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The Dangers of Elderspeak

Some of you may know Marcy Belson as she is a regular contributor to our companion blog, The Elder Storytelling Place, and comments here at TGB too.

Last weekend she emailed about a visit to the emergency room. Not to worry - she was quickly back home and is on the mend. Why I mention it is this part of her note to me:

”I did have to listen to a youngish nurse tell me that "us older people tend to ignore or not realize we have symptoms". Maybe so. Maybe not.”

If I had been the nurse, I would have assumed that Marcy was not ignoring symptoms at all; just hoping they were something temporary that would go away on their own – until they didn't and it became urgent that she seek medical attention.

What Marcy got instead was that faux intimacy practiced toward elders by some professionals when they are trying not to roll their eyes at what they perceive as stupidity.

Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence that the default attitude of many younger people – usually strangers - toward the old is that we are none too bright.

They often talk to us more loudly than necessary, they like to explain the obvious and tend to call us “dearie,” “hon” or – the worst - “young lady” when we haven't been anywhere near that category for a few decades.

(Do old men get this too or is it just women who are patronized in this manner?)

There is a name for this kind of demeaning speech. It's called “elderspeak” and being the target of it can shorten an old person's life by up to 7.5 years according to the estimable Yale University associate professor of psychology, Becca Levy, because it reinforces a person's negative perception of their age:

“In a long-term study of 660 people over age 50 in a small Ohio town, published in 2002,” reported The New York Times, “Dr. Levy and her fellow researchers found that those who had positive perceptions of aging lived an average of 7.5 years longer, a bigger increase than that associated with exercising and not smoking.

”The findings held up even when the researchers controlled for differences in the participants’ health conditions.” [emphasis added]

Further, in the same Times story, nurse gerontologist and associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Nursing, “Dr. [Kristine] Williams, noted that members of the healthcare community are among the worst offenders in using elderspeak:

“…Dr. Williams and a team of researchers videotaped interactions in a nursing home between 20 residents and staff members.

They found that when nurses used phrases like ‘good girl’ or ‘How are we feeling?’ patients were more aggressive and less cooperative or receptive to care. If addressed as infants, some showed their irritation by grimacing, screaming or refusing to do what staff members asked of them…

“She added that patients who reacted aggressively against elderspeak might receive less care.”

Anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile can likely guess that I don't suffer elderspeak for a moment anywhere, any time. No one has ever tried it twice with me. But there can be times when it's not possible to fight back.

In another news story from 2008 about Levy's elderspeak study, 78-year-old, retired school teacher, Elaine Smith, was quoted:

"I was in hospital for two months after a fall and the whole time was subjected to condescending treatment and phrases such as 'sweetie,' 'dear' and 'good girl,' she said.

“I often didn't feel strong enough to answer back. But even worse, I felt that this sort of attitude and message was grinding me down. It reduces your self-esteem and at times I felt it was just easiest to give in to the stereotype that I didn't know what I wanted or needed."

It shouldn't be necessary to spend time and money on expensive research to prove that treating old people like babies is bad for their health. It ought to be obvious. What you can do is fight back every time it happens to you or someone you're with. The next elder will thank you.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Vicki E. Jones: A Scream in the Night

Pneumonia and Shingles Vaccines for Elders

Because it's the time of year again for the annual flu shots, last week we had a discussion about it. Several people brought up the shingles and pneumonia vaccines and I think it's a good idea to be sure we have the correct information.

The pneumococcal vaccine prevents blood, brain and lung diseases (pneumonia, septicemia and meningitis) caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria.

These are serious diseases that kill approximately 40,000 Americans a year, most of them elders, and they are increasingly resistant to antibiotics. But the diseases can been prevented with the vaccine.

Who Should Get the Vaccine?
There are two types of pneumoccocal vaccine – PPSV24 and PVC13; they are not the same.

PVC13 is recommended for adults age 19 and older with certain conditions. Two that are more likely to apply to many TGB readers are cochlear implants (hello, Darlene) and conditions that cause weakening of the immune system.

If this describes you, talk to your physician to determine your pneumonia vaccine needs and don't rely on me or the internet. You can read more about the PVC13 vaccine at WebMD.

The PPSV23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine) is recommended for adults age 65 and older. It protects against 23 strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria and is marketed under the brand name Pneumovax.

It is made using dead bacteria and cannot make you sick.

When are Booster Shots of PPSV23 Needed?
NOT every five years as someone stated in the comments on last week's story about the flu vaccine.

EXCEPT if you received PPSV23 more than five years before turning 65. In that case, you will need a booster.

But if you received the PPSV23 vaccine at age 65 or older, you will never need a booster.

Who Should NOT Take the Pneumonia Vaccine?
People who have had a severe reaction to either the PVC13 or OPPSV23 vaccine in the past or are allergic to any of the ingredients in either vaccine should not have the shot.

Pneumonia Vaccine and Medicare
Medicare pays for this vaccine. If your physician or pharmacist does not accept the payment Medicare approves, you may have to pay a fee for the service but you cannot be billed for the vaccine itself.

There is more good information at the WebMD pneumonia vaccine page.

Here's a shocker: one-third of all Americans will have shingles in their lifetime. It occurs at all ages but is most common after age 50.

What is Shingles?
It's nasty. Shingles is a burning, blistering, excruciatingly painful skin rash. Some people also experience headache, fatigue, fever and chills or severe nerve pain that can last for weeks or months.

If you had chickenpox when you were a kid, you are at risk for shingles. If you never had chickenpox, you're home free - you can't get it so go take a walk or read a book instead of finishing reading this post.

Shingles affects about a million Americans a year and people 65 and older are at greater risk for complications than younger people. Among those complications are eye infections, vision loss, brain inflammation, hearing problems, balance difficulties and skin infections.

Believe me, you really do want this vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone 60 and older take the one-time shingles vaccine, brand name Zostafax. Even if you have had shingles, you should have the vaccine because recurrences are possible.

The vaccine does not guarantee immunity but it cuts chances by an estimated 50 percent and if you do contract shingles after having the vaccine, it will reduce the severity and the possibility of complications.

The vaccine contains live virus so if you have a weakened immune system or other contraindications, do not have the shot without consulting your physician.

The Mayo Clinic website has an extensive, easy-to-understand shingles section that will scare the pants off you. This isn't a disease you would wish on your worst enemy. You will find another good shingles section at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website.

Medicare and the Shingles Vaccine
Medicare covers the shingles virus as one of its preventive care benefits but it is under Part D, the separate prescription drug plan so it's going to cost you some.

You must have a Part D plan to be covered. Although the vaccine itself and the service of stabbing you in the arm with it are covered, you are responsible for the approved co-pay to your Part D plan provider. It commonly runs between $60 and $80 but could be higher or lower depending on your plan.

Here's a little personal warning: when I went for the shingles vaccine last year, I nearly fainted when the pharmacist gave me a price of more than $300. However, most of that was the year's Part D deductible that I had not fulfilled yet.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Fans

ELDER MUSIC: Songs About Cities - Chicago

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.


This column started out comprised entirely of electric blues but I found that several sounded too much alike. Indeed, some of them were the same songs with different names. So, gradually other music crept in.

There's still electric blues present; how could there not be? But it's not exclusive any more.

I'll start with some blues, but not the electric kind. This is the gentleman who was almost certainly the most influential blues musician in history, ROBERT JOHNSON.

Robert Johnson

I imagine that had he lived past 27 years, he probably would have done what Muddy Waters and many others did - amplified his guitar and become the king of Chicago blues.

Instead, that crown was bestowed on Muddy. Here is Robert with Sweet Home Chicago, a song that's been covered by pretty much every blues musician since.

♫ Robert Johnson - Sweet Home Chicago

Paul Butterfield, as he sings in the song I've chosen, was born in Chicago. He was the front man for the PAUL BUTTERFIELD BLUES BAND, one of the premier blues/rock band of the sixties.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Besides being a fine blues singer, Paul was also a skilled blues harp player. He had in his band two superb guitarists, Elvin Bishop and easily the best white rock or blues guitarist ever, Michael Bloomfield.

He also poached Muddy Waters' rhythm section to lay down and keep the beat. Here is Born in Chicago.

♫ Paul Butterfield - Born In Chicago

From blues/rock to blues/jazz and a couple of interesting performers, DUKE ROBILLARD and JAY MCSHANN.

McShann and Robillard

We have Jay singing and playing piano and Duke on guitar. Maria Muldaur is also on the record but she's missing from this track, Goin' to Chicago, the first of two versions I've included of this song.

♫ Duke Robillard, Jay McShann - Goin' to Chicago

For a change of pace, a bit of country. Chicago is not a noted country music mecca, but this song is about that city so it's present. MERLE HAGGARD is the singer.

Merle Haggard

When I was writing a Toes Up for George Jones, I mentioned to Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, that he was generally considered the finest male singer in country music. Her reply was immediate, "Nope, Merle is.” I agree with her.

Here he is with Sidewalks of Chicago.

♫ Merle Haggard - Sidewalks Of Chicago

Continuing away from the blues for a bit, who should be next, Tony Bennett or FRANK SINATRA? Well, you know as I've highlighted the one I've chosen.

Frank Sinatra

The next question is which song? Chicago or My Kind of Town? After playing them both I preferred My Kind of Town, and that's the one I'm going with.

♫ Frank Sinatra - My Kind of Town

In spite of what I said in the preface to this column, I did leave in two examples of the same song. This is the second one. I've done that because of the different interpretations of the tune.

FENTON ROBINSON is not your standard Chicago blues player; he has a really smooth vocal style and his guitar playing owes as much to jazz as to blues.

Fenton Robinson

On this track there is also some jazz style piano playing by Bill Heid. Really nice. Going to Chicago.

♫ Fenton Robinson - Going to Chicago

I would have included the next song purely because of its title - then I played it and knew it had to be present because of its musical content as well. The singer and composer of the song is DOUG ASHDOWN.

Doug Ashdown

The song is The Oldest Living Groupie in Chicago.

♫ Doug Ashdown - The Oldest Living Groupie In Chicago

JIMMY DAWKINS was the quintessential Chicago blues muso even though he was originally from Mississippi. Well, a lot of them were.

Alas, he died earlier this year.

Jimmy Dawkins

As I listened to the words, I realized I could have used this song in the "Paris" column. Not really, I had way more than enough tunes for that one.

The problem with this track is that they faded it just as Jimmy was getting up a head of steam on the guitar. Pity. This is Chicago On My Mind.

♫ Jimmy Dawkins - Chicago On My Mind

When I was well advanced writing this, the A.M. asked if I had any JIM CROCE.

Jim Croce

I had to admit that I didn't mainly because he doesn't have Chicago in the title of any of his songs even though some are about the city whence he hails (or hailed, I guess).

Fortunately, she mentioned that when I still had one more track to go. Here is probably the most famous of Jim's songs, Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.

♫ Jim Croce - Bad, Bad Leroy Brown

I'll end with something completely different from everything that's gone before. Here is DORIS DAY.

Doris Day

The song is from the film Calamity Jane where Doris was chosen to play Calam even though she's probably the actress who looks least like the original. It doesn't matter; it was a very entertaining film if nowhere near reality – but who expects that from such a flick?

The song is Just Blew in From the Windy City.

♫ Doris Day - Just Blew in From the Windy City

INTERESTING STUFF – 7 September 2013


On Monday 9 September in the United States, PBS will broadcast the premiere of the documentary, Ping Pong on “POV.” It is about the age 80 and older division of the World Veterans Table Tennis Championship. The trailer:

The contestants are a remarkable group of men and women who are interviewed for this doc and there is more tension than you might imagine. From the press release:

”Will the short-of-breath Terry survive his singles matches and play to win the doubles gold? Will Les live up to his extravagant reputation? Will Rune get his gold medal—and vindication?

“Will Dorothy continue to prove you’re never too old? Will Lisa sweep all before her with her youthful contempt and relative speed? Will Ursula retain her championship though she has slowed down since winning it two years earlier? Will Inge win her first medal and make her nursing home proud?”

What a great idea for a documentary. You can read more here and since local PBS channels are notorious for airing programs when they bloody well feel like, you can check your local listings here.


I've been forgetting to tell you this for the past month so I was pleased to find another story about it last week.

People – that is, politicians and their wealthy backers – have wanted to kill Medicare for a long time and one of their recurring arguments is that physicians are leaving the program in droves.

Now, a study from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should, as The New York Times reports, “demolish that mythology for good.”

”...the percentage of doctors accepting new Medicare patients actually rose to 90.7 percent in 2012 from 87.9 percent in 2005.

“They are not shunning Medicare patients for better-paying private patients, either; the percentage of doctors accepting new Medicare patients in recent years was slightly higher than the percentage accepting new privately insured patients.

“Medicare patients had comparable or better access to medical services than the access reported by privately insured individuals ages 50 to 64, who are just below the age for Medicare eligibility.”

And for further good measure:

”The number of doctors opting out is tiny compared with the number of doctors, 735,000, who remain in Medicare. In addition, they are augmented by hundreds of thousands of nurse practitioners and other non-doctor providers.”

You can read the entire Times editorial here and more about the survey at this HHS webpage.


From our friend Darlene Costner:


Since 1954, in the U.S., tropical storms, hurricanes, etc. have been named for people. It started with women's names only and a few years ago – a decade? two? - men's names were added.

Now, a group of people fed up with climate change deniers and obstructionists have proposed a new way to name tropical storms. Take a look and hat tip to Flora Davis.


Kiplinger has done the homework for retirees and near retirees, having tracked down all the information necessary to understand the tax requirements for every state in the U.S.

Some states tax at much higher rates than others so if you are trying to decide whether to stay or move when you stop working, this is an excellent tool.

Click the map above to go to the larger, interactive version. There are also separate interactive maps for the most tax friendly and least tax friendly states.


Someone I've lost track of in the inbox sent me this video. I find it superficial, uncomfortable and kind of silly. You may see it differently.


Tom Delmore of Crowsperch sent this video of Criss Angel doing some random magic tricks in a coffee shop somewhere.

I'd never heard of Criss Angel so I checked around the web. He is a professional magician about whom you can find out more at his official website.

Personally, I love being baffled by magic tricks, especially the close-up work like these, so if anyone dares tell me in the comments how these are done, you're in deep trouble on this blog. I LIKE not knowing.


Following is a Chilean commercial for an LG Ultra HD, large-screen television that has gone viral around the web. Don't worry that the language is not English – believe me, you'll understand all that is happening.

What I want to know is what you would do in such a situation.


From Bev Carney who sends me enough kitty videos that this time she said: “Truly, I DO have other interests.”

If you're interested, Tenth Life Cats is in St. Louis, Missouri.

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.

Shopping While Old

A side issue that came up in the recent conversations here about elder fashion and mean (old) girls is shopping which got Crabby Old Lady thinking about how much she despises it and wondering how others her age feel.

As Paula commented in part,

"I'm a big fan of shopping carefully, trying things on (including the dreaded bras), doing alterations, etc., etc., BUT I realize this can be a LOT of work...

"If I didn't feel well, had recent surgery, or had worse caregiving responsibilities than the ones I have already, I would be wearing my two favorite pairs of yoga pants...

"I totally get why people do what fashion types disparage as 'giving up.' It's apparently unfathomable to them that life sometimes has other plans beyond a 'pretty blouse.'"

So true even if you can't find one that fits.

Crabby hates shopping for clothes (and pretty much anything else) so much that for the greater part of her working life she did it only twice a year, spring and fall, almost entirely at a certain shop in Greenwich Village (now long gone) where a wonderful, young sales woman kept file cards about what Crabby had bought in the past.

At the beginning of those seasons, Crabby did an inventory of her closet, made a list of what should be replaced, what was still good to go, along with the colors that needed complementing and any fripperies she was interested in having.

Then she set a total price limit and with that terrific sales woman, Crabby could get out of the shop in under an hour, before the irritation of taking clothes off and on turned her into a screeching harridan.

Pretty good, don't you think: two hours a year for all the clothes she needed.

Of course, back in those days, well-constructed clothing in good fabrics and classic styles that can be worn for years didn't cost hundreds of dollars and sizing was standard then, too.

Let Crabby Old Lady, who is 5 feet, 2 inches tall and currently in her weight loss program at 135 pounds (with 15 more to lose), give you an example of sizing insanity.

A week ago in an actual store (as opposed to online), Crabby tried on (which as noted above she despises doing), a pair of pants that from looking and guessing, seemed to be about the right fit.

Maybe she's not accustomed to her smaller body yet; they were so big Crabby could have fit two of her into them.

And what was the size? Wait for it: 0/1 – whatever that means – and not mislabeled, according to the sales clerk who said it was the shop's smallest size. Since it was not a fat women's store, Crabby wants to know what smaller people wear.

Never mind – that's not a real question.

It is probably true that Crabby Old Lady is not the one to discuss shopping of any kind. Seven years since she left New York City and she still doesn't understand how to shop when you drive everywhere.

For the 40 years Crabby walked to most destinations, she window shopped along the way. “Ooooh, that would be a nice gift for Mary.” Or, “cool shoes; I check out this place next time.” And when there was time, she stopped in newly opened stores or wandered the aisles of others making mental notes of what was available.

Crabby has no idea how people who don't walk around their cities and towns know where to go when they need to buy a certain item. No one can tell what's available driving by and anyway, most stores are set back from the street in little strip malls.

Don't get Crabby started on malls. Awful places. She was forced into visiting one a week ago and as with all others she's ever seen, it was filled with nothing interesting – only chain stores and restaurants that, by definition, are bland and boring to appeal to as many people as possible.

It was late morning on a mild, sunny weekday and hardly anyone was there – mostly old women window shopping but not buying, if their lack of shopping bags was any indication.

But the biggest shopping difference in Crabby's life at age 72 is this: there is nothing she needs. She has furniture to fill her home, enough crockery and kitchen utensils to stock a small restaurant and so far, her appliances are in good shape.

Books and food are Crabby's main expenditures and she wonders if this is common among her age group; if after a certain age we just lose interest in shopping or as Paula noted, her “life has other plans beyond” wandering stores in search of what Crabby probably can't find.

Even when there is an item or two that she wants to buy – especially something she needs to see and hold rather than purchase online – she often doesn't because it's more effort to drive and check out several stores than to live without the item.

This is a much too long and amorphous post without much of a point but if it rings a bell for anyone reading, Crabby is eager to hear from you.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On the Subject of “Race”

It's Flu Shot Time

For at least 25 years - more likely, 30 - when fall rolls around, I get a flu shot. As I have undoubtedly related in the past, the one year I neglected it, I was down for two weeks literally out of my head with fever and pain.

When I eventually came to my senses, there were two, empty, one-gallon jugs of water in the kitchen. Since New York City water is perfectly good and drinkable, I had never bought such things in the past and I had no memory of where they came from.

In my sick confusion, had I dragged myself to the corner bodega for them? And if so, why? Did a friend stop by to see how I was doing and leave them for me? I have no idea. No one ever mentioned such a visit to me and the empty water bottles became one of those little mysteries of life never to be solved.

But I have never forgotten how miserable I was for 14 straight days and that it was another month before I was fully healthy again, no longer dragging my ass through each day and sleeping 12 hours a night.

So when I was out and about yesterday on a variety of errands, I stopped by the pharmacy for my annual flu shot and this is my reminder to you to do so.

People 65 and older are among the high-risk people for flu because our age group suffers more serious complications from the disease than younger people. As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explains,

”It's estimated that 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations in the United States each year occur in people 65 years and older.

“This is because human immune defenses become weaker with age. So influenza can be a very serious disease for people 65 and older.”

For elders, there are two choices of the vaccine – the regular one everyone else takes and the Fluzone High-Dose version. In studies, the high dose version appears to create a greater immune response but it is not yet known if this leads to greater protection.

The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine is as safe as the normal version but a slightly greater number of mild and temporary adverse effects have been reported during clinical trials. They include

”...pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, headache, muscle aches, fever and malaise. Most people had minimal or no adverse events after receiving the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine,” reports the CDC.

The high-dose shot is available only to people age 65 and older.

Certain people should not take the vaccine or should not take certain types of the vaccine. Among those who should avoid it altogether is anyone who has had a severe reaction to eggs in the past. (Small quantities of egg are used in the preparation of the vaccine.)

People who have had a severe reaction to the flu shot in the past should not have it along with anyone with a history of Guillane-Barre Syndrome (GBS).

There is also a nasal spray flu vaccine that should NOT be given to anyone age 50 and older. You can see all the precautions and restrictions at this CDC page.

For those of us who are 65 and older, Medicare usually pays for the flu shot. As explains:

”You pay nothing for a flu shot if the doctor or other qualified health care provider accepts assignment for giving the shot, and the Part B deductible doesn't apply.

“If you get your flu shot from a doctor who doesn't accept assignment, you may have to pay an additional fee for the doctor's services, but not for the shot itself.”

As you probably know, the annual flu vaccine is made up of the three strains of influenza virus that experts believe will most likely hit the United States. Maybe they are correct and maybe not so it is important to take personal preventive action. Here are a few - this is common-sense stuff you have always known:

• Avoid contact with sick people

• If you get sick, avoid other people until your fever is gone

• Cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw away the tissue

• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub

And if there are any TGB readers who haven't gotten the message yet that the anti-vaccine movement led by Jenny McCarthy has been thoroughly discredited and refuse the vaccine, keep your distance from me and from all old people. Please.

There is more day-to-day prevention advice at this CDC page [pdf]. Stay well this season, everyone.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Now

“Aging is a Triumph, Not a Tragedy”

So spake the great geriatrician, psychiatrist and elder advocate, Robert N. Butler, who died in December 2010. According to his biographer, W. Andrew Achenbaum, he helped

“ transform the study of aging from a marginal specialty into an intellectually vibrant field of inquiry.”

Personally, I doubt I would have become an elder advocate myself without having had Butler's books to teach me.

Robert N. Butler cover artRobert N. Butler, M.D. is the title of this just-published biography of the great man who won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1975 book, Why Survive? Being Old in America and before that, in 1968, coined the term “ageism” as an analog to racism and sexism.

”Butler well understood that ignorance, prejudice, and stereotypes clouded the vision of vital, productive, fruitful aging that he wished to promulgate,” writes Achenbaum.

“In late life,” he continues, “Butler concluded that ageism was even more pernicious than he initially had realized...Butler now called ageism a disease, a morbid fear of decline and death that crippled individuals.”

Robert Butler may not have crushed ageism during his long career but his other achievements transformed attitudes and beliefs about old age that continue to help elders' well being now and will continue to do so into the future.

Butler was appointed by President Gerald Ford to be the first director of the National Institute on Aging. Later he established the first U.S. department of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

In 1990, he founded the International Longevity Center (ILC-USA) to pursue the study of health and productivity of old people. Among the organization's projects was the Age Boom Academy created in 2000 to

”...deepen the understanding on the part of 150 journalists of how the perils and promises of societal aging affected their respective news beats. Ideas germinated in the academy often found mass circulation,” explains Achenbaum.

In 2009, I was privileged to be one of the dozen journalists that year at the week-long Age Boom Academy – all expenses, as every year, paid in full. Dr. Butler brought together the crème de la crème of age researchers and experts from every sub-field imaginable and by the end, it was like being granted a masters degree in aging. Here is one of my stories about the Age Boom Academy.

[DISCLOSURE: Achenbaum quotes from my 2008 interview interview with Dr. Butler which you can read here.]

Achenbaum, who is professor of social work and history in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Houston, does a fine job of recounting Butler's achievements that benefit elders - the remarkably large number of reasons the book is subtitled, Visionary of Healthy Aging.

But it is the many quotations from Achenbaum's previously unpublished conversations with Butler along with the book's epilogue – Butler's unfinished “life review” in his own words – that most captured my attention.

Some thoughts from Butler you too may find provocative:

“Why do we have so much trouble enjoying the moment? This was not as true when we were children.”
“When a young person writes a novel he writes an autobiography; when an old person writes an autobiography, he writes a novel.”
“There is a dark side to the lives of those of wealth and privilege; they do not need to carry out the most elemental aspects of existence, the preparing of their own food and taking care of their own personal needs. In a perverse sense, elementality is a luxury of poverty.”
“Old age is no longer equivalent to disease, infirmity, frailty, decrepitude and slowing down. The brain is proving to be subject to repair and growth and this plasticity promises greater cognitive health.”
“The challenge is how to better understand, shape and value this new old age. Older persons themselves should define this portion of their lives, and not passively allow the culture to do so.

“They are the pioneers who have interest into the redefined old age and do not accept aging and disability as inevitable, unpreventable and untreatable. Society and culture, of course, have catching up to do.”

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Alice Steele: The Hellman's Mayonnaise Caper

Mean (Old) Girls

Perhaps you are familiar with the decade-old film “comedy,” Mean Girls, about a high school clique of rich, pretty teens whose self-esteem derives from the psychological torture of every other girl in school who is not pretty or rich or both.

I place the word comedy in quotation marks above because to about 99 percent of all women who ever attended high school, the movie is an all-too-real reminder of the taunts, exclusion, negative judgments and, sometimes, bullying from those self-appointed queen bees in our pasts and their sycophants.

If your life has been anything like mine, that was then and everything since is now and being the object of mean girls' sneers and jeers is one of those things we're glad to have left behind.

A week ago, I published a story about Non-Existent Elder Fashion that drew many more comments than posts here usually do. It definitely hit a chord.

Whatever our body shapes – tall, short, thin, lumpy, fat – no one is happy with lack of attractive clothing available for elder women.

Among a variety of individual complaints and preferences, there was general agreement about too many sleeveless tops and dresses; flimsy, cheap fabrics; poor construction; horrible prints; necklines cut too low along with short blouses and tees that ride up to show off less than trim midriffs, etc.

Then, suddenly, toward the end of the day, the mean (old) girls arrived – one after another. Their haughty, stuck-up tone hasn't changed an iota since I knew them in high school:

Plus sizes, elastic waist bands, men's tee shirts...” wrote Barbara Klein. “I find this so sad! So many overweight and obviously under active (sic) seniors. My friends and I are in our early 70's (sic) and dress very stylishly.”

Well, I guess that puts us slobs in our proper place.

Following Ms. Klein, Claudia chimed in apparently having trouble understanding that my notation about sleeves disappearing from women's garments when Michelle Obama became first lady was a dig at designers, not the president's wife:

”Blaming fashion statements on the First lady is wrong. I am 60 plus and honestly speaking i (sic) do not wear elastic waist pants. In addition i (sic) love to showcase my arms.”

Your choice, Claudia, about elastic waist bands and it's nice for you, those comely arms but you can lose the superior attitude.

The mean (old) girls are particularly harsh toward those who have put on some pounds. Courier piped up:

”Being jealous of those who made a dedicated effort, sacrificing for decades, to maintain a height to weight ratio, was an unexpected response.”

I'm not sure where Courier picked up any jealousy (I can't find it in the comments) but you can't miss her self-absorbed point, right? It's all about her, not the topic at hand.

Ms. Klein (again) is brutal about anyone carrying extra weight. Referring to her friends:

”We have not let our bodies become obese through watching what foods we eat, walking, doing yoga, kayaking, cleaning our own homes, etc.” she writes. “I just returned from a trip to Russia where women are dressed attractively no matter their age and I am ashamed to say the fattest people were those from our boat.”

Just who does she think in the crowd at this blog hasn't been cleaning their own houses. The assumptions among the mean (old) girls are as breathtaking now as they were then.

They reserve their greatest scorn for those of us who don't wear bras and/or do wear elastic waists. Courier again:

”As a woman, common sense dictates, in public, a bra is to be worn. It is sad to do otherwise. This DOES mean you aren't dressing well. What a powerful description of shameful.”

That sounds exactly like the mean girls I knew in high school with their "dictates" of personal preference aimed at everyone else, and without a half second of self-awareness. Barbara Klein too:

”Yes, our bodies sag but to go braless especially as we get older is shameful. We can put on a lovely blouse and yes, they are out there, a nice pair of slacks minus the elastic...”

Because personal attacks are not allowed on this blog, I stepped in with my own comment about Ms. Klein's offensive statement and yes, I said she was being pretentious.

Someone named Margy Houtz responded with an ad hominem attack that makes no logical sense:

”I'm curious as to why acceptance isn't a 2-way street...if those of us who work hard to maintain our bodies and to find clothing styles that are attractive AND comfortable are deemed "pretentious and self-satisfied", how is that different from the judgmental tone you take with clothing available on the market now?

We'll just have to let that confused notion pass and instead give my personal shout out to Ajay for speaking up about the mean (old) girls:

”I see a lot of internalized misogyny, fat bigotry and self hatred in some of these comments," she wrote, "and send some loving kindness to those who are struggling.”

Let me be clear about the most important rule regarding commenting at this blog:

  1. Disagreement is allowed and encouraged as long as it is about the point, the idea, statement, opinion, etc. and not an attack on the person(s) writing it.

  2. No bigotry, intolerance or prejudice may be expressed against other commenters' ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic status or other characteristics including body size and clothing choices.

  3. Anyone who breaks these rules is banned for life from commenting at this website.

  4. Everyone gets one, and only one, chance before being banned. No exceptions. No recourse.

I did not remove the comments I've quoted from here because I wanted them as an object lesson for today's post.

It has been many years since I have needed to enforce this rule and then it was only one person. Today, four mean (old) girls have been banned.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sulima Malzin: I Wonder Sometimes

Holiday Art Tour – Year 4

Without my planning it, the Holiday Art Tour of sculptures in Lake Oswego appears to have become an annual Labor Day feature here on TGB. This is the fourth.

Each year, the members of the town Arts Council select sculptures for the city streets of Lake Oswego that are displayed on loan for a two-year period in what is called the Museum Without Walls. Via public vote, one is selected to be purchased for the permanent collection.

The sculptures I'm showing you today are not the newest that were unveiled in August because I didn't get out and about to photograph them and the Arts Council hasn't posted photos yet.

These are from last year, still in place for another 12 months.

Crows by Tamar Assaf:

Walking Chair by James Schmidt:

Little Boxer by J.D. Perkin:

Walking Warrior by Sharon Warman Agnor:

Sunrise in the City by Jesse Swickard:

Two Dancing Sisters by Nicky Falkenhayn:

Angel Fish by Marion Lea Jamieson and Colin Race:

Tidal Pool by Mary Ann Baker:

Daphne by Karsten Boysen:

Unwrapped by Dan Toone:

Diana Goddess of the Moon by Jason Jones:

North Beach Boy by Mark Stevenson:

Unconcealed Column by Bill Vielehr:

Mesh Woman by Julian Voss-Andreae:

Still Point by Dave Haslett:

All this surely does make for an interesting downtown - especially in a small city of fewer than 40,000 residents. Enjoy your holiday.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Labor Day

ELDER MUSIC: John Denver

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.

Here's a column for the boomers. Initially, JOHN DENVER was respected as a songwriter of considerable facility. However, as he became very popular indeed, he didn’t get much respect from the cooler-than-thou types. When he died, though, things changed a bit.

By then he was re-acknowledged as an excellent songwriter. He was also, somewhat grudgingly, given some kudos for his singing. Okay, clear-eyed (or should that be clear-eared?) people like me recognize that there were clunkers in his oeuvre, but lordy, there are some of those even in Bob Dylan’s output so we’re not holding those against him.

John Denver

John first impacted on my ears when Peter, Paul and Mary covered his song Leaving on a Jet Plane. I think that their version was superior to John’s, but he’s the man of the column so it’s his we have today.

♫ John Denver - Leaving on a Jet Plane

John Denver

John did have a thing for Colorado, after all he named himself after its major city. He also wrote songs about various places in the state. This might be the pick of them, Starwood in Aspen.

♫ Starwood in Aspen

John Denver

He recorded a whole bunch of albums but to my mind the best of them was “Farewell Andromeda.” From that one we have Berkeley Woman, a particular favorite of mine.

♫ John Denver - Berkeley Woman

John Denver

Here is another song that I believe Peter, Paul and Mary did better than John. Mary did a fine job on that one singing solo. However, as with the previous one by PP&M, John didn’t do a bad job of it either, although I don't know about that choir. The song is For Baby (For Bobbie).

♫ John Denver - For Baby (For Bobbie)

John Denver

No, this isn’t Rocky Mountain High, it’s Rocky Mountain Suite, subtitled Cold Nights in Canada, a completely different song, and to my mind, a better one.

♫ John Denver - Rocky Mountain Suite (Cold Nights In Canada)

John Denver

Now a song that John didn’t write. It was written by Steve Gillette and Tom Campbell. The first version I came across was by Ian and Sylvia, way back, who did a fine job of it. I think theirs was the first time the song was recorded.

There are many others these days including an interesting one by Nanci Griffith. Steve Gillette’s may beat them all though. John also does a really good job.

The song is Darcy Farrow and it starts out nice and happy, quite sunny really, but turns dark as we get into it. A sad tale if ever there was one.

♫ John Denver - Darcy Farrow

The song sounds so good and authentic that it must be a song based on fact. Well, sort of.

The myth, propagated by Ian Tyson whenever he and Sylvia sang it, is that it was written by Steve and Tom as an exercise in their college English class. Steve said that this was such a good tale that he left it out there, not correcting it until recently.

It seems that it's sort of based on fact. Steve's sister Darcy was once kicked by a horse and broke her cheekbone so that bit's sort of correct. They made up the rest, and it wasn't for an English class.

For a change of pace, here is STEVE GILLETTE's version of the song.

Steve Gillette

♫ Steve Gillette - Darcy Farrow

John Denver

A song from later in John's career, and one of his best, is Some Days are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone). Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, insisted on this one being present.

♫ John Denver - Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone)

John Denver

As I mentioned earlier, it’s no surprise that several of the tracks today come from his album “Farewell Andromeda” as it was easily his finest recorded moment, although the critics seem to disagree with my judgment.  I often disagree with critics.

This album has some really interesting songs rather than just the greatest hits. Here is, sort of, the title track, Farewell Andromeda (Welcome to My Morning).

♫ John Denver - Farewell Andromeda (Welcome to My Morning)

John Denver

One more song. I won't say it was a toss-up as half a dozen were in contention. I played them all and they sounded too much like each other. Then I realized he performed on one of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Circle..." series.

That's the one, I thought. It's called And So It Goes.

♫ John Denver - And So It Goes