Previous month:
July 2018
Next month:
September 2018

Live Alone? What's Your Help Plan?

EDITORIAL NOTE: Well, that was a landslide on Wednesday. Just about everyone voted yes for adding a storytelling component to Time Goes By and so it shall be.

Give me some time to sort out the logistics and get the back end arranged and then I will formally announce it. What a whole lot of enthusiasm you have for this. I'm looking forward to it..

* * *

Not too long ago, TimeGoesBy reader, PiedType, whose blog title is the same as her signature, suggested a story topic:

”How 'bout a post asking those who live alone how they plan to call for help if necessary?” she asked. “Smart watch, home assistant device like Alexa, pendant monitored by paid third party, cell phone or regular phone, regular calls or visits from someone, security cameras, etc. So many options, none of them perfect. I'm curious what others are doing.”

It's a good idea for us to discuss this but let me say up front that if Alexa is indicative of how well such types of assistant devices work in general, don't rely on them for help in an emergency. Too often, my Alexa answers a request with, “I'm sorry, I don't have that information.” Plus, I don't believe Alexa and its competitors are intended – at least, not yet – for such use and although most can be programmed to dial a landline or mobile phone, they cannot yet dial 911.

PiedType also mentions monitoring cameras, often called granny cams. That is a fraught topic all by itself. Too many articles and providers pay only lip service to privacy questions. One such report assures the adult child that

”...with the right technology, you can check on her every few minutes or see where she is moving or if she stops moving.”

Let's save granny cams for another day. PiedType's question is what are we who live alone each doing to call for help should it be necessary.

A review of the online literature about help services mostly turns up dire warnings about how risky it is for old people to live alone. They don't state that explicitly, they just list all the awful things that will happen: medication overdoses, depression, anxiety, malnutrition, falls, social isolation, forgetting to pay bills and more.

The suggested remedy is to move into assisted living or with family. (I don't want to get wound up on a side-topic today, but it infuriates me when the first assumption about old people is that we are dysfunctional or incompetent.)

Most commonly, people use medical alert systems, wearable devices that with one touch can call, via a base unit in the home, the dispatcher who then summons emergency services or a designated friend or family member.

Not so long ago, they worked only via landline but nowadays you can choose home-based service and/or cell-based with GPS technology for when you are away from home. There are more features for additional fees and an important one might be an automatic detector that can sense falls and call the service without you pressing the call button.

The companies that provide this service are many. The best overview I found is from Consumer Reports. In an article from April this year, they tested nine systems and report, including photographs, on available features, price, types of systems, languages, battery life and contact information.

It's trustworthy information but it is always important to do your own due diligence too, check thoroughly and talk with people who use the devices.

For the past few years I've had a daily email check-in system with a friend. We each email the other every morning and evening, and we have one another's personal contact names, telephone numbers, etc.

Our deadline is 10AM and if there is no email by then, we contact the designated persons. It's not a perfect system. Undoubtedly you already have worked out that if something happens at – oh, say 8PM, after the evening email is sent, and you can't reach the phone, you're stuck until 10AM the next morning when your buddy hasn't heard from you.

Nevertheless, it works for the two of us for now but I suppose it depends on one's physical capabilities and, importantly, one's tolerance for taking chances. In my case, I know I can't cover every contingency in an imperfect world and I'm going with this until I change my mind.

In addition, I am working at remembering to take my cellphone into the bedroom at night. I can't tell you why that is so difficult for me but it is.

So that's one safety aid – setting up a system with a friend.

Not all by any means, but some senior centers have a daily check-in system members can sign up for. It is often free and works a lot like my personal system – they call whomever you have designated if you don't check in by whatever deadline is mutually agreed upon.

I have heard of one Village (see Village to Village Network for more information on Villages in general) that provides such a service and others may also. There are more than 200 active Villages in the United States (others around the world).

According to the U.S. Census there were in 2015, about 48 million people age 65 and older in the 50 states. Of those, the Administration on Aging tells us, about one-third (15 million or so) live alone in the community but I think that certain elders who do not live alone – especially caregivers whose spouse or other family member is incapacitated - could use these ideas too.

Now it's your turn. Do you use any commercial or personal alert systems? Do you have other ideas to share with us? Let us know in the comments below.

ELDER MUSIC: I Won’t Dance

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.

* * *

The dance is in full swing by now and everyone’s up on the floor, except me because I don’t dance. I used to, back at school at the school socials.

They still had the old fashioned dances than – waltz, foxtrot, Pride of Erin and so on. It was really an excuse for the boys to hold the girls tight. We loved it; I don’t know what the girls thought of that though. Anyway, take your partners…

A song from FRANK SINATRA usually closes the dance as everyone wants to snuggle with his/her sweetie.

Frank Sinatra

He’s opening the show today with Dancing on the Ceiling.

♫ Frank Sinatra - Dancing On The Ceiling

Land of 1000 Dances is mostly associated with Wilson Pickett as he had a big hit with the song. However, it was written by CHRIS KENNER and he was the first to record it.

Chris Kenner

Chris’s version is more New Orleans funk than the extravagant soul treatment of Wilson. It’s less often played so it’s good to hear the original. Any obsessives out there who want to count the number of dances Chris mentioned would come up with 16. Just thought I’d save you the trouble.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Barb Rogers in the comments below is correct: This audio does not played. I've spent an hour trying to fix it (it plays fine on my own player program but not online) and can't. I don't have the time to work on it further today. Sorry.]

♫ Chris Kenner - Land of 1000 Dances

AHMAD JAMAL, or Fred Jones to his mum and dad, is a hugely successful jazz pianist.

Ahmad Jamal

He’s recorded scores of albums over the years so it’s not too surprising that we have a dance tune in there somewhere. One I found is called Dolphin Dance.

♫ Ahmad Jamal - Dolphin Dance

As you know, FRED ASTAIRE didn’t dance at all. I’m sure you’ve seen him in many films not dancing.

Fred Astaire

At least, that’s what Fred sings about in I Won't Dance. As mentioned above, I share that with him.

♫ Fred Astaire - I Won't Dance

JACKSON BROWNE was initially in the first dance column, but in the interests of balance he was moved to this one.

Jackson Browne

His was one of the first songs I thought of before I even searched for songs. When I did, I found several really good covers of his song that I was tempted to include, but I went with the original. For a Dancer.

♫ Jackson Browne - For a Dancer

Katie Moss wrote the words and music to The Floral Dance in 1911 after a Flora Day celebration in Cornwall. PETER DAWSON recorded it not long after.

Peter Dawson

Pete was an Australian bass-baritone and also a bit of a composer himself. There’s a bit of noise on this one but remember it was recorded more than 100 years ago.

♫ Peter Dawson - The Floral Dance

The MODERN JAZZ QUARTET didn’t ever rock the joint.

Modern Jazz Quartet

They were restrained, and their musical style was closer to a classical quartet, not surprising given their musical training. Each member could improvise with the best of them though which probably accounted for their longevity as a group. Their tune is Sun Dance.

♫ Modern Jazz Quartet - Sun Dance

I first noticed RODNEY CROWELL when he was a member of EMMYLOU HARRIS’s Hot Band.

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell

I then noticed that he’d written a bunch of songs that she included on several of her albums. Later, when he went out as a solo performer, I was struck by how good he was, as well as the quality of his songs that kept emerging.

Later he and Emmy toured together and have recorded some albums as well. From one of those, “Old Yellow Moon” is the song Spanish Dancer.

♫ Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell - Spanish Dancer

ANDREA MOTIS is a Spanish jazz pianist and singer.

Andrea Motis

She’s from Barcelona and recorded her first album at age 15, for heaven’s sake. She’s made eight or nine since including Emotional Dance from which is taken the title track.

♫ Andrea Motis - Emotional Dance

THE BEATLES were a rather successful group in the sixties.

The Beatles

You might have heard of them. They made an entertaining film called A Hard Day's Night from which the song I'm Happy Just to Dance With You is taken.

♫ The Beatles - I'm Happy Just To Dance With You

More dancing next week.



The town in question is Ballarat in Death Valley, California which has been abandoned for 100 years. The man is Rock Novak and he is the only resident.

Here is his story produced by Michey Todiwala and Monika Delgado.

You can read more at The Atlantic.


I've never been a mime fan – the art has always felt a little creepy to me but everyone – at least of our generation – has heard of Marcel Marceu and this is an amazing story about him I'd never heard. From the YouTube page:

”...before he cemented his place in performance history, Marceau’s knack for performing made him a unique asset to French resistance against Nazi forces during World War II. As the story goes, Marceau helped a group of children escape Nazi-occupied France by using his skills of mimicry to safely lead them into Switzerland.”

Learn more in this video:


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg - “Notorious RBG” - say she intends to stay on the Court for at least five more years.

After attending a performance of the play, The Originalist, about the late Justice Antonin Scalia, last Sunday, Ginsburg spoke to the press for a few minutes:

"'I'm now 85,' Ginsburg said on Sunday. 'My senior colleague, Justice John Paul Stevens, he stepped down when he was 90, so think I have about at least five more years...

"'My dear spouse would say that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle - it is the pendulum,' Ginsburg said. 'And when it goes very far in one direction you can count on its swinging back.'”

You can read more at CNN.


One of the great things about the internet that rarely gets mentioned is all the places and things we can see that we would probably never visit in our lifetimes. One for me is the Peacock Clock at the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

”The clock was brought to Russia in pieces. At Potiomkin's request the Russian mechanic Ivan Kulibin set it in working order.

“From 1797 to the present day the Peacock Clock has been one of the Hermitage's most famous exhibits. It is, moreover, the only large 18th-century automaton in the world to have come down to us unaltered and in a functioning condition.”

There is much more to read at the YouTube page, and thank Darlene Costner for sending this.


It has been several weeks since host John Oliver has been at the desk of his weekly HBO program, Last Week Tonight. Last Sunday he was back and in his inimitable way, he examined workplace sexual harassment which has been such a prominent news story this year.


A pet otter awakes. That's all you need to know.


Much is being made of Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh's position on Roe v. Wade – that he apparently would like to see the abortion decision overturned. According to a July Gallup poll, Americans do not agree:

”Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide should stand...That is up 11 percentage points from 53 percent in 2012...,” reports Politico.

“Twenty-eight percent of respondents in the Gallup poll say the ruling should be overturned, down 1 percentage point from 2012. Nine percent said they have no opinion.

“The results showed partisan differences: Eighty-one percent of Democrats are against overturning Roe v. Wade compared with 41 percent of Republicans.”

You can read more at Politico.


According to the Los Angeles Times, Koa Smith caught a once-in-a-lifetime wave:

”Perched precariously on his surfboard, the 23-year-old from Hawaii rode a wave off the coast of Namibia, on the western shore of Africa, for 120 straight seconds.

“He stayed upright for nearly a mile as he traveled through an unheard-of eight barrels — the hollow formed by the curve of the wave as it breaks over the rider's head.

“Smith and videographer Chris Rogers filmed the entire ride using both a drone that hovered overhead, and a GoPro attached to a mouthpiece that Smith wore while he rode.”

Even I, who doesn't give a whit about surfing, was spellbound watching this. Here are both views – first person and then the drone:


I had never heard of rusty spotted cats until now. Native to India and Sri Lanka and endangered, full-grown they are kitten-size – 2.2 to 3.5 pounds (1-1.6 kg) which is 200 times smaller than a lion, they tell us.

Here is a video from a BBC1 program that aired in January:

That was so cute, I wanted more and tracked down this Twitter video of another clip from the BBC1 program showing the little black-footed cat of Africa. It is only slightly larger (1 to 2.5 kg or 2.2 to 5.5 lbs) than the rusty spotted cat.

Read more about these two tiny wild cats here and here.

* * *

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.

Crabby Old Lady's Typing/Finger/Word Problem

In sending an email recently, Crabby Old Lady intended to write, "That works. Let's meet there at noon on Tuesday,” but when she scanned for typos before hitting "send", this is what she saw:

"Than works. Let's meat there at non on Tuesday."

Okay, that “non” is a simple typo, hitting the “o” key once instead of twice. But the other two, “than” and “meat”, are a different kind of error – mental rather than physical.

This is not a new phenomenon for Crabby Old Lady. It has been happening for several months, maybe even a year or more and it happens pretty much every time she types out something longer than six or eight words.

Crabby finally gave this issue some (semi-)serious thought when, a few days ago, she read a review of the last book from beloved American poet laureate, Donald Hall, who died in June at age 89.

As you might imagine, the new book, A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety (which is sitting on a table across the room from Crabby along with more than a dozen others she hasn't found time to read yet) is largely about the indignities of growing old.

The reviewer, Dwight Garner, quotes some short passages about certain age-related losses Hall reports on and although they don't plague Crabby yet at age 77, she can feel them or something similar nipping at her heels:

“You are old when the waiter doesn’t mention that you are holding the menu upside down...when you guess it’s Sunday because the mail doesn’t come. It might be Christmas...In your eighties you take two naps a day. Nearing ninety you don’t count the number of naps.”

But the excerpt that had Crabby Old Lady groaning aloud in recognition is this:

“Striving to pay the mortgage in the late 1970s and ’80s, some years I published four books,” he says. “Now it takes me a month to finish 700 words.”

Whatever may have slowed Hall's writing (Garner doesn't say), for Crabby, it is the typing/finger/word problem. Imagine if every other sentence in a story or email or letter you write contained one or two or three such errors.

That is what Crabby Old Lady is up against these days and it takes an inordinate amount of time to correct them.

With the hope of mitigating these errors, Crabby tried to analyze what is happening when she writes and discovered several types of word problems.

Sometimes the mistake is a rhyme as in substituting “to” for “who”, “case” for “face.” (All examples are real errors Crabby has made.)

Another common mistake is synonyms. Crabby perfectly well knows the difference among to, two and too but often types the wrong one.

Mixing up “than” and “that” happens almost every day. If you are a touch typist like Crabby, “N” and “T” are typed with different hands but they both do use the first finger. Is the brain signal going to the wrong hand?

Too often the mistake just comes out of nowhere. “Of” for “in”, “car” for “cabinet”, “screen” for “fork,” etc.

Who knows what that kind of mistake is about and the thing is, when Crabby is writing, she visualizes the words she is using. So if the word needed is “fork,” that image is in her mind while she types “screen.” How can that be?

Recently a crazy new one turned up, a weird spelling out of nowhere: “plase” for “place.

At last “plase” in Crabby's word error list, is the problem of omitting words - just plain skipping them so that the first half of this sentence might look like, “At last “plase” Crabby's word error list, is problem of omitting words – plain skipping them that...”

These are also the kinds of errors the eye might skip over when reading so Crabby doesn't always catch them all. Even reading stories twice, she can miss them – you may have noticed in some blog posts.

Spell check, of course, is mostly useless because it checks only for correct spelling, not usage and it certainly won't tag missing words.

So should Crabby Old Lady worry about these mistakes?

U.S. media makes sure with their daily servings of commercials and Alzheimer's reports that anyone over the age of 45 or 50 is terrified that every time they misplace their reading glasses, forget what time they are due at an appointment or lose their train of thought it is the beginning of dementia. Crabby refuses to take their bait.

She is not unaware that a large number of elders are diagnosed with dementia and she carries on a kind of relaxed monitoring system of her brain activity, enough so that she recently asked her physician about these mistakes.

Not to worry he says. And anyway, Crabby seems to be getting through daily life without any alarming cognitive issues. What she doesn't like, what she really resents every day is the extra time her typing/finger/word problems take up.

It doesn't happen when she writes with a pen in hand. How about you?

You Get to Vote on a New TGB Feature

For eight-and-a-half years, from 2007 to 2015, I published a companion blog to this one called The Elder Storytelling Place [ESP].

On each of five days a week, there was a new story written by a reader and in total during that time, about 300 individuals delighted, entertained and informed us with somewhere in the vicinity of 2200 stories.

They are still online and you can browse them here.

ESP came to an end when I realized I needed to cut back on the seven-day work-week I had maintained since Time Goes By [TGB] launched in 2004. A short time later, I also stopped publishing TGB on Tuesdays and Thursdays to give myself some breathing space.

Nancy Leitz, who died last week at age 89, was a star contributor to ESP and as I scrolled through some of her stories while preparing the announcement for last Saturday's post, it struck me that on a limited basis maybe we could resurrect this feature.

Perhaps, I thought, we could use those two empty days, Tuesdays and Thursdays, for a mini-version of The Elder Storytelling Place – two stories a week.

Here is part of what I wrote at that blog about what ESP was for:

”Everyone loves a good story. Long before there was written language, cavemen told stories by firelight, passing on the lore of their tribes to the next generations. When we elders were children, our parents read stories to us.

“At family gatherings, grandparents and aunts and uncles retold the incidents and events of our family histories. And today, we continue the tradition with our children and grandchildren.

“Among Carl Jung’s seven tasks of aging is to find meaning in one’s life and one way to help in this task is to pull together, piece by piece, one’s memories – great and small – into a coherent storyline.

“In doing so, there is a natural shift of our attention inward, says Jung, leading to the removal of regret and to reconciliation. In telling our stories we not only fulfill Jung’s task for ourselves, we pass on the wisdom we have gained to those who listen or read.”

And here are some of the guidelines we used then and I would use again:

Anyone who is age 50 or older may submit stories.

You do not need to keep a blog or any other kind of website to submit stories.

Stories may be original or may have been previously published in a magazine, other website or blog. To avoid this blog becoming a promotional tool for authors and publishers, stories may not be excerpts from published books.

Of course, all stories must be written by you.

Although Time Goes By is copyright by me, story contributors retain the copyright their their stories.

It seems to me that I should be able to prep two stories a week for publishing without burying myself in extra work. So if you are interested in bringing back ESP on this new, limited basis, let me know in the comments below (in the comments only; no email).

You can just type yes or no. Whichever gets the most votes will determine if I go ahead with this feature.

Because all that is a bit dry, for those of you read this far, here is an amusement for you from our friend Darlene Costner. It is called The Amazing Human Body and I have no idea if these facts are true. But just go with it and you'll be rewarded with a good laugh at the end):

It takes your food seven seconds to get from your mouth to your stomach.

One human hair can support 6.6 pounds.

The average man's penis is two times the length of his thumb.

Human thighbones are stronger than concrete.

A woman's heart beats faster than a man's.

There are about one trillion bacteria on each of your feet.

Women blink twice as often as men.

The average person's skin weighs twice as much as their brain.

Your body uses 300 muscles to balance itself when you are standing still.

If saliva cannot dissolve something, you cannot taste it.

Women will be finished reading this by now.

Men are still busy checking their thumbs.

Don't forget to vote yes or no in the comments below.