Previous month:
February 2017
Next month:
April 2017

Crabby Old Lady: Is the Internet Worth It Anymore?

If Crabby Old Lady were not committed to this blog, she is unsure if she would bother with the internet anymore. Every effin' page is filled with annoyances and the amount of it has been growing for years.

NYTpopup

Here's one: it's not enough that Crabby pays real money for what she purchases online. Oh, no. Then, THEN they pester her for weeks to write a review of the product. Really? You want Crabby to critique the poop bags she uses to clean out the cat's litter box twice a day?

Or how about those batteries she buys by the sh*tload for all her electronics. What could she say? They're batteries, for god's sake. They work and after awhile they don't. Crabby could as well review a box of salt for all it would mean.

When they're not whining for a review – or, sometimes, in addition to a review - they want Crabby to fill out a survey about how wonderful their service is. “How great are we? Choose one: special, more special, fabulous, magnificent.”

Annoying as they are, those are relatively easy to ignore. But there are many other ways website developers have invented to fry Crabby's brain.

This oldie is still a goodie for news websites: As soon as the page loads, the audio starts blaring. Sometimes the video is not even visible, being below the fold, so Crabby scurries around to find the frame to shut it down thereby forgetting why she went to that site.

Or, if more than one browser window is open, some other website restarts the audio even after Crabby has shut it down and moved to another page. More brain rattling and lost attention.

Even more insidious, is when the video/audio begins a minute or two into Crabby's read of the print story. The noise destroys her concentration and she loses all understanding of the article.

Comicsnopopups

And just when Crabby thinks these tactics can't get any worse, what appears to be a quiet news story with no video blaring, times a pop-up window to appear at exactly the moment she is reading third or fourth paragraph destroying any retention of what she's read so far. (And, no, pop-up blockers do not block all pop-ups.)

The designers of these disruptions are masters at hiding the damned X that would close the window. Lately, Crabby has noticed, they have resorted to printing them in the faintest-possible font so that they blend into whatever background color they sit upon.

And don't get Crabby started on moving GIFs that repeat every five seconds into eternity. Not to mention the ubiquitous “like us Facebook” popups.

It is hard to know what these websites – and they span everything from the most staid and traditional such as The New York Times to sites like Buzzfeed listicles – believe they accomplish by enraging Crabby and, she is pretty sure, tens of millions of other people.

Do they think we don't notice what websites we're on when these cruel and (Crabby believes) dangerous interruptions occur? Surely, by disrupting thought and focus they are rotting our brains. There are plenty of studies showing how short our attention spans have become. What must all the unnecessary dispruptions do to us?

Then there are the loathsome emails. Crabby was naive enough to think that after the election the political donation solicitations would end. Don't be silly - they only increased and the progressives are no less obnoxious about it than the Republicans.

Some individual organizations send half a dozen emails a day begging for money and look out if you do donate: they'll up that number to a dozen a day.

Crabby supports three progressive organizations she believes do good work but even they won't let up on the emails.

One final aggravation that has become all too common: Popups that appear just as Crabby arrives at a page asking if she will subscribe to the email newsletter.

HULLO, YOU JACKASS – HOW TO YOU THINK CRABBY GOT HERE IN THE FIRST PLACE?

If a website can track what product Crabby looked at three days ago and make sure a photograph of it follows her to every page she visits for next four weeks, surely they can figure out when she has followed a link from the damned email newsletter she is already subscribed to.

Crabby subscribes to dozens of email newsletters – news, politics, ageing, some other personal interests so you can easily imagine that she suffers dozens of brain freezes each day. She is gradually unsubscribing to the least useful now.

It has become so bad, so painful that Crabby is not reading nearly as much as she once did and she's given up on a lot of research – it just jangles her brain too much when she is trying to learn and understand.

160411.eyeballs

If Crabby Old Lady did not still enjoy producing this blog and especially the information and camaraderie of the comments section, she'd be ready to kick the internet out of her life. It has become a trash heap and it took only 20 years to get there.


Old and Living Alone - Or Not

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, the percentage of people age 65 and older living alone increased from six percent in 1900 to 29 percent in 1990. And then it declined to 26 percent by 2014.

But that's the average of men and women. Divide them up and what you get is that the number of women in that age group living alone declined from a high of 38 percent in 1990 to 32 percent in 2014.

For men, the direction reversed beginning in 1990 from 15 percent living alone to 18 percent in 2014. Here's the chart:

EldersLivingAlong2014

One reason for the change, reports Pew, is that an increase in life expectancy means that more women are living with spouses rather than as widows. Further, says Pew:

”Overall, women still make up a majority of the 12.1 million older U.S. adults living alone, but their share has fallen significantly over the past quarter century – from 79% in 1990 to 69% in 2014.”

This isn't intended to be a post about statistics of living alone but a couple of graphs set the stage a bit. This one, also from the Pew research, shows how many more men and women 85 and older are living alone. Look at the yellow areas in the two bottom graphs:

LivingArrangements

Okay, I'm done with charts and statistics. If you want more detail, the Pew Research study has a lot of it.

What I would like us to talk about today is how we feel about living alone or not, and what appears to be – at least when you read as much about ageing as I do – a media epidemic of scaring the pants off old people who do live alone and their adult children.

Take a look at these three photos from, in order, a news magazine story about elder living arrangements, a caregiving website and the website of a regional U.S. assisted living corporation:

old Woman on bench

Elder at stairs

Lonely-old-woman-sitting-by-window500

How do you feel about these photos? How do they make you feel about yourself? What do you suppose younger adults think about old people when they repeatedly see this type of photograph?

These are only a sampling. I could show you dozens of similar stock photographs of lonely, frightened old people many of which accompany stories about “the dangers of seniors living alone.” Go ahead, Google it.

Commercial retirement communities use them as sales tools and reporters or editors unthinkingly use them as illustrations for such stories as the Pew research which, in this case, is neutral on the reasons elders choose one living arrangement over another.

This is not the first time I've ranted here about alone not being a synonym for lonely. Nor does living alone in old age automatically mean that something awful will happen to you or that you're afraid all the time. But the media is good at overkill.

Old people wind up living alone for many reasons: widowhood, divorce, never married and hey – how about this one: choice.

An excellent New Zealand ageing researcher, Dr Judith Davey, who blogs for Age Concern New Zealand and is also a senior research associate with the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, notes that the most frequent answer from elders about why they live alone is “freedom, choice and control and independence”. Further

”One person summed it up,” wrote Davey, “'(living alone) allows us to do what we want, when we want, and how we want'. This does not sound like a pathological state!” [as some have defined elders who live alone].

I live alone because I always have - well, almost always. I was married for six years and I lived with another man for four years but that's just 10 years out of the 60 I've lived since I left home. I'm comfortable in my aloneness.

When I think about it too hard, I can convince myself that living alone is a certain kind of selfishness akin to not having children. But I don't want my thinking interrupted as I write this any more than I ever wanted a short human tugging at my sleeve.

And, anyway, who does that selfishness – if that's what it is – harm? No one I can see.

It's important to acknowledge that sometimes I am lonely. Lonely for what my one-time father-in-law explained about the years he and his wife had lived together: “there's another heartbeat in the house,” he said.

But having a partner is no guarantee. I was deeply lonely during the last couple of years of my crumbling marriage.

As the above photographs imply, maybe I'll fall down the stairs (if I had any) or maybe I'll have a stroke with no one around to help. Maybe I will become too weak to bathe myself or too addled to pay the bills. Or cook. Or...

All true and there is a lot we could discuss about that and about becoming socially isolated or gradually losing our minds to dementia and more – all the stuff that the age media uses to scare us into buying retirement community condos.

But the truth is a large majority of elders make it to the grave living on their own so for now, I'll take my chances and flatter myself that I will be able to recognize, if the time comes, that I need to change my living arrangements.

What I am curious about today is how TGB readers who live alone – and partnered readers who have thought about the possibility of being alone one day in their old age – deal with living by yourselves.

Do you like it? Did you choose it? Do you worry about living alone? Would you like to change your living circumstances? What would trigger such a change?

Have you thought about other kinds of arrangements? Retirement community? Take someone into your home if it is big enough? A Golden Girls household? Co-housing? Something else?

Let us know.