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Elder Orphans – Part 1: Definition

About 18 months ago, I started a conversation here about elder orphans. It is a distinct characteristic of old age for tens of millions of old people but recognized as such only recently.

Somehow I dropped the ball on this and am only now getting back to it. The intention this time (and you are allowed to call me out if I don't follow through) is to cover the issues in installments that will appear here on a regular basis – about once a month or so.

Let's start today with the definition – who/what is an elder orphan? This is more important and more complicated than I anticipated because as I began catching up on the newest information, I was shocked at the universally negative description of life in old age itself and worse for elder orphans. Some samples.

Even Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York City (who may or may not have coined the phrase, elder orphans, paints a terrible picture.

”According to Carney,” writes Carol Marak in Huffington Post, “older adults have a higher risk of having trouble with daily tasks, experience cognitive decline, develop coronary heart disease and even die.

“The risks increase for people living alone and socially isolated. They have higher incidences of medical complications, mental illness, mobility issues and health care access problems. This is not good news for us, the single without children.”

Well, geez, just shoot me now.

Ms. Marak, who keeps a Facebook page called Elder Orphans, also writes, at Next Avenue in a piece titled, Elder Orphans Have a Harder Time Aging in Place:

”...once 65 hits, the changes bring reminders that we’re no longer the same. We don’t move as quickly, we don’t multitask as well, nor do we easily adapt.

“Those are the simple cues. As we age, the physical and mental challenges delivered through loss, immobility and dependence are the ones that put us at higher risks.

“However, the effects of aging land harder on an 'elder orphan,' because the worry and concern of 'what will become of me if I can’t care for myself?' triples when no one is around.”

There is no way to know where that “triples” reference comes from nor do I buy it. Not for a minute do I think elder orphans worry three times as much as non-orphans about the effects of aging.

However, even without that hysterical tone, some academics sound as dire in their definitions of elder orphans: “both childless and friendless;” “people over 65 who are single or widowed, have no children at least in the area, and no support system;” “have low social capital.”

Some of you who have been here at TGB for a number of years perhaps recall what I discovered about the literature of growing old after I had been studying aging for half a dozen years. As I wrote in the About page for this blog:

”...I spent the greater part of my time away from the workplace researching what it is like to grow old. I wanted to know what I was in for and it wasn't a pretty picture.

“Whether popular books, magazines and newspapers, scholarly and academic research, psychology and medical texts, movies, TV shows, advertising and comedy too, the conclusions were universal: old age was all about the three Ds – disease, decline and decay leading to a fourth D, death.”

And that was the best anyone had to say about growing old which is why I adopted the subtitle for this blog, "what it's really like to get old." It's nowhere near that bad.

In the decade since then, as the boomers have reached the beginning of their elder years, old age has become “cool” to write about as both popular and academic reporting has taken a more realistic and positive attitude toward it.

Except, apparently, among the people who have at least acknowledged the existence of elder orphans. I'm going to assume that these people mean well but I reject their descriptions of old age just as I did a dozen years ago.

Yes, some old people will become sick, lonely and dependent on family or others but nowhere near a majority of old people and I'll back that up with research and statistics in a future post.

Today, let's get to a definition of an elder orphan. At the risk of stringing out what would have been a one-page blog post until I started reading, here is a definition in list form from Ms. Marak's Huffington Post story linked above:

”Who are elder orphans?” she writes.
We are the socially and physically isolated aged living in local communities

We live without a family member or a designated surrogate

We have a higher vulnerability to losing the decision-making capacity

We use only a few community resources and are lonely

We have a high risk of losing independence and safety

We aren’t acknowledged (as a group) that will need more attention and care”

No. NO. NO. There is no evidence for a word of that.

Lack of family or close friend, in itself, does not make anyone more vulnerable, lonelier, less safe or liable to loss of cognitive abilities than old people with children or close friends.

I suspect Ms. Marak has confused research on loneliness in old age with being an elder orphan. Some elder orphans are lonely. Some old people with families are lonely. The two characteristics are not synonymous and alone is not the definition of lonely.

Here is a better definition of an elder orphan from 18 months ago:

An elder orphan is an old person who is single, lives alone, has no children or family member or friend who can act on his or her behalf in handling health, legal and financial issues.

An elder orphan has no one, or is uncertain of who, to list on that “next of kin” line in forms, no one designated to carry out end-of-life wishes, and see to the funeral and burial.”

That was a decent definition a year and a half ago but it needs expanding at least this much: Some old people who have children or other family members are elder orphans because they are estranged from their family or children and/or don't want them involved in decision making.

It's amazing how many people I've run into who feel this way. Having relatives doesn't mean you trust them – or even like them.

As my friend Wendl Kornfeld – who knows a whole lot about elder orphans and who you will be hearing more from during this series of blog posts – says:

”We urge people without family to be their own strongest advocate and to support that by creating a community as their family.”

And that is what we will do in this series: break down the issue into easily doable chunks. And we will do it without making anyone feel that being an elder orphan is a calamity that makes our lives worse than that of other old people. It is not.

A Rite of Elderpassage – One More Time

[EDITORIAL NOTE: A couple of unexpected appointments intruded yesterday leaving no time to get a post written before I ran out of steam by mid-afternoon so today I have a rerun for you.

This was first published here 10 years ago (while I still lived in Portland, Maine) and I may have republished it since, although I can't find it. A decade later, I still like it and I am still happy I made a point to mark this passage for myself. See what you think.

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We humans have numerous rituals to celebrate important events. Some are one-time, special occasions like baptisms for babies, confirmations and bar or bat mitzvahs at around puberty, marriage (well, not too many in a lifetime) and funerals. Others come ‘round regularly – birthdays and anniversaries, for example.

Many of our celebrations involve special foods and music, recitations of text and clothing just for the occasion. Our rituals give context to and mark our path through life. They strengthen social bonds, renew commitments, are demonstrations of respect or faith and, sometimes, are conducted for the pleasure of the observance itself.

There is one U.S. ritual, however, that is not remarked upon and as far as I have noticed, not widely recognized as a rite of passage: signing up for Social Security. I did that yesterday.

For all my life, 65 was the “official” U.S. retirement age, the birthday on which all workers and some others become eligible for Social Security. In the past few years, the government has been raising the age at which full benefits are given and for me, having been born in 1941, it is 65 and eight months – December 2006.

During the past two or three weeks, I checked the Social Security website and knew I needed a certified copy of my birth certificate, my tax return for 2005 and my checking account number to arrange direct deposit of my benefit. I had those, but when I tried to sign up on line – twice – the link to that page was broken.

That didn’t give me a lot of confidence that the enrollment, if I could catch the webpage on a day it was working, would happen without a glitch, and as time went by, I began thinking that becoming a Social Security beneficiary is too important an event to toss off with an online form.

Nothing else we do marks our passage into old age. Oh, some have retirement parties when they leave their last full-time job, but with fewer people working at the same company for many years as in the past, retirement celebrations are less common and, anyway, it doesn’t rank up there with birthdays and bar mitzvahs. When was the last time anyone got a gold watch?

We have written and argued here for almost three years about the age at which someone becomes old. Obviously, it is a fluid designation - a different time for different people - and some refuse to be categorized as such at all.

But the whole reason Time Goes By exists is to exercise my curiosity about what being old is really like and receiving a monthly retirement benefit from the Social Security Administration is a pretty good signal that one is no longer young – or even middle-aged.

So I decided to make a private ritual of it, to mark the day when I became an official old person.

I could have called the SSA 800 number, but that's no better a ritual than a webpage form. So at about 8:45AM yesterday, I packed up my papers and drove to the local Social Security office – a dank little building down the street a short way from a strip mall where, inside, a police officer moonlighting as a guard sat reading a war novel. I was there at 9AM, early enough to be fifth in line.

After a 30-minute wait, I was called to the counter. “Social Security number?” the woman asked. Then, instead of “what is your name,” she asked “who are you?” Since I am more than my name, I liked that and decided on the spot that it was an auspicious beginning for my little ritual.

Another wait of 15 minutes and then a different woman, Mrs. Ortiz, called me into her cubicle. Like me, she is from New York City – Brooklyn, to be precise. Moved to Portland, Maine three years ago with her husband and two small children. We had a fine old time talking about what we like about Portland and what we miss and don’t miss about New York.

It was nearly an hour we spent together looking at my papers and leisurely filling out forms while I swore to the facts that I’m not a felon or a fugitive, am not lying about anything and understand my rights.

Except that the Social Security office is as drab and dull and gray as all government agencies and, oddly, neither Mrs. Ortiz nor any other employee I could see had a single personal item in their cubes – not even a box of Kleenex – it was the best experience I’ve ever had with a bureaucracy.

Pleasantries were exchanged as if we might have been seatmates who had never met before at a wedding dinner. Questions were asked and answered. Computer keys clacked in response and a printer whirred.

As the final step in our ceremony, we shook hands to affirm that my new status had been ritually achieved. I was now a Social Security beneficiary and, in the lights of the U.S. government, I had become an official old person.

Aside from whatever number of additional birthdays the gods grant me and unless I marry again, this was the final rite of passage before my funeral. Mrs. Ortiz may or may not have realized it, but she made it feel like the ritual I wanted. And to celebrate my "coming of age", I had a glass of wine with dinner. Whooeee!

The Day After the First Presidential Debate of 2016


She crushed him. Hillary Clinton crushed him. She was prepared, poised, knowledgeable and in control of the stage. Donald Trump was vague, pouty and flailing, clearly out of his depth and after the first 30 minutes or so, incoherent. Clinton had no trouble getting under Trump's skin and he reacted as we have come to expect, lashing out, but none of his attacks landed.

He interrupted Clinton constantly, made childishly faces while she was speaking, fidgeted and harrumphed. His behavior could have been seen as a Saturday Night Live parody of him played by a 10-year-old. It was that bad. It is questionable that this man is capable of running a company and certainly not a country.

Most of the pundits (except the ones you would expect) declared Secretary Clinton the winner. Two snap polls agreed: A PPP poll found that viewers thought Clinton had won the debate by a 51-40 margin. A CNN/ORC poll found that 62 percent of viewers thought Clinton won vs. 27 percent who thought Trump did, reported Slate.

This is a good thing - for us and for a world worried about what kind of person the United States will elect - but I remember the first debate in 2012 when Mitt Romney cleaned Barack Obama's clock. Obama came soaring back from that defeat in the subsequent debates and we'll see if Trump gets his game on when the two candidates square off again in St.Louis on 9 October.

I don't need to quote all the morning news outlets for you - it's easy to find them online. This extra Tuesday post is for all of us to react to what we saw last evening or read today. Comments are shut down on yesterday's post with a link to this one so all our responses are gathered in one place where we can follow along.

Because it is the internet, space is unlimited – have your say at whatever length. Just, please, paragraph it if it's long so that it is easier for old eyes to read.

Watching the First Presidential Debate Tonight

UPDATE ON TUESDAY EARLY MORNING: Comments are shut down on this post and you are directed to the "morning after" post here for reactions and commentary on the first presidential debate that was held Monday night.

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It's been 14 years now I've been at this blog and I'm pretty sure 99.99 percent of the posts relate to ageing no matter how much I sometimes stretch the definition of that word to fit whatever I'm writing.

None of that pretense today. And there won't be any during the next times I write about this political season until we vote on 8 November because it is the most crucial presidential election of our lives, however old or young you are.

The consequences of choosing the Republican candidate puts our country, the countries of the rest of world and the ideals we hold dear at the greatest risk we have ever known. His election could change the future of the world in ways no other American president has done and that are terrifying to contemplate. And that is why this debate and the next two are the only things we should be talking about right now.

Sometimes I still think it is impossible that this man is a real candidate for the presidency with a real chance of winning. In all its years, I never saw an episode of The Apprentice. I could not have told you when it was broadcast or on what network.

He came to public attention about the time I arrived to live in New York City in the late 1960s and he became such a media presence that he couldn't be missed. But for me, it went no deeper than the garish headlines leaving me with the impression that he was an ignorant, vulgar boor, not someone I would ever need to pay serious attention.

Amazing now, how wrong I was. This evening, he and the Democratic candidate go head-to-head in the first of the three debates that will help decide the future of the world.

UPDATE AT 6AM: Last night, John Oliver returned from hiatus to his HBO show, Last Week Tonight. His main essay is too important not to post right now, before tonight's debate, and here it is:

There are predictions of more than 100 million viewers tonight - that's approaching Super Bowl levels - and that 73 percent of registered voters are “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to watch, according to Morning Consult Poll [pdf].

You don't need me to find all the information you need to prepare for tonight's debate (if you think you need to at all) - it's everywhere. But in the interests of detail, here are some facts:

• TIME: The debate begins at 9PM eastern U.S. time and lasts for 90 minutes. There are no commercial interruptions.

• MODERATOR: The anchor of NBC Nightly News, Lester Holt, is the moderator.

• LOCATION: The debate is, of course, live and being held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, on Long Island.

• FORMAT: The debate will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each.

The moderator will open each segment with a question, after which each candidate will have two minutes to respond. Candidates will then have an opportunity to respond to each other.

The moderator will use any remaining time in the segment for a deeper discussion of the topic.

• TOPICS: Moderator Lester Holt selected the topics: America's Direction, Achieving Prosperity, Securing America. Each will last for two segments.

Or, at least, that's what is planned so far. Events could change the topics and maybe the format.

• WHERE TO WATCH: These television channels will carry the debate:

Fox News

The debate will also be streamed online at least at these locations and there may be others:

Most networks' websites

Also: Undoubtedly at a bar or two near you.


• FACT CHECKING: Unlike Chris Wallace who will moderate the third debate, Lester Holt has not announced he will refrain from fact checking the candidates, although that does not mean he will.

Certainly, Hillary Clinton has some mis-statements and/or outright lies on her record but nothing to equal Donald Trump who has so many that most of us cannot recall them all.

As a reminder so you can keep track during the debate, here are some helpful reminders:

Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post has rounded up a Fact Check Cheat Sheet. As he explains in his introduction:

”The list is longer for Trump because, frankly, he has been exceptionally fact-challenged in this campaign. His average Pinocchio rating is 3.4, which is extraordinary; the highest average rating in the 2012 campaign was Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who earned 3.08.

“Clinton has an average Pinocchio rating of 2.2, which is slightly higher than President Obama and slightly lower than Mitt Romney in 2012.”

You will find Kessler's Cheat Sheet here.

Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns at The New York Times have created a list of Trump's most commonly repeated "whoppers" that occurred in just one week.

Two other things:

  1. Many pundits have said that if Mr. Trump manages to get through the 90 minutes without dropping any of his signature verbal bombs or other craziness, he will “win” the debate. That is not the criteria for a win or, rather, shame on the media for thinking so.

  2. Normally, I do not publish on Tuesdays but tomorrow will be an exception. Whatever happens tonight, I'm sure we will want to talk about it so a new TGB page will be open for commentary on Tuesday and comments will be closed on this page.

Meanwhile, how do you intend to watch the debate? Here on the west coast, it will be 6PM. That's early for most people but due to my odd sleep disorder, it is late evening for me so the cat and I will snuggle in among the six bed pillows, me with pad and pen to take any notes I might want for later. You?


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UPDATE ON TUESDAY EARLY MORNING: Comments are shut down on this post and you are directed to the "morning after" post here for reactions and commentary on the first presidential debate that was held Monday night.

ELDER MUSIC: 1962 Yet Again

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

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Perhaps I've been doing this too long because I'm about to quote myself. The first time through for 1962 I said, "1962, what a dreary old year you were musically. This year could be considered the nadir of the sixties.”

Now I'm going to see if I can prove myself wrong without using any of the songs I've used previously and remember, there have already been two columns devoted to 1962. Quite a challenge I know.

I don't know if I succeeded but I found enough so I wasn't disappointed. Let's see if they are worth including.

Over the years there have often been "the next" when it come to popular music – the next Elvis, the next Bob Dylan, the next Beatles and so on. I'll start with one of those, the next Buddy Holly, BOBBY VEE.

That's not too surprising as Bobby was quickly substituted on the tour after Buddy was killed in the plane crash. Fortunately, Bobby evolved into a decent artist in his own right.

Bobby Vee

He was already established by 1962, and the song The Night Has a Thousand Eyes was probably the biggest of his career. He was one of the most underrated performers of this era.

♫ Bobby Vee - The Night Has A Thousand Eyes

THE CRYSTALS were a real group who had a number of hits.

The Crystals

However, their producer was Phil Spector and he really didn't care about the personnel of his various groups as long as they sounded good. That means that on a number of their records, it was actually Darlene Love and/or The Blossoms singing.

Not on this one though. It's the actual Crystals with one of their hits written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Uptown.

♫ The Crystals - Uptown

DEL SHANNON was one of the few bright lights who turned up between fifties rock & roll and sixties rock.

Del Shannon

Del had a bunch of fine songs during his career. This wasn't his best but it was the one from this year and we can't have everything. Little Town Flirt.

♫ Del Shannon - Little Town Flirt

BARBARA LYNN wrote and recorded You'll Lose a Good Thing, and took it up to the pointy end of the charts.

Barbara Lynn

It was later covered by Aretha Franklin and Freddy Fender who both had success with the song. Others have performed it too.

Barbara started out playing piano but later switched to electric guitar – it was unusual at the time for a woman to be out front playing lead. We hope things have changed but they may not have progressed to the point where this isn't remarked upon.

♫ Barbara Lynn - You'll Lose a Good Thing

MARY WELLS had a huge hit with the song My Guy, but that was in 1964.

Mary Wells

As she was on Motown Records, that song and most of her other hits were written by Smokey Robinson, including the one from this year, You Beat Me to the Punch.

♫ Mary Wells - You Beat Me to the Punch

Any year with the EVERLY BROTHERS having a hit can't be a complete write-off.

Everly Brothers

Most of their big hits were behind them by this year but they were still bringing out good music in spite of barely tolerating each other. This, alas, continued for the rest of their lives. Here is Crying in the Rain.

♫ Everly Brothers - Crying In The Rain

JOANIE SOMMERS made a singing career (she was also an actress) singing jazz and standards.

Joanie Sommers

However, she'll always be remembered (at least by me, and probably others around my age) for singing her only number one hit, Johnny Get Angry. Sorry, Joannie.

♫ Joanie Sommers - Johnny Get Angry

ETTA JAMES can be pretty much guaranteed to shake things up, and she does so today.

Etta James

Something's Got A Hold On Me was written by Etta along with Leroy Kirkland and Pearl Woods. It was recorded at the home of the blues, Chess records. It's been covered by many others but Etta did it first and did it best.

♫ Etta James - Something's Got A Hold On Me

As they always did, New Orleans musicians were guaranteed to produce good music, and they did it this year as well. One of those was BARBARA GEORGE.

Barbara George

Barbara wrote the song, I Know (You Don't Love Me No More) and it became quite a hit for her. It's been covered by quite a few others over the years.

Barbara wasn't able to match that song's success and she faded somewhat and retired from the music biz.

♫ Barbara George - I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)

There were no better singers this year than HELEN SHAPIRO.

Helen Shapiro

Actually, there have been few better singers than she in the history of popular music. The song I've chosen wasn't one of her biggest hits but I like it as I liked most of hers from around this time (before she became an "all round entertainer").

It is Little Miss Lonely.

♫ Helen Shapiro - Little miss lonely

Thank heavens for the women, they made this year acceptable.

INTERESTING STUFF – 24 September 2016


From the Youtube page:

”For 53 years, Justo Gallego has been building a cathedral by hand on the outskirts of Madrid almost entirely by himself. Gallego has no formal architecture or construction training, but that hasn't stopped him from toiling on this herculean task.

“At 90 years old, Gallego knows that he will not be able to finish the project in his lifetime. But he keeps at it anyway, day after day, driven by his faith.”


Most newspapers and many news websites have weekly quizzes where we can test our knowledge of what happened during the week. I'm not much interested in those but this one intrigued me. As The New York Times explains the latest update:

”A few months ago, we started a new feature of short, surprising items from all corners of the globe. We've now published 100 of these items, and we hope they have made you smile and maybe even taught you something about another culture.

“To celebrate, we offer this quiz, where you can test your new knowledge of peculiar facts about faraway places — or learn some new ones.”

Of the 10 multiple choice questions, I got only three right, she said with chagrin. You can check how you do here.


You have probably seen news stories about the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington D.C. Most of us will probably not get there but this week, the Washington Post published images of some fascinating artifacts. Here are two:

Slaveholders could earn money by hiring their slaves out as workers. A slave badge identified the slave by his or her profession and the date.

During the segregation era, caricatures of African Americans were an ubiquitous part of American life that ornamented household items, from candleholders to coin banks to these salt and pepper shakers, made in the 1950s.

The variety of items, from slave collars and leg irons to Michael Jackson's fedora and much more, is remarkable. You can see more in the Post story here.

And you can explore the entire museum “through an African American lens” at the museum website.


The night after John Oliver's HBO program, Last Week Tonight won an Emmy for outstanding variety series last week, he and his Emmy dropped by the Jimmy Kimmel Live late night show. Take a look:

This was the first Emmy for Oliver and his HBO show. He has three others for his work on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. Also this week, Oliver appeared on CBS This Morning. The Emmy was mentioned but he also discussed his Edward Snowden interview in Moscow and the "dispiriting" presidential campaign.

At last, Oliver and his HBO show return from hiatus tomorrow night.


TGB reader Amanda reminded me about the live events of the New York Public Library that are then available to watch for free online. The range of guests is wide – from Nicholson Baker recently to Alan Cumming, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Helen Mirren. Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and many more.

Tickets to attend an event at the Library can be as much as $40. But after the live events, usually by the next day, you can stream them on your PC, tablet, phone or download them as podcasts. All for free. Find them here.


All you have to do to understand this idea is hear or read the name: solar roadways. It solves an enormous number of important problems and if anyone in charge is smart, we'll move forward with this immediately. Take a look – you will be impressed.

Find out more here:


Madeline Gonzales is only five months old. Her grandfather, who works at Costco, couldn't resist buying one for her when a load of humungously large teddy bears arrived at the store. Take a look at Madeline with her new plush toy:


There are more photos with the whole story here at Buzzfeed. I'm pretty sure this is the cutest thing you will see all day today.


During this presidential election campaign, a certain candidate's dog whistles have made him a darling the white supremacy/neo-Nazi movement which, renamed the "alt-right," is having its moment in the media sun.”

Here is a report about their recent conference from a gay Latino reporter:


This has been floating around the webisphere for several years but I was reminded of it this week after a long while and it's as much fun to read again, especially for pun lovers, as the first time around.


”Sad news today, so please join me in remembering yet another great icon of the entertainment community. The Pillsbury Dough Boy died yesterday of a yeast infection and traumatic complications from repeatedly being poked in his belly during his lifetime.

“The veteran Pillsbury spokesman was 71. Dough Boy is survived by his wife, Play Dough; three children, John Dough, Jane Dough, and Dill Dough; plus they also had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart. Services were held yesterday at 350 for about 20 minutes.

“Dough Boy (DB) was buried in a lightly greased coffin. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch. The grave site was piled high with flours.

“Longtime friend, Aunt Jemima, delivered the eulogy, describing DB as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. DB rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers.

“He was not considered a very 'smart' cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, but was thought of as a roll model for millions. Toward the end, it was thought he would rise again, but alas, he remained unleavened.”

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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” at the top 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.

Welcome to Fall - And to Falls Prevention

Besides being the official first day of fall, yesterday, 22 September, was National Falls Prevention Awareness Day – as it has been for the past nine years.

Wait. Let me back up a bit first.

For readers who have been coming around here for a year and more, this will look familiar. I publish a falls prevention story every year at this time and maybe, like me, you feel that you have read it recently.

That's the age-old problem for old people of time passing so quickly as the birthdays pile up. In my case, I have no idea anymore how long ago any given thing happened. I've taken to telling people, when I use the word “recently,” that it could mean anything from six months ago to ten years ago.

However, in the case of falls prevention, familiarity and repetition are a good thing. If you don't think so, take a look at just a few of the statistics about falls in regard to people who are 65 and older. From the National Council on Aging (NCOA):

One third of all people 65 and older fall each year

Every 11 minutes, an old person is admitted to an emergency room for treatment for a fall

Every 19 minutes, an old person dies as the result of a fall

Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal, trauma-related hospital admissions among people 65 and older

Every year, the NCOA holds a competition for short videos from amateurs about falls prevention. Here is the first place winner of the 2015 Falls Free® video contest:

There are more Falls Free® contest videos here.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has an excellent page about what you can do personally to keep yourself from falling, along with a list of items for fall-proofing your home. It's a good reminder to check your home for falling and tripping hazards at least once a year.

This infographic (below and online here) is from the NCOA about falls prevention programs you may be able to find in your community:


There are so many medical and physical problems over which we have little or no control – unexpected diseases and conditions that seem to choose victims randomly. Falling is one thing in life we can go a long way toward preventing.

So don't forget, be careful out there.

Vote as If It Matters

Over the past couple of weeks, Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump has not only gained on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the polls, he has surpassed her in some of them and Democrats are beginning to panic.

I'm not a Democrat but I'm also not immune to running around like a chicken with my head cut off over this.

My friend Jim Stone sent me the link to a posting at Balloon Juice where a Facebook entry about voting for Clinton is reposted (Sourcing on the internet can be complicated.). The Facebook entry is the point but first, you should read the Balloon Juice lead-in:

”I’m with respected blog colleague Kay in thinking that it makes little sense to blame the Youngs for the horrifying possibility that Trump could be elected because of millennials’ insufficient fealty to the Democratic nominee.

“Yes, anyone who is determined to throw a vote away on sentient Caucasian dreadlock Jill Stein (hat tip – Sam Bee) or human bong avatar Gary Johnson deserves a clue-by-four upside the noggin.

“But it’s the Olds — specifically, older white folks — who weaponized the ferret-wearing shit-gibbon. Let’s put the lion’s share of the blame where it truly belongs.

“I think I’ve talked all the millennials in my purview into backing Clinton. (Or possibly they’re lying to me to shut me the hell up.) That said, this piece from Tooney of the Twitters might be good Facebook fodder for the young idealists in your feed who’ve bought into the purity brigade’s anti-Clinton smears.”

Not just for the the young idealists, but the old troglodytes too. They may not be among the rabid Trumpsters we see at his rallies but too many of them have become knee-jerk Republican voters who haven't noticed that their party has become the home of racists, mysogynists and xenophobes.

Up until the turn of the century, voters 65 and older had been reliably Democratic for a long time. In 1996, they voted for Bill Clinton over Bob Dole 50 percent to 44. In 2000, they voted for Al Gore over George Bush 51 percent to 47. And then it changed:

2004: George Bush over John Kerry 52 percent to 47

2008: John McCain over Barack Obama 53 percent to 45

2012: Mitt Romney over Barack Obama 56 percent to 44

Note how the spread has increased from one presidential election year to the next: 5, 8 and 12.

Do I think Hillary Clinton is the ideal Democratic candidate and paragon of political virtue? Hardly. As I emailed my friend Lia who blogs at Yum Yum Cafe recently:

”She's a politician. She's always been a politician. She's done some really stupid things over the years. She is also smart, incredibly well informed, knows how politics and Washington, D.C. work, has relationships with the leaders in most countries of the world...”

And she will work her butt off without letup. That's just how she rolls. Is she my first choice? Of course not. But compared to the other, well...

I'll shut up now and let you read the posting below or at Balloon Juice or where it was first posted. The reasoning of it seems so obvious to me.


Think about posting this to your blog or Facebook page or any place else where it might help convince someone who thinks Hillary Clinton is not the better choice over the orange-haired, ignorant, racist, verbal bomb thrower. Or that abstaining on 8 November or voting for a third party candidate in protest that will dilute the Clinton vote is a virtuous idea. (Hint: it is not.)

Vote as if it matters.

Crabby and Her Latest Annoying Affliction of Old Age

As if there are not enough well-known ailments of old age, new ones keep creeping up on Crabby Old Lady.

She's not talking about the diseases of age, not the terrible diagnoses no one want to hear. She's talking about the minor irritations - things like fingers too dry to turn book pages, eye floaters, tinnitus, chin wiskers (women), toad spots, short-term memory lapses – for which there is no useful remedy.

Do all these things (and others) happen to all old people? Probably not, but Crabby is pretty sure most of us have our own collection of daily irritations which we can't do much about.

The other day, TGB reader Richard Lombard sent Crabby this email:

”When I saw Tylenol thought Tyvek. Today while watching the crawl on a news show, Tropical Storm Julia drenches Florida...I read Tropical Storm Judi Dench. I could not understand what Dame Judi was doing in Florida.”

“Julia drenches” becomes “Judi Dench.”

Of course it does. It makes perfect sense to Crabby. She's been making similar mis-readings now and then for quite awhile, in books, magazines, online, pretty much anywhere there are words.

It is not uncommon for something like “free checking” to become “free chicken” in Crabby Old Lady's reading, but it is usually enough out of context that she goes back to re-read the sentence and find her error, as Richard obviously did.

Sometimes the mis-readings are funny but Crabby also wonders how often she doesn't catch the error and winds up believing something that is not so.

As far as Crabby can tell (that's a big question), this doesn't happen often. Much more frequently, she types these kinds of mistakes. She knows the word she wants and believes she has typed it and then when she proofs a blog post, there's a weird word where it doesn't belong.

Something like, from the immediately preceding sentence, “...believes she has tripped it and then...”

There is usually some connection between the word Crabby wants and what she types – perhaps that each begins with the same letter. And they usually have the same number of syllables. Verb errors are usually in the desired tense.

Unlike reading errors, typing errors occur several times in one story or email. Yes, email too. It has been many months since Crabby has sent an email, however short, without proofing it and just as often as not, there is this kind of error.

A blog story is much worse than email, usually half a dozen such mistakes and it happens so often that Crabby knows she cannot post anything without two and even three proof readings to catch the errors.

Sometimes Crabby misses them until they've been posted so undoubtedly some of you have seen these along with more usual sorts of typo she doesn't catch. Of course, Crabby has always made typos but nothing to this degree or this kind – substituting similar-looking words that more often than not have no meaningful relationship to what she intends.

Crabby Old Lady is not concerned that these errors are signs of any serious brain problem (yet) but she is really crabby about adding one more irritation to the growing list of old-age related annoyances.

It is a bit of comfort knowing that it happens to Richard too.

ELDER MUSIC: The Late Great Townes Van Zandt

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

* * *

All the other Texas songwriters claim that Townes Van Zandt was the most influential and best songwriter from that state, and as we have Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett in the mix, that's a big statement. Willie Nelson might have something to say about it, however.


Michael Hall in the Texas Monthly sums up Townes best:

”He remains today what he was all his wild, heartbreaking life: a cult artist honored by peers and ardent fans but largely unknown in the mainstream.

“He never released an album on a major label. He was never a music business professional and was never much concerned with his career. He was never concerned with much of anything in fact, but writing, touring, and hanging out with friends and family.

“He loved paradox - living it and spreading it. Born into comfort, he preferred the company of the poor and desperate and sometimes gambled away what money he had. He was a lighthearted prankster who wrote some of the saddest songs of the century. He sang about how precious it was to be alive yet spent a good deal of his life killing himself with drugs and alcohol.”


A man who can name one of his albums "The Late Great Townes Van Zandt" while he was still alive has something strange going on in his brain. When he died in 1997 at age 52, the most surprising thing was that he had lived so long.

On his first album, TOWNES recorded many of his best known songs, but he was dissatisfied with the result such that he rerecorded most of them on subsequent albums.

Having heard both versions of all of them, I agree that was the wise thing to do. One of those songs appeared on his very next album.

Although far from his best known song, it is my favorite of his. It's a really beautiful song with some gorgeous (and simple) guitar playing from Mickey White. His songwriting is so evocative you can picture Maria without any trouble. (Quicksilver Daydreams Of) Maria.

♫ Townes Van Zandt - (Quicksilver Daydreams Of) Maria

Many artists have recorded Townes' songs and I'm going to include a few of them. I'll start with one you could have pretty much guaranteed would be present. EMMYLOU HARRIS.

Emmylou Harris

Emmy has the help of Don Williams on If I Needed You.

♫ Emmylou Harris - If I Needed You

Townes once said, "I want to write songs so good that nobody understands them, even me". He succeeded with this next one.


Pancho and Lefty is certainly his best known song. He said it came through the window of a seedy hotel room to settle in his brain. "I was just tapped on the shoulder from above and told to write these songs, as opposed to wanting to be a success in the music business,” he said.

It's a mythical song that no one knows what it's about, but who cares? Bob Dylan would have been proud to own this one.

♫ Townes Van Zandt - Pancho & Lefty

NANCI GRIFFITH recorded a couple of interesting albums where she got a whole bunch of people to perform duets (and trios and on and on) with her.

Nanci is a fine songwriter but on these she performed songs written by others, I suspect mostly her favorites or those who have influenced her over the years. Naturally, there was a Townes song in the mix. On that one she had the help of ARLO GUTHRIE.

Nanci Griffith & Arlo Griffith

The song they performed is Tecumseh Valley, one of the most interesting songs that Townes wrote.

♫ Nanci Griffith and Arlo Guthrie - Tecumseh Valley


I imagine that people who haven't been there think of New Mexico as hot and dry. It is that, but they probably don't think of snow. I have been there when it snowed and it gets damn cold.

Raton is in the northeast of the state, nearly in Colorado and that's a state that is associated with snow. Put all that together and you have Snowin' on Raton.

♫ Townes Van Zandt - Snowin' on Raton

GUY CLARK was a close friend of Townes' and they occasionally shared a small glass of sherry together (well, that's the politically correct version of what they did).

Guy Clark

Guy rivals Townes in the Texan singer/songwriter department and since Townes' demise, Guy has always included one of his songs on each new album (as well as in concert, of course). Out of several I've chosen To Live is to Fly.

♫ Guy Clark - To Live's to Fly

Don't You Take It Too Bad has been recorded by many of Townes' friends and others as well. None did it better than Townes though.


This is his version of the song.

♫ Townes Van Zandt - Don't You Take It Too Bad

Townes wrote songs that were deceptively simple - not for him the epic stories of Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. Now and then, however, he showed that he could match those two at their own game. This is one that either of those writers would be happy to call their own, Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel.


♫ Townes Van Zandt - Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel

As mentioned at the beginning, Townes wrote the saddest songs anyone ever committed to paper and disk, and the general consensus is that the saddest of the lot is Marie. This is a five hankie or full Kleenex box affair. WILLIE NELSON's stark approach to the song highlights this.

Willie Nelson

It's just Willie and guitar and that's all that's needed for it.

♫ Willie Nelson - Marie

I'll finish with a song that could have easily fitted into my "Seasons" columns. Townes sings Come Tomorrow.


I could say this is another sad song but that would be redundant.

♫ Townes Van Zandt - Come Tomorrow

INTERESTING STUFF – 17 September 2016


Now don't go getting all up about this being a list of women's firsts or tell us that it's not right to vote for Hillary just because she's a woman.

Forget that for a moment and just look at this campaign video. Being a woman is part of who Hillary is too.

Thank Jim Stone for sending this.


She and her TBS show returned from hiatus this week in top form. Here is her opening survey of what happened in politics during the time she was gone from the TV screen.

Remember – Samantha is not always safe for work and small children. But she sure is funny.


In our discussion of hearing loss and hearing aids this week, reader Wendl Kornfeld left a comment about how difficult it is to understand young women who practice “vocal fry” which, believe it or not, is the professional term.

I had never heard the phrase so I tracked down some information on the interwebs. Here a video from CBS Sunday Morning about it:

The affectation seems to be closely associated with the Kardashians about whom I know almost nothing. If you are interested, click here for many more videos about vocal fry.


Remember when it was revealed that Mark Zuckerberg, who made his billions collecting personal information about Facebook users, taped over the camera on his desktop computer.


Now we learn that FBI director, James Comey, does the same thing. As reported in The Hill:

“Comey was pilloried online earlier this year, after he revealed that he puts a piece of tap over his laptop camera to keep away prying eyes. The precaution is a common one among security advocates, given the relative ease of hacking laptop cameras...

“Comey was 'much mocked for that,' he acknowledged on Wednesday. But he still uses the tape on his laptop.

“'I hope people lock their cars,' he said. 'Lock your doors at night… if you have an alarm system, you should use it.'”

Not that I believe anyone is interested in hacking into the webcam of an old woman but just to be safe, I tape over the camera on my computer too, as you can see in this photo.



According to this video, 88 percent of the world's population has never seen the Milky Way due to light pollution.

You and I are old enough that even in most cities when we were kids, we could still see the stars but it's doubtful we've been able to do that for many years. In fact, I remember the last time could see them - in the mid 1970s in upstate New York.

Now, two towns in Colorado have brought back the night sky. Take a look:


TGB Sunday music columnist, Peter Tibbles (who just had a birthday), sent this amazing triple spiral. It's gorgeous:

And just for some added fun, here is the same triple spiral in reverse:


Every Muslim is required to make the pilgrimage to Mecca, called The Hajj, at least once in his or her lifetime. This year's Hajj ended last Wednesday.

Diaa Hadid, a New York Times correspondent at the newspaper's Jerusalem bureau, attended the Hajj this year returning several videos of the religious event where two million people show up each year. This one is an excellent story filled with explanations and answers for people like me who are mostly ignorant of it beyond the fact that it exists.

You can read The Times story here and see more of Ms. Hadid's Hajj videos here.


Uber began testing its self-driving car in Pittsburgh this week with real riders.

Washington Post reporter Brian Fung got a demo a few days earlier and says that it works “at least under ideal conditions.” Here's the video:

Read more about it here.


Reader Richard Lombard sent this video. This man and his goose are well known where I live in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and last week they were featured on the CBS Sunday Morning show. It's so cute. Take a look:

* * *

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” at the top 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.

Crabby Old Lady Contemplates Shaving Her Head

A more serious post was planned for today but a story about a generation of young women shaving their heads grabbed Crabby Old Lady's attention and it's been too long since she appeared in these pages.

The New York Times which, keep in mind, is frequently behind the curve in regard to youth culture, reports that there may be a fad of young women shaving their heads – as a fashion statement:

“'I’ve definitely noticed this trend on the streets recently,' said Andrea Donoghue, who owns Laurel, a private studio in the East Village. 'I think it’s a trickle down from what’s been happening in fashion lately.'

“'A client of mine recently came in with a picture of [model] Ruth [Bell] from a Zara campaign,' Ms. Donoghue recalled.”

Reading that, Crabby flashed on her hair cut last week when she told the stylist, an old friend by now, that she not infrequently thinks about shaving off all her hair. It would be so much easier.

As many of you know from past stories here, Crabby was deeply vexed when her hair had become so thin at the crown and front that pink scalp shows through the few wisps that remain. So two or three years ago after weighing several possible solutions, she began always wearing a hat when she leaves the house.

She has a large collection of winter, summer, big, small, smart, beautiful and silly hats now hanging on a wall, including this new addition she bought for an upcoming Halloween party:

Halloween Hat

Isn't it a terrific witch hat? What you can't see are the spiders crawling about on the netting. (Yeah, Crabby knows it's good for only one day a year but what the hell. It didn't cost much and YOLO, as those shaved-headed young women probably say.)

It was nearly eight years ago that Crabby Old Lady first wrote here about going bald and after listing the options (none of which Crabby liked), noted:

”Embracing baldness by shaving her head is a choice Crabby half-seriously considered but it works best on an attractively-shaped head and Crabby has no idea if hers is a pleasingly contoured.

“Besides,” Crabby continued eight years ago, “with every public encounter, it calls attention for a wrong reason, especially on an old woman. The thought of explaining herself to any fool who asks – and many would - makes Crabby tired already.”

But now, Crabby has moved from “half-seriously” considering shaving her head to seriously thinking about it.

The first time Crabby saw a deliberately bald woman was back in the 1970s, model Grace Jones, and she was stunning. Of course, unlike Crabby, she was born with an especially lovely face and beautifully shaped head.

Here she is in her bald look along with some other well-known women who have shaved their heads - left to right, Grace, Demi Moore, Tyra Banks and Cynthia Nixon. After the first bit of shock, they all look great.


One of the young women in The Times story about the head shaving fad, 22-year-old Alana Derksen, said she had wanted to shave her head for a long time:

”...but refrained out of fear of how her 'conservative' family would react. Then, late one night last summer during a tense trip home, she finally gave in to the impulse, cutting off her hair in her parents’ bathroom and using a Bic razor to finish the job.

“Now, she said, she’s so used to her bald head, which she maintains with electric clippers, she has nightmares about her hair growing back. Even her parents have come around on the shorn ’do.:

Self image comes into it for Crabby only when thinking about how others would react. She doesn't want having a bald head to be the first thing people think about her. Someone asks, “Who is Crabby Old Lady?” “Oh, you know, the one who flaunts her shaved head.”

There is a whole lot of discussion in that Times story about whether the phenomenon of young women shaving their heads is a cultural response to expanding gender identifications. Crabby will leave that debate to them; her concerns are more prosaic.

First, as Crabby mentioned eight years ago, she is not sure she wants to be known for shaving her head. And for sure, she does not want to be thought of as trying to emulate women young enough to be her great granddaughters.

On the other hand, it would lift a small burden from her life to not think about thinning hair and hats anymore - as much fun as the hats are – or to blow dry what's left of her hair every other day. And, anyway, Crabby could still wear hats on her shaved head.

Which leaves this remaining question: Is the shape of Crabby's head reasonably nice looking? And that can be answered only one way - trust Crabby, plastering wet hair down on your head doesn't do it.

Crabby Old Lady is pretty certain this is just silliness for a Friday post after a week of serious issues. But then again, maybe not.

Hearing Loss Treatment and Medicare


Hearing loss is one of the least attended health problems in the United States. That's just my opinion but take a look at the statistics. According to The New York Times:

Hearing loss affects 45 percent of people age 70-74

Hearing loss affects 80 percent of people who are 85 and older

Fewer than 20 percent of people with hearing loss use hearing aids

Some of the 80 percent who do not use hearing devices are concerned about the stigma that still attaches. There are other, more serious reasons people do not seek help for their hearing difficulty:

  1. Medicare, by deliberate legislation when it was created in 1965, does not cover hearing loss examination, treatment or devices

  2. The hearing aid business has an anecdotal reputation problem most of us are familiar with. That organizations such as AARP warn [pdf] people to carefully check the credentials of hearing specialists doesn't create a great deal of confidence

  3. Average hearing aid cost is about $2500 per aid, many people need two of them and that is for the devices only, not examinations and other specialist fees

Here is one person's – mine - hearing story.

Although I've had trouble since I was 30-something hearing nearby voices in noisy rooms such as restaurants, I just avoid them. For 10 years or so, I have lived with tinnitus but except that I long for some silence in my life, it doesn't affect hearing in general which is a good thing since there is no treatment for it.

More recently a different hearing problem has developed; it has become hard to hear dialogue on television.

The difficulty is not volume. In fact, I no longer go to movies in theaters because the audio is jacked up so high it hurts my ears. Instead this new-ish issue is that voices at certain timbres or pitches turn into gibberish. I can hear them perfectly well; it is just that the actors could be speaking Martian as far as I can tell.

But not all television audio is unintelligible. I hear news programs, documentaries, talk shows and other kinds of live broadcasts perfectly well (radio too) along with replays of these shows.

My hearing problem is specific to a large percentage of scripted programs, original TV and theatrical movies broadcast on television. I have become an adept lip reader but drama – and comedy – is such that half the time the person speaking has his/her back to the camera.

Two months ago, Consumer Reports published a “Hearing Aid Buying Guide” which is as useful and thorough as we have come to expect from this organization.

There is an overview of the causes of hearing loss, an excellent explanation of types of hearing aids with their various, individual features along with a list of considerations in choosing a hearing aid provider - from a medical doctor to hearing specialists:

”The professionals you might encounter at independent hearing-aid providers could fall into two categories: Audiologists or hearing-aid specialists (also called hearing-instrument specialists). Both types of professionals can evaluate your hearing and fit your hearing aids. But their training varies significantly.

“Audiologists must have a doctoral degree (Au.D.), and more than 1,000 hours of clinical training. Hearing-aid specialists generally have six months to two years of supervised training or a two-year college degree.”

Even if you have no hearing difficulty now this Consumer Reports guide is worth saving for possible future use.

Earlier this week, writing in The New York Times, reporter Paula Span looked at the Personal Sound Amplifiers (PSAPs).

”...many of us with mild to moderate hearing loss may consider a relatively inexpensive alternative: personal sound amplification products, or P.S.A.P.s. They offer some promise — and some perils, too,” she writes.

“Unlike for a hearing aid, you don’t need an audiologist to obtain a P.S.A.P. You see these gizmos advertised on the back pages of magazines or on sale at drugstore chains. You can buy them online.”

As Span notes, PSAPs are unregulated and, in fact, manufacturers are not allowed to label or market them as usable for hearing loss. And, many of them are terrible ripoffs. But some, she says, are not:

”Dr. Reed has tested just 29 participants so far, he cautioned, and real-world results will vary. Still, he and his colleagues were impressed with three P.S.A.P.s.

“The Soundhawk, which operates with a smartphone, performed almost as well as the hearing aid, with a list price of $399. The CS50+, made by Soundworld Solutions, and the Bean T-Coil, from Etymotic, worked nearly as well and list for about $350.”

If that sounds like something you want to look into, be sure to read the entire Times piece and the Consumer Reports guide that, like Span, warns of the shortcomings:

”These over-the-counter products generally have fewer features and less functionality than hearing aids...These are designed for people who want to amplify certain sounds—and they aren't subject to the same safety and effectiveness standards that hearing aids are.”

Probably not coincidentally, this same week Lori Orlov, the marketing expert who publishes the Aging in Place Technology Watch blog, has a short, informative list of five of the latest hearing technology gadgets. No reviews, just information about what is new on the immediate horizon.

As to my hearing? It is a big concern that my problem is gobbledegook, not volume because I suspect that makes it a brain, not ear, issue. So I'll start with my physician. If the outcome is interesting or useful, I'll let you know.

Meanwhile, it is unconscionable that Medicare does not cover hearing loss. Actually, you can think of this failure as cutting off the heads of elders; Medicare also does not cover routine vision and dental care.

Flu Shots and Exercise for Elders


When I was young, in my twenties, I came down with a flu every winter, stuck in bed for a week, achy, miserable and barely lucid. By age 30, I got smarter and I was taking the vaccine every year. For me, it has always worked – except for that one year sometime in my forties, the year I forgot to get the flu shot.

For two weeks I was barely conscious, too sick to care if I lived or died. What went on during those 12 or 14 days – phone calls maybe? did I watch TV? maybe a friend dropped by? I have no idea.

When finally the fever lifted, my head cleared and I got out of bed ready to return to the world, I found on the kitchen counter two, empty, one-gallon jugs that had once held water. I had never bought bottled water in my life, not in gallon containers or any other size. But there they were.

In all the years since then, every now and then, I wonder if, in the fog of flu that year, I walked to the corner bodega and bought that water. And, since I sleep naked, if perhaps I did that without putting on clothes, in the fog of flu, and the guys at the bodega colluded with my neighbors to not embarrass me by mentioning it.

Who knows. But I've never skipped the vaccine again.

Last week, I stopped by the pharmacy for that annual innoculation. The pharmacy has my records from years past so it took only about five minutes and cost me nothing.

In general, Medicare Part B covers the price if your physician accepts assignment. There are a couple of nuances to that you will find here.

This is serious business for elders.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the flu shot for everyone six months of age and older. But it is especially important for

”...anyone who is 65 years of age or older; nursing home residents; and people with serious health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, lung disease or HIV. Caregivers for older adults should also get vaccinated to avoid spreading the flu,” explains [pdf].

People who are allergic to eggs, have had allergic reactions to flu shots in the past, or have been diagnosed with Guillian-Barre Syndrome should not take the flu shot.

Mark you calendar today to get the flu shot. Soon. In my area, pharmacies give it without the need for an appointment. If that's not so where you live or you would rather see your physician, do arrange for it. Influenza can be deadly for old people.

There have now been so many studies proving, confirming and reconfirming that exercise is the best medicine known to mankind, it cannot be questioned. Every one of us should be up and moving around as much as our physical condition allows.


The effectiveness of exercise on physical and cognitive wellbeing is so conclusive that the experts have been left for the past several years arguing not if we should, but what type, duration and intensity of exercise does the most good.

Most experts suggest that four kinds are necessary: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. But newer studies are suggesting that for people who cannot and for elders, something as simple as brisk walking can be enough to help.

For the past few years, most experts recommended that all people, including elders, need at least 150 minutes of the four kinds of exercise per week.

For people who have been sedentary for a long while or have conditions that might prevent that much work, that is a lot. But early this summer, WebMD reported on a new study that suggests that less is almost as good:

”'The biggest jump in benefit was achieved at the low level of exercise, with the medium and high levels bringing smaller increments of benefit,' said Dr. David Hupin, of the University Hospital of Saint-Etienne, France.

“The low level of exercise is equivalent to a 15-minute brisk walk each day, according to Hupin.”

You could do that even at home on rainy, cold days. Jack up the volume on some music you like and keep moving for 15 minutes. Time magazine reported further on the same study.

”...there’s growing consensus among some exercise researchers that perhaps people, especially the elderly, can still achieve improved health with less.

“'Fifteen minutes per day of moderate and vigorous physical activity could be a reasonable target dose in older adults,' the study authors conclude. Small increases in physical activity may enable some older adults to incorporate more moderate activity and thus get closer to the current recommendations. If more may be better, ‘Even a little is already good’.”

Note the last sentence of that quotation. I am seeing that again and again in my readings about exercise and old people. Even a little helps and is better than nothing.

Also, if you aim for more than that do only as much as you can. That is, don't be lazy, push yourself as far as is reasonable, but don't rush toward the goals you set.

When I first began my daily home workout routine several years ago, I could not do more than two pushups – only two - before collapsing and we're talking those girly type of pushups on my knees, not toes. I now do 50 without too much effort but it took a year to get there. Do as much as you can but not to much as to injure yourself.

Here are some online sources to help you think through an exercise program.

CDC Basics of Exercise for Older Adults: Not quite up to date as the study I've quoted above but a good explanation of levels of exercise.
Today's Geriatric Medicine is similar to the CDC page but more detailed.
Physical Activity Guidelines for active older adults from

ELDER MUSIC: Send the Kiddies Out of the Room

Tibbles1SM100x130This 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.

* * *

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist suggested that name for the column and it seems sensible because kids these days would probably think what we have today rather tame. Not like in our day when we would have been seriously titillated by these songs. So prepare for a bit of titillation.


Georgia Tom

That's Tom whose name was Thomas Dorsey. Kitty, though, is a mystery; several singers used that name at the time, including Victoria Spivey, her sister Addie Spivey and Mozelle Alderson.

Some others as well. We do know that Tom played piano and sang on the record. Someone should have asked him who Kitty was that day. Anyway, Kitty and Tom perform Show Me What You've Got.

♫ Kansas City Kitty - Show Me What You've Got

Several of BULL MOOSE JACKSON's songs were a huge hit when they were played live.

Bull Moose Jackson

However, when he recorded them the radio stations didn't play them so they didn't sell very well - I assume just to those people who went to his shows. This is one that falls into that category, Big Ten Inch Record.

♫ Bull Moose Jackson - Big Ten Inch Record

On her first solo album Maria Muldaur had a song called Don't You Feel My Leg. It was roughly based on this next song by MERLINE JOHNSON.

Merline Johnson

Merline was known at the time as the Yas-Yas Girl, but little else is known of her life. It's only about her recordings where we have some information – she had the help on various songs of such musicians as Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson, Buster Bennett and several other such players.

I don't know who's on this track, Don't You Make Me High.

♫ Merline Johnson - Don't You Make Me High

It's not only little known performers present today; we also have DINAH WASHINGTON.

Dinah Washington

There were a couple of hers I could have used, but this one tickled my fancy. I hope your fancy is similarly affected. Dinah's song is about a trombonist and his instrument. It's called Big Long Slidin' Thing.

♫ Dinah Washington - Big Long Slidin' Thing

ALBERTA HUNTER was born in the 19th century and was a contemporary of Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters in the 1920s.

Alberta Hunter

She lived until 1984 and there was a revival of interest in her music in the last decades of her life. From her earlier days though, this is You Can't Tell the Difference After Dark.

♫ Alberta Hunter - You Can't Tell the Difference After Dark

I was trying to find out something about BARREL HOUSE ANNIE. I found a website that was titled "About Barrel House Annie" so I checked it. Unfortunately, there was the heading and a completely blank screen.

There doesn't seem to be a photo anywhere either (there certainly wasn't one on the CD). Anyway, here she is with If It Don't Fit, Don't Force It.

♫ Barrel House Annie - If It Don't Fit, Don't Force It

LILLIE MAE KIRKMAN is another for whom I could find no picture. Not just no picture, I couldn't find out anything about her either. So, I've really failed you today (except for the actual music).

Lillie Mae performs He's Just My Size. It's a sort of companion song to the previous one.

♫ Lillie Mae Kirkman - He's Just My Size

GEORGIA WHITE started playing clubs in Chicago, whence she hailed, in the late 1920s.

Georgia White

She kept playing them all over the place for the next 50 years. In the meantime, she made scores of records and teamed up with Big Bill Broonzy for a time. From her recordings in the 1930s, this is If I Can't Sell It, I'll Keep Sittin' on It.

♫ Georgia White - If I Can't Sell It, I'll Keep Sittin' on It

CLARA SMITH started out performing in tent shows and vaudeville. From there she gravitated to speakeasies and cabarets.

Clara Smith

Clara made a bunch of records, including a number of duets with Bessie Smith who was no relation. One of her records is It's Tight Like That.

Clara Smith - It's Tight Like That

Sam Heard was a singer, songwriter, dancer, comedian and all the rest of it necessary to make it in vaudeville and on Broadway. He recorded under the name Lovin' Sam and joined OSCAR'S CHICAGO SWINGERS to record the song New Rubbin' on That Darn Old Thing.

Oscar's Chicago Swingers

♫ Oscar's Chicago Swingers - New Rubbin' on That Darn Old Thing

INTERESTING STUFF – 10 September 2016


Graphic designer extraordinaire Milton Glaser created the iconic and ubiquitous I ♡ NY poster in 1977. He says he was never paid for it and didn't realize it would last as long as it has:


Last spring, the 87-year-old created a poster for this year's election with the hope

”That someone, somewhere will be affected by it and vote. And if it’s 10 people, that’s better, and if it’s 1,000 people, that’s even better.

The election poster is an echo of Descartes' “I think, therefore I am” and, explains Glaser, challenges voters to prove they are among the living. Millie Garfield and her son Steve, sent me this story. Here is Glaser's election poster:


There is a good interview with Milton Glaser at Bloomberg and you will recognize many of has famous posters at his website.


Sometimes it's little things that solve big problems.

”Dr. Melody Gunn, the former principal of Gibson Elementary in St. Louis, couldn’t figure out why student attendance was on the low side. All of Gibson’s kids were provided free or reduced lunches, and the school facilitated transportation.”

When Dr. Gunn investigated she found that the kids didn't have access to washing machines or couldn't afford detergent and didn't want to go to school wearing dirty clothes. Gunn contacted Whirlpool and here's what happened:

Read more at Citilab.


Thank TGB's Sunday's music columnist, Peter Tibbles, for this video which was shot at a park in his home city, Melbourne, Australia. Maybe the hawk just wanted the park to himself. See what you think:


The renowned biologist and writer Oliver Sacks died of cancer in August 2015 at age 82. A few months earlier he gave his final interview to documentarian Ric Burns.

”My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself.” says Sacks. There will be nobody like us when we are gone, but then there is nobody like anybody ever...

“It is the fate, the genetic and neural fate of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.””

Take a few minutes for this. You will be glad you did.

Thank you to Senior Planet for bringing this to my attention.


In this video, The Atlantic's senior editor, James Hamblin, who is a medical doctor and looks like he is 12, discusses aging and age discrimination with an older colleague, James Goldberg.

Be sure to catch the sequence early on when some off-camera voices talk about Hamblin's youthful appearance the way too many people feel comfortable talking about how old people look. It's fun, funny and enlightening.


A week ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is banning 19 ingredients commonly used in over-the-counter antibacterial soaps and washes. As the Washington Post reported,

"'Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,' said Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research...

“'In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.'”

Manufacturers have one year to comply with the ban. Further, reports The Post,

”The FDA's final rule does not affect consumer hand sanitizers, wipes or antibacterial products used in hospitals and other health-care settings. In June, the agency requested data on the safety and effectiveness of certain ingredients in those products, but emphasized it was not barring any of the items at that time.”

You can read the FDA release at their website.


John Collins is called the Paper Airplane Guy. He studied origame and aerodynamics to be able to design the sophisticated paper projectiles he makes. The YouTube page tells us that

”His record-breaking plane flew 226 feet. To Collins, paper airplanes aren't just for making a ruckus in class, they can teach us a lot about science.”

Take a look. You'll love his enthusiasm.


As Bored Panda explained, some good-hearted fellows at the California Wildlife Center (CWC) came to the rescue of a mockingbird with a foot condition that made it difficult for the poor thing to walk around, perch or grasp objects. Take a look:

* * *

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” at the top 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.

Have You Lived the Life You Wanted?

Or planned? Or expected?

To avoid misunderstanding, let me stipulate up front that new beginnings, new goals, renewed aspirations and purpose come about at any age. But for most of us who hang out at this blog, our working lives have ended or are winding down and our private lives, too, have probably changed a great deal from 25, 30, 40 years ago.

If I live as long as my internet friends, Millie Garfield and Darlene Costner who are both 91, I have at least another 16 years – time enough to pursue all kinds of possibilities whatever amount of new knowledge and learning they might require.

Generally, however, by age 75 or so we slow down and even ignoring the barriers society places in the way of elders who seek new ventures (paid or not), it is also a time when it is useful to take stock of where we have been and what we have done over a half century or more - how we have used all that time and consider how it has turned out for us.

I've been doing a bit of that during these waning days of summer.

Today's children are pressured almost from the cradle to choose a career path. Nothing like that happened to our generation, especially for women. If we were to work at all in the mid-20th century, it was understood to be a stopgap until we found a husband and retired from the workforce for motherhood.

But I knew that wasn't for me partly because, when I graduated from high school at age 17, I still felt like a little girl. There was so much to learn, so many places to go, people to meet, things to do. I felt unprepared.

There was, however, the question of college. The University of California at Berkeley was a short trip across San Francisco Bay from where I lived, easily affordable in those days, and my mother said I could live at home and commute if I chose that. Otherwise, get a job, she said.

Two things about college. From a young age I was generally a loner and although I was at ease with most grownups I was equally uncomfortable with my contemporaries.

The idea of arriving at the Berkeley campus and undoubtedly needing to ask some kid I ran into where to go paralyzed me. I know that makes no sense but that's how it was for me then.

If college had been required for some reason, I would have managed. But it wasn't, which brought me to the second thing, the rationalization.

I had no idea what to study or what I wanted to do for a living. From day one in school I had been an A student, was an enthusiastic learner and craved more knowledge. If anyone had bothered to ask me what I wanted to know, I would have answered in a flash: “Oh, everything.”

So with no life plan available, I went to work as an office clerk in San Francisco. I hung out with Beatniks in Sausalito and North Beach and those amazing people who were mostly 10 to 20 and more years older than I saw to my continuing education by sneaking me into jazz clubs, sending me to avant garde movies, giving me books they required I read and including me in their wide-ranging, all-night discussions, debates and dialogues.

During these years (because of them?) I continued to ask myself what I wanted to be when I grew up. Nothing came to me. I liked my life if you didn't count the mindless office typing and clerking jobs.

When I tired of the fruitless internal debate about my future, I deliberately decided not to make a choice and I made a big deal of that. I made no decision my life plan: I would keep putting one foot in front of the other, I told myself, follow whatever interesting stuff turned up and see where it took me.

And oh my, that worked so well for me that here I am still doing it, now with a blog. In between, I fell into media – first radio, then television and for the last ten years of my paid career, the internet.

What a glorious ride it has been and still is, gathering in all the ideas, knowledge and collective thought I have time to track down about – “oh, everything.”

I've never tired of it because by definition, the media I worked (and still work) in requires constant learning and understanding it well enough to report on it to others.

Back when I was trying to find life path, I didn't know there was such a category of - well, let's call it “See what happens” that for me has turned out to be right up there with to doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.

Now and then I still question it. Lately, especially just after I've been in touch with Millie or Darlene, I ask myself if I shouldn't make a plan for these next 15 or 16 years, choose something and follow my bliss, as it were. Be more deliberate about choices than I've been for the first 75 years.

Then my wits return. Nah. Even not knowing what I've wanted, not having a plan or expectation, it's turned out fine for me.

What about you?

Old Age and the Fear of Dying

It is my long-term practice to have two or three books related to old age going at once along with stacks of printouts of related materials.

For the past few months, I've let that go in favor of other, lighter kinds of reading and during my two-week hiatus from this blog, I read almost nothing beyond the daily headlines.

The basic requirements for productive thought are quiet and solitude. I gave myself a lot of that during the past two weeks and once I got over feeling antsy without a book in my hand, old topics I've neglected began bubbling up. Today's post deals with one of them.

”How can we know how to live if we don't understand death?”

Confucius said that. Knowledge of our own demise is the central predicament of humankind and there are not many of us who do not fear it. So much so that we spend a great amount of time distracting ourselves from this ultimate reality of life.

What can it mean to no longer be? I have no idea. Two common facile answers involve, depending on one's beliefs, a great reward in heaven or as some would have it, returning to what it was like before we were born. Mark Twain had something to say about that second answer:

”I do not fear death,” he wrote. “I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

It's fun to read that but not really much help.

One of the problems of western culture is that although it is changing to a small degree in recent years, discussion of dying is not encouraged and certainly not acceptable in polite company.

Imagine saying over coffee with group of friends after dinner, “I was thinking about dying today...” I promise you the word “morbid” will be mentioned, no one will look you in the eye and one of the party will suddenly find tomorrow's weather fascinating.

Ageism has a lot to do with the taboo against talking about death and old people are not too much less likely than the young to spend a lot of money on trying shave a few years off their their act age. Many of the young won't hire people with gray hair no matter how qualified they are but a lot of healthy elders are equally reprehensible by being careful not to associate with less healthy people of their generation.

We try to appear younger than we are because we don't want to face the fact that we will die and we are conditioned from childhood to look for every possible way out.

We believe that if we eat enough kale, do enough pushups, buy enough Botox injections and face lifts, we will fool the grim reaper into believing he made a mistake when he comes by and sees how young we look but he can't be fooled that easily. (Have you read Appointment in Samarra lately?)

Death – of plants, animals and humankind – is nature's way of clearing out the old to make room for the new. It is foolish to fight it. Confucius reminds us of that as does, similarly, St. Augustine:

”It is only in the face of death that man's self is born.”

From at least the dawn of language, philosophers have been telling us how to live with this fearful certainty – most frequently as Augustine and Confucius advise – but I think we can each come to our own understanding.

To live well within whatever restrictions old age saddles us with comes to mind. To luxuriate in the private rituals and small pleasures of our individual lives helps.

To do good things for others. Not great things; few of us are favored with the power to change the world in big ways. But we can improve other people's lives in small and unexpected ways.

What all the philosophers tell us about facing death is to live meaningfully and that, perhaps, is another way to meet the despair of our impending demise and overcome it.

* * *

The Death Deal by Ron Padgett which you will find at The Writers Almanac.

Ever since that moment
when it first occurred
to me that I would die
(like everyone on earth!)
I struggled against
this eventuality, but
never thought of
how I'd die, exactly,
until around thirty
I made a mental list:
hit by car, shot
in head by random ricochet,
crushed beneath boulder,
victim of gas explosion,
head banged hard
in fall from ladder,
vaporized in plane crash,
dwindling away with cancer,
and so on. I tried to think
of which I'd take
if given the choice,
and came up time
and again with He died
in his sleep.
Now that I'm officially old,
though deep inside not
old officially or otherwise,
I'm oddly almost cheered
by the thought
that I might find out
in the not too distant future.
Now for lunch.

How To Fight For Yourself At The Hospital and Avoid Readmission by Judith Graham

[RONNI HERE: My friend Judith Graham recently became a regular columnist for Kaiser Health News which is one of the most useful and trustworthy websites on health in general and on elder health issues that you can find online.

Judith's experience makes her uniquely qualified. She was a national correspondent and senior health reporter at the
Chicago Tribune for many years and later blogged for The New York Times’ New Old Age blog.

Her new Kaiser Health column, which appears twice a month, concentrates on aging and health with a consumer focus.

Lucky for you and me, Kaiser Health News allows organizations to republish their stories free of charge and Judith's columns are an excellent fit for TGB.

Judith is always looking for older adults with aging and health stories to tell. If you’ve got one, send it to her at

* * *

(Republished with permission from Kaiser Health News).

Everything initially went well with Barbara Charnes’ surgery to fix a troublesome ankle. But after leaving the hospital, the 83-year-old soon found herself in a bad way.

Dazed by a bad response to anesthesia, the Denver resident stopped eating and drinking. Within days, she was dangerously weak, almost entirely immobile and alarmingly apathetic.

“I didn’t see a way forward; I thought I was going to die, and I was OK with that,” Charnes remembered, thinking back to that awful time in the spring of 2015.

Her distraught husband didn’t know what to do until a long-time friend — a neurologist — insisted that Charnes return to the hospital.

That’s the kind of situation medical centers are trying hard to prevent. When hospitals readmit aging patients more often than average, they can face stiff government penalties.

But too often institutions don’t take the reality of seniors’ lives adequately into account, making it imperative that patients figure out how to advocate for themselves.

“People tell us over and over ‘I wasn’t at all prepared for what happened’ and ‘My needs weren’t anticipated,’” said Mary Naylor, director of the NewCourtland Center for Transitions and Health at the University of Pennsylvania.

It’s a mistake to rely on hospital staff to ensure that things go smoothly; medical centers’ interests (efficiency, opening up needed beds, maximizing payments, avoiding penalties) are not necessarily your interests (recovering as well as possible, remaining independent and easing the burden on caregivers).

Instead, you and a family member, friend or caregiver need to be prepared to ask plenty of questions and push for answers.

Here’s what doctors, health policy experts, geriatric care managers, older adults and caregivers recommend:

Planning for a transition home should begin as soon as you’re admitted to the hospital, advised Connie McKenzie, who runs Firstat RN Care Management Services in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. You may be too ill to do this, so have someone you trust ask your physician how long you’re likely to be hospitalized and whether you’ll be sent home or to rehabilitation afterward.

Ask if a physical therapist can evaluate you or your loved one at the hospital. Can you get out of bed by yourself? Walk across the room? Then discuss what difficulties might arise back home. Will you be able to handle your own bathroom needs? Get dressed? Climb stairs? What kind of assistance will you require?

Request a consultation with a nutritionist. What kinds of foods will and won’t you be able to eat? Does your diet need to change over the short term, or longer term?

Consider where you’ll go next. If you or your loved one is going to need rehabilitation, now is the time to start researching facilities. Ask a hospital social worker for advice or, if you can afford it, hire a geriatric care manager (now called aging life care professionals) to walk you through your options.

Don’t wait to learn about the kind of care that will be required at home. Will a wound need to be dressed? A catheter need tending to? What’s the best way to do this? Have a nurse show you, step by step, and then let you practice in front of her — several times, if that’s what it takes.

Ann Williams watched a nurse give her 77-year-old mother a shot of Warfarin two years ago after being hospitalized for a dangerous blood clot. But when it was Williams’ turn to give the injection on her own, she panicked.

“I’m not a medical professional: I’ve only given allergy shots to my cats,” she said. Fortunately, Williams found a good instructional video on the internet and watched it over and over.

Make sure you ask your doctor to sit down and walk you through what will happen next. How soon might you or your loved one recover? What should you expect if things are going well? What should you do if things are going poorly? How will you know if a trip back to the hospital is necessary?

If the doctor or a nurse rushes you, don’t be afraid to say, “Please slow down and repeat that” or “Can you be more specific?” or “Can you explain that using simple language?” said Dr. Suzanne Mitchell, an assistant professor of family medicine at Boston University’s School of Medicine.

Being discharged from a hospital can be overwhelming. Make sure you have someone with you to ask questions, take good notes and stand up for your interests — especially if you feel unprepared to leave the hospital in your current state, said Jullie Gray, a care manager with Aging Wisdom in Seattle.

This is the time to go over all the medications you’ll be taking at home, if you haven’t done so already. Bring in a complete list of all the prescriptions and over-the-counter medications you’ve been taking. You’ll want to have your physician or a pharmacist go over the entire list to make sure there aren’t duplicates or possibly dangerous interactions. Some hospitals are filling new prescriptions before patients go home; take advantage of this service if you can. Or get a list of nearby pharmacies that can fill medication orders.

Find out if equipment that’s been promised has been delivered. Will there be a hospital bed, a commode or a shower chair at home when you get there? How will you obtain other supplies that might be needed such as disposable gloves or adult diapers? A useful checklist can be found at Next Step in Care, a program of the United Hospital Fund.

Will home health care nurses be coming to offer a helping hand? If so, has that been scheduled — and when? How often will the nurses come, and for what period of time? What, exactly, will home health caregivers do and what other kinds of assistance will you need to arrange on your own? What will your insurance pay for?

Be sure to get contact information (phone numbers, cell phone numbers, email addresses) for the doctor who took care of you at the hospital, the person who arranged your discharge, a hospital social worker, the medical supply company and the home health agency. If something goes wrong, you’ll want to know who to contact.

Don’t leave without securing a copy of your medical records and asking the hospital to send those records to your primary care doctor.

Seeing your primary care doctor within two weeks should be a priority. “Even if a patient seems to be doing really well, having their doctor lay eyes on them is really important,” said Dr. Kerry Hildreth, an assistant professor of geriatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

When you call for an appointment, make sure you explain that you’ve just been in the hospital.

Adjust your expectations. Up to one-third of people over 70 and half of those over 80 leave the hospital with more disabilities than when they arrived. Sometimes, seniors suffer from anxiety and depression after a traumatic illness; sometimes, they’ll experience problems with memory and attention. Returning to normal may take time or a new normal may need to be established. A physical or occupational therapist can help, but you may have to ask the hospital or a home health agency to help arrange these visits. Often, they won’t offer.

It took a year for Barbara Charnes to stand up and begin walking after her ankle operation, which was followed by two unexpected hospitalizations and stints in rehabilitation. For all the physical difficulties, the anguish of feeling like she’d never recover her sense of herself as an independent person was most difficult.

“I felt that my life, as I had known it, had ended,” she said, “but gradually I found my way forward.”

* * *

Kaiser Health News is eager to hear from readers about questions you’d like answered, problems you’ve been having with your care and advice you need in dealing with the health care system. Visit to submit your requests or tips.

KHN’s coverage of late life and geriatric care is supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation.

Senior Discounts

Do you use senior discounts? The only one I am aware of using is movie theaters but I hardly ever go anymore. I wait for the films I want to see to show up on Netflix or Amazon or Hulu or even in discount DVD bins because theaters nowadays jack up the audio so high it actually hurts my ears.

But I'm not here to rant about that - at least, not today.

Discounts are hard to track. The first problem is age. It appears that most begin at 55 but 60, 62 and 65 are not uncommon and amazingly, even 50 turns up more often than you might think. It's not easy to sort out which stores think which age is old enough for a discount.

Another issue is day-of-the-week or day-of-the-month discounts. These are usually at supermarkets, usually 10 percent but they require one to remember if it is every Tuesday (or is it Wednesday?), the third Thursday and so on. I gave up a long time ago and besides, New Yorkers if not others know that it's not really a discount unless it's at least 25 percent off.

A Google search for “senior discounts” results in nearly five million returns. There are a lot of lists of links to senior discounts and they cover almost anything you would ever need in life. A short topic sampling:

Car rentals
Medical and Pharmacy
Food and beverages
Health and nutrition

There are many more but you get the idea. You can search by names of stores and restaurants too, AARP has its own list and you will rarely fail to find a discount when you search for something specific like, for example, “flowers senior discount” or "electrician senior discount."

In recent years, a cottage industry of objections to senior discounts has developed from people who believe it is unfair.

Ann Brenoff, writing at Huffington Post earlier this year, agrees but has a couple of thoughtful suggestions:

”Seniors aren’t the poorest among us anymore. The national poverty rate, according to the 2014 Census, is 14.8 percent. For seniors 65 and older, it’s just 8.7 percent, while for children under 18 it was 21.1 percent. Maybe it’s children we should be offering discounts to?

“Seniors, like my (now-deceased) aunts, would tell you how discounts are a way of honoring or showing respect to our elders. I fail to see how 75 cents show a whole heck of a lot of honor and respect.

“Maybe the way to honor them is to fund Medicare to the level where it would pay for some of the things most seniors actually need: eyeglasses, hearing assistance, and dental work?

“And if we really respected their age and the wisdom that presumably comes with it, why aren’t we hiring more of them instead of making them feel unwelcome in the workplace and telling them how they aren’t a good 'cultural fit?'”

Hear, hear, Ms. Brenoff. A lot of us have been saying these things for years – we just had not made what I see now is the logical connection to senior discounts.

Since none of those changes – discounts, Medicare and employment – are going to happen any time soon, here is a poem about it sent last week by TGB reader Tom Delmore that is funny, poignant and sweet.

It is from the website and is written by Ali Leibegott – titled Senior Discount:

I want to grow old with you.
Old, old.

So old we pad through the supermarket
using the shopping cart as a cane that steadies us.

I’ll wait at register two in my green sweater
with threadbare elbows, smiling
because you’ve forgotten the bag of day-old pastries.

The cashier will tell me a joke about barbers as I wait.
He repeats the first line three times
but the only word I understand is barber.

Over the years we’ve caught inklings
of our shrinking frames and hunched spines.

You’re a little confused
looking for me at the wrong register with a bag
of almost-stale croissants clenched in your hand.

The first time I held your hand it felt enormous in my own.
Sasquatch, I teased you, a million years ago.

Over here, I yell, but not in a mad way.

We’re laughing.
You have a bright yellow pin on your coat that says, Shalom!

Senior Discount, you say.
But the cashier already knows us.
We’re everyone’s favorite customers.