Elders' Fading Five Senses
ELDER MUSIC: Not Rhymin', Simon



Four of our most venerable actors – Jane Fonda (77), Lily Tomlin (75), Martin Sheen (74) and Sam Waterston (74) - are starring in a new Netflix series, Grace and Frankie.

As with the Kevin Spacey show, House of Cards, Netflix released the entire first season all at once - yesterday. Here's how the network explains the show:

”Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin co-star as two [70-something] women forced to reinvent their lives...

“Elegant, proper Grace and freewheeling, eccentric Frankie aren't friends, even though their husbands Robert and Sol have been law partners for decades.

"But when Robert and Sol announce that they're leaving their wives for each other, the two women start to bond in ways they never expected.”

I haven't watched any of it yet but this trailer is good enough thatat that I've put it on my to-do list. See what you think:


I'm pretty sure I have mentioned that John Oliver and his crew at Last Week Tonight on HBO are so good at their mini-documentaries, I'm fascinated even by topics I don't think I care much about.

This is one of them and I was riveted; I also enjoyed the laughs, of course.


Jane Brody has been reporting on health and medical issues at The New York Times for 50 years and she has earned the respect of all as a trusted source.

This week she reported on memory issues in old age and athough there isn't much in her article that we have not already covered here, it's nice to have our information confirmed and extended a bit.

”Nor are those who do less well cognitively suffering from a brain disease,” writes Brody. 'Just as you wouldn’t say that a marathon runner who slows down in his 80s has a motor disease, age-related cognitive decline isn’t necessarily pathological,' said Molly V. Wagster, chief of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging. 'We may just be slower to retrieve information, and slower to learn new things.

“Besides, Dr. Wagster told me, 'the older brain retains plasticity; it’s capable of making adaptive changes. Certain regions of the brain operate in slightly different ways that may actually be better than at young ages.'

“Some of the changes, like depth of comprehension and wisdom gleaned through experience, are improvements that can compensate for less positive age-related, she said.”

Brody, who is my age, reports twice a month in the Well section of The Times, often on subjects related to ageing.


Along with the horrific death count, the photos and video of the destruction caused by the earthquake in Nepal are heartbreaking. Few us ever travel there but this short, little video from The New York Times gives a small peek at what has been lost in Katmandu.


Back in the mists of time before the internet, before YouTube and a gazillion animal videos, I had a cat I trained to use the toilet.

No litter box, no daily cleanup. Just a framed note on the bathroom wall for visitors to always leave the seat down and the lid up.

At work one day, I had professional reason to talk with a producer of a TV show titled, Those Amazing Animals. When we finished our business disussion, I told her she should book my cat on the show, that he used the toilet.

Imagine how deflated I was when she said, “Oh, Ronni, that's nothing. We already featured a cat that uses the toilet and that one flushes.”

Cats using toilets are not uncommon. But a dog??? Take a look at Baron the German Shepherd.


Elizabeth Rosenthal reports in The New York Times that a recent study, “found that up to 90 percent of hospital bills contain errors.”

That's not a typo. 90 percent.

And it is unlikely that you will ever know if that is so with your bill. Ms. Rosenthal continues:

”For a simple needle biopsy that would require 24 hours of observation afterward...The hospital bill ended up being around $15,000, for which Ms. Meuel owed $665.46. There were also bills from the radiologist ($1,263) and pathologist ($3,799.25) for which she owed smaller amounts.

The explanation of benefits from Blue Shield listed a few line items that had been paid to the hospital labeled 'hospital,' 'miscellaneous or 'labs.' All further explanation appeared in CPT codes. Only the explanation of payouts to the pathologist was given in words...

"The itemized bill the hospital sent at her request offered minimal elucidation, containing items like: '1. 25030731 HC RT OXYGEN DAILY CHARGE — $2,132.25.'; '2. 0305 30516895 LAB HCT-CHRG ONLY — $104.81'; '3. 35033106 HC CT GUIDED NEEDLE PLCMNT ASP BlOP — $1,828.50.'"

This is not a one-time problem. It is almost universal among all hospitals and nobody, not anyone in government cares enough to require that consumers know what they are paying for.

The rest of the story is here.


I was a bit too old to grow up with Sesame Street, but even as an adult I came to love the puppets as much as anyone else. In fact, I once interviewed Big Bird for a television show I worked on.

TGB reader and poet Tom Delmore sent along the news that Caroll Spinney, the last of the original Sesame Street puppeteers, continues to work as Big Bird and Oscar Grouch, as he has done since 1969. And now, there is a documentary about him. Here is one of the official trailers for the film:


Members of certain political factions in the United States get all weird and indignant at the word socialist, as they predictably did when Senator Bernie Sanders, a self described Democratic Socialist, announced that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.

Here's Bernie explaining what Democratic Socialism is. “And what's wrong with that?”


That's what the YouTube page says and I wouldn't dream of changing it. Neither will you after watching this video:

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 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 include the name of the blog and its URL.


Everything Jon Oliver says in Standardized Testing is funny, but sadly true. I have worked for Pearson scoring the tests and know first hand that a bell curve must be maintained and test scores are manipulated to achieve this, no matter what the true score may be. I heard the exact words, "You need to learn to see this paper as a 3" so many times. Pearson is such a sham.

Outstanding column! Thanks, Ronni, you've made my day once again. Have to find a way to get Netflix & the videos are superb.

My heart breaks for what happened in Nepal........so much lost. Dee

While I understand that all decline of cognitive function in old age is not pathological, it still does not make me feel better that I forget where I put my keys or forget appointments now and then or can't remember people's names. It also upsets me when I realize that society expects this from old people. Like wrinkles, or Arthritis or gray hair, it "cubbyholes" us as something less than fully functional.

About hospital billing practices:
About 12 years ago my younger daughter needed to have her tonsils removed (tough on an adult) . She stayed about 36 hours. According to the bill from hospital she was given 12 bottles of an OTC liquid medicine. In 36 hours! I called the hospital billing dept. to inform them they must have made a mistake because she had had 1/2 of 1 bottle and their response was "What do you care? You're not paying for it." I called my insurance co and was connected to a supervisor. She got all the information from me and copy of my statement. About a month or two later I received a corrected statement from the hospital.
Since then I have asked for "translations" of charges, in words, not codes. And I question charges for services or treatments which are incorrect.

John Oliver's piece is spot-on, right down to the "test prep-rallies"; have seen them with my own eyes. In addition to enriching Pearson, we have created a generation of kids incapable of creative or critical thinking.

Eventually public schools will be the enclave of the poor and the rural population - perhaps we're there already. I'm retiring at the end of the month after thirty years in education (and ten in the corporate world of the '80's).

I fear for my grandchildren, who probably will not have the funds to attend private schools, and for all of those children who will be left behind.

I'm a Gracie and Frankie fan thanks to this! You cover the sublime to the ridiculous and put it all together in such a way that I was transfixed. Well done.

Another great Interesting stuff Saturday. The Carroll Spinney/Big Bird trailer is so poignant;I look forward to seeing the documentary. What an extraordinary person he seems, and what a rare opportunity to express the contrasting personalities of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for all those years. That may have been remarkably healthy and therapeutic.

As for the Bernie Sanders clip. I wish I were forty years younger and able to go off and volunteer for his campaign.

It is not only hospital billings that must be watched like a hawk. Over the years I've dealt with all sorts of medical care facilities and companies - from a double charge on a wheelchair for my mother to a charge for a mental-health screening that I had declined taking.

Not all bogus charges are fraudulent, but what our insurance companies pay is a serious issue. Mistake? I don't care...make it right. And, as someone pointed out, reporting to the insurance company is a must.

Watched quite a bit of Grace and Frankie yesterday. It is funny, kept me watching, starred four actors I their 70s and included little almost PSAs about realities of aging. Grace and Frankie are completely ignored at a store (older women as the invisible). They deal with older sex (PSA about high rate of STDs in the elderly- and the words vaginal dryness and atrophy are used). It's worth it!

I love badass cats. Have one of my own! She owns me, my house and two dogs ... one a 90 pound lab who plays tag with her all around my house, which can be fairly serious if a human or a lamp gets in the way.

They entertain me nightly with their games. She teases the lab until he chases her ... then she jumps up on something higher than the floor and calmly looks down at him with distain while he just looks back and forth between me and the cat, bewildered and frustrated, and I sometimes think he's trying to get me to do something about that darn cat not playing fair!

Found Grace and Frankie on Netflix. Am going to binge-watch as many episodes as I can. What great actors ... and altogether on the same screen! LOVE IT!

Thank you for this one.

In 1989, a couple of months after my partner and I had left the San Francisco Bay area to go travelling, the Loma Prieta earthquake happened in California. We were frantically trying to call one of our kids who was at UC Santa Cruz, right near the epicentre and it took us over an hour to get through because we were calling from Kathmandu. You never know where the Earth is going to decide to tremble or where you are going to be when it happens!

I found Kathmandu so full of wonderful,fascinating life that I could only stay out walking around for an hour or so and then I'd have to go back indoors and sit quietly for a while because of sensory overload.

My memories and photos from Nepal feel even more precious to me now that this tragedy has wiped so much out.

Those of us who live with cats know that the Internet Take Over was merely a test.

"No child left behind" really means "all creativity left behind."

I never would have survived teaching in Quebec had I been forced to shove repeated tests at my students.

Those pep rally pre-test videos reminds me of a sales rep I knew who worked for a big telecom company.

He was forced to dance up and down every day chanting some baloney motivational script meant to fire his sales mojo.

Too many tests.

Imagine being the anxious kid who studies day and night, but freezes and pukes on the test.

Here kid, give me that last night pizza puke test and I will hand it in with my name on it as a protest.

Are we robots or human beings?

Thank goodness my parents encouraged us to be creative resourceful critical thinkers.

Love the cat, dog videos and am seriously considering Netflix.

Hi Jackie:

Best wishes for your retirement from a retired Montreal high school teacher.

Enjoy your freedom.

Secret handshake!

Thank you, doctafill, from Nebraska!

I already have watched the first three episodes of "Grace and Frankie" and I probably will do a binge watch of the rest. The writing and the acting are outstanding. And I joined the Democratic Socialists of America years ago, recognizing that it is was true "democracy" is supposed to be. And we are a long way from it.

Thanks for the clip about Kathmandu. I was there four times, and trekked in the mountains twice. It is an amazing country, all that has been lost, beginning with the lives of so many people,and extending to ancient building, containing beautiful,irreplaceable ancient art is heart breaking. It is difficult to care about tragedies far away in places we have never seen; I understand that; but when the news of such a tragedy is mixed with beautiful personal memories, the extent of loss is personally painful.

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