politics.gif What Hilary Rosen said about Ann Romney last week has been ticking at my brain like one of Peter Tibbles' earworms. “Never worked a day in her life. Never worked a day in her life.” And again, “never worked a day in her life.”

The Romneys then cooked up some outrage and tried to show how hard Mrs. Romney worked. Mrs. Romney tweeted, "I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work." One of the sons announced to the press they never had a nanny.

All this is par for the course. What I did not expect was how fast and furiously everyone in the Obama administration, from the president on down, pedaled to defend Mrs. Romney.

“Motherhood is the hardest job there is,” chorused everyone as they pilloried Hilary Rosen. The pile-on was so thick that Rosen canceled her scheduled Sunday appearance on Meet the Press and then she “deeply” apologized.

This should never have happened. The attacks on Hilary Rosen are the result of willful, deliberate misunderstanding of what she said - first by the Romneys and then by the idiot Democrats who apparently have so few important issues to deal with that they can't recognize a phony one when it smacks them in the face.

Come on! Everyone knows what Rosen meant - that Ann Romney has never depended on a paycheck to raise a family.

Ann Romney has never run short of rent money because the kids needed shoes. She never had her pay docked for taking time off to care for a sick child. She never stayed up a night in her life trying to figure out to how afford birthday gifts. She has never had to say no to a child for anything, ever, because there was no money for it.

However hard motherhood is in any economic bracket in terms of raising children to become responsible adults, it is infinitely more difficult when holding a job outside the home. That's what Hilary Rosen meant.

In his speech to the National Rifle Association last week, Mitt Romney said in response to Ms. Rosen, “I happen to believe that all moms are working moms.”

And Mrs. Romney likes to tell campaign audiences that her husband told her “more times than I can imagine, ‘Ann, your job is more important than mine.’”

Well, apparently for Mitt, that applies only to wealthy mothers. In case you missed it, Chris Hayes on the Sunday edition of his Up show on MSNBC, tracked down some video of Romney speaking in New Hampshire about his position on welfare when he was governor of Massachusetts:

“I wanted to increase the work requirement,” Romney said in January [2012]. “I said, for instance, that even if you have a child two years of age, you need to go to work.

“And people said, ‘Well that’s heartless,’ and I said ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving daycare to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.”

Noblesse oblige and all that. Chris Hayes also noted that this has been Romney's position for many years:

“As Romney himself put it in a speech to the Burlington Business Council during his campaign for Senate in 1994, the purpose of welfare “is to get people back into the workforce, that work is ennobling, and that we will do everything in our power to make sure that people who are on welfare have an opportunity and an obligation to go to work, not after two years but from day one if we could.”

Fer gawd's sake – is this man running for president or for king? As far as I can tell, neither Romney is the least embarrassed by their doubletalk.

No one – not the Romneys, not the Democrats – comes out of this untarnished. At least Hilary Rosen spoke truth. I wish she hadn't apologized.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Michael Gorodezky: An Important Moment and a Simple Truth


PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

I was listening to Linda Ronsadt singing Hobo and I thought, “Ah, another column.” Okay, technically it was the Stone Poneys who performed that song, but hobos have a long history in books and song, so it seemed a worthy sort of topic to investigate.

We had hobos here in Australia as well, but they were called swagmen, or swaggies more colloquially. The most famous Oz song is about a swaggie - it’s a tune that would be known to most of the people on the planet, Waltzing Matilda: Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong, under the shade of a coolabah tree (and so on).

I’m not going to include that one. Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, suggested I include The Big Rock Candy Mountain; however, I’d already chosen the tracks I wanted so that’s missing as well.

The obvious place for me to start was with Bob Dylan’s Only a Hobo. I played it and was bored to tears. This was very early Bob indeed, with a chunka chunka chunka guitar style, pseudo Woody Guthrie singing and excessive amounts of harmonica.

So I decided to go for ROD STEWART's cover version of the song instead.

Rod Stewart

This was Rod from way back, before all the tall blonde wives, before the lycra, before the disco hits. This was Rod when he was still a great singer. Okay, he’s still not too bad.

♫ Rod Stewart - Only A Hobo

To the song that inspired this column, Linda Ronsadt singing in the group the STONE PONEYS.

Stone Poneys

The Poneys were Linda, Bobby Kimmel and Kenny Edwards. Linda met Bobby while she was gigging around Tucson, her home town, with a trio which included her older brother and sister.

After completing school and dropping out of university, Linda went to Los Angeles to join with Bobby in a band, originally a five piece but a couple got lost along the way. They were discovered performing in a restaurant and the rest is history. Here they are with Hobo.

♫ Stone Poneys - Hobo

After their first three albums that were critically acclaimed by just about everyone, including me, THE BAND went into a bit of a hiatus for a while with several mediocre (for them) albums.

Then in 1975, they came up with “Northern Lights – Southern Cross” that was every bit as good as the early ones.

The Band

That album contained their masterpiece, Acadian Driftwood, arguably their finest song and easily the best tune recorded by anyone in the seventies. Having said that, it’s not the one we want.

Today’s is Hobo Jungle, a beautiful evocative piece with Richard Manuel singing lead.

♫ The Band - Hobo Jungle

Little is known of JOEY THOMAS. Even the notes in the CD admit their failure in this regard and Dr. Google was no help at all. I haven’t been able to find a photo of him either.

It seems that he may have come from Atlanta but we don’t know. He was discovered by a disk jockey in that city who organized a recording session. Joey and his group recorded some tunes of Moon Mulligan and Melvin Smith. He also recorded this track written by Charlie Singleton, Hobo Boogie.

♫ Joey Thomas - Hobo Boogie

Yet another chance to include TOM RUSH in a column.

Tom Rush

Regular readers will know that Tom is another of those artists I’ll include in any topic if there’s any chance of my squeezing him in. Squeezing wasn’t really required today as he has a song called Hobo's Mandolin from his “Ladies Love Outlaws” album.

♫ Tom Rush - Hobo's Mandolin

PERCY SLEDGE recorded one of the most memorable soul songs ever - however, we’re not interested in that one today.

Percy Sledge

Percy has recorded a number of really fine albums over the years and had a decent career out of it but he always had “that song” overshadowing him. Of course, few people have a song like that in their back pocket. This isn’t it; it’s Lonely Hobo Lullaby.

♫ Percy Sledge - Lonely Hobo Lullaby

I’m going to keep playing IRIS DeMENT until you all “get” her. It took me a while so it may be the same for you.

Iris Dement

Iris doesn’t rush into recording; it seems to me that she brings out a new album about every ten years or so. She also has the most powerful voice in country music. You really need to check her out.

There were a couple of versions of this song I could have included - Jimmie Rodgers’ original, a really good one by Merle Haggard, but Iris it is. Hobo Bill's Last Ride.

♫ Iris DeMent - Hobo Bill's Last Ride

I played Linda’s version of Hobo above, and I’ve decided to treat you to the original. TIM BUCKLEY actually called his song Morning Glory.

Tim Buckley

The only time I saw Tim, he played the bagpipes for much of the time. He was on with the Mothers of Invention so I guess he thought he had to out-weird them. I may have been the only one there who thought that this wasn’t quite normal concert fare. I’ve told this tale before but it’s always worth a mention.

When he sang though, he had a sublime voice; there were few better than his. He was also an adventurous and ever-changing songwriter who really wasn’t much appreciated while he was alive. People are still catching up with him. This is Morning Glory.

♫ Tim Buckley - Morning Glory

I’ll finish with another song with a number of versions I could have chosen. I could have gone with Jack Guthrie’s original, his cousin Woody Guthrie’s version where Woody pretty much rewrote the lyrics and Woody’s son Arlo Guthrie has done a splendid version as well. However, I’ve gone for EMMYLOU HARRIS.

Emmy Lou Harris

This really is a column of people I’ll include at the drop of a hat – Tom, Linda, The Band and now Emmylou. It also gives me an excuse to include yet another photo of her. Here she is with Hobo's Lullaby.

♫ Emmylou Harris - Hobo's Lullaby


It's been all over the web this past week and if you haven't been following the game, you're not having fun:

Hillary Text

It started as a joke in a bar after seeing a photo - a power shot if you will - of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aboard a military plane wearing a pair of super cool shades.

Mix that with the LOLcat meme and you've got – well, Hillarity (sorry). Even Hillary herself checked in (she loves it). The game is over now but if you missed it, there are a whole lot more images to catch up with here.

Generally, sports mean less to me than nothing so you can imagine how little I care about the minutiae.

But this video Darlene Costner sent about how baseballs are made is fascinating. Who knew, in our supposedly high-tech world of factory robots, that it is such a hands-on process.

The TGB Musicologist, Peter Tibbles, sent this along and it is our Word of the Day which I am certain you will appreciate during our never-ending political season. It's from an Australian blogger, Chrys Stevenson. Here is her definition:

Ipsedixitism is a dogmatic statement which assumes that no supporting evidence is needed. It assumes that the assertion will be taken ‘on faith.' It doesn’t mean a statement is true; it means the propagandist assumes that if they say it, nobody will bother checking the evidence.

Chrys blogs at Gladly, The Cross-Eyed Bear.

Certainly, many of us who read this blog have seen Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 thriller, Rear Window. Maybe, like me, you've seen it more than once and even if not, you know the premise: a man who is confined to a wheelchair in his Greenwich Village apartment (Jimmy Stewart), becomes convinced from watching the activity out his window that a murder has been committed.

Day in and day out through the movie, we see his patch of Greenwich Village through that rear window and now, in one of the most clever ideas I've heard of in a long time, videographer Jeff Desom has stitched together all the scenes of the tenants who face that back courtyard. Amazing and wonderful.

NOTE: Personally, I find the music rather awful and certainly distracting. You might want to turn off your audio for this video.

One of the best publications about aging comes from my friend Ed Ansello at the Virginia Department for the Aging. This quarter's issue of Age in Action includes a story on hoarding, dementia care, the Road Scholars lifelong learning programs and more.

You can read Age in Action online here [pdf] and you can receive it via email just by letting Ed know in an email:

This apparently ad hoc effort to rescue dolphins that had washed up on a Brazilian beach is heartwarming to watch. Hat tip to doctafil.

For many years and long before the internet, The New York Times published a column, Metropolitan Diary, on Wednesdays with short, quirky true stories sent in by readers. They once published one of mine. Then, at some point, the column disappeared.

Now, however, it is back - at least in the online edition. Here is a city tale from Times reader Pat Rapp:

”Dear Diary:
“On Lafayette Avenue in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, I was outside the local grocery store, locking my bike to the railing, as an elderly woman moved slowly toward the store, inching an aluminum walker forward along the sidewalk.

“She was a large woman, in a big flowery hat, and a big cloth coat opened into the walker. As she moved up alongside me, bent over my bike lock, the words coming so softly lifted my head to look and listen.

“'That’s a nice bike,' she said, ceaseless with the walker. 'Want to trade?'”

Funny – really funny. And also a terrific reminder that just because our bodies can fail us in old age, that doesn't mean our minds are not just fine.

It was hard, this past week, to miss the 86-year-old gymnast, Johanna Quass. She was all over the web looking – sort of – like a teenager on the parallel bars.

As I have indicated in the past, I always feel queasy about the promotion of elders doing extreme sports whether in general or just something unexpected in an old person like Ms. Quass. It somehow implies that if you're not bungee jumping at 75, you're slacking off, and I don't like that.

What I do like, however, is this interview with a resident at an Erickson community in the Detroit area who, at 65, took up playing hockey. Diane Pieknik just wanted to try it and now she plays weekly with a team, the Voodoo Dolls, of other beginners. Take a look.

Senator Bernie Sanders' home state senate passed a resolution seeking a Constitutional Amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision to clarify that "money is not speech and corporations are not persons under the U.S. Constitution."


Next Wednesday at 11AM local time in Washington, D.C. there will be a summmit featuring Senator Sanders and others to help move forward this amendment initiative. If you live in the area, perhaps you could attend? Read more here.

Nothing I can say about this from BBC1 can make it any better than it is. Gorgeous. Hat tip to TGB reader Gene Biegel

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.

What Do You Know Now About Getting Old...

Perhaps you have noticed that some of the cable pundit shows have a new(ish) meme. At the end of their programs, the hosts and guests tell viewers what they learned during the show that day.

Chris Hayes, in the final minutes of his Saturday morning program on MSNBC, asks his guests, What do you know now that you didn't know last week?

Hayes's guests tend to be a bit more learned and thoughtful than those on many other shows, so there is a minimum of puffery for their own or friends' books, movies and TV shows than you get elsewhere and more insight into current events.

And that got me thinking about us old folks. So today, with apologies to Chris Hayes, here is the question:

What do you know now about getting old that you didn't know when you were 21?

This is not about what do you wish you had known when you were younger – like those jokes about if I'd known I would live this long I'd have taken better care of my teeth. No. Not that kind of knowledge.

Instead, I'm looking for self-discovered insight about aging. Or, perhaps, what has come as a surprise to you about getting old. Or a youthful misconception about age that has been corrected. Or maybe an attitude or feeling you didn't expect to have in your old age.

Normally, this is the place where I would tell you one of the things I know now about getting old. But when I've asked this question of a few people and given them an example, they said, “Yeah, me too.”

So I'm not going to let you off that easy. You're on your own: What do you know now about getting old that you didn't know when you were 21?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: Remembering Childhood Friends


By Elizabeth Alexander

I am lazy, the laziest
girl in the world. I sleep during
the day when I want to, 'til
my face is creased and swollen,
'til my lips are dry and hot. I
eat as I please: cookies and milk
after lunch, butter and sour cream
on my baked potato, foods that
slothful people eat, that turn
yellow and opaque beneath the skin.
Sometimes come dinnertime Sunday
I am still in my nightgown, the one
with the lace trim listing because
I have not mended it. Many days
I do not exercise, only
consider it, then rub my curdy
belly and lie down. Even
my poems are lazy. I use
syllabics instead of iambs,
prefer slant to the gong of full rhyme,
write briefly while others go
for pages. And yesterday,
for example, I did not work at all!
I got in my car and I drove
to factory outlet stores, purchased
stockings and panties and socks
with my father's money.

To think, in childhood I missed only
one day of school per year. I went
to ballet class four days a week
at four-forty-five and on
Saturdays, beginning always
with plie, ending with curtsy.
To think, I knew only industry,
the industry of my race
and of immigrants, the radio
tuned always to the station
that said, Line up your summer
job months in advance. Work hard
and do not shame your family,
who worked hard to give you what you have.
There is no sin but sloth. Burn
to a wick and keep moving.

I avoided sleep for years,
up at night replaying
evening news stories about
nearby jailbreaks, fat people
who ate fried chicken and woke up
dead. In sleep I am looking
for poems in the shape of open
V's of birds flying in formation,
or open arms saying, I forgive you, all.

Elizabeth Alexander

Although this poem is not precisely about aging, it resonates with me in that regard. It was written when the poet was younger than 50.

Perhaps you recognize Elizabeth Alexander's name from President Barack Obama's inauguration when she read her Praise Song for the Day. But long before that, she was a well-known poet with a boatload of prizes, a playwright, an essayist, a teacher and more.

According to Wikipedia, DNA analysis shows that she is related to Stephen Colbert.

Currently, Alexander is both the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of African American Studies and the chair of the African American Studies Department at Yale University. You can find out more about her at her website.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deb: Loaded for Bear

Setting the Stage to Kill Social Security

category_bug_politics.gif Congress is in recess for a couple of weeks, but that doesn't mean they, along with their corporate and media handmaidens, aren't busy cooking up ways to kill everything that benefits people who are not rich - old ones like you and me included, of course.

On Monday, it was Robert Samuelson in his Washington Post column trying to make readers believe that if President Franklin D. Roosevelt were alive today, he would oppose Social Security:

“It has become,” wrote Samuelson, “what was then called 'the dole' and is now known as 'welfare.”

Of course, Social Security is NOT welfare. I'm pretty sure Samuelson knows that and is being disingenuous because he wants to kill Social Security.

“Millions of Americans believe (falsely),” he continues, “that their payroll taxes have been segregated to pay for their benefits and that, therefore, they 'earned' these benefits. To reduce them would be to take something that is rightfully theirs."

Thank god for Dean Baker writing at Center for Economic and Policy Research, in refutation of Samuelson's idiocy:

”Of course Samuelson is 100 percent wrong here. Payroll taxes have been segregated. That is the point of the Social Security trust fund and the Social Security trustees report. These institutions would make no sense if the funds were not segregated.:

Later in his story, Samuelson asserts that anyone retiring today will receive Social Security benefits in excess of the taxes they have paid:

”A two-earner couple with average wages retiring in 2010 would receive lifetime Social Security and Medicare benefits worth $906,000 compared with taxes [paid] of $704,000, estimate Steuerle and Rennane.”

Once again, Dean Baker to the rescue to make a gigantically important point that went right by me when I was reading through Samuelson the first time:

”Okay, this is a really nice trick,” says Baker. “Remember we were talking about Social Security? Note that Samuelson refers to 'lifetime Social Security and Medicare benefits.' It wasn't an accident that he brought Medicare into this discussion.

“That is because Steuerle and Rennane's calculations show that this average earning couple would get back less in Social Security benefits than what they paid in taxes. That would not fit well with Samuelson's story, so he brings in Medicare (remember this is the Washington Post).”

Samuelson finishes off his dubious assertions by demanding that Social Security be cut.

Paul Krugman, jumping into this fray on his blog, reveals Samuelson's argument for what it really is:

”...the dire fate we’re supposed to fear is that future benefits won’t be as high as scheduled; and in order to avert that fate we must, um, guarantee through immediate action that future benefits won’t be as high as scheduled.”

The danger for everyone is that stories like Samuelson's set the stage to kill Social Security (and Medicare). Not many voters care enough or have the time to read carefully, follow up and determine who is lying and who is telling the truth.

And there are so many of these stories in so many media. It becomes the age-old problem of repeating a lie often enough so people come to believe it. That is one reason we need The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare to speak for those programs and for us.

The NCPSSM recently posted a nifty list of 10 Things to Love About Social Security and Medicare. Among them:

Social Security benefits are guaranteed. Unlike savings and investments, you can’t outlive your benefits.

Social Security benefits are protected from inflation. Social Security is one of the few retirement programs that provide an automatic annual cost-of-living adjustment.

Social Security’s administrative costs are low. Less than 1% of Social Security’s budget goes to administrative costs.

You can read the additional seven things to love about Social Security and Medicare at the NCPSSM website. And while you're there, if you can afford it, you might join by giving them a few dollars.

Unlike some other lobby organizations representing elders to Congress, the NCPSSM has acted in our best interests for more than a quarter of a century, and they continue working hard to do so. We really need them.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia Hirtz: The Road Trip