274 posts categorized "Ageism"

Two Age Things of Opposing Interest

Yes, these look like items that would usually turn up in Saturday's weekly Interesting Stuff post. But I think they both deserve more attention than perhaps being lost among eight or 10 other items. See what you think.

ITEM 1: NON-VOTERS ANONYMOUS
Certainly I have banged on here – and will again - about how important it is for Americans to vote for their local and Congressional candidates in the midterm election on 6 November.

But never in my dreams could I have envisioned other voting advocates dismissing the need of some citizens to vote, and definitely not for the reason in this video.

It comes from an organization called the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that sounds righteous enough in their About statement on its website:

“NRDC was founded in 1970 by a group of law students and attorneys at the forefront of the environmental movement. Today's leadership team and board of trustees makes sure the organization continues to work to ensure the rights of all people to clean air, clean water, and healthy communities.”

“...ensure the rights of all people to clean air, clean water and healthy communities” but not, apparently, the right to vote after a certain age.

The video is obviously meant to have a little fun while promoting voting by imagining a Non-Voters Anonymous meeting based on the many flavors of such self-help groups. Take a look and be especially attentive at 2:40 in from the top:

Did you get that?

SPEAKER 1: You can vote in your 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s.

SPEAKER 2: Not 80s. Stay home.

SPEAKER 1: 80s too old. What's the point.

If that exchange was meant to be funny, it missed the mark by 100 percent. Shame on the National Resources Defense Council and everyone involved with the production of this video.

ITEM 2: OLD AGE IS A CEREMONY OF LOSSES
It is a credit to the simpatico between readers of this blog and me that most of the time when readers send links to stories, videos, books, movies, etc. they find interesting, I have just that day or so discovered them myself. (That doesn't mean you should stop sending them; there are plenty I wouldn't know about without you.)

I had just spent 13-plus minutes watching this documentary about Donald Hall when an email arrived from Jack Handley recommending it. He included this message in his note:

No sentimentalities
No denials
No woo woo
No sky gods
No perversion of emotions

And so it is.

American poet laureate, Donald Hall, who has been featured here on several occasions through the years, died in June at age 89. His most recent and now, alas, final book was published in July: A Carnival of Losses: Notes on Nearing 90.

The video, titled Quiet Hours by the producer/director Paul Szynol, premiered at The Atlantic website on Monday – a lovely meditation on old age in which Szynol gives us plenty of silent moments to contemplate what has been said and shown.

(One suggestion: Hall's voice is sometimes muffled and it helps to turn on the closed captioning which is, however, far from perfect but it will help you understand without having to stop and back up the video.)

For all my years producing television, it is words that have always mattered to me first. Two moments among others from the documentary that stand out for me – Hall speaking:

“My companion was her absence.” (Regarding Jane Kenyon, the love of his life who died 22 years ago:)

"Often, at night, solitude loses its soft power, and loneliness takes over. I am grateful for when solitude returns.”

Take a look for yourself:

More at The Atlantic website.




What Was Your Most Difficult Birthday?

As we have discussed here many times, most western democracies are profoundly ageist cultures.

It starts in the cradle, this antipathy toward the no longer young and from there, the number of ways that have been invented to marginalize people older than 50 – even, often, older than 40 – is boundless.

Just last evening, in an otherwise excellent novel I'm reading, this description of a newly introduced character appeared: “She was a woman of about 60 who in her younger years must have been a beauty.” There had been a similar sentence 50 or 60 pages earlier about another woman.

Are you saying that now she's a hag? I thought. It is the most common dismissal of women (and, occasionally, men), that if they are old – calculated by young people's standards – they are ugly.

Of course, the ramifications of such judgments are more serious than simple scorn: people are fired from jobs due to false stereotypes of older adults, not hired in the first place, subject to sub-par healthcare and generally discouraged from participating in public life.

But that's a story for another day. What I want to note today is that even while lamenting all that, we who are old generally abide with ourselves and our kind quite well and actually, life does get better.

These days, at age 77, I wake most mornings with a smile, eager to get on with whatever I have or have not planned for the day. That daily appetite is new and undoubtedly some of it is a consequence of surviving, so far, pancreatic cancer and being more fully aware than at any time in my life how precious is each new day.

But it's not all as a result of cancer. A lot, maybe the largest part, is having been surprised at some of the advantages of advanced age and the real changes I've experienced in my own attitudes and behavior.

Acceptance of what is, to which I have paid lip service for too long, is how, at last, I live mostly. I suspect it may arrive after decades of various levels of catastrophe that were, to my astonishment when they happened, survivable. Now I don't panic anymore when things go wrong.

This has brought better perspective, an increased ability to weigh events on more reasonable scales. Most occurrences that once fell into my disaster column are not - at least in the long run. Just cleaning up the spilt milk and getting on with living is so much easier than the “oh-my-god” anxieties and fears of the past.

And patience. It doesn't need to be today anymore. Although I will admit to being puzzled that at a time in life when what time I have left is demonstrably shorter, I am quite happy to put off all kinds of things – interesting as well as tedious - until tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next. I have no idea why it should be that way; it is a mystery.

And now, even in this culture that to a large degree despises people of old age, I welcome birthdays; I like ticking off the years as they go by. In fact, the last birthday that I feared was 40.

I spent my entire 39th year boring every person I knew with lamentations over the impending doom, as I saw it, of turning 40. Looking back at my incessant wailing, I'm surprised any friendships from that year survived.

When the dread day arrived, I found on my desk at work that morning a classic, long white box in which red roses are usually delivered. But my birthday is in April, springtime, and the man I was then dating was much more inventive than that.

Inside were 40 (I counted them) gorgeous, fresh tulips and as lovely as they were, it was the card that made my day: “See how beautiful 40 can be.” (The seventh photograph from the left in the banner at the top of this page was taken on the evening of that day.)

It was still another three decades or so before I began to make real peace with growing old but none of the succeeding birthdays were as fraught as 40. I was learning acceptance – it just took me a long, long time to get there.

Have you had a really difficult birthday?




What to Call Old People

Although it has been awhile, we have been discussing what words we like and don't like to describe old persons since the earliest days of this blog 15 years ago and there is still not a consensus among us or anyone else.

From past posts, my views are well-known and not counting quotations from others, I don't stray from my personal preferences: old, old person, elder and that's about it.

Not senior or senior citizen and certainly not “older adult” and “older person” which use the comparative adjective as a synonym for “old” in the false belief that it's more polite or somehow doesn't mean the person referenced is old. Come on now, of course it does. Why shilly-shally around.

“Elderly” is another term I eschew as it generally refers to people who are old and medically infirm to differing degrees while implying that all old people are sick or disabled by virtue only of their age and therefore lesser than younger people.

I also don't use cutesy-pooh names like “oldster”, “golden-ager” or “third-ager”, and unless I am referring to a person we know was born between 1946 and 1964, I don't use the word, “boomer.”

In surveys, baby boomers say they don't mind that term as a synonym for old, failing to understand, I guess, that it refers to their specific generation and not all old people up until dead.

There are, give or take, 30 million of us in the U.S. - still very much alive - who were born before and during World War II who do not share the attributes assigned to the boomer generation. Personally, I dislike being lumped with them; we are older, have different experiences, attitudes and outlooks.

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal took on this long-ongoing debate in a short report titled, “Forget 'Senior' - Boomers Search For a Better Term”, which you can read here [pdf].

I will let it go that, from the context, the WSJ reporter seems to believe “boomer” is a synonym for all old people. Further, Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, tells the Journal that people don't like the word “old”:

“For a long time, Dr. Carstensen, 64, tried to get people to call themselves old and be proud of reaching advanced age. Getting others to embrace the term was a tough sell, she says. Other, more positive terms, such as sage, don’t always apply either. 'There are a whole bunch of older people who are nothing close to wise,' she says. She prefers perennial...”

As does former Secretary of State Madeleine Allbright. But I agree with Daniel Reingold, CEO of Riverspring Health, a nursing, rehabilitation and managed care company in New York: perennial “sounds like a plant,” he says.

Reingold says his company has struggled through the years to come up with appropriate wording around this issue.

”He prefers 'older adults,'” reports the WSJ, “which he thinks is neutral and accurate. 'The difference between a 90-year-old and a 40-year-old is that one adult is older,' he says. He’s just not sure when the term starts to kick in: 'I’m 64 and I’m not sure I want to be called an older adult.'”

Oh just stop it. Everyone, stop it. If you are asking the question about when being old “kicks in”, you're there.

Referring again to Carstensen's declaration about urging people to feel “proud” of their advanced age, I disagree again. What is there to be proud of? Why should anyone be proud of being old any more than claiming pride for being 17 or 36 or 52 or any other age?

Pride of years makes no sense to me. All ages are equally valid. Unless we die young, we each go through all of them. There is nothing unique or special about a certain age compared to another.

To use respectful words won't suddenly do away with ageism but over the long haul, it will contribute to easing that particular prejudice. Given how far we have not come in regard to racism (for just one example), that haul will be particularly long given that so many people – including millions of old people themselves – deny that ageism exists.

Elders who think ageism is not real or is not important often say, “Age is just a number.” No it is not, not if you can't get a job, are denied medical care or are cruelly dismissed and ignored due to the number of your years.

In regard to choice of words about anything, I do my best always come down on the sides of fact and clarity – something we should all be well tutored in these days while enduring this bizarre era of daily “fake news” accusations from the president of the United States.

For better and worse, language is used every day to persuade, manipulate, exhalt, denounce and more. Let's make sure we each use it with respect for everyone including elders. Language matters.

What do you think should be preferred terms for old people? And why?




Labor Day 2018: Stuck In Old People Jobs

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Don't forget, if you are interested the documentary film, RBG, about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it will be broadcast this evening on CNN at 9PM and again at 12 midnight U.S. eastern time.

* * *

Between the beginning of the great recession in 2008 through the year 2010, 8.7 million U.S. workers, many at the peak of their careers, were laid off. Breakdown of the statistics by age is hard to come by but we can estimate that at least tens of thousands were within the last two or three or four years or so their working lives.

When jobs began to return, did they get back on track?

Through the years since the start of the recession I've wondered what happened to those people. And now that the country apparently has attained near-full employment, have they been hired?

As of last month, the number of jobs in the U.S. is 7.7 percent higher than at the start of the recession. So pretty much everyone should be employed, right?

Well, maybe. Except for the fact that the 7.7 percent comes out almost even equal with the number of new workers who have entered the workforce in that period of time. Even so, the unemployment rate is currently at a low 3.9 percent, a number that hasn't been seen since 2001.

Last week, the Boston Globe (paywall) took a look at what such a tight labor market means for older workers.

The jobless rate for workers 55 and older, 3.1 percent, looks good for those job seekers on it face.

”...but that’s little consolation to the longtime unemployed and underemployed in that age group," reports The Globe. "Research dating back to the 1980s shows that job options narrow for those over 50.

“Many of these workers get funneled into lower-paying 'old person jobs' — everything from retail sales clerks to security or school-crossing guards to taxi drivers, according to a 2016 study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.”

Plus, the same-old, same old false prejudices and objections to older workers are still widespread: that they expect higher wages; they increase health insurance costs; they are stuck in their ways and can't learn new skills. The Boston Globe:

”Fairly or not, employers’ reluctance to pay more for older workers can be the biggest obstacle, said Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist at DataCore Partners, an economic research firm based in New Haven and Martha’s Vineyard.

“'Many employers are looking at what they’re paying a 60-year-old and they’re saying, Wait, I can hire two hungry 30-year-olds  for the same cost,' he said. Klepper-Smith, who is 64, added, 'My wife is joking right now that she’ll outsource me for two 30-year-olds.'”

I don't mean to be snide - well, maybe I do - is age and low wage now the only criteria? Do knowledge and experience have no place anymore in the workplace?

For older workers left out or left behind in those old people jobs, the future can be bleak. After years of no income and/or much lower income, their savings is often depleted, they don't make enough to pay off debts and save for their future which has its own consequences:

”...older employees continue to be pigeonholed into lower-wage positions, Rutledge said, with often dire financial consequences for their retirement savings and income.

“A lot of people think their earnings are going to grow as they get older,” he said. “When that doesn’t happen, it means they’ve probably overestimated how much they can save and what their Social Security benefits will be. And they’ll end up living on less.”

Although the number of unfilled jobs in the U.S. is the highest it has been in 17 years, ”...most of the openings are in sectors like retail, services, and transportation”, reports The Globe. Old people jobs.

Some say the job market is loosening up a bit and that that bodes well for age 55-plus workers. I'm not so optimistic. In all the years prior to the great recession, age discrimination in the workplace was in full force. Many TGB readers, including me, have been caught in that trap as we grew older.

Don't forget too that in the decade since the recession, the gig economy has taken off with its short-term jobs, low pay, often no health coverage, and freelancers and contractors usually required to pay the full Social Security tax including the employer half, not just their own contribution.

That affects workers of all ages but older ones have so little time to make up the difference for their retirement.

Employment these days is not a pretty picture for millions of people and I'm grateful to not be part of it any longer, either starting out or finishing up a career. Like many TGB readers, I had a taste of workplace discrimination when I was laid off at age 63 and couldn't get rehired in the extremely youth-oriented internet work world I had been part of for 10 years, or anywhere else.

That affected my Social Security benefit in the negative but I'm fortunate to have enough to get by in relative comfort anyway. I don't want for anything and I thank the gods daily for Medicare.

And contrary to what the Boston Globe seems to believe, age discrimination in the workplace has not gotten better with time.

It has been 51 years since the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was enacted by Congress. It is administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) but far too often the law favors employers over aggrieved employees.

One way that happens is that in legal proceedings, most employers have attorneys on staff or on retainer and they get paid whatever they are working on. They can drag out paperwork and other delays, as only lawyers can, until the (now laid off) plaintiff can't afford to pay his/her attorney any longer.

As pessimistic as I am, even the EEOC doesn't see much change in attitudes of the culture and employers toward older workers. In a historical overview published in 2017, the agency reported:

“Despite decades of research finding that age does not predict ability or performance, employers often fall back on precisely the ageist stereotypes the ADEA was enacted to prohibit.

“After 50 years of a federal law whose purpose is to promote the employment of older workers based on ability, age discrimination remains too common and too accepted.”

It is true that the workplace is in a huge transition and no one knows how or when or in what form it will settle down.

One thing can be counted on, however: age discrimination in the workplace is only one form of ageism and it will not go away until all forms of ageism are vanquished, and no one is stuck in an old person's job just because they are old.




It's Time to Abandon the Phrase, Anti-Ageing

REMINDER After such enthusiasm for the idea of a new storytelling feature here at TGB, I was surprised that hardly anyone responded after Wednesday's announcement that it is set up and ready for story submissions.

Maybe I buried the lead? Or, maybe there are a whole lot more readers here than writers. In case you missed the invitation on Wednesday, this is a reminder that story submissions are being accepted.

* * *

“Aging is not a disease any more than puberty or menopause are.”
       - S. Jay Olshansky, Professor of public health/gerontology, University of Illinois

It's hard to know that from the ubiquitous marketing and advertising messages for wrinkles and sags which, when not treating old age as a disease, strongly suggest it is a personal failing.

Ageist terms are common but the one that most drives me nuts, usually from purveyors of pseudo youth potions and procedures, is the ubiquitous “anti-ageing.” About a year ago, The New York Times addressed some of the cultural consequences of its wide use:

”...not displaying the signs of age on one’s face,” writes Amanda Hess, “is seen as a professional accomplishment, even a virtue.

“We elevate a select few celebrity ambassadors of 'good' aging — [Helen] Mirren, Sandra Bullock, Halle Berry, Andie MacDowell — and turn them into not just avatars of covetable good looks, but fierce, audacious heroines who are celebrated for pulling off the near-impossible.”

As insulting as the the phrase “anti-ageing” is, it's a big seller for cosmetics industry who tack it onto every product they can. A search of Google for “anti-ageing” (British and my spelling) returns 45,800,000 items; a search for “anti-aging” gets 191,000,000 results.

Anti-ageing is big business. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, $16 billion was spent on cosmetic surgery in 2016 and, if business projections are accurate, sales of anti-aging products are expected to surpass $11 billion this year. Just yesterday, the cosmetics website Sephora listed 262 products labeled “anti-aging.”

Having felt for a long time that I've been on a lonely mission in my objection to the term, I was heartened a year ago to learn that in August 2017, Allure magazine announced it was dropping the use of "anti-ageing" from the magazine:

”'Whether we know it or not, we’re subtly reinforcing the message that ageing is a condition we need to battle' explained Michelle Lee in her editor’s letter. 'Changing the way we think about ageing starts with changing the way we talk about ageing'”...

“I hope we can all get to a point where we recognize that beauty is not something just for the young. Look at our cover star Helen Mirren, who’s embodied sexiness for nearly four decades in Hollywood without desperately trying to deny her age.”

Allure Mirren

At the time of the Allure's initiative, The Guardian reported:

”The rise in inclusivity and increased visibility of older models and celebrities within an industry that once shunned anyone over the age of 40 is a welcome change. Women including Helen Mirren (72) Allure magazine’s September [2017] issue cover star, Lauren Hutton (73) and Sylviane Degunst (59) all feature in campaigns, this year.”

Although more few more women of age are turning up in fashion features these days, I haven't noticed any reduction in the use of that demeaning phrase in cosmetic adverts. And not on the product labels themselves either. In a check at my local Rite-Aid this week, dozens of creams and other beauty products are plastered with the phrase “anti-aging”.

But the thing is, there is evidence from a large number of sources that the creams don't work. This one from the Mayo Clinic:

”Do they work? That often depends on the specific ingredients and how long you use them. Because these over-the-counter (nonprescription) wrinkle creams aren't classified as drugs, they're not required to undergo scientific research to prove their effectiveness.

“If you're looking for a face-lift in a bottle, you probably won't find it in over-the-counter wrinkle creams. The benefits of these products are usually only modest at best.”

The Royal Society of Public Health (RSPM) agrees with me about the odious phrase, anti-ageing. A month or two ago, the RSPH released a report on a new survey of ageist beliefs in the U.K. - how ageism harms people and what could and should be done about it. Among the report's conclusions:

"...the explicit presumption that ageing is something undesirable and to be battled at every turn is as nonsensical as it is dangerous. To be 'anti-ageing' makes no more sense that being 'anti-life.">

Here is the RSPH's video with a summary of the survey and the final recommendations:

The report, titled That Age Old Question and subtitled, How Attitudes to Ageing Affect Our Health and Wellbeing is well thought out, well written and filled with easy-to-understand detail.

The four major policy suggestions are excellent and doable: Let's repeat them in print where we can pay closer attention than in a video:

”Services such as nurseries, youth clubs and care homes to be brought under one roof

“Positive ageing to be addressed within schools

“Age to be recognized as a protected characteristic alongside others such as gender, race and religion

“An end to the use of the term “anti-ageing”in the cosmetics and beauty industry”

The researchers have a lot to say about the media's role in promulgating ageist attitudes, referencing key points from other research about the harm ageism in all its forms does, which TGB has reported on in the past:

“Previous research has shown that those with more negative attitudes to ageing live on average 7.5 years less than those with more positive attitudes to ageing...

“There is now a growing body of research evidencing the real-life consequences that negative attitudes to ageing have on individual health outcomes such as memory loss, physical function, and ability to recover from illness.”

If you're interested, the report is well worth your time. You will find That Age Old Question study online here [pdf]. The website of the Royal Society for Public Health is here.




Surprise! Old People Have Sex and They Like It

”It seems older people are a lot friskier than some younger people may have thought.”

If you can resist the perfectly understandable urge to smack the reporter who wrote that sentence, findings from a recent survey support the notion, believe it or not, that old people indulge in sex with one another well into their ninth decade and perhaps beyond.

First, however, here is a video from Jimmy Kimmel, the host of Jimmy Kimmel Live! TV show, who did some man-in-the-street interviews with a whole bunch of elders about some similar research:

A friend objected to Kimmel's grandfather “joke” and to showing so much of the man who keeps confusing top and bottom, a quibble we'll save for a future rant.

But to be clear regarding my grousing about that sentence in the first paragraph above, when was the last time you heard the word “frisky” applied to anything but a puppy?

In the past two or three years, several research studies have concluded that old people are having a good deal of sex and young people think it's icky.

Writing at HuffPost, Ann Brenoff answers the question, What's the oldest you can be and still have sex?, this way:

”You can have sex for as long as it feels good, kitten, for as long as it feels good. A recent study of 6,201 people ages 50 to 90 published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that up to 54 percent of men and 31 percent of women report having sex at least twice a month.

“As disturbing as you might find the thought of your parents or grandparents having sex,” Brenoff continues, “the truth is they’re still human beings with human-being urges.”

It's hard to tell but I suspect Ms. Brenoff is at least trying to express acceptance of people old enough to be parents and grandparents into the we-enjoy-sex club.

It's the surprise younger people exhibit at finding out old people still do it that ticks me off. How do these writers think they got here, for god's sake. A report of one survey about old people and sex began with this statement: “Sex isn’t just a young person’s game.”

And why would anyone think otherwise?

Um, it's called ageism and for as long as I've been researching age, it has been commonplace and customary, apparently, for younger people to respond to the idea of elders having sex with wonderment at best and disgust at worst.

When I run across these assumptions and judgments, I invariably mutter the two questions to myself:

At what age do they think people should stop having sex?

Do they think we forget how to do it when we hit that age?

If they think about it at all, younger people seem to have a lot of misconceptions about elder sex. Several recent articles address some false assumptions associated with senior sex. In another Huffpost story, reporter Yagana Shah does a decent job of debunking these five myths:

  1. Sex isn’t as important in relationships when you’re older (Wrong)

  2. Sex becomes kind of 'vanilla' as you get older (Wrong)

  3. Older people aren’t having sex (Wrong)

  4. Erectile dysfunction is inevitable (Not wrong and there are treatments that work)

  5. Sex is best when you’re younger (Wrong)

Not long ago, elder sex guru, Joan Price, published comments from readers of her Senior Planet sex column about what makes their sexual encounters pleasurable at their age. Here are three of the responses:

”I’ve learned that sex without penetration provides me and my partner with at least as much core-shaking pleasure as does PIV. Both are very nice, but my notion of 'real sex' has broadened to center now on sex without penetration.”
”I honestly didn’t know our sex drives would slow down. Nobody tells you that a strong libido has a shelf life. Realizing that the days of spontaneous combustion were over for both of us, I felt like I’d been ripped off by life.

“With time, laughter, tears, and a lot of talking and thinking — plus a vibrator, erotica, and soft porn — my husband and I created a place where sex is a wonderful mini-vacation where we give and receive pleasure.”
”We find planned, weekly date-night encounters far more enjoyable than spontaneous episodes, because planning a scene enhances anticipation. It’s a form of extended foreplay. We are consistently ready for sex well before the next date-night, but we deny ourselves, heightening the desire to extreme levels for days.”

It seems to me that the only real impediment to sharing good sex in old age is having a partner but we all know there are other things to do if that is not possible.

As to youngsters' mistaken ideas about old folks and sex, Ann Brenoff redeems herself with her answer to this question:

Q: “Aw, c’mon. Old-age sex is funny, isn’t it?

A: “Actually, it’s pretty serious business. It deserves to not be filtered through a lens of humor or disgust. We can start by not demeaning it. Older couples dancing intimately aren’t 'cute.' Save the 'cute' for babies and puppies.”



Movie Star Quotations About Growing Old

It's been an overly serious week at TGB or, at least, heavy going on Monday and Wednesday so I feel the need to lighten up.

How about this? We all love quotations. They are short, easy to read and sometimes they clarify or illuminate thoughts and ideas we (well, me anyway) have but have not articulated satisfactorily.

Today's quotations are mostly from entertainers – those people, especially women actors, whose livelihoods depend on being beautiful or handsome or some facsimile thereof. In Hollywood, even 35-year-old actors – again, especially women - are considered too old to cast.

The men usually have a longer shelf life but sooner or later, every one of them, male and female, will see their opportunities decline because they are not 20-something anymore.

Among the most interesting quotations about growing old as an entertainer, men spoke about advantages – maybe because they don't experience much work-related ageism.

"I feel the older I get, the more I'm learning to handle life ... being on this quest for a long time, it's all about finding yourself." - Ringo Starr, age 77
"Getting old is a fascinating thing. The older you get, the older you want to get!" - Keith Richards, 74
"Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been." - David Bowie, died in 2016 at age 69
"I find that as you get older, you start to simplify things in general." - George Clooney, 57

It is four women actors who sounded most angry about the discrimination against them in Hollywood:

“Ageism is alive and well.” It is okay for men to get older, because men become more desirable by being powerful. With women, it’s all about how we look. Men are very visual, they want young women. So, for us, it’s all about trying to stay young.” - Jane Fonda, 80
“I do think that when it comes to aging, we’re held to a different standard than men. Some guy said to me: ‘Don’t you think you’re too old to sing rock n’ roll?’ I said: ‘You’d better check with Mick Jagger’.” - Cher, 71
“Ageism is pervasive in this industry. It’s not a level playing field. You don’t often see women in their 60s playing romantic leads, yet you will see men in their 60s playing romantic leads with costars who are decades younger.” - Jessica Lang, 69

The fourth is only 28 years old but has two good reasons to resent Hollywood's age bias:

“This industry is f—ing brutal,” Dakota Johnson told British Vogue. “Why isn’t my mother [Melanie Griffith] in movies? She’s an extraordinary actress! Why isn’t my grandmother [Tippi Hedron] in movies?”

Most of the women actors bravely talked about ageing naturally – whatever may come with it.

“I want to be a role model for not only younger men and women — and not just in my profession. I think that cosmetic enhancements in my profession are just an occupational hazard. But I think, more culturally, I’m interested in starting the conversation about aging gracefully and how, instead of making it a cultural problem, we make it individuals’ problems. I think that ageism is a cultural illness; it’s not a personal illness.” - Frances McDormand, 60
“There is a saying that with age, you look outside what you are inside. If you are someone who never smiles, your face gets saggy. If you’re a person who smiles a lot, you will have more smile lines. Your wrinkles reflect the roads you have taken; they form the map of your life.” - Diane von Furstenberg, 71
“All my life I’ve been looking at 16-year-old girls selling beauty, so I think it’s fabulous that they’re using a 70-year-old woman to sell products to other 60 to 80-year-old women.” Helen Mirren on representing L'Oreal cosmetics in France, 72
“The older you are, the more interesting you are as a character. There’s a whole life history and knowledge of the world and self-possession that come from someone who has seen more. That experienced point of view is always more exciting. Yes, things may start to sag and shift, but the older you are, the wiser, the funnier, the smarter you are. You become more you.” - Melissa McCarthy, 47
"I am appalled that the term we use to talk about aging is 'anti.' Aging is as natural as a baby's softness and scent. Aging is human evolution in its pure form. Death, taxes, and aging." - Jamie Lee Curtis, 59
“Please don't touch my wrinkles. It took me so long to earn them.” - Anna Magnani, died in 1973 at age 65
"I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that." - Lauren Bacall, died in 2014 at age 89
"Nothing makes a woman look so old as trying desperately hard to look young." - Coco Chanel, died in 1971 at age 87
"I'm very f*cking grateful to be alive. I have so many friends who are sick or gone, and I'm here. Are you kidding? No complaints!" - Meryl Streep, 68

And one man:

"As you get older, you feel you need to pay more attention to what is around you and relish it. I'm greedy for beauty." - Bill Nighy, 68

It is only in recent years that Hollywood actors have begun to speak out about ageism in their business. It comes up more and more frequently in the media nowadays and that is a good thing for rest of us – the more attention it gets, the higher general consciousness becomes and with any luck, then, corrections are made.

Meanwhile, I give Truman Capote's the last word about growing old:

“Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.” Capote died in 1984 at age 59

Feel free to join in with your own favorite quotations about age – from celebrities, anyone else or even yourselves.



Brain News for Elders, Ageist Headline and Net Neutrality

Often I run across stories of interest to elders that are too long for an item in Saturday's Interesting Stuff and too short for a full blog post. Here today are a three of those.

CAFFEINE CAUSES BRAIN ENTROPY...
and although counter-intuitive, that's a good thing, according to a new study, especially for elders.

”There's not much debate on the subject,” reports Curiosity, “a more chaotic brain is a more effective brain. They call the quality 'brain entropy,' and it measures the complexity and irregularity of brain activity from one moment to the next...

“We generally associate entropy with chaos or decay, but in this case, it's a sign of a brain working correctly...An effective brain is one that doesn't always rely on the same patterns of thinking, and one that can solve problems in unexpected ways.

“By contrast, a brain with lower entropy is characterized by order and repetition. The most orderly brains of all? They belong to comatose people and people in the deepest sleep.”

More than 90 percent of American adults regularly consume caffeine, reports Big Think:

“Despite decreasing blood flow to the brain, caffeine leaves individual regions more stimulated. The stimulating effects are uneven, however, creating a chaotic balance of energy when the stimulant is in full force. The greater unevenness in stimulation throughout the brain, the higher the entropy.”

In addition to drinking coffee, Curiosity notes that there is one sure way to increase entropy in your brain:

”All you need to do is age. Yes, entropy naturally increases with age — we suppose that's just the wisdom of the years accumulating. After all, the longer you've been alive, the more types of thinking you'll have encountered or come up with on your own.

“And with that kind of broad experience, your brain will have a million different possible ways to think.

For the scientifically-minded among you, there is more detailed information about the study at PLOS and at nature.com

MAGAZINE'S AGEIST HEADLINE
Earlier this week we discussed one type of ageism, age discrimination in the workplace. But ageism manifests itself in many other obvious and/or devious ways which hardly anyone recognizes as demeaning to elders.

The latest I came across was published at New York magazine this week.

Before I show it to you, let me say I am far from being a Rudy Giuliani fan, never have been going back to his mayoral stint in New York City. That, however, does not make this headline acceptable:

”Trump Worried Aging, Loudmouth New Yorker Can’t Stay on Message”

“Aging loudmouth.” “Can't stay on message.” The slur is repeated in the story's lede: “Donald Trump is starting to wonder if it was a mistake to trust an elderly, New York celebrity...”

These are among the most common insults – nay, beliefs – regularly used against elders: that we are forgetful and untrustworthy. Further, that "loudmouth" crack is just another version of "get off my lawn" gibes. Even the word "elderly" is used disparagingly in this instance.

The byline on the story is Eric Levitz, a young reporter at the magazine but youth does not absolve him. I'm pretty sure that were he writing about a black person or a woman, Levitz would not have used the N word or "chick' as a description.

It's not that I mean to pick only on Mr. Levitz – hundreds of writers and reporters of all ages use these slurs (and worse) against old people every day with nary a consequence. And that is wrong.

NET NEUTRALITY
It's ba-a-a-a-a-ck, net neutrality. It can seem to be a complicated idea but it isn't, really. Here is a succinct explanation from a February post here quoting Engadget:

”'Net neutrality forced ISPs [internet service providers] to treat all content equally; without these rules in place, providers can charge more for certain types of content and can throttle access to specific websites as they see fit.'

"So, for example, big rich companies could afford hefty fees to providers so their web pages arrive faster in your browser than – oh, let's say political groups that depend on donations or blogs like yours and mine that are throttled because they can't bear the increased cost."

After a vote by the Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission (FCC), regulations to trash net neutrality, the 2015 rules will cease on 11 June.

Now, the Los Angeles Times reports that the fight for net neutrality is back.

"The effort formally begins [last] Wednesday as backers file a petition in the Senate that will force a vote next week to undo the FCC's action. Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Google and other online giants support the move...

"Although they're poised for a narrow win in the Senate, net neutrality supporters acknowledge the attempt to restore the Obama-era regulations is a long shot. The hurdles include strong opposition from House Republicans and telecommunications companies, such as AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp., as well as a likely veto from President Trump.

"Regardless of the outcome, the debate over net neutrality — and by extension, the future of the internet — appears headed for a key role in November's congressional midterm elections.

"'There's a political day of reckoning coming against those who vote against net neutrality,' warned Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who is leading the Senate effort to restore the rules."

It is said that despite the FCC and its chair, Agit Pai, 86 percent of Americans support net neutrality. You could do your part to move the initiative to restore the 2015 rules by contacting your representatives in both houses of Congress. You can do that here.




The Devastated Lives of Elders Due to Age Discrimination

As I have related here in the past, I was laid off from my job of three years, along with eight or 10 decades-younger colleagues, in 2004. I was 63 at the time.

My co-workers found new jobs within a few weeks or, at most, two or three months and all had several offers to choose from.

A year later, with only two in-person interviews behind me (one of which told me the job had been filled between our 4PM phone call the day before and my arrival at the company's office at 9:00AM the next morning) and deeply in debt, I was forced to sell my home and leave New York City.

This is called age discrimination in the workplace, a subcategory of ageism. Many people deny either one exists. That is a lie. It is real and it is every bit as evil and pernicious as racial, religious, gender and every other kind of discrimination.

In fact, age discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by law, administered by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is supposed to enforce the laws against workplace discrimination.

Note that I said “supposed” to enforce. In the case of age discrimination, over the years court judges have repeatedly sided with employers, weakening the age discrimination laws to make it more difficult for workers to prove discrimination.

In mid-March, ProPublica published its research into how tech giant IBM has eliminated 20,000 of its American workforce, hitting its oldest employees the hardest - 60 percent of layoffs, firings and required retirements affecting people 40 and older:

”Today,” explains ProPublica, “we are reporting that over the past five years IBM has been removing older U.S. employees from their jobs, replacing some with younger, less experienced, lower-paid American workers and moving many other jobs overseas.

“We’ve got documentation and details — most of which are the direct result of a questionnaire filled out by over 1,100 former IBMers.”

Here is a good video overview of some of the information ProPublica uncovered during their investigation:

ProPublica includes in their written report many personal stories:

”Marjorie Madfis, at the time 57, was a New York-based digital marketing strategist and 17-year IBM employee when she and six other members of her nine-person team — all women in their 40s and 50s — were laid off in July 2013. The two who remained were younger men.

“Since her specialty was one that IBM had said it was expanding, she asked for a written explanation of why she was let go. The company declined to provide it.

Another:

Paul Henry, a 61-year-old IBM sales and technical specialist who loved being on the road, had just returned to his Columbus home from a business trip in August 2016 when he learned he’d been let go. When he asked why, he said an executive told him to 'keep your mouth shut and go quietly.'

“Henry was jobless more than a year, ran through much of his savings to cover the mortgage and health insurance and applied for more than 150 jobs before he found a temporary slot.

“'If you’re over 55, forget about preparing for retirement,' he said in an interview. 'You have to prepare for losing your job and burning through every cent you’ve saved just to get to retirement.”

There are hundreds of heartbreaking personal stories from laid off IBM workers here. I know how awful it is. I've been where these people are.

Once I realized that I had no choice but to sell my apartment, it took a three-day weekend in bed in the fetal position, weeping uncontrollably until I could pull myself together and make plans to leave the city that had been my home for 40 years. I've never quite gotten over that.

The ProPublica story shows the viciousness with which IBM has jettisoned many of their most experienced and loyal workers. And make no mistake: although ProPublica concentrated their research on IBM, hundreds, maybe thousands of other companies do this every day.

”In making these cuts,” explain the ProPublica reporters, “IBM has flouted or outflanked U.S. laws and regulations intended to protect later-career workers from age discrimination, according to a ProPublica review of internal company documents, legal filings and public records, as well as information provided via interviews and questionnaires filled out by more than 1,000 former IBM employees.”

ProPublica doesn't have a solution and neither do I. But they have put together a crucially important investigative report and a subject you might want to bring up with your local candidates for Congress as the midterm election campaign heats up.

At minimum, the EEOC regulations weakened by court decisions should be restored.

In a followup report two weeks ago, ProPublica had this to say:

”We haven’t received further explanation or response from [IBM] in the weeks since we published. We know these layoffs haven’t ended. Watching IBM Facebook group members have reported that IBM sent a wave of layoff notices in just the past few weeks.”

Here are the links to the parts of the ProPublica investigation report:

Cutting “Old Heads” at IBM
Eroding Protection of Older Workers Under the Law
How the Crowd Led Us to Investigate IBM
Followup to Original Report

Do you or anyone you know have experience with age discrimination in the workplace?




Crabby Old Lady on Advertising Drugs to Old People

To many television and print advertisers, poor health is the essential and most noteworthy characteristic of old people. As far as Crabby Old Lady can tell, it could be the only thing advertisers know about elders.

Diabetic nerve pain, rheumatoid arthritis, heart arrhythmia, blood clots, insomnia, hepatitis C, osteoporosis, dry eye, dementia, COPD, shingles and cancer – lots of cancer: cervical, breast, melanoma, lung and more.

So familiar is the constant barrage of television commercials for drugs to treat those diseases, conditions and more, Crabby was able to make that list off the top of her head. She's betting you could do that too.

No prescription drug commercial can end without a recitation of the often horrendous side effects, delivered at the verbal speed of an auctioneer and almost always ending with “death.”

Like Crabby Old Lady, you may have noticed that none of these drugs, at least as described in television commercials, actually cure any of the ailments they were created for.

That is because (here is Crabby at her most cynical) the pharmaceutical companies know there is no profit in making people healthy. Treatment – ongoing, lifetime treatment – is the business of big pharma that keeps the big bucks rolling in via refill after refill after refill for a patient's lifetime.

Did you know that New Zealand and the United States are the only countries in the world that permit advertising to consumers of prescription drugs? There is a reason the other 191 countries disallow it: only doctors have the training, knowledge and understanding of an individual patient's medical issues to choose appropriate medications.

If that isn't a good enough reason, think of how much money all that TV advertising adds to the price of prescription drugs.

All those are just the straightforward, direct-to-consumer drug commercials. But Crabby Old Lady's cyber-friend, Chuck Nyren, who blogs at Advertising for Baby Boomers and has written a book with that title, has noticed a new, more insidious development in drug advertisements aimed at old people.

Not long ago, Chuck titled a blog post We're All Sick and led with this:

”No matter what the product or service, when Mad Ave tries to ‘reach’ us we’re always sick. Or something’s horribly wrong. Even if they want us to buy a car we have to be sick first:

This commercial takes the universally-assumed poor health of elders to a whole new level: Lookee here, it says - we the car company have a cure for whatever ails you. Chuck continues:

“What happened to this lady? Did she have a heart attack? The doctor says she has to ‘go slow’. Well, whatever her affliction is, she’ll get better if she buys this car. And exercises. And is looked after by her daughter.

“According to most ads selling stuff to Boomers, we have to be sick before we can buy anything. Or, we’re naturally ill all the time and the only reason we’d buy anything is to make us well...When you’re old, you only buy products for medical reasons.

“I googled the car and it’s a pretty good car. But the spot tells me nothing about the car. Of course, why would I want to know anything about the car? All I need to know is that it has healing powers.”

You can read more of Chuck at his blog.

There is a kind of awful genius to deliberately portraying old people as sick and vulnerable to sell them an expensive car. Or how about laundry detergent. Or a new sofa. "Game changer," as the actor says in one home furnishings commercial.

Expect to see more, many more sick old people portrayed in all kinds of commercials. In December, The New York Times reported on the enormous increase in the number of television prescription drug commercials. Some excerpts:

”According to Kantar Media, a firm that tracks multimedia advertising, 771,368 such ads were shown in 2016, the last full year for which data is available, an increase of almost 65 percent over 2012.

“'TV ad spending by pharmaceutical companies has more than doubled in the past four years, making it the second-fastest-growing category on television during that time, Jon Swallen, Kantar’s chief research officer, said.”

As The Times also points out, it is old people who use the majority of prescription drugs and that's why big pharma saturates TV with commercials for diseases of age:

“'In the old days, it was allergies and acid reflux and whatnot, [Thomas Lom, a consultant and former senior executive at several health care ad agencies] said. 'Now, it’s cardiology issues. It’s cancer.'

That, of course, reflects the medical issues facing audiences that skew older.

“'The drug companies aren’t generally marketing to people in their 30s; they’re marketing to the 65-plus, and that’s the population that tends to still be watching television,' said Allen Adamson, a brand strategy consultant.”

Certainly they will have no trouble figuring out other media buys for commercials as younger generations age.

Now that Ford has broken the ice by implying their car can cure a sick old person of an unnamed malady, Crabby Old Lady has no doubt other non-medical consumer products will soon follow suit, possibly sharing commercial production costs by partnering with the manufacturer of a brand-name prescription drug. (Oh, is Crabby being too cynical?)

What this means for Crabby and all elders is that the main description of old people as sickly will be perpetuated indefinitely in the minds of everyone.




Elder Job Search: What Should Be Versus Reality

I have been banging on against ageism in general and age discrimination in the workplace for nearly 15 years on this blog without making even a minor dent. But neither has anyone else, even people with a much longer reach than I have.

So instead of living in a culture that accepts and welcomes elders into the the mainstream depending on their capabilities (like people of every younger age), old people (age 50 and even 40 in many cases) are dismissed, hidden, ignored and at best, patronized.

How wrong this is came to mind a couple of days ago when I read a story on the AARP website titled, Over 40? 7 Things Never To Say in a Job Interview.

You can probably guess they are all related to not revealing your age – as if the 20- to 30-something job interviewer can't tell that you look like their parent or grandparent. Some of the seven things you're not supposed to say, according to AARP:

“I’m ready for a change.”
“'It gives the impression that he was bored,” says an expert, that “'his experience was growing stale, and he was unmotivated. Otherwise, why would he stay in his field so long?'”

Really? I loved the field(s) I worked in and still had half a dozen jobs over 45 years I wanted out of for other reasons. This may not be the most politic thing to say in an interview but the objection to it itself is uninformed and stupid.

“I've got 25 years of experience.”
“What the interviewer hears is 'I'm so bogged down in what I believe I already know that I'll be difficult to work with,'” says Rosemary Hook, a recruiter in Austin, Texas. “You paint yourself as unfriendly to learning new things.”

Huh? Is the interviewer listening? What employer in his right mind wouldn't want someone with years of experience, who has solved expected and unexpected problems as they came up over the long term and learned on the job from dozens of people he or she has worked with.

Old people are hated so much in our culture that their experience and knowledge have been turned into a disadvantage.

“I see myself staying in this job until I retire.”
“While you might think such a statement demonstrates your commitment, avoid putting the r-word in their heads,” says another expert. “Employers rightfully want applicants with plenty to give, not someone looking to coast through the last few years of their career...”

How does “until I retire” translate into “someone looking to coast...”? Who thought that up? They're wrong. Or should be.

“Tell me a little about the benefits.”
“'Think of a job interview like running for the Presidency,'” says Hook. “'You must appear vibrant and healthy, able to bring energy to the job regardless of your gray hair.'”

How does asking about benefits make someone appear less vibrant? If it is apparent toward the end of the interview that you have not been rejected, you have a right to know the benefits – it's part of what any applicant needs to know to make a decision about taking a job.

These are among the many ways employers have of getting away with not hiring 40- and 50-somethings, and certainly not anyone older than that.

Make no mistake: eliminating a candidate for saying “I see myself in this job until I retire” is wrong but it is a fact of job search life if you're older than 35 or so.

And that is the dilemma: having a meaningful conversation about the job and what you could bring to it versus the grim reality of finding a job after a certain age, as reported in this AARP story, by demeaning oneself with carefully worded answers designed to offend no one and reveal nothing.

It shouldn't be like this. Old people should not be required to tie themselves in verbal knots to keep from appearing as old as they are. It's not like the interviewer cannot estimate a person's age by just looking.

As a long-time, close observer of the media and culture at large, it appears to me that the only people allowed to work in old age at what they are experienced and good at are rich white males who own the company: George Soros, Rupert Murdoch, Warren Buffet come to mind - all currently in their mid-80s.

But not thee or me. I was forced out the workplace at age 63, years before I was eligible for full Social Security and more personally important, when I had a lot of knowledge and experience I was still eager to use.

And here's the most disheartening part. It's not going to change in the lifetimes of most of us who hang out at this blog. Which doesn't mean we shouldn't continue making noise about it.




What It's Really Like to Get Old

Here are the two winners in the random drawing announced Monday for Malcolm Nance's book, Defeating ISIS: Who They are, How They Fight, What They Believe. Two days later, I rolled the handy-dandy, online random number generator and...

Drum roll please:

One of the winners is Celia Andrews who blogs at Celia's Blue Cottage. The other is Yvonne Behrens. Congratulations to you both - and books are on their way.

* * *

You may have noticed that the headline on today's post is the same as the subtitle up there on top in the banner of the blog. I've tried to make that thought a large component of Time Goes By even if not the entire purpose.

When I started this blog back in 2004, there was literally nothing good being written anywhere in the popular press about growing old. I've told the story here many times that the media – and the culture itself – made getting old sound so awful (and they still do) that I thought then I might as well shoot myself at age 62.

But I didn't really want to do that so I started TGB instead.

However, there was an error I've carried through these pages for too long: I've overdone the positive sides of ageing or, maybe, underplayed the difficulties. Or both. And I want to start fixing that.

Getting old is hard. Most younger people (including ourselves back then) have no idea what courage it takes to keep going in old age.

From simple aches and pains with or without a particular cause to the big deal “diseases of age” like cancer, heart disease and others that afflict elders in much greater numbers than young people to counting out medications, following special diets, exercises, etc., it takes a lot of work, a lot of gumption to grow old.

All this came to mind a few days ago when I ran across a list of tweets about a some changes that are common to most old people I know – and that's what makes them funny.

Some might think these are ageist but I think we need to reconsider how easily we (or I, sometimes) throw around that epithet.

I am beginning to see that such a judgment can require more nuance, as we are discovering is so with the accusations of sexual harassment and/or misconduct and/or abuse can be.

A lot of these were good. Here are my favorites:

  • I thought I was just really tired but it's been five years so I guess this is how I look now.

  • The older I get, the earlier it gets late.

  • I'm not saying I'm old but I just had to increase my font size to "Billboard."

  • Hey guys, remember when you could still refer to your knees as right and left instead of good and bad?

  • You know you're getting old when you pull out your high-powered back massager and actually use it on your back.

  • I'm so old, I can remember getting through an entire day without taking a picture of anything.

  • My daughter just asked why we say "hang up" the phone and now I feel 90.

  • I may be getting old but I'm not "let me call you, I hate texting" old.

  • You know you're getting old when you finger cramps up while scrolling down to find the year you were born on a website.

You can see more of them at Buzzfeed but feel free to add your own in the comments.




"Let Age Be Age"

Not meaning to sound too much like a grinch, finally these endless holidays are done and good riddance. They last nowadays forever – my first Christmas catalog arrived in August – and one of the things I have come to value at this advanced age is routine.

(Although, if the time allotted to end-of-year holidays expands much more, it will become our new routine: all Christmas all the time.)

One of the new-ish reasons I value routine is that it helps speed things along when what needs to get done each day expands with the years:

”An increasing part of living, at my age, is merely bodily maintenance, which is tiresome. But I cannot find anywhere in my life a time, or a kind of time, that is unoccupied,” writes 88-year-old Ursula K. Le Guin in her latest collection of essays, No Time to Spare – Thinking About What Matters.

She goes on to list all the things with which her days are filled – it takes up half a printed page – and she doesn't even mention any of those bodily maintenance chores that, especially since my cancer diagnosis, take up two to three hours a day.

NoTimeToSpare225 Did I say Le Guin's new book is a collection of essays? Well, I'm wrong. It is, instead, a book of blog posts from, roughly, 2010 to recently. (Did you know she keeps a blog? I didn't. You'll find it here.)

But then, blogs generally are essays and Le Guin's have always been thoughtful, ironic, funny and often get within easy shouting distance of real truth, especially about everyday life.

The first section of the book is mostly taken up with growing old and it is nice to find that a well-known person whose work I admire reinforces my own beliefs and point of view.

”It can be very hard to believe that one is actually eighty years old,” she writes, “but as they say, you'd better believe it...If I'm ninety and believe I'm forty-five, I'm headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.

In one essay, Le Guin lobbies earnestly for a return to respect for old people:

”Just coping with daily life, doing stuff that was always so easy you didn't notice it, gets hard in old age, till it may take real courage to do it al all. Old age generally involves pain and danger and inevitably ends in death. The acceptance of that takes courage. Courage deserves respect.”

She explains further as she speaks to the value of elders:

”...an old intelligence may have extraordinary breadth and depth of understanding. It's had more time to gather knowledge and more practice in comparison and judgment.

“No matter if the knowledge is intellectural or practical or emotional, if it concerns alpine ecosystems or the Buddha nature or how to reason with a frightened child: when you meet an old person with that kind of knowledge, if you have the sense of a bean sprout you know you're in a rare and irreproducible presence.

“Same goes for old people who keep their skill at any craft or art they've worked at for all those years. Practice does make perfect. They know how, they know it all, and beauty flows effortlessly from what they do.”

As much as I appreciate Le Guin's thoughts on respect for and value of old people, her realism is equally important:

”Existence in old age is progressively diminished by each of these losses and restrictions. It's no use saying it isn't so, because it is so.

“It's no use making a fuss about it, or being afraid of it, either, because nobody can change it...

“A lot can be made of a diminished thing, if you work at it. A lot of people (young and old) are working at it.

“All I'm asking people who are not really old is to...try not to diminish old age itself. Let age be age. Let your old relative or old friend be who they are. Denial serves nothing, no one, no purpose."

This section on ageing is small. Le Guin has pulled together blogs posts on a wide range of topics – her cat “the Pard,” the literature business, anger, belief, “the Pard,” music appreciation, even the Oregon high desert and more about “the Pard.”

When I started reading No Time to Spare late one evening, I expected to get through one or two of Le Guin's blog posts before turning out the light. Instead, I read half the book before sleep overtook me.




Rethinking Ageism

There has been a surge recently in the number of print media stories about ageism. Two I've seen are important.

In November, Joseph F. Coughlin, who is founder and director of MIT’s AgeLab, noted in Time magazine that old people even have their own town in Florida, The Villages. (Not that similar places don't exist elsewhere.)

At The Villages, there are a 157,000 residents age 55 and older who have developed their own culture, norms and lifestyle, says Coughlin, and he sees a “troubling possible future” where old and young segregate themselves from one another:

”The way this could happen is simple,” he writes. “Society fails to recognize the needs, desires and aspirations of older people, treating them as invisible — or, worse, as a problem to be solved.

“We continue to write a story of old age that retires people away from everyone else, rather than finding ways to engage them, to activate their talents. In response, it’s only natural that older people would choose to cloister themselves away.”

Actually, we – meaning young and old - are way ahead of Coughlin. Many of the majority of elders who do not live in Villages-style communities find other ways to isolate themselves from younger generations. And if they won't do it themselves, those younger people will do it for them.

In a recent issue of The New Yorker, staff writer Tad Friend looked into the intractable endurance of ageism quoting, at one point, four psychologists who wrote the book, Ageism: Stereotyping and Prejudice against Older Persons.

”[...they] point out that many people preserve themselves from 'death thought accessibility' by shunning 'senior citizen centers, bingo parlors, nursing homes, golf courses, Florida, and Rolling Stones concerts.'

“The authors dryly conclude,” notes Friend, 'Another way to avoid older adults is to keep them out of the workplace.'”

No kidding. A lot of us on this blog who had every intention of working longer know all about that how that works, and Friend takes Silicon Valley to task for the tech industry's patently ageist hiring practices.

As it turns out too, according to Friend, the widespread belief that Eastern cultures treat their elders with more kindness, care and understanding than our Western culture does just isn't so:

”A meta-analysis by the academics Michael S. North and Susan T. Fiske reveals that Eastern societies actually have more negative attitudes toward the elderly that Western ones do...”

And further, say North and Fiske, efforts to make old people more understandable to the young,

”'...have yielded mixed results at best.' Having students simulate the experience of being old by donning weighted suits and vision-inhibiting goggles, or exposing them to 'intergenerational contact' – actual old people – doesn't lead to kumbaya moments.

“'Such approaches do not appear to incite a long-term desire among the young for interactions with elders,' they regretfully conclude, 'and contact can backfire if older adults are particularly impaired.'”
"

It doesn't help that, as Friend writes, we tend to caricature elders into only two categories: "raddled wretches and cuddly Yodas", denying them full, rounded humanity as the young are automatically granted.

As Friend notes throughout his piece, it is fear of death that drives ageism which is what probably makes ageism unavoidable.

”If ageism is hardwired, how can we reprogram ourselves? Greenberg and Co. suggest three ways:

⚫ Having the elderly live among us and fostering respect for them
⚫ Bolstering self-esteem throughout the culture to diminish the terror of aging
⚫ Calmly accepting our inevitable deaths.

“They note, however, that 'all these directions for improvement are pie in the sky, particularly when we think of them at a society-wide or global level of change.' So ageism is probably inevitable 'in this potentially lonely and horrifying universe.'”

Or, from cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker:

”The irony of man's condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.”

Personally and however fearful it may be, I'm working hard to live every moment I have left to its fullest.




SNL Takes on Ageism and It's a Win for Elders

Some TGB readers (and many other elders) do not believe in ageism. Whenever I write about the demeaning slights, substandard medical care, failure to hire due to gray hair and wrinkles, cutesy-poo language that infantilizes all elders, they dismiss it as unimportant or, even, that I'm misreading it.

Undoubtedly, many are the same people who are appalled by the alleged sexist treatment of women by Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein and the self-confessed groping of women by our current president, along with the ongoing struggle of women to achieve parity with men in the working world.

There is no doubt in my mind that these people are also horrified by white supremacists and would bite their tongues off before uttering the N word.

But ageism? Doesn't exist or if it does, it is not on a par with racism, sexism, heterosexism and all the other hateful -isms.

A large part of ageism denial is that we hear it many times every day in print, on television and in casual conversation from the cradle and no one ever calls it out as is commonly done in response to sexism and racism. Another reason is that it often sounds too benign to be as contemptible as those other slurs.

As I've mentioned here in the past, I record most of the monologues of the late night talk show hosts because I can't stay up that late but they are among the best, sharpest commentators we have on our frightful predicament with President Trump. And they are also among the worst ageism offenders.

Hardly a night of the week goes by without one (or more) of the hosts denigrating old people or growing old in general. “He's so old...” Jay Leno once called Senator John McCain's presidential campaign the Antiques Roadshow.

It even shows up regularly on cable news. During Hurricane Irma, MSNBC host Ali Velshi explained that he wanted the audience to understand how experienced reporter Sam Champion is because he's been covering hurricanes for 30 years.

“I hate to say that,” said Velshi to Champion, “but you look terrific for your years.” The ultimate compliment in ageist America – to look younger than you are.

That anecdote explains why so many old people deny the ageism that denigrates them and all old people; it just seems so friendly and harmless. But let me be clear: repeated dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of times a day, it reminds everyone that elders are not equal with younger adults or, even, children.

The reason I'm banging on about this today is that sometimes – so rarely that it is a major media event to a blog like this that takes as its subject growing old – someone fights back.

This time, it was Saturday Night Live last weekend in a skit that takes place in a retirement community. It makes all the points that I make but unlike me, they make you laugh too.

The skit stars Kate McKinnon as the old woman, that evening's host, comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani as the retirement home attendant, along with Mikey Day and Heidi Gardner as the grandchildren of the old woman.

PS: As serendipity would have it, on Tuesday Medical News Today published a report of a study suggesting that frequent sex may help old brains work better. Who knows if the result will hold up over time, but here are the details.



Inequities in Elder Healthcare and Myths About Older Drivers

Two important topics in the realm of ageing that I bang on about from time to time turned up in separate, well-researched articles last week and both are important to elders, their families, people who care for them and to public policy. Let's take them one at a time.

OLD PEOPLE ARE NOWHERE NEAR ALL THE SAME
And this produces profound inequities in their healthcare compared to children and adults.

Writing in The New York Times yesterday, Louise Aronson, a professor of geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, points out that in the U.S. healthcare system,

”There are 17 subgroupings for children from birth through age 18. That makes sense because, of course, a 6-month-old has had little time to develop immunity, weighs far less than an 8-year-old and is exposed to fewer people than a teenager.

“There are five subgroups for adults. But all Americans 65 and older — including the two fastest-growing segments of our population, the 80- to 90-year-olds and those over 100 — are lumped in a single group, as if bodies and behaviors don’t change over the last half-century of life.

“You don’t need to be a doctor to see that this is absurd.”

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Although Professor Aronson's Op-Ed is specifically about vaccines, she makes it clear that not differentiating between the young-old and old-old makes all healthcare for elders questionable. Studies have shown, Aronson writes, that some common procedures in urological conditions, acute myeloid leukemia and chemotherapy treatment have much less efficacy in older patients.

”There are simply different risk-benefit ratios for older adults; the frailest and oldest often incur all the immediate harms of treatments, from prevention to intensive care, without seeing the benefits.

The sad fact is that we frequently don’t know how to best care for the old. Treatments rarely target older adults’ particular physiology, and the old are typically excluded from clinical studies.

“Sometimes they are kept out based on age alone, but more often it’s because they have one of the diseases that typically accompany old age. And yet we still end up basing older people’s treatment on this research, because too often it is all we have.”

Hear, hear - the inequities are obvious and can be deadly. Aronson concludes:

”In the 20th century, vaccines conquered many of the deadliest diseases of childhood. In the 21st century, when the number of older adults will surpass the number of children worldwide, we need to similarly target oldhood...

“Life is a three-act play. It’s time our medical system reflected that truth.”

No kidding.

MYTHS ABOUT OLDER DRIVERS
Many states have different driving license requirements for people 65 and older. Among the most common, according to ClaimsJournal website in 2012:

Must renew more frequently, from one to five years, in person only and pass a vision test

Require an optometrist's certification for vision or a doctor's certification that the driver is medically fit

A few states require a road test each renewal

Some states allow health providers, family and in one case even neighbors to report what they believe are impairments to driving

OlderDriver

These restrictions on renewals for older drivers have been increasing in recent years because it is widely believed, and hardly ever challenged, that old people cause more accidents than younger drivers.

That is simply not true as Cynthia Kuster, an elder care attorney with the law firm Lamson & Cutner recently reported from her research. Some excerpts:

”Let’s start with question a) – DO elderly drivers pose an increased risk to others?', writes Kuster. The short answer is: Not really.

“Even at their highest rate (for drivers 85 and older), the fatality rate for accidents caused by seniors is the same or lower than that for drivers 25 years old and under. The data indicate that even through the age of 84, older drivers caused fatalities to occupants of other vehicles and non-motorists at about the rate that 30-year-olds do.

“That is simply not a major danger. We’re certainly not stopping 30-year-olds from driving, and drivers younger than 30 are far more likely to cause the death of others than are 84-year-olds.”

As to whether old drivers are a danger to themselves, Kuster tells us that when the driver is at fault, a 76-year-old is as likely to die in an accident as a 26-year-old. But after age 83, driver fatalities rise significantly.

”However, the AAA study I looked at here cites a study, published in the Traffic Injury Prevention journal, that found that increased fatalities in elderly drivers are more common because the drivers are frailer, and injuries sustained in an accident are much more likely to result in death than they would be, were the driver younger.”

As Kuster concludes:

”The AAA study summary states, 'Relative to other age groups, drivers aged 85 and older face the highest risk of their own death, whereas teens pose the greatest risk to passengers, occupants of other vehicles, and non-motorists.

“The Traffic Injury Prevention study cited in the AAA article stated: 'Older driver motor vehicle crashes are not a significant threat to other road users in vehicles or as pedestrians...”

“Focusing on how to make driving safer for seniors – or more importantly, how to make crashing less deadly for them – should be a focus of public safety advocates.”

As the first article above notes and as I have reported here for years, elders age at different rates. An individual 60-year-old may show dramatic signs of incapacity while an individual 80-year-old may not.

We each are reponsible to monitor our vision, reaction times and confidence behind the wheel and long before hanging up the keys, figure out how we will get around without a car.

Until then, don't let anyone tell you elders are worse drivers than younger people. Not to mention that There is more than a little ageism involved in each of these two issues.



Ageism in Healthcare

Impactofageism

This story had been on my “to do soon” list just before my cancer diagnosis and now that my recovery is going so well, it's time to start catching up. Let me start with a couple of ageist profiling stories from Dr. Val Jones at the BetterHealth website:

”Take for example, the elderly woman who was leading an active life in retirement. She was the chairman of the board at a prestigious company, was an avid Pilates participant, and the caregiver for her disabled son.

“A new physician at her practice recommended a higher dose of diuretic (which she dutifully accepted), and several days later she became delirious from dehydration. She was admitted to the local hospital where it was presumed, due to her age, that she had advanced dementia. Hospice care was recommended at discharge. All she needed was IV fluids.

“I recently cared for an attorney in her 70’s who had a slow growing brain tumor that was causing speech difficulties. She too, was written off as having dementia until an MRI was performed to explore the reason for new left-eye blindness.

“The tumor was successfully removed, but she was denied brain rehabilitation services because of her 'history of dementia.'

“Of course, I recently wrote about my 80-year-old patient, Jack, who was presumed to be an alcoholic when he showed up to his local hospital with a stroke.”

These are not uncommon stories. One of the most serious side effects of ageism is inadequate health care. Another example from an important overview of ageism in healthcare was published in Generations, the journal of the American Society on Aging, in October 2015:

”The geriatrician and writer Dr. Louise Aronson (2015) describes a disturbing example of explicit ageism in which a surgeon asks the medical student observing his case what specialty she is thinking of pursuing.

“When she answers, 'Geriatrics,' the surgeon immediately begins mimicking an older adult complaining about constipation in a high-pitched whine. The attending surgeon had a reputation for being an outstanding teacher, yet repeats this parody throughout the surgical procedure.”

Let me pause here to say that the reason I was eager to get back to this topic is the excellent care I received at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) hospital over nine days, which I wrote about here, that is in stark contrast to stories like those above which occur way too frequently.

Typesofageism

When health care providers harbor implicit or explicit prejudice against older patients, the possibility of under- or over-treatment increases – and that often starts with poor communication.

As the authors report in the Generations article, in one study doctors were rated as “less patient, less engaged and less egalitarian with their older patients.”

”One way healthcare providers unknowingly patronize older adults,” they continue, “is to use 'elderspeak' - speaking slowly, with exaggerated intonation, elevated pitch and volume, greater repetitions, and simpler vocabulary and grammatical structure.

“Older adults perceive elderspeak as demeaning and studies show it can result in lower self-esteem, withdrawal from social interactions, and depression, which only reinforce dependency and increase social isolation (Williams, Kemper, and Hummert, 2005).”

The authors also note that it is not just the providers who “may harbor or exhibit ageist attitudes. Older adults themselves often possess very negative views of aging, not realizing the potential impact on their health.”

This may be changing, however, among baby boomers who are more likely to be comfortable questioning authority than many of their older counterparts.

Older-adults-wordle

Ageism in healthcare is, of course, only one area of prejudice against elders but as the stories above demonstrate, it can be deadly. If you encounter any healthcare professional who is behaving in a demeaning manner or dismissing your complaints, politely explain that you expect and deserve his/her full attention and care.

Or, you could just fire the doctor and find a new one as I did last October when my then-primary care physician dismissed my symptoms that eventually led to the pancreatic cancer diagnosis as nothing but a mild virus an antibiotic would take care of.

Whenever I have written about ageism lo these many years, inevitably there is a pushback in the comments. Invariably one or more will quote the “stick and stones...” adage, insisting that derogatory names can't hurt them. Others deny that ageism is on a par with sexism, racism, etc.

Really? It's not okay to denigrate, stereotype and discriminate against women and people of color but okay for old people? Really?

No, not really. Let me tell you why ageism – in all its manifestations – matters to me. It is about justice, justice for everyone including old people. And because if I don't keep insisting, it will change me in ways I won't like.

International-day-of-older-adults-2016




Saturday Night Live Elder Bashing

Anyone reading this blog is likely to be familiar with ageism, defined in brief as the stereotyping and discrimination of old people based entirely on their age.

It occurs in all areas of life. In the workplace, healthcare, entertainment, finance, advertising, language, movies, books, even greeting cards, old people are maligned, dehumanized and made fun of mostly with impunity.

It never changes. It never gets better. In fact, during 13 or 14 years I've been regularly inveighing against ageism, it seems to be increasing. I could be wrong about that but it feels so and it certainly is not diminishing.

image

One of the biggest ways ageism is perpetuated is through the media and today, I am particularly incensed about a certain time segment of television that has made elder bashing a staple of its repertoire.

It's the late night comedy shows. Hosts Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers are the ones I see most frequently and every one of them makes it a regular practice to demean old people. It is always off-handedly as though it carries no more more social freight than the weather forecast and it always gets them a laugh.

Jimmy, Jimmy, Stephen, Seth and the others (even, now and then, John Oliver) - that is, comedians - are among the worst purveyors of ageist hilarity, falling back on this handy kind of cheap humor whenever their or their writers' creativity fails them.

The jokes are pervasive, turning up at least once a week on each of the shows usually in the monologue but even during interviews and they use these jokes with abandon because - well, everyone knows that it is wrong, for example, to make fun of the disabled but mocking old people's failings and foibles is just good fun.

What infuriates me beyond the ageism itself is that it is perpetrated day in and day out from otherwise talented performers who help keep me sane in this dark era of America's political crisis.

And that brings us to this: Throwaway lines that take five or six seconds to toss off are bad enough. A protracted attack including just about every stereotype known of old people is quite another.

In Saturday's Interesting Stuff column, I posted the wonderful video from NBC-TV promoting actor Melissa McCarthy's appearance as host of Saturday Night Live that evening.

McCarthy's Sean Spicer segment was not brilliantly written this time but okay, likewise Alec Baldwin's Trump impersonation and Weekend Update was one of Colin Jost's and Michael Che's best this season. There were other good moments. And then there was a skit about the Amazon Echo.

It is only 2:40 minutes long but it feels, while watching it, as if it will never end – on and on and on and on.

Perhaps it is understandable for young comedians steeped in unchallenged ageist humor from birth to believe this is acceptable, even funny. But I doubt they would agree to perform in a similar take down of, for example, brown people, women, Jews, Muslims or LGBTQ people.

And get this: Each week, SNL produces more skits, recorded and live, than they can use in one show and the final choice of which ones to include is made at dress rehearsal by producer, Lorne Michaels.

Lorne Michaels is 72 years old. Apparently he sees no personal irony in this week's Amazon Alexa skit choice.

It's everywhere on late night television, elder bashing is, and that spreads continued acceptance of ageist behavior far and wide particularly among young adults who are the main fans of late night humor shows which are further distributed through YouTube.

As gerontologist and Professor Emeritus of Medical Sociology at Duke University Erdman B. Palmore admitted in an article in the Encyclopedia of Ageism, humor may be a less serious form of ageism than, for example, employment or criminal discrimination. However, he continued:

”...because negative humor is so frequent and insidious, it may well be a root cause of the more serious forms of ageism...

“Just as racist and sexist jokes support negative attitudes about race and sex, most jokes about old people are ageist. Most tellers and listeners are probably unaware of their ageist effect, which may even increase the joke's impact on the listener's unconscious attitudes.”

For the record, I have two Amazon Echos and use them as easily as any young person. So do many other elders.



Not Like Them – Those Other Old People (Again)

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This week has been too busy and I ran out of time to write today's post. But that's okay – I could use a day off - and this one, a rerun, caused a good deal of introspection and some differences of opinion in the comments when it first appeared here nearly three years ago.

Let's see how it goes this time.

* * *

Hardly a week goes by that I do not receive a press release or reader email alerting me to a photography exhibit of elders. So much so that it is hard not to conclude that it is becoming a growth industry.

The two most common categories are closeups of wrinkled skin and old people participating in sports - or, sometimes, both in the same series.

It is always better, I believe, so see more portrayals of old people, in any medium, than not. But too many of the photographs are just ordinary and stand out only for having been shot in harshly lit black-and-white which, as any denizen of the internet and certain galleries knows, is the signal that you are in the presence of “art.”

You can choose to reject that designation if your judgment tells you otherwise particularly, in my case, when it seems the photographers' goal is to shock us with the apparent ruin of 90-year-old bodies.

In June, Lillian B. Rubin died. She was 90 years old, a sociologist, a psychologist and author of several useful and well-received books including, in 2008, 60 on Up: The Truth About Aging in the 21st Century.

In reading Rubin's obituary, I was reminded of the opening line in that book,

“Getting old sucks. It always has, it always will.”

Anyone who has been reading this blog for longer than a day or two know that I disagree. But I do know what she was getting at and some of that is contained in an article she wrote for Salon in 2011:

”...old age - even now when old age often isn't what it used to be – is a time of loss, decline and stigma.

“Yes, I said stigma. A harsh word, but one that speaks to a truth that's affirmed by social researchers who have consistently found that racial and ethnic stereotypes are likely to give way over time and with contact, but not those about age.

“And where there are stereotypes, there are prejudice and discrimination – feeling and behavior that are deeply rooted in our social world, and consequently make themselves felt in our inner psychological worlds as well.”

In a short but remarkable section of that Salon article, written when Rubin was 87, she admits to her own prejudice against old people. As she recalled the interviews with elders that she conducted for 60 on Up,

”...I found myself forced back on myself, on my own prejudices about old people, even though I am also one of them.

“Even now, even after all I've learned about myself, those words – I am one of them – bring a small shock. And something inside resists.

“I want to take the words back, to shout, 'No, it's not true, I'm really not like them,' and explain all the ways I'm different from the old woman I saw pushing her walker down the street or the frail shuffling man I looked away from with a slight sense of discomfort.

“I know enough not to be surprised that I feel this way, but I can't help being somewhat shamed by it.”

My own “small shock” and “surprise” and “shame” is that sometimes I catch myself, when I pay attention, feeling like Rubin. Because even though I am hyper-aware, thanks to the work I do for this blog, that I am one perilous fall or terrible diagnosis away from disastrous need of part- or full-time care, I feel different from those who do.

But what Rubin was getting at when she wrote that getting old sucks is not so much the physical manifestations as the emotional and spiritual changes that our culture does not acknowledge even as it is the major source.

Rubin and I share a disdain for the relentless focus on youth, the anti-aging industry, the dubious value of brain games, elders who pretend they are not old.

It is the less than artful photography of ancient bodies I mentioned above that comes to mind when I read part of Rubin's conclusion in her Salon piece:

”...we're living in a weird combination of the public idealization of aging that lies alongside the devaluation of the old. And it isn't good for anybody.

“Not the 60-year-olds who know they can't do what they did at 40 but keep trying, not the 80-year-olds who, when their body and mind remind them that they're not 60, feel somehow inadequate, as if they've done something wrong, failed a test.”

Until we, as a society, find a way to value the late years of elders' lives – all the years, in all their manifestations - there will continue to be old people like Lillian Rubin, me and a certain percentage of you who are ashamed to know that sometimes we feel “not like them.” Until we are forced, one day, to admit, finally, that we are.



The Shifting Sands of (My) Ageing

Over the weekend a friend who has been active in elder issues for many years said to me that he had mostly stopped reading about ageing, that everything important has been said.

We had other things to talk about and didn't pursue that line of thought for any distance but I recognized that without having made a deliberate decision, I too have been reading less about growing old for at least a year.

Although I still follow two or three dozen elder issues and topics in the news most days I am, after these 21 or 22 years at age research, a master at knowing from headlines and first sentences if I need to read further.

Books too have become easier to choose. With the exception of a handful of remarkable writers and thinkers, most often the answer is don't bother. There is a lot of repetition going on.

When I started studying growing old in 1995 – in my mid-fifties - there was hardly any popular or even academic writing about it and certainly not in any positive sense. Mostly it was about how awful ageing is and everyone should do anything possible, spend any amount of time and money to avoid it.

It was so widespread, I thought, “Geez, if it's going to be this bad, I may as well shoot myself now,” but I was too curious about how the future would play out for me to take myself seriously. (And I secretly never believed it is so awful.)

In books and magazines and videos and such, during the intervening years, a growing number of people have recognized that growing old has been unnecessarily maligned but nothing has changed in the overall culture:

After age 50, hardly anyone, no matter how qualified, can find a good job. Comedians still build careers with grandpa incontinence jokes. And the soft tyranny of ageist stereotypes in all corners of society continues without letup.

We are so accustomed to ageist representations of old people that even elders themselves don't notice. Here is an example from four or five years ago but if you pay attention, you'll see them every day.

VirginAmerica

This one which is widely used in many north American and European cities helps sustain the belief that old age is synonymous with sick and unhealthy. For the record, it is not.

Elderroadsign

Without having as much external input from others about growing old now that I'm reading less, here are some of the items that have been rattling around in my own head recently; obviously not fully developed (each one could be a blog post) but I think you'll get the point.

My age is only part of who I am but because all people are trained from the cradle to reject old age, it is the first and, most of the time, the only thing others think is important to know about me.

Of course, my age has a influence on how I see the world. At minimum that difference, after living all this time and always being a curious sort, is that I have a lot more knowledge and information to call on in making decisions and forming opinions.

Just because sometimes mine is not the “cool” point of view doesn't make me wrong nor invalidate my ideas. But too often old people are dismissed in what they say merely because they are old. And it is okay, in our culture, to do so with condescending amusement: “Isn't she cute, that old woman.”

Too many old people are in the closet about their age - from extreme cosmetic surgery that is always apparent to being coy about the actual number of their years.

What the deniers need to understand is that every time they pretend to be younger than they are or lie about their age or present themselves as “not like those other old people,” they reinforce tolerance of ageist behavior. They are part of the problem.

Those “get-off-my-lawn” old guys. (I suppose there are also women of this type.) Too often old people are their own worst enemies.

Way too many younger adults are talking about what it's like to be old and how old people should live and arrange their lives. You are free to call me a slow learner but all on my own without help from anyone else, I have learned two – and ONLY two – truths I believe in, in my seven-and-half decades:

  1. With the possible exception of trained medical personnel, no one knows anything about what it's really like to be old until they get there.

  2. The second one doesn't apply today but if you're curious: If it is happening to me, it is happening to millions of other people

It is long past time when people who make decisions about old people, individually and collectively - whether they are scientists, social workers, caregivers or government policy makers – must include one and preferably more old people in forming conclusions and making choices that will affect elders.

On a personal level, I am surprised that I haven't changed as much as I thought I would by now when I was younger.

For all the years I've packed on, I'm still carrying the same baggage from my upbringing as I did when I was 20 or 30 (I just see it more clearly now). The major emotional experiences of my adult years get in the way of my behavior pretty much as they did back then which is to say, not attractively.

But as I wrote a few posts ago, I'm done with self-improvement. Little, if anything, will change about me now. Maybe old people are all like Popeye: “I yam what I yam.”

* * *

RESISTANCE NOTES
There's a lot going on in Washington about meetings between Russian representatives and Trump associates during the election campaign and now in the White House.

Many citizens – even a large number of Republicans – are calling for a special prosecutor (or someone similar) to investigate these issues. The White House and many Congressional Republicans, especially those who head up intelligence committees, are trying to avoid doing this with the usual, "Move along, nothing to see here, folks."

This is just a reminder to keep up your calls to your representatives in Congress. I assume you have your telephone numbers. If not and you have a smartphone, you can download 5 Calls that makes it easy for you. It's available for iPhones and Android phones.

Last week, TGB reader janinsanfran who blogs at Since It Has Happened Here told us about another service she uses called Daily Action. Give them your phone number and Zip Code and they will text you a daily action alert. Obviously, you need a text-messaging phone for this to work but most so-called "dumb phones" can do that.