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The New York Times, this past week launched a Chinese language edition:

NYT Chinese edition

Of course, I can't read a word of it (if you don't count the Bloomies ads) but I think it's good to know this exists and you can see it here.

It's on a public access channel, not network or cable, so few will see this “reality show” on which a dozen Los Angeles elders work to get off the couch and, as the show name states, On the Move to shape up physically.

The program will last only six weeks, so I suppose it will be hard to declare a winner but the reason I'm posting this is because, to me, there is something creepy the the physician/host. See what you think.

You can read more here.

Michael Arenella is a 34-year-old jazz musician and bandleader (the Dreamland Orchestra) from Brooklyn and each summer he hosts a jazz-age lawn part on Governor's Island in New York. No big deal until you learn he is a walking, talking fashion vision of the 1920s and he lives the part year 'round.

"...from shoes both vintage and custom-made. To recreate the jazz age, he not only studies the music of the ’20s and early ’30s but also wears its hats, cuff links and ties...

"He drives the cars, rides the trains (when possible), gets the haircut, plays the horns and sings through the microphones and megaphones (he owns seven) of the period...

"He wears modern clothing only when jogging, “though I do have this fantasy of running the marathon in leather-soled shoes and wool knickers,” he said, laughing."

Take a look:

Michael Arenella

You can read more about Mr. Arenella here and see more photos of him in a New York Times slide show.

I don't know who this guy is but he's funny in a lowkey way and for some reason I trust his advice about fixing a mobile phone you've dropped in water:

So sad. The tortoise was more than a 100 years old and believed to be the last of his subspecies. Here's the story:

You can read more here.

The Vatican has hired Fox News (you know, “fair and balanced”) reporter, Greg Burke, to improve its public relations and, one supposes, pump up its tarnished image. You can read more here and here.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the growing problem of identity theft and now the Federal Trade Commission, which does excellent work in public education, has launched a new identity theft section to its website.

There you will find a lot of useful information including this video (among several others):

There are companion pamphlets on how to prevent identity [pdf], safeguard your children against it [pdf] and what to do if your identity is stolen [pdf]. The website is an excellent resource.

Nothing like this exists anymore – the kind of gorgeous, choreographed dancing that was commonplace at the movies in our youth. Longtime Elder Storytelling Place contributor, Nancy Leitz, sent this lavish montage of Rita Hayworth doing that beautifully.

In an April Interesting Stuff, I included two videos of the charmingly depressed French cat, Henri. Here is a new episode in his life:

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.

Supreme Court Upholds ACA

category_bug_politics.gif The health care law stands. As you undoubtedly know by now, the Supreme Court of the United States in a five-to-four decision yesterday, upheld President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

Although it is a giant victory for President Obama and the people of the United States, there are complications. Expansion of Medicaid was rejected and that was a more nuanced decision than I'm prepared to discuss today.

There are many dozens of places online where you can read details, explanations and commentary of the decision, and the full, 193-page decision is posted at the Supreme Court website [pdf].

Most importantly, the individual mandate was upheld but there are questions. It was not under the Commerce Clause that it remains Constitutional, but under Congress's power to tax.

So apparently, if people do not purchase coverage, there is a consequence – a significant tax to be paid. However, there is no penalty for not paying the tax. Or maybe there is. News reports I saw and heard on that point conflict with one another and I haven't had time to follow up yet.

For elders, all our gains from the health care act continue: free, annual, wellness examinations and free or low-cost health screenings such as mammograms, bone-density measurements, diabetes, HIV and obesity screenings among others.

The doughnut hole in the prescription drug plan (Part D) will continue to gradually close and Medicare Advantage plans cannot charge more for chemotherapy, dialysis and some other procedures than allowed under Medicare Parts A and B.

According to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), the solvency of Medicare has been extended eight years thanks to this legislation.

One provision I like a lot in today's awful economy is that parents can continue to carry their children under age 26 - more than three million of them - on their health insurance policies. That, of course, continues too.

The Affordable Care Act is nowhere near perfect. I believe a better way to go is single payer, Medicare for All or something similar and I do believe it will be necessary in the future to move in that direction. But now, with this Court decision, that will not happen while I still walk the Earth and this is best we've got. It's better than what the Republicans prefer.

Because I was out of the house most of Thursday with meetings and other obligations, I haven't yet had much opportunity to think about the Court's decision and write anything useful or informative. So I am leaving that in your capable hands today.

What was your reaction to the decision? What did you learn or take away from any of the reporting and commentary? What about the Republican threat to repeal the ACA - is that just defeat bluster or will they try to do it?

What's your take on Justice John Roberts' left-leaning decision and does it signal a change in his future deliberations? How will this decision change healthcare in the U.S. overall? What kind of effect will it have on the presidential election campaign?

Oh, and you might want to comment too on yesterday's nasty bit of business in the House of Representatives instigated by Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) voting to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt over - well, nothing. I was mildly cheered to read that a whole bunch of Democrats walked out rather than dignify the proceeding with their votes.

I'm curious and eager to hear from you all and to read your back-and-forth on this.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Terry Hamburg: Passing Through Puberty

Summer Heat Warnings

HOUSEKEEPING NOTE: Lately, quite a few emails I send – even, occasionally, to people with whom I regularly correspond – have been returned to me as undeliverable. This has also happened several times for contributors to The Elder Storytelling Place when I was trying to notify them of story publication dates.

I apologize for the problem. I'm working on it. It's taking time. Be assured that if what you've emailed requires a response, I'm not deliberately ignoring you.

category_bug_journal2.gif It's that time of year again – hot, hot, hot weather – and we elders need to remind ourselves that our bodies do not tolerate high temperatures as easily as when we were young. It can, in some cases, be deadly for us: each summer in the U.S., there are about 370 heat-related deaths, half of them elders.

One reason is that as we age, our body temperature regulators go a bit wonky. We might not sweat as much as in years past and might not feel thirst when our bodies need liquid. So remind yourself to drink plenty of water during hot weather. If your urine is dark, you're not getting enough liquids.

Here are some other tips:

  • Do not drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages; they are dehydrating.

  • Wear light-colored, loose clothing.

  • Heat waves are not the time to skimp on the electric bill. Turn up the air conditioning when you need it.

  • If you do not have air conditioning, find out the locations of your city's cooling centers. Hundreds of cities use school gyms and other large gathering places to help people cool down during the worst of the day's heat.

  • You could also go the movies, the mall or visit a friend who has air conditioning during the afternoon.

  • If you have air conditioning, consider inviting a friend who does not to visit you for a couple of hours.

  • If you must be out and about during a heat wave, do your errands in the early morning. Schedule appointments before the worst heat of the day.

  • Eat light meals that do not need cooking. High-water-content foods like cantaloupe, watermelon, apples and other fruits are good.

  • Keep window shades and curtains lowered during the heat of the day.

  • Some medications for diabetes, high blood pressure and other conditions can inhibit the body's ability to cool itself. If your area is experiencing a prolonged heat wave, perhaps ask your physician if you can forgo or reduce the amount of those medications for the duration.

There are two heat-related conditions that are serious and you should know the symptoms:

HEAT EXHAUSTION occurs when the body gets too hot. Symptoms are thirst, weakness, dizziness, profuse sweating, cold and clammy skin, normal or slightly elevated body temperature.

Move yourself or someone experiencing this to a cool place, drink cool liquids, take a cool bath or shower and rest.

HEAT STROKE is a medical emergency. It can cause brain damage so get thee or the affected person to a hospital. It occurs when body temperature reaches 104 or 105 in a matter of minutes.

Other symptoms include confusion; faintness; strong, rapid pulse; lack of sweating and bizarre behavior. Don't fool around with this.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean: Age Fixing


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.

I got a call the other day from a woman who said that her mother needed a will. I told the caller I would be pleased to help her mother do some estate planning. I asked the daughter tell her mother to call my office to set up an appointment.

The woman explained that her mother was too ill to come to my office and asked if I would come out to the house. I told her that I sometimes go to the homes of my elderly clients and that I would be pleased to discuss it when her mother called me.

My offer was not good enough. The daughter said that her mother was too ill even to call me and was relying on her to arrange everything.

When I suggested that a person who is too ill to even call me was probably too ill to do estate planning, the daughter became indignant and said said that if I wouldn't do the job then she would go on the internet to LegalZoom and do it herself. I said that was probably for the best.

Variations of this conversation happen to me a lot. I turn down these cases because I do more than write wills and trusts. I also go to court to get wills and trusts declared invalid. I know that simply getting a signature on the bottom of the document is not enough.

Wills and trusts fail for three reasons.

The most common reason wills fail is because they are not properly signed and witnessed. The rules governing the proper signing of estate plans vary from state to state and country to country. You must comply with the rules that apply in the jurisdiction where you live when you sign the document.

Lawyers don't screw this up. Do-it-yourself folks mess it up all the time.

Wills also fail because the person signing the will did not have “testamentary capacity.” That normally means the person was so disabled with dementia that he or she signed the will without understanding what it was.

It doesn't take much to have testamentary capacity. You have to be able to name your children (or the people to whom you would ordinarily leave your money). You have to be able to describe what you own. You must know that you are signing a will and you must know what effect the will will have.

It ain't much, but I have met many elders who, when taken away from the friends and family who provide them with cues and direction, cannot do it.

When I contest a will, I get to look at the files of the lawyer who wrote it. By looking at those files I find out what the lawyer did to ensure that his client had capacity. I learn who selected the lawyer and who made the appointment. I search out who came with the elder to the lawyer's office and who was in the room when the estate plan was discussed and signed.

In a will contest — a legal action in which someone is challenging the validity of a will — the lawyer's file often determines whether or not the will survives.

When I write wills, I think about the lawyer who might end up looking at my file. Depending on how frail the elder is, I write notes, dictate impressions and in particularly difficult cases, hire experts. I want more than a signature at the bottom of the document. I want a file that will hold up under examination when the client is dead.

The woman who called me about the will for her mother wasn't worried about such things. She was a free spirit. I am not.

In practice, wills written by lawyers and signed in law offices are seldom successfully challenged on the grounds that the elder did not have capacity. The lawyer's testimony about capacity will convince most judges, and no lawyer ever testifies that he wrote a will for someone who couldn't name his own children.

A will can also be invalidated if I can prove it was signed as a result of undue influence.

Briefly, undue influence is using a close personal relationship to wrongfully induce an elder to write a will or give away property. The law of undue influence varies a lot from state to state and is beyond what I can tackle in a column.

I can say, however, that undue influence never happens in the lawyer's office. It happens in the elder's home and it involves people using relationships to steal.

Nearly all undue influence cases involve unusual gifts. Most people give their estates to their children in equal shares. Childless people tend to give their money to either charity or nieces and nephews.

When a person deviates a long way from this pattern, say for example, by giving everything to the hospice nurse, lawyers are going to examine the estate plan very carefully.

If I am asked to write a will in which an elder gives large amounts to a person that just recently arrived in the elder's life, I either decline to do it or hire a whole busload of psychologists examine the elder and be ready to testify in the will contest that is almost sure to come.

The moral of this story is to not mistake the map for the territory. A signature on a document is an important piece of the picture, but so are the circumstances in which the document was signed.

Putting all your attention on the document and not paying attention to the context may leave you a with nicely signed and witnessed estate plan that isn't worth the paper it was written on.

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

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: A Sodium Overload


Through the nearly two decades I have been studying (or researching or reading or whatever this continuing interest is) aging, I have collected a good-sized library of related books.

Mixed among the practical, the journalistic, scholarly and political are memoirs, autobiographies, journals, chronicles, meditations, contemplations, reflections and a few novels about aging written by old people – you know, the real experts on this stage of life.

It is a shame to leave them on a shelf when I'm finished reading, so beginning today, Elder Prose Interlude will join the occasional Elder Poetry Interlude I've been publishing recently. I hope you will enjoy these.

By Florida Scott-Maxwell

“We are people to whom something important is about to happen. But before then, these endless years before the end, can we summon enough merit to warrant a place for ourselves? We go into the future not knowing the answer to our question.”

* * *

“Age puzzles me. I thought it was a quiet time. My seventies were interesting, and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age. To my own surprise I burst out with hot conviction.”

* * *

“My dear fellow octogenarians, how are we to carry so much life, and what are we to do with it?

“Let no one say it is 'unlived life' with any of the simpler psychological certitudes. No one lives all the life of which he was capable. The unlived life in each of us must be the future of humanity.

“When truly old, too frail to use the vigour that pulses in us, and weary, sometimes even scornful of what can seem the pointless activity of mankind, we may sink down to some deeper level and find a new supply of life that amazes us.

“All is uncharted and uncertain, we seem to lead the way into the unknown.”

* * *

“Age is truly a time of heroic helplessness. One is confronted by one's own incorrigibility. I am always saying to myself, 'Look at you, and after a lifetime of trying.' I still have the vices that I have known and struggled with – well it seems like since birth. Many of them are modified, but not much.

“I can neither order nor command the hubbub of my mind. Or is it my nervous sensibility? This is not the effect of age; age only defines one's boundaries. Life has changed me greatly, it has improved me greatly, but it has also left me practically the same.

“I cannot spell. I am over critical, egocentric and vulnerable. I cannot be simple. In my effort to be clear I become complicated. I know my faults so well that I pay them small heed. They are stronger than I am. They are me.”

* * *

“When a new disability arrives I look about me to see if death has come, and I call quietly, 'Death, is that you? Are you there?' So far the disability has answered, 'Don't be silly, it's me.'”

Florida Scott-Maxwell

Florida Scott-Maxwell, an American who lived most of her life in Scotland, was an actress, playwright, suffrage activist and a Jungian psychologist. Born in 1883, she died in 1979 at age 95.

The Measure of My Days, written when Scott-Maxwell was in her eighties, is timeless and as timely today as it was when it was published nearly half a century ago. It's the sort of book to keep by your side to dip into any page for a bit of inspiration and even wisdom.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sharon Ostrow: Haven

How to Invent a Generational War

Crabby Old Lady went into near fits Sunday morning when she saw a story in The New York Times titled, Old vs. Young.

Not again!

Yes, again, although the Times, as is so often the case, is a long way behind the rest of the media.

All of them have been trying to build an argument that greedy geezers are impoverishing young people and they all cite a November 2011 study from the Pew Research Center headlined, The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-Being subtitled, The Old Prosper Relative to the Young.

Like yesterday's screed in the Times, most of the media amplify the tone and point of view from Pew's headline. As reporter David Leonhard wrote in Sunday's Times story:

“If there is a theme unifying these economic and political trends, in fact, it is that the young are generally losing out to the old.”

Although a large part of his story is devoted to the differences in political and social attitudes between young and old, Leonhart continues the onslaught against elders by contrasting, for one example, what he calls the “wealth gap,” based on Pew figures, as unfair to young people. This is Pew's chart on net worth by age:

Pew Net Worth

The stupidity of seeing inequity here astounds Crabby Old Lady. Under 35s have a net worth $3,662 versus $170,494 for 65 and older. So? The largest part of everyone's net worth is the value of their home. Elders have been paying off their mortgages for 30 years longer than 35-year-olds have.

Crabby hates to be obvious, but that is the way the world works. We start out young with very little, we work hard, pay our bills and when we get old, we have accumulated a little wealth to see us through until we die. That is how it is supposed to work.

It's not just net worth. The “wealth gap” Leonhard blames old people for includes income and home ownership all of which are the largest since record-keeping began.

Apparently, he does not know that for the past four years, the U.S. has been living in a recession so deep, some believe it is a depression. Apparently, he does not know that the 2008 crash stole trillions of dollars in savings from everyone, that millions of homes have been foreclosed upon or are underwater, that unemployment is stuck on hold and that employers haven't raised anyone's salary in 30 years.

But never mind that. Young people are hurting and it's old people's fault:

“Young adults are faring worse in the private sector and, in large part because they have less political power, have a less generous safety net beneath them.”

In Leonhart's world, Crabby is guessing, the average $1,100 per month Social Security check is way too much and if young people can't have Medicare then old people shouldn't have it either.

It doesn't occur to Leonhard (or anyone else who blames elders for everyone else's ills) that the better solution all around would be to expand Medicare to everyone along with paying all workers a living wage and seeing that the wealthy among us pay their fair share in taxes.

Yes, young people are having a terribly hard time getting started in the world. Just ask the old people – parents and grandparents – they are still living with after college.

But it is not the fault of old people.

Just as Crabby was winding down this story, an email arrived from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) with economist Dean Baker's response to Leonhard's story.

Baker and Crabby pretty much agree but because Baker is smarter and follows this stuff more closely than Crabby, he had some interesting additional information:

”There is a well-funded effort in this country to try to distract the public's attention from the massive upward redistribution of income over the last three decades by trying to claim that the issue is one of generational conflict rather than class conflict.

“Billionaire investment banker Peter Peterson is the most well-known funder of this effort, having kicked in a billion dollars of his own money for the cause.”

Baker ends his tirade acknowledging that young people are not doing well. Then:

“But this is a story of Wall Street greed, corruption, and incompetence. It has nothing to do with the Social Security and Medicare received by the elderly.

“Leonhardt should be ashamed for falling for this tripe.”

Hear, hear. Do not let the one percent and their sycophants start a generational war.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Hertslet: An Episode of Life or Death in Rome

ELDER MUSIC: Motown Top 20 – Part 1

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.

category_bug_eldermusic Recently, I read a Mojo magazine from two or three years ago and the main article centred on Motown Records. The main point of the article was listing what they thought were Motown’s top 100 singles.

I thought I could get an easy column out of that by including their top 10, then I thought, “Hey, I can drag this out to a couple of weeks and have a Top 20.” Never miss a chance to pad out the columns.

I stopped at 20 as after that I started to run out of songs I have in my collection. I may not agree with Mojo's choices, although all the songs are worthy of inclusion, but I would have bumped some songs higher and others down a bit. I imagine everyone would do the same. However, it sure saved me thinking about who to include and in what order.

So, counting down (just like on the old top 40 radio stations when we were kiddliewinks), here are songs number 20 to 11.


The Temptations

This is the first of several visits by the Temps. David Ruffin was the lead singer at this stage and his vocal performance here is a tour de force. After this and several other fine performances, he demanded top billing (as “David Ruffin and The Temptations”). The others maintained that no one member was bigger than the team and sacked him after he wouldn’t back down.

David had a desultory solo career and eventually died from serious drug and other abuses. The Temptations became, or already were, one of the most important groups in rock & roll history.

Here is I Wish It Would Rain while David was still in top form.

♫ The Temptations - I Wish It Would Rain


The Four Tops

The Four Tops. What an amazing group they were. They performed for more than 40 years with the same members. There would be few groups in any musical genre with that longevity.

A lot of their songs were written by Holland-Dozier-Holland and Eddie Holland, the lyricist of the writing team, said that they always kept their best efforts for the Tops. It shows in the quality of the songs this group produced over the years.

This is one of HDH’s tunes, Bernadette.

♫ The Four Tops - Bernadette


The Temptations

The Temps again and with this track they are already moving away from the slick Motown sound that characterized most of the label’s tunes until this point.

This was done in little steps; it’s not too far removed from the slick sound of only a year or so previously. It took a couple more years before they really broke away in a big way. This will be demonstrated in later songs of theirs.

Here we have Ain't Too Proud To Beg.

♫ The Temptations - Ain't Too Proud To Beg


Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

Smokey Robinson said he wrote this song for Barrett Strong. However, Berry Gordy suggested that he, Smokey, should sing it as it was really suited to his voice. This was way back before Smokey had recorded anything.

He and the Miracles recorded it and the record had been out for about three weeks when Smokey said he received a phone call from Berry at three in the morning saying he didn’t like the arrangement of the song and the group should get into the studio right now and redo it.

They did and the new version became Motown’s first million seller. Smokey said that it showed how we (Motown) never stopped reaching for quality; the record’s been out three weeks and Berry wanted to change it.

I think he could have at least waited until the morning but then, I’ve never had a million selling record so what do I know? This is the rerecorded version of Shop Around.

♫ Smokey Robinson - Shop Around


The Temptations

In my opinion, this song deserves to be nearer the top. Here David Ruffin sings as smoothly as anyone apparently making every girl who hears it wish they were his girl, or so it seems according to my very limited survey.

As you can probably guess by now, this is My Girl.

♫ The Temptations - My Girl


The Contours

The Contours’ song started as a six-and-a-half-minute epic and in the way of these things back then, it was cut to under three minutes for the single release. Unusually though, this time I find the cut version superior to the original.

It removes the rather unnecessary and repetitive instrumental bits that really were quite boring and cuts back on the drums which were rather overwhelming in the original. I bet the kids today would love all that though.

The song was written by Berry Gordy and he got the Contours to perform it. After several tries, he was dissatisfied with the results and threatened to give the song to The Temptations. They nailed it next time.

Joe Billingslea, one of the Contours, later said that it was an idle threat as it wasn’t really suited to the Temps. However, the ruse worked at the time to get the best out of them. Here is Do You Love Me.

♫ The Contours - Do You Love Me


The Supremes

The label says this is The Supremes but for most of the song it’s just Diana Ross singing; the other two barely get a toe in the musical water. This was Berry Gordy’s doing, grooming Diana initially to be the focal point of the group and later for a solo career.

In spite of all that, it’s still a terrific song, one of their best. You Keep Me Hangin’ On.

♫ The Supremes - You Keep Me Hangin On


The Marvelettes

The Marvelettes had a more famous song mostly due to having had it covered by The Beatles early on. That was Please Mr. Postman (that one came in at number 30 on the Mojo list).

The song today was written by Smokey Robinson especially for the Marvelettes and in particular their lead singer, Wanda Rogers, who was married to Bobby Rogers who was one of Smokey’s own group, the Miracles.

The song is The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game.

♫ The Marvelettes - The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game


Brenda Holloway

Brenda Holloway was reluctant to record this song. She thought that Barbara Wilson, who recorded the demo, did a better job than she could do and deserved to perform it herself. She also thought the song was far too sad and broke down several times when she tried to record it.

Finally Brenda achieved a take that satisfied everyone. The song became a hit although Brenda didn’t realize that until a couple of people mentioned they’d heard her on the radio.

On the basis of this, she was scheduled to appear on one of the Dick Clark tours. Berry Gordy said that she could only go if they’d also take one of the other groups who had a few songs released that were flops to give them a bit of exposure. Unfortunately for Brenda that group, The Supremes, suddenly hit it big with their first smash and she was pushed into the background somewhat.

Anyway, her song, Every Little Bit Hurts, is still a fine performance in spite of what she thought at the time.

♫ Brenda Holloway - Every Little Bit Hurts


Edwin Starr

When I first heard this way back in 1970, and for some time after, I didn’t realize it was a Motown track. It sure didn’t sound like the usual output from the label. However, things were changing around about then mostly due to Marvin Gaye but to Edwin Starr as well.

The song hit the nail on the head back in 1970 and it still does the same thing. Even now there are radio stations that refuse to play it. Moral cowardice I call that. This means War.

♫ Edwin Starr - War

Next week, Part 2 - counting down from number 10 through 1.


Well, not that I intended to do so, but when Judith Graham, topic leader on aging at the Association of Healthcare Journalists website, asked my thoughts on Pfizer's new website about getting old, I couldn't resist a few choice words:

"The site fails aesthetically from page one; there is nothing inviting there, nothing engaging, nothing to pique anyone’s interest. It’s badly conceived and executed."

Judith has since published that and the rest of my Pfizer rant along with some kind words about Time Goes By. You can read it here.

All right. I know it's a week late for Father's Day, but this 15-year-old lamentation from Ian Frazer is priceless. And if I, childless by choice, find it fall-down funny, parents and grandparents will, I am certain, kvell. Here is taste:

”And if you are seated in your high chair, or in a chair such as a greater person might use, keep your legs and feet below you as they were. Neither raise up your knees, nor place your feet upon the table, for that is an abomination to me.

“Yes, even when you have an interesting bandage to show, your feet upon the table are an abomination, and worthy of rebuke.

“Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not what they are for; if you will dip your blocks in the milk, and lick it off, you will be sent away.

“When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding like a duck; for you will be sent away.”

You can read the entire lament at the Atlantic magazine.

Last week, Bill Moyers had some thoughts on the nature of our political climate and what it means for his grandchildren's future. (Hat tip to TGB reader, John Starbuck)

Mostly, we think of security cameras as just that, security, in place to catch the robbers and other criminals at their nefarious deeds. But this video, sent by Cathy Johnson, shows something else again. Wonderful.

Remember the hours we spent in grade school practicing the loops and curves of cursive writing?


It may turn out that boomers become the last generation that knows how to write cursive. Forty-five U.S. states have signed on to Common-Core State Standards for education which does not require teaching cursive but insists on “keyboarding.” I wonder if that means future historians won't know how to read documents like this one:


You can read more here.

An exhibit opened this week at the New York Public Library called Lunch Hour NYC about how the Horn and Hardart Automats helped invent the lunch hour. Watch this terrific short history video:

The Automat was so ubiquitous in the first half of the 20th century that it was featured in many movies of the era. You can watch clips from more than half of dozen of them here with such stars Joan Crawford, Jean Arthur, Sylvia Sydney and more.

And there is more good information about the Automat in this New York Times story.

Presumptive Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney has endorsed Paul Ryan's Medicare and Social Security-killing budget plan. So have most Republicans in Congress. This week, a group of Catholic nuns took to the hustings against that proposed budget in the midwest with their Nuns on the Bus tour:

According to a study prepared by the congressional Joint Economic Committee and verified by independent experts, here is how the Ryan budget would change after-tax income of various income groups [larger image here]:

Ryan Budget Effect on Income

Whew! After the awful news in that immediately preceding story, something warm and wonderful and cuddly is in order:

Have you ever heard of Stumble Stones? Me neither until this week. Here is what they look like:


The stumble stones - stolpersteine in German – are the project of German artist, Gunter Demnig who in the past 15 years has installed more than 34,000 brass-capped cobble stones in countries throughout Europe in front of the homes or stores of victims of the Nazis.

The stones are engraved with the barest details of the person's life beginning with HERE LIVED followed by name, birthdate, deportation destination and date of death. As Demnig told The New York Times,

"'Six million is an incomprehensible figure,' said Demnig, referring to the number of Jews murdered by Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. 'But to carve the name of a single person on a single marker is to say, Look, this individual lived - lived right here at this actual address. He or she looked out this window or stepped out that door every day. This was someone just like you or me. Not just an anonymous victim of history.'"

There is much more worth seeing and reading at the Stumble Stones website.

I have been remiss in not posting Saturday kitty pictures of late, so here is one I found at Colette's French-language blog, Nifty and Fifty and the City.

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.

Making Light of Our Mortality

For a long while during the middle years of the 20th century, my great Aunt Edith (see Timeline series about her here) worked as the executive secretary of the Oregon Funeral Directors Association. Undoubtedly, this accounts for my ease with discussions of death and especially with the particulars of the immediate aftermath. I asked Aunt Edith questions and she answered.

American culture generally isn't as comfortable with death unless you count the many CSI-style shows on television. But I'm sure you have noticed how intellectually stunted those programs are, limiting their involvement with death to their buckets of blood gory visuals.

Gore is really for kids who delight in its Halloween house of horrors aspects that keep the reality of death at bay. Much more interesting, I think, and important is to confront the idea of our demise head on and one path to such contemplation are the details of what happens to our bodies when they have been carted off for disposal by the various means from which we can choose.

And now there is a website and an associated YouTube channel devoted to these mysteries of the American way of death.

The proprietor is Caitlin Doughty, a young, real-life, licensed mortician who bears a striking resemblance in both appearance and 'tude to the NCIS forensic specialist, Abby Sciuto with whom she also shares an enthusiastic dedication to her chosen field. Take a look at one of her Ask a Mortician videos:

Isn't she terrific?

In keeping with her cheerfully morbid interest in death, she holds a degree in medieval history in addition the more practical one in mortuary science. At her website, Order of the Good Death, Caitlin expands on why she wants to “bring mortality back into the culture”:

”The Order is about making death a part of your life. That means committing to staring down your death fears whether it be your own death, the death of those you love, the pain of dying, the afterlife (or lack thereof), grief, corpses, bodily decomposition, or all of the above. “Accepting that death itself is natural, but the death anxiety and terror of modern culture are not.”

As fun, macabre and informative as Caitlin's videos are, more importantly she giving a much-needed boot to the taboo against speaking out loud about death.

I'm pretty sure no one else online – or anywhere else in the popular media – is answering questions about corpses and burials and if I'm wrong, it is certainly not with the elan of Caitlin.

Fear of death is pretty much universal. It's what keeps us alive through the years with its natural abhorrence of sharp instruments, unfenced cliffs and speeding trains. But at the age most of us who read this blog have reached, it is time to become more philosophical and thoughtful about mortality.

Familiarity is always a big help in facing any fear and that is what Caitlin is doing – making talk of death ordinary. Great Aunt Edith would have approved.

There is wider exploration of death at her website including a blog with a delightful recent post containing a list of pulp fiction novels with corpse themes. And of course, her continuing YouTube series, Ask a Mortician. Here's another to entertain you.

[A big shoutout to Nikki of From Where I Sit for introducing me to Caitlin's videos.]

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Michael Goretzky: Lab Partners

What's at Stake for Elders with the SCOTUS Health Care Decision

category_bug_journal2.gif Within a few days - it might even be today - The Supreme Court of the United States will deliver its ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known to its opponents as Obamacare.

In general, Republicans want the ACA overturned, Democrats want it upheld and speculation tells us that the Court might strike down only parts of the legislation, particularly the mandate.

The ACA contains some excellent health care improvements for elders but many don't know about them. Some examples:

• A free, annual wellness examination

• Elimination of cost-sharing for such preventive screenings as mammograms, bone-density measurements, diabetes, HIV and obesity screenings among others

• Gradual reduction of cost-sharing of prescription drugs for Medicare enrollees who fall into the doughnut hole

• Prevents Medicare Advantage plans from charging enrollees more for chemotherapy, dialysis and some other procedures than allowed under Medicare Parts A and B

• Prevents states from cutting elders from Medicaid

• Expands Medicaid to certain individual under age 65, providing 3.3 million uninsured with health coverage

• Creates provisions to combat exploitation of elders through financial, physical and mental abuse

And a whole bunch more. But they could be gone before many elders have had the opportunity to use them.

According to the National Association to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM), these are the four questions before the Supreme Court:

  1. Is the minimum coverage provision (individual mandate) a constitutional exercise of Congressional power under the Commerce Clause?
  2. If the individual mandate is not constitutional, is it severable from other parts of the law?
  3. Does the Medicaid expansion create conditions on state participation so coercive as to violate Congress' power to impose such conditions under the Spending Clause?
  4. Does the Anti-Injunction Act (providing that taxes can only be challenged after assessed) apply?

I know, I know. The wording of these things makes your eyes cross – well, mine anyway, but I can work through it.

Plus, the NCPSSM yesterday provided a nifty, 12-page document [pdf] explaining How the Supreme Court Decision Could Impact America's Seniors.

According to their analysis, the best possible outcome for elders is for the Court to uphold the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion. If so, everything for elders in the ACA remains in place.

The worst scenario for elders is if the individual mandate is struck down and not severed from the rest of the ACA. This would mean that the entire law is overturned and all provisions for elders (and everyone else) are stripped away.

There are a couple of other possible outcomes, intermediate in their effect on elders which you can read the NCPSSM analysis. Since you cannot count on all reporters to get anything about Medicare straight, you might want to bookmark this document to help you find out where you stand when the Court decision comes down.

As I mentioned, many elders have not taken advantage of the health improvements available to them in the ACA.

So if the Court upholds the mandate and Medicaid expansion leaving all provisions for elders in place (an old woman can hope, can't she?), you can find out what preventive services are available in the Medicare Guide to Preventive Services [pdf] booklet.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Personality, or the Lack Thereof

How Dumb is Crabby Old Lady? Let Her Tell You

Late yesterday morning, Crabby Old Lady had half a blog post written for today. She stopped for lunch and then checked her email which nagged her about updating the program to a new version.

STUPID! IDIOT! MIGHT AS WELL HAVE BEEN DRUNK! As Crabby's hand, on autopilot, maneuvered her mouse pointer toward the update button, her brain clang-clang-clanged a warning too late to prevent her finger from clicking.

When the updated program reloaded, Crabby's calendar - the place where she keeps not only birthdays, appointments, comings and goings, etc., but daily (get that, daily reminders necessary to run Time Goes By smoothly) - was, GASP, gone.

DUNCE! DIMWIT! DOLT! The calendar is an add-on to the email program and Crabby perfectly well knows never to update until she is certain the add-ons have been updated too which years of experience have taught her can take a few days. Sheesh.

After several hours of failed attempts to retrieve her calendar - HER LIFE! - by reverting to the previous email/calendar version, Crabby walked away from the computer. Disgusted with her witlessness, she spent the evening with a bad movie and a good book.

About 40 minutes ago, armed with her first cup of coffee of the day, Crabby sat down at the computer. Oh. My. God. There on the screen was today's half-written blog post.

Crabby forgot not to click the update button AND she forgot to finish her blog post. Next stop: dementia ward.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sydney Halet: Hope

GAY AND GRAY: Applying for Medicare While Gay

JanAdams75x75Gay and Gray is a monthly column at Time Goes By written by Jan Adams (bio) in which she thinks out loud for us on issues of aging lesbians and gay men. Jan also writes on many topics at her own blog, Happening-Here, and you will find her past Gay and Gray columns here.]

This is the tale of how I enrolled in Medicare while lying to the government. They made me do it. Really. Here's the story:

One of the nicer byproducts of our becoming an internet society is that when you reach three months before your 65th birthday, you can fill out an online form to sign up for Medicare. No making an appointment at the Social Security office, no finding postage stamps. Just sit down at the computer and fill out a simple form.

The Social Security Administration even knows how to welcome my age group. The page leads with the headline. Boldly Go Online To Apply For Medicare and includes a video starring Patty Duke and George Takei in Star Trek uniforms.

So I tackled the form. And the process really is easy. Just five screens to fill out asking simple stuff like Name, Date of Birth, SS number, citizenship, enrolling in Medicare Part B only? (yes, I'm still working), etc.

Until I got to Group Health Plan Information. That's where it gets tricky.

Fortunately, I'd done my homework and knew the right answer. The right answer - the only answer I'm allowed to make - is "No."

Considering that I've been enrolled on my domestic partner's excellent group health plan for years, this is counterintuitive. I mean, who do they think has been paying for the dermatologist who removes my benign skin cancers and for my occasional pneumonia meds?

You see, under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Social Security Administration is not allowed to recognize that I belong to a group health plan because they are not allowed to recognize that I am in a spousal relationship. And that matters: if I entered what a married heterosexual would in answer to this question, I'd end up paying extra for Medicare for the rest of my life.

Here's how Gay and Lesbian Legal Defenders, a New England rights advocacy organization, explains the sort of situation in which I find myself:

”When you turn 65 you must enroll in Medicare Part B or face a 10% lifetime penalty for every year you fail to enroll. So if you wait until age 70, you will be paying an additional 50% premium in addition to the regular Part B premium for the rest of your life. However, Medicare does allow two exceptions to this rule.

“First, if you are still working and are covered by either your employer’s or union’s group health plan, you can opt to enroll in Medicare Part B anytime while you are still working or during the 8 months after either your employer’s insurance or your employment ends WITHOUT incurring any penalty.

“There is a second exception that involves being on a spouse’s health plan, but because of the discrimination that same-sex married couples face because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), this benefit will not apply to same-sex married couples until either GLAD wins one of its lawsuits against DOMA (more information on GLAD’s cases here) or Congress repeals DOMA.”

So the only right answer to the "Covered under a Group Health Plan?" question on the Social Security form is "No."

I found this upsetting - so upsetting that I got on the phone and worked my way through a series of automated choices until I managed to reach a person. She actually was nice enough, willing to be helpful.

After explaining my situation and existing coverage, I asked: "Am I really supposed to lie on your form?" She said I must enter "No," even though the true answer is "Yes."

So I did just that. This made me nervous - we've all heard horror stories about insurance companies denying claims because of minor discrepancies on applications. Could I get in trouble for entering something that was manifestly untrue?

Besides, I believe in Medicare. I'm ready to lobby and struggle to keep it for all of us. I don't want to start my relationship with this vital program by telling an untruth. So I didn't completely restrain myself.

The last screen of Social Security's online form has a section for "remarks." Here's what I wrote:

”I have entered incorrect information under the previous screen because I HAVE BEEN covered under my partner's group health plan, but because my coverage is as a domestic partner, not a "married" spouse, the SS Administration apparently cannot recognize my existing coverage.

“This required me to enter information that is factually incorrect - after all, my partner's group health plan has been paying my health bills…But I was so instructed by your agent.”

Apparently this didn't have any effect on my paperwork. Does anyone even read “remarks" I wonder? Yesterday, a letter announcing that I am eligible turned up in the mail.

Look out Mitt! Look out Barack! You've got another elder chafing to hold your feet to the fire to preserve our Medicare.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Ordinary Day

No Way to Treat a Crabby Elderblogger

Crabby Old Lady has been on a rip-roaring tear for most of the weekend and it is about nothing – or very nearly nothing - that affects you, dear reader. Nevertheless, she is going to carry on about it for the next few paragraphs to no purpose whatever except to bitch. You are welcome to take the day off from here.

Time Goes By is an ad-free zone. Many years ago, Crabby tried taking advertisements but they cost way too much in maintenance effort than the amount of payoff that is possible for a blog with only a few thousand readers.

Now, after all these years, Crabby enjoys living and working on a website where no story is ever sliced in half (or thirds or quarters) with text exhortations to spend, spend, spend; where no screen yo-yoes up and down from gigantic banner ads opening and closing; and where she never needs to frantically punch the audio-off button when a video commercial starts shouting at her from the sideline.

(Please don't tell Crabby about ad blockers. She has her reasons not to use them.)

The Elderblog List – what others call a blogroll – lists only personal blogs maintained by people who are age 50 and older. The several hundred on the list cover about every topic under the sun but the key (and requirement) for inclusion is that they are all personal blogs.

Business blogs are not allowed and personal ones cannot carry advertisements beyond a smattering of text-style Google Ads or similar services for those trying to make a few extra pennies from their blogs.

This is not new but it has escalated dramatically over the past couple of weeks so that Crabby has been fending off up to half a dozen business owners a day requesting to be added to the Elderblog List.

The only goal of these requests is to flog their product or service to a fairly large, ready-made population of a certain age group – that is, they are trying to fool Crabby Old Lady into giving them free advertising.

And get this: when Crabby explains via a short, polite email why they don't qualify – damn - as often as not, she gets return messages arguing with her. Geez, that's a fairly high level of hubris.

What pissed Crabby off more than usual, however, was a request on Sunday morning from the owner of a business specifically targeting elders.

Not that it would make any difference for inclusion on the Elderblog List, it's a pretty good business idea, even useful for old people. But the owner, besides attempting to fleece ad space from Crabby with a “blog” that is a minor section of the marketing site and hardly ever publishes new material, nowhere tells readers or potential clients how much it costs.

Not anywhere on the website are there individual prices or even price ranges for service levels.

Now, depending on how much she needs or wants it and how good the product/service appears to be, Crabby Old Lady (and probably most of you, too) knows nearly to the dollar how much she will pay for a given product or service.

If it's in her range, she will reveal personal information to a website to learn more or continue the transaction. If it is out of her range, she will not and it is ludicrous for a business owner to expect otherwise by not listing prices.

What makes this lack of price more than a nuisance, contemptible in fact, and infuriates Crabby is that the service – help for elders with downsizing and moving – is often necessary when people become frail and, possibly, confused enough that they are easy prey for zealous sales people.

Many who run small businesses are just trying to get by in a bad economic climate and it can't be easy. But that's not an excuse for bad behavior. Call her paranoid if you like, but Crabby suspects that anyone looking to fool her into giving them free advertising on her blog would not shrink from conducting their business in a similar manner.

That is not to say that Crabby has any recourse but to deny a place on the Elderblog List (which she would have done anyway) and bitch a bit in public.

Oh, my. Crabby feels so much better now.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: Flat Feet


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.

category_bug_eldermusic I’m not a fan of musicals, most of them leave me cold. There are a few I like, however, and they will be featured today.

It’s interesting because I really like operas - perhaps, because they are so silly (but have great music). Musicals aren’t silly enough for my taste.

Of course, back when they were written, a lot of operas would probably have been considered musicals. Conversely, some musicals are lumped into the opera bag. I’m thinking specifically of Porgy and Bess but there are a couple of others as well.

It really means that the demarcation line between opera, comic opera, operetta and musicals is rather nebulous which is good for me as I can choose whatever I please. Each of those I’ve chosen I’ve seen, either on stage or as a film, with one exception which I’ll get to later.

I’ll start, as all good musicals do, with an overture – the Overture from Candide by LEONARD BERNSTEIN. I don’t know if Candide should be considered a musical or an opera or something in between, but I’m flexible so it’s included.

This is Lennie conducting the London Symphony Orchestra.

Leonard Bernstein

♫ Leonard Bernstein - Candide Overture

One musical I remember being taken to see as a whippersnapper by my folks is South Pacific. I remember enjoying it quite a bit even though I probably preferred rock & roll at that age. It still has charm although the original film made of it is a little problematic these days.

There was a remake not too long ago that was rather good too. However, I’m going with a song from the original film. Here we have EZIO PINZA with This Nearly Was Mine.

Ezio Pinza

♫ Ezio Pinza - This Nearly Was Mine

The Fantasticks is often considered the longest running musical in history. This is the one that I haven’t actually seen. However, I’ve read the synopsis of the plot on Wiki and it sounds silly enough to be an opera.

The show opened off-Broadway in 1960 and ran, uninterrupted, for 43 years. In that original version, the part of El Gallo was played by JERRY ORBACH.

Jerry Orbach

All I knew of Jerry was his playing Lennie Briscoe on Law and Order. It was only when he died that I learnt that there was a lot more to his work than just playing hard-bitten detectives.

Here he is from the original soundtrack singing the most famous song from the musical, Try to Remember.

♫ Jerry Orbach - Try to Remember

Big River is a musical based on Huckleberry Finn. It was written by Roger Miller, the country and novelty songwriter/singer. The version I saw here in Melbourne had the cream of Australia’s talent in it including a couple of fine rock singers.

It also had MICHAEL EDWARD-STEVENS who was imported to play the role of Jim. He liked it here so much he stayed for some years. Lordy, what a voice he has.

After hearing him live, I’ve found the CD doesn’t do him justice but it’s the best I can do. Here’s a duet with him and CAMERON DADDO who played Huck, River in the Rain.

Cameron Daddo and Michael Edward-Stevens

♫ Cameron Daddo and Michael Edward-Stevens - River in the Rain

The Student Prince is one of those in the nebulous region between opera and musical. Sigmund Romberg wrote the music and Dorothy Donnelly the words. It was based on a play by Wilhelm Meyer-Förster called Alt Heidelberg and opened on Broadway in 1924.

I remember the film from the fifties. I even had a record of the soundtrack. Indeed, I still have it but I’ve also updated to a CD copy as well. MARIO LANZA was supposed to play the lead but he fell into an argument with the director and spat the dummy.

Later another director came on board who was a friend of Mario’s but they’d already cast Edmund Purdom in the role. Mario sang the tunes though. This is Serenade.

Mario Lanza

♫ Mario Lanza - Serenade

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, said that I had to have something from at least one of Oklahoma or Carousel, two very important musicals in the scheme of things. I guess she’s right. However, I can’t help myself.

I was checking all the songs from Carousel and noticed You’ll Never Walk Alone. I listened to the original soundtrack and thought it was nice. I knew that Gerry and the Pacemakers had a version. I tried that and thought it was okay too. Then I did a search through my music database and discovered the RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS.

Righteous Brothers

One listen to that and I knew that had to be the one. Okay, it’s not strictly musical material, but the song is from one and one of the most famous at that. Here it is.

♫ Righteous Brothers - You'll Never Walk Alone

Bran Nue Dae is an Australian musical written in 1990, set in Broome, Western Australia, and is about stories and issues of the indigenous people of that region. It was written by Jimmy Chi.

There is also a film made in 2010 that was a huge success in this country. Its features included such interesting people as Ernie Dingo, Geoffrey Rush and Jessica Mauboy amongst others.

The film’s a bit uneven but is fresh and energetic and worth a look. One of the important roles is filled by the wonderful singer, DAN SULTAN. This is Dan with the song Nyul Nyul Girl.

Dan Sultan

♫ Dan Sultan - Nyul Nyul Girl

The leads in the film of West Side Story didn’t actually sing, they had voice doubles, so I think I’m justified in throwing in a version of a song from that musical that may be a little unexpected. I’ll just say that this is TOM WAITS with Somewhere.

Tom Waits

♫ Tom Waits - Somewhere

I really like The Music Man. I see it whenever it turns up on TV, which seems to be less often these days. This is from the 33 RPM Microgroove recording (that’s what it says) that I inherited from my folks of the original soundtrack from the Broadway version, not the film version with which I’m more familiar these days.

Here is the marvelous ROBERT PRESTON with (Ya Got) Trouble. I’m always amazed at the way he performs this.

I know actors learn plenty of lines but these are sung at rapid speed and it’s not a song, more a soliloquy, thus there are lots of words. I think my tongue would be tangled if I tried it. He does it even faster in the film version.

Robert Preston

♫ Robert Preston - Ya Got Trouble

The most famous song from Calamity Jane is Secret Love. You won’t be hearing that one today. Even for a musical this one stretches credibility somewhat. DORIS DAY as Calamity Jane? I don’t know if you’ve seen a photo of the real Calam, but there’s a bit of a difference.

Nonetheless, it had some pretty good tunes. With hindsight there are some interesting readings of the film, the cross dressing, the gay resonances and the treatment of Native Americans. On that last score, the film wasn’t alone, of course.

Here Doris is joined by HOWARD KEEL who played Wild Bill Hickok with The Black Hills of Dakota.

Doris Day and Howard Keel

♫ Doris Day and Howard Keel - The Black Hills of Dakota

One thing I’ve discovered with this exercise is that the best songs in musicals have been written for men, or maybe that’s only for the musicals I like.


On the telephone a few days ago, I laughed when a friend had difficulty recalling a name and said his proper name recall wasn't working. It's a funny idea that there would be one place in our brains for proper nouns and another for common ones.

We're not usually so specific about our memory slips. Darlene Costner sent this video of Golf Brooks singing Senior Moments with closed captioning if you need it.

Even I, with no interest in cars beyond getting me to my destination and not much more interest than that in NPR, enjoy listening to Click and Clack now and then. But they are soon to be no more.

Click and Clack

Come fall the Tappet Brothers, Tom and Ray Magliozzi – age 74 and 63 respectively - are retiring their radio show, Car Talk, after 35 years of weekly broadcasts. There is more information here and here.

The gentle, soft-spoken children's television host, Fred Rogers, died in 2003. Video mashup artist, John D. Boswell, (aka melodysheep) worked with PBS to create this tribute to Rogers' iconic TV show for the PBS fundraiser this year. It's simply terrific.

A new Federal Reserve study released this week shows that average family net worth plunged by a shocking 38 percent between 2007 to 2010 going from $126,400 to $77,300. Here's what it looks like on a graph:

Net Worth Change

Median family income also fell over the same period of time from $49,600 to $45,800 a year, adjusted for inflation.

The New York Times notes another statistic from the report:

”The average income of the wealthiest families fell much more sharply than the median, indicating that some of those at the very top of the ladder slipped down at least a few rungs.

“[T]he top 10 percent of households still earned an average of $349,000 in 2010. The average net worth of the same families was $2.9 million.”

Sounds tough, doesn't it. The full Fed report is here [pdf].

Last week, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon held a love fest in Congress with members of the Senate Banking Committee (did you expect anything else?).

For his latest program this weekend, Bill Moyers sat down for a few minutes with one of my favorite political journalists, Thomas Frank, the author of What's the Matter with Kansas? and more recently, Pity the Billionaire.

It's a short, little piece and worth every one of the three-plus minutes as the two men discuss Dimon and how the world works for the rich and powerful.

You might also be interested in reading this story, “Too Smart to Fail: Notes on an Age of Folly” by Thomas Frank in the latest edition of The Baffler, a magazine he founded and edits.

We know the two U.S. political parties now seem to be living on different planets, maybe even solar systems, but who knew they also disagree on everyday purchases. According to a study from Buyology, Inc., which advises on marketing strategies, our political divide extends to brands.


Democrats like Starbucks; Republicans go to Dunkin' Donuts. Democrats watch Animal Planet; Republicans the History Channel. But they both use Visa to buy their Coca Cola.

Whatever. It's hard to know if this means anything. You can read reports on the study here and here.

A year or so ago, Jameson Irish Whiskey teamed with actor Kevin Spacey and Trigger Street Productions for an international film competition with the idea of finding up-and-coming film talent.

I have no idea how successful it is as a marketing idea, but it is a great pleasure for you and me. According to Jameson, the three winners

“...were selected for their creativity and directing skills in portraying a legendary, humorous tall-tale.”

The three short films premiered on YouTube last week. Here is Ventriloquist starring Spacey and directed by Benjamin Leavitt from the U.S.

The two other films, both starring Spacey, are Spirit of a Denture from South African director, Alan Shelley and Envelope from Russian director, Alexsey Nuzhiny. You can see them at YouTube here and here.

It's evident that some rock legends, in their old age, show effects of – oh, let's just say overindulgence in certain excesses through the years.

Others, Gregg Allman is among them, have strange ideas about how to promote their books – in this case, by not allowing the interviewer to talk about anything he wrote in the book.

Even with this handicap, Colbert managed a fine, funny interview. I've saved the best item today for last:

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.

An Elder Weight Control Plan

category_bug_journal2.gif A few days ago, I mentioned in reference to something else that after having lost a great deal of weight last year, some of it has been creeping back so I'm being extra diligent now about what goes in my mouth.

There is only one way to lose weight: eat less than you expend in energy. Fewer calories in than out will always result in weight loss. What will not help with weight loss is exercise.

Increasing numbers of studies show that exercise contributes almost nothing to weight loss. Sure, it's good for you. It enhances cardiovascular health and people who exercise regularly develop cancer, diabetes and other illnesses less often. But it doesn't help them lose weight.

The reasons are obvious when you look into it. A pound is equivalent to 3500 calories so you must use up that many in energy expenditure to lose one pound. Walking briskly at 3.5 miles per hour for an hour burns about 250 calories depending on your weight. Cycling at a moderate rate for one hour burns an average of about 550 calories per hour.

If you know a little math, you see the problem.

Plus, studies show that rigorous exercise makes people hungry (duh!) and they then “reward” themselves with high-calorie drinks or snacks afterward. There is a good review of dieting, exercise and weight loss at Time magazine.

My weight loss plan is just a more stringent version of my normal eating plan:

No red meat – ever
Little or no chicken*
Lots of fish
Lots of many kinds of fruit
Lots of many kinds of vegetables
Brown rice and other whole grains
Whole grain bread
Olive or canola oil
Very little butter for cooking
No fat milk
No fat, unflavored yogurt
Any amount of spices, herbs and flavorings
No salt
No pastries, cakes, pies, etc.
Keep sugar to a low roar

Sugar is mostly for making apple and cranberry sauces which I use in a variety of ways – in hot cereal, as side dishes, etc.

*Note: I want to avoid antibiotics, etc. in food and chickens raised without drugs are so expensive, I rarely buy them.

So I eat piles and piles and piles of vegetables. In winter, I roast them. In summer, I make “gorilla salad” - 10 or 15 different cut-up veggies – pre-cooked when necessary - maybe some fruit like grapes or melon and hold it all together with homemade dressing.

Commercial salad dressings can be gigantic calorie hogs and the low- and no-fat varieties have an awful, chemical taste. But if you make your own, you can control that. (What else are you doing with your time in retirement.)

As one example, I use no-fat yogurt or no-fat sour cream with a little lite mayonnaise for flavor along with some honey, fresh chopped ginger, a few red pepper flakes and a couple of tablespoons of orange juice to thin it a bit.

You probably know this, but just in case: when using oil-based salad dressings, add only the barest minimum amount to the salad and then toss and toss and toss the salad. The more you toss, the less dressing you need.

In summer, breakfast is almost invariably a fruit smoothie – whatever berries I found at the farmers market and melon with no-fat yogurt, chopped fresh ginger (I like ginger a lot), pineapple juice, very ripe banana. It varies depending on what's available and can be made just as easily with any frozen fruit.

Winter breakfast is almost always oatmeal with a variety of additions – several at once: cranberry or apple sauce with sliced banana and some frozen berries, peach, cherries, etc. I like a little cereal with my fruit...

Three or four times a week, lunch or dinner is fish, usually steamed or broiled with a small salad or a pile of veggies over rice. Often, gorilla salad is the full meal; occasionally I add some fresh-cooked pasta. If there is a particularly good bread in the house, a slice or two of that – no butter.

All of this is so naturally low calorie that I never need to count. When I think I'll die without a snack in the evening, I nuke a bag of Orville Redenbacher “Kettle Corn” – the small, 100-calorie bags.

Also, I've recently discovered that when I think I'm hungry between meals, if I take a quick walk – 15 minutes or so – the feeling goes away.

With all the fish and fresh fruit and vegetables, this sounds expensive and it can be. But frozen fruits and veggies are equal in nutrition to fresh and can be bought in bulk when they're on sale.

Cod and other fish is often only $5 or $6 a pound and you don't need more than a third of a pound for one meal. Even fresh, in-season salmon doesn't cost much when that's all you buy.

There are a lot of other things I eat, but that is my basic diet.

The weight piles up when I indulge in cheeses – something I've been know to actually dream about – and drink wine with dinner. A normal-size glass of wine is about 200 calories. An ounce of cheese averages about 100 calories and who eats only one ounce at a time.

Ice cream, of course, is hundreds of calories per serving - almost all of it, as with cheese, fat which is bad for weight, bad for your heart. When I crave one of these things, I usually crave the other two.

Even when I'm having a cheese and/or ice cream binge, I never drink soda – just don't like it so that saves calories – and I never eat fried foods of any kind.

When I eat in restaurants, it is usually Asian, Thai or Japanese. And when I occasionally indulge in a pastry from the lovely French bakery in town or overdo at the Italian place, I just make sure I don't do it again for another couple of weeks.

Now, what about you.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Barbara Sloan: A Woodland Birth

Epidemic of Identity Theft

”J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, testified before Congress this month that the I.R.S. detected 940,000 fake returns for 2010 in which identity thieves would have received $6.5 billion in refunds.

“But Mr. George said the agency missed an additional 1.5 million returns with possibly fraudulent refunds worth more than $5.2 billion.”

That's from a New York Times story a couple of weeks ago about a fast-growing new form of identity theft – false tax returns. South Florida, where the problem has been labeled “epidemic” by officials, has the highest rate of identity-theft tax fraud in the U.S. with elders being easy targets:

”Most vulnerable are records from health care facilities, assisted-living centers, schools, insurance companies, pension funds and large stores that issue credit cards. The police say employees steal the information and sell it, an increasingly common practice here.”

It may be rampant in south Florida but don't feel complacent just because you don't live there. Here are a few figures on identity theft in general from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a part of the U.S. Department of Justice:

• In 2010, 7.0% of households in the United States, or about 8.6 million households, had at least one member age 12 or older who experienced one or more types of identity theft victimization.

• Among households in which at least one member experienced one or more types of identity theft, 64.1% experienced the misuse or attempted misuse of an existing credit card account in 2010.

In regard to identity-theft tax fraud, the Federal Trade Commission reports that “Government documents/benefits fraud” jumped from 10 percent of complaints received by the agency in 2005 to 19 percent in 2010.

My point is that identity theft can happen to anyone. According to the Times story, even a Tampa police officer whose job it is to investigate identity theft along with two dozen other officers “had their identities stolen and tax refunds diverted this year.”

”[T]he problem has gotten so bad that police officers conducting unrelated searches or simple traffic stops routinely stumble across ledgers with names and Social Security numbers, boxes of stolen medical records and envelopes with debit cards.”

Okay, okay. I'm pretty sure you've got the point. The remaining issue is what you can do about it. The simple answer is be alert but let's get more practical that that.

Never, ever give out your Social Security number to anyone who is not required to have it. There is a list here of organizations to whom you are required to provide your Social Security number. You can guess what they are – federal and state government agencies, employers, banks and others who are required to report monetary transactions.

But there is a gigantic catch-22: Your Medicare number is a dead giveaway: it is your Social Security number with a letter attached at the end. The crooks know that too, so while it's common to warn against carrying our Social Security cards in our wallets, few mention Medicare cards.

The non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center is a trustworthy source of good, wide-ranging information and this is their suggestion for the Medicare card dilemma.

Other good sources of prevention and other information include:
Social Security Administration
The Federal Trade Commission
The Privacy Rights Clearing House

Although it is becoming less common, many retailers ask for Social Security numbers – they use them, they say, as account or tracking numbers. Wrong! And you should never give out your Social Security number for a purchase. Do keep in mind, however, that if they insist, you may have to give up doing business with that company.

Sometimes it can take months before a victim becomes aware that his or her identity has been stolen, credit cards or loans have been made in the victim's name or a tax refund has been sent to the crook, etc.

The longer it goes on, the harder it is to untangle the mess. One way to track potential ID theft is through the three credit reporting agencies.

Everyone is entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the agencies. So here is a routine that will help keep you up to date on your credit activity:

  1. Request your free report from Experian.
  2. Wait four months.
  3. Request your free report from Equifax.
  4. Wait four months.
  5. Request your free report from TransUnion.
  6. Wait four months and then request your annual report from Experian again, and so on.

That way, you have a continuing, rolling report of credit activity throughout the year at no cost.

None of the prevention measures are perfect but these and other suggestions from the linked websites above will help keep you safer if not completely safe.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: The Canyon

ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE – You Are Old, Father William

By Lewis Carroll

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "As I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple?"

"You are old," said the youth, "And your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher than suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw,
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father; "don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down stairs!"

Lewis Carroll

The poem is from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, of course, and a wonderful treatment of youthful beliefs about age - not to mention a quite modern and up-to-date prescription for a healthy old age.

What I didn't know until I checked around the web is that the poem is a parody of an overly pious and moralizing poem every child would have known in Carroll's time, The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them. You can read it here.

Undoubtedly, most of you know the particulars of Carroll's life and work. If you need a refresher, Wikipedia has a reasonably good overview.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Bonanza – The Lost Episode (satire)

Elder Taboos – Part 2: Incontinence Products

This blog is one of the few places I've ever found that openly discusses leaky pipes – urinary incontinence – which, some research says, affects about 35 to 45 percent of older women and only slightly fewer men older than 60.

There is some good information here and here – and don't ignore the comments if you click over to read those two TGB posts. You guys are both informative and funny.

My first post about this, in 2009, came about because I was peeing my panties any time I coughed, sneezed or laughed – all three of which are hard to suppress. The problem stopped after I lost a good deal of weight last year but you know how that goes and the pounds are creeping up.

I'm working on reversing that trend because although keeping my weight in check for health reasons is important, I especially don't want to reawaken the leaky pipe problem.

One of the things I monitor about old folks is how we are treated in the media. For elders, advertisers mostly hawk remedies for all the icky stuff our flesh is heir to (in old age and youth) and they do it badly, low-production-value video made on the cheap.

Even so, I don't recall any commercials for incontinence products, especially on television. Until now, that is.

You can safely bet that when there is money to be made, any taboos that have hindered advertisers in the past will be ignored and with all those baby boomers getting old now, the purveyors of incontinence products are making a stand.

Good old Depends, the most well-known name in adult diapers for decades, has refashioned its product into a new, slim design and added some attitude to their sales pitch. This commercial is a hoot:

That's funny and, I think, effective. Here's the one targeting women:

The woman is Lisa Rinna who is Harry Hamlin's wife which, I guess, makes it okay for him to run his finger down her thigh.

Another product, new to the U.S., has begun advertising on television too. It's called the TENAtwist, a pad rather than full pants, and their “twist” is that it holds nearly a full glass of water without feeling wet and won't leak even if you twist it.

It's hard to understand the reason, but the company does not allow embedding the commercial so you'll need to go here to see it.

The copy refers to leak problems from jogging and because the women appearing in the ad are young, I had to check the website before I was sure it was an incontinence and not a menstrual product.

They don't make that clear and the ad is not nearly as effective as the Depends commercials – at least not for old people who are much more likely to need it than 30-somethings.

To be fair, the Depends commercial also elides past the fact that theirs is an incontinence product, but the brand is so closely tied to adult diapers, no one is going to mistake the point. Hey, it's progress.

It's nice, for a change, to see something like this done reasonably well.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jacklynn WinMill-Lee: Missing You

Elder Taboos – Part 1: Hearing Aids

There appears to be a hierarchy of old age diseases and afflictions rated on the “cool” scale. The higher the ranking, the more talk and exchange of information there is and, I would argue, the more attention is paid.

Cataracts are highly rated. Organ transplants are way up there, definitely cool to talk about. So is bypass surgery. Even prostate exams and colonoscopies, while lower on the scale than – oh, say, dental implants, are discussed these days, although dentures are not.

Nor are hearing aids.

But they should be discussed – at least among ourselves - because age-related hearing loss is as common as dirt, afflicting more than 55 percent of people older than 70 and an even higher percentage after age 85.

One remedy for some kinds of hearing loss is cochlear implants which rank rather high on the cool scale. But they are not widely used. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in the United States only about 42,600 adults and 28,400 children have received them as of December 2010.

So. Hearing aids are what we have to treat hearing loss, but only about one in seven people who could benefit use them. Why is that, I wondered.

Audiologists and other experts point to several reasons. Some people, because hearing loss is usually gradual, don't notice their hearing is fading. Others refuse treatment out of vanity – that “thing” in your ear” - and for many elders, there remains a stigma attached to hearing aids from our youth.

Two things may be changing that. The vanity reason could be declining now that just about everyone walks around with wired and wireless devices plugged into their ears for telephoning and music listening. So who is know what's a phone and what's a hearing aid.

And, the stigma problem should fade if the long list of aging musicians with hearing loss – often due to too much loud music over long careers – continue to speak up. Ozzy Osbourne, Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton are among them. George Martin (producer for The Beatles and others) was forced to retire due to hearing loss and Phil Collins gave up touring for the same reason.

This video, although uploaded last year involves at lease one celebrity who is now dead, does have the right messages about hearing aids:

A couple of other reasons elders may not have their hearing checked or get hearing aids are price and reputation. Although there are a few exceptions, generally Medicare does not cover routine hearing exams or hearing aids of any type. And hearing aids are expensive. According to Consumer Reports:

”Our shoppers purchased two pairs of hearing aids each, or 48 aids in all, ranging from $1,800 to $6,800 per pair, including professional fitting and follow-up services, in the New York City metropolitan area.”

The reputation of hearing aid providers is weak because prices vary widely and the industry is not standardized. There is a fly-by-night feel to some of them.

Always, of course, you should begin with your physician and that Consumer Reports story, which is excellent, has a good section on how to choose a provider.

When we were young, it was taboo to talk out loud about cancer. “Did you hear? John's got cancer” was more likely to be whispered one to one. Of course, that is no longer so.

Untreated hearing loss reduces people's ability to engage with the world around them. That can lead to social isolation, already a problem for some elders, and that leads to depression, illness and even early death. There are studies, too, suggest hearing loss can lead to more falls.

When we talk about things openly, they become more acceptable. Hearing aids should be as acceptable as eye glasses.

Tomorrow, Elder Taboos Part 2: Incontinence

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Tarzana: An Eternal Menage a Trois