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Testing for Alzheimer's Disease

PERSONAL NOTE: Late yesterday afternoon, my laptop crashed and could not be fixed with support via phone. It's been shipped off to a repair center far away and I'm working on an ancient machine now.

I have a backup that I'll try to restore today onto this machine but even if that succeeds, it is five days out of date. So, to anyone I owe an email or if we've recently made an appointment, please let me know. At my age, if it's not written down, it doesn't happen.

Most important, if you have sent a story for The Elder Storytelling Place in the past seven days, it is fried, gone with the hard drive in my broken laptop. So please resend.

category_bug_journal2.gif Earlier this month it was announced that there is a new test, a brain scan that for the first time can detect Alzheimer's disease long before there are symptoms – decades even.

”The scans show plaques in the brain — barnaclelike clumps of protein, beta amyloid — that, together with dementia, are the defining feature of Alzheimer’s disease,” reports The New York Times.

“Those who have dementia but do not have excessive plaques do not have Alzheimer’s. It is no longer necessary to wait until the person dies and has an autopsy to learn if the brain was studded with plaques.”

The test, which began being used in June is available at 300 hospitals and imaging centers in the U.S. However, it is expensive – several thousand dollars - and so far, private health coverage and Medicare do not cover it.

The Food and Drug Administration is being careful about the possibility of misdiagnosis with the new test. The agency requires that physicians show they can accurately read the scans before doing them. So far about 700 doctors qualify.

There is, as you undoubtedly know, no treatment for Alzheimer's.

Having followed The Times reporter, Gina Kolata, for many years, I have great respect for her work. However, a goodly number of commenters on this story take issue with her. They say, in general, that the test has various degrees of accuracy. Of course, there is no way to determine if they know what they're talking about or, as with the reporter, a way to contact them.

But whatever you believe about the story, it raises a serious question: would you want to be tested?

”...getting one comes with serious risks. While federal law prevents insurers and employers from discriminating based on genetic tests, it does not apply to scans. People with brain plaques can be denied long-term care insurance.”

That's the practical issue and it's no small thing. Here is a different kind of consideration: what if you were tested at age 30 or 40 and told that down the road, perhaps many years in the future, you would develop Alzheimer's. Or even if you were tested now at a later age? Would you want to know if the result were positive?

With this test breakthrough, the accuracy will undoubtedly be upheld or improved in time. Costs will come down and one way or another, the test will become more affordable.

That stuff is certain. Treatment is not. If you had asked me (or, probably, anyone else) 50 years ago if cancer would have been cured by now, I would have bet money that it would.

So treatment can't be counted on and if your result came back positive, no one would be able to determine the onset or progression of the disease.

Now I'll turn it over to you: given all the above, would you want the Alzheimer's disease test?

I screwed up yesterday and Thursday's story was not posted or sent out until late in the day so I'm reposting. At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: How to Look for Relatives

You, Me and Social Security 2012 – Part 2: Solutions

category_bug_politics.gif He was talking about a budget agreement to forestall the fiscal cliff and not specifically about Social Security and Medicare, but President Barack Obama in a press briefing yesterday repeated something several times that can be applied to Social Security and Medicare too.

Calling on “Americans all across the country to make their voices heard,” he said:

”When the American people speak loudly enough, lo and behold Congress listens...The lesson is when enough people get involved, we have a track record of actually making Congress work.”

One of the stumbling blocks to a budget agreement that would forestall immediate tax increases on 1 January 2013 is that a lot of Republican and some Democrats want cuts to social programs in exchange for such an agreement.

In the past few days, some – including the White House – have gone on record saying that Social Security does not contribute to the deficit and should be off the table. That sounds like progress but you cannot trust any of them to stick with it.

So today, I'm giving you some tools to, in the president's words, “make [our] voices heard.”

The easiest, of course, are petitions. There are two important ones:

One, organized by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) is titled, Lame Duck Session. Unlike most online petitions, the NCPSSM will print hard copies of signed online petitions to combine with mail responses they have received to deliver to Congress members and the White House.

Boxes and boxes of petitions make a much bigger impact than electronic pages. The delivery from the NCPSSM is intended for an event at the U.S. Senate on 11 December, so get on over there to sign the petition now.

Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has a similar petition I've mentioned before. You can sign that one here.

Do not think you are duplicating yourself. The more, the merrier and the president concurs with me. In his speech yesterday he noted that millions of people's tweets, emails and phone calls made the difference in holding down student loan interest rates earlier this year. So...

You can sent short messages by tweeting senators and representatives. Not all of them tweet, but you can find out if yours do at this page. Type in your state and your Congress members who tweet will come up with their twitter names.

I cannot swear the page is up to date, but it's a start.

I'm told that most members of Congress – Senate and House – have Facebook pages. The easiest way I've found to locate them is search their name in quotes followed by the word facebook and it will come up. You can leave messages there for your representatives.

Each representative's official government page has telephone numbers and an email form.

The House of Representatives. Enter your Zip Code.
The Senate. Enter the name of your state.

The NCPSSM has made it easy to email President Obama about Social Security and Medicare. You can do that here.

Twitter, of course, requires short messages – no more than 140 characters. So it is good to craft those on one succinct topic. Examples:

• Social Security does not contribute on thin dime to the deficit. It is wrong to try to balance the budget on the back's of elders.

• Medicare is too complex to try to fix in a rushed budget deal. Save it for 2013 to avoid what could be terrible unintended consequences.

• Don't you realize how insulting it is to call Social Security and Medicare entitlements? We paid for those benefits all our working lives.

I'm sure you can do better than those.

In longer form email and Facebook messages you can craft your own messages. If you're having trouble, crib from petitions and anything on this blog. You don't need to credit anyone. Be polite, be succinct, but explain what you mean and make your position clear.

You can send the same message to each of your Senators and your Representative. And the White House too.

You can send as many letters on as many topics as you want.

Messages to Congress in large numbers really do, as the president noted, make a difference. I know that every member's office counts every message – letter, email, phone call, tweet, Facebook – and tracks the positions pro and con issues.

To paraphrase an old voting joke, write today and write often. Get your relatives and friends to do it. Post what you've written on your blogs and urge readers to do the same (copy any information you need or want from here).

Keep writing on as many different related issues as possible because the billionaire and millionaire forces are against us.

Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are talking to rich executives all over the country about cutting Social Security and Medicare.

A whole bunch of zillionaire CEOs have called for cuts to Social Security and Medicare while hanging on to their corporate welfare.

And there are no-nothing pundits and columnists all over the print and electronic press throwing around statements about cutting entitlements and Social Security going broke.

They all have money and influence. But millions of us together can overcome them. Write, call, tweet, Facebook. Let us together make a great noise unto Congress. The president again:

”When the American people speak loudly enough, lo and behold Congress listens...The lesson is when enough people get involved, we have a track record of actually making Congress work.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: How to Search for Relatives

Being Old: When Strangers Notice

category_bug_journal2.gif This is a story about how people behave differently with you when you're old. I didn't see it that way when this happened; a friend later explained.

It was Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, and it was to be a short shopping trip – well under an hour. I got lucky, snagging a convenient parking spot in about the center of my three errands.

At my first stop, an attractive but way too expensive kitchen equipment store, I was told that it would take longer than I had anticipated for the four knives I dropped off to be sharpened.

While weighing my options, I got some cash from a nearby ATM and picked up the items I needed from the grocery. That still left me more than an hour until the knives would be ready so I decided to go home.

I started the car and put it into reverse to back out of the diagonal parking place. A little pressure on the gas pedal and – nothing except the car rolling backward down the slight incline into the street.

I braked, put the car in park, then back into reverse and tried again. Nothing except more rolling into the street.

Now my car blocked the traffic lane, rain was coming down in buckets and I had no idea what was wrong although the word “transmission” along with images of dollar signs came to mind.

Nothing to do, I determined, but to push the car back into the parking spot. I barely had the door ajar when a young man appeared beside me. “Let me help,” he said.

Nice, particularly since I was wondering if I am strong enough to push a car alone. He said I should steer and he would do the work. Just then, a young woman pulled her car into a spot next to mine and jumped out to help the young man push. It took only a few seconds and she was gone before I could thank her.

Remember, it is pouring rain. We were all getting soaked.

Knowing I had left my cell phone at home, I asked the young man – as I was scribbling down the number of my roadside car service - if he had one I could borrow.

No problem, he said. He tapped the numbers onto the screen as I recited them, then handed me the telephone. We walked to the other side of the street where there is a coffee shop but it was too noisy inside so I left him there while I went back outside to talk on the quieter street, thankful that there was an awning to protect me from the rain.

I was concerned about keeping “my hero” waiting and it took an agonizingly long time to answer all the questions the car service had and then to wait 10 minutes more on hold before learning it would be 30 minutes until the tow truck could arrive.

Inside the coffee shop, I returned the phone to the young man who was standing by the counter, thanked him profusely and waited by the glass doors to watch for the tow truck.

About 20 minutes later, my good Samaritan appeared at my shoulder: the tow truck driver had called to say he would arrive in a few minutes. I hadn't realized my helper was still in the shop but could see now that he was working on a laptop at a table across the room.

Thank god. For a moment, I'd thought he had come back to the coffee shop from halfway home or somewhere else to pass along the driver's message.

When the tow truck arrived, the driver – a friendly giant of a man who reminded me of Shrek without the green tinge – got into my car, started it, moved the gear shift around, turned off the ignition, started it again and the gears worked.

I felt like an idiot and on the theory that it's best to acknowledge one's stupidity before someone else does it for you, I told him that.

“Don't worry about it,” he said. “I get calls for this all the time.” Maybe he does, maybe he doesn't. But it was kind of him to reassure me. Then, before he left, he explained what to do if it happens again.

I went back to the coffee shop to thank the young man and tell him all was fine but his table was empty.

Later in the day on the phone - my own this time - I related all this to a friend telling him that I was surprised by the two young people who had so quickly come to my aid – the one who vanished after pushing my car and the other who stuck around until the tow truck arrived and I was safely in another pair of capable hands.

It's not that I don't believe people do such things, but that "mine" were on the case instantly, so able and eager to be of assistance. And in pouring rain too. How did they know I needed them almost before I did?

“One word,” said my friend. “It begins with A and ends with E.” Three letters.


“Yes,” said he who is two or three years my senior. “It's because you're old.”

Immediately, I recognized he was right. Those same two people might have helped if I were 25 but probably not with the speed or the sense of protection I felt from them.

Except when I am standing at a mirror, I don't think much about how I look to others. If you asked me, I would tell you that its perfectly obvious with my thinning gray hair, little jowls in my slackening jawline and all the rest that I'm an old woman of 71.

Before now, however, I had not considered what kind of resonance those facts of my appearance have for others. Now I understand that it is easy these days to see me as a person who may be or is in need of help.

It was the first time (first I've been aware of, anyway) that strangers responded to me as an old person – that is, they took a certain action because I am old. It is comparable, I think, to the startling moment I discovered, at age 55, that I was no longer the youngest kid in my crowd and had not been so for a long time.

That was a transformational event, to see myself as unquestionably the grownup in the room for the first time in my life. From then on it seemed to me that younger people sometimes – only sometimes, to be sure – deferred to me in ways they had not done before, perhaps because my fresh perception of myself subtly changed my behavior - although that is conjecture.

Now, this latest incident of attracting a new-to-me kind of attention based on an appearance I had not fully taken into account is equally a milestone. It was a small event that on its face is nothing dramatic but requires a shift now in my sense of self. I'll let you know how it goes.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: My Father

You, Me and Social Security 2012 – Part 1: The Problem

category_bug_politics.gif DO NOT YAWN at the title of this post and related ones to come. It is about your ability and the ability of your children, grandchildren and beyond to house and feed themselves in old age – an expectation of the past 77 years that (I do not exaggerate) is no longer certain.

That is due to a long-term, wildly well-funded effort by powerful people like billionaire Peter G. Peterson, by Alan Simpson, Erskine Bowles, a few Democratic and a majority of Republican lawmakers in Washington in response to pressure from their campaign contributors in the financial industry to “reform entitlements.”

Translation: to privatize, reduce, cut and/or kill Social Security and Medicare.

The current assault by these forces is being promoted as necessary to avoid the end-of-year fiscal cliff (curb, slope, slide – take your pick) that the legislators themselves set in force last year when they refused to raise taxes on rich people by doing what Congress does best – kick their can (that is, the work they are paid to do and don't) down the road.

And if all you are hearing is scare stuff about the fiscal cliff, please do take some time to read this piece from economist James K. Galbraith.

There are squeaks from some Republicans since the election that they are now rescinding their pledge to Grover Norquist not to ever, ever, ever raise taxes on rich people. But don't you believe it. Here is what South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsay Graham said about that last Sunday on ABC-TV:

"'I will violate the pledge for the good of the country only if Democrats will do entitlement reform,' Graham said...discussing a possible bipartisan compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff.”

“For the good of the country,” he says. Lordy, Lordy, be still my beating heart. Has Lindsay had a come-to-Jesus moment?

Not any more likely than Georgia Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss who invoked the same kind of patriotism on the same topic with a TV reporter on Saturday (video here):

“I care too much about my country. I care a lot more about it than I do Grover Norquist.”
Except that as Zaid Jilani of BoldProgressive explained:

”Many progressives have been celebrating Chambliss’s rebuke of Norquist. While Norquist is indeed a powerful lobbyist who should not have so much influence over the Republican Party, progressives should not be fooled by Chambliss’s rhetoric.

“The senator is not breaking from Norquist because he wants to raise taxes on the wealthy or big corporations. Rather, he’s doing it because it will make it easier to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits.”

Chambliss and Lindsay are just the beginning of the doubletalk and weasel words you will hear from Washington lawmakers during the fiscal cliff negotiations between now and Christmas because they think it's their chance to “reform entitlements.”

There will be Byzantine machinations both public and behind the scenes (which will be leaked) that are not what they appear to be and the purpose of which is to cut Social Security and Medicare in exchange for any kind of reduction – any at all, no matter how insignificant – in rich people's tax burden.

As Republicans have done in the past, they will call their proposed reform “shared sacrifice” as though elders and the oldest baby boomers have not already way overpaid their share in a triple whammy that has ruined millions of elders' final years:

  1. Drained life savings by 30, 40 and even 50 percent, money meant to supplement Social Security in old age

  2. Forced retirement after layoffs without ever resuming and finishing the careers they worked lifetimes to build

  3. Stuck in homes (underwater and not) they intended to sell for a downsized retirement and still cannot do so

Corporations were bailed out with billions of dollars – a lot of those were elders' dollars. No one bailed out old people who have no possibility of returning to the workforce in anything but minimum wage jobs – if there were any to be had and ageism were not a force. We have given more than enough, much more than our share, already.

Sadly, we can't do anything about that now. But we can fight back as hard as we did when President George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security in 2005. One of the lies that will be repeated ad nauseum by corrupt or stupid legislators (not to mention some reporters and pundits) – the same lie Bush unsuccessfully tried to sell the country - is that Social Security is broke.

It is not. For the best explanation I know against this lie, please read this 2010 post from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Saul Friedman, a former Time Goes By contributor who died two years ago – a brilliant man I am so lucky to have known.

In 2005, we defeated President Bush's well-funded, hard-fought war on Social Security. We – many elders, but a large majority of Americans of all ages too - now oppose reductions to the program. Some findings from a 2010 AARP survey about attitudes toward Social Security on its 75th anniversary:

• 84% agree with the statement that “Maybe I won’t need Social Security when I retire, but I definitely want to know it’s there just in case I do.”

• Half of non-retired adults would be willing to pay more now in payroll taxes to ensure Social Security will be there for today’s older people and a similar proportion willing to do so to ensure it will be there for them when they retire.

• Nine in ten adults under age 30 believe Social Security is an important government program, and over nine in ten want to know it is there when they retire just in case they need it.

We can beat back this new attack on Social Security but it will take work. Next in this series, Part 2: The Solution, in which I will explain what we each can do and how to do it will appear here later this week.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmermann: Protesters

45 Years of Alice's Restaurant

It was 45 years ago this this month – 1967 – that Arlo Guthrie's musical account of how his crime, littering, led to his rejection by the U.S. Army was released under its official name, Alice's Restaurant Massacree.

I remember it well.

Living in Houston at the time, I produced my then-husband's radio talk show, the only one on what was otherwise a 21-hour-a-day rock-and-roll station. That meant a large portion of our programming, the part not political, consisted of musical talk and musical guests which, at one time or another, included Arlo Guthrie and the restaurant proprietor herself, Alice Brock.

We played the song a lot at home (it was also the year of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band that was in equal rotation on our personal turntable) and it wasn't long before I knew Guthrie's monologue by heart.

In the years since then I have occasionally listened again but not all that often. Nevertheless, to my surprise, I can still sing along (well, I suppose I mean talk along) without a hitch.

”Now it all started two Thanksgivings ago, it was two years ago on Thanksgiving when my friend and I went up to visit Alice at the restaurant but Alice doesn't live in the restaurant. She lives in the church nearby the restaurant...”

How'd I do? I wish my short-term memory (you know, 10 seconds walking from bedroom to kitchen) worked as well.

The reason I discovered I still know the whole monologue is that on Friday, TGB reader Bev Carney sent a link to a story last week on CBS News about the song's 45th anniversary being this year and an interview with Arlo. Here it is:

It surprised me to learn that the song has become a Thanksgiving anthem, but it makes sense and I wonder how, through all the years I've been posting some kind of banal holiday image here for Thanksgiving, I'd never thought to play Alice's Restaurant for us instead. I'm pretty sure that's what I'll do from now on.

In case you missed it this year, here's the original 18-plus minutes – a fine, ol' song that nicely captures the feeling of an era that, to me, doesn't seem like so long ago, although it is:

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Herchel Newman: Out Little Girls

ELDER MUSIC: Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones

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.

Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones turn 50 this year. Okay, the individual members are somewhat older than that - in total about 2,000 years old - but the group had its first paid gig 50 years ago in July.

Initially they were without a name and a club promoter rang Brian Jones and asked about this. Brian was playing a Muddy Waters album at the time and he spied one of the tracks, Rollin’ Stone, and he said that they were the Rollin’ Stones. A “g” was quickly added to the first word of their name.

That performance at the Marquee club in London consisted of Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Dick Taylor and Mick Avory (or possibly Tony Chapman). Ian Stewart was there as well, in the background playing piano as he did for the Stones until he died in 1985. Taylor and Avory (or Chapman) were soon replaced by Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts.

This group had Keith, probably the best rock guitarist who didn’t play lead (although he could do that), Mick, possibly the most charismatic singer of any group and Charlie Watts, easily the best rock drummer ever (although he is essentially a jazz drummer – that could explain his great proficiency).

On the live album “Get Your Ya Yas Out” Mick rather dismissively says, “Charlie’s good tonight.” How patronizing. Charlie is good every night.

The Stones were originally a covers band, playing blues – Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters – and early rock & roll, particularly that of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Buddy Holly.

They eventually started writing their own material when their manager locked Mick and Keith in a room and told them not to come out until they had written a song. They did and the dam burst and there was no containing them. It was probably this that caused the easing out of Brian from his position as nominal leader of the group to be usurped by the “Glimmer Twins.”

Rolling Stones

The song they came up with is As Tears Go By. They also gave it to Marianne Faithfull who had a hit with it as well. Their manager wanted a pop song, not some more blues or copies or parodies of other records. This is the result.

♫ The Rolling Stones - As Tears Go By

Rolling Stones

Possibly their second best known song is Sympathy for the Devil. There are stories that this is the song they were performing at the disastrous Altamont concert when a member of the audience was stabbed by one of the Hell’s Angels.

This is legend - it wasn’t the song being played. However, it is so potent you can understand why this myth started. Here it is.

♫ The Rolling Stones - Sympathy for the Devil

Rolling Stones

The song 19th Nervous Breakdown demonstrates why the Stones were such a great rock band. No more need be said.

♫ The Rolling Stones - 19th Nervous Breakdown


No eyebrows were raised when the song Stray Cat Blues was included on the Beggars’ Banquet album perhaps because it wasn’t released as a single. I wonder if Bill had some input into this one. I’m sure the shock jocks would have a field day now.

♫ The Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues

Rolling Stones

They occasionally had forays into symphonic rock. Okay, they didn’t go overboard as some others did, but they did employ French horns, played by Al Kooper who also played piano and organ on the track, and a heavenly choir – the London Bach Choir. You Can't Always Get What You Want.

♫ The Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want


The Stones occasionally had pretensions to being a country band. You may laugh but this came about because of the close friendship Keith developed with Gram Parsons.

Gram taught them many country songs (they probably knew a bunch of them already) and they recorded a few tracks in a country vein. Wild Horses is probably the best known of these. That’s not what I’m going with though.

They recorded Honky Tonk Women twice, once as a country song under the title Country Honk. Here it is.

♫ The Rolling Stones - Country Honk


Another track that’s pure rock & roll. There’s no other reason needed to include it except that it’s probably the longest title of any of their songs. Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In the Shadows?

♫ The Rolling Stones - Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby Standing In the Shadows

Rolling Stones

And now for something completely different. Something Happened to Me Yesterday is one of those quirky songs that they released now and then. Okay, not very often actually. They didn’t have a Ringo for whom they wanted to produce a song.

♫ The Rolling Stones - Something Happened to Me Yesterday


Perceptive readers might notice that this next is the third track from the Beggars’ Banquet album. Not surprising really, as I think this is easily their best. It’s interesting because I learnt from Keith’s autobiography that several tracks on the album are all acoustic (except for the bass).

I couldn’t believe when I read that so had to listen to it a few times to check. I think he’s right, this track certainly is. Salt of the Earth.

♫ The Rolling Stones - Salt of the Earth


I’ll finish with my favorite Stones song. This will get the hard core fans riled. There’s a very personal reason for this and I’m not going into that on the internet. Here is She's a Rainbow.

♫ The Rolling Stones - She's a Rainbow

Okay, I’m anticipating the comments: “Where’s Satisfaction?” “What, nothing from Exile on Main Street?” and so on. I figure you know that first one and others you may ask about so I left them out. Besides, the ones I chose are the songs of theirs I like.

INTERESTING STUFF: 24 November 2012

Oh, you're gonna love this. No more words – just watch.

This is wildly inventive, clever and hilarious. It takes not one, but two of these guys, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, to do an impression of President Barack Obama.

That's because while Peele plays the president's public self we are all accustomed to, Key becomes Luther, Obama's anger translator or, you could say, his id. Take a look at the election victory sketch:

The president has seen clips of the comedy team's impression of him and obviously likes it. Last spring, Key and Peele got to meet Obama in person and hang out for about 10 minutes:

"[Obama] was super-funny," said Peele, 33, of their brief rendezvous in Hollywood. "And then, about the impression, he goes, 'Uh, check this out, because I do a pretty good impression of me, too.' He was killing us. He did not shy away from the comedy with us."

Key & Peele is broadcast on Comedy Central on Wednesdays. And, you can find more Key and Peele past presidential sketches here.

As people are wont to do on the intertubes, someone matched old footage of people dancing the Charleston with some very modern punk music – and it syncs amazingly well. Watch:

You can see the dance video with its original music here. (Hat tip to doctafil of Jive Chalkin')

There hasn't been much reason to watch the Tonight Show for a long time and Jay Leno sealed that deal for me with this horribly inappropriate joke that conflated a sleazy sex scandal with Ambassador Susan Rice:

Medicare announced this week that the 2013 premium for Part B coverage will increase from $99.90 to $104.90. This will eat up about 25 percent of the average Social Security cost-of-living increase for 2013. (For most of us, Part B premiums are deducted from Social Security benefits.)

Also, the deductible for Part B medical services increases too – from $140 to $147. All the more reason we – elders – must fight against cuts to Social Security and Medicare that Republicans want in exchange for avoiding the fiscal cliff.

There will be lots more information here next week about what we can each do to help that effort.

Hurricane Sandy produced many heroes and at least one of them in New York City has four legs:

Well, this has played repeatedly just about everywhere for the past week so you have probably seen it but I'm publishing it today anyway because it makes me laugh. Governor Chris Christie dropped by Saturday Night Live last weekend:

There was a report a couple of days ago that Christie has finally taken off his fleece jacket and his wife, who heads up a relief effort in New Jersey, is thinking of auctioning it to raise more money for hurricane victims.

For those of you who are as light in foreign languages as I am, that is the Spanish translation of The Typewriter, a light classical piece by American composer Leroy Anderson. In this video it is performed by Voces para La Pas Musicos Solidarios:

Composer Anderson, who died in 1975, wrote some other works you might recognize - Sleigh Ride and The Syncopated Clock, for example. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner of Darlene's Hodgepodge)

The cat's person left this note on the video's YouTube page:

”I took this video the day after we adopted him. Since he is completely blind (born without formed eyeballs), we gave him some balls with bells inside. As you can tell, he can 'see' them by using his ears! He is such a happy and inspiring cat - we are blessed to have him with us.”

(Hat tip to Bev Carney)

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 Day After Thanksgiving 2012

I hope everyone had a fulfilling (pardon the pun) Thanksgiving holiday and if you are so inclined, find all the bargains you need today, Black Friday. Me? I'm staying as far away from stores as possible.

I'll be back online tomorrow with a real blog post: a new Interesting Stuff column.

Stories will return to The Elder Storytelling Place on Monday 26 November

The Day Before Thanksgiving 2012

Feeling the need for a bit of a rest, I'm stretching out this holiday from today through Friday. I'll be back on Saturday with a new Interesting Stuff column.

Best wishes to every one of you for a happy, healthy, warm and loving Thanksgiving filled with family, friends and the people you care about most.

Stories will return to The Elder Storytelling Place on Monday 26 November

Not on the Backs of Elders

category_bug_politics.gif For the nearly 10 years I've been writing this blog and paying close attention to the ways of Washington as they relate to elders, someone there has been trying to privatize, reduce, cut or kill Social Security.

Mainstream media generally goes along with what they like to call “entitlement reform” behaving as though they actually know the meaning of the word entitlement. Even the president sometimes uses that word which in no way applies to Social Security and it puts me in such a snit.

The majority of reporters and pundits still believe Social Security is the cause of the deficit and I keep wondering how it is that they can be so uninformed – or is stupid the word I'm looking for?

Through all these years of attacks on elders and the misinformation, however, old people have had on their side Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders and it could be that his day – our day – has finally arrived.

First, listen to him last week on the floor of the Senate (I have edited it to the most pertinent part):

Sanders has been making similar speeches in Congress for many years but suddenly now, with the decisive win for Democrats in the recent election, other powerful people in Congress have been emboldened to stand with him. Listen:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

"I've made it very clear. I've told anyone that will listen, including everyone in the White House, including the president, that I am not going to be part of having Social Security as part of these talks relating to this deficit.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Huffington Post):

"Our commitment as Democrats is that we believe Social Security and Medicare are pillars of economic and health security for America's seniors. They should not have cuts made to them in order to give tax cuts to the rich. Any adjustments we would make in them would be to make them stronger, as we did in the Affordable Care Act."

Democratic Representative of Illinois, Jan Schakowsky:

"Over my dead body will we cut benefits to Social Security and Medicare.”

Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa:

"If you wanna fix Social Security, there it is. Make those making millions of dollars a year pay the same thing and the same rate as those making 40 or 50 or 60 thousand dollars a year. This is not magic. It can be done."

At a Sanders-led “Don't Cut Social Security” rally last week, Harkin also explained why Republican efforts to change the method by which Social Security cost-of-living increases are calculated from the usual inflation index to chained CPI (which would affect current as well as future beneficiaries) must be fought back:

"Think about it this way. You're standing on the deck of a boat and you're in very deep water and they want you to swim, but they're going to put a log chain around your ankle. That's chained CPI."

Democratic Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota who is the outgoing chair of the Senate Budget Committee: (Washington Post)

“We’ve got to separate out Social Security — the savings derived from there should be purely for the purpose of extending solvency of Social Security itself. Social Security has not contributed to the deficit problem.”

Democratic Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota agrees with his compatriots, but believes that there are mighty forces in Congress intent on cutting Social Security in any debt-reduction package.

“[Avoiding that will]” take a big lift from all of us.”

We cannot be certain President Obama is not one of those forces. He repeatedly invokes the Simpson/Bowles commission as a basis for the agreement he seeks so the nation avoids the (so-called) fiscal cliff. But those commission recommendations include increasing the retirement age, increasing premiums for Social Security along with reducing benefits.

Last week, on Wednesday, the president again invoked “entitlements” in relation to the deficit saying that he wants to cut

"'...a big deal, a comprehensive deal' with Republicans to reduce the federal budget deficit that will tackle 'entitlements.'”

So Obama may need some strong persuading.

At his debate with Paul Ryan, Vice President Joe Biden stated unequivocably about Social Security, “We will not privatize it.” Obama has not made an equally strong statement and anyway, Biden did not preclude other kinds of cuts in his declaration.

So, as we did back in 2005, when President George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security, we elders are going to need to mobilize to help Sanders and his growing crew of Congressional Democrats to insist on what is the right thing to with Social Security in the debt reduction negotiations.

Right now, Congress is getting ready to leave for the Thanksgiving holiday but when they return, I'll have tools and links and suggestion on how get ourselves together to support the Democratic coalition against cutting Social Security.

Meanwhile, what you can do today is sign Senator Sanders' new petition demanding no cuts to Social Security, a petition that will be delivered to both houses of Congress and the president.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ralph Lymburner: Waste Management

Uncluttering Seven Decades of Life

category_bug_journal2.gif After my mother died 20 years ago and it fell to me to empty her home, I was surprised at how little “stuff” she had. Her personal files were contained in half a file drawer yet all the papers and documentation I needed were there.

Her five or six closets in a two-bedroom home were mostly empty – some clothes and a handful of small boxes with such things as photos that didn't make the cut for the albums. Dresser drawers held a reasonable number of sweaters and undergarments, but no more than that.

The kitchen was well stocked with equipment but not overly so as mine is. The largest collection of stuff was the miniature tools and other supplies for the two- and three-story dollhouses and related furniture she built from scratch.

In retrospect, I'm pretty sure she had spent the year prior to her final illness cleaning out the clutter. She was 75, had lost one breast to cancer and had developed additional cancers. She knew she wasn't going to live to be 100 or even, probably, 80.

Yesterday, the estimable, New York Times health reporter, Jane Brody, wrote about a new book, The Hoarder in You: How to Live a Happier, Healthier, Uncluttered Life (good god, the author might want to unclutter that title).

That author is Robin Zasio, a clinical psychologist who has gained celebrity in the past few years on the television program, Hoarders. Brody tells us:

”...that Dr. Zasio’s book is about the best self-help work I’ve read in my 46 years as a health and science writer. She seems to know all the excuses and impediments to coping effectively with a cluttering problem, and she offers practical, clinically proven antidotes to them.”

So with this book, Zasio is not speaking to the extreme collectors she deals with on that TV show. This is for the rest of us, people like me who have some overstuffed drawers, closets and corners but are in no way irrational about saving everything.

Even so, hardly a day passes when I don't have such thoughts as, you really do not need 36 teeshirts. There are seven pairs of pants in that closet you haven't worn in two years. Six of those sweaters are threadbare; why aren't you tossing them?

How about the giant box of old photos – twice the size of your mother's – that are the rejects? Or, in another box, 30 years of daily diaries from the time before you kept your calendar and notes on the computer?

Neither do you need as much china as you have – enough to feed 15 or 20 people at a sitting when you have room for only four at the table? Do you even know how many quilts you have? Seven? Eight? Ten?

Plus, you transferred all your music CDs to your computer and a backup many years ago. Is there a reason you are keeping those hundreds of CDs?

And there are at least a dozen necklaces I haven't worn in several years and an unknown number of pins that once decorated jacket lapels – the kind of work-related jackets I no longer need.

And so on.

Like I said, I have these thoughts almost daily – often when I'm deciding, for example, what color teeshirt to wear UNDER a sweater where no one will see it.

Anxiety about parting with one's stuff is understandable, Zasio says, but usually dissipates quickly. Brody reports that Zasio prescribes setting aside an hour a day to work on clearing out the detritus.

”Make three piles (or bins) of stuff: Keep, Donate, Discard...Get rid of the Discard and Donate piles as soon as possible. Keep only those things that have a realistic “home” in your home.”

Brody's story about this book aroused the minor anxiety I feel regularly about having too much stuff. Part of it is that I don't want to die and leave so much crap around for someone else to deal with.

But then, rooting around in the lower reaches of my psyche about it, I realized that a good part of my reluctance to tackle what is, in my case, a relatively simple task is that it represents a winding down of my life.

Although I haven't looked at the reject photos in years, trashing them feels like trashing parts of my life. Some of the things I don't use anymore have a history. They may have been gifts. Or they relate in other ways to people I've known and places I've been.

Each time I see them or touch them, I recall those events for a few moments so if I don't have those reminders, I wonder, will I forget those people and places?

That, then, is what keeps me from discarding unnecessary stuff – that without them I might lose pieces of my life, my self.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Time Out

ELDER MUSIC: Beethoven Again

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’ve featured Beethoven before but today I thought I’d highlight some rather unusual music from him. These are interesting - well interesting to me. You may be surprised by several of them.

Okay, maybe you won’t, but I certainly was. I was looking through my Beethoven box – that’s the complete work of the composer, there’s still some I haven’t played yet – and I came across these. I thought they could make a different column and wondered what else lurks within.

So I went searching and came up with the music for the column. There are pieces I knew already but others were a revelation. I found too many so there could be another column.


I’ll start with a very odd piece of music indeed. It begins quietly and is like that for about a minute so there’s nothing wrong with your computer (okay, I suppose there could be something wrong with it but don’t blame the music).

There are also lots of strange sound effects. These were on the CD but it isn’t someone like Spike Jones taking the mickey; this is for real, folks. It’s called Wellington's Victory or The Battle of Victoria. I guess they liked alternate titles back then.

It’s performed by Neville Mariner conducting the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. There may also be something in there you’ll recognize. It sounds to me like the soundtrack for a very odd war movie.

If you thought Tchaikovsky first thought of using cannons in music, Ludwig beat him by about sixty years. In fact, you’d better duck your head, there’s so much fire power in this one.

♫ Wellington's Victory or the Battle of Victoria, Op. 91

Now for something completely different, something a little more conventional and a lot shorter, only 42 seconds long. Short is something else generally not associated with Ludwig.

Indeed, the title is longer than the piece itself. It’s Variations on “See the Conqu'ring Hero Comes” From Handel's Judas Maccabeus - Variation 1.

♫ 12 Variations on See the Conqu'ring Hero comes from Handel's Judas Maccabeus - Variation 1

That was so short we might as well have another one. This is Variation 2.

♫ 12 Variations on See the Conqu'ring Hero comes from Handel's Judas Maccabeus - Variation 2

There are twelve in all but I’ll quit while I’m ahead.

George Thomson was a publisher and collector of folk songs in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He got composers of the day to set these to music and paid them really well.

Ludwig was certainly up for this - after all, money was involved. He set dozens of Welsh, English, Scottish and Irish songs to his music. Later, he did the same with a number of European songs as well but George wasn’t involved in that enterprise.

Here is one of the Irish songs, The Elfin Fairies, sung by Barbara Schedel and Kerstin Wagner.

♫ The Elfin Fairies

The flute isn’t an instrument you normally think of when Ludwig’s name is mentioned. This is a piece I considered for my column on flutes but decided it should appear here.

This has the great Jean-Pierre Rampal fluting away with Christian Larde and Alain Marion playing along with him. It’s the trio in G Major for 3 flutes and is subtitled Spurious” for some reason.

♫ Trio pour 3 flutes en Sol Majeur Spurious - I. Allegro

Ludwig wrote a whole bunch of dances but they’re all really short. I guess they didn’t have much stamina back then or a really short attention span. Here are a couple of them. This first is taken from a set of 12 Contredanses for Small Orchestra. It’s No. 1.

♫ 12 Contredanses pour Petit Orchestre, WoO14 - No.01 en Do Majeur

The next is from a different set of dances, this time from a group of 11, mainly for woodwind instruments. I really like this one, it’s also No. 1. It’s a Dance for 7 String and Wind Instruments.

♫ 11 danses pour 7 cordes & instruments à vent, WoO17 - No.01 Valse en Mi Bémol Majeur


Something a little more conventional. Here is the first movement from the String Quartet in B flat major Op. 18 No. 6. It’s a really sunny sort of work - however, not simple. It can stand repeated playing without losing its charm as I found while preparing this.

♫ String Quartet in B flat major Op. 18 No. 6 (1)

Back to the woodwinds. Ludwig wrote quite a number of works for various forms of wind ensembles, including three for duos of clarinet and bassoon. This is the first movement of the Duo clarinet and bassoon, No 1 in C major.

♫ Duos for clarinet & bassoon, WoO27 No.1 in C Major (1)

Another really nice, and short, work for woodwinds, and a couple of French horns as well. The March for 2 Clarinets, 2 Horns & 2 Bassoons in B Flat Major, WoO29.

♫ March for 2 clarinets, 2 horns & 2 bassoons in B Flat Major, WoO29

Ludwig’s piano sonatas are about the best things written for a solo piano. These are major works and aren’t really suited to the column today. Instead, here are some piano pieces that are nowhere near as long or as intricate as those others.

These are generally considered dances and I can see folks tripping the light fantastic to them. There are several CDs of them but I’ve chosen three from a series called Deutsche Tänze. The first of these is Dance No. 3.

♫ 12 Deutsche Tänze, WoO13 - No.03 en SolMajeur

Next is Dance No. 7.

♫ 12 Deutsche Tänze, WoO13 - No.07 en Ré Majeur

Finally, Dance No. 10.

♫ 12 Deutsche Tänze, WoO13 - No.10 en Do Majeur


INTERESTING STUFF: 17 November 2012

When the new Congress is sworn in in January, it will be the most reflective of the U.S. in history. Among the new members are four African-Americans, 10 Latinos, five Asian-Americans, the first Hindu and first Buddhist senator, even the first non-theist. Take a look at the chart (click for larger, readable version):

You can read more about these big changes at thinkprogress. (Hat tip to Nancy Leitz)

Surely you remember what is now an iconic image from Hurricane Sandy:

Did you catch that part where the reporter said the surrounding areas were being evacuated? Well, now there is a wonderful, feel-good story about residents who were forced out of their building, The Osborne, and their super:

”...the gathering on Monday evening in the apartment building’s lobby was really a surprise thank-you party for the resident manager, John Coyne, who had borrowed a ladder, scaled a wall and sneaked back inside when the streets in the neighborhood were still closed off.

“From somewhere inside the building, Mr. Coyne sent residents reassuring e-mails saying that it had survived the storm and that their cats had been fed. And their goldfish. And their hermit crabs.”

Here is Coyne at the thank-you party surrounded by the grateful residents. (Photo credit; Yana Paskova)

Osborne super

”[In his email updates to residents, Coyne] provided more than a just-the-facts report on life in a largely empty building. On Oct. 31, he sent an e-mail that said, 'Beginning to feel a little bit like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Happy Halloween, alone in the Osborne!'”

You can read more here and the details are worth the click.

According to a Gallup survey of 177,663 American adults, there is no state among the 50 where a majority of residents are not overweight or obese.

Obesity Gallup

West Virginia, Mississippi and Kentucky win the prize for the fattest states. Colorado, Hawaii and Rhode Island are the skinniest states with, respectively, 55.1 percent, 55.9 percent and 57.2 percent overweight or obese.

Which leads me to believe that it's a good thing for the health of the nation that Hostess, maker of Twinkies, has succumbing to bankruptcy and is shutting down.

You can read more about the Gallup obesity survey here.

I've read the voice-over material in this video many times and it's even more fun with these vintage images. So, for every elder and older boomer:

Hat tip to Susan Gulliford of Hillsborough NJ Journal who suggested a few other dangerous things we survived in our childhoods:

No sunscreen
Pin the tail on the donkey with real pins
Metal-pointed darts
Hooded sweatshirts with strings

Eighty-year-old writer Gay Talese, a legend to many and a card-carrying member of the New York City elite literati, keeps a man cave in the cellar of his townhouse in Manhattan. This is a fascinating tour of it from New York magazine:

TGB reader Nana Royer sent this video of Ray Bethel and his aerial ballet with three kites at once titled Romancing the Wind. The music is Flower Duet from “Lakme” by Delibes with Joan Sutherland singing. Enjoy.

TGB Sunday Elder Music musicologist, Peter Tibbles, has apparently been spending some extra time on YouTube and has a penchant I didn't know about for cute animals. He made some excellent choices.

This, also from Tibbles, is irresistable.

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.

Old Age 4500 Years Ago

”O sovreign my Lord! Oldness has come; old age has descended. Feebleness has arrived; dotage is here anew.

“The heart sleeps wearily every day. The eyes are weak, the ears are deaf, the strength is disappearing because of weariness of heart, and the mouth is silent and cannot speak.

“The heart is forgetful and cannot recall yesterday. The bone suffers old age. God is become evil. All taste is gone. What old age does to men is evil in every respect.”

Those are the words of Ptah Hotep, a scribe in the court of Pharoah Izezi who ruled during Egypt's fifth dynasty, about 2450 B.C. His is the earliest known personal writing about old age and is quoted in George Minois's important 1987 book, History of Old Age.

As I have mentioned in a couple of past posts, I am researching the history of old age and although I'm not ready to state so unequivocably (I have lots more work to do), the high point of respect for elders appears to have existed in the cultures of the Fertile Crescent long before even the Hellenistic period.

Long life in Ptah Hotep's day was a divine reward for the just and even though he laments his physical decay, explains Minois, he fervently wishes old age for his son:

”May you live as long as me. What I have done on the earth is negligible. The king has granted me a hundred and ten years of life and preeminent favour among ancients, because I have served the king well until death.”

Fifth century B.C. Historian, Herodotus, admired the veneration of elders in ancient societies and judged it worthy of mention

”...because it contrasted with the current Hellenic practice of his age, when, as we will see,” Minois tells us, “only the Spartans seemed to respect old age.

“Herodotus also observed that old Egyptians were not abandoned, since their daughters were obliged by custom to look after them: 'Sons are under no compulsion to support their parents if they do not wish to do so, but daughters must, whether they wish to or not.'”

Minois is careful to note that the rarity of texts about old people from the ancient world make it difficult to know their exact condition. But he is comfortable saying,

”...the pre-Hellenic world, if it was already fully aware of the fundamental ambiguity of old age, granted the old an honorable place, which they would find only exceptionally in the centuries to come.

“The absence of satires directed against the old is significant,” continues Minois. “Old men and women, whom the art and literature of later ages took pleasure in ridiculing, were treated worthily here...

“[I]n a world where writing was a rarity, they were living archives and represented the law. In an unchanging universe their experience was never outdated and always useful...

“In spite of the physical sufferings brought on by old age, they were not wrong to consider their longevity as a divine blessing,” says Minois. “Listened to and held in honor, they exercised real power as patriarchs and counsellors.”

It will take a long time before I finish researching, noting and making sense of all the information I am collecting but now and again, I find something that I would like to tell you.

Most of it is bare bones at this point and, like this today, lacking context. So if you find that to be too skimpy and uninteresting, let me know and I'll wait until it can be more complete.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: The Great September Gale

Age and Treachery...

category_bug_ageism.gif Remember that ancient joke about old age and treachery beating youth and skill?

How about we reverse it: old age and skill beat youth and treachery every time. Take a look:

Can I have a standing ovation – right here, right now – for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi?

I'm sure Luke Russert still doesn't know what hit him. How could he? He was handed a prestigious job the year he finished college in 2008, without an iota of training and for no reason than his beloved father had pull at the network.

Aspiring television journalists with the poor judgment to be born into no-name families put in 10, 15, even 20 years covering school board meetings at small-town television stations and maybe a war zone or two before becoming network correspondents in New York and Washington, D.C.

If there had been any doubt that Luke Russert is (literally) not ready for prime time, his question to Ms. Pelosi proves he needs to be sent back to farm team for a few years – not for punishment, but to outgrow his counterfactual prejudice and gain some basic reporting skills.

To be fair, it probably isn't Russert's fault. Some older, grown-up executive who is paid lots of money at NBC made a terrible assumption: that a famous last name can substitute for experience even when the news beat is a difficult, complex political institution that can, sometimes, hold the fate of the world in its hands.

Even if he was thrust into a job he is unprepared for, you would think Russert would have learned something more about "diplomacy and interpersonal skills" in four years on Capitol Hill than he displayed yesterday. He deserves every word of Pelosi's elegant smackdown.

(Hat tip to Faith Olson and others for forwarding this video clip yesterday.)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Renee Watkins: Journal 10.30.12

How Not to be an Old Person

With so many baby boomers entering their mid-sixties, being old has become the new cool age group for the media. They vie among themselves for attention, intent on advising Crabby Old Lady on how to avoid being old – or, at least, to not be perceived that way.

They don't say it out loud, but the can't-miss message is that it's not good to be old. They never give a reason but it is obvious that old people behaving like – well, old people somehow offends the sensibilities of the world at large and especially younger people.

Apparently, we dress badly and the biggest fashion faux pas in their judgment is elastic waistbands. (Oh, what Crabby wouldn't give to live long enough to see how quickly they change their minds when they get old.)

They don't much like our hair either, preferring that the gray be colored away, and we simply must, must, must keep it cut short.

Long hair on old women, you see, might be mistaken for sexy which disturbs young people's idea of their elders. Well, they don't say that, but it's what they mean.

(Yes, yes, Crabby knows - it's confusing. On the one hand, we are supposed to look young; on the other, not too young. Crabby wishes they'd get their messages organized. She's having trouble keeping up.)

Crabby gets a lot of spam email urging her to hire a life coach specializing in “senior citizens” to show her how to be old and wonderful and get the most out of her later years.

Crabby already thinks she is wonderful and she is adequately fulfilled. But if you believe someone else (almost always a couple of decades younger than you) can tell you how best to live, go for it.

Do keep in mind, however, that there are no academic standards for life coaching and many get their “certificates” after a few hours of online training for about $500-$600.

Republicans in Congress keep threatening to raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 and the age for full Social Security benefits to 69 or 70. Crabby guesses that means their advice for the nation's elders is to keep working - an okay idea for people capable of it, but nobody seems to have explained age discrimination to Congress let alone physical impediments to continued employment.

Crabby sometimes wonders if those Congress people are in cahoots with “experts” who advise elders to start businesses. Of course, no start-up evangelists mention that about 33 percent of new businesses fail in the first six months, 50 percent are gone within two years and 75 percent within three – undoubtedly along with the elders' life savings.

Then there are the standard suggestions: take a class, join a club, travel, volunteer, find a part-time job – the ones you and Crabby have read hundreds of times.

None are bad ideas – Crabby Old Lady and many other old folks get quite a bit of pleasure from doing those things. But Crabby always has to laugh that the writers reveal them as though the ideas have been a secret until now and think they deserve a Nobel Prize for their originality.

What makes Crabby Old Lady laugh the most, however, are the websites and magazines aimed at elders (invariably called boomers because no one can be old, you know) where for every story about how to look ten years younger there are ten more about cholesterol, arthritis, diabetes, living with MS, back pain, cancer, painful sex, managing prescription drugs, heart disease and every other affliction of old age plus a few new ones.

Is there anything that says old to young people faster than discussing our ailments?

Not that Crabby believes it's a bad idea to talk about our health. That's always been a bad rap for old folks since until the boomers made aging popular, no one ever talked or wrote about what old age is really like and they still don't do a very good job of it.

With a handful of excellent exceptions, the media stuff floating around advising us about how to behave in our old age is written by people who are too young to know anything at all about getting old. Their only idea about our sensibilities is that we're just wrinkled young people and it's hard to be more wrong.

Many years ago, Crabby Old Lady was asked to consult an internet startup aimed at elders. The first question she asked was how many people older than 60 were on the staff. The answer was none and in fact, there was no one older than 39 or 40.

Crabby didn't take the gig but she gave them one piece of advice that she stands by today for any endeavor aimed at boomers and elders: you cannot talk or write intelligently about old people without having a few of them (at least age 60) around to advise you.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Dad's Car

What is Ageism and What Is Not?

[EDITORIAL NOTE: A reader sent me the video that is the topic of today's post, but I've lost the message so please accept my apologies for not mentioning your name.

UPDATE: Some of you are having trouble seeing the video. There is nothing wrong with embed but there could be a zillion things causing in your browser to cause it now to play. Most of difficulties have to do with out-of-date plugins such as Flash, Java, Quicktime, etc.

This happens most often with non-YouTube videos. I cannot fix it at this end. It is something in your browser. For Firefox users, here is a page of potential fixes.

You can also view the clip at NBC but if the problem is with your browser settings, updates, etc. it will not play there either.

category_bug_ageism.gif Let me proclaim up front that I am a big-time fan – have been for a long time - of comedian, Louis C.K. He's filthy, profane, mean, bizarre, nasty, offensive and when, after a couple of viewings, you get over all that, he is also laugh-out-loud funny.

Louis regularly goes right up to the edge of decency, then steps over it and stomps around in the mess he's made. But when he's finished and takes his bow, you've been poked in the ribs with a new perspective or two on something you had not considered that way before.

On the weekend following Hurricane Sandy, Louis C.K. hosted Saturday Night Live and although his opening monologue touched on the storm, the main topic was the story of his encounter with an old woman at JFK airport.

That's all I'm going to say. Just watch the video (he cleans up his act a lot for television), watch the whole thing and then we'll talk some more on the other side.

So did you laugh? I sure did - in all the places he intended us to. Then I watched it again and laughed some more.

In the first half of the piece, I was offended for all the old ladies who have ever been made fun of in such a manner. But then Louis C.K. did what he does so often and so well – a complete reversal exposing his sweet and vulnerable side...

You know what? Never mind. It's never a good thing to analyze comedy.

Tell us where you stand on this.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Daniels Brown: The March for Women's Lives, 2004

One Hard Truth About Getting Old

EDITORIAL NOTE: Due to a technical glitch (read: Ronni screwed up), Peter Tibbles' Elder Music column did not go out via email and rss feeds yesterday until evening. If you missed it, please do check in – it's worth your time.

category_bug_journal2.gif After accounting for 16 years of childhood, one six-year marriage and a four-year relationship – all of them long ago - I have lived alone for 45 of my 71 years.

I am good at living alone and I like it. Some others want people around much of the time but not me. I don't believe I have been bored for a moment in my life. There are books and music and cooking and projects and exercise and movies and writing and friends and the internet and the cat and - sitting quietly. By myself.

The bigger problem is finding time for all the things I want to do, especially all the things that piled up during the 50-odd years I worked and had no time for them.

Plus, I can eat whatever and whenever I like without wondering if the other person will be happy with just soup tonight. And when I decide a pint of Haagen-Dazs will be dinner tonight instead, there is no one to chastise me.

I can slum around the house in my ugliest old sweats all day without brushing my hair. There is no one to see me while my denture soaks, or to notice my balding pate. I would hate that.

My home is arranged to suit my sensibilities. No compromises. No world's ugliest chair because it's his favorite; only my own. And no one with whom to grapple for the TV clicker. You can accuse me of selfishness about such things as these and you would be right. That's okay; I don't mind the label.

I can go out and decide not come home all day or even overnight without worrying that someone wonders where I am. And there is no one to offend if I'm feeling grumpy and don't want to talk – or listen.

I realize that for people married a long time most of this is not a burden and that, probably, those who become widows and widowers have a terrible time adjusting to what is comfortable for me.

My house never feels empty because aside from serial cat companions, it always has been empty. That is as normal to me as sunrise and has pleased me for more than four decades.

Except, just recently, for fleeting moments now and then, it pops into my thoughts that it would be nice – more than in the four decades past - to have someone to love, someone besides me and the cat to care for day in and day out.

And that's a hard truth about being old. Whether, like me, you've been single most of your life or are newly so, it is likely to remain as is for the rest of our lives.

It is in this situation (and some others that arise) when it is easier to see how strong and brave and resilient old people are – you and me and every elder. We keep on truckin' whatever our circumstances and most people we meet never know what aches in our private hearts.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Higher Than a Kite

ELDER MUSIC: Rock Around the Clock

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 The song Rock Around the Clock was one of the most important songs in the development and history of rock & roll, the only other one that matched it was Heartbreak Hotel.

With a column named “Rock Around the Clock” you’d expect Bill Haley to show his head somewhere but I’m going to surprise you by saying that he won’t be in this week at all.

“How could that be?” I hear you ask. Well, someone out there asked it. All will become clear. I hope. Besides, his version is so well known it’s not necessary for me to play it.

I am going to play Rock Around the Clock though. Bill’s wasn’t the first version of that song. The honors go to a group called SUNNY DAE AND HIS KNIGHTS.

Sunny Dae and His Knights

Their version is more jump blues than rock & roll, with a bit of jazz as well. The song was written by James Myers who was Bill Haley’s manager.  However, the owner of Bill’s record label detested James and refused to allow Bill to record it.

James offered the song to Pascal Vennitti (Sunny Dae’s real name) and the group recorded it. It was only a moderate success. Bill’s record company relented and he recorded it some months after Sunny and his crew and it could be said to have changed the world. However, here’s the original.

♫ Sunny Dae and the Knights - Rock Around the Clock

BIG JOE TURNER was another artist from whom Bill copped a bunch of songs.

Big Joe Turner

This isn’t one of them but it could be considered the prototype for the song we’re interested in today. I think Chuck Berry may have listened to it as well - there are more than a few hints of his Reelin’ and Rockin’ in this one. The song is Around The Clock Blues.

♫ Big Joe Turner - Around The Clock Blues

It’s not all rock & roll today, but they all have something to do with clocks. NAT KING COLE, and many others, recorded this next song.

Nat King Cole

We are starting around the clock with Nat with his trio performing One O'Clock Jump.

♫ Nat King Cole Trio - One O'Clock Jump

Time passes, we’re up to three o’clock. There don’t seem to be any two o’clock songs, at least not in my collection. I suppose I could have included Quarter to Three, i.e. 2:45, but that’d be cheating a little.

I’d have done it if I were pushed for songs, but I’m not. Besides rock & roll, a number of these tunes I found are blues and this is so for the next one. It’s B.B. KING.

B. B. King

The king of the blues performs Three O’Clock Blues.

♫ B. B. King - Three O’Clock Blues

Another hour has passed. Here it is at 4 o’clock. Now I must admit that I hadn’t heard of TOOTER BOATMAN before I started searching my collection for clock songs and there he was on one of my “various” CDs singing this song. When I played it I knew it was an instant inclusion.

Tooter Boatman

Tooter and his band, The Chaparrals, toured around Texas in the second half of the fifties playing small towns and occasionally in cities. Towards the end of that decade, the various members of his band drifted off elsewhere and the heyday of Tooter came to an end.

Here he performs with the band Life Begins at 4 O'Clock.

♫ Tooter Boatman - Life Begins at 4 O'Clock

Time passes slowly up here in the mountains, to quote his Bobness, and it’s still 4 o’clock.

Stanley Mitchell was from Detroit and after a stint singing in his local church he performed in a whole bunch of groups, mostly in the DooWop style around Detroit and elsewhere. Eventually he formed a group with Charles Sutton called The Tornados.

As Stan was the lead singer, they were mostly billed as STANLEY MITCHELL AND THE TORNADOS.

Stanley Mitchell and the Tornados

They got a recording contract with Chess records and went to Chicago where they recorded Four O'Clock In The Morning and several other songs. In spite of good reviews, the record didn’t sell well and after a while Chess dropped them from their roster.

The group recorded for several small Detroit record companies but failed to make a big dent on the charts. In spite of all that, it’s still a good song and it fits with the theme today.

♫ Stanley Mitchell and The Tornados - Four O'Clock In The Morning

Well, it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere. That’s definitely a cue for ALAN JACKSON with a little help from JIMMY BUFFETT.

Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett

We’re adding a bit of country with Alan and Jimmy to an extent. I like to mix things up a bit. This is a song for all the workers out there who come to lunch time and really wish it were a bit later. The song is It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere.

♫ Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett - It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere

By the sound of that song we could be stuck in 5 o’clock for some time but we managed to get away from there (or then). It’s now 6 o’clock.

People in Australia of a certain age (round about mine), every Saturday evening in the late fifties, early sixties, sat in front of the TV for Six O’Clock Rock. This was hosted by the first great rocker this country produced, JOHNNY O’KEEFE.

Johnny O'Keefe

Each episode started the same way, with Johnny singing the theme: ”Weeeeeellll, come on everybody it’s 6 o'clock uh huh huh” (and so on).

We’d find out the latest hits in this country and from America (for that’s where most of the music came from at that time). Here’s Johnny with that theme tune.

♫ Johnny O'Keefe - Six O'clock Rock

Now a song I first heard performed by the Everly Brothers. I know it’s older than that but I didn’t come across it earlier or if I did, I had removed it from my brain. I seriously considered using their version until I heard SAM COOKE perform it and there was no contest.

Sam Cooke

I don’t need to tell you about Sam or if I do, you can read about him here. Here he is with Grandfather's Clock.

♫ Sam Cooke - Grandfather's Clock

An appropriate way to end this is with Stop the Clock by FATS DOMINO.

Fats Domino

Unfortunately, it’s far from Fats’ best song but it’s a clock song and we have to end this somehow and it fitted into that role perfectly. The song came towards the end of his extraordinary 15-year creative period beginning in the late forties.

♫ Fats Domino - Stop the Clock