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Banishing Exercise Guilt

category_bug_journal2.gif The concern of this blog is the overall idea of getting old. Drilling down a bit, that means “what it is really like” to do so because there is hardly any place to find the truth about it.

Among the realities of aging is health. Our bodies mostly serve us well for many decades. But as they age, parts wear out, things go wrong. What doesn't kill us, can limit our choices and what we once did with ease can become problematic.

Our physicians help with the big things – modern-day tests to diagnose diseases and conditions before they are serious, drugs to control deficiencies and surgery to correct malfunctions.

What the doctors can't and don't do much beyond the occasional lecture is care for the day-to-day maintenance of our health. Eating well, exercise, enough rest, etc. are our individual responsibility.

For that, there is no dearth of information, especially online - although sometimes on the same website the useful and honest cozy up to the questionable. But if you're smart about it, it is not much of a chore to separate the good from charlatans. Hint: if the expert/guru/health organization is selling any kind of pill, look elsewhere.

There is another category of information, however, that I've had enough of. I've never liked it but what pushed me over the edge was a story last week in the Health section of The New York Times reporting on a group of studies about exercise.

This time they have gone way beyond good suggestions to total craziness.

What appears to have driven the researchers 'round the bend is the fact that no matter how much or how little time their study volunteers exercised, “they spent an equivalent amount of time the rest of the day being mostly torpid physically.”

There are already hundreds, if not thousands, of health advice stories telling us that we will die no later than early next week if we don't start jogging and lifting weights before 5PM today. But this story goes further than any yet in the guilt-inducing department:

”...their results suggest that normal exercise, which fills so few hours of even active people’s days, 'may not be enough in terms of health.'

“Of course, exercise remains valuable, she and Dr. Dunstan are both quick to add. It reduces risks for cardiovascular disease and other conditions and burns calories.

“But exercise paired with otherwise unalloyed sitting should be avoided, Dr. Dunstan says. 'It is important the general public become more conscious about what they do in their non-exercise time,' he says.

“'Almost everybody, he says, 'should look for opportunities to reduce their daily sitting time and move more, more often, throughout the day.'”

Reading this, I was livid – even moreso, as the week progressed, when I couldn't get Dr. Dunstan's words out of my mind. What would he have us do, I wondered, spend the eight hours remaining after sleep and work at the gym? Or hand mow the south 40?

In another part of the story, Dunstan notes that even 90 minutes of exercise every day is not enough if the person spends 90 minutes in another part of the day sitting.

I recalled that our ancestors spent most of their days on their feet tilling the land, cooking, washing clothes by hand, milking cows, riding horses, mucking out barns, harvesting crops, etc. And they all died by age 40.

And what's this “unalloyed sitting” Dr. Dunstan refers to. Unalloyed means pure, uncontaminated, not mixed with other things. How does he know when his volunteers were staring into space while sitting (which can be time well spent) or if they were reading a book, taking a class, writing a paper, eating a meal.

There are many things for which we need to sit – a job, for example, for most people. I suspect even research scientists spend a great deal of time on their tushes to get their work done.

This story so got under my skin that several days later, I went back to read it again and I found I wasn't alone in my anger. More than 150 comments and nearly all agreed with me. A few good examples with some excellent points:

From ekeizer4 in Oregon:
"You know what? I don't care. I exercise religiously, probably obsessively, and if I want to sit on the couch in the evening, I am darn well going to do so. I'm sick of daily life being tagged as unhealthy."
Concerned Citizen in Anywheresville:
"The Nagging Industrial Complex survives - and gets paid big bucks - for CONSTANTLY ragging on people and trying to make them feel guilty. Why? guilty, shamed people will buy ANYTHING - standing desks. Treadmills (that end up an expensive coat stands). Diet plans. Diet books. Diet foods."
marymary in Washington, D.C.:
"What really gets to me is the institutionalization of down time. Hang on the couch and read, maybe catch a laugh? No way! Must meditate instead, and must be 'mindful' at all other times."
grammyofWandA in Maine:
"I, for one, have a desk job. On any given day, whether I swim laps or use the treadmill before and/or after work, I am going to spend 9 hours tethered to my desk."
dc lambert in nj:
"Most people are sedentary for three reasons not discussed here, and they don't have to do with laziness...
  1. Their jobs require them to be sedentary.
  2. They don't have *any* time in the day to exercise. Many of us have two jobs and have to drive an hour to get to them.
  3. They are beyond stressed by their jobs - threat of being fired, losing their homes, working for a downsized department - and when they get home, they collapse and can barely move."

And one of my top five favorite of the Times comments from one of our contemporaries [emphasis is mine]:

joan in Sarasota
"HA! Seriously, at age 70, me, how much extra moving time every day would I need to extend my life for how long?

"My cat, rescued 13 years ago in Madagascar, now on his third continent, and I, a retired diplomat who spent most of my adult life overseas, are happy, respectively, to race to the window when the raccoon appears and go to the museum for a special exhibit as well as relax dreaming of lemurs or reading a great book.

"I'm happy to move to tend the orchids. I make myself move to bring in the groceries, but make myself move, park further away so arthritic knees could hurt longer, for what - live a fortnight longer? CARPE DIEM and sweet dreams."

Of course, I'm not saying that we should not make the effort to get enough exercise but this is just one more story designed to make us feel guilty enough to buy more stuff. I have a lot more belief in the Times' readers who responded to this crap than the study itself.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ernest Leichter: Grammar School Hierarchy

Location Check Followup

category_bug_journal2.gif Before we get to locations, I must thank you all for your lovely birthday greetings on Saturday. I had a fine time with your poems and ditties and blog posts and video links and all.

You said so many nice things about Time Goes By and me that I am abashed – as I always am in such circumstances – and can never figure out how to adequately express how pleased I am – at least, not without sounding a bit too much like Sally Field.

What I want you to know is that I appreciate each and every one of you and to tell you that you are as much responsible for this blog as I am. I may post a story each day, but it would just sit there, one woman's thoughts, without your comments, ideas, discussion, arguments, etc. that take off from my beginning, expand in all kinds of directions and add many colors and nuances. You expand my world and my mind.

One other birthday note: last December, I posted some photos from the art show of Isabelle Johnston including a spotted cat perched on a pink lotus blossom that looks remarkably like my Savannah cat, Oliver.

While I was pottering around on Saturday, the postman (well, in my case, the postwoman) arrived with a box marked “fragile” and this is what I found inside from my sister-in-law, Isabelle:

Isa Cat

I haven't decided yet where it will sit in my home - somewhere I can see it every day without danger of it being knocked to the floor.

Certainly you all know that the location check on Friday has no scientific validity, right? Respondents were self-selected and thousands of others did not stop to tell us where they are. Nevertheless, I found it interesting and enjoyed learning where some names I recognize live.

Thirty-six states were represented. Four signed in from Pennsylvania, two of them from Yardley. Wikipedia tells me that as of the 2010 census, there were 2,434 people in that town, so I'm curious: do you two know one another, Claire Jean and Dana Ainsworth? If not, say how do you do today – at least right here.

Pam says that MAD magazine pronounced her town, Middleboro, Massachusetts, the most boring place in the world. I think you should know, Pam, that there is a town here in Oregon called Boring. It was named for a Civil War veteran but still – can you imagine telling people you're from Boring.

Two people, yellowstone and redstone (should we assume they are a couple?) didn't give the name of a town, just “Atlantic Ocean” but included a Zip Code, 32137. So we know they are in Florida. Living on a boat???

There is another reader who has no fixed address. Allan Moult tells us that he is a “full-time grey nomad exploring Australia slowly in Madam Plush, a converted bus that in a former life in Japan was a mobile bordello.”

Who knew there was such a thing – not me.

Altogether, seven people signed in from Australia including the official Time Goes By musicologist, Peter Tibbles, who holds forth here every Sunday.

There were 16 Canadians from four provinces – Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec and Alberta.

Sweden, Scotland, Spain, China and Italy were represented with one person each. There are two each from Paris and England. And here's one you wouldn't expect - Ecuador. Jody Broyles checked in via email:

”I live in the Amazon rainforest in Mera, Pastaza, Ecuador. Really!!! I've been meaning to write to tell you what a wonderful impact your Time Goes By and the Elder Storytelling Place have had on my attitude about aging.

“I am 67 and since I no longer have living family members I have had very little exposure to what aging really means.

(I hope Jody won't mind that I've quoted her email; I didn't get permission.) You can read about what Jody does in Ecuador here.

There was one respondent from Hawaii which, to me, is almost as exotic as Ecuador. California had the highest number – 25 – followed by Oregon with 17 (we really ought to meet sometime) with a number of others who live elsewhere but are originally from Oregon.

Counting the many that arrived via email, at least two hundred people checked in so it is a bit much to mention all of them. But I enjoyed hearing from everyone and it will be nice to put a location with your messages in the future.

One more note: If you are looking for yours or someone else's comment on Friday's post and cannot find it, there are two pages of them. At the bottom of the first there is a link with this designation ">>" (without the quote marks) and on the second page, the reverse - click "<<" to return to the first page of comments.

I had no idea this happens (apparently there were never this many comments before) but I don't like it and will, when I have time, work out a fix so that in the future all comments appear on one page.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: New York City

ELDER MUSIC: Songs of Leonard Cohen

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.

It’s interesting to me that I find that the best interpreters of Leonard Cohen’s songs are mostly female. Okay, Joe Cocker did some fine interpretations but I thought there were a couple of better ones than his and they are included today.

So Joe misses out.

LEONARD COHEN is a Canadian poet and author who turned to songwriting and singing, and both these endeavours made him a lot more famous than the previous ones.

Leonard Cohen

Lennie was born in Montreal and attended McGill University where he won a serious prize for creative writing. This led to his publishing several books of poetry and eventually a couple of novels. He spent much of the sixties on the Greek island of Hydra writing poetry and the novels and eventually songs.

He later made it to the United States appearing at various folk festivals where he caught the eye and ear of John Hammond who signed him to Columbia records. His first album was a cult success and many other artists recorded songs from it.

This is one of the songs from that album, Sisters of Mercy.

♫ Leonard Cohen - Sisters of Mercy

I used to think that Judy Collins was the finest interpreter of Lennie’s songs. That was until JENNIFER WARNES released her “Famous Blue Raincoat” album. This is an album of covers of his songs.

Jennifer Warnes

Jennifer worked closely with Lennie on this album and they sang a duet on one of the tracks. A couple of his songs made their debut on the album, including this one, First We Take Manhattan, which may be the best versions of one of his songs (and that’s saying something).

The track has the late great Stevie Ray Vaughan playing guitar on it.

♫ Jennifer Warnes - First We Take Manhattan

I think Judy Collins does the best version of Bird on a Wire, but I have her performing another song. Joe Cocker does an admirable job too, but I’m going with the version by JOHNNY CASH.

Johnny Cash

Johnny recorded this towards the end of his life in that series of extraordinary albums overseen by producer Rick Rubin, when no one else wanted to have anything to do with him. These produced some of the finest and most moving tracks of his career. Bird on a Wire is one of them.

♫ Johnny Cash - Bird on a Wire

The first time I heard Lennie’s songs was on various JUDY COLLINS albums.

Judy Collins

She had a couple on “In My Life,” a very fine album indeed, including the first recording of Suzanne. Although her version is the gold standard, I have someone else performing that song today. Judy’s next album, “Wildflowers” gave us three more of his songs, including the one today, Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye.

There were a couple more on her next album as well, but we have the song we want.

♫ Judy Collins - Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye

Another song from the man himself, LEONARD COHEN.

Leonard Cohen

This is the Stranger Song taken from that remarkable first album of his, “Songs of Leonard Cohen.” This is another album on the short list of best first albums, even if you only consider the songs.

♫ Leonard Cohen - Stranger Song

There are any number of fine versions of possibly his most famous song, Suzanne. I’ve decided on a little change of pace and I’m going with NINA SIMONE.

Nina Simone

Nina has always had an interesting and diverse taste in the songs she has covered. Of course, anything she recorded is worth listening to. Here’s her take on Suzanne.

♫ Nina Simone - Suzanne

The next tune had to be present. It has been recorded by so many people it’s a bit of a cliché these days. Most people think Jeff Buckley’s is the version. Not me though. The one I like is the first I heard and it’s by VINCE JONES.

Vince Jones

Vince is an Australian jazz trumpeter and singer in the Chet Baker mold, although without the destructive lifestyle that Chet affected. Vince sings and plays with a reserve and subtly that adds enormously to the music. His version of the song is from a live album he recorded many years ago, but it’s still wonderful.

♫ Vince Jones - Hallelujah

MADELEINE PEYROUX was born in Georgia but grew up in New York, California and Paris.

Madeleine Peyroux

She has said that her parents were a couple of hippies and also that they were eccentric educators. Everyone should have such parents.

Her singing style is an interesting mix of Billie Holiday and Patsy Cline with some others thrown into the mix as well. Whatever the influences, she’s made it her own. Here she sings Dance Me to the End of Love.

♫ Madeleine Peyroux - Dance Me to the End of Love


Jennifer Warnes

I know, there are hundreds, probably thousands, of artists who have sung Lennie’s songs, some of whom I could have included but why bother with anything but the best?

The prominent bass is played by Rob Wasserman from whose album this track is taken. The song is Ballad of the Runaway Horses.

♫ Jennifer Warnes - Ballad of the Runaway Horse

I’ll finish with LEONARD COHEN himself with his paean to Janis Joplin with whom he had a brief liaison at New York’s most infamous hotel, the Chelsea. The song is Chelsea Hotel No 2.

Leonard Cohen

♫ Leonard Cohen - Chelsea Hotel No. 2


Just to get it off my chest because today's is a special Interesting Stuff, this is one of my favorite seasonal ditties:

Spring is sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where
The birdies is

The little bird is on the wing
Ain't that absurd
I always heard
The wing is on the bird

No one knows who wrote that (it was not Ogden Nash, as some say) but it is at least as old as I am; I know because my father recited it to me when I was a very little girl.

Today, in a remarkable confluence of different calendars – Hebrew and Gregorian, three (northern hemisphere) spring holidays come together in one weekend. This rarely happens; in many years, Jewish Passover and Christian Easter can be nearly a month apart.

Passover, of course, celebrates the story of the Exodus when Jews were freed from slavery in Egypt.

The Hebrew calendar is lunisolar (look it up), used primarily nowadays to determine the dates of Jewish holidays. Passover always begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan which, this year, corresponds with our secular calendar date, 6 April.

Because Jewish days begin at sundown, Passover began last evening and will continue until the evening of the 14th.

My friend of many decades, John Brandt, sent along this catchy Passover song - set to the tune of Cheek to Cheek - that explains the multitude of symbolism involved in the seder dinner held on the first and second nights of Passover. As John (or someone) said about it: awesome.

The Christian holiday, Easter, as everyone probably knows, marks the end of Lent – a six-week period of fasting, penance and prayer – and celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. This year that day is tomorrow, 8 April.

The date of Easter is determined by the Gregorian calendar (except for some Orthodox churches that use the Julian calendar) which is the internationally accepted civil calendar we all use in order to show up on the day agreed to.

But that doesn't mean the holiday falls on the same date each year. Oh no. It's much more complicated.

Supposedly, Easter falls on the Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox. Got that? Well, not so fast.

Instead of using astronomical observations to determine those two dates, the church uses the “ecclesiastical full moon” to find the date of Easter with the vernal equinox set always to 21 March even if, like this year it arrives (20 March) on a different date.

Oh never mind. If you really care, I'm sure Wikipedia can help.

So here is a song celebrating the story of Easter that is just as much fun and high energy as the Passover song.

Okay, that covers two of the spring holidays. What could be the third? It often arrives with one or the other of Easter and Passover, but hardly ever with both and I cannot recall that it was ever sandwiched so tightly between the two as this year.

So wish me happy birthday. I am 71 today.

Number 64 was fun for The Beatles song and last year – well, 70 is one of those big, fat, round numbers that cannot be ignored. But 71 is a kind of meh year, don't you think. However, I agree with what Christopher Isherwood said at about this time in his life:

“If I had known when I was twenty-one that I should be as happy as I am now, I should have been sincerely shocked. They promised me wormwood and the funeral raven.”

Not yet. Not yet.

Did you know that the Happy Birthday song is copyrighted? That is why you hardly ever hear it in birthday scenes in movies and on television – because the copyright holder charges gigantic royalty fees for commercial uses.

I surely don't want to get on their bad side so here is an entirely different kind of birthday song, Happy Birthday Blues from B.B. King, that's much more to my liking anyway.

The more usual and traditional kind of Interesting Stuff column will return next week.

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.

Contest Winners and Reader Location Check

UPDATE AND ATTENTION SUBSCRIBERS: I have received about two dozen emails so far with your locations. For people who subscribe via email or rss, when you click "reply," only I see your response via email.

To leave a comment, so others can see it and so it can be included in the count of locations next week, first click the title of the story. That story will open in your browser. Scroll to the bottom of the story and click the word, "comments." Scroll to the bottom of the comments where there will be a form you can fill in with your comment.

Thank you for doing this - it means everyone participates and it saves me an enormous amount of work emailing you all and/or trying to track locations scattered throughout my inbox.

On Tuesday, readers were given the opportunity to win one of three copies of Tribes of Eden, the new novel by friend of Time Goes By and renowned geriatrician Bill Thomas.

“Thomas said he used a post-apocalyptic scenario [in Tribes of Eden] to create a dystopian environment in which everyone is stripped of safety, security and independence and put into the power of an authoritarian regime.

“In other words, they experience what it’s like to be placed in a nursing home against their will,' he said.”

Thanks to the internet's abundance of nifty little tools such as, in this case, a random number generator, we have (drum roll) three winners. They are: Tarzana, Steve Kemp and Ann MacKay. Congratulations to all of you.

I'm sorry not everyone can win. For those who did not, here is how you can purchase Tribes of Eden. Remember, Bill is giving all proceeds to the extremely worthy Eden Alternative project.

The paperback is available through Amazon where there is also a Kindle ebook edition.

A Nook ebook edition is available at Barnes & Noble.

And there is an iTunes edition here.

With Good Friday, Passover and Easter all crammed into one weekend this year, I assume many of you are busy with family obligations.

I think that calls for something simple and easy today. I've been curious for a long while about where regular TGB readers live. Yeah, I can check my statistics program, but that doesn't tell me who lives where.

So let's do a location check today – city and state (country, too, if you are not in the U.S.) Then I'll collate it all and publish a list one day next week.

Happy holiday to those who celebrate.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Richard J. Klade: A Benefit of Age


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.

Many of the people commenting on my column about advance directives sought advice on whether to use a will or a trust for estate planning. This is a nightmare question for a lawyer because it does not lend itself to a one-size-fits-all answer and lawyers disagree among themselves about the choice.

Instead of wills vs trusts, I want to talk about probate today. What is it? How does it work and should you be trying to avoid it?

Probate means different things in different contexts. I call myself an elder law lawyer. I also call myself a probate lawyer. I consider myself a probate lawyer because I work almost exclusively with the probate department of my local court.

The probate department handles wills, trusts, guardianships, conservatorships and a handful of other things. All of those things fall under the general heading of probate.

Probate also refers to the legal procedures used to wind up the financial affairs of a dead person. When non-lawyers use the word probate, they usually mean process for administering an estate.

The most famous probate is the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The case is at the heart of the Dickens masterpiece, Bleak House.

In the novel, the case drones on for decades without resolution until in the end (spoiler alert) the lawyers get all the money. The characters in the novel who have moved on with their lives find happiness. Those who have put their lives on hold waiting for their inheritance die miserably.

I revisit the book every couple years and recommend it to my clients who seem to be putting their lives on hold awaiting an inheritance.

Bleak House and stories like it - including the ones told by huckster trust salesmen at those free breakfasts - portray probate as a monster that will eat up your estate leaving nothing for your loved ones. That, like the rest of what Dickens and the trust salesmen have to say about probate, is pure fiction. It is not true.

In many cases, probate is a good thing, and often the strategies people devise to avoid it create more problems than they solve. In order to intelligently decide whether probate is something to avoid, you have to understand what it is.

When you die, there is a lot to do. First, someone has to locate and inventory what you own. Then someone has to pay off your credit cards, pay your income taxes, settle up with the doctors and pay the funeral parlor.

If you own a home or stocks or investment property, the property may have to be sold so that your estate can be conveniently divided among your heirs. All of this takes work and the work has to be done whether or not a court is involved.

It make no difference whether you have a will or a trust or no estate plan at all. The administration of your estate will happen.

If you have a will, the will tells the court who you want to administer your estate and who should get the money at the end. The will, however, is of no effect until it has been filed with the court and the person you nominated as your executor has been appointed by a judge.

Similarly, your family does not get your money until the judge orders it. The will is instructions to the judge, not to your family.

This is important. A judge appoints your executor following the instructions in your will. If your will names a convicted embezzler to manage your estate, the judge may refuse to honor your request and name someone different to do it.

If you have been dead for 90 minutes and Aunt Millie is waving your will in the air claiming that she is your executor, she is wrong. She is not an executor and has no power or authority until she is appointed by a court.

If Aunt Millie does get appointed by a judge, she has work to do and time-lines to follow. She has to notify all your heirs that she has been appointed. She has a couple of months in which to collect and inventory your property. The people owed money by you when you died have have a certain amount of time to present their bills and if the bills are legit, Aunt Millie has to pay them.

Your relatives have a certain time in which to claim your will is invalid because you were crazy when you wrote it. The process is orderly, and designed to protect the rights of everybody involved.

If your executor doesn’t do her job, the probate clerks will write her nasty letters and if she doesn’t respond to the letters, the judge will remove her and appoint someone who can get the job done.

If your executor does do her job, your bills will get paid, your property will get sold and your family will receive its inheritance in a timely manner.

I can often distribute the inheritances and close a simple probate about six months after it is filed. Closing may be delayed by many things. Since the real estate crash, many probates can’t close because we can’t sell the family home. The most common delay, however, is battles among the heirs.

Even in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, it was not the probate court that delayed the distribution but rather, disputes among those trying to get their hands on the money.

Some people come to me and say, “I don’t need all that oversight from the court. My family is made up of smart, hard working, honest people who will promptly inventory my property, take care of my bills, pay my taxes and cooperate in dividing my property as I have instructed. They won’t need any prompting, so I don’t need all this probate stuff.”

I believe these people and I work with them on an estate plan that avoids probate.

Other people come to me and say, “My family is composed of crackpots, ne'er-do-wells and weirdos of every sort. Without the court staff cracking the whip to keep the process moving in an orderly manner, my estate will become a convoluted mess.”

I believe these folks too and write them a will.

[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, Mary B Summerlin: Bottle Tree

A New Explanation for Elder Insomnia

[CONTEST NOTE: Winners of yesterday's contest to win copies of Dr. Bill Thomas's new book, Tribes of Eden, will be announced in this spot on Friday. If you have time today, you might enjoy attending the live, online party for Bill's book. It is being streamed beginning at 3PM eastern U.S. time at the "Tribes" website.]

category_bug_journal2.gif It is conventional wisdom that sleep problems, particularly insomnia, are a common affliction of age but not according to a variety of aging experts. As renowned geriatrician Robert N. Butler tells us in his 2010 book, The Longevity Prescription:

”The old dogma that poor sleep is an inevitable part of aging is simply not true: Age in itself is not a predictor of insomnia and, when insomnia occurs, it is precipitated by other factors, many of which can be changed or compensated for.”

Diseases and conditions can contribute to sleeplessness and possible solutions for those should be discussed with one's physician. Often, however, changes in routine such as keeping a regular schedule, limiting caffeine intake and getting enough exercise, among others, can ensure a good night's sleep.

Not that you would know that by me. I've tried all the suggestions and still, I frequently fall asleep way too early and then waken in the middle of the night which then makes me tired by afternoon.

Or, I waken to pee and can't get back to sleep. Or, even when I can stay awake until a more sensible bedtime hour, I awaken at 1AM or 2AM anyway without much chance to sleep again.

Sometimes, knowing I am perpetuating a sleep schedule that is inconvenient and that I don't like, I get up when I waken at odd hours and read the morning papers online and answer email. Other times, I try reading myself back to sleep with a book or watch something on television.

Occasionally, I find myself in that cozy, little place between waking and sleep where the mind wanders on its own and unlike dreaming, I can keep track of the odd and interesting trips it takes.

But that's not sleep and I'm no more rested from it than I am when I get out of bed at 2AM.

Recently, I read an irresistibly fascinating book, At Day's Close – Night in Times Past, by A. Roger Ekirch. “Times past” refers to pre-industrial society, the early modern era from about 1500 to 1850, most especially before artificial light.

There are a lot of other reasons to recommend this book, but what I'm here to talk about today is the idea of “first sleep” and “second sleep” which may have been so common in centuries past, and in rural areas up until the early 20th century, that writers hardly thought it worth commenting upon.

”...fragments in several languages...give clues to the essential features of this puzzling pattern of repose.

“Both phases of sleep lasted roughly the same length of time, with individuals waking sometime after midnight before returning to rest...Men and women referred to both intervals as if the prospect of awakening in the middle of the night was common knowledge that required no elaboration...”

“After midnight, pre-industrial households usually began to stir. Many of those who left their beds merely needed to urinate...

“Some persons, however, after arising, took the opportunity to smoke tobacco, check the time, or tend a fire. Thomas Jubb, an impoverished Leeds clothier, rising around midnight, 'went into Cow Lane & hearing ye clock strike twelve' returned 'home & went to bed again.'”

Other people rose to study for awhile, attend to household chores or check on the well-being of a child and Benjamin Franklin, reports Ekirch, mentions that while visiting London, would spend up to an hour writing or reading after waking before returning to sleep.

Some people never left their beds during the waking period between first and second sleep and “sexual intimacy often ensued between couples.” In the lower classes, Ekirch notes,

”Because exhaustion prevented workers from copulating upon first going to bed, intercourse occurred 'after the first sleep' when 'they have more enjoyment' and 'do it better.'”

Ekirch posits that it was the ubiquity of artificial light – first gas, then electricity – that changed humanity's sleep habits:

”Heightened exposure to artificial lighting, both at home and abroad, altered circadian rhythms as old as man himself.”

What I wonder after reading all this is if some retired people like me who no longer need to rise and rush off to work in the morning as they did for 40 or 50 years, return after a time to a pre-industrial schedule of sleep that appears, thanks to Mr. Ekirch's research, to have been commonplace for most of mankind's history.

Of course, I have no way to confirm that but now, instead of fighting, lamenting and trying to change my sleep pattern, I'm going to give the idea of first and second sleep a whirl by accepting it as my personal, normal behavior.

Who knows, perhaps when I've spent those nighttime hours getting up to potter about or do some reading or snuggle into the covers for that magical half-dream/half waking state of mind, I have been on to something ancient.

And maybe if I just relax into this first and second sleep idea, give myself permission, I'll be able to fall asleep a second time like the people of yore.

I'll let you know how it goes.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marvin Waldman: In Search of the Clitoris

Tribes of Eden Book Launch and Contest

Surely you recall that back in January, I told you about Tribes of Eden, a new novel from geriatrician Bill Thomas - a giant among elder advocates and one of my few heroes.

Thomas and Tribes of Eden

As he explains, the book is a classic thriller

”...set in the near future after the collapse of society. It follows a mother and her two children as they find refuge in an isolated community hidden from 'The GRID,' a totalitarian power that restored order with an iron fist.

“As The GRID’s virtual new world order begins to threaten the community, a young girl must lead an alliance of the young and old to restore humanity.”

Although the book has been available in several electronic formats for a few weeks, yesterday the paperback edition had its official release.

To celebrate, Bill is holding a live, virtual book launch party that everyone can attend online at the Tribes of Eden website. It will take place tomorrow, Wednesday 4 April, beginning at 3PM eastern U.S. time so mark your computer calendar.

Bill's book is a terrific read that can be enjoyed simply for the sake of a good story. But there is more to it than that. For those of you who are not familiar with Dr. Thomas and his work, let me quote the book's press release which is more succinct than I can be on my own:

”...the novel introduces a new vision of old age that [Bill] hopes will counter what he sees as widespread ageism in our society that has been detrimental to efforts to improve the care of older adults.

“'As a culture, we fear, loathe and deny the realities of aging,' Thomas said. 'We worship youth and blind ourselves to the plight of millions of people who are institutionalized against their will in nursing homes for the sole crime of frailty.'”

“For two decades, Thomas has been a leader in an international movement to de-institutionalize nursing homes through The Eden Alternative, a philosophy to create long term care environments that provide a 'pathway to a life worth living' by promoting relationships and meaningful interactions.

“Thomas said he used a post-apocalyptic scenario [in Tribes of Eden] to create a dystopian environment in which everyone is stripped of safety, security and independence and put into the power of an authoritarian regime.

“In other words, they experience what it’s like to be placed in a nursing home against their will,' he said.”

Bill has dedicated the book to the thousands of people worldwide who are part of The Eden Alternative project and 100 percent of the proceeds from sales go to that organization.

To help get the book off to a great start, Bill has provided three copies of Tribes of Eden for me to give away to Time Goes By readers.

To enter the contest, leave a message in the comments section below (no emails). That's it. If you have something to say about Bill Thomas, his book, The Eden Alternative, nursing homes or anything else related, that's good, but not required.

The only requirement is that you state your interest in winning one of the books. Like last time we did this kind of contest, typing "Me, me, me" will do it, too. I'm not fussy.

The contest will close tonight, 3 April 2012, at midnight U.S. Pacific Coast time. The three winners will be chosen in a random, electronic drawing and announced here on this blog on Friday 6 April 2012.

Don't forget tomorrow's online book launch at the Tribes of Eden website.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon Ostrow: A Muse

Our Right and Duty to Vote

category_bug_politics.gif This is the story of our Grandmothers and Great-Grandmothers - only 90 years ago.


That is the beginning of a story continued below that has been floating around via email since about 2004. I had not seen it until Darlene Costner forwarded it a few days ago.

It's not a new story for me. Over the years, I produced at least two television programs about the women's suffrage movement and I am knowledgeable about the people involved in and details of the decades-long fight. However, this rendition reawakened me.

Maybe that is because these days in our deeply divided nation, I so frequently hear or read (on this blog, too) of people who say they will not vote under this or that circumstance. Oh how easily some throw away what was so painfully won.

There is no way to credit the woman who created the story and sent it on its way; no one knows her name. So let's just be grateful for the reminder.

I suspect the photographs are public domain. The words are those of our anonymous writer. In a couple of places I have added some commentary which, like this introduction, appears in italic so you'll know the difference.

And men, there is good reason for you to read this story too because even if you are not much interested in women's history, today it is you, along with women, who are being denied the right to vote.

Remember, it was not until 1920 that women were granted the right to go to the polls and vote.


The women were innocent and defenseless but they were jailed nonetheless for picketing the White House, for carrying signs asking for the vote.


And by the end of the night, they were barely alive. Forty prison guards wielding clubs and their warden's blessing went on a rampage against the 33 women wrongly convicted of “obstructing sidewalk traffic.”

They beat Lucy Burns, chained her hands to the cell bars above her head and left her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air.


They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her head against an iron bed and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and she suffered a heart attack.

Additional affidavits describe the guards grabbing, dragging, beating, choking, slamming, pinching, twisting and kicking the women.

Thus unfolded the “Night of Terror” on November 15, 1917, when the warden at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia ordered his guards to teach a lesson to the suffragists imprisoned there because they dared to picket Woodrow Wilson's White House for the right to vote. For weeks, the women's only water came from an open pail. Their food - all of it colorless slop - was infested with worms.


When one of the leaders, Alice Paul, embarked on a hunger strike, they tied her to a chair, forced a tube down her throat and poured liquid into her until she vomited. She was tortured like this for weeks until word was smuggled out to the press.

Ronni here. This is a clip of the scene depicting the forced feeding of Alice Paul from the HBO film, Iron Jawed Women.

So, refresh my memory. Some women won't vote this year because - why, exactly? We have carpool duties? We have to get to work? Our vote doesn't matter? It's raining?


Last week, I went to a sparsely attended screening of HBO's new movie, Iron Jawed Angels. It is a graphic depiction of the battle these women waged so that I could pull the curtain at the polling booth and have my say. I am ashamed to say I needed the reminder.


All these years later, voter registration is still my passion. But the actual act of voting had become less personal for me, more rote. Frankly, voting often felt more like an obligation than a privilege. Sometimes it was inconvenient.


My friend Wendy, who is my age and studied women's history, saw the HBO movie, too. When she stopped by my desk to talk about it, she looked angry and she was; with herself.

“One thought kept coming back to me as I watched that movie,” she said. “What would those women think of the way I use, or don't use, my right to vote? All of us take it for granted now, not just younger women, but those of us who did seek to learn.”

The right to vote, she said, had become valuable to her “all over again.”

HBO released the movie on video and DVD. I wish all history, social studies and government teachers would include the movie in their curriculum. I want it shown on Bunco night, too, and anywhere else women gather. I realize this isn't our usual idea of socializing, but we are not voting in the numbers that we should be and I think a little shock therapy is in order.


It is jarring to watch Woodrow Wilson and his cronies try to persuade a psychiatrist to declare Alice Paul insane so that she could be permanently institutionalized. And it is inspiring to watch the doctor refuse. Alice Paul was strong, he said, and brave. That didn't make her crazy.

The doctor admonished the men: “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”

Please, if you are so inclined, pass this on to all the women you know. We need to get out and vote and use this right that was fought so hard for by these very courageous women. Whether you vote Democratic, Republican or Independent party – remember to vote.


History is being made. Vote!

Ronni here again. No one today questions women's right to vote, but throughout our nation, democracy is being undercut by Republican legislators who have passed local laws in numerous states making it difficult for young people, people of color, poor people and old people to vote.

It's not women being denied this time, it is everyone. Men are in those four categories too.

These new laws carry such draconian penalties for minor errors in registration of voters (like delivering the paper not one minute later than 48 hours after signature) that both the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote have canceled their voter registration campaigns in Florida. There are likely to be more cancellations in other states.

Are we really going to allow that to happen? Are you really not going to vote?

Our generation, old folks, may be uniquely qualified to remind people of how precious the vote is; some of our grandmothers - maybe mothers too - could not vote and may have told us about that first hand.

Let the story of our grandmother suffragists be our inspiration. The HBO film, Iron Jawed Angels, is strong motivation.

It is also a good movie and aside from a fictional and unnecessary love interest for Alice Paul, historically accurate. You can see it for free in 12 parts at YouTube beginning here. This is Part 1 to get you started:

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Mom and the Ants


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 going to infect you all with earworms. “What are earworms?” I hear some of you asking.

These are the songs that lodge in your brain and stay there for a day, maybe two, a week - a month even, if the virus is particularly virulent. These are my earworms, not necessarily yours, but they may become yours after you’ve listened to them a time or two.

It also means that my brain will be ruined for the foreseeable future. The things I do for you.

Of course, by playing a bunch of them they might cancel each other out. We’ll see. Don’t worry, we won’t be playing “that bloody Enya song,” to quote Norma, the Assistant Musicologist.

I’ll start with probably the second worst song in this genre. This is no reflection on the song itself; it’s quite a nice one. When I say worst, I mean in the earworm sense. A song that will stay for at least a week, maybe longer, means it has reached the exulted silver medal status.

You may remember MICHAEL NESMITH as one of the Monkees.

Mike Nesmith

He also had a decent solo career, producing some fine albums that didn’t sell a lot but I like them. On one of those albums, “Magnetic South,” is the song Joanne. Another one of his, Different Drum, could have been a contender as well but I don’t mind having that one in my brain, especially Linda Ronstadt’s version.

♫ Michael Nesmith - Joanne

A song I’ve heard rarely since it was a hit in the sixties, but each time I hear it I wish I hadn’t because, of course, given the topic today, it remains resident in the noggin until flushed by something even more annoying.

This is by DAVID McWILLIAMS about whom I know little.

David McWilliams

Checking Dr. Google, it seems that Dave was from Belfast and he almost became a serious soccer player until he was seduced by show biz. He recorded a bunch of albums, the second of which had this song on it, The Days of Pearly Spencer. Unfortunately, Dave died of a heart attack when he was only 56.

♫ David McWilliams - The Days of Pearly Spencer

As I mentioned with Mike Nesmith, the songs don’t have to “bad” songs to stick in the mind. To demonstrate, the next four are some of the finest pop tunes around, starting with MARVIN GAYE.

Marvin Gaye

Marvin was a singer, songwriter, pianist, drummer and he recorded the most important album Motown records produced (“What’s Going On”). He also recorded some of the best pop songs from the sixties, both alone and as a duet with Tammi Terrell.

One of his songs I quite regularly sit around mumbling to myself is I Heard It Through the Grapevine.

♫ Marvin Gaye - I Heard It Through the Grapevine

THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS have a couple of songs that could be included in this category.

The Mamas and the Papas

I won’t mention the others as they have one champion earworm song and that’s California Dreamin'.

♫ The Mamas and the Papas - California Dreamin'

JOE TEX pretty much taught James Brown his complete act. Okay, that’s not quite true; it’s more that James shamelessly ripped off the act from Joe. He also tried to shoot Joe once. He missed but hit a member of the audience (not badly, fortunately).

Joe Tex

I must admit that I have been known to walk around the streets of Melbourne, particularly when I’m foraging for provender at the various markets I visit, singing this song to myself. I even sing the “ta ta ta ta ta ta” guitar part sometimes out loud which causes the A.M. to tell me to shut up (she doesn’t really say that, she’s a very polite person, that’s just the way I interpret it).

The song is Show Me.

♫ Joe Tex - Show Me

You all know ROD STEWART.

Rod Stewart

You all know his most famous song. Well, I think it’s his most famous; it’s also an earworm for me. The song came from back in the day when Rod was a great singer on the cutting edge of popular music, before he started marrying tall blondes, before he had so much money he could do what he liked in the recording studio.

Nothing wrong with those songs, it’s just the early ones are far better. Lordy, I’m sounding like a grumpy old musicologist. Here is Maggie May.

♫ Rod Stewart - Maggie May

THE SUTHERLAND BROTHERS AND QUIVER is the rather awkward name for the next contender.

The Sutherland Brothers and Quiver

Gavin and Iain Sutherland started their musical life as The Sutherland Brothers Band in Scotland. They met another band called Quiver who started out as Tim Renwick and John Lodge. The number of people in Quiver fluctuated quite a bit even after the two groups had amalgamated. Never mind.

They recorded half a dozen albums together and eventually split into their original groups. They had one really big hit which is the one we’re interested in today, The Arms of Mary.

Later, on one of their comeback albums, the Everly Brothers recorded a superior cover version of the song which is even more earwormy but we’ll stick with the original today.

♫ Sutherland Brothers and Quiver - Arms of Mary

JACK SCOTT or Giovanni Scafone to his mum and dad, was from Windsor, Ontario, just across the river from Detroit.

Jack Scott

His father taught him to play guitar and after the family moved to Detroit, Jack started a band called the Southern Drifters. They were reasonably successful around town and after several years he went out on his own.

After some local hits, he made it big nationally with several songs including What in the World's Come Over You? in 1960. This is his candidate for earworm notoriety. Jack’s still performing, mostly around Detroit.

♫ Jack Scott - What In The World's Come Over You

An unlikely candidate, given that most of these are pop songs, is Dave Brubeck. Or more particularly, the DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET.

Dave Brubeck

Many’s the day I’ve wandered around going “Tum diddly um dum dum diddly um dum dum diddly um dum dum take five, just take five”. The dum diddlies may not have given it away, but the Take Five certainly would.

♫ Dave Brubeck - Take Five

Emile Ford

I’ll finish with the world champion earworm, the gold medal winner, one that’s infected me intermittently for the last 50 years. The A.M. agrees with me on this one. This is the worst infection you can imagine. Listening to this one only once is enough to keep it in your brain for many weeks.

This song was top of the charts, at least around this neck of the woods, in late 1959. EMILE FORD had a few other minor hits but this was his biggest hit, the one he’ll always be remembered for as far as I’m concerned (how could I forget it?): What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?

♫ Emile Ford - What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For

Postscript: I completed this column several days ago and I must report that each morning since I’ve woken up with my brain singing Joanne to me.