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An Update: The Best Books on Aging

blogging bug image It's hard for me to keep up with the housekeeping around this blog, but four-and-a-half years is a bit much even for my lazy ass. Imagine if I hadn't dusted the house in that long?

But that's what it's been since I last updated the Best Books on Aging section over there at the top of TGB Features on the right sidebar.

Actually, it's worse that that. Today's is the first update ever as I haven't touched the page since it was first posted in August of 2008. Oh well. Better now than never.

The prompt to do this arrived as a result over the past weeks of a succession of “comments” from several writers on the book page linking to their books as if Time Goes By is an advertising and marketing website free to one and all.

It is not. They have been removed along with all other comments that have accumulated since the section was launched and I have now permanently shut down comments on that page.

By their generally accepted nature, best-of lists are selective. (What good are they if they're not?) And by my personal nature, I'm an extremely tough critic so this list – chosen from several hundred books about aging I've read in the past 20 years – totals just 17, including the newly added ones.

As noted, readers will no longer be able to add books in the comments. Everyone is always welcome to suggest additional books via email (click “contact” in the upper left corner of all pages) but since it has been so long since the last update, I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you. And, of course, I reserve the right to reject suggestions that don't meet my standards for best.

So, you can click on the title of the section in the right sidebar or click here to see the update with some notes from me and quotations. Here is a list of the newly added books:

The Art of Aging, A Doctor's Prescription for Well-Being by Sherwin B. Nuland

The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life by Gene D. Cohen, M.D.

The Long History of Old Age edited by Pat Thane

My Twice-Lived Life by Donald M. Murray

Old Age by Simone de Beauvoir

Old Age: Journey into Simplicity by Helen M Luke

Somewhere Toward the End, A Memoir by Diana Athill

Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying by Ram Dass

Travels with Epicurus, A Journey to a Greek Island in Search of a Fulfilled Life by Daniel Klein

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dolores Banerd: Shock and Awe

Old Age and Daily Routine

If you Google “old age and routine,” you get only two relevant returns: one I wrote in 2008 and another from the Telegraph from 2011.

I did this search after reading a comment from Mary Follett a few days ago at The Elder Storytelling Place:

“I work 3 days a week,” said Mary, “and notice lately if my days get switched, I am off my feed, so to speak, for a week.”

Me too, when my general routine is disrupted. Here's a part of what I wrote in that post nearly five years ago:

”Careful organization might appear boring to many, but it keeps me moving. I alternate brain and physical tasks during the nine or ten hours a day that I’m capable of functioning well and I don’t often vary my routine.”

I am not a slave to my routine, but it seems to keep me balanced and like Mary Follett, my world feels a bit off-kilter if I ignore it. When events require a change in routine, I handle it better if I have a couple of days to plan.

God knows I could be wrong, but the need for routine in old age feels obvious to me, something that benefits elders, that may improve life and yet I've never seen it referenced in the literature of aging I've been reading for nearly 20 years. So I was interested in the Telegraph piece by annanicholas, an ex-pat Brit who lives on Majorca. She titled her story, Is routine the key to old age?

”When I met John Evans, a retired coal miner from Wales, and at the time the oldest man in Britain,” she writes, “he told me that he had always kept a regular pattern to his eating and sleeping habits and stimulated his brain every day...

“Arthur [Cook Merrick] was another believer in regular exercise and having a simple but effective daily routine part of which was keeping up with current affairs...

“The French 113 year-old, Jeanne Calment, an avid reader, rode a bicycle until she was 100 and regularly smoked and drank her favourite tipple.”

Each of these old old people and others in their 90s and 100s whom annanicholas spoke with also work exercise into their daily routines but the point of the the story, and it rings true for me, is that routine was a common aspect of the lives of these people who did not just live longer than most others, but were active and healthy into extreme old age.

Throughout my childhood and adult life until retirement, routine was set for me by school and then work. It was pretty much the same schedule five days a week for half a century, so maybe routine, after a lifetime of it, is just comfortable for me and therefore not really remarkable.

But it feels more important than that, even if I seem to notice my need for routine mostly when it is absent, and that it may be another piece of the puzzle to putting together a satisfying old age.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Old Friends

Sleep and Short-Term Memory

category_bug_journal2.gif Old people regularly lament our short-term memory lapses and we often do it with rueful jokes as if we are whistling past the graveyard of brain cells. An example from a story here in 2009 when I lived in Maine:

”ITEM: I go the kitchen for a glass of water. I am momentarily distracted because the cat wants a pet and then I return to the library before I recall that I am thirsty.

“ITEM: I bundle myself into my winter outdoor gear and walk the six blocks to the local mini-grocery for a single item – a loaf of their excellent sour dough bread. While I’m there, the owner offers me a taste of a new cheese he has received. I buy a chunk and return home without the bread...

“Basically, these days, I do many things twice,” I wrote, in an attempt to lighten the fear too many of such incidents incur.

In the four years since I posted that, my short-term memory has gotten even shorter. It appears now that it is possible, in the second or two it takes to pick up a pen, to forget what the reminder is that I had intended to jot down.

That quote above was the lead-in to a study I was reporting that compared the memories of young and old people and showed, said the researchers, that elder brains have trouble ignoring extraneous information which results in overload and, therefore, dropped bits of information.

It was a reassuring study implying that if elders focused more carefully and indulged in less multi-tasking, our forgetfulness might be alleviated or, at least, reduced.

Now comes a new young/old brain study reported in The New York Times on Sunday suggesting something different:

”...that structural brain changes occurring naturally over time interfere with sleep quality, which in turn blunts the ability to store memories for the long term.”

Alarmingly, those “structural brain changes” involve loss of brain tissue [emphasis is mine]:

”In the study, the research team took brain images from 19 people of retirement age and from 18 people in their early 20s. It found that a brain area called the medial prefrontal cortex, roughly behind the middle of the forehead, was about one-third smaller on average in the older group than in the younger one — a difference due to natural atrophy over time, previous research suggests.”

The tests involved word memorization. Each age group was asked to recall the same sets of words and after about 25 minutes, the young group outscored the old group in recall by about 25 percent. But the bigger difference occurred after a night's sleep:

”On a second test, given in the morning, the younger group outscored the older group by about 55 percent.

“The estimated amount of atrophy in each person roughly predicted the difference between his or her evening and morning scores, the study found. Even seniors who were very sharp at night showed declines after sleeping.

“The analysis showed that the differences were due not to changes in capacity for memories, but to differences in sleep quality.”

Nothing can be done about the pre-frontal brain atrophy, but there may be other options:

”The findings suggest that one way to slow memory decline in aging adults is to improve sleep, specifically the so-called slow-wave phase, which constitutes about a quarter of a normal night’s slumber...

“ least two groups are experimenting with electrical stimulation as a way to improve deep sleep in older people.

“By placing electrodes on the scalp, scientists can run a low current across the prefrontal area, essentially mimicking the shape of clean, high-quality slow waves.

“The result: improved memory, at least in some studies. 'There are also a number of other ways you can improve sleep, including exercise,' said Ken Paller, a professor of psychology and the director of the cognitive neuroscience program at Northwestern University, who was not involved in the research.”

I hope you noted the important reference to exercise in the last paragraph.

I try to counter my short-term memory holes with lists and to a reasonable degree, they work. It's those five-second walks from one room to another during which the goal disappears from my brain that are most irritating.

I'd sure like to find some that electrical stimulation therapy to improve my sleep.

You can read The Times story here. The full study in Nature Neuroscience is behind a pay firewall.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Proof of Age

Too Old To Run for Congress?

category_bug_ageism.gif On Saturday, I received a query from Huffington Post Live about appearing today on a panel discussion titled Too Old to Run? Circumstances prevented my participation but not my consideration of the question.

[NOTE: You can see the live discussion on HuffPost from 1PM to 1:30PM eastern U.S. time (10AM - 10:30AM Pacific) by clicking this link where the segment will be archived too for future viewing.]

The idea for the discussion on Huffpost came about from a story at The Atlantic website titled “Senator Frank Lautenberg is Too Old to Run for Reelection” written by Conor Friedersdorf.

A sampling of Friedersdorf's indictment of the New Jersey senator:

”He'd be starting a new term while fifteen years older than the average life-expectancy for American males. What are the odds he'd survive in adequate health until 2020?...

“...don't candidates owe their constituents the promise that, to the best of their ability to estimate, they'll be capable of finishing the job?

“At what point should voters consider age in general?...

“New Jersey Supreme Court justices must retire at 70.”

Well, I dunno – what were the odds of John F. Kennedy surviving until 1964? And New Jersey justices may be forced to retire, but U.S. Supreme Court justices are appointed for life. They may choose to retire, but they are otherwise expected to serve until the end.

I don't buy the death argument at all. Congress and the states deal with accidents, illnesses, resignations and deaths all the time.

In fact, since 1960, at least 34 senators have died in office and the republic did not fall.

If we were to seriously consider term limits for Congress members, what age should be the cutoff? How would that decision be arrived at? Who would make the decision?

Let us keep in mind, as we often state here, that people age at dramatically different rates. Capabilities at a given year of the far end of life are wildly individual and not the same.

I see no reason to mandate age limits and you never know, the country might even gain from some old-age-related wisdom if some elder pols hang around Congress beyond an expiration date set by an uninformed pundit.

What do you think?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Meryl Baer: No Class and Am I Crazy?

ELDER MUSIC: Don’t Get Around Much Anymore

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 It’s time for another variation on a single song. As the heading suggests, this is Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.

The tune was written by Duke Ellington and he called it Never No Lament. His band recorded it and had a bit of a hit with it in 1940.

Bob Russell wrote words to it and changed the name. Duke’s group rerecorded it and it made the charts once again a couple of years later along with several other vocal versions, at least one of which will be included today.

I’ll start with that original version. This is the DUKE ELLINGTON band with Don't Get Around Much Anymore or Never No Lament. Take your pick.

Duke Ellington

No matter what it’s called, it’s very definitely the tune we know.

♫ Duke Ellington - Don't Get Around Much Anymore

One of those versions that made the charts at the same time as Duke was by the INK SPOTS.

Ink Spots

The Ink Spots were as big as they come in 1943 when they made number 2 on the charts with their version (didn’t quite hit that top spot with this song, but they did with several others).

The membership of the group was rather fluid about this time due to members joining the army and the like. Later it was fluid due to ructions within the group and general attrition. Here they are at their peak.

♫ Ink Spots - Don't Get Around Much Anymore

B.B. KING pulls out all the stops with his version of the song.

B.B. King

I’m used to hearing B.B. in a more stripped backed musical setting; this is an interesting variation on his usual style. I admit to preferring the smaller group that he mostly uses but here is something different for you.

♫ B.B. King - Don't Get Around Much Anymore

Nat King Cole is missing from today’s column, but MOSE ALLISON is here to fill his spot.

Mose Allison

Mose started his career playing with Stan Getz, Gerry Mulligan, Zoot Sims and others. That’s not a bad start. He’s a hugely influential artist and many rock and blues performers consider him a major influence.

About ten years ago, he said that he wasn’t going to record any more albums, however, a couple of years ago a new one popped out. Let’s hope there are still more to come. This is Mose’s interpretation of the song.

♫ Mose Allison - Don't Get Around Much Anymore

LOUIS ARMSTRONG’s version is interesting.

Louis Armstrong

It begins with his great trumpet playing, then his distinctive singing (with some fine clarinet playing backing him). After that, there’s some piano playing that is closer to modern jazz than Louis’s usual style. Then there’s that trumpet again.

Of course, it was rather superfluous my telling you that as you can hear it for yourselves.

♫ Louis Armstrong - Don't Get Around Much Anymore

WILLIE NELSON has made a point of recording all these great old songs over the years so it’s no surprise that the one we’re interested in today is among them.

Willie Nelson

Willie is, of course, a great jazz singer and pretty good jazz guitarist. I know people will say, “Come on, he’s a country singer.” My retort is to listen carefully. This is his interpretation of the song.

♫ Willie Nelson - Don't Get Around Much Anymore

It surprised me that the closest I came to a big band today was the version by SAM COOKE.

Sam Cooke

Although Sam is mostly known for gospel, pop and soul tunes he, like many of his contemporaries, recorded songs from the previous era of music – tunes from the thirties and forties. It was generally expected of them back then.

♫ Sam Cooke - Don't Get Around Much Any More

JOE PASS is one of the great jazz guitarists.


His work with Ella Fitzgerald made Ella worth listening to (Oooo, that’ll get the Ella fans offside with me). Anyway, this is purely instrumental and a lovely laid-back piece.

♫ Joe Pass - Don't Get Around Much Anymore

For a complete change of pace here’s DR JOHN (Mac Rebennack to his folks). This is the least traditional version we have today.

Dr John

It is New Orleans rock & roll, blues, whatever. The sort of things for which he is renowned.

Dr John - Don't Get Around Much Anymore

INTERESTING STUFF: 26 January 2013

Imagine if overnight words on a page all looked like gibberish. Imagine then, too, that you make your living as a writer. Take a look:

You can read more here:

Weird eerie pyramid sand dunes, right? Where do you think they could be?

Sand Dunes NY

Well, not so mysterious, after all. Bulldozers made them in Queens, New York when they were cleaning up sand after Hurricane Sandy. Boring explanation, but they are still startling to see.

There are more photos here with some additional explanation. (Photo by Stephane Messier)

Nothing important or startling here. Just a nice little chat with a wonderful actor of our generation talking about his role in Batman and some other things.

No, this is not a goose egg and certainly not an ostrich egg. Just a plain old chicken egg the size of which you've never seen. What could possibly be inside?

The pylons under Portland, Oregon's Sellwood Bridge are in need of replacing lest the bridge fall down. After building temporary supports, last week engineers moved the bridge from its failing foundation.

The big trick was that one end needed to move 33 inches and the other end 66 inches. Wow. It took a whole day and this is a time lapse video of the maneuver:

Five days later, cars were using the bridge again. You can read a lot more detail of the operation here.

TGB's Sunday music columnist, Peter Tibbles, found this news story comparing salaries and other working conditions of the United States and Australia.

”...full-time permanent employees in Australia, from toilet cleaners to chief executives, get at least ten sick days, 20 vacation days and (depending on the state) ten or more paid holidays every year. Everyone. All over Australia.

Of course, there is a catch. Part-time and temp workers don't get these benefits. Instead, they get paid an extra 20 percent to 25 percent in cash compensation. As a result, a part-time, entry-level adult fast food worker in Australia makes a minimum of $21.25 an hour. Oh, plus health insurance. That's universal in Australia.”

There is a lot more to make an American envious of Oz working conditions. Go read the whole story here.

Since 1977, I've had this framed poster of San Francisco's famous Sutro Baths on either my office wall or at home:

Sutro Baths Poster

I couldn't tell you why I've kept it front and center for so long; I've just never stopped liking it.

This past week, I ran across a short documentary about the history of the baths that were destroyed by fire in the 1960s.

You can read more about Sutro Baths here and you can see more footage of it in this clip from the 1958 movie, The Lineup that starred Eli Wallach.

Instead of ending with a cute kitty video (don't worry, there will be more in the future), here is a collection of amazing feats of human derring-do. There are definitely a lot of “don't try this at home” moments, but they are all astonishing.

The video was made recently to promote a song, Levitate by the band, Adouken. You can read about the video and the song here.

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.

VINTAGE TGB: What Happened to My Butt?

EDITORIAL NOTE: I needed a day off yesterday for a day trip to the Oregon coast with my friend and house guest, Jim Stone, so you are getting a vintage post from a couple of years ago. Everything I said still holds.

category_bug_journal2.gif We all had some silly fun with the Naked Guys' Balloon Dance in the Interesting Stuff post on Saturday.

I am sure that Marcia Mayo (who blogs at Well Aged With Some Marbling) is not the only one among you who, as she wrote in a comment, “kept trying to watch their crotches” to see if she could “check out their stuff.”

Come on, now. Admit it. You did the same thing. I certainly did.

Even so, I was more interested in their butts or, since they are British, their arses. What a nice collection of round, juicy, pat-able posteriors. Take a look:

Naked Balloon Guys Butts

Aren't they cute? Don't you want to grab them and squeeze?

That isn't common with guys. I remember a boss I had 40 years ago who, in his meanderings around the office, often passed my desk with his fanny directly in my line of sight. It was flat as a pancake, nothing there at all and I used to think that was a shame. He was otherwise such an attractive, interesting man.

Most men have moderately good bottoms – at least some small amount of meat to fill out their trousers – and the lucky few, like the balloon dancers, have spectacular backsides of the sort that show off particularly well in snug-fitting khakis, less so in jeans and hardly at all in suit pants.

Far more women have nice hind ends and although my sexual orientation leans otherwise, I can still appreciate a well-shaped female derriere.

For example, my own. Unlike guys, my tush looked best in jeans, especially men's Levi's 501s, and even better when paired with high-heeled shoes. I took full advantage of that in my younger years.

It's been a long while since I pranced around so attired and anyway, it's no longer possible, with a waist as wide as my hips, to fit into those sexy 501s.

But I still have to ask, what happened to my cute keister? It's not exactly flat now but there is no shape. I know this because – only for the purpose of this blog post, you understand - I checked it in an angled mirror.

There is none of the definition that once made men glance my way as I walked past. And it is not even a particularly fat ass. I am currently on my biennial diet to get rid of the excess weight that accumulates, but it doesn't gather in my rump. My body is more like that of an aging beer-drinker – all the fat goes to my waist and belly.

My hindquarters do not appear to have dropped much either, but the oomph is gone. (By the way, I produced a television show many years ago with the actress Julie Newmar who had invented - and patented - pantihose that lifts your buttocks.)

I can't say much about other elder women's bums but I suspect, since I don't recall having noticed any, that they are generally no more beauteous than my own.

A lot of old men, like that boss I mentioned, have no rear end at all, walking about with nothing to fill their saggy pants. Where do you suppose it goes?

I don't mind my wrinkles or little jowls anymore and I've accepted the crepe that is beginning to drape my neck. But, you know, I miss my quite excellent youthful fundament even though I have no idea what I would do with it if it were still there.

A final note: The English language has an amazing number of names for our bums and behinds. For no more reason than to amuse myself, I've used as many as I can think of without once repeating myself or checking a thesaurus. Have I missed any?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: The Moth

History of Old Age – The Ancients

It's been awhile but you may recall that I am working on a personal project, a history of old age. Previous posts here, here and here.

It's been slow going. I keep reading about the through the centuries – my collection of books and other materials grows - and I sure do mark them up. But getting around to organizing notes? Not so much. Not yet, anyway.

But one of the things that has become evident is that the ancients, the Greek and Roman philosophers, poets, playwrights liked to think and write about old age. They all did it.

There are many treatises “on aging” from poet Sappho (the lone woman) way back in (probably) the 6th century BCE to historian Diogenes Laertes in the 3rd century AD. And that doesn't count the medical texts describing the ailments of aging and their treatment from Hippocrates, Galen and others.

When he was in his early 60s, Cicero (Roman politician, 1st century BCE) said to a contemporaneous friend:

“I think it good to write something on age to be dedicated to you. For I would want to ease somewhat our burden of old age, which, if it is not already pressing hard upon us, certainly is fast approaching...

“For me, writing this book has been so delightful that it has not only erased all petty annoyances of old age but has also made old age soft and pleasant.”

That is a much sunnier view than second century BCE Roman poet Juvenal had. He found old age to be cruel in the extreme:

But with what ever-present sorrow age prolongs its hour-
face deformed and hideous and unlike itself,
skin transformed, a wrinkled hide,
cheeks in hanging folds-
behold in the Numidian shades a venerable baboon!
Young men are not all the same,
one is handsome, one a beau
one is stronger than another. In old age it's all the same-
lips that quiver when they speak,
hairless head and drivelling nose,
toothless jaws that cannot chew.
They are a burden to their wives,
to their children – and themselves...

As if that's not bad enough, there is more of the same for six or seven more stanzas.

Seneca the Roman Stoic (1st century AD) held views more in line with Cicero's:

“Old age is full of enjoyment of you know how to use it...Life is most delightful when it is on the down slope but not at the edge yet.

“Even when it trembles on the eaves it still has its pleasures, I opine, or else [the lost] pleasures are compensated by freedom from the need for them.”

Six centuries earlier, the Greek poet Anacreon was not nearly as sanguine about losing one particular pleasure:

The women tell me every day
That all my bloom has passed away.
'Behold,' the pretty wantons cry,
'Behold this mirror with a sigh;
The locks upon they brow are few,
And like the rest, they're withering too!'
Whether decline has thinned my hair
I'm sure I neither know nor care;
But this I know, and this I feel,
As onward to the tomb I steal,
That still, as death approaches nearer,
The joys of life are sweeter, dearer,
And had I but an hour to live,
That little hour to bliss I'd give.

That's just a sampling.

Of course, all the writers were of the upper classes and they don't tell us about how the riff-raff (let alone, women) aged or even if they lived to 70, 80 and 90 as did many of the philosophers and poets whose works have survived.

But whether they welcomed old age or abhorred it, whether they feared it or embraced it, they did not flinch from it. They made it part of their daily lives and conversations. They wrote books and poems and plays about it. And even those who lamented their lost youth did not try to fool people into believing anyone could be young again.

Unlike the zillions of quack anti-aging books and products of our era.

To end, I'll return to Cicero for one more thought on aging; about the demeanor of old men [emphasis is mine]:

"But, it will be said, old men are fretful, fidgety, ill-tempered, and disagreeable. If you come to that, they are also avaricious. But these are faults of character, not of time of life...

"The fact is that, just as it is not every wine, so it is not every life, that turns sour from keeping...

"What the object of senile avarice may be I cannot conceive. For can there be anything more absurd that to seek more journey money, the less there remains of the journey?"

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Our Sex Life is Changing

Ageism and Oprah Winfrey

category_bug_ageism.gif Clearly, I have not been paying attention. I had thought Oprah Winfrey made a big deal a few years ago about retiring from television. I was greatly relieved then because throughout the 25 or 30 years of her TV show, Oprah spent countless hours foisting useless anti-aging remedies on her viewers.

I assumed all that was finally finished until a couple of weeks ago when I began seeing promos for Oprah. It took me awhile to figure out that she's got another network now and is doing it all over again.

I had been making notes for an update to past posts here about her decades of extolling the virtues of eternal youth at any cost but I then ran across a post I could have written word-for-word. Kavan Peterson, a friend who is the editor at geriatrician Bill Thomas's website, ChangingAging, beat me to it:

”Let’s leave aside the fact that Oprah is arguably one of the most powerful promoters of anti-aging products in the industry,” writes Kavan.

“Let’s forget about the dozens of episodes of her talk show focused on extreme and even dangerous anti-aging quackery, featuring anti-aging wingnuts like Suzanne Somers. And let’s not even mention the anti-aging guru she created, Dr. Oz.”

Took the words right out of my mouth, Kavan. He was reacting to this recent video from Oprah in which she tries to pivot toward embracing aging:

But as Kavan points out, Winfrey does not have the slightest clue that the word “still” - as in, she is STILL active and vibrant – is condescending and demeaning.

“Translation,” writes Kavan, “you need to still be able to do stuff to matter when you’re old.”

If you can't do stuff anymore, Oprah apparently does not see your or anyone else's worth.

Now that she's getting up there in years (57), Oprah may eventually make some progress in understanding growing old and with the appropriate attitude could even undo some of the damage she has done to elders promoting the likes of Somers and Oz. We will have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, Kavan pretty much nailed what I would have written so you should go read his piece.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine - May Sarton: A Personal Remembrance

“The Commitments We Make to Each Other”

category_bug_politics.gif TGB Reader John left a comment after President Barack Obama's speech yesterday:

"The speech was wonderful. Fox news headline: Obama declares 'Hands off Entitlements.' Hooray!

Well, Fox News, as frequently happens, got it wrong. What the president said is not nearly as definitive as that headline.

An inaugural, of course, is mostly a ceremonial occasion where the newly sworn-in president sets out his forthcoming agenda in only the most general terms. (There will be more specifics next month in his State of the Union address.)

But there is a two-minute section in the middle of yesterday's speech where Obama spoke of our – yours, mine, everyone's, the government's – commitments to each other that is heartening. Take a look:

As you can see, Fox News read way too much into what Obama really said. There are acres of wiggle room in his statement.

As encouraging as Obama's words are, it's not like he hasn't let down elders in the past nor that he might not do it again. But there is a promise in that statement and, as he said, a “commitment.” So when they start trying to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - which will be done soon - we can hold the president to this. Or, at least, do our best to hold him to it.

And it is up to us because the billions of dollars long lined up by opponents of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are being spent.

There is a good point about all this in another clip from Up with Chris Hayes over the weekend coming from a politician who is on our side for sure and who has experience in how it works in Washington. The first speaker is California Representative Barbara Lee. Then, pay close attention to Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

That's a famous old story about Franklin Roosevelt telling some progressive labor leaders: “I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it.”

Sherrod Brown did a nice job of reinforcing the FDR story and he is right that it is you and me who must make Obama do it: “We need the public to be really engaged...The people need to keep [the president] on course and not break these promises."

I thought you should see these two clips now to give you courage and stamina when the time comes – soon - to do the work to protect earned benefits for ourselves and for future generations.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ruth Parmet David: The Great Escape

In Honor of

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the presidential inauguration celebration and arrival of a houseguest chez Bennett, this has been declared a day off from blogging.

We will return to our regularly scheduled posting on Tuesday.

The mini-hiatus also applies to The Elder Storytelling Place.


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 Here are some songs about the days of the week. I’m starting and ending with Sunday just because I can. I’ll also throw in a couple of extra songs to make up the numbers.

Okay, Sunday. There’s a fine tune by TOM RUSH called Rockport Sunday.

Tom Rush

This is an instrumental that Tom recorded on his “Circle Game” album, one of his best. I thought of using that one but decided to give you two for the price of one.

Tom recently released an instructional DVD to show us how to play a number of his tunes. Naturally I got that. However, when I watched it and saw how Tom did it, I left my guitar in its case for months.

There’s no way I could do it. Besides demonstrating his technique, Tom also played the tunes all the way through. In this case, he performed both No Regrets - probably his best and most famous song - and Rockport Sunday as a single piece.

♫ Tom Rush - No Regrets ~ Rockport Sunday

It really surprised me that Monday had the best songs. I would have thought that Friday or Saturday would have them, but no, Monday it is.

There were half a dozen or more I could have chosen but I have to reduce the number, so it’s down to two. The pick of them, and the quirkiest, is by the BOOMTOWN RATS.

Boomtown Rats

This group is the one in which Bob Geldof first came to prominence. It has been said that the song, I Don't Like Mondays, is the catchiest murder ballad ever. It’s also a bit of an earworm.

When he was in California once, Bob heard a radio interview with a sixteen-year-old girl who had shot several people at her school as well as a policeman. When asked why she had done it she replied, “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.” In spite of that, it’s a good song.

♫ Boomtown Rats - I Don't Like Mondays

THE MAMAS AND THE PAPAS’ Monday song expresses what most of us feel about Monday, or at least when we worked. I imagine a considerable number of readers don’t perform paid work anymore. I certainly don’t.

Mamas & Papas

I remember this coming out while I was at university so I wasn’t working then either, but I still had to turn up on Monday morning so it resonated with me at the time. Even now, with Monday blues a thing of the past, there is still some lingering problem with Monday.

Let’s hear what they have to say with Monday Monday.

♫ The Mamas & the Papas - Monday Monday

Just missing the Monday cut are three great songs, Stormy Monday, Come Monday and Blue Monday, as well as several other pretty good ones.

Given the choice of songs, Tuesday is a bit of a nothing day. There were only two I’d consider and just one of those has been included. I give you the ROLLING STONES.

Rolling Stones

It should be pretty obvious which song it is and you’re correct, Ruby Tuesday.

♫ The Rolling Stones - Ruby Tuesday

JOE CAMILLERI is one of the most important Australian musicians for the last 40 years.

Joe Camilleri

He deserves a column of his own and surprise, surprise, one is in the works. Joe has been responsible for some of the best bands this country has produced – Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, The Black Sorrows, The Revelators, Bakelite Radio and others. Several of those he has going simultaneously.

Besides that he produces records and runs his own recording studio. Here is Joe (as part of Bakelite Radio) with Wednesday’s Child.

♫ Joe Camilleri - Wednesday’s Child

Thursday’s song has a similar title to the previous day’s one. Yes, it’s called Thursday's Child and the singer is TANITA TIKARAM.

Tanita Tikaram

Tanita may not be a household name in many parts but she’s a fine singer and deserves to be better known. She is multi-culturalism writ large – her parents are Fijian and Malay, she was born in Germany and lives in Britain. Tanita has been recording for more than 20 years and I regret to say, I’ve only fairly recently discovered her.

It’s never too late to find musical talent.

♫ Tanita Tikaram - Thursday's Child

THE EASYBEATS were one of the two most successful Australian groups in the sixties. The other is The Seekers, but they’re not relevant to today’s column.

The Easybeats

In the second half of the sixties, The Easybeats had the same rapturous devotion in this country that greeted The Beatles earlier on. Wherever they went they were swarmed by fans.

They went to England (as that’s where the music was happening at the time) and it was there that they recorded Friday on My Mind. It was a huge hit all over the world. They split in 1969 due to the usual reasons that rock groups split back then.

♫ Easybeats - Friday on My Mind

I would have thought there’d be a lot of good Saturday songs but I was wrong. There is certainly a lot of songs but few good ones. Sam Cooke was in there as were The Drifters. However, from out of left field I give you TOM WAITS.

Tom Waits

This is from his second album back when he had something vaguely resembling a singing voice. The Heart of Saturday Night from the album of the same name.

♫ Tom Waits - The Heart of Saturday Night

Back to Sunday, and we’re coming down after a week of songs, and that’s a bit of a clue to this song. An even bigger clue is if I mention KRIS KRISTOFFERSON.

Kris Kristofferson

Back in the early seventies, Kris was writing some of the best songs around; everyone wanted to record them. He also developed into a pretty good actor. Not to mention hanging out with Willie, Waylon and Johnny.

Here he performs Sunday Morning Coming Down, possibly the best song written about Sunday.

♫ Kris Kristofferson - Sunday Morning Coming Down

Well, that’s eight days in that week and if that’s not a bleeding obvious cue for a song, I’ve never heard one. Here are THE BEATLES with Eight Days a Week.

The Beatles

♫ The Beatles - Eight Days A Week

INTERESTING STUFF – 19 January 2013

The phrase “herding cats” has always delighted me as a perfect description of any task involving too many unruly participants – someone is always escaping the net.

A similar thought led to artist Barry Blitt's New Yorker magazine cover this week. As he explained, he sees it as

”...a nice metaphor for this president dealing with this particular Congress over the so-called fiscal cliff (among other things).”


As if the National Rifle Association's whackjob of a president isn't enough, this week the organization released what is to me the most offensive political propaganda piece I've ever seen. It is disgusting on every level.

Maybe it says something about how grotesque our culture is in general that this story barely made a dent in the nation's consciousness this week:

The mystery was solved a day later when it was revealed that the heads, having been used for medical research in Italy, were being returned to the U.S. for cremation. Read more here.

Really, really big dogs – you know, the ones that are the size of small horses – have always made me laugh and feel all warm and fuzzy. Buzzfeed put together a photo series of a couple of dozen of them. Here's one:


You can see a whole lot more gigantic dogs here.

The great Studs Terkel died in 2008 at age 96. But he lives through the magic of video. Tamar Orvell of the Only Connect blog sent along this one that is a delight – not to mention, so true.

A year ago, John Newson of Birmingham, England, made a new years resolution to fill only one bag of trash for the entire year:

”Each week John has carefully sifted through his household rubbish, composting everything he can, while separating out paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and cans for his fortnightly kerbside recycling collections.”

Here is Newson with his one 2012 trash bag.


You can read more here.

Steve Cutts is a London-based, freelance artist who has produced work for Coca-Cola, Bacardi, Toyota, Reebok, Sony PSP, The Guardian, Kelloggs and Phillips, among others.

TGB reader Bev Carney sent this animation from Steve which he titles, MAN:

I “waste” a lot of time at the National Geographic website watching nature videos and looking at astonishing photos.

Recently, the magazine released the winners of its 2012 photo contest. This one from Ashley Vincent is the winner in the nature category and the grand prize winner – a photograph of “Busaba, a well cared for Indochinese Tigress whose home is at Khao Kheow Open Zoo, Thailand.”


You can see all the 2012 winning photos here.

Another TGB reader, Alice, sent this terrific video of a bunch of old men – age 50s to 90 – singing barbershop harmony at a Tim Horton's restaurant in Ontario, Canada. The video has gone viral and you can read more about the barbershop singing group here.

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.

Scaring Elders - Part 3: A Bad Week for America's Elders

category_bug_politics.gif After giving you a couple of posts filled with discouraging news about the future of Medicare and Social Security, today I intended there to be something more amusing about old age, something we might have a bit of fun with.

But that will have to wait because there is a frightening op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday by Gary Loveman who is chairman, president and CEO of Caesar's Entertainment.

In this case, he was writing in his other capacity as chairman of the Business Roundtable's health and retirement committee and his op-ed was the organization's public announcement of a new, full court press on Congress to adopt the following changes:

• Use chained CPI to calculate the Social Security COLA

• Partially (or completely) privatize Medicare

• Raise Social Security eligibility age to 70

• Raise Medicare eligibility age to 67

Loveman concludes in the op-ed:

”Although economic recovery has been stalled, renewed expansion is possible if conditions are set in a comprehensive budget agreement that includes entitlement reform and long-term changes to reduce deficits. In this way will we ensure the viability of the health and retirement safety net for future generations of Americans.”

Let me translate that for you: If we slash benefits workers have paid for all their lives, more money will flow to me and my fellow CEOs.

Loveman followed up the WSJ initiative by telling Politico in a phone interview:

”I am encouraged by how relatively easy these remedies really are. These don't affect current beneficiaries much, if at all...and they have a tremendously sanguine effect on the government's fiscal health.”

I wonder how he knows these are “easy” changes? Is there already an agreement with Congress? I presume so. As Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research noted this week:

"The bottom line is that President Obama and many leading Democrats are prepared to give seniors a larger hit to their income than they gave to the over $250,000 crowd. And the whole reason it is necessary is that the Wall Street types who wrecked the economy say so. Is everybody happy?"

And did you notice how Loveman, as with so many other one percenters, assumes current Social Security recipients will readily sell out their children and grandchildren to keep their own benefits. As tired as we – elders – are with fighting off these vultures, we are going to need to do it again.

For a thorough analysis of Loveman's op-ed, I urge you to read Richard Eskow's followup to it at Campaign for America's Future blog. Eskow never fails to have facts, figures and history we need to arm ourselves against the corporate behemoth lies, evasions and misrepresentations.

Loveman's “ideas” are nothing new – just Simpson/Bowles and Paul Ryan redux which the nation has repeatedly rejected. So now the CEOs of the Business Roundtable are trying again.

It does not need to be said how much clout they have. President Barack Obama has met with the Business Roundtable four times during his first term in office. (I can't find a count on their Congressional meetings.) An Associated Press story about the organization's announcement this week explains the relationship:

”The group has been an ally of Obama in the past, endorsing his proposal to raise taxes on high earners during negotiations over the so-called 'fiscal cliff' in December.

“Obama has embraced some parts of the business group's plan for Social Security and Medicare, but he opposes any plan to privatize Medicare, and has backed away from his earlier support for raising the eligibility age.”

Yes. Well. Ironically, it was Republican intransigence during the fiscal cliff talks in December that saved us from Obama's attempted giveaway of switching the COLA calculation to chained-CPI and I have no sense – as I do, for example, with Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders – that I can trust the president not to support the Business Roundtable's grotesque agenda.

Here is another tea leaf indication of how far along the path toward success the Business Roundtable proposal may already be in Washington:

Thursday morning, as I was writing this post, an email arrived from a publicist offering me an interview with a financial expert who would talk about how to plan for retirement with Loveman's cuts in place. I told her we had a hell of lot of fight in us before we get to that but I'm still wondering what she and/or others know that isn't public yet.

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) is taking a strong stand against the CEOs of the Business Roundtable:

”The Business Roundtable’s so-called 'practical' approach also shows that 'shared sacrifice' really just means middle-class families should sacrifice so corporations and wealthy CEO’s can share the gains of a trillion dollar tax giveaway.

“If these captains of industry are truly concerned about the future of Social Security then why not why not lift the payroll cap and subject all income such as deferred compensation to FICA?

“Or how about limiting just two of those massive tax breaks for the wealthy & corporations, which saves much more than raising the retirement age?

• “Limit some itemized deductions for high earners ($114 billion)

• “Eliminate Corporate meals and entertainment write offs ($84 billion)

“These two common sense changes save $198 billion over just 5 years while raising the retirement age to 70 saves $120 billion over the next decade.”

Read more here.

Let us not forget that Social Security contributes nothing - zero, nada, zilch - to deficits and debts and the only reason cuts to elders' earned income are being forced is that Wall Street and corporate CEOs want it that way.

Start sharpening your computer quills, my friends. We have a lot of letter-writing work in our futures.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Ex What?

Scaring the Pants Off Elders – Part 2: AARP Bulletin

(Part 1 is here)

category_bug_politics.gif A couple of days ago, TGB reader Jeri Reilly emailed to ask about an editorial in the most recent issue of the AARP Bulletin which I had not read:

”It struck me,” she wrote, “as a stealth message against Social Security and Medicare...Am I imagining things? So, of course, I wondered, What Would Ronni Say?”

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before I go any further, there is a point that must be made clear:

Many TGB readers – including me – have had serious doubts about the commitment of AARP to using their influence to preserve Medicare and Social Security. In mid-2011, for example, they announced the organization's support of cuts to Social Security that were then being touted in Congress.

The negative response was so swift and abundant that AARP was forced to backtrack but as with all betrayals, it is hard now to relax one's vigilance and completely trust that the organization has its members' backs.

However, there is an distinction to be made:

I work with several local social service groups that benefit elders in Oregon and the state affiliate of AARP does terrific work on its own and in partnerships sharing expertise, organizational skills and money to support viable projects that can be crucial in this era of cuts to so many programs.

I don't know if all AARP state affiliates and their executives are as committed as Oregon's but it is important to acknowledge their good efforts on behalf of elders in my state and keep that separate from the group's national policy in Washington, D.C.

Now, back to that AARP Bulletin editorial.

It is written by the publication's editor, Jim Toedtman, and titled, “The Magic Fountain of Youth.” It appears on page three – the first thing in sight when first opening the paper.

After repeating some of the same misleading figures about population and budget priorities that billionaire Peter G. Peterson and other anti-Social Security crusaders employ, Toedtman tells the heartwarming story of his grandfather:

”For 23 years, he was a speech and drama professor at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio. In 1950, he turned 70 and was forced to retire. The next day, he applied for a job as custodian at the college gymnasium...

“He retired but didn't want to stop working. So he learned new work skills and spent 15 years as the custodian at the college gym.”

Jeri is not wrong. The message is clear: Any old person not keeping up with Toedtman's grandfather is a drag on the economy. You can read the editorial here. [AARP membership and website registration are required to view it.]

Further, it is easy to conclude (god knows I tried to read it otherwise) that the editorial is a first step or, perhaps, a trial balloon by AARP to test the idea with its members of accepting cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

It is offensive enough to hide such a move behind a feel-good tale of late-age pluck but more so coming from the premier organization that says it represents the interests of old people. The editorial lacks sincerity, it fudges statistics AARP certainly knows, ignores the physical and health realities of old age and just for good measure, tries to manipulate with trite sentimentality.

AARP is a powerful force in Washington, it has a lot of money to spend and it is editorials like this give House and Senate members cover to cut earned benefit programs.

As for you and me, now we have another group that may be out to fix the nation's budget on the backs of old people. Let's keep a sharp eye for what comes next.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: The Perks of Nearing Eighty

Scaring the Pants Off Elders – Part 1

category_bug_politics.gif On Monday, I felt my blood pressure rising as President Barack Obama said in his press conference that if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, the federal government will not be able to pay all its bills including Social Security benefits.

Fiscal cliff, debt ceiling, privitization, chained CPI, raising age of eligibility – one way or another, our elected officials never stop threatening elders. We just finished fighting back against the chained CPI that Republicans in Congress wanted to extract in exchange for their fiscal cliff vote.

Day after day after day, Congress members issue announcements about how they are going to make life miserable for everyone except the one percent. It never stops.

And don't go telling me YOUR Congress person is a good guy. Any Congress person who is not speaking out against these tactics – that is, who is not booking themselves on pundit TV shows, issuing press releases, calling press conferences, making speeches from the floor of Congress, etc. to denounce these threats each and every time they happen - is a bad guy.

Plus, there is no point in trying to distinguish between Democrat and Republican – they all either threaten to reduce Social Security and/or Medicare or give it a pass when others do it.

It says a lot about elected representatives that the only reliable support for elder citizens in that institution year after year, day in and day out is an independent, a declared democratic Socialist.

This week it was the president himself who was hyperventilating against elders and the worst of it is that he is wrong. If Congress does get stupid and refuses to raise the debt ceiling, the possibilities of what does and doesn't get paid are many. As U.S. News and World Report explains,

”It's possible, but not preordained, that Social Security recipients, veterans and beneficiaries of other cherished programs would take a hit. The administration has choices in how to spread the pain.

“Highlighting a threat to the most popular products of the government is a time-honored Washington tactic for turning up the heat on the other side to negotiate and settle.”

From the president on down to the newest freshman in Congress, they all seem to believe first, that old people have way too much money and second, that if they scare the pants off us again and again, we'll go along.

Well, I suppose there is a third possibility: Keep scaring us and maybe a good number will keel over and they'll have more money for the one percent that way.

I am so deeply tired of fighting this battle so many times.

Tomorrow in Part 2, is another attack on elders looming?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: Be Someone's Best Friend

VINTAGE TGB: Long Hair and Old Women

EDITORIAL NOTE: I needed a day off from writing yesterday, so here's a vintage TGB for you today from October 2009. The Elder Storytelling Place story is new, linked as always at the bottom of this post.

Forty-seven-year-old TGB reader, Peggy Race, emailed recently asking about old women and long hair.

“I'm getting subtle pressure to cut my long hair,” she wrote. “It is down past my shoulders at the moment and there seems to be some sort of law that states only young women can have long hair.”

Peggy's right that in general, the advice for women older than (even) 35 is to cut their hair short, and long hair, especially long gray hair is cause for comment, usually negative. The reasons given depend on the source:

  1. Women's magazines: Short hair is more manageable.

  2. Salon owners: Long hair makes women past 35 look older than they are.

  3. Bigots: Old women look stupid trying to appear younger.

None of these reasons is valid. Short hair takes a lot of work starting with frequent visits to the hair cutter. Unless you are blessed with the kind of hair you can run your fingers through and look great, keeping short hair neat can involve curlers or straighteners or curling irons and mousse or gels or whatever else keeps it in place.

Marianvaneykmccain My hair has grown nearly down to my waist now. I trim off the dead ends now and then, wash it every other day, let it air dry – it takes only an hour – and brush it. How simple is that. I pull it back in a clip for a low pony tail or pin it up in a bun. Either way takes only a couple of minutes. Marian Van Eyk McCain of elderwomanblog (pictured), wears her long, gray hair in a single braid.

It is conventional wisdom that long hair on older women calls attention to wrinkles and sags and makes them look older. Older than what? This reason presupposes that looking one's age is a bad thing which I've spent nearly six years arguing against on this blog. Plus, salon owners have a vested interest in short hair to keep women coming back for a cut every few weeks, so don't listen to them.

As to the last reason, unless a 50-plus woman is walking around in a miniskirt, bare midriff and too much makeup with her long, gray hair, I don't understand the objection. And even if she does wear all those things, who am I – or you – to judge her.

Nearly 40 years ago while walking across West 57th Street in New York City, I noticed a woman in front of me with long, straight hair hanging nearly to her waist. No big deal; many women wore long hair then, but not gray hair, as this woman had.

I'd had a friend who had gone completely gray in our mid-20s, so I was curious to know how old this woman was. I sped up and reached her at the next corner. Hoping for subtlety as we waited for the light, I took a peek at her face. She was not, like my friend, prematurely gray. She was, I was guessing, in her mid- to late fifties and she looked fabulous. Of course, she was also tall, slender, had cheekbones and a smooth jawline, four things nature left out of my anatomy.

Even so, I determined then and there that when I got old, I would wear my gray hair long. Part of the reason for the decision, even at age 35 or so, was that I disliked every moment and resented every dollar I spent at the hair shop. I thought it was necessary then for – well, what did I think? I'm not sure now; it probably had something to do with men.

Long hair is problematic in old age if it is thinning. Mine is and I'm still vain enough to not want to show off my balding spots. That's where the bun comes in; it covers the thin area on my crown quite nicely.

Given the prevalence of age discrimination in the workplace, it's probably a bad idea, if you're not retired, to stop coloring your hair and wear it long or in an old-fashioned bun – although in the past few years, young professional women have increasingly worn buns. But I'm pretty sure the same style in an older woman would be seen as “letting herself go.”

If, however, employment is not a concern and it pleases you to have long hair, gray or not, I say go for it, Peggy. The people who are who are pressuring you to cut it are out of line.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: We Hold These Truths

Elders and Influenza

category_bug_journal2.gif Except as seems useful or interesting now and then, it is not the goal of Time Goes By to keep readers abreast of current health issues. But this year, the flu season arrived early and is more widespread than has been seen in the recent past.

This is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's [CDC] most recent flu map:

CDC Flu Map

So unless you live in California, Mississippi or the District of Columbia, you are at fairly high risk:

”Deaths in the current flu season have officially crossed the line into 'epidemic' territory, federal health officials said Friday, adding that, on the bright side, there were also early signs that the caseloads could be peaking,” reports The New York Times.

The flu can be particularly dangerous – that is, life threatening – to elders because our immune systems do not function as well as they did when we were young and cannot fight the virus as effectively.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging old people to get the flu shot:

”Vaccination is especially important for people 65 years and older because they are at increased risk for complications from flu.”

Some of those complications include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, and it can exacerbate chronic health problems such as congestive heart failure, lung disease, asthma and a number of blood, kidney and liver disorders.

There are only a few instances of elders who should not take the vaccine:

  • People with a severe allergy to chicken eggs
  • People who previously have had a severe reaction to the shot
  • People with a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome after receiving a flu shot

There are two available shots for elders:

  1. The regular seasonal flu shot made from killed virus
  2. A high dose vaccine for people 65 and older also made from killed virus

The nasal vaccine is recommended only for people age 2 to 49 who are not pregnant.

Traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans cover the flu shot with no copay or deductible and you can get it anywhere so long as the provider is enrolled in Medicare. You do not need a referral.

Now, let's debunk some myths about the flu vaccine:

• You can catch the flu from the flu shot. WRONG. The vaccine is made from a killed virus. If you get sick right after a shot it is because you had already contracted the virus and it takes a couple of weeks for the vaccine to work.

• The shot guarantees you will not get the flu. WRONG. There is that two week period before the vaccine takes effect and, says the CDC, this year's vaccine has a 62 percent effective rate, which is about average year to year.

• Antibiotics will knock out the flu. WRONG. Antibiotics work only against bacterial infections. The flu is a viral infection.

• “I had a flu shot last year and that should hold me.” WRONG. Flu viruses mutate and the vaccine is reconfigured each year to account for new strains.

You can read about other flu myths at this Harvard Medical School webpage.

As noted above, the vaccine is about 62 percent effective. Here are some other important, commonsense practices to help keep you healthy this flu season:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Keep yourself healthy: eat your fruits and veggies, exercise and get plenty of sleep.

So please, if you have not done so, it is not too late to get a flu shot. Although it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop to protect you, the flu season extends into May leaving plenty of time to make the shot worth your effort.

And worth it for the people you might infect if you get sick. If you do get sick, for the sake of everyone else, stay home until you are well. Adults are contagious from a day or so before they feel symptoms and continuing for up to seven days after becoming sick.

Here is a good, short recap covering a lot of what I've reported above.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Mary B. Summerlin R.I.P.

ELDER MUSIC: Felix Mendelssohn


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 It could be argued - indeed, it has been argued - that FELIX MENDELSSOHN was the greatest child-prodigy, musical composer in history, just pipping Franz Schubert.

Felix Mendelssohn

Ah, I hear you say, what about Wolfie? This argument was made in Music magazine a year or two ago and the criterion they selected was how many of the great works of these composers were written before each turned 18.

In Mozart’s case, none. That’s not to denigrate him; he wrote his great works later on.

The great works that Felix composed before he was able to vote (well, he probably wasn’t, but you know what I mean) are the “Octet” (at age 16), Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (17) and Piano Quartet in F minor (14). He finished off the “Midsummer Night’s Dream” somewhat later.

To demonstrate what the magazine article was talking about here is the third movement of the “Octet for Strings in E flat major, Op. 20.”

♫ Mendelssohn - Octet Op 20 (3)

Felix was born into a notable family; he was the grandson of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn and son of a prominent banker. His musical talents were recognised early but his parents were rather cautious about exploiting them. A bit different from Mozart's dad.

However, they caved in when it became obvious that that was the path Felix was set upon. His sister, Fanny, was a fine pianist and composer as well and it was thought that she might be the musical one in the family but back then, it wasn’t considered proper for a woman to earn a living from music, so we'll never know.

Again, going with the young Felix, here is part of the piano quartet he composed at age 14, the second movement from the “Piano Quartet No. 2 in F Minor.”

♫ Mendelssohn - Piano Quartet No. 2 F Minor (2)

I’ve decided not to go with the third of his youthful compositions, the “Midsummer Night’s Dream” stuff - that’s the one with the wedding march and who wants to hear that? What I want to hear instead is the wonderful Cecilia Bartoli (any excuse).

Cecilia Bartoli

Here she performs Ah Ritorna from Infelice! She is accompanied on the violin by Maxim Vengerov.

♫ Cecila Bartoli - Mendelssohn ~ Ah ritorna

The next couple of tracks came to me quite out of the blue. They are not ones I was previously familiar with but I certainly am now.

For the first of these, I was trawling through all my Mendelssohn works and this piece brought me up short. It was so beautiful I had to include it. No other reason than that but what more is needed? It is the second movement of the “Clarinet Sonata in E flat.”

♫ Mendelssohn - Clarinet Sonata in Eb (2)

Next - well technically I included it before the previous track - I was lying in bed the other morning and they played this on the radio. “I have to include that,” I said to myself as it was quite lovely.

I hoped I’d remember what it was by the time I got up and whether I had it in my collection. Fortunately I did and here it is: the final movement of the “Violin Concerto in D minor.”

♫ Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto D Minor (3)


Some of Felix’s most famous works are called songs without words. These are essentially solo piano works.

He also wrote some songs with words. This particular one is called Ruhetal and it’s from a group of works called “Three Songs From Im Grunen.” The BBC Singers are doing the warbling.

♫ Mendelssohn - Three Songs From Im Grunen - Ruhetal

Now for something called the “Konzertstück No.1, Op.113.” For those not conversant in German, of which I’m one, this apparently means it’s a concert piece.

This was written for clarinet, basset horn and piano. A basset horn isn’t a lugubrious horn with long floppy ears; it’s a member of the clarinet family. He must have liked this group of instruments as he wrote another Konzertstück for the same ones.

♫ Konzertstück for Clarinet, Bassethorn & Piano in F,Op 113


I’ll finish with the second movement of the “Cello Sonata in D, Op 58.” For a cello sonata, there does seem to be an excess of piano but that was Felix’s instrument so I’m not too surprised.

♫ Mendelssohn - Cello Sonata in D,Op 58-Allegretto scherzando

Felix died aged 38 after suffering several strokes in a short period, the first of which was soon after his sister Fanny had died in a similar manner. Mozart was 35 when he succumbed and poor Schubert just 31.

What an extraordinary amount of wonderful music they produced in such short lives.

INTERESTING STUFF: 12 January 2013

Okay, I'll admit my signature is not readable either, but I have not been nominated to be Secretary of the Treasury. If Lew is confirmed by Congress his signature, previewed by New York magazine, will appear on all U.S. paper money:

Jack Lew signature

The media has been having fun with Lew's doodle-sig and even President Barack Obama took a whack:

With gun safety now the front-and-center controversy in the U.S. for a few more days, Mother Jones showcased about 20 print advertisements for guns – present and past. Here is one:


Apparently I do not read publications that advertise guns; I have no memory of ever seeing one and they even target kids:


I was shocked at these and others from Mother Jones which you can see here.

Following the fall and concussion that landed her in the hospital, Secretary of State Clinton returned to work last Monday and her staff welcomed her with some gifts:

The number 112 football jersey that goes with the helmet is to commemorate the number of countries Clinton has visited as secretary of state.

It's been half a dozen years since any snow worth speaking of has fallen in Jerusalem but the Israeli city got hit with a big one this week. I like this image with the Dome of the Rock in the background. Don't overlook the foregound snowman. [credit: Abir Sulton/EPA]

Dome Snow

More Jerusalem snow images here.

Extreme weather is busting out all over the globe from paralyzing cold – 50F below zero in Russia - to such terrible wildfires in Australia and Tasmania that a new descriptive category had to be created: catastrophic.

The New York Times has a slide show of extreme weather photos from around the world including this one from Tasmania of Tammy Holmes and her grandchildren clinging to a jetty while flames raged around them Wednesday. [Credit: Tim Holmes/Holmes Family, via Associated Press]

Fire Tasmania

I've seen probably a dozen cats riding Roombas, but this is the first kid I know of. Her name is Aria.

Wondering if that headline is another language? Or a typo I didn't notice? Wrong on both counts. It is the order of frequency of those letters in the English language. Here is a chart of the entire alphabet.

Letter frequency

There is a long and fascinating story about who did this research, how it was done and more about the distribution and length of words.

The most common word is what you would expect: the. But do you think you know the second most popular word? Check it out here to see if you're correct, and word lovers? Enjoy.

Master coffee roaster Gerry Leary runs the Unseen Bean coffee cafe in Boulder, Colorado, where he does all the roasting. Nothing unusual about that except that Mr. Leary has been blind since birth.

Here's the story of his coffee cafe in his own words.

You can buy Mr. Leary's coffee online via his website where you can also watch some videos on the proper way to make an American or a latte.

Darlene Costner sent along this lifespan calculator from The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company.


Answer about a dozen questions and watch the number of your years change up and down depending on what you tell it. According to my answers, you're stuck with me on this blog for another 20 years. Please remember, this is a toy.

You can play with the calculator and see your lifespan here.

The folks on this boat were expecting a whale watching tour and got instead an amazing display of dozens of dolphins leaping through the ocean near Dana Point, California.

It is beautiful and the thrill expressed by the passengers is contageous. But beginning at about :45 seconds, you might want to turn off the audio. The damned tour guide seems to think his never-ending chatter is an improvement on nature.

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.