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Elders and the Government Shutdown

Laurel and Hardy's famous line seems appropriate this morning:

“Another fine mess,” indeed. Unless something rational happens in Congress during the next few hours, the U.S. government will shut down at midnight tonight eastern daylight time.

Make no mistake: whatever the irretrievably hypocritical Republicans in both houses of Congress are saying on television and in their tweets, the shutdown is their fault.

It would be easy for me to rant against their ignorance, stupidity and in some cases deranged fanaticism but you can find that all over the internet. Instead, here's an elder's survival guide to government shutdown.

Overall, about one-third of the government will shut down – that is, 800,000 or so of the 2.1 million federal employees will be sent home without pay so thousands of services will stop or be delayed. I have chosen those most likely to affect elders directly. Information on this stuff can be sketchy. I've done the best I can to confirm the notes below.

Based on past experience, Social Security payments will probably go out as usual; they were sent during the last shutdown in 1995 and 1996. But some workers will be furloughed and there may be delays in processing benefit applications for new retirees.

If you are unemployed, you will continue to receive that benefit.

Physicians will continue to see Medicare and Medicaid patients and the programs will continue “largely without interruption” according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS). There may, however, be delays in processing new claims.

Note that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will be unable to continue support for the annual seasonal influenza program during shutdown.

If you are younger than 65 and looking forward to enrollment in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) when it begins on Tuesday, you will be able to do that. Funds for Obamacare are not dependent on the Congressional budget process, the failure of which is what has brought on this shutdown crisis.

If you are one of the two or three people in the U.S. who continue to receive Social Security benefits via snailmail, you will receive your check as long as the Social Security Administration sends them out.

That's because the U.S. Postal Service isn't funded by Congress and it will remain open and operational.

SNAP (Food Stamps)
SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, will continue to be distributed.

Veterans hospitals will remain open and benefits will be paid but there may be delays in processing new claims.

Decisions on appeals for denial of disability benefits to the Board of Veterans Appeals will be delayed until after a government shutdown ends.

Active military personnel go to work but if the shutdown lasts long enough for current funding to run out, they may not be paid until a new budget is signed into law.

If you got a six-month extension on your income tax last April, payment is still due on 17 October.

National parks, monuments, museums and zoos will be closed. All of them, turning away millions of visitors a day.

It is not yet known if the Washington, D.C. Zoo Panda Cam with its new, five-week-old baby panda will function. It is operated by volunteers.

Passport offices will be closed for business.

Air traffic controllers and airport security screeners remain on the job.

Federal courts apparently have enough money to remain open for about two weeks. Beyond then, furloughs will be necessary.

The Supreme Court, which opens for the new term on October 7, can last about ten business days.

The president continues to work and be paid during shutdown. But according to a White House contingency plan [pdf], about three-quarters of the 1700-person White House staff will be furloughed and if you happen to be in D.C., you won't be able to tour the White House.

All 535 embers of Congress, due to permanent appropriation for their pay, will be paid and will not be furloughed. (You guessed that already, right?)

Only essential support staff remain working. According to the Washington Post, those include employees “who help with drafting legislation, researching, tallying votes, giving legal advice, handling communications or providing technological support.” Many others are furloughed.

If you are wonky enough to want to know more than this, the Office of Management and Budget has published a list of links to contingency plans from every agency of the federal government.

And if you want to vent about this “fine mess,” have at it in the comments. God knows we the people deserve better than what this Congress gives us.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deb: A Stone's Throw From Forever

ELDER MUSIC: Life is a Carnival

PeterTibbles75x75This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

I'm reminded of a line - an aphorism really - by the late, great Kurt Vonnegut:

"I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.”

This is a column about songs about farting around activities: carnivals, circuses and the like, and there are a surprising number of good songs on those topics.

I've been to the circus only once in my life, when I was a kid. I hated it. I can't imagine I'd think differently today. That might color the selection of the songs. We'll see.

I'll start with the title of today's column and for all those who didn't notice it as you ventured forth into the musical realms today, it's called Life is a Carnival by THE BAND.

The Band

Regular readers will know of the high regard in which I hold this group. Let's just say they were the best around.

♫ The Band - Life Is a Carnival

GLENN CARDIER had two songs in contention for inclusion today. Maybe he has a thing for carnivals and circuses.

Glenn Cardier

In the end, Ringmaster Blues got the flick and the song of his I've included is Sideshow Alley.

♫ Glenn Cardier - Sideshow Alley

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN's contribution is from his second album, the wonderful "The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle."

Bruce Springsteen

I put that album among his very best, possibly at first place. It showed Bruce at his most adventurous with fine, if somewhat convoluted songs. The music, of course, is impeccable. The song from it is Wild Billy's Circus Story.

♫ Bruce Springsteen - Wild Billy's Circus Story

JAMES DARREN was an okay actor and an okay singer in the cusp of the fifties into the sixties.

James Darren

He sang Goodbye Cruel World and the next line is that he's off to join the circus. That's certainly better than topping himself I guess, but I'd be off to Paris. Of course, that might take a bit of money; if one were destitute it wouldn't be an option.

Anyway, I'll let James explain it all.

♫ James Darren - Goodbye Cruel World

From out of left field where he generally lived musically, is TIM BUCKLEY.

Tim Buckley

Tim wasn't quite folk, he wasn't quite jazz, he wasn't quite rock. He was his own man. He died far too young. This is Carnival Song.

♫ Tim Buckley - Carnival Song

Clowns are an integral part of circuses and there are quite a few songs about them. Again, I don't know what people see in clowns (boy, am I grumpy today).

I find them unfunny (and I did as a whippersnapper too). I don't find them creepy as some people do; I just ignore them (except for the good songs about them).

The first is my favorite clown song by the EVERLY BROTHERS.

The Everly Brothers

The song was a huge hit for the Evs, indeed, it was their biggest hit, selling multiple millions and sitting at number one on pretty much every hit parade around the world for some weeks back in 1960.

They wrote it themselves so it would have been a nice little earner for them. You all know the song I'm talking about - or you should, Cathy's Clown.

♫ Everly Brothers - Cathy's Clown

I may have spoken too soon in the introduction to the previous song. Here's another great clown song, maybe the best, by VAN MORRISON.

Van Morrison

The song came from Van's album, "His Band and Street Choir," a sublime album that's been denigrated a bit by critics only because it followed "Astral Weeks" and "Moondance" - two of the greatest albums in the history of albumdom.

This one is up there with them, so fie upon the critics. The song is Virgo Clowns. Nothing to do with clowns, of course.

♫ Van Morrison - Virgo Clowns

My goodness, here's another terrific clown song. I hadn't realized the depth of quality of the clown songs. I give you the great SMOKEY ROBINSON and THE MIRACLES.

Smokey & the Miracles

Stevie Wonder wrote the music for this track but couldn't come up with any words for it. He took the musical track along to a party and asked Smokey if he could write some words.

Smokey thought it sounded a bit circus-y, so came up with words inspired by Pagliacci. The result of all that is The Tears of a Clown.

♫ Smokey Robinson - The Tears Of A Clown

BURL IVES had a surprising renaissance in the sixties when he had several hits that sounded as if he had found his inner pop star.

Burl Ives

Here is one of them, the first of them I believe, A Little Bitty Tear (Let Me Down).

♫ Burl Ives - A Little Bitty Tear (Let Me Down)

Well, the carnival is over (and no, I'm not including that song), so it's time to Send in the Clowns. Yes, you're permitted to groan at that. Here's JUDY COLLINS who has the best version of the song.

Judy Collins

It was written by Stephen Sondheim for his musical "A Little Night Music" (a title he pinched from Mozart). It's been recorded by just about everyone who likes this sort of thing. Can't beat Judy's version though.

♫ Judy Collins - Send in the Clowns

INTERESTING STUFF: 28 September 2013


Improv Everywhere is back with another delightful event:

”We put a Carnegie Hall orchestra in the middle of New York City and placed an empty podium in front of the musicians with a sign that read, 'Conduct Us,'” they explain on the YouTube page.

“Random New Yorkers who accepted the challenge were given the opportunity to conduct this world-class orchestra. The orchestra responded to the conductors, altering their tempo and performance accordingly.”

Enjoy. [Hat tip to Nikki Lindquist]


It's not like the subject of laundry comes up often in conversation but once when it did and I said I use cold water for all washes, a few people reacted as though I'd said I don't bathe regularly.

Now, however, thanks to my local power company, I am vindicated. Take a look:


Did you know that all giant pandas in zoos around the world are only on loan from China and usually for a period of 10 years? Plus, they are shipped back and forth on the official Panda Express airplane by FedEx:

Panda Express

Here is a giant panda arriving via FedEx in Toronto earlier this year for the zoo there:

Panda Express 2

There are more photos at the FedEx blog and more information about panda “diplomacy” here.


Yesterday, in many cities around the country, the documentary Inequality for All opened. It is, of course, about the concentration of wealth with the top one percent of the U.S.

As The New York Times review notes, the film is based on a class taught at the University of California, Berkeley, by former labor secretary under President Bill Clinton, Robert Reich:

”Rather than through a harangue or a lament, Mr. Reich ties together his talking points with a reasonable-sounding analysis and an unassuming warmth sometimes absent from documentaries charting America’s economic woes.”

Here is a trailer:

You can find out where Inequality for All is playing near you at this website.


There are all kinds of weird things in nature and this one, the Pacific barreleye fish, caught my attention. The video is self-explanatory and you'll be surprised to learn that those two things that look like eyes in the front of its head - are not eyes.


Unless you've been on Mars for the past month or so, you have read a lot about the Miley Cyrus “twerking” episode at the MTV Music Awards in August. Now, the Fine Brothers have added twerking to their popular online React series, this episode, Elders React to Twerking. Hilarity ensues:

There are other React videos from the Fine Brother including more Elders React.... You will find them along with Kids React..., Teens React... and YouTubers React... at their YouTube Channel.


This short ballet was filmed at sunrise on the top - 57th floor – of 4 World Trade Center in lower Manhattan described on the YouTube page as a “tribute to the future of the city that New York City Ballet calls home.”


Well, he starts out making you think it will be a cell phone rant and turns into a thoughtful reflection on the human condition. Another reason to love Louis C.K. - and he's correct about this, you know:


A couple of weeks ago, a friend's father (also my friend) died after a long illness. Then, a few days ago I was checking my Facebook page (believe me, I never do that except on rare occasions to be certain this blog is being distributed there properly) and saw an announcement that Castine, my friend's wonderful dog, had died.

She wrote a beautiful tribute:

”My sweet Castine was worried that my Dad was in need of a friend and joined him last night. She was the purest soul I have ever known. I am a better person for sharing my life with her.

“I like to think the two of them are enjoying a cup of coffee and a bone on a great front porch watching the leaves turn on this fine fall morning.”

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.

Some Wisdom From the Not Too Distant Past

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Last week, a reporter at Business Insider interviewed me about old and older workers dropping out of the workforce because no one will hire them. The story is titled, BABY BOOMERS: Yeah, We’re Leaving The Labor Force Alright — Because We Can't Get Back In It and you can read it here.]

Considering the approach of my 21st birthday - the date of official adulthood in the early 1960s - I anticipated that upon waking that morning I would have the answers to all of life's important questions.

Well, you know I was disappointed. Deeply so. Wisdom (for that is what I was counting on) is hard-earned over many years of living and in my case, has not arrived yet in the half century since that youthful letdown.

Not that I think it matters. I mean, come on: our society cares a whole lot more – (snark warning) about the pretense of youth than wisdom so what good would it be anyway in contemporary America.

Nevertheless, I hope and it satisfies me to keep nearby and ponder from time to time what some wise old souls from times past have had to say about growing old. Just a handful of them for you today.

Gay Gaer Luce:
”A person of sixty can grow as much as a child of six. The later years are a time for self-development, emancipation, a spiritual growth.”
Anatole Broyard:
”If we face now the reality, at 63 or 70, 75, 80, or 90, that we will indeed, sooner or later, die, then the only big question is how are we going to live the years we have left, however many or few they be?

“What adventures can we now set out on to make sure we'll be alive when we die? Can age itself be such an adventure?
Simone de Beauvoir:
”A few years more or less matters little when set against the freedom and peace of mind one achieves the moment one stops running away from death.”
Victor Hugo: ”When grace combines with wrinkles, it is admirable. There is an indescribably light of dawn about intensely happy old age...The young man is handsome, but the old, superb.”
Edith Wharton:
”In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy, sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Outdoor Weddings

For Younger TGB Readers: Obamacare Enrollment Begins

If you are 64 or younger, today's post is for you.

At last. Whether Senator Ted Cruz likes it or not, on 1 January 2014, Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act or ACA) goes into effect. So that eligible people can be covered by day one, next Tuesday, 1 October 2013, open enrollment begins.

So today's post is a sort of cheat sheet for you - information on how to sign up for Obamacare and even if the government shuts down temporarily next Tuesday, sign-up will go forward:

”...cutting off funds for non-essential government programs in a shutdown wouldn’t stop funding for implementing his health care law, health policy experts said.”

Bloomberg has more information on that.

Obamacare is deeply complicated. I can't even pretend to cover it in any detail and I'm certainly not going to get into the politics of it. Just know that whatever some Republicans say, Obamacare is the law of the land and you are entitled to use it to purchase health coverage.

Mostly, I want to give you an overview of the basics, then provide links to the best, most succinct information available.

These 10 essential services of Obamacare are required to be included in all coverage plans, no exceptions. They are:

• Emergency services
• Hospitalizations
• Laboratory services
• Maternity care
• Mental health and substance abuse treatment
• Outpatient, or ambulatory care
• Pediatric care
• Prescription drugs
• Preventive care
• Rehabilitative services
• Vision and dental care for children

Here are some of the new benefits and prohibitions.

• Your policy cannot be canceled if you get sick or for honest errors in your application
• No lifetime limit on benefits
• Few annual dollar limits
• Free annual checkups and preventive care
• Coverage cannot be denied for pre-existing conditions nor can you be charged a higher premium for them

You've undoubtedly heard about the new healthcare marketplaces – also called exchanges - where coverage is sold. They are individual to each of the 50 states. Some are operated by the states; others by the federal government.

They are where you go to find health coverage, learn if you qualify for lower costs based on your income, compare different kinds of coverage and enroll – all online. Or, there are “navigators” who can, via telephone, help you find what works best for your circumstances. is the place to start for everyone – individuals and families. The website is extensive, crammed with the information you need along with answers to questions you probably haven't thought of yet.

I assume you know that Obamacare makes purchasing health coverage mandatory and that there is a penalty if you don't buy it. But there are also subsidies for low-income individuals and families.

At, there is a calculator to help determine if you are eligible for that financial aid. I tried it out using my state, Oregon, with $25,000 estimated income for 2014 for a 60-year-old individual. Here is the result:

Total monthly premium: $848
My percentage: 17%
Percentage paid by federal tax credits 83%
My monthly premium: $144

When I tried again using $50,000 estimated 2014 income, I received a notice that I am not eligible for financial assistance.

As I was writing this post on Tuesday, an email arrived from Maggie Mahar, the respected health and health policy journalist who writes the Health Beat blog. Ms. Mahar points out that Obamacare coverage premiums are coming in much lower than originally anticipated. There are four reasons, she says:

  1. In the exchanges, insurers are forced to compete on price

  2. Some state regulators have flexed their muscles

  3. The vast majority of exchange shoppers will be eligible for government subsidies

  4. Insurers have brought down premiums by refusing to include health care providers who over-charge (even for simple procedures) in their networks

You can read more about Obamacare insurance rates at Maggie Mahar's blog: Reverse Sticker Shock Part 1 and Reverse Sticker Shock Part 2.

Yesterday, officials released a state-by-state chart of premiums under the new health care law. They vary dramatically from state to state but are mostly quite reasonable. You can see the chart here.

Obamacare is far from perfect. It is a huge, unwieldy health program and many things will go wrong. They can be fixed. Don't be impatient. Remember, Medicare seemed to be a disaster when it began but one by one, the glitches have been and continue to be addressed and it's pretty hard now to find any elder who would want to live without it.

Whatever we might have wished for – universal healthcare, Medicare for all - Obamacare is what we have. It's a big step in the right direction so give it a chance, let the process of correction go on.

While that happens, remember that now, tens of millions more people than before along with their families and children will finally be able to see a physician. This is a good thing.

The three best websites for learning what you need to know about Obamacare are, WebMD and Kaiser Health.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: Lovely Age

You Don't Lose Your Civil Rights Just Because You Get Old

When I wrote about the Dangers of Elderspeak a couple of weeks ago, I was pleased to receive an email note from Jayne Mullins about how that kind of demeaning language can be and is, as she writes, used “to groom people for being taken advantage of or worse.”

Ms. Mullins knows whereof she speaks. For many years she has worked as an Elder Abuse Program Specialist for a non-profit, the Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources (GWAAR).

In that position, she recently completed a paper titled The Language We Use or I'm Not Your “Honey” that is being distributed to professionals, volunteers and others who work with elders and disabled people throughout the 70 counties of Wisconsin where the GWAAR is active.

In a handy table, the paper lists condescending, ageist words and phrases next to recommendations for more respectful language. She has allowed me to post the paper and you can download it here (.doc format).

In a delightful telephone conversation, Jayne made several points that I will be adopting around this blog when discussing ageist issues. My favorite is “You don't lose your civil rights just because you get old.”

As Jayne said that to me, I was reminded of a recent news story about Jean Murrell Capers, a 100-year-old Cleveland judge who retired just two years ago and was recently forced by the Cuyahoga County court system to leave her home to live in a retirement community.

According to the reporter, this move came about because

”She has taken to falling - a number of times in recent months. She's has also been a regular visitor to University Hospitals over the past two years, for a variety of ills. She's been losing weight from what already was a petite frame...

“People who care about at Cuyahoga County Probate Court, which appointed a guardian for her.

“At an instant, the former Cleveland Municipal Court judge's decision-making authority was taken away and given to someone else. Her guardian now approves decisions as basic as where she lives and when she can venture out into public.”

There is not enough information in the news story for you or me to have an opinion about the judge's capability to decide for herself but it does note that she is still paying rent on her apartment in addition to the monthly cost of the retirement community.

That leaves me to wonder why a home health care aide could not have been found that would allow the judge to remain in her apartment where she wants to be.

"They say they're doing this because they love me and want what's best for me,” says the judge. “But I can still take care of myself. I know what's best for me. I'm best left alone."

I guess in Cuyahoga County even a beloved local judge loses her civil rights because she is old.

That said, here is what I like about the judge's story and about what Jayne is doing with the paper she wrote on ageist language: they are both about the well-being of care receivers as opposed to caregivers.

With newsletters, rss feeds, Google alerts and other technology, I keep close watch on elder health issues and what is almost entirely overlooked are the care receivers. In the popular media, it is all about caregivers and their problems.

I'm not saying caregiving isn't tiring and isn't hard work. I did it 24/7 for my mother while holding down a full time job long distance from her home. It was exhausting and I know I was fortunate that it lasted only four months.

But as tired as I was every day, it was impossible for me to forget what the purpose was: in my case, to do everything possible to make my mother's journey from life on earth to whatever comes next as easy and comfortable and good as possible FOR HER. And that I could rest when that had been accomplished.

Look, I'm nobody special. Without listing all my failings, one of them is that I am endowed with a high level of selfishness. But even for me there are circumstances – a dying or disabled friend or relative comes to mind – when self-concern is set aside.

What has bothered me for a long time is that for all the ink spilled in recent years on the health issues of a growing elder population, almost all the public attention is given not to the care receivers, but to the caregivers.

Without taking anything away from hard-working caregivers, hurray to Jayne Mullins of GWAAR and to Phillip Morris, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reporter who wrote about Judge Jean Murrell Capers for placing attention on the people for whom caregiving is the point.

You shouldn't lose your civil rights just because you get old and you shouldn't be the forgotten person in discussions about caregiving.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine - Grandmother's Flower Garden: My Life in Quilts

Elders and Fingerprint Technology

A long time ago, back in 2008, Crabby Old Lady was invited to speak at Gnomedex, a Seattle tech conference produced by Chris Pirillo that featured mostly tech entrepreneurs and enthusiasts as both attendees and presenters.

So what was Crabby, age 67 at the time, doing there? She is glad you asked: she was talking to those young techies about how to make their hardware and software more elder friendly.

Crabby Old Lady doesn't have a lot of experience at public speaking to begin with and looking out at that sea of faces young enough to be her grandchildren made her nervous. But she needn't have been.

For the rest of the conference following her presentation, she had a bunch of fine conversations with those young people who were now taking elder design seriously.

It was very cool and although Crabby does not claim full responsibility, maybe she made a dent in some designer's thinking because a lot of hardware and software is much easier these days for old people to use.

Now, however, the issue has re-emerged due to a groundswell of news this past week about biometrics and it has Crabby thinking that although Gnomedex is no longer being produced, maybe she needs to find some other conference and do this all over again:

“Touch ID fingerprint sensor 'a potentially game-changing hardware feature' [writes] veteran technology reporter Walter S. Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal” as quoted at
“iPhone Fingerprint Feature Renews Biometrics Debate,” headlines the Austin American-Statesman.
“The use of biological markers like fingerprints, faces and irises to identify people is rapidly moving from science fiction to reality,” chimes in The New York Times while calling on Congress to enact legislation to govern the use of biometrics vis a vis privacy.

Apple's new iPhone was released on Friday and it took only until yesterday, Monday, until some hackers announced they had cracked the device's fingerprint scanner.

Hacking and privacy issues aside, there is no doubt that using biometrics to lock up what people don't want others to see will become increasingly common and god knows Crabby is eager to give up the dozens of passwords she can't keep track of.

But maybe she and other old people won't be included because once again, the developers, designers, technologists, programmers and others working on fingerprint technology have failed to include elders in their homework and thinking.

As Crabby reported to you back in February, during a background check for some volunteer work she does, she became a fingerprint reject and was required to return to the Clackamas County Sheriff's office for a second go at it.

The reason is that old people's fingerprints are hard or, sometimes, impossible to scan:

”...fingerprinting did have significant engineering issues,' according to Ross Anderson, professor in security engineering at the University of Cambridge [England] Computer Laboratory. ‘There are some people whose fingerprints you can’t scan,' he said, 'people like bricklayers and tilers whose fingers have been worn flat.

“‘Old people tend to have much less distinct fingerprints than young people for similar reasons,' he continued.”

The Scientific American website explains that

”...the elasticity of skin decreases with age, so a lot of senior citizens have prints that are difficult to capture. The ridges get thicker; the height between the top of the ridge and the bottom of the furrow gets narrow, so there's less prominence. So if there's any pressure at all [on the scanner], the print just tends to smear.”

As much as Crabby Old Lady dislikes the necessity of having 40 or 50 passwords, she's going to hate it a whole lot more when she's trying to get money from an ATM or is “signing” for a credit purchase with her fingerprint and the machine can't read it.

But that is what's going to happen if fingerprint technology developers don't plan for millions of elders whose fingerprints will fail to register if a solution is not found.

Now, before fingerprint readers are widely adopted, would be the time to work on it. Or does Crabby Old Lady need to give another presentation?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Longevity

When Old Friends Die

About 200 years, ago, in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Lord Byron wrote:

What is the worst of woes that wait on age?
What stamps the wrinkle deeper on the brow?
To view each loved one blotted from life's page,
And be alone on earth, as I am now.

Well, all right, I am not alone but it is true that if you live long enough one of “the worst of woes” is the inevitable loss of the people who mean so much to you; the inevitable shrinking of our personal worlds.

In the past month, two old friends died. Two. Although neither death was entirely unexpected (one by suicide, the other after years of struggle with a brain tumor) even when the circumstances of a person's life are dire, we hope, don't we? We can't help it.

When hope is dashed, we are left to mourn. Each in our own way. Long before I was old, I had buried too many friends. And my parents too.

Through those years and sadnesses, I noticed a strange and wonderful thing in regard to ones who lived far away: when they died, I didn't quite “get” it. Instead, it was though we hadn't visited in a long while and it continues to feel that way over time.

Back then when I lived in New York, it was usually west coast friends I felt were still there. These two latest deaths are east coast friends and the phenomenon holds – we just haven't visited lately.

That doesn't mean I am delusional. I know perfectly well those people are dead, that another piece of my life has gone permanently missing and of course, that is the awful thing, isn't it.

The woe in losing old friends is that there is that much less companionship, the particular easy familiarity with that certain person, the memories created together and that you can no longer say, “Remember when we...” and laugh or, sometimes, cry together.

That's gone now. There is never any point in trying to tell someone else about what happened back then. It is always something for which you had to be there. Sometimes I wonder, when I am the only one left to recall those events, if they really happened.

Eh. Existential indulgence is what that is.

So I trudge forward, wading through the melancholy one more time knowing it will not be the last and that I am a little bit more alone in the world than I was a month ago.

One of the things that has always bothered me when loved ones die is that people almost always say, “I loved him so much.” “I loved her so much.” How can that be – past tense? I still love them all. That part never ends.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Colleen Redman: Dear Dread


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.

Welcome back to the world of years. I really got to bitch and grumble the first time I did this series, but I'm going to do them again anyway.

This time there are twice as many years as last time – starting earlier and ending later. I'm starting before I was born so I don't know anything about these early years thus I'll just make something up.

Well, either that or read books or maybe resort to Dr Google. I've decided to start, rather arbitrarily I must say, in 1935.

  • Elvis was born
  • The BBC started broadcasting television pictures
  • Western Australians voted to secede from Australia  Nothing happened
  • The premiere of Porgy and Bess (in Boston)
  • Howard Hughes set a new air speed record (347.5 mph)
  • Paperback Penguin books were published for the first time
  • The 39 Steps was released
  • Great Britain won the Davis Cup
  • Collingwood were premiers

COLE PORTER not only wrote a lot of songs, he sang them as well.

Cole Porter

Here he performs You're the Top including the rarely heard introduction.

♫ Cole Porter - You're The Top

I guess you could say that AL BOWLLY was the opposite of Cole – he was a singer who also wrote songs.

Al Bowlly

Al was born in Mozambique. His parents were Greek and Lebanese and they were on their way to Australia when they got a bit side-tracked.

He grew up in South Africa and as a performer made a bit of a living touring southeast Asia, particularly India, Singapore and Indonesia. He worked a passage to Europe and performed in Germany before moving to Britain where he toured and recorded.

He performed in America for some considerable time to great success until he had to undergo throat surgery. Although partially successful, this bothered him for the rest of his life.

He returned to Britain (they'd pretty much forgotten about him) and re-established his fame there. He was killed in a German bombing raid over London in 1941.

Here Al performs Blue Moon with the Ray Noble Orchestra.

♫ Al Bowlly - Blue Moon

Continuing the theme, FATS WALLER was another singer (and pianist) who also wrote songs.

Fats Waller

In the twenties, Fats wrote many songs that he sold for a pittance. A number later became big hits. This sort of thing continued for many decades. It may still be happening today.

This is one he didn't write and many people have turned their hand to as well. I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter.

♫ Fats Waller - I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter

I thought we'd have a bit of a change here. Well, certainly a change of style, however, I guess the theme continues as PATSY MONTANA was also a songwriter and singer.

Patsy Montana

Patsy was the first female country performer to have a million selling record. It was this one, I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart, which she wrote herself.

♫ Patsy Montana & The Prairie Ramblers - I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart

LOUIS ARMSTRONG could probably fit into any year of this decade (or the next, or the previous).

Louis Armstrong

I'll try not to overuse him. There are others who, similarly, may be featured quite a bit. We'll see. Anyway, Louis plays and sings I'm in the Mood for Love.

♫ Louis Armstrong - I'm in the Mood for Love

According to legend, the next artist was described thus: "Can't sing. Can't act. Balding. Can dance a little.” You all know about whom that was written: FRED ASTAIRE.

Fred Astaire

Another saying about him and Ginger Rogers is that he gave her class and she gave him sex appeal. And, of course, she did everything he did, only backwards and on high heels.

That's enough of this padding. Here's Fred with Cheek to Cheek.

♫ Fred Astaire - Cheek to Cheek

Ah, c'est DJANGO REINHARDT et le Quintette du Hot Club de France.

Django Reinhardt

His regular playing partner, Stéphane Grappelli, is along for the ride as well. These two pretty much defined how jazz guitar and violin should be played. As an example of that, here's Djangology.

♫ Django Reinhardt - Djangology

THE CARTER FAMILY gave rise to several generations of fine musicians.

The Carter Family

The original group wrote songs that are still being performed today, not just by country musicians, but rockers and pop singers as well. I wouldn't be surprised if there are some jazz interpretations as well.

This is one such song, Can the Circle Be Unbroken (Bye and Bye). It has undergone a slight change of title these days, but it's the same song.

♫ The Carter Family - Can The Circle Be Unbroken (By And By)

I must admit to knowing little about RUTH ETTING, just her name and she made some records.

Ruth Etting

Some records? She had more than 60 hits and performed on the stage and in film and radio as well. She even had a film made about her, Love Me or Leave Me with Doris Day in the lead role.

We have an appropriate tune called Life is a Song.

♫ Ruth Etting - Life is a Song

SLEEPY JOHN ESTES was from Tennessee where he worked as a field hand by day and played music at night.

Sleepy John Estes

He lost the sight of one eye in an accident when he was young (and eventually went completely blind).

John came late to the folk blues revival of the early sixties as everyone assumed he was dead as he always sounded old on record. He eventually got on the circuit and was successful, particularly in Europe.

There are several versions of how he came by the nickname Sleepy but none of them are very interesting so I won't trouble you with them. Here he is joined by Hammie Nixon on harmonica with Stop That Thing.

♫ Sleepy John Estes - Stop That Thing

1936 will appear in two weeks' time.

INTERESTING STUFF – 21 September 2013


Sometimes I think Simon's Cat is getting stale but he's become an internet institution now and a part of my online life.


Three Chinese artists, Dai Dudu, Li Tiezi and Zhang An, painted this in 2006.

Influential People Picture

It doesn't look like much in this tiny image but trust me, there are 103 people of historical influence included. And there is more: when you run your cursor over any of them in the large view, their name appears. Click on a face and their Wikipedia page opens.

The people range from the ancients – Plato, Ramses II, Julius Caesar – to the very modern – Bruce Lee, Bill Gates and Sam Walton's dog.

Here is where you'll find it full size. Go play. It's a load of fun. (Hat tip to Sheila Halet)


And how can we be sure we know? A linguist and his actor son explain it all at the Globe Theater in London in this 10-minute video from the Open University.

You can read more here.


Way back in 2009, a certain TGB reader asked me about elderblogging. This past week, the person you may know from the comments as doctafil published an ebook “comedic memoir” under her full name, Brenda Henry.

In her email telling me about it, she said: “You encouraged me to start a blog and keep on writing. You also published some of my stories on your site.”

You will find those stories at The Elder Storytelling Place under yet another name, Brenda Adams, and her blog Jive Chalkin is still going strong.

The book is titled the same as the blog and I know it's both informative and funny. This is from the publisher's website:

“After working 25 secretarial jobs, she returned to university as a mature student and earned her teaching credentials along with a masters in education and a graduate diploma in counseling.”

I love it when this happens, when I can help inspire someone to tell their stories.


Warning, you may go into sugar shock watching this video – a two-month-old puppy with an eight-month-old baby girl.


What happens, wondered the producers at Erickson Living (retirement communities company), when you gather a group of children and ask them what they're going to do when they retire?

And then, what would it look like if you asked the kids' grandparents to re-enact their responses? Here's the result starring Erickson residents and their real-life grandchildren.


About three months ago, a New York City librarian made a promise that if

” least 300 of the children would register in her summer reading program and, collectively, read at least 4,000 books, [she would read] a story aloud to a live alligator.”

Well, 344 children responded and together they read 4,595 books so Susan Scatena of Queens Library at Whitestone was on the hook and with the help of reptile trainer Erik Callendar, she delivered.

”Scatena read Mercer Mayer’s There’s an Alligator Under My Bed to Wally, a 5-foot-plus female alligator, while hundreds of children looked on.”

Here's the photo:


You can read more about it here.


A gorgeous lesson about kindness and caring sent by my friend Jim Stone.

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 People Sneeze More and Other Weird (or Annoying) Age Changes

I am probably as far as you can get from being a hypochondriac. I am much more likely to ignore some important health signal that turns up than I am to worry or run to a doctor about it.

That said, for the better part of the past year, I have noticed that I need to clear my throat frequently. It comes and goes and for the past several weeks, it's been gone but that's happened before and the need returned.

I occasionally wonder if I should ask a doctor about it, but I forget so I was relieved this week to read:

”The number of glands that secrete mucus around the vocal cords to lubricate them start to decrease as we get older. The lack of mucus irritates the throat, triggering a tendency to clear the throat more often.”

That's according to an ear, nose and throat surgeon named John Rubin quoted in

Since I figure old Australians probably aren't much different from old Americans or Canadians or Germans, etc., I think we should all learn about the explanations for these minor irritations and ailments that can afflict elders.

The story, titled, This is how you know you're getting old, tells us that just as we've always heard, our ears, nose and feet do get bigger:

”The ears are made up of cartilage, a flexible connective tissue which, unlike bones, continues to grow until we die. Cartilage also becomes thinner with age, causing the skin to stretch and sag, so the ears stretch down and the tip of the nose lengthens and droops.

“Meanwhile, our feet become longer and wider with age, as the tendons and ligaments that link the many tiny bones lose elasticity. This allows the toes to spread out and the arch of the foot to flatten.”

We also get more skin moles called seborrhoeic keratoses. They are common and harmless but do let your physician know about them just in case yours are something different.

That we tend to put on weight is not news nor that our voices can become weaker but did you know that men's voices get higher and women's lower?

”Around the age of 70, in men, the cartilage starts to thin and the joints between the pieces of cartilage in the vocal cords become more unstable," says the same Dr. Rubin...

“[In women] after the menopause, lack of [estrogen] can cause swelling in the vocal cords, which makes the voice sound much lower.” also tells us that our eyes get watery with age, we get drunk more quickly than when we were younger and our teeth “look” longer although they do not really get longer.

And, we are sneezing more (well, aging Australians are anyway) and although there are several theories about causes, there is no definitive answers yet.

Go read the whole story. It's both amusing and informative.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: Roy

Let's Be Careful Out There: Falls Prevention for Elders

Next Sunday, 22 September, is Fall Prevention Awareness Day in the United States and that means it's time for our annual reminder about how important it is to do everything possible in your life to prevent falling.

Here are the good – and frightening – facts about falls we should all know and pay attention to, collectively and individually:

  • One-third of all Americans age 65 and older fall each year.
  • To think about it another way, every 15 seconds an elder is seen in an emergency department for a fall-related injury.
  • More than 95 percent of hip fractures are caused by falls.
  • Men are more likely than women to die from a fall. After taking age into account, the death rate from falls in 2009 was 34% higher for men than for women

Many elders have multiple health problems and the more you have, the more likely you are to fall. Here are the most common health problems related to falling:

  • Difficulty walking or moving around
  • Four or more medications
  • Foot problems, unsafe footwear
  • Blood pressure drop on standing up/dizziness
  • Poor vision
  • Tripping hazards in the home

And here is a handy chart that should scare the pants off you about health problems related to falls:

Falls Health Chart

All right. Does everyone get it that fall-related injuries are a major cause of pain, disability, loss of independence and premature death in elders? Or have I overdone that part?

Most falls can be prevented but we need to make some adjustments to our lives to keep ourselves and others safe. Here is a good general list:

  • Exercise. It makes you strong and improves balance.

  • Stand up slowly after you have been sitting or lying down to help avoid dizziness.

  • Have your vision checked every year. If you can't see well, you have a higher risk of falling.

  • Ask your physician or pharmacist about the drugs you use – prescription and over-the-counter. Some can cause sleepiness and dizziness that can lead to falling.

  • Do a safety assessment of your home and then make the necessary changes.

In regard to that last item – fall proofing your home – here is a partial list of important measures you can take to ensure your safety.

  • Increase the lighting; no dark areas or corners
  • Add grab bars in the tub, shower and next to the toilet
  • Always wear shoes with non-skid soles – even indoors
  • Remove all throw rugs
  • Immediately wipe up all spills
  • Install nightlights to lead you to the bathroom
  • Use non-skid mats in the shower and on the bathroom floor
  • Remove clutter from floors to prevent tripping
There is much more to know. Here are some good sources about falls and fall prevention:

• The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Falls Checklist

• National Council on Aging (NCOA) section about falls prevention

• Kaiser Permanente has a good story with a short video about how practicing tai chi can help prevent falls. Some senior centers have free or low-cost, regular classes.

Harvard Magazine has some addition information about the health benefits of tai chi.

As Sergeant Phil Esterhaus (Michael Conrad) used to say in every episode of Hill Street Blues:

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: Fish Tales

Two Elder Movies

However would I keep up without you guys who read this blog? Today's post is entirely the result of two readers.

There seems in recent years to have been a slight uptick in new movies – good movies, at that - about old people. Too many are about sickness - especially Altzheimer's disease – than about living but it's still a good thing that more are being produced.

Deb, who blogs at Simple Not Easy emailed a while back to tell me about Still Here Mine starring James Cromwell as an 89-year-old who goes up against local regulatory authorities as he tries to build a house for his wife, played by Genevieve Bujold.

As Deb described it in her email:

”This is a lovely film about a couple in their 80s, married 61 years, still in love, and still making love. Really the first time I've ever seen such a loving and beautiful portrayal of physical love between old people.”

Here is another review and this is the official trailer:

Alas, however long Still Mine played in my area this summer, I missed it and it's gone now.

Few movies about elders are distributed as widely as the 2011 feel-good film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, so we are often stuck waiting for them to show up on television (hard to know where and when) or on Netflix (hardly ever). So I'll probably indulge in purchasing the DVD soon.

Another TGB reader, Ali, emailed about Last Tango in Halifax. It's not a theatrical movie; it's a six-episode TV series produced by the BBC that aired in England last fall and is currently being broadcast on some PBS stations in the United States.

The romantic comedy stars Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid as former sweethearts, each now widowed and in their 70s, who are reunited after 60 years.

I watched the first episode online. Yes, hooked me. Somehow I missed the second episode (I'll watch it online too) and have now set my DVR to record the remaining four so I won't miss any more on what I laughingly call my big screen.

Here is The New York Times review and here's a trailer for the first episode:

If your PBS station is not broadcasting the series or you want to catch up before episode three, you can view them online here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Florence Hart Millo: New Clothes

Dead Relatives' Junk

It's been more than 21 years since I cleared out my mother's home after she died. There wasn't much. She had known she was dying and had, apparently, got rid of all but bare essentials before she was too sick to handle the chore.

There was little I needed to do. Some of the furniture, other big items, the TV and the car went to friends along with the dollhouses she liked to build from scratch. Almost everything else went to a charity group or into a dumpster.

For myself, I set aside the family photo albums, some modest jewelry she owned and – inexplicably - a small footstool covered in a needlepoint scene of Versailles that my mother had made and a cheap, dime-store jewelry box.

I say “inexplicably” about those last two items because they are awful.

Since my mother has now been dead for more than two decades, today I am giving myself permission to say out loud that she had terrible taste. In pretty much everything.

That footstool wasn't the only needlepoint in her home – dozens of needlepoint pictures were framed on the walls. Scenic vistas, dogs, cats and I have forgotten which president of the U.S. but given her politics, I'm guessing it was Ronald Reagan.

There was nothing particularly wrong with the style of the furniture in her home but the brassy colors and mismatched patterns could make you dizzy.

In clothing too, she had no sense of either style or color. Zero. One of the things she did better than anyone else I've ever known is knit and over the years I received dozens of sweaters.

The basic styles were good – pullovers, cardigans, turtlenecks, etc. - all of them beautifully and perfectly constructed in various weights of wool so that they were (or, would have been) useful for different seasons of the year.

But every one was made in colors so garish they could have lighted up Times Square at night.

Unless the sweater was made of black wool (which I begged for now and then), it was unwearable.

Having said all that, maybe I should redeem my mother's taste a bit.

When I was going through the unpredictable hot flashes of menopause, I complained to her in a phone call that I was pained to have had to give up silk blouses, skirts, pants and dresses.

A few weeks later, a big box arrived from Mom. Inside were ten sweatshirts each a different color – nice colors, not wild and weird as the sweaters usually were. And sewn to the front of each sweatshirt was lace dyed to exactly match the color of the sweatshirt.

They were subtle and beautiful and fantastically useful in the circumstance of menopausal hot flashes. Worn under suit and other jackets, the shirts were perfectly acceptable for travel and business meetings and no one knew when I was drowning in sweat.

Anyway, back to that footstool and jewelry box.

Ever since my mother died those many years ago, I have been using that ugly jewelry box for my own earrings, pins and necklaces. And every time I open the drawer to choose something from that box, I tell myself it is time to let it go and buy my own.

That dreadful footstool – also shorter than what I prefer – still sits in front of a certain chair. I use it every other day when I do bicep curls during my morning exercise routine.

I tell myself I have other footstools I can use but then I picture myself tossing it into a dumpster. That doesn't feel so good. It feels no better when I think about trashing that tatty jewelry box.

This is just stupid. Do other people do this with parents' or other relatives' ordinary items after they die?

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deb: A Steady Job at $1.25 a Day

The Elder Hat Lady Cometh

Last May, in a three-part blog post (beginning here), I told you about my quest for a solution to my balding pate. It was this bad:

Ronni's Hair Loss

Today it is worse.

Back then, as I reported after much research, nothing regrows women's hair if the loss is not caused by a correctable medical or health problem.

The extremely minor success of women's Rogaine in a tiny percentage of women is not worth mentioning and anyone promising that a potion, treatment, vitamin or drug will regrow hair is lying.

Believe me, if anything really regrew hair, it would not be a secret; someone would already be a zillionaire from selling it.

After establishing that fact, I had to decide what to do because I was unwilling to walk around looking half bald. I'm not that liberated from convention.

I found a hair stylist who showed me how to use a light mousse and to take advantage of a cowlick to minimize the appearance of baldness at my crown and front hairline.

In the four months since, I've been doing that but as I told a TGB reader who recently asked how it's going, I continue to lose hair every day.

When I make the effort, I can sort of hide the bald place on my crown but it's getting bigger and thinner and I know I'm not fooling anyone. Even if I were, I don't really have the patience to arrange my hair so carefully every day and check constantly to be sure it hasn't been disturbed.

Obviously, I needed a new solution. In May, I had determined that my choices were:

  1. Find a hair stylist who can help
  2. Wear wigs
  3. Shave my head and go bald

Well, not so fast, Ronni. There is another choice: hats.

In some circumstances, I have always worn hats. On a shelf in a back closet, I have three elegant fur hats for cold, winter weather but no longer, in northwest Oregon, a reason to wear them as I had in New York City.

I do my best to avoid being in the sun for any length of time but I have some sun hats for the occasions when there is no choice.

Plus, three or four times during the farmer's market season here, a woman named Eli sells the most gorgeous, flowery sunhats she makes such as you would see at Queen Elizabeth's garden parties. They are reasonable priced and I've bought four so far.

There is also a small assortment of other hats I've collected over the years for rain, for mucking about in the snow in Maine when I lived there or just because I liked the hat.

So the only thing left for me to do was to make the decision to wear hats full time. Which I did, gradually, over the past three or four weeks until now, it has become second nature to grab one even to go to the mailbox or recycling bins.

Having settled into this new state of being, last week I filled the six-foot empty wall in the hall to my bedroom with hooks on which to hang my hats. It's decorative and easy to see them all when I'm making a choice for the day.

Hat Wall

Fall and winter hats are just hitting the stores and I'll be adding some, I'm sure, in the next few weeks. After trying one, I'm pretty sure that berets, in a variety of colors, will become my default hat.

I am already well known among the vendors at the farmer's market on Saturdays as the hat lady because the sun is bright at 8:30AM and a hat protects my face. So it's not a stretch to become the hat lady generally.

Besides, it's fun and it's a great conversation starter. Grocery checkout clerks, people in restaurants, even strangers in the street often stop to tell me they like my hat.

One day, a man tapped me on the shoulder to tell me that his daughter, the little four-year-old whose hand he was holding, was fascinated with my hat and had insisted they follow me at the farmer's market while she looked at it. We had a fine conversation and she tried on my hat. Oh, dear. Poor dad. I'm afraid that's going to cost him.

Sorry about the weird color of the photos below – I have not learned to compensate for all the fluorescent lights we now have in our homes and I hate taking selfies anyway. But here are four of my hats.

Four Hats

I'm also sorry I didn't get the angle right in the two shots on the right to better show off the decorations on those two hats.

I haven't figured out what to wear at home when I have guests. Probably scarves but that's going to be a tough learning curve – I've never been good at tying them.

The bottom line is that I will never again have enough hair to cover my head and I'm tired of wondering if my bald place is showing so hats are a fine - and fun - solution.

Maybe some day I will be confident enough to just shave my head and go bald but I'm not there yet and wigs seem a lot more work than hats. All I need to do now that I've made the hat decision is to visit the hair stylist now and then to keep what hair is left at a length that looks good with the hats.

Nobody tells us, when we're young, about all these little problems we'll face in old age and there's no instruction manual - we have to figure it out on our own.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On Other Places, Other Times

ELDER MUSIC: Singing Drummers

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.

Drummers are often the least visible members of bands, stuck as they are behind vast amounts of equipment. They seldom sing but there are some who do and those who are known for that I've found to be good at it.  Here are several I know about.

I'll start with someone who will pretty much alienate most of the readers. If there are any youngsters out there reading this, they will recognize this person immediately. If there are any boomers or others of that ilk who'd like to relive their youth-hood, I say turn up the volume.

All the rest, I don't know what to suggest. This is a very loud track recorded beyond the limits that's generally acceptable. Indeed, I think it's the loudest recorded track I've ever included.

It is loud, even with the volume turned down it is loud. Did I mention that it's loud? It's an old Leadbelly song, but performed by young folks. I give you KRAM, the drummer from Spiderbait.


Kram is better known to his mum and dad as Mark Maher. He has been on a number of TV shows here in Oz and is a droll, delightful, funny person. I'm sorry if I've ruined your image, Kram.

Indeed, it was Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and my seeing him on TV that was the genesis for this column so we thought that he had to be present. Spiderbait is from Queensland. Here they play Black Betty.

♫ SpiderBait - Black Betty

For a complete change of pace I give you KAREN CARPENTER.

Karen Carpenter

We all know Karen's singing but she was a drummer too and played the drums on most of The Carpenters' big hits. I pretty much dismissed them when they were at their most popular: just another pop group, I thought.

However, checking tracks for this column, I was struck by what a fine singer Karen was. Here she sings Solitaire, one of her best performances. Karen, however, really didn't like the song.

♫ The Carpenters - Solitaire

Pretty much every member of The Eagles is a fine singer, their drummer included. He is DON HENLEY.

Don Henley

Don sang lead vocals on quite a number of their songs including probably their most famous one, Hotel California. I won't play that one though, I'll go for One of These Nights.

♫ The Eagles - One of These Nights

Almost certainly, the most famous singing drummer - well, a drummer who sang occasionally - is RINGO STARR.

Ringo Starr

I turned to the A.M. for advice about which song to choose. Before you jump to conclusions, she is not much of a Beatles fan but she likes Ringo's songs – she's a bit perverse like that. Her suggestion was Boys. I'll go along with that.

♫ The Beatles - Boys

From the real Beatles to the pseudo Beatles, The Monkees. Davy Jones was quite a good drummer when The Monkees were put together. Unfortunately, he was so short he couldn't be seen behind the drum kit and that was all that mattered for TV, so MICKEY DOLENZ got the gig as he was the tallest member of the group.

It didn't matter than he'd never played the drums before; this was TV.

Micky Dolenz

In time he developed into quite a reasonable drummer and he always was a pretty good singer - such that he sang lead on a lot of their records.

I'm A Believer was written by Neil Diamond, one of several songs he wrote for the group.

♫ The Monkees - I'm A Believer

BUDDY MILES started early, playing drums for his father's jazz band when he was 12. Dad previously had played bass in bands led by Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon. Phew, what a line up.

Buddy Miles

His aunt named him Buddy after Buddy Rich; before that he was known as George. He later performed in various R&B and soul bands including a stint with Wilson Pickett.

Later he formed The Electric Flag with Michael Bloomfield, an influential group that didn't last long as each member had his own idea of the direction that they should take. He was later in Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsies, the band Jimi put together after The Experience.

Later Buddy forged a solo career. He performs Just a Kiss Away.

♫ Buddy Miles - Just A Kiss Away

The Bangles' drummer, DEBBI PETERSON, sings lead vocals on several songs, including the singles, Going Down to Liverpool and Be With You.

Debbi Peterson

The lead vocals for the band were usually performed by Debbi's sister Vicki or Susanna Hoffs. However, on the cover of the Katrina and the Waves' hit Going Down to Liverpool, that's Debbi fronting the mic.

♫ The Bangles - Going Down To Liverpool

Probably the most successful singing drummer as a solo performer would be PHIL COLLINS. I decided not to use the single of this track because I found a live version on YouTube that was so much better.

They must have choreographed this within an inch of its life, Phil got it down perfectly, getting to the drum kit at exactly the right time. The song is, of course, In the Air Tonight.

SAM LAY began his career in the fifties in a group called the Original Thunderbirds.

Sam Lay

Soon after that, he was the drummer in Little Walter's band. He later became the drummer for many of the Chess stable of blues musicians, including Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf and others.

He became a regular member of Muddy Waters' band until somewhat later when Paul Butterfield grabbed him for his fine combo. After that he ventured into the rock arena with Michael Bloomfield and Bob Dylan – that's him playing the drums on the infamous Newport Folk Festival gig when Bob shocked them all by playing rock & roll.

He's also recorded several albums under his own name and still plays around the traps to this day. Here he performs My Fault with Michael playing guitar.

♫ Sam Lay - My Fault

I'll finish with the best of the lot and I'm brooking no arguments on this score. I give you LEVON HELM from The Band.

Levon Helm

Levon played drums for The Band (of course), but like all the others in the group he played several other instruments - mandolin, guitar and piano - as well. That was one of the reasons why this was the finest group in rock history.

Instead of something from The Band, here is a song from Levon's later solo career, Even a Fool Would Let Go.

♫ Levon Helm - Even a Fool Would Let Go

INTERESTING STUFF – 14 September 2013


Politicians and influencers interested in creating a generational divide like to quote the statistic that the unemployment rate for 55-64 year olds is about 5.4 percent against the general unemployment rate of 7.4 or so. They conveniently omit the other statistics for the age group:

” But almost every other number from the bureau makes it clear that while the economy may be improving, a substantial number of older workers who lost jobs — even those lucky enough to be re-employed — are still suffering,” reports The New York Times.

“Two-thirds in that age group who found work again are making less than they did in their previous job; their median salary loss is 18 percent compared with a 6.7 percent drop for 20- to 24-year-olds.

“The re-employment rate for 55- to 64-year-olds is 47 percent and 24 percent for those over 65, compared with 62 percent for 20- to 54-year-olds. And finding another job takes far longer: 46 weeks for boomers, compared with 20 weeks for 16- to 24-year-olds.”

So large numbers of people in their mid-years and later, many of whom lost huge chunks of savings in the 2008 crash, are being deprived of years of savings and of higher salaries in the prime earning years that would boost their future Social Security benefits.

It was sad enough to read this story; the hundreds of comments had me weeping. It is heartbreaking but we all need to have these things in mind when future elections roll around. What has your representative done for jobs?


Another flashmob, another unexpected treat. From the YouTube page:

”Sacla' the Pesto Pioneers and Italian foodies favourite brand, served up a great surprise at John Lewis Foodhall from Waitrose and staged an impromptu Opera in the food aisles.

“They planted five secret opera singers who were disguised as casual shoppers and store staff amongst the groceries who broke into song bringing the foodhall to a standstill with a rousing rendition of the Italian classic Funiculì, Funiculà.

Hat to to Ali for sending in the video.


While we're doing music, here's a scientific explanation about “how a simple mixture of sound frequencies can affect your brain and body" and why it's not all that different from a drug like cocaine.


Reverse mortgages have a poor reputation and they should not. They are available to people age 62 and older and for some it makes the difference between a penurious old age and a bit more comfort.

Now, beginning on 30 September 2013, FHA is making the loans more difficult. The allowable amount of a reverse mortgage will be reduced by about 15 percent and except in a few case, there are restrictions on how much can be withdrawn in the first year:

”A homeowner eligible to withdraw a total of $200,000 in cash, for example, would be allowed to get only $120,000, or 60 percent of that sum, in the first year.”

There is more detailed information at The New York Times.


This gorgeous video was made by Anthony Cerniello who writes at the You Tube page:

”I attempted to create a person in order to emulate the aging process. The idea was that something is happening but you can't see it but you can feel it, like aging itself.”

Thank you to TGB reader Nana Royer for sending the video. You can read about how it was made at Huffington Post.


Whether losing or maintaining your weight, it's important to know how many calories you are eating and it's a horrible bore to weigh portions or measure amounts so most of us learn to do credible estimates.

Now comes a useful page from the website allthatisinteresting with a chart of what 200 calories looks for nearly 50 foods. Here's an example:

200 calories

You can see the rest of the 200-calorie portions here.


In 2005, a man was driving along a road in Texas while simultaneously leaving a voice mail for his boss. He witnessed a minor traffic accident which he described in minute, funny detail for his boss.

Some have said the voice message is a hoax and Snopes concluded that “without additional evidence” that it is a prank cannot be ruled out.

Here it is and you can make up your own mind.

Hat tip to Larry Hannah who had some reservations about how the old women were portrayed. I don't know how I feel about that but a big part of me says, "good for them." There are all kinds of incidents in my past that I wish I'd done what these women did.


It is just a week ago today that three baby lion cubs – triplets - were born to Neka at the Portland, Oregon zoo. Mother and children are in seclusion for now but here is a first black-and-white glimpse of them on day one. So cute.

Apparently, by day two the kids were already straying where mama did not want them to be:

You can read about them here and here.


Don't be put off that this is a Guinness commercial. Watch to the end and you will be inspired. (Hat tip to Erin Read of Creating Results)

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.

How to Accept Our Aging Bodies – Part 2 of 2

[Part 1 is here]

A man once told me that if he ever suggested to his 89-year-old grandmother that she was old, she would have smacked him.

Yes, it is extreme to hang on to such a view at her age, but I've seen it myself. Many elders – the majority, I would guess – find the idea of old age so abhorrent and terrifying they deny they are old even when doing so makes them appear sad or foolish or, in some cases, grotesque to others.

But it's not hard to see why they do it. In a thousand ways every day, our culture reminds us that being old is the most terrible thing that can befall any person. And in twice as many ways every day, it unrelentingly promotes the lie that we can maintain a youthful body unto death.

”The shame-based approach to aging is heavily reinforced by an American mediascape that loudly and insistently proclaims, 'You are young. Young is always better than old. Adulthood can last forever, if you want it to.' In public, we tell each other, 'You’re as young as you feel!'”

So notes geriatrician Bill Thomas.

Even though I have never really believed any of this hooey, the repetition is insidious and like so many, I have been a shamed victim of it.

All my life, I fought the extra 10-20 pounds my body insisted it wanted. I did pretty well until I retired nine years ago and exhausted from 40 years of constant dieting, just let it go. The result, of course, was a heavy weight gain.

As regular readers know, I let it be until early this year fear – make that FEAR - of aging diseases associated with obesity led me to a weight control regimen that is ongoing and, so far, quite successful.

However, the cultural shame game about our bodies had kept me from looking at myself naked for many years. I will show you how difficult that is in my home. This is a photo of my dressing room that has lots and lots of mirrors reflecting one another.

Dressing Room

My clothes are behind about 13 feet of sliding doors you can't see on the left and the door in the back on the right opens into the tub/shower room so you know that at least twice a day I am naked in that room.

But until last week, I had seen myself in that natural state – really looked at myself without clothing – only once, about a year or so ago. Do you have any idea how difficult that is with mirrors on two sides of you every day? It takes a lot of shame to work at it that hard.

For me, elder advocate that I am, there is a strange division in my mind about this. On the one hand, I unshakably believe – and have done so for many years - that there is nothing wrong with old bodies. I find photographs and paintings of old bodies to be fascinating and attractive.

On the other hand, I have not liked to see what time has done to my own body. Bill Thomas again:

”Because our culture has conditioned us to focus on our flaws, we naturally concentrate on and worry about the wrinkles, creases, and imperfections we see in the mirror.

“Although it can seem hard to believe at first, it is within our power to look into a mirror, study what we see there, and acknowledge, without reservation, that we are no longer young. We can learn to read the story of our lives as it has been written around our eyes and mouth and across our foreheads and cheeks.

“We can begin to reinterpret the changes as signs of important signifiers of our unique journey through life.”

It had been a couple of years since I had read those words of Thomas's but they came to mind when, last week, I wondered how my body looks now after losing 25 of the 40 pounds that is my goal. I stood in front of those mirrors for a good, long time taking in the wrinkles, the pudgy parts, the sags and all.

No, you are not going to see what I look like naked, but I am going to show you whom I most reminded myself of: the sculpture of “The Old Courtesan” by Rodin that I showed you yesterday, here in another view:

The Old Courtesan - Rodin

I'm a bit more round than she is with more flesh on my bones but with that, our bodies are remarkably similar, even to the apparent strength in her calf, to that little pot belly (which I am determined to lose) and to our breasts. Mine never did amount to much anyway and are almost as droopy as hers.

The more I looked, turning here and there, adjusting the mirrors to try different angles, the more I became okay with me. I'm 72 – into my eighth decade now. This is what I look like and it's been a long, interesting road getting here that I would not trade.

Not infrequently on this blog, a commenter will say that he or she feels the same now as 30 or 40 or more years ago. Really? I feel a lot different and glad of it.

It would be awful to feel and be the same person I was at 20 or 30 or 40. I hope to god I've learned and grown and changed my mind about stupid things I once believed. Bill Thomas agrees:

”You must have an intensely personal and private conversation with your own true, aging, self,” he writes. “The time has come to look into the mirror and, finally, make peace with the changes you see on your face and feel in your mind and body.

“You are not the person you were when you were 20 years old. You are not the person you were 20 years ago. The fact is that those people vanished a long time ago.”

That was readily apparent when I spent personal time with the mirror and guess what? I didn't faint. I didn't fall down. I didn't feel bad when I looked at my naked self. It's what I am now and there is no point in trying to wish back my 20-year-old body.

It would be such a waste of time to spend one moment on such thoughts. Instead, listen to Bill Thomas – he knows what he's talking about – and be brave:

1. ”Stop pining for what is already gone

2. ”Start searching for the person you are meant to become

“Relinquishing one’s claim on youth is a necessary precondition for exploring life beyond adulthood...

“Persistently and deliberately misinterpreted as mere decline, elderhood is actually the rich reward that goes to those who manage to outgrow the frenzied jangle of adulthood and enter voluntarily into a new and much more soulful way of being.”

All these quotes from Dr. Thomas are from Eldertopia, his impassioned plea for acceptance of elderhood as a separate time of life from adulthood, published in the 2012 edition of “The Journal” from AARP International.

I hope Bill doesn't mind that I have cherry picked the quotations to go along with what is on my mind this week, acceptance of our elder bodies. That idea plays a supporting role in service to the point of his story but I don't believe I have misrepresented anything.

It is well worth your while to read Eldertopia in full.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joyce Benedict: Double Treasures

How to Accept Our Aging Bodies – Part 1 of 2

As, over the past months my weight loss program, reinforced by the daily workout routine, has borne fruit in greatly reduced body size, I have been thinking about the changes age brings to our bodies.

That reminded of a blog post from more than six years ago about old bodies and the undeserved poor reputation our culture places on sags and bags and wrinkles and bulges that come with advanced years. In re-reading, I found that I like it a lot.

Cultural attitudes greatly influence individual beliefs about ourselves and others and I think we should have a go, particularly in our older years, at changing that - at least about ourselves and in doing so, maybe we can influence others too.

So have a read of this 2007 post (slightly updated for timeliness) and tomorrow we'll discuss all this further.

Michaelangelodavid Michaelangelo’s David must be the prototype, don’t you think, of outstanding male beauty. He’s gorgeous. Handsome, muscled just enough and not too much, sensitive hands, firm thighs. In the 500 years since the David was so exquisitely sculpted, no one, in art, has matched his ideal.

And he’s young – 20, maybe 25.

Youth is exalted as the quintessence of human beauty. No one can resist it and why should we? A flawlessly rounded shoulder, the sensuous curve of a buttock, a young woman’s uptilting breasts, skin as smooth, still, as a baby’s bottom.

Renoir_younggirl These days, there isn’t much meat on the bones of young women who are considered beautiful, but that wasn’t always so. Rubens is well-known for his “Rubenesque” bodies and Renoir, in this painting, was portraying the epitome of his era’s idea of comely, young womanliness.

Saliarielnude My friend, Israeli artist Sali Ariel, was bucking the modern, skinny trend in female beauty when, in 1999, she made a series of womanly nudes in the Rubens and Renoir tradition.

I’ve never seen a painting of anyone as thin as top runway models, but I don’t think they could be as sexy as Sali’s woman. I own a framed set of these charcoals clustered on the wall in my office space and never tire of them.

It is right when hormones are raging and fecundity is in bloom that the young should be so beautiful. But that does not make age ugly or unattractive. Only different. And, frequently, more interesting. It is wrong to judge age by the standards of mere youth.

Freudhead2 British artist, Lucien Freud, who died in 2011, made almost a career of painting himself in unforgiving detail as he has aged. (And everyone else he painted too; his 2001 portrait of Queen Elizabeth II has been roundly criticized.) I can’t find an image of one of Freud’s full-body paintings, but this head will give you the general idea.

Michaelangelo’s David is sexually breathtaking but Freud’s self-portrait is fascinating. What living could have given him this face? It is said, you know, that he fathered 40 children.

Vangogholdwoman2 Many of the old masters painted old people. This one by van Gogh is as honest in its way as Freud’s. Is she sad? I don’t think so. Maybe she is tired and wishing ol' Vincent would be done with it for the day. Or lost in thought, perhaps. She does not look at us.

Whenever I see old, old people, those who have lost the attachment to pretense of youth our culture relentlessly demands, I spin stories to myself of the lives they have lived and wonder what magnificent memories will die with them.

There is dignity in this sculpture by Auguste Rodin – “The Old Courtesan” – of a woman who had once been a professional model.


It portrays the inevitable decline that comes to all men and women and is, in its truthfulness more penetrating than the David. There is more to wonder about in this, more to know, more to contemplate.

Youth’s beauty is easy to look at. It is about uncomplicated potential that may or may not develop. We like it for its clarity, its obviousness and its simplicity. There are no mysteries in youth and that is sometimes refreshing in itself.

Oldyoungwoman Ah, but age is intricate and complex, made from decades of accumulated knowledge and experience compounded with the folly and error no one escapes. It is hard for us to confront, with its intimations of death, more difficult to behold. Can you see the difference in this well-known optical illusion? Youth and age, one no better than the other. Only different.

[To Marie Grosnay] “No doubt you were extremely beautiful as a young girl, but your youth could never compete with your age now.”

- Charlie Chaplin, Monsieur Verdoux, 1947

[Part 2 is here]

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: August Nights in Arkansas

Elder Reading Habits: Classic Novels

Yesterday The Guardian reported on a survey of 2000 members of the British public about their reading of classic novels. Sixty percent admitted to lying about having read books they had not read “to appear more intelligent.” In addition,

”...more than half of those polled [admitted to] displaying unread books on their shelves and 3% slipping a highbrow cover on books they'd rather not be seen reading in public.”

According to a story in The Telegraph reporting on the same survey,

”...42 per cent of people rely[...] on film and TV adaptations, or summaries found online, to feign knowledge of the novels.”

It appears to me after ten years of feedback and conversation with readers of this blog, that many of us – probably a large majority – are regular book readers.

Maybe we have been so all our lives. Maybe reading became a lifelong habit because most of us grew up before television and certainly before the internet that take up so much time.

Or, maybe we have more time to read now that the kids are grown, many of us no longer work a full schedule and a lot of the responsibilities and obligations of midlife no longer apply.

With all that, the survey reported in these two feature stories left me wondering what our reading of classic novels is.

I can't recall that I've ever lied about having read something but maybe I'm wrong. Call me goody-two-shoes but in school, I never used Cliff Notes for reading assignments because – well, it was cheating and anyway, I have always liked to read.

However, there are plenty of books on my shelves that I haven't read or haven't finished reading but not to pretend to others that I've read them. These are books I might go back to some day. Or I might not but I don't consider shelving them a moral lapse.

The two newspapers published a list of the top ten books people surveyed claimed to have read but had not and it might be fun to see if we have read them. Here's the list with my comments in italic. I've read all but two and a third is – well, you'll see why my reading of it is iffy.

  1. 1984 by George Orwell (26%) I've read this three or four times most recently about six months ago.

  2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (19%) One I've never finished. I've tried probably a dozen times and can't get past page 100. Yes, it still sits on my shelves and I'll probably give it another shot one day.

  3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (18%) I've read it twice. Except for Tale of Two Cities which was required reading twice in my school years, I discovered Dickens late in life – my 30s – and was completely caught up in all his novels.

  4. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (15%) I have no idea how anyone interested in American culture could skip this.

  5. A Passage to India by EM Forster (12%) I never even tried. Attempts to read other of Forster's work defeated me. I never could work up any interest in his writing.

  6. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien (11%) All right, this is a special case. Yes. I read it. Back in the 60s. I was stoned through the entire book so I have no idea what it's about. I don't think that qualifies as reading and I have not (yet) tried it again.

  7. To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee (10%) I keep going back to this book. I've lost count of the number of readings - it is a pleasure every time.

  8. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (8%) This was required in a high school class and I recall enjoying it. Not enough, I guess, to re-read it as an adult.

  9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (8%) As with Dickens, I came to Austen late in life – way late, in my 50s – and thanks to a couple of Austen-fan friends, worked my way through the oeuvre. They were fine but not enough that I understand the devotion Austen engenders.

  10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (5%) This was a favorite childhood book; I read it then several times.

There is nothing more recent on this list than mid-20th century but I think they still hold up as part of the canon a well-rounded person should read at some time in life.

What's your take on all this? (By the way, comments about The Guardian story on this survey had reached nearly 1200 in 24 hours. Apparently, it struck a chord.)

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Arlene Corwin: What's the Fuss About?