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Ronni Needs a Day Off Musical Interlude

category_bug_journal2.gif A few things in life have caught up with me and I need some space so I'm taking a day off.

Peter Tibbles, our resident musicologist who holds forth here on Sundays, has made that easy by providing me with some music set aside for days such as this when I need a break.

From the time I was a little girl when Hoagy Carmichael was a popular radio performer, I have been a fan. In addition to so many of his songs I like, there is something about his lazy drawl of a soft voice that makes me feel good and warm and comfortable.

Hoagy Carmichael

So here he is with Ol' Buttermilk Sky.

♫ Hoagy Carmichael - Ol' Buttermilk Sky

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, I.S. Kipp: The Clothesline Under the Apple Tree

Medicare's 47th Anniversary

category_bug_journal2.gif Forty-seven years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation creating Medicare. Former President Harry Truman attended the signing and became the first person to sign up for the program.

In case you ever wondered, here is what life was like for elders before Medicare according to a Bulletin [pdf] published by the Social Security Administration in 1962, three years before the coming of Medicare.

“At the end of 1962...about 50 percent of the aged population had no health insurance of any kind.”


“Those aged persons most in need of health insurance are the least likely to have it – persons in poor health, the very old, those not employed, and those with low incomes.”

Today, more than 99 percent of elders are covered by Medicare and the poverty rate among elders has dropped from 35.2 percent in 1959 to 8.9 percent in 2009, although the drop is mostly attributable to changes to Social Security and only somewhat to Medicare.

Medicare not a perfect program (see today's story at The Elder Storytelling Place), but improvements do come along. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the prescription drug doughnut hole is gradually closing, there are a bunch of preventive care screenings we have now without co-pays and many enrolled in Medicare Advantage programs have seen their premiums decrease.

In my opinion, the country would be better off with a single-payer system; millions who are younger than we are have no coverage and the hard-working people at Healthcare-Now are asking us to let Congress know that we want Medicare for All.

Not that we shouldn't continue the fight for Medicare for All, but it is a futuristic dream that will take many years of work to accomplish. Meanwhile, we must also not lose sight of the immediate threat to Medicare.

Rich people – yes, the kind who don't need Medicare – such people as Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Ron Paul, Rand Paul and pretty much any politician of the Republican Party want to take Medicare away from us.

Mitt Romney's plan, based primarily on the Paul Ryan budget plan, would replace Medicare with a voucher system that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates would increase annual costs to elders by an average of $6400.

Really? I know I would be stuck without coverage. According the U.S. Census Bureau, median income in 2009 for people 65 and older, was $25,877 for men and $15,282 for women. I am at a loss to explain where that $6400 (in addition to current Medicare premiums) would come from and still allow elders a roof over their heads and food to eat.

Good god, it's not enough that we spent the better part of 2005 fighting off President George W. Bush's attempt to privatize Social Security. Now, if Mitt Romney is elected, we'll have to do it all over again to stop him from privatizing Medicare.

It's only about 100 days or so until we will know if that is necessary. But for today, let's celebrate Medicare's 47th birthday and be grateful for the kind of Congress that voted for it in 1965:

1065 Medicare Vote

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Kathleen Noble: The Medicare Blues

ELDER MUSIC: Bags’ Groove

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.

Bag's Groove album cover

Recently, I heard this track on the radio and I thought, “I could do something with this.”

“Bags’ Groove” is the name of an album Miles Davis recorded in 1954 with a group of stellar musicians. It’s also the name of a track from that album - well, two tracks really, as they recorded it twice and released both versions.

I’ll use one of them and the album as a jumping off point for the music today, playing something from each of the musicians present – and what a stellar line up it was.

I’ll start with the tune itself and I’ll attribute it to MILES DAVIS even though he didn’t write it. However, this was Miles’s album and he was the front man at the time.

Miles Davis

Milt Jackson is quite prominent on this track - indeed, it could almost be considered his but as we are featuring him below, this will be Miles’s turn. This is Bags' Groove.

♫ Miles Davis - Bags' Groove

That tune was written by MILT JACKSON whose nickname was Bags, thus its name.

Milt Jackson

Milt was the vibraphone player for the Modern Jazz Quartet, one of the most important and durable jazz groups of the last 60 years. For the music track for Milt I won’t use something from the quartet as others from that group were also present on this recording. So, instead, back in 1957 Milt recorded an album with RAY CHARLES called “Soul Brothers.”

Ray Charles

In spite of its name, this is a jazz album with, admittedly, a small soul influence on the music. Continuing with the theme of tunes named after Milt, this is Bags’ Guitar Blues and besides him and Ray, we have Kenny Burrell playing guitar.

♫ Ray Charles - Bags' Guitar Blues

The pianist for our original tune was a particular favorite of mine, THELONIOUS MONK.

Thelonious Monk

Rather than something from Monk’s solo work or from his regular group, and a fine one that was, I’ve decided to go for an unusual pairing.

This is from an album he recorded with the great baritone sax player Gerry Mulligan. I wouldn’t have thought that it would work but it sure did. Here they are with one of Monk’s compositions, Straight, No Chaser.

♫ Monk - Straight, No Chaser

Now we have PERCY HEATH who played bass and KENNY CLARKE, the drummer. Both of these gentlemen were members of the MODERN JAZZ QUARTET.

Modern Jazz Quartet

Indeed, the only member of that group who wasn’t on this record is John Lewis, the pianist, but he will be heard in this piece of music. I’ve decided to conflate Percy and Kenny into a single track because all the music I have for these two are from the MJQ.

Of course, Milt is rather prominent as well. Here they are with Here´s That Rainy Day.

♫ Modern Jazz Quartet - Here´s That Rainy Day

There are two musicians who were on the album but not on the track featured above, but I’m going to include them as well, naturally. The first of these is the great sax player SONNY ROLLINS.

Sonny Rollins

Sonny started in jazz at an early age - he was eleven when he had his first gig - and he was playing with Thelonious Monk while still a teenager. Soon after, he recorded with the Modern Jazz Quartet and also with Miles Davis so all these folks are intertwined. That, however, is the point of this column.

Here he is with Most Beautiful Girl in the World.

♫ Sonny Rollins - Most Beautiful Girl in the World

The other musician who played on the rest of the album is HORACE SILVER, the pianist.

Horace Silver

In the early sixties, Horace really hit a hot streak that continued for several years. His album “Horace-Scope” is from the middle of that period and the track today, Where You At? is from that album.

He has great support here from Blue Mitchell on trumpet and Junior Cook on tenor sax.

♫ Horace Silver - Where You At

I’ve run out of musicians from the session so I’m going to recycle some of them. Naturally, THELONIOUS MONK will be first cab off the rank.

Thelonious Monk

I originally thought of including one of his challenging solo works, but I changed my mind when I listened to this one. Here is Monk’s take on that hoary old song. Tea for Two.. He makes it distinctly unhoary.

♫ Thelonious Monk - Tea for Two

I’ll end as I began, with MILES DAVIS.

Miles Davis

Well, it’s theoretically Miles but he’s not really in evidence on the track which, like the Monk selection, is another old song. There’s a lot of piano playing from Red Garland and Paul Chambers bows the bass which is rather interesting for a change.

Cannonball Adderley and John Coltrane are both apparently present as well, but my ears can’t detect them either. This is Billy Boy.

Miles Davis - Billy Boy


A man named Wiley Miller draws and writes a cartoon strip called Nonsequitor. Peter Tibbles sent me a recent one. Here it is for you:

Nonsequitor cartoon

You know Auguste Rodin, most famous for his sculpture of The Thinker. He was born in 1840 and died in 1917, when moving pictures had been barely born. But we have some 1915 footage of Rodin in several short sequences:

”The first shows the artist at the columned entrance to an unidentified structure, followed by a brief shot of him posing in a garden somewhere. The rest of the film, beginning at the 53-second mark, was clearly shot at the palatial, but dilapidated, Hotel Biron, which Rodin was using as a studio and second home.”

I found this footage at where there is more explanation and links to similar early footage of Renoir, Degas and Monet.

Before this week, I'd never heard of 19th century, American photographer, Timothy O'Sullivan. Now, I can see that he must certainly have been an inspiration to renowned photographer Ansel Adams.

Shots like this one of Virginia City, Nevada made in 1867, may be the earliest ever taken of the American west back when it was still being discovered:

Virginia City 1867

As The Daily Mail reported in May, O'Sullivan

”...had earlier covered the U.S. Civil War and was one of the most famous photographers of the 19th century.

“He also took pictures of the Native American population for the first time as a team of artists, photographers, scientists and soldiers explored the land in the 1860s and 1870s...

“He carted a dark room wagon around the Wild West on horseback so that he could develop his images. He spent seven years exploring the landscape and thousands of pictures have survived from his travels.”

There are 20 or more full-size images at The Daily Mail website.

At least weekly and often more frequently, some giant tech company blasts someone for copyright or trademark infringement claiming loss of thousands, even millions of dollars. You never know how true that stuff is but it could be that a much older company has a better solution:

First, take a look at the book cover writer Patrick Wensink was commissioned for his novel, Broken Piano For President.

Jack Daniels Logos

There is no denying the similarity and, perhaps, infringement. But instead of the usual, corporate attack, Mr. Wensink received this (in part) polite letter from the Jack Daniels folks:

”In order to resolve this matter, because you are both a Louisville “neighbor” and a fan of the brand, we simply request that you change the cover design when the book is reprinted.

“If you would be willing to change the design sooner than that (including on the digital version), we would be willing to contribute a reasonable amount towards the cost of doing so.”

Don't you wish more corporations were as reasonable about this and other kinds of problems that arise? You can read the whole story and rest of the remarkable Jack Daniels cease-and-desist letter here. (Hat tip to Cop Car)

It's not news that local news programs often have less to do with reporting than with regurgitating a script they picked up with video from somewhere else. Conan O'Brien strung a bunch of local story lead-ins together that explains what I mean:

Are you wondering where so many local anchors got the same “I scream” copy? Look no further than this CNN script. (Hat tip to Columbia Journalism Review.)

Last week, at an event hosted by self-styled, self-help motivational speaker Tony Robbins, 21 people suffered mostly second- and third-degree burns from walking over a ten-foot-long pit of coals heated to between 1,200 and 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. As the Associated Press reported via The New York Times:

”Participant Sahar Madani told KTVU-TV that attendees were warned that they might get burns or blisters.

“'The intention of the event is to get your focus and your attention away from that and look into the power within yourself and focus on just walking on the fire,' she told the station.”

Whatever that means. My gawd, people are stupid. This is why the Darwin Awards, which celebrate those whose genes should not be passed on, were invented.

Over the past 20 years, New York City sanitation worker Nelson Molina has created a trash museum with art and artifacts he collects on his garbage rounds which he then displays in a gallery located in a Sanitation Department garage. This is a sample:

Trash Treasure

”Over here is a portrait of a grumpy-looking Winston Churchill, and over there, a very nice pastel copy of Henri Matisse’s 'Woman With a Hat,' reports Elizabeth A. Harris in The New York Times.

“There are photographs of the Brooklyn Bridge; landscapes done in watercolor; ancient tricycles and toy trucks; and four electric guitars, one without pickups, another without strings, arranged around a Michael Jackson poster and gold-sequined tie. There is even a Master of Business Administration diploma from Harvard hanging by a window.”

An amazing collection. Go read the story here and you can see more photos in the slide show.

It has been conventional wisdom among the kinds of historians who track such things that the brassiere was invented in the 19th century. But now, archeologists have found a stash of underwear from medieval times in an Austrian castle. Take a look at how modern this bra appears:

Innsbruck Bra

”...four bras were among more than 2,700 textile fragments – some linen, others linen combined with cotton – that were found intermixed with dirt, wood, straw and pieces of leather.”

What a find - fabric usually disintegrates over 400 or 500 years. You can read more here.

Jen of Semantically Driven blog, emailed the link to this video saying it reminded her of the series of photos in my banner above.

I beg to differ. As much as I like my banner, this film takes a similar idea light years beyond my simple achievement. As the creators explain, Le Miroir tells the story of a man passing from childhood to old man in the time it takes to freshen up.

The film has won a slew of awards (as well it should). Here is a photo of some of the actors:

Le Miroir actors

You can read about the making of the film at the Le Miroir website.

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.

The Offensive Politics of Deniability

category_bug_politics.gif You probably heard the shockingly racist statement earlier this week made by an adviser to Mitt Romney during a discussion with editors at The Telegraph in London:

” [adviser], [reports The Telegraph], suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.”

“'We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,' the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: 'The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have'”.

Certainly you understand how this works: Mr. Romney cannot say anything so blatantly racist without becoming the target of a crushing smackdown. But the campaign wants to reaffirm its bona fides with voters who hate having a black person as president.

So a campaign adviser (anonymous) is sent out to the press tasked with attributing the statement to his/her boss knowing in advance that later, another will deny the statement, as The Guardian then reported:

”Romney's press secretary, Andrea Saul, said they did not represent his views.

"'It's not true. If anyone said that, they weren't reflecting the views of Governor Romney or anyone inside the campaign,' she told CBS, which said Saul did not comment on what specifically was not true in the remarks.”

Everyone – advisor, press, spokesperson – played their parts perfectly (including Mr. Romney's apparent non-involvement) and it worked even better than usual for being well-timed: it took place offshore during the run-up to a world event so that the attack's shelf-life is shorter than it would be at another time at home without the Olympics hullabaloo sucking up broadcast time.

So, mission accomplished: The hate voters are reassured and it didn't even need to be in code or a dog whistle - just good, old-fashioned, explicit racism without Mr. Romney sullying his elite coattails.

Unless you know how deniability works out there in campaign-land.

I'm pretty sure anyone reading this blog didn't just fall off the turnip truck. But do you think voters of any age actually accept denials like this? That anyone believes a candidate's adviser “mis-spoke,” during a discussion with one of the major newspapers of the world, on something as offensive as racism? That Mr. Romney does not know about this tactic?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Knock Wood


By Lin Yutang

I think that, from a biological standpoint, human life almost reads like a poem. It has its own rhythm and beat, its internal cycles of growth and decay.

It begins with innocent childhood, followed by awkward adolescence trying awkwardly to adapt itself to mature society, with its young passions and follies, its ideals and ambitions; then it reaches a manhood of intense activities, profiting from experience and learning more about society and human nature; at middle age, there is a light easing of tension, a mellowing of character like the ripening of fruit or the mellowing of good wine, and then gradual acquiring of a more tolerant, more cynical and at the same time a kindlier view of life; then in the sunset of our life, the endocrine glands decrease their activity, and if we have a true philosophy of old age and have ordered our life pattern according ot it, it is for us the age of peace and security and leisure and contentment; finally, life flickers out and one goes into eternal sleep, never to wake again.

One should be able to sense the beauty of this rhythm of life, to appreciate, as we do in grand symphonies, its main theme, its strains of conflict and the final resolution.

The movements of these cycles are very much the same in normal life, but the music must be provided by the individual himself. In some souls, the discordant note becomes harsher and harsher and finally overwhelms or submerges the main melody.

Sometimes the discordant note gains so much power that the music can no longer go on, and the individual shoots himself with a pistol or jumps into a river. But that is because his original leit-motif has been hopelessly over-shadowed through the lack of good self-education.

Otherwise the normal human life runs to its normal end in a kind of dignified movement and procession. There are sometimes in many of us too many staccatos or impetuosos, and because the tempo is wrong, the music is not pleasing to the ear; we might have more of the grand rhythm and majestic tempo of the Ganges, flowing slowly and eternally into the sea.

No one can say that a life with childhood, manhood and old age is not a beautiful arrangement; the day has its morning, noon and sunset, and the year has its seasons, and it is good according to its own season.

And if we take this biological view of life and try to live according to the seasons, no one but a conceited fool or impossible idealist can deny that human life can be lived like a poem.

Lin Yutang

Lin Yutang was a scholar, translator, poet, novelist, historian and philosopher who, born in China to a Chinese Presbyterian minister, was educated at Harvard and other centers of higher learning in Europe. He became a prolific, best-selling and beloved author in the U.S. during the mid-20th century.

Today's post is excerpted from his classic book of thoughts on the joys, contentments and the significance of life titled, The Importance of Living which was published in 1937.

Lin Yutang was widely quoted during his life – he died in 1976 at age 80 - and still is. One of my favorites which is especially pertinent in today's over-scheduled world is this: “The busy man is never wise and the wise man is never busy."

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ned Smith: La Vie Parisienne circa 1953

Resting our Brains to Improve Memory

category_bug_journal2.gif It is, probably, the number one fear old people have: loss of memory. To not remember is literally to lose our selves, the core of our being, the entire definition of who we are.

Although there is not much anyone can do about dementia, we spend a lot of time worrying about memory loss. When we walk into a room and wonder why we're there, is it incipient Alzheimer's, we ask ourselves.

A 74-year-old friend with whom I chat regularly on the telephone is frustrated with how frequently he forgets a word he needs while speaking, something that happens to one or both of us every time we chat.

And here's a convoluted example: I regularly forget that even if I have only three items on the grocery store list, I need to write them down and when I don't, I always forget to buy one and, sometimes, two of the items. On the few occasions I do write them down, I'm as likely to leave the list at home as take it with me.

That's at least a double forget and maybe a triple.

It is for reasons like these that brain training games have become a billion dollar business even without an iota of proof that they work. Study after study fail to show memory improvement from all those hours at crosswords, sudoku and concentration exercises.

None of it ever made sense to me on my personal theory that the brain and memory within it are way too subtle and complex to benefit from games that all repeatedly task the same kind of mental operation. But now there is a study on memory improvement that does make sense:

“...psychological scientist Michaela Dewar and her colleagues show that memory can be boosted by taking a brief wakeful rest after learning something verbally new - so keep the pencil for phone numbers - and that memory lasts not just immediately but over a longer term.

"'Our findings support the view that the formation of new memories is not completed within seconds,' says Dewar. 'Indeed our work demonstrates that activities that we are engaged in for the first few minutes after learning new information really affect how well we remember this information after a week.'"

In times past when there wasn't much everyday distraction but radio, books and what we created for ourselves, I recall looking up from a book now then, staring off into space to give some thought to what I had just read before returning to the text. I don't sense that I or many other people do that often anymore.

These days we live in a world of fractured attention. Email, smartphones, television, Kindles, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, YouTube, Angry Birds all beeping and buzzing at us minute to minute and as soon as we are done with one, we move directly to the next.

With unexpected serendipity yesterday, soon after I read about this research into what might be called mindful remembering, I came across a story in The New York Times about a new movement from the people who invent and prosper from the technologies of our mental distraction.

”The concern, voiced in conferences and in recent interviews with many top executives of technology companies, is that the lure of constant stimulation — the pervasive demand of pings, rings and updates — is creating a profound physical craving that can hurt productivity and personal interactions.

A director in the executive offices of Facebook, founders from Twitter, eBay, Zynga and Paypal along with executives from other technology giants such as Google, Microsoft, Cisco, etc. have, for the past three years, been attending an annual Wisdom 2.0 conference to explore whether interactive technology has addictive properties and if so, what to do about it.

“'We’re done with this honeymoon phase and now we’re in this phase that says, Wow, what have we done? said Soren Gordhamer, [the organizer of Wisdom 2.0], about the pursuit of balance in the digital age. 'It doesn’t mean what we’ve done is bad. There’s no blame. But there is a turning of the page.'”

In one session at the most recent conference, it was debated whether technology firms “had a responsibility to consider their collective power to lure consumers to games or activities that waste time or distract them.”

Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist at Stanford School of Medicine says that it is becoming widely accepted that our gadgets create a “persistent sense of emergency by setting off stress systems in our brain.”

”'It's this basic cultural recognition that people have a pathological relationship with their devices,' she said. 'People feel not just addicted, but trapped.'”

I don't use my smartphone for much beyond actual telephone calls and damned few of those but just from hundreds of emails a day, I feel a lot like what Ms. McGonigal describes and I don't need an expert to tell me such feelings affect memory.

According to The Times, Google has started a mindfulness movement with its employees.

”Richard Fernandez, an executive coach at Google and one of the leaders of the mindfulness moment, said the risks of being overly engages with devices were immense.

“'It's nothing less than everything,' he said, adding that if people can find time to occasionally disconnect, 'we can have more intimate and authentic relationships with ourselves and those we love in our communities.'”

And, I might add, improve our memories when we are not dashing and darting from one distraction and engagement to the next. I'm just as likely as those Silicon Valley types to spend the day in front of the computer screen, read my Kindle through dinner when I'm alone, read a chapter or two of a book before some TV show I want to watch and this goes from morning to lights out.

No wonder I can't remember a grocery list of three items. I need to give myself more time to let it – and anything else I want remember - settle into my mind. To give my brain the leisure it needs to store the information rather that give it more work to do with brain games.

Michaela Dewar explains that there is growing evidence to suggest that the point at which we experience new information is

"...just at a very early stage of memory formation and that further neural processes have to occur after this stage for us to be able to remember this information at a later point in time."

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: A Classic Case

Elders Invisible – Not This Time

category_bug_ageism.gif A poem from Shel Silverstein nicely captures the invisibility that cloaks people as we get old:

Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man, “I do that too.”

The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
“I do that too,” laughed the old man.”

Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”

“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems
Grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”

And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
“I know what you mean,” said the old man.

In an interview in Australia's The Age several years ago, mystery writer Ruth Rendell talked about an instance of invisibility at her age – then, 76:

“…I am not going to pretend that growing old is all sweetness and light. And this is not because of my outlook on life and my attitude, but very much because of the way younger people view old age.

“Old women especially are invisible. I have been to parties where no one knows who I am, so I am ignored until I introduce myself to someone picked at random. Immediately word gets round and I am surrounded by people who tell me they are my biggest fans. This is fine for me, but what about the others, my contemporaries, left isolated?”

And so it goes. I have my own stories of being made invisible and I know you do too. But sometimes – oh, so rarely and therefore amazingly – we are, for moment or two, noticed.

It was last week and I had stopped in my local Rite-Aid to replenish a couple of personal items. A new girl, impossibly young from the vantage point of my 71 years, was at the checkout stand. I could tell she was new because she wore a name tag that said, “Trainee.”

An older clerk was observing and helping out by packing up the purchases. As the trainee handed me change, she blurted out, “What beautiful hair you have.”

I say “blurted” because it was like that. The statement erupted from her spontaneously and I think we were both surprised.

Now, my hair is gray, fading lately toward white. It's rather long and I usually wear it pulled back in a clip of some sort to keep it out of my face. Nothing special. But the obviously genuine compliment was.

We both grinned as our gazes connected. I said thank you then as she turned to the next customer and I left the store.

A small moment that the young trainee may not remember at all. But a small moment that made my day and has delighted me each time I have recalled it.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Younkins: Old Age

The Movie Theater Massacre

I had another post written for today, something a bit silly about getting old but after the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, it seems out of place for now, as though we – or I – need more time and space before returning to the usual agenda.

How grotesque are the coincidences of this taking place just 20 miles from Columbine and that one of the dead had so recently escaped another mass shooting in Toronto.

It's always like that, isn't it – random, senseless. The shooter is always described as a lone nut and as often as not neighbors and acquaintances say he was quiet, withdrawn but nothing that would make them think he was dangerous. Always, it's like that.

What helps to a degree is learning about the astonishing acts of heroism. The people who died in the theater while shielding others who lived restores hope - as monstrous as the shooter may be, human nobility shines through.

I was thinking how such massacres, as shocking as they are each time, have become routine during my life. The Starkweather/Fugate killings way back when I was in high school. Charles Whitman at the University of Texas – I was there that day although not in danger.

The Long Island Rail Road shootings, Columbine, the Beltway sniper, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Tucson, Norway. There are at least a couple dozen more I feel I ought to recall but cannot and don't feel like researching it. I want only to be still for now.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: The Newfangled Blanket

ELDER MUSIC: The A.M.'s Travelogue

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 Today I can put my feet up, sit back and relax because Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, has taken over the column.

Regular readers will definitely know by now that the A.M. and I recently spent some time in America (and Canada, in the case of the A.M.). Ronni wrote about our visit with her here, here and here. I wrote a musical version here.

Now it’s the A.M.’s turn to give her perspective. Take it away, A.M.

You've heard from Peter about the first half of our trip together, and his return to the West Coast. Today, it's my turn to cover my further adventures with more music and some holiday photos.

While Peter was tackling his Greyhound bus, I was continuing eastward to New York and had flown out of Spokane earlier that morning quite uneventfully. My connecting flight from Minneapolis-St Paul actually left 10 minutes early (there's a first), with the captain trying to beat the peak hour at La Guardia.

They must have been pedaling extra hard up in the cockpit as we picked up more time and arrived 30 minutes early. However, we came into a different terminal from that scheduled, so my friend could see that my flight had landed but with no clue as to where I was!

As far as I'm concerned, the Empire State Building is still the iconic New York landmark. Fortunately, it still stands alone in the midtown area and it often appeared in the background of my photos. Here it is seen through the Manhattan Bridge.

Empire State Bldg thru Manhattan Bridge

There's only one possible musical choice to celebrate arriving in New York, and that is FRANK SINATRA with New York, New York.

♫ Frank Sinatra - New York, New York

Next day, armed with Ronni's restaurant recommendations and a head full of New York songs, I set off to explore. My previous visit to NYC was in July 1976, amid bicentenary celebrations of Independence Day. That was a brief visit and I was looking forward to seeing more this time.

First stop was Greenwich Village which has a distinct neighborhood feel. As well as the street trees and little corner parks in spring greenery all around NYC, there were colorful little community gardens taking over vacant land. This is one of a group along Bleecker Street.

Greenwich Village garden

By contrast, the music is in a different mood, but it is early SIMON & GARFUNKEL and about Bleecker Street and the Village. It's the title track from their first LP, Wednesday Morning, 3AM.

♫Simon and Garfunkel - Wednesday Morning 3AM

Then I headed off to Canada, specifically Quebec City and Montreal. On the western side of the continent, we admired the Columbia River. On the eastern side is the mighty St Lawrence which runs through both these cities.

Quebec still proudly displays its French heritage along with the striking Quebecois flag. It has successfully maintained the historic feel of the old town within the city walls. Even a coffee-shop belonging to a certain ubiquitous chain is limited to a small discreet display of its logo for identification.

Both upper and lower towns are very photogenic and this is one of the most photographed views down to the lower town.

Quebec - lower town

THE BAND's song, Acadian Driftwood, is about the exile of the French Canadian settlers after their defeat by the British on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec in 1759. This was one of several episodes of displacement for the Acadians, starting with that from Acadie, originally the maritime provinces of what would become Canada.

The Band consisted of four Canadians and one American who started out as The Hawks. Sadly, we heard of the death of The Band's only American member, drummer/singer Levon Helm, while we were in San Francisco. He was still playing music up until he died and will be featured in Peter's end-of-year tributes.

♫ The Band - Acadian Driftwood

Montreal has a smaller old town area remaining. It has more varied neighborhoods, with a multitude of restaurants. Eating seems to be a popular local pastime which my friend and I were happy to share in. The smoked beef sandwiches are an institution – yum!

This is the old Bonsecours Market on Rue St Paul, the long cobbled street through old Montreal. It is no longer used as a market, but houses modern shops.

Montreal Bonsecours Market

As far as Montreal musicians go, Peter has recently featured Leonard Cohen, and also Kate McGarrigle's beautiful song, Talk to Me of Mendocino. So I have chosen JESSE WINCHESTER who adopted Montreal as his home when he left the U.S. as part of the resistance to the Vietnam War. He lived there for many years and became a Canadian citizen, before returning to the U.S. about 10 years ago.

His songs have often referred to his early years in the South, but this one seems to find a balance between the two parts of his life. It is Nothing But a Breeze.

♫ Jesse Winchester - Nothing But a Breeze

I had several stays in New York between side trips. My delay story (the first) came while returning from Montreal to New York by train. It's a scenic, all-day trip and after dawdling along the banks of the Hudson River, we pulled into Yonkers on the Sunday night about the time we were due at Penn Station.  There they announced a delay.

When I say “announced,” the conductress had to walk through the carriages as the PA system wasn't working. The problem was the swing-bridge we had to cross – it had been closed but they couldn't lock it. There was an excuse I hadn't heard before!

After a while, they announced we could transfer to another train which was going to Grand Central via a different bridge. So we “gathered our personal belongings” and stood about on the platform fidgeting. Just before the other train arrived, they announced that the bridge was now locked so we all reboarded.

We finally moved off but at snail's pace which didn't inspire confidence in the bridge. I eventually got back up to the top left-hand corner of Manhattan to see this troublesome bridge across the Harlem River in daylight. I did Take the A Train to get there but perhaps you can just sing that to yourselves as I already have a full quota of songs today.

NYC rail bridge

Next was Boston. After all those miles on Amtrak, I was feeling like a Railroad Lady by the time I reached South Station in Boston. South Station is one of those splendid old-time stations with a still-splendid Great Room.

When the first trains left the station on New Year's Day 1899, the ladies had the use of a waiting room equipped with rocking chairs as well as the usual furniture. Alas, no rocking chairs today.

Boston South Station

Here is JIMMY BUFFETT to sing about his Railroad Lady.

♫ Jimmy Buffett - Railroad Lady

At South Station, I had to switch to local transport. I knew about the MTA from the old Kingston Trio hit (yes, it was a hit in Australia back in about 1959), although it was originally written some years earlier to protest a fare rise.

The song was about a character named Charlie who was doomed to ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston because he didn't have an extra nickel to get off the train. To remind you, here is the KINGSTON TRIO's M.T.A., also often known as Charlie on the M.T.A.

♫ The Kingston Trio - M.T.A.

Well, the MTA is now the MBTA, or the T. And I was delighted to find that Charlie has been immortalised in the tickets, which are called Charlies. So my souvenir of Boston is a CharlieTicket.

When not using up Charlies, I walked a lot and on my wandering around the Faneuil Hall market area, I heard music. Being a sucker for street music and buskers, I followed my ears and found this terrific a cappella group called SIMILAR JONES. On a hot afternoon, what could be better than music and ice-cream? Here they are singing Room With a View.

Similar Jones

♫ Similar Jones - Room With A View

My final week was back in NYC, with more hot weather and lots more walking: East Side, West Side, all around the town. One of the walks I especially enjoyed was the High Line which is a great example of urban recycling.

It is a linear park built along an old elevated railway line which was once used for freight through the West Side industrial area. You can find a lot of photos of this here. Click on “Visitor Photos.”

Another West Side walk was the Hudson River Park with a necessary pitstop for an iced latte at this riverside cafe. Incidentally, if you order an iced coffee in Australia, you will get a different drink. Here it is a milk drink, coffee-flavoured with a scoop or two of vanilla ice-cream.

NYC Pier 1 cafe

To celebrate the weather, we will hear THE LOVIN' SPOONFUL. They emerged from the folk music scene in early 1960s Greenwich Village but they were no earnest folkies. They played good-time music, and Summer in the City was one of their hits back in 1966.

♫ The Lovin' Spoonful - Summer in the City

Eventually it was time to head for home, to L.A. and then on to Melbourne. By contrast with my early arrival at La Guardia, my flight out of JFK was delayed due to heavy traffic.

We boarded the plane on time, but then we just sat there and then sat there some more. Finally, after about an hour, we pulled away from the gate only to have the captain announce, "The good news is we're in the queue. The bad news is that all those planes you can see on the right-hand side are ahead of us. And they are only using one runway."

There were about 20 planes I could see and a few more in front of us so that had to be at least another hour before take-off. As compensation, there was a final sunset over Manhattan, with a parting view of the Empire State Building.

NYC Sunset skyline

And for a parting song, we'll hear MEL TORME singing Manhattan. Well, there had to be a couple of clichéd choices in a column like this.

♫ Mel Torme - Manhattan

As a postscript, we were flying across the continent at night with the bonus of seeing city lights appearing out of the darkness. Flying over Las Vegas at night might well be the prettiest way to see it. So I'll finish off with HALL & OATES’ somewhat cynical take on it with Las Vegas Turnaround.

♫ Hall & Oates - Las Vegas Turnaround


Last Monday, Vice President Joe Biden addressed a group of community leaders from senior centers around the country who were visiting the White House. He asserted the Obama administration's continued opposition to Medicare vouchers and cutting Social Security as, for example, in the Ryan plan.

Let's be sure to hold this administration to that promise. You can view the entire 30-minute speech here.

Tim Pawlenty, often mentioned as the frontrunner to fill the spot as Mitt Romney's vice presidential candidate, seems to have a real knee-slapper of a sense of humor.

Here's an example from Pawlenty's book, Courage to Stand, as reported by Gail Collins in The New York Times:

”Introduced to a man who had just been fitted for a new hearing aid, Pawlenty decided to josh him by 'moving my lips as if I were talking but without saying anything so he’d think something was wrong.'”

Now THAT's the kind of humor that distinguishes a real leader from the rest of us.

My local power company, Pacific Gas & Electric Portland General Electric (PGE) sends out a newsy little email each month with suggestions for using less power. This month, they answered a question I've had for a long time about the most efficient way to boil water.

One can use a tea kettle on the stove, the microwave or, as in my case, a stand-alone, electric tea kettle. Here's a graph showing the kilowatt hours used with each method:

kwh graph

It seems that my electric teakettle is a good choice. But how about time? Here's another graph showing number of minutes to boiling for each:

Time to boil graph

So good for me. By the way, with these graphs, I'm saving you an excruciatingly boring video about this water boiling experiment but you can view it here if you must.

In the mail this past week I received my first Christmas catalogue of the year. Usually they wait until August. I just thought I'd mention that.

There's nothing to say here but suggest you sit back, put up your feet and enjoy about three minutes of a batch of English bulldog puppies doing what puppies do.

Well, officially it is the Traverse City (Michigan) Film Festival but it was created by Michael Moore after he renovated The State, a long-shuttered classic movie theater in his home town and reopened it in 2007.

State Theater Traverse City

Besides the annual film festival which this year runs from 31 July to 5 August, the theater has become an integral part of the town:

”The festival now owns and operates the State as a year-round, community-based, mission-driven, and volunteer-staffed art house movie theater. The State shows great independent films year-round, along with lots of special programming, including a Friday Night Flicks series and weekly 25 cent kids and classic matinees.”

What a great use for a lot of profit from film making. You can read all about The State theater and the film festival here.

Snow leopard cubs have never before been seen in the wild. This amazing footage is from two different dens in Mongolia being studied by the Snow Leopard Trust. Take a look:

For those with questions about human intrusion, the Snow Leopard Trust left this message on the YouTube page:

“Thank you all so much for leaving comments, and asking about the mother's reaction to the smell of humans is very important. After we went to the sites, we have been tracking the mom's locations via GPS and both have returned to their dens and are actively taking care of their cubs, so no worries there.“

There is a lot of interesting information and some adorable still photos here.

Comedian Louis C.K. whose FX television show, Louis, was nominated Thursday for an Emmy, appeared on The Daily Show this week. Like his program, he is funny, profane and says a lot of things no one is “supposed” to say in public.

As um, colorful as he is, he is also really smart and he says a lot of true things. Take a look:

Following on a post about the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken a week or so ago, TGB reader Lita Newdick emailed to mention that Randall Thompson set the poem to music and listening is, she says, like “visiting heaven for a little while.”

Here is one choral version from the Peninsula Singers of San Diego. There are many others on YouTube.

I've been feeding the squirrels around my place just so I can watch them. But then a bluejay discovered the morning peanut cache leaving the squirrels empty-pawed.

Squirrels and jays may be equally notorious thieves in the neighborhood animal kingdom, but I think the squirrel in this video has figured out something that would flummox a bluejay.

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.

Elders' Mortgage/Foreclosure Crisis

When I was writing To Be Old in America 2012, posted here earlier this week, I looked in vain for statistics or reports on underwater mortgages and foreclosures as related to elders.

What little mention there was insisted that older Americans have been left largely untouched by the housing crisis. Common sense tells anyone with half a brain that this can't possibly be so, but it has nevertheless been the general consensus. (You know, all those greedy geezers are rich and don't have financial problems like the rest of Americans.)

As it turns out, I was just a little premature in my interest in hard information on elders and housing during our recession. On Wednesday, AARP's Public Policy Institute published Nightmare on Main Street: Older Americans and the Mortgage Market Crisis.

”This is the first study to measure the progression of the mortgage crisis and its effect on people age 50 and older,” writes the study author Lori Trawinski.

“Based on an analysis of nationwide loan-level data for the years 2007 to 2011, this study examines loan performance based on borrower age, loan type, and borrower demographics.”
[Those of you who fault AARP, don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Their research organization has always been and remains excellent.]

The big takeaway from the new report is that more than four years into the recession and housing crisis, the foreclosure rate among elders is soaring and those with the highest rate are minorities and the oldest old, people 75 and up.

Foreclosure Rate

Here are some other highlights (well, I suppose one ought to say lowlights) from the study. As of December 2011,

• Approximately 3.5 million loans of people age 50+ were underwater (resulting, of course, in zero equity)

• 600,000 loans of people age 50+ were in foreclosure

• another 625,000 loans were 90 or more days delinquent

• From 2007 to 2011, more than 1.5 million older Americans lost their homes as a result of the mortgage crisis

• More than three million are at risk of losing their homes

The New York Times took the opportunity of the AARP study to put a human face on elder foreclosure. Seventy-nine-year-old Roy Johnson of Mableton, Georgia, no longer able to afford the $1,000 a month payment on the house he had owned since 1963, let it lapse into foreclosure:

”[I]t was painful to watch the house he built 48 years earlier sell for only $33,000 at auction last year,” reports Robbie Brown in the Times.

“Now he lives in what his 55-year-old daughter calls his 'man cave' in her basement. It is an hour away from his old house. Although Mr. Johnson is grateful to have been helped by a relative, he misses having space for all of his belongings and the tree from which he made pear preserves.

“'I planned to die in that house,' he said. 'But I guess it won’t work out that way.'”

Of course, Mr. Johnson is just one example to be multiplied by hundreds of thousands throughout the U.S. and it doesn't help that elders, like younger people too, fall victim to foreclosure scams. According to AARP,

”A recent report by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights found that older Americans accounted for 45 percent of complaints to the committee's loan scam database as of July 2011. Older Americans have reported losses of more than $16 million since 2009 as a result of fees paid to scammers.” [emphasis added]

Although AARP offers a list of policy remedies at the end of their report, there is not the sense of urgency I would like. Our recession and housing crisis is particularly brutal for elders many of whom retired long ago and have not a chance of ever finding a job again.

Not to make light of younger people's burdens, but they at least have some years ahead to try to catch up. Old people do not and their fixed incomes are chipped away at each month from all sides of the economy – pension cuts, medical costs, increasing property taxes, decimated investments and inflation.

Now, in addition to the 1.5 million who have already lost their homes, the 3.5 million with underwater mortgages have no equity to either claim through sale nor with a reverse mortgage to ease the financial crunch in their final years.

The next study I want to see is how many elders have been left homeless from all this.

You can read the AARP report here [pdf].

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ned Smith: Broadwalk Blackout

ELDER PROSE: The Old Grandfather and the Grandson

Considering the terrible instances of elder abuse we discussed here earlier in the week, this story from the Brothers Grimm is an antidote.

By Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

There was once a very old man whose eyes had grown dim, his ears deaf, and whose knees shook. When he sat at the table hardly able to hold his spoon, he'd spill soup on the tablecloth and a little would even run out of his mouth.

This disgusted his son and his daughter-in-law and so finally the old grandfather had to sit in a corner behind the stove. They have him his food in an eathenware bowl and not even enough at that. He used to look sadly toward the table and tears would come to his eyes.

One day his trembling hands couldn't even hold the bowl and it fell to the floor and broke to pieces. The young woman scolded but he said nothing and merely sighed. For a few farthings she then bought him a wooden bowl and he had to eat out of that.

As they were sitting thus, his little four-year-old grandson was fitting some little boards together on the floor. “What are you doing there?” asked his father.

“I'm making a trough for father and mother to eat out of when I'm grown up,” answered the child.

The husband and wife looked at one another for awhile, finally began to weep and at once brought the old grandfather to the table. From then, they always let him eat with them and they didn't say anything even when he did spill a little.

The Brothers Grimm painted by Elisabeth Jerichau-Baumann

The Brothers Grimm were born in Germany – Jacob in 1785, Wilhelm in 1786. They grew up to work together as linguists, cultural researchers and collectors of legends and folk stories they published in several books throughout their lives.

When I was a kid, my book of Grimm's Fairy Tales was among my favorites, read again and again over many years (and now, occasionally, too).

Some of our most beloved children's stories were originally from Grimm: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Rumplestiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood and more.

Even in the Grimm's time, the tales were already old, having been handed down from medieval times and before which tells you a bit about what we are up against in combating elder abuse if it's been around that long.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary B Summerlin: Letter to My Body

Old Farts - Literally

category_bug_journal2.gif Last week at The Elder Storytelling Place, Nancy Leitz told us about Uncle Arthur:

“It was a beautiful day and even Uncle Arthur had come to spend the afternoon. He was about 83 then and was not only hard of hearing but he had a flatulence problem that only got worse as he got older.

“I suppose it got worse because he not only could not smell his problem, he couldn't hear it either which, to him, meant there was NO problem.”

It appears that like Uncle Arthur, I am gassier than when I was younger. Or maybe not. Maybe I just let fly because I can, because I'm no longer surrounded by coworkers, fellow subway riders and others most of the time.

Nowadays, living alone with no one but the cat to offend, I allow myself to putt, putt around the house while reminding myself not to let it become a habit so that I remember to control myself when I am with people.

Still, I was not certain that the affliction has increased and I wondered if old farts really do fart more.

As it turns out, the answer is yes, we do get gassier in our old age. Before I explain why, let's get an – ahem, refresher – course in the reasons anyone farts.

The National Institutes of Health tell us that the “average person passes intestinal gas 14 times a day and produces about 1 to 4 pints of the stuff.” It is a normal occurrence and comes mostly from two sources: air we swallow and as a byproduct of digestion.

Culprits in the air category include smoking, chewing gum, drinking through a straw, hard candies, carbonated drinks, eating or drinking too quickly and wearing loose dentures.

As to digestion, the volume of intestinal gas is directly related to the amount of undigested food making its way through the intestines. When the small intestine can't absorb certain foods, the large intestine tries to help out by creating more gas.

The gases involved are hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and, according to WebMD, “in about one-third of people, methane.”

That, methane, is the stinky one.

You probably know most of these but for the sake of thoroughness, here is a list of some foods most likely to cause excess gas: Beans, of course, and

Brussels sprouts


Whole grains
Carbonated drinks
Fruit drinks
Foods with sorbitol (an artificial sweetener)

In regard to whole grains, here's a little anecdote I like from WebMD: “The word pumpernickel is believed to stem from Middle German and mean, roughly, 'goblin that breaks wind.'”

I have no idea if that's true but I intend to repeat it whenever an occasion arises because it's such a good story that if it's not true, it ought to be.

What definitely is true is that flatulence increases with age. The general reason is that like so much else about our bodies as we get older, digestion slows down and food moves through the gut more slowly creating more gas.

Some conditions and diseases that are more prevalent in old people contribute to excessive gas: diverticular disease, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, colitis, some cancers and complications from diabetes can slow the movement of food through the intestines. Inadequate salivation may contribute to improper digestion.

Also, elders use more prescription drugs than young people and gas is a side effect of some antibiotics and blood-pressure medications, for example, and of course, flatulence often accompanies constipation.

So you see, there are reasons we're sometimes called old farts.

Is there any way to reduce the amount of gas we produce? Only sort of. It doesn't seem fair that the healthiest foods – certain vegetables, fruits, grains, etc. - are the worst offenders but we shouldn't stop eating them although cutting down a little could help.

We can also spend more time chewing. That allows enzymes in saliva to further break down food, making digestion easier.

Another suggestion is to try probiotics – that stuff Jamie Curtis advertises on TV. What it is, is gut-friendly bacteria you can find at the market in such products as yogurt, kefir and tempeh.

Try to stop doing the things that cause air to be swallowed – see the list above – and take your time eating meals. Slow down, relax while eating and take a short walk after each meal.

Not convinced that any of this will help much? Me neither. Some experts suggest antacids but then warn that they have limited effectiveness and results from such anti-flatulence products as Lactaid and Beano vary from person to person.

Farting has been on the minds of contributors at The Elder Storytelling Place recently. Just a couple of weeks before Nancy Leitz told us about Uncle Arthur, Johna Ferguson may have provided the only practical answer to this elder affliction in Gas Emissions:

“I find that occasionally I’ll let out a fart without thinking about it happening; it just does,” wrote Johna. “I look around in sheer embarrassment in case someone else heard it or gets a whiff of it. Oh I could die on the spot when it happens.

“I know one should drink more water and also eat slowly to prevent swallowing air but those I things I often forget. So please, if it happens when I am standing by you, don’t dash out the door for you may be the next one to join the symphony.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sydney Halet: Yesterday

To Be Old in America in 2012

[NOTE: I know I told you yesterday that there would be a post today from a resident in an assisted living home. That's still coming soon but until then, this today. It's long and will probably bore some of you, but Crabby Old Lady believes it needs to be said.]

If you are old today – let's say 55 and up – and not wealthy (that is, most of us), you live under constant threat of financial disaster. Here is Crabby Old Lady's list of what has happened to elders in the past four years since the 2008 crash:

  1. IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement investments have been decimated; many have never recovered and never will

  2. Home values have dropped by a third or more leaving many with underwater mortgages and in some cases, unfair foreclosures

  3. Millions have been and continue to be laid off from their jobs

  4. Age discrimination means it takes older workers longer to find the next job than any other age group

  5. Many older workers who don't find that next job are forced into early retirement resulting in a lower Social Security Security benefit for life

[Crabby understands that people of all ages are living with brutal financial circumstances but this blog is concerned with elders.]

For many elders, the slightest uptick in food prices, for example, or even a minor emergency can mean choosing between eating and buying prescribed medications.

Those are the current conditions. Let's take a look at some of the threats.

About half the politicians in Congress want to take away or dramatically cut Social Security, Medicare and food stamps among other programs for the poor, disabled and aged. Just as many of them, along with a large number of state governors, want to kill Medicaid which affects elder dual eligibles.

Many of those same elected officials want to raise the retirement age – that is, the age at which full Social Security benefits are allowed – to 70.

Generally, Crabby Old Lady has no objection to people working longer than 66 or 67 but only if they are physically capable so she believes that any legislation raising the retirement age must include accommodation for those whose bodies cannot do it any longer.

Please recall, too, as we have said here many times, that people's bodies age at dramatically different rates so it is not just those who have done heavy physical labor who may not be able to continue working.

With all that in mind, however, there is the elephant in the room, the unspoken Catch-22: they already refuse to allow us work even until we reach the current retirement age.

It's called age discrimination in the workplace. It has always existed but it has become grimly more visible during our four-year recession than in the past.

The average length of unemployment for older workers is at an all-time high — well over a year. On average, it takes someone age 55 or older three months longer to find a job than a younger person.

“These long-term unemployed are disproportionately composed of older workers — who, compared to younger workers, are less likely to lose their jobs, but more likely to have trouble finding re-employment if they are laid off,” reports The New York Times

“Given how far behind these workers have already fallen, it may turn out that many of these Americans will never work again.”

Exactly. Just like me as I've written about here in the past. But I was 63 when I was laid off from my last job. Even though with careful budgeting and belt-tightening I was able to squeak by until I was old enough for full benefits at age 65 and 10 months, I still wound up with a reduced Social Security benefit for not having any income during the last two-and-a-half years until my eligibility.

It's much worse if you are laid off, for example, in your late fifties or early sixties and must scrimp by until age 62 and then take reduced early Social Security benefit. And don't forget that when you do that, you're stuck at the lower figure for the rest of your life. But many have no choice if they enjoy eating.

Speaking of eating, 46.2 million people (nearly one in seven Americans) receive food stamp (SNAP program) aid. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), three million of them are elders.

[By the way, many more elders than the three million are eligible but do not know it. If you believe you or someone you know might be among them, you can find eligibility rules for people age 60 and older here.]

Last week, the House passed a farm bill that cuts $16 billion from the SNAP program while retaining subsidies for corporate farmers. If the bill passes in the Senate, between two and three million people will be thrown off SNAP and 21 million children will not longer qualify for free school lunches.

So one way or another, the people who already stole elders' savings, homes and livelihoods leaving millions in drastically reduced financial circumstances for their old age now seek to further impoverish them.

This is how it is to be old in America today.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The Idaho Trip

ELDER ABUSE: Part 2 - Institutional Abuse Overview

category_bug_journal2.gif As we noted in Part 1 of this series, institutional abuse is one of the three general categories of elder abuse and it is frighteningly common. Elders are harmed all the time from institutional abuse, some die as a result and no one pays much attention. Some examples:

A lawsuit has been filed this year by the son of an 89-year-old dementia patient, a resident in a California assisted-living home, after she died of heat stroke from being left unattended outdoors in searing heat. Her temperature had reached more that 103F before the son located her.

A report from the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services, titled “Elder Abuse in Kentucky,” determined:

”The number of cases [of abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities] investigated went up 2.1 percent from 2010 to 2011, but the number of substantiated cases went up 58.4 percent, according to a Herald-Leader analysis of Cabinet data.”

And last year, The Miami Herald kicked off an extraordinary, four-part investigative series about conditions in Florida assisted-living homes, titled “Neglected to Death,” with these examples:

”In Kendall, a 74-year-old woman was bound for more than six hours, the restraints pulled so tightly they ripped into her skin and killed her.

“In Hialeah, a 71-year-old man with mental illness died from burns after he was left in a bathtub filled with scalding water.

“In Clearwater, a 75-year-old Alzheimer’s patient was torn apart by an alligator after he wandered from his assisted-living facility for the fourth time.”

Less gruesome stories (only in the sense that they did not result in death) in The Miami Herald series and reports from many other parts of the U.S. reveal a hidden problem of huge proportions involving physical and emotional abuse of elders by people paid to be responsible for their well-being.

No one knows the number of victims of elder abuse in general, let alone those just in assisted living facilities. Hardly any research is undertaken, reporting from states is spotty, not even required in some states, and there is no government tracking system so statistics are mostly wild guesses.

According to a 2012 Tip Sheet [pdf] from the U.S. Administration on Aging, there is only this about the prevalence of elder abuse overall:

• In 2003, there were approximately, 381,430 reports of elder abuse, neglect and exploitation made to some Adult Protective Services programs. (The 2003 date of this statistic in a 2012 report tells you something about the amount of official attention paid to abuse of elders.)

• Some estimate that only one in 14 cases of elder abuse comes to the attention of authorities.

Apparently, under-reporting is about the only “official” fact of elder-abuse that anyone can be certain of. A thorough reform of long-term care is desperately needed but hardly anyone who can direct and accomplish such a goal is paying attention.

In addition, many assisted living and nursing homes are vastly understaffed while our elected officials in states throughout the country continue to slash funds for such facilities.

That's why stories like that award-winning series in The Miami Herald are important in raising awareness, as is a stunning personal report by a resident from inside an assisted living home which I will tell you about tomorrow.

Elder Abuse – Part One: What is It?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Cleaning

ELDER MUSIC: Woody Guthrie

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 Woody Guthrie would have been 100 years old yesterday. He didn’t manage anywhere near that age because died from complications of Huntington's disease, a progressive genetic neurological disorder. Both his parents suffered from the same malady so there was no escaping it for Woody.

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was from Oklahoma and named after the then-governor of New Jersey. It seems strange to me that someone would be named after a governor rather than a president. The governor did eventually achieve that title so things are all right with the naming world.

Woody married three times and traveled constantly (usually leaving his family at home). Besides associating with some of the most interesting musicians around – Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Josh White, Lee Hayes, Paul Robeson and many others – he was often a radio announcer. That is, until the management tried to rein him in at which point he would just leave.

He was particularly fond of the Pacific northwest and the family moved to Washington state where he was commissioned to narrate a film about the Grand Coulee dam and also write songs about it.

The powers that be got cold feet due to Woody’s radical political views and he wasn’t quite sacked but little of his input remained in the film. Fortunately, the songs survived.

Woody wrote many of the most famous songs around, songs that are still being performed and recorded today. Songs that anyone who has listened to music in the last 70 years or so would recognize.

Besides being a song writer, singer, political activist and rambling man Woody was a writer of some skill. His main claim to fame in this area is his autobiography/memoir/novel called Bound For Glory. This really is worth reading.

Woody had a philosophy of sorts about songs in general that he summed up this way:

“I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard traveling.

“I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.”

I’ll start with the man himself, WOODY GUTHRIE singing Ramblin' Round. This is an appropriate song to begin because, as mentioned, Woody was a noted traveler and rambler.

Woody Guthrie

[Ronni here: Although this track plays on my computer, it does not play here online. I don't know why and I can't fix it right now. Sorry.]

Woody Guthrie - Ramblin' Round

Woody’s most famous disciple was BOB DYLAN who would visit him in hospital and sing songs to him. One of those was a paean to the man himself called Song to Woody.

Bob Dylan

Bob pinched the tune from one of Woody’s songs who probably pinched it from someone else. The folk process in action. Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, asked when I played it, “Is that Bob? It sounds too good.” She smiled as she said it.

♫ Bob Dylan - Song to Woody

Woody held no truck with authority figures. Politicians, bankers, lawyers and such like were fair game for him. However, Woody is rather ambivalent about the lawyer in this one. The song sounds more like an old cowboy song.

Here is WILLIE NELSON's interpretation of Philadelphia Lawyer.

Willie Nelson

♫ Willie Nelson - Philadelphia Lawyer

THE ALMANAC SINGERS were a loose conglomeration of like-minded singers. The core of the group was Pete Seeger, Woody, Lee Hayes, Millard Lampell, Sis Cunningham, Josh White, Bess Lomax Hawes. There were others who came and went.

The Almanac Singers

They sang mainly political songs but not exclusively - after all, they had Woody amongst them and he liked writing songs about everything.

This is one of those, Babe O' Mine, with Woody singing lead. Okay, there’s some political comment in there as well. Quite a lot really.

♫ The Almanac Singers - Babe O' Mine

Another early disciple of Woody’s, even earlier than Bob, was RAMBLIN' JACK ELLIOTT

Ramblin Jack Elliott

Jack liked to project a persona as a cowboy singer, however, he was born in Brooklyn. He was inspired by the rodeos at Madison Square Garden to become a cowboy.

I don’t know how successful that was but he became a cowboy singer of considerable repute, initially championing Woody and later Bob Dylan and the newer singer songwriters. He has become his own man and writes songs and is really worth seeing if he’s ever around your neck of the woods.

Jack’s nickname didn’t come from his traveling habits but from the stories he would tell in answer to questions. Odetta claimed that it was her mother who gave him the name, "Oh Jack Elliott, yeah, he sure can ramble on."

Here he sings with JERRY JEFF WALKER, another would-be cowboy singer who was born in New York, with Hard Travelin'.

Jerry Jeff Walker

♫ Ramblin' Jack Elliott - Hard Travelin' (with Jerry Jeff Walker)

As he was from Oklahoma, Woody knew about the dust bowl of the twenties and thirties. He wrote a number of songs about it. He was also fond of the talking blues form of music. Here he combines the two with Talking Dust Bowl.

Woody Guthrie

♫ Woody Guthrie - Talking Dust Bowl Blues

Woody left hundreds of songs and fragments of songs. These were without tunes as he had written them down on whatever came to hand at the time. His daughter Nora has possession of these and contacted the English singer/songwriter and general radical BILLY BRAGG and the American rock band, WILCO to supply tunes to some of them.

Billy Bragg and Wilco

They came up with the goods and released a couple of albums titled “Mermaid Avenue" containing a bunch of these songs. This is one of them called, Ingrid Bergman.

♫ Billy Bragg & Wilco - Ingrid Bergman

Another one from Woody that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The Car Song.

Woody Guthrie

[Ronni here: Although this track plays on my computer, it does not play here online. I don't know why and I can't fix it right now. Sorry.]

♫ Woody Guthrie - Car Song

Yet another excuse for me to include TOM RUSH.

Tom Rush

Like most of the folk-style singers who began their careers in the early sixties, Tom was influenced by Woody. Most of them sang some of his songs and Tom was no exception.

Here he is with Do-Re-Mi, about the “Okies” and others who left their farms on the dust bowls of Oklahoma, Texas and elsewhere for the “pastures of plenty” in California. It was a warning that things may not have been as they were led to believe. When they got to the state line, they weren’t allowed to cross the border unless they had $50.

These were fellow Americans they were turning back, people who had crossed deserts and mountains to be there. The song is a striking parallel to the theme of John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.

♫ Tom Rush - Do-Re-Mi

There’s an obvious way to end this column and I’m one to go with the obvious (except when I don’t). The title may not give it away but the words will. The song is Dusty Old Dust.

So long Woody, it’s been good to know you.

♫ Woody - Dusty Old Dust

Woody Guthrie


In 1988, when I visited an American friend working in Paris for several months, she showed me the most amazing appliance – the Minitel.

Long before there were personal computers, in France nearly everyone had a government-provided Minitel for banking, travel arrangements and much more including even an adult chatroom.

We have the internet now and last week, France shut down the Minitel service for good. Take a look:

Darlene Costner sent this video from the World Magic Awards a couple of years ago. Charming, lovely and amazing.

Surely you have heard that scientists last week proved the existence of a long-suspected subatomic particle called the Higgs boson. I have no idea what that means to science, to the world or to mankind.

The only part I understand is that with the discovery, British physicist Stephen Hawking lost a bet:

"'I had a bet with Gordon Kane (of the University of Michigan) that the Higgs particle wouldn't be found,' Hawking told BBC News on Wednesday. 'It seems I have just lost $100.'"

There is more information here but not enough that I know anything more than the bet.

This kind of science is a bit more transparent to me. Come August 6, Jet Propulsion Lab scientists will be chewing they fingernails through what they are calling seven minutes of terror:

"'Are we terrified? I think we're confident in what we've designed," scientist Ashwin R. Vasavada said in an interview Wednesday morning with the Los Angeles Times.

"'But we're all human. Everything we've worked for -- the scientific discoveries, the proven engineering, the contributions we make toward future NASA missions -- it all lies on the other side of those seven minutes.'"

It's all about the landing of the Curiosity Mars rover which was launched toward the planet on 26 November 2011. The JPL produced this video explaining the difficulty of Curiosity's landing like a Hollywood movie and it's beautiful, an amazing combination of science and show biz.

One of our own elderbloggers, Alexandra Grabbe or Sandy, who blogs at Chezsven, has just published a travel book, Wellfleet, An Insider's Guide to Cape Cod's Trendiest Town.

Wellfleet Book Cover

Sandy knows it well. With her husband, Sven, she has owned and operated a bed and breakfast inn there for a long time. I visited them a few years ago when I lived in Maine – they and the inn are lovely.

Her book has five stars at Amazon and is getting great reviews. Here is part of one:

”Here are the insider’s secrets that will make your stay the best it can be. I really appreciated the lists of things to do at the beach, with or without kids. The restaurant reviews are extremely personal and share details of the meals Grabbe enjoyed at each location...”

The guidebook is available in all the usual ebook formats. You will find links to them here.

Here is just one of thousands of news reports about the marital breakup of these two celebrities. Please tell me, we care about this because???

I had been chatting via email with TGB's Sunday musicologist, Peter Tibbles, about Ian Tyson. I was surprised to find out that he is 78 years old. Then Peter sent me this amazing song Ian sings about the relocation of a wolf from the wolf's point of view. Here's the recording and the lyrics are printed here to follow along.

I found this last week at Digby's Hullabaloo blog. I'll just quote her – it is such delicious fun:

(It was Saturday, but still.) This came from White House deputy press secretary in response to Buzzfeed's stultifyingly dumb piece suggesting that the Obama campaign was using a font similar to Cuban revolutionary propaganda (you read that right) and calling for the head of the kerning vetter. Jayzuz.

“Anyway, here's the [White House] reaction:

“'Your GOP operative should have had the courtesy to stay sober before noon, and BuzzFeed should go back to labeling cat slideshows.'”

Dontcha love it.

I never tire of those Chinese stadium events where thousands of people hold up exactly the correct color card all at the precise moment. This synchronized military parade routine in Belarus is the same kind of thing. Loads of fun to watch.

Last week we had a baby red panda in the snow. This week it's traditional, black-and-white baby pandas. It's a good thing they bounce.

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.


Following on yesterday's post about regret, this came to mind - definitely related. The poem is often misquoted as “the road less traveled” from the penultimate line. Those phrases mean two different things.

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Can there be an American who does not know of Robert Frost? Winner of four Pulitzer Prizes among numerous other awards, poet laureate of the U.S. and, of course, the story of his new poem, The Preface left undelivered at the presidential inauguration of John F. Kennedy in January 1961.

Frost had written The Preface for the occasion to be followed by his recitation of another of his poems but glare from the snow was so bright he couldn't see the paper on which the new poem was written. So he recited from memory the other one, The Gift Outright, and The Preface was never heard. You can read it here.

Frost was born in San Francisco in 1874. He lived and taught for most of his adult life at colleges in Massachusetts and Vermont while turning out a body of work known for its plain-spoken celebration of rural, New England life, of both the wonder and harshness of nature with not infrequent pessimistic undertones.

I like that he once said, "I would have written of me on my stone: I had a lover's quarrel with the world." He died in Boston in 1963.

Here is Robert Frost's own reading of The Road Not Taken.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Uncle Arthur to the Rescue

Aging and Regret

category_bug_journal2.gif Thank you for your condolences yesterday for my cold virus. You know what it's like and it's my contention, too, that it's worse than when we were younger. I'm not sure if that's age or if we have more virulent viruses nowadays, but I'm mostly sleeping.

As bad as I feel, I cannot stay in bed all day and a comment from a reader named Sam piqued my interest. Referencing my sadness at no longer living in New York, he suggested that regret would be an interesting topic for a blog post.

Although my brain may be too fevered for something so complex, I'm going to take a stab at Sam's request.

We've done regret here at least once before but a single discussion does not exhaust its potential. Regret is a natural interest for old people particularly if we follow Carl Jung's advice to undertake in later years a life review.

Moreso than some other emotions, regret is as changing and shifty as sand under our feet so it probably needs to be reconsidered from time to time.

Although psychologists would insist otherwise, I don't believe there are any experts on regret beyond each of us individually and I can't give you guidance about it beyond what I find with a little research and my own thoughts to get you started.

For most people, regret is about having been wrong. Within it there can be elements of sadness, shame, guilt, embarrassment, remorse, anguish, disappointment, self-reproach, perhaps grief. It's complicated. However, almost universally, old people who are asked don't regret what they have done nearly as much as what they have not done.

Here is a list of top five regrets among a survey of dying people that I've saved for awhile. Unfortunately, I neglected to include the source, so you'll have to trust me. All five involve a road not taken, something not done. These people wished they had

  • stayed in touch with friends
  • had let themselves be happier
  • had the courage to express their feelings
  • had not worked so hard
  • had lived life more true to themselves rather than what others expected of them

For me, those sound squishy and mild - but who am I to say what becomes important when you know you're dying and time is short.

Generally, I don't have regrets. This could be just a matter of semantics but instead of regret, I have many things I wish I had not done (rather than left undone). Mostly, they involve having hurt others – way too frequently and the pain can be devastating.

The only way of dealing with it I've ever devised is to lock myself away from the world for a day or two and wallow in it, suffer, weep, scream, feel how mean I have been and when I've exhausted myself, sleep for awhile and then get back to living.

What I can usually come to is that although I (once again) did not live up to my ideal behavior, I did the best I could at that moment which sometimes is just awful. Awful, because I am human and selfish and unthinking and unkind and stupid too, but I'm not special enough to be the worst person in the world. Besides, sometimes I can be admirable too.

But I don't suppose that's what those dying people were talking about in those five regrets. And it's certainly not equivalent to regretting a tattoo later in life or wishing you'd gone to college or traveled more. Piffle, the three of those – to me, anyway.

Sam is correct. When I think about it, I am sad not to be living in New York. I prefer to live a city life – that particular city's life. To walk the familiar streets where I know so much history and where I can pass hundreds, maybe thousands of places where incidents from 40 years of my life took place. Where I am comfortable.

But that is not regret which strongly implies that I could have made another choice. I could not.

It is, instead, lamentable that to meet the imperatives of affordable shelter and food, I had to leave the place where I feel most at home and I get to be sad about it now and then.

Here are a few things other people have said about regret:

“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves - regret for the past and fear of the future.” - Fulton Oursler
Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.” - Jonathan Larson
“Never regret. If it's good, it's wonderful. If it's bad, it's experience.” - Victoria Holt
“Regret is insight that comes a day too late.” - Unknown

There are hundreds of quotations like these that reject regret and as I said above, I don't recall ever regretting something I've not done. I have noted it sometimes, wondered how my life might have turned out differently if I'd done this instead of that, gone hither instead of yon, said yes instead of no but it seems a waste of time as there is no way to know.

Or, all this may be the ravings of a virus-infected mind. Now tell us what you think about regret in the comments.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: Hokey Golf