192 posts categorized "ElderBloggers"

Guest Blogger Mage Bailey: Remembering to Laugh

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Mage Bailey, retired but still an artist and journal keeper who has worked in fine arts and graphics for more than forty years. She is now blogging at Postcards and photographing the world around her. Mage graduated from college at age 50 with a degree in fine art, has had a number of one-person shows and been in group shows, is the mother of two, grandmother of 14, and wife of a wonderful George.

No one ever told me how liberating it would be to have a stroke.

There it was, and at age fifty I couldn’t laugh about having a stroke. I certainly thought of a stroke as limiting not liberating. In fact, I turned into terrible old grump wanting everything to be fixed and fixed now. Only after years of angry struggle did I discover that there were no repairs for damaged short-term memory or departed hand-eye coordination.

I discovered I couldn’t draw any more. Slowly I noticed forgetting-things-was-me too. A head injury specialist told me to make lists. Lists helped life. Lists did not help my inability to draw. I took that very seriously. I’d spent forty some years drawing and painting with eight years in art school only to discover now I couldn’t put pen on paper. I was lost without laughter.

Dr. Harriette Schapiro, one of my college biology professors, decided I was going to learn to quilt. It was color, form and art in fabric with a martinet for a teacher. Neither of us thought about the fact that hand-eye coordination would be required to cut seams or sew them together using a machine. Regimented by the Doctor, I just did it. Without laughter.

I didn’t always remember quilts well either. Once I lost my newest quilt top. Pleased with finishing it, I took it to my poetry group to share. Afterwards I placed it on top of an unfamiliar car while I opened the doors. When I got home, I no longer had my red quilt. I’d forgotten that it was on the trunk lid. I found it, folded, on a rock in the front yard at the poetry group house. Only much later could I laugh about this.

Slowly I grew liberated from my old thinking. Then I bought a computer. Using it was a struggle. In the beginning, every day I would learn how to use it all over again. I wasn’t laughing about this either, but I was loving the new worlds I discovered through the computer. I, a journalist since 1974, discovered I could blog. I felt home at last.

Years later, I laughed with joy when I discovered digital photography. In the beginning, this too was discouraging. Image stabilization - what was that? As technology improved, my shaky hands gave me a few recognizable pictures. If I remembered to put the settings button on automatic, I had slightly better fuzzy pictures.

Or my shots were blurred because of too few pixels. What were pixels? The first camera told me I had two megapixels (MP), the next, six MPs. I complicated life by getting Photoshop Elements which I couldn’t understand and continually forgot how to use. What mattered was that I’d found a new medium which fit both my limitations and my years of training. I was a working artist again. Now that brought broad smiles.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I went to Alaska. I used my new, 12 MP, dual image stabilization camera with many smiles and a few groans when I repeatedly dropped it. Yes, too, I took my ten-year-old, dinosaur of a laptop, bought used online, and was able to keep up with my blog while at sea. I remembered how to use it - most of the time - and was the only grey-haired woman with her own laptop on board.

We have come home to the news my husband will be laid off next month. Sometimes my brain offers me great negative pauses, other times it burps about this. I’m working hard on accepting that new changes are in our lives - yet again. After a few weeks of adaptations, this old hippie who used to dance in the streets will again work at remembering to laugh all the way into what ever new, liberated life we find ourselves.

I now know I can do laughter.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger Gillian Bouras: As Time Goes By

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is Gillian Bouras, an Australian writer who has lived in the Peloponnese, Greece, for many years. Her journalism has been published in six countries, and she has written eight books, the latest of which, No Time for Dances.

When you’ll never see sixty again, it’s a ludicrous business, that of having to deal with a Wicked Stepmother. But there you go: life just keeps on getting stranger. In fact, my WS, as well as being just plain impossible, is impossible to deal with.

She didn’t kidnap my father precisely, although she snapped him up very soon after my mother died, but she certainly confiscated his paternal emotions, and then locked them away somewhere inaccessible. She also either stole or destroyed our family history. The books, the family Bibles, my mother’s embroidery and china have all disappeared. And so have the photographs.

I thought I’d never see any of the old snaps again, the more so as I live in Greece, so that the tyranny of distance complicates matters. Always. But then, out of the blue, a very old uncle sent me his rather battered album, a padded grey affair, bound in faded red cording, so that at least I can see my child-self, and remember my sister and cousins the way we were.

And I can observe how absurdly young my parents were to be parents. (The idea of my 28-year-old son having a four-year-old child is almost as ludicrous as my having to cope with WS.)

The informal wedding photos are there: groom in uniform, bride in a borrowed dress too short for her. And I can smile over the little snippets of recall: That bouquet weighed a ton, Mum would say whenever the wedding photos were trotted out.

There are pictures of our paternal grandparents, on whom we doted, and even some of the great-grandparents we never knew.

I’m glad I have this album, but in a sense I do not need it. Going back is easy: one blink and I am there, seeing not rocks, tufted mountains, olive trees and cypresses, but a maze of Melbourne’s suburban streets edged by clipped nature strips, each of which had a clipped prunus tree planted dead-centre.

At the heart of the maze is a wide bitumen road along which the milkman’s and the baker’s horses still clopped when I first went there, and where Nana, five feet nothing and in her night clothes, once held tightly on to the reins of the milkman’s horse, which had bolted, leaving a dawn trail of splintered glass and greasy milk.

At the end of that bitumen road there was another, threaded by tram track, an indicator of a different world. Every morning Uncle Lionel, Nana’s brother, walked to the Number 57 tram. My sister and I, visiting, heard its faint rattle as it bore him away to The Shop. We heard its clack as it brought him back again to the same greeting every evening.

“You’re late, Lionel.”

“Am I, Harriett?”

Nana and Uncle Lionel, both widowed, lived together in No. 7, an austere place, I now realize. We didn’t realize it then. On the mornings of our visits we were permitted to watch our great-uncle while he shaved with a cut-throat razor, an old-fashioned tool even at that time.

This ritual took place in a very basic bathroom: the bath itself had a permanent green stain trickling downwards and clawed feet, and was filled by means of a lethal weapon: a gas heater. This monster was activated by a lit match, often held in trembling fingers: sixty years ago, mini-explosions were an inevitable part of cleanliness.

We stood in the doorway and watched. Uncle Lionel’s razor strop, worn black with use, hung on the towel-rail, and the slender blade, ivory-handled, whished and swished along the leather before carving tracks through the foam on that white-skinned bony face. We held our breath as the wickedly sharp implement passed over his prominent Adam’s apple. But nothing ever happened, except the accomplishment of a perfectly smooth face.

I don’t need photographs to recall all these things, as I do quite often when sleep eludes me. Then I check off the details of Nana’s room, which was not as austere as the rest of the house, but rather reflected the tension in her, her dual nature with its clash between worldliness and other-worldliness.

On her chest of drawers resided her tortoise-shell vanity set: brush, comb and hand-mirror with matching tray, home to real hair-pins, not “those new-fangled bobby things.” A cheval mirror stood in one corner and on a satin pouffe next to the mirror reposed a most magnificent doll, dressed like Marie Antoinette down to the last detail of fake powdered wig and glittering high-heeled slippers.

But on the wall above the doll hung a print of Durer’s Hands of an Apostle, all ascetic fine lines, and near it was another, much larger picture: a tall Christ, be-robed and wearing a spiky crown of thorns, carried a shining lantern held low. His hand knocked at an ivy-mantled door, and beneath His feet a scroll unfurled itself and proclaimed the predictable message: I am the Light of the World. Holman Hunt, beloved of the Victorians, was the artist.

I tick all these things and more (the Bible, the Promise Box) off in my head, as it were. And before I finally drift off into sleep, I think: Time and decay may rob me of these snapshots of memory, but no Wicked Stepmother can.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Guest Blogger doctafil: What's So Funny About That?

While I am away in New York City for a couple of weeks, a fantastic group of elderbloggers and elderblog readers agreed to fill in for me. Today it is doctafil aka Brenda Henry, who is semi-retired from teaching high school. She lives in the suburbs of Montreal with her husband and cat. She writes, gardens and supervises student teachers.

Days after my sister moved to Florida, I became so despondent. I was going down. I knew I had to do something bold to combat the blues.

I spotted a tiny ad in the Montreal Gazette offering lessons writing and performing stand up comedy. The ad seemed to be pointing straight at me, so I tore it out and stuck it on my fridge, alongside assorted tropical fruit magnets and old photos of my sister and me shoehorned into a two-dollar, instant photo booth.

A couple days later, I called the comedy club, told them I was interested and omitted to mention my age.

I was fifty then, and would rather have walked barefoot over smoking coals than speak in front of an audience, but that was my secret.

So how did I wind up standing in front of a downtown comedy club at six o'clock sharp on a Monday night?

"This is probably the dumbest thing I've ever done, but it's better than bawling at home," I mumbled, swaying like a metronome on the sidewalk.

Obstacle number one: How would I get past the crusty, disheveled, tooth-deprived dude spread-eagled across the bottom steps of the club?

Was he a graduate comedian, the comedy teacher or the owner of the club?

His straight-line cowboy mouth and wrong-foot winter boots in summer radiated he was in no mood to dance the polka. In fact, he looked as though he was recuperating from a never-ending Molson Canadian beer bender.

As I gingerly stepped past him, he suddenly whipped around, looked me dead in the eye and said in a Gravel Gertie voice: "Hey baby, yawanna give me a kiss? I'd sure like to give you one."

"I'm good, thanks," I croaked in a freaky, way-high voice.

As I nervously entered the club, the downstairs bartender looked me over, asked what he could serve me. I said I was there for the comedy class. He shook his head sadly, then jerked his index finger sideways toward a set of steep stairs in the back. I climbed up and into a pitch black room. How many people were there, I had no idea.

My hands hit the back of a chair, I grabbed it and sat frozen.

A male voice cracked the quiet, welcoming us and claiming we have requirement one for stand up comedy - a big set of testicles for showing up.

Then the voice commenced to outline the rules of comedy. "Everyone thinks stand up comedy is easy. You will soon find out it's the hardest job in show business. It's all you and the audience, and when your lines go tits up, you have only yourself to blame. Get off the stage, go home, write more material and try again.

"No racist, homophobic, ageist or sexist jokes. We are not here to tell one liners. We will teach you how to write a monologue. Your own life is where you mine material. Tell the truth and use big gestures.

"If you think you can walk into a comedy club, stand at the mike and shoot off jokes like 'two nuns walked into a bar,' forget it. Montreal audiences will throw your ass out. Montreal audiences don't appreciate pea-brained jokes, and the whole goal of comedy is to get chosen for the Just for Laughs Festival, then land a sitcom.

"Do you see Seinfeld using the F-word?

"This is your comedy boot camp. Here you will learn how to take the stage, hold a mike properly, use your voice, gestures, come up with ten minutes of original material, and then we will throw you up on stage in front of a real audience.

"Drugs and alcohol don't mix with comedy. Remember John Belushi? Where is he now? I rest my case. Get a small tape recorder and any time you see or hear anything remotely funny, talk it out and write it down.

"Stealing jokes is a no-no. And when the red light goes on at the back of the club, wrap it up and get off the stage.

"I'm turning on the lights now, so any of you who didn't like what I just said, leave quietly and there will be no hard feelings. The rest of you get ready to work your butts off."

I heard major shuffling. Someone kicked the back of my chair as they left mumbling, "This is crap, man, I'm outta here."

The lights clicked on. I looked around and saw four twenty-something women sizing each other up. I was proud and terrified to be the oldest one in the group. Nobody pointed that out, though, and I was on my way to some adventure.

I carried my little tape recorder around, whispering lines, bits and pieces that might be remotely funny. Days shot by as we greenhorn comics went downtown every Monday night to wait our turn, throw out our bits and get critiqued.

Homework was doled out. Oh yes. We were told to go watch other comedians ply their trade at least two nights a week, not to steal their jokes, but to study their body language, timing and a hundred other subtleties of the trade.

I will never forget sitting backstage with my jagged piece of notes on paper, last-minute cramming with shaking hands and wobbly knees while other performers did their thing. A small, smoky window on the door was just big enough for me to see who was on stage and when my turn was up.

Unless you've done this yourself, you can't imagine the frisson of fear and excitement running along your spine when it's your turn to perform. The emcee introduces you, a piece of music is played while you run from the back through the crowd onto the stage, grab the mike and deliver your opening line.

"Hi everyone, how are you all doing tonight?

"I'm a dreamer. I used to dream about being a perfect little housewife - until mom slammed a three-piece Little Miss Homemaker set over my head. That's when I realized that housework and pain go hand in hand."

I'd like to brag and tell you I killed every night on stage, but I'd be stringing you a line. The truth is, some nights I did okay and other nights were back-tooth pullers.

Doing shot gun stand-up performances in front of hecklers, drunks and dodging waiters scared the blues far away. I was too busy trying to improve my act.

And when the laughs came, it was like being bombed with love. I'll never forget that feeling.

The best thing about being in the comedy club was the camaraderie between comedians. Sometimes famous comics would drop by the club while on tour and test drive a new act. They'd even hang around backstage and yak it up with us.

I kept on performing and found comedy clubs whenever we traveled to the USA and the UK.

Those were the days, my friends. Comedy turned into motivational seminars across Canada.

I carry a picture of me doing stand up in a Virginia Beach comedy club, just to remind myself to look up, think forward and welcome new experiences.

A few years later, my sister moved back to Montreal. She came to see my show.

We're still best friends.

EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, The Elder Storytelling Place is on hiatus. You can read past stories here. And if you are inclined, you could send in stories for publication when I return. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.

Elders Online

In January, the Pew Internet & American Life Project published its latest survey of online usage by age group. Compared to 2005 figures, the 70-75 year olds made the biggest leap, increasing from 26 percent to 45. Even the oldest age group, 76-plus grew from 17 percent to 27.

[NOTE: All the charts and graphs are too large to reproduce here and be readable. You can find them all on this page. The full report is here.]

That's not many compared to the two youngest age groups. Ninety-three percent of kids 12-17 are online as well as 89 percent of 18-24 year olds. But these are people who have never known life without computers and the internet, and I'm impressed with how many elders have learned the internet in three years – particularly those who probably retired before being trained on computers at work.

Still, the internet is a young world; only 24 percent of online users are 55 and older.

What are old people doing online? Mostly email, following by search and researching health information. Lots of elders shop online ranging from 72 percent of older boomers to 47 percent of those 73 and older. Nearly half (49 percent) of older boomers bank online while only 24 percent of those 73 and older do.

We're doing other things in larger numbers too. Well more than half of the three oldest age groups use the internet to research products, make travel reservations and read news. But few of us use social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace – just 9, 11 and 4 percent of those three oldest age groups.

We spend more of our time with blogs. Probably because I'm so immersed in the world of elderblogging, however, I'm surprised that the numbers are not higher:

Read Blogs
Age 56-63: 25%
Age 64-72: 23%
Age 73+: 15%

Keep Blogs
Age 56-63: 7%
Age 64-72: 6%
Age 73+: 6%

As I've said so frequently, blogging is a near-ideal pastime for elders. At a time in life when we no longer have the daily social camaraderies of the workplace, when old friends move away or die and for some, mobility becomes an issue, blogging does many good things for us. It helps keep us mentally fit, gives us a place to tell our stories, share interests, make new friends and increasingly, I think, discuss issues of national importance.

So although I wish more elders were blogging, I'm heartened by the increase in all kinds of internet use by old people.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Karen Swift explains what T.A.S. is and how it came to be in her life.

Ronni Returns with Some New Elderblogs

Well, hello, everyone. It’s good to be back and to see you again. My two-week sabbatical turned into nearly three weeks because there were that many good stories from guest bloggers.

Before I get any further into this post, a huge, warm thank you to all 18 elderbloggers who filled in for me so magnificently. Please give them a big round of applause for the excellent job they did while I rested.

I have done this three or four times before in my life: withdrawn from everyone and everything for two weeks. But I had not done it in about 15 years. Unlike past sabbaticals from daily life, I was not entirely incommunicado this time. I answered some, but not all email, enjoyed a couple of social events and joined with neighbors following three snow storms to dig ourselves out.

Primarily, however, I was alone.

Aside from my news addiction with early morning coffee, I avoided almost everything that has consumed most of my waking hours for five years - anything related to aging, blogging and the computer. I read a couple of books for pleasure, saw a couple of movies, got the cat to the vet for his annual vaccines, cleaned out all four junk drawers and spent about six hours over two days trying to unstick the E key on my laptop which, it now appears, I made worse. (Please do not ask how hard it is to write anything with a sticky E key.)

Other than that and an entire inauguration day glued to television, I cannot account for myself. Here, however, are the meager lessons I learned over these two-and-a-half, solo weeks:

  1. I am capable of thinking and doing absolutely nothing over a remarkably long period of time while feeling not a twinge of guilt and liking every moment of it.

  2. I am not capable of thinking clearly enough to arrive at any conclusions unless I am writing it – whatever IT is - while I think.

Not much to show for 18 days and that information is not entirely new, only reinforced and more acceptable to me than in the past. As unproductive as the time was, I feel so mentally refreshed that I have decided to continue this kind of blog hiatus on a semi-annual basis.

Some blog housekeeping notes:

ITEM: Feedburner, which delivers Time Goes By to many readers by RSS and email, has gone all wonky and miserable lately so new posts are sent out a day (and sometimes more) late. About a year ago, Feedburner was bought by Google which, I discovered in reading around the web, has a history of allowing acquisitions to deteriorate and there has been quite a lot of online complaint about the problems with Feedburner. I do not have a solution right now.

ITEM: Some stories for The Elder Storytelling Place have arrived (thank you so much) and that blog will resume posting new stories next Monday. If you’ve been thinking about sending a story, now would be a good time to do it. Instructions are here.

ITEM: During my sabbatical, a new regular column was inaugurated – The TGB Elder Geek from tech master extraordinaire, Virginia DeBolt. Her column will appear here twice a month and questions are welcome. So email (click the “contact” link at the top of the left sidebar) anything tech-oriented that puzzles you – about your computers, blogging, web questions, etc. and Virginia will do her best to make them easily understandable.

And remember, there is no such thing as a dumb question; if you're having trouble with it, undoubtedly someone else is too.

ITEM: If you sent an email during my hiatus that needs a reply, please resend. I’ve tried to cull them from my now overcrowded inbox, but have undoubtedly missed some.

ITEM: I fibbed, above, in explaining how I used my hiatus time: I did spend one afternoon updating the Elderbloggers List in the left sidebar. Here are 20 additions. Check them out; they’re all good elderblogs - not necessarily new, but new to the list.

20th Century Woman

Awaiting Buddha

Berry Blog

Chez Namastenancy

Country Roads

The Cyberspace Dawdler

Dying Man’s Daily Journal



How to Change the World

Lee Cantrell Speaks

Linda’s World

The Musings of a Middle-Aged Woman

Retired and Restless

Senior Health Moment

Sylvia from Over the Hill

Tread Softly

True Blue Quilting Nana

Unsilent Generation

A View from England

Again, a heartfelt thank you to all the guest elderbloggers. It was terrific to have all this time off knowing that Time Goes By was in such excellent hands.

Getting Rid of the Junk

EDITORIAL NOTE: This sabbatical/hiatus was planned to last two weeks which means I should be back today, but it will go on a a little longer. I will return on Thursday this week.

Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today’s guest blogger is Mike Nichols who blogs at Anxiety, Panic & Health which takes up much of his time. In it, he writes about the anxiety disorders and has several articles concerning anxiety among elders.

Mike lives with his wife and daughter in Columbus, Georgia, and is retired from the music and computer industries. Though trained as a classical musician, he loves the blues.

Three years ago my wife and I decided to move to a smaller house in a less expensive city. I had recently retired due to health reasons, and our income was halved.

Our house had two stories with a full basement, and every nook and cranny was stuffed with the detritus of 35 years of marriage, abandoned hobbies, two children and advanced packratism.

We soon came to realize that we had to think through this move, not only as to what we were going to do, but in terms of what it really meant and how it was going to affect us. The economic necessity was obvious, but if we just started throwing things this way and that, what would that accomplish but confusion and an impoverishment of spirit with less stuff?

After thinking and talking it over, we decided that what we wanted to have left are items that contribute to our quality of life, to the notions and habits that we hold dear, and to the things that help us live fulfilling lives.

In short, my wife and I came to view the move as less an economic necessity than as an opportunity to simplify our lives.

We gave away what we could: 37 cartons of books to a local book sale, a bedroom suite to a former student, darkroom equipment to my daughter's friend and even a car to the American Kidney Fund. We used Goodwill, FreeCycle, eBay, and several other agencies. What couldn't be given away or sold was tossed: We used five large construction dumpsters and could have used another.

Every item had its own story about the place it had held in our lives. Often we had to fight the urge to keep things due to sentimental reasons, but had to remember that we would have no place to put them in our new house. It was greatly liberating to get rid of those old monkeys that had been on our backs for so long.

Our "new" old house is charming, but has little more than a third of the square footage we enjoyed before. As is typical of houses of its vintage, it has few and small closets, no basement, and almost no attic storage. So we are still in the process of culling what we had already thought we had pared down to bare essentials.

Now our resolution to simplify our lives has hit a new challenge. My wife has lost her overtime hours, our investments have tanked and I am still not well enough to hold a job even if I could find one. What once was a sparse budget has become bare-bones.

Once again we are faced with making mindful decisions and taking measured actions when everything within us is screaming to panic.

Although our decisions ultimately will be about things that we can sell, services we can do without and what can be substituted for the things we want, our intention is to go beyond mere budgetary adjustments to making the process an opportunity for growth.

We found that though we have simplified our lives greatly, there is yet more work to do. Our principle of maintaining and enhancing our quality of life still has some major adjustments that need to be made.

For though we have gotten rid of a lot of physical stuff, our habits of mind have not changed. We are still the same people that are owned by the objects we accumulate, that are confused about the words "need" and "want," that are enslaved by the acquisitiveness coached by Madison Avenue and that grasp for the easiest solution to a problem.

More than clearing away the clutter of a lifetime together, we need to get rid of the junk that has accumulated in the corners of our minds over the decades. Cleaning out the habits of mind that have kept us chained for six-plus decades is much harder to do than simply tossing or selling junk or making budget cuts.

Still, our goal is not only maintaining our quality of life, but enhancing it. We are finding that we are appreciating what we do have more after having validated its place in our lives.

This is not an event that can be done in a weekend, or even in 50 weekends. It is a process, a journey toward a simplicity of mind and life that is truly liberating. Even in these trying times, it makes the future an exciting place to be.

[The story bin at The Elder Storytelling Place is empty so until some new ones arrive, let's revisit some from the archive. Today, The Cover-Up from Frank Paynter. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Comparing Apples to Apples in Healthcare

EDITORIAL NOTE: This sabbatical/hiatus was planned to last two weeks which means I should have been back on Monday, but it will go on a a little longer. I will return on Thursday this week.

Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today’s guest blogger is AQ who blogs at Always Question.

He is a grandfather, a retired Navy Corpsman and a Red Cross Disaster Services Volunteer. “Otherwise,” says AQ, “I’m just a guy.”

I came across an article recently which served to remind me that, as the Obama administration moves to address health care reform, the insurance and health care industry lobbies are going to be formidable influences on the finished product. I think it is critically important that we as consumers become aware of what is at stake and make our voices heard.

At the risk of sounding like another whacked-out conspiracy theorist, it occurs to me that the media may be playing for the other team on this issue, and by other team I mean the insurance industry.

Insurance companies have nothing to do with health care. They take money from us and they pay it to providers unless they can find of a way to keep it. Meanwhile, as corporate media outlets lose readership or viewers, the revenue from advertisers becomes increasingly important to their bottom line.

This headline from Reuters, More Suffering From Chronic Illnesses, and other pieces trumpeting the spiraling cost of health care could lead one to believe that universal health care is unsustainable and/or unaffordable. But we're not necessarily getting the whole story. As we speak, the health care industry and the insurance industry (they are not the same) are stacking the numbers.

I don't think anyone would dispute an increase in type 2 diabetes. Our appetite for processed carbohydrates is well documented by now. Our unhealthy lifestyles are probably also responsible to a great extent for an increase in high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

At the same time, the industry has also been lowering the diagnostic bar on some of these conditions. Cholesterol used to be high at 250, then 200 and now there is movement to treat people with a low density lipid level over 100. The same has been happening with blood pressure with an upper number above 120 now being called "prehypertension."

In 2004, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began taking the risk out of Medicare risk contracts with payments adjusted for risk through a model called Hierarchical Conditions Coding. The purpose of this scheme was to "appropriately" reimburse insurance companies for the necessary care of Medicare enrollees. (My question then is, why are the taxpayers paying for a Medicare Advantage Plan at all? If they bear no risk then they are superfluous cost centers.)

The upshot has been coding classes held throughout the health care industry to learn to combine diagnosis codes for maximum reimbursement from CMS.

For instance, I have high blood pressure and high cholesterol (and history of cancer and I'm fat, etc.). As a commercial patient, my doctor gets paid to refill my blood pressure meds and/or my cholesterol pills. When I become Medicare eligible, if I choose to join a Medicare HMO, the insurance company will be reimbursed for every condition I've ever had so long as they can document that I've had it (and they're pushing for universal electronic medical records).

If I never show another cancer cell, the American taxpayer will still pay for my cancer. The example they typically use in class is diabetes, and with correct coding they can quadruple the monthly payment from CMS.

There are going to be challenges in implementing universal health care. One heart/lung transplant can fund a prenatal program for a small town for a year or more, and we will need to talk about those things.

I'm just saying that when I see a report that ends with a comment on how hard it's going to be for us to implement universal health care with the world's most expensive health care system, it makes me wonder. Reuters never does cite the specific reports they're getting this "information" from.

[The story bin at The Elder Storytelling Place is empty so until some new ones arrive, let's revisit some from the archive. Today, Gilbert Lake from Joy Des Jardins. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

My New Year's Revolution: The Supplement War

EDITORIAL NOTE: This sabbatical/hiatus was planned to last two weeks which means I should be back today, but it will go on a a little longer. I will return on Thursday this week.

Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today it is Elaine Frankonis, who blogs at Kalilily Time and is one of the earliest elders to take up blogging. She is currently on hiatus while she settles herself into her new home and deals with other of her life's escalating complexities.

No, that's not a misspelling. “Resolution” is just not a strong enough effort. I need a Revolution – a drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving.

Actually, I need to make several revolutions, but I'm starting with one I might be able to win.


That is just a part of the stash of supplements that I've accumulated in my search for the magic pill that will revitalize my joints, curb my night-time munchies, keep dementia at bay and minimize the rest of the troubling effects of aging. Do any of them work? Well, it's hard for me to say because now I have so many of them that I rarely take any of them.

So, I've decided to make some surgical strikes at my supplement collection, eliminate the least likely to succeed and come up with a reasonable number of pills to take every day. I have already thrown out all diet remedies (many of which were still unopened).

Supplements cannot replace the nutrients in whole foods, but those of us over 65 – especially if we live alone – too often don't bother to cook well-balanced meals just for ourselves. Following my doctor's advice, I already take a multivitamin as well as extra calcium. I'm also a believer in the benefits of certain herbs, so when I go to the appointment with my new doctor (I just moved to another state), I will bring a list of all the supplements I want to take.

If you decide to take supplements, there are some guidelines you should follow:

  • Check the supplement label. Read labels carefully. Product labels can tell you what the active ingredient or ingredients are, which nutrients are included, the serving size - for example, capsule, packet or teaspoonful - and the amount of nutrients in each serving.

  • Avoid supplements that provide “megadoses.” In general, choose a multivitamin-mineral supplement that provides about 100 percent of the Daily Value (DV) of all the vitamins and minerals, rather than one which has, for example, 500 percent of the DV for one vitamin and only 20 percent of the DV for another. The exception to this is calcium. You may notice that calcium-containing supplements don't provide 100 percent of the DV. If they did, the tablets would be too large to swallow. More importantly, divide your calcium intake throughout the day.

  • Look for “USP” on the label. This ensures that the supplement meets the standards for strength, purity, disintegration and dissolution established by the testing organization U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP).

  • Look for expiration dates. Dietary supplements can lose potency over time, especially in hot and humid climates. If a supplement doesn't have an expiration date, don't buy it. If your supplements have expired, discard them.

  • Store all vitamin and mineral supplements safely. Store dietary supplements in a dry, cool place. Avoid hot, humid storage locations, such as in the bathroom.

  • Store supplements out of sight and away from children. Put supplements in a locked cabinet or other secure location. Don't leave them on the counter or rely on child-resistant packaging.

I've been taking All-One for Active Seniors for years. It's a powdered multi-vitamin that I make into a shake each morning with V-8 Fusion juice (one fruity serving of vegetables).

All-One is the only powdered vitamin that I have been able to find that contains decent doses of a variety of nutrients – especially vitamins C, D and E, calcium, the B vitamins and folic acid.. The concoction doesn't win the aging war, but it does keep the forces in formation. And having my daily vitamins in a shake means that's one or more fewer pills I have to take.

Since I have problems with joint and muscle inflammation, I'll keep the Zyflamend AM and PM. A current Columbia study http://ict.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/6/1/74 is examining the positive effects of this supplement on prostate cancer. While that's certainly no personal concern of mine, the herbal ingredients of Zyflamend might help with what does keep me awake at night. The bottle calls for two pills in the morning and two at bedtime. I'm going to start with one each time.

Okay. That's one vitamin shake and two pills (one in the AM and one in the PM) a day – a small battle that should be winnable.

But I think that I also should take something that might bring some reinforcements to my vulnerable (and venerable) brain. Phosphatidylserine supposedly helps to strengthen the brain's ability to remember. According to the Mayo Clinic:

“Phosphatidylserine is a dietary supplement that has received a great deal of interest as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease and other memory problems. Most studies involving phosphatidylserine indicate a benefit — improved cognitive abilities and behaviors. However, it seems to be most effective in people with the least severe symptoms.”

You can get phosphatidylserine from various manufacturers. My bottle says “one softgel three times a day.” So, now I'm up to five pills a day, and that doesn't count the three prescription meds I take daily. I'm almost at my limit.

I discovered Acai long before Oprah, but like most of my other supplements, it had not seen any action in my daily regimen. Given the publicity it's gotten, it might be worth incorporating into my supplement strategy. My bottle says one pill daily.

Six supplement pills are almost more than I can grapple with each day, but if I can do that, the revolution will have been successful.

Of course, I'm faced with the problem that I have several other supplements in pill form from which I could benefit. It will be hard enough to remember to take the six pills on my list, but I'll keep them around just in case I get to a point at which I need to expand the battle front. They are all helpful in certain health-related situations:

Because they are not pills, there are two additional remedies I keep around in case I need them. Oregano oil is an anti-viral, and sublingual melatonin helps me fall asleep.

Six supplements, not counting three prescription drugs and a vitamin shake to ingest daily. It's going to be a challenge to remember to take them all, but at least now I can trash my stockpile of other supplements that never saw any action in my body in the first place.

It's going to be a continuing battle to keep from succumbing to advertisements for supplements that will protect my brain or revitalize my body. Developing spending self-control is, obviously, another personal revolution I need to fire up. And, given the projected state of my 2009 economy, that's going to be more necessary than ever.

I wish us all a healthily revolutionary new year.

[The story bin at The Elder Storytelling Place is empty so until some new ones arrive, let's revisit some from the archive. Today, Svenka Brolopp (Swedish Wedding) from Alexandra Grabbe. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]


Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today it is 68-year-old Steven, who blogs at Projections. He lives in Orland, California, with his wife and a cat. He was a serious racewalker (the “funny” walk, says Steven) until this year. He was a carpenter for 30 years, became an IT guy and programmer/instructor and did that for 16 years. He dabbles in all forms of art and he journals.

When Ronni asked if I might be able to submit an article for use on Time Goes By while she was away, my first thought was to read through my daily journal and see if there was anything worth mentioning. Or reading.

Then it came to me. Journaling is what I would write about. And in my mind, journaling is something that should come naturally to an elder. Okay, I'm wrong about that. Journaling has to be learned and practiced. But it is something that should be done by each of us as a gift to those who follow us.

I remember that I came up with the idea of journaling sometime after my father died. It wasn't a moment of revelation; it slowly dawned on me that I didn't know very much about my father's history. And now I wouldn't be able to know about those things that made him “dad.” And I counted that as one more loss.

At the time, I was a young father and it struck me that I should leave something of me for my children, my grandchildren. I don't think this desire to leave something of yourself is about ego as much as it is about the basic human need to share our story as we pursue the question, why are we here? Without my father's story, I was at a loss for some answers, but my children would know more than I. Those were my good intentions.

Some years went by before I tried a hand-written journal. That was a failure. A few years in the medical field had ruined any skill I might have had at penmanship and I couldn't even read my own entries. How would my children make sense of them? It would be almost ten years before I found the perfect solution - the personal computer and a word processing program, Pro-Write.

I started journaling in August of 1990, August 3rd to be exact, followed by a very brief entry on the 4th. And that was the end of that exercise for almost two months. Unfortunately, that is how the first year went as I slowly developed the habit of writing daily. With each successive year, the entries grew in length and frequency. It was becoming a habit and a good one.

It's now 18-plus years later and I rarely miss a day of writing. And every entry is usually a page in length. In fact, I wrote 449 pages in 2008.

And along the way I became a blogger and now I use the journal to help me with that. No, I don't post my daily journal entry verbatim, I cut and paste and then edit ruthlessly. Some things are meant to stay within the family!

Although the journal was meant as a way for my descendents to gain some knowledge of their own place in time and how they came to be, I have found the journal to be an even better way for me to learn more about myself. I can go back to earlier entries and read about what I believed and how I felt on a certain day in history. I can go back and read of the joy, and yes, the pain of some of those days. I can see myself change over the years. Yes, I'm a “waffler.”

I can even pinpoint when I first noticed my physical condition changing. Yikes! I'm growing old! But that knowledge is handy when you have to talk to the doctor. Do you like to reminisce? A journal is the greatest for that!

With the computers and software of today, your journal can be as elaborate or as plain as you want it to be. Mine is kept in yearly volumes and my later ones contain photos and hyperlinks. That makes for fairly large file sizes and you will need a decent computer to make it work smoothly, but it's worth any effort you have to make.

Elaborate, plain or in between, it's definitely a worthy project. Someone, somewhere and sometime, will thank you.

[The story bin at The Elder Storytelling Place is empty so until some new ones arrive, let's revisit some from the archive. Today, In the Kitchen from Nikki Stern. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

The Last Hurrah

Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today’s guest blogger is Mort Reichek who blogs at Octogenarian and divides his year between New Jersey and Florida.

I've never been much of a joiner. But two organizations to which I have belonged have had a very special meaning for me. One was the CBI Veterans Association., a national organization of men who served in China, Burma and India during World War II.

The other was an informal group of guys who had been in the 893rd Signal Co. in India and had banded together after the war as a sort of alumni society so that they could keep in touch as civilians. I was an honorary member of the group.

I have been a member of the CBI Veterans Association's local "basha" in south Florida, where I have a winter home. A "basha" is the official designation of the organization's local units. Instead of setting up "posts" like the American Legion and VFW, the CBI vets named their local units after the flimsy, grass-thatched structures that served as U.S. military barracks in India.

For many years, I have attended the basha's luncheon meetings, where we enthusiastically reminisced about our experiences in the CBI. Forced to listen again and again to the same stories from grizzled old men trying to recall our youthful adventures in exotic lands, I question whether my wife--or the other wives in attendance--shared our enthusiasm about the luncheon meetings.

Although I was never assigned to the 893rd Signal Co., my own outfit, the 903rd Signal Co., was stationed together with the 893rd at the same base, the Bengal Air Depot, a U.S. Army base in Titagharh, a village about 60 miles outside Calcutta. We lived and worked together for more than a year, and many of the men in the two outfits became close buddies.

The 903rd had been stationed in Egypt before it arrived in India in the spring of 1944. I had landed in India a few months earlier and was assigned to the company, which was under strength. Over the next year, there was considerable personnel turnover in the outfit as the men with lengthy overseas duty were shipped home and were replaced by newcomers to India.

The 893rd was a far more cohesive group, however, whose members had been together for many years. When the war was over, they decided to create a sort of alumni club so that they could keep in touch. Over the years, they held annual reunions and published a newsletter.

I had many close friends in the 893rd. As a result, I was considered an honorary member and was put on its mailing list. I was invited but never attended its reunions. I always looked forward, however, to the newsletter to learn about the civilian lives of men I had known as fellow soldiers.

For a half a century, I corresponded with several of my 893rd friends, and visited two of them while on business and vacation trips to California. Sadly, I learned of their deaths in the newsletter about ten years ago.

A more cheerful newsletter article reported that another 893rd alumnus, Abe Schumer, whom I had known well, was the father of New York's Senator Chuck Schumer. I found a picture of Abe in a box of wartime photos at home. I mailed the picture to the Senator and was delighted to receive a phone call from his father.

By coincidence, Abe had been planning to visit a former Long Island neighbor who now lived in my New Jersey community. He called me when he arrived at her home, and we had a delightful chat comparing notes on how we had fared since the war so many years ago.

Last year the national CBI organization's quarterly newsletter stopped coming in the mail. Nor did I receive announcements about 893rd Signal Co. reunions and the luncheon-meetings of the national association's Florida basha.

For me, the silence represents the last hurrah for my fellow World War II veterans who served in the CBI. We're now old men, and there are obviously not enough of us still around to maintain our "alumni" groups, which had enabled us to reminisce about our wartime experiences in China, Burma and India. At least, we will no longer be boring our wives with our exotic tales of adventure.

[The story bin at The Elder Storytelling Place is empty so until some new ones arrive, let's revisit some from the archive. Today, Rowing the Boat of Life from Claude Covo-Farchi. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

The Letter

Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today’s guest blogger is 80-year-old Nancy Leitz, well-known to readers of The Elder Storytelling Place for her frequent contributions there.

“I love to write the stories that my children ask me about,” says Nancy. “It all started when they would say, ‘Mom, what happened that time Uncle Bob came here in the middle of the night?’ Then I would tell how my brother, Bob, (The former pope) was looking for his dog who had been missing etc, etc,. They would laugh at the story and say, ‘You should write these stories down, Mom, so the kids that are too little now can hear them later.’

“That's how it all began. As I commented to someone at The Elder Storytelling Place the other day, you should write down as many experiences as you can because if you don't, the stories will be lost forever. I said that when an old person dies, it is like the library burnt down.”

Nancy and her husband of 58 years, Roy, live near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, 25 miles from Philadelphia. She has four children and eight grandchildren.

Roy's brother, Ernie, was a bachelor all of his life. When he was a young man his father, who was a baker, wanted Ernie to follow in his footsteps and also become a baker, but Ernie had other ideas. He was very mechanically inclined and wanted to be a welder.

He had been born in 1914 and by the time he was 18, it was the height of the Depression and there were not many opportunities for young men. But being a welder was something he felt he could turn into a business for himself.

Pop Leitz was furious and insisted he become a baker, but Mom saw the benefits of being a mechanic and having a good skill and slipped him the money to go to welding school. He became a very good welder.

In 1937, before the Second World War started, Ernie went to enlist in the Marine Corps, but was turned down by them because he had a deformed finger (He had caught it in a machine).

He then heard of a man named Rice who taught welding in the Philadelphia schools and also had a shop in southwest Philadelphia. Ernie went to work for Mr. Rice and learned even more about welding by doing so many jobs on oil tanks that were being installed in everyone's house to replace the old coal fired furnaces.

Eventually, Mr. Rice sold the business to Ernie and now he was the proud owner of Paschall Welding Co. which he ran for four successful years, both teaching and doing regular welding work.

At the time of the Second World War in 1941, he was called before the draft board and again turned down for service because, by this time ,he had a welding school and that skill was vital to the war effort.

He was ordered to report to Cramp's Shipyard on the Delaware River in North Philadelphia. His assignment was to teach welding so that the shipyard had a steady supply of skilled workers. He stayed at Cramp's for the duration of the war and when he was released from there, he joined Steamfitter's Local 420 in Philadelphia as a journeyman welder.

In 1949, he met a girl named Pat who was a dancer in various clubs in the city. Being a dancer did not endear her to Mom Leitz and so she discouraged Ernie from seeing Pat. They continued to date against Mom's wishes but Ernie never brought her to Mom's house again because he knew she disapproved.

Pat kept very late hours because of her career and it made Mom angry when Pat would call at 2AM to speak to Ernie. One of Ernie's friends owed him some money for work he had done and paid him by giving him a small cottage he owned in the woods by the Perkiomen Creek. Ernie began to fix the cottage up and that became a place where he and Pat could see each other without Mom's interference.

This went on for years and I always wondered if they would marry. But it was not to be. Then I heard that Pat had married someone else and had moved to California. I thought that was the last of her, but it was not over yet.

Over the succeeding years, Ernie remained the bachelor uncle who was very good to the kids. Once, he bought our Chris a red tractor that you sat on and rode down the sidewalk. It had a gear shift and horn. The kids loved it.

One day Ernie was coming down Greenway Avenue and there was Chris driving the tractor as fast as it would go with Steve running behind him crying for a turn. That was more than Ernie could stand. That evening after dinner, our front door opened and in came Uncle Ernie with another bright red tractor for Steve. It was such a nice thing to do.

Everybody remembers Uncle Ernie on Christmas. He would come in to his sister, Sue's, house and sit in a chair with a stack of 20-dollar bills and the kids would line up in front of him. He would ask, "And who are you?"

"I'm Andy Wurzbach."

"Whose kid are you?"


"Oh. you're Norman's daughter. OK here's your twenty. Next…”

"I'm Carol, Roy's daughter"

“Okay, here's your money, Merry Christmas...”

And on and on it went until all the kids had their gift. The kids still talk about those Christmas days and Uncle Ernie.

Sometime in the 1980s, Ernie told Roy that he was no longer answering the phone because Pat had been calling him from California. He set up a signal for Roy to use so he would know it was Roy and would answer.

It seems Pat's husband had died a few years before and although she and Ernie had never really lost contact, they had not seen each other since Pat had left. Now it seems she was calling.

We asked Ernie why he didn't want to talk to her. He told us that he DID want to talk to her, but that he wanted to make the call because he didn't want Pat to have to pay for a long distance call. In those days long distance was a big deal to Ernie. So, abiding by his wishes, we always rang once, hung up, and rang again.

On Christmas Day 1991, we were having Christmas dinner at Roy and Nancy's and were waiting for Ernie to come in. He was usually late for everything, but this time he was really late. Uncle Arthur had not come because Aunt Betty was not feeling well, so we called and asked him to take his key and go to Front Street and see if everything was all right with Ernie.

Unfortunately, he called to say that he had found Ernie dead at the bottom of the stairs in the dining room. Roy left immediately to take care of things and came back to sadly report that Ernie had apparently had a heart attack and had died.

The next day, we went to Ernie's house to see what had to be done and to carry out the arrangements he had said he wanted Roy to take care of for him. While we were there I noticed a letter addressed to Pat, all ready to go, sealed and stamped. I didn't know what to do with it.

Suppose it was written to tell her not to call him anymore. Maybe he was writing to say to stay out of his life now. Who knows what was in that letter? I took it home with me and said a prayer to St. Anthony to guide me on whether or not to mail it. What should I do?

I was really torn. I didn't want to send her anything that would hurt her, but having no idea what it said I hesitated. What I finally did was write Pat a letter explaining that Ernie had died and that I had found this letter to her and was sending it because Ernie wanted her to have it. In the envelope with my letter, I enclosed the unopened letter from Ernie.

About a week later, a letter came from California. I actually shook while I opened it. What would she say to me? What she said was, "Thank you, thank you for sending Ernie's letter to me. In the letter he told me that he had always loved me and that when he felt better he was going to come to California to see me."

I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was a letter in which he said all the things she had wanted to hear for years.

Pat and I kept in touch for a few years after that and then her daughter wrote to tell me that she, too, had died. I have always been happy that something told me to send her the letter.

[The story bin at The Elder Storytelling Place is empty so until some new ones arrive, let's revisit some from the archive. Today, Curiosity from Norm Jenson. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Old Age is Not For Sissies

[Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today’s guest blogger is 79-year-old Chancy who blogs (avidly) at driftwood inspiration from Georgia where she was born and raised.

She has been married for 57 years, has three children and six grandchildren, four of whom, age 4 through 12, live nearby. “I was born to be a grandma,” says Chancy, “and I am good at the job.”

I had a positive role model for aging; my mother, who never let the vicissitudes of life get her down. My father died in 1939, when I was nine and my mother was only forty- five.

Times were hard for us but she made sure we got by. No luxuries but since it was during the Depression and World War 2, I did not feel poor. Most everyone was in the same boat. We even had ration coupons for shoes. I did not feel deprived wearing the same pair of saddle oxfords and one pair of penny loafers all through high school. Scarcity was the norm during the war years.

My mother didn't moan and cry about being left a widow with a small child. She had nowhere to turn for financial or emotional support. In 1939 at age, 45, she was considered too “old“ to teach school. She had been a school teacher years before in a one-room school house. There was no demand for someone of her “advanced age” in the local schools. Besides it was during the Depression, but somehow she made do.

Later on, after I married, my mother lived with us for thirteen years. Not always a bed of roses but she was wonderful with our children, and my husband was an understanding, caring person who welcomed her into our home.

She was a positive person filled with a strong faith in life and God. She remained so until she died at the age of 91. She suffered greatly at the end, but she endured with grace and dignity.

I want "just one more day" to sit and talk with her and tell her I understand so much better now the rough times she encountered as she aged.. I am sure she would have some invaluable insight she could share with me, her 79-year-old daughter.

Since I can no longer learn from my mother, I searched the web for insight into old age. Some years back, Art Linkletter had a popular TV show. Then later, his lecture tour was entitled "Old Age Is Not for Sissies,” also the title of his 23rd book. Art was born in 1912, and is still living at age 96.

“Spend your time doing what you love. If you’re working. If you decide to retire. Fill your days with your passion. Get satisfaction. Create joy,” he says.

“Share yourself, your time and your money with others. Get involved. Nothing creates more health and happiness than doing something for others. You’ll live longer.

“Find a great family doctor. Get to know him or her. See them a couple times a year and follow their advice.”

Linkletter says his life was saved more than once by good medical intervention.

“Love your family. That is your rock. Your place of strength. Value them, love them.”

We can learn from positive examples of those who have successfully traveled the road to old age before us.

Prayer in Old Age, attributed to a 17th Century nun:

"Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am getting older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion.

“Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody, helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.

“Keep my mind from the recital of endless details - give me the wings to come to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others' pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

“I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others.

“Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet. I do not want to be a saint - some of them are so hard to live with - but a sour old woman is one of the crowning works of the devil.

“Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and the talents in unexpected people. And give me the grace to tell them so."

[The story bin at The Elder Storytelling Place is empty so until some new ones arrive, let's revisit some from the archive. Today, The Art of Dying from Alan G. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

A Few Odd Moments in the IT Industry

[Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By.

Today, it is Peter Tibbles, from Australia, who sent along this bio:

I was born in a small country town in western Victoria (Nhill, in case you're interested and it's pronounced nil) and lived there for my first thirteen years, writes Peter Mum was very happy there (that's where she was born) but dad thought he'd like to give his kiddies the best education possible. He said I could keep going as long as I won scholarships (as he didn't have much money).

Well, I was a bit of a smart-fart and did just that [that sounds a bit big-headed]. So, we came to the big smoke (Melbourne) and I eventually went to Melbourne University, initially as a physics major but I switched to mathematics as it entailed less work and was easier.

I eventually stumbled into the IT industry when mum thrust The Age in front of me (after I'd been lounging around at home for a couple of months) and said, 'There's a job for a computer programmer. Go get it.'

I married in 1971 and divorced not long afterwards. No kids (which means, of course, that I never grew up). Although technically not a baby boomer (I was born a year or so too early), I share many of the values of the older boomers - not worrying about the future especially. This is the reason I'm still working.

Peter also enclosed his short bio:

I drink wine
I listen to music
I read books
Often at the same time.

I may not be the oldest person working in the IT industry, or one who has spent the longest time doing this. However, I think I'd come close, certainly on the second count.

I thought when I started this I'd do it until something more interesting came along. Maybe as a fabulously well-paid, best-selling author, someone Paul Auster would look up to (oops, perhaps that should be Peter Carey). Or perhaps a great rock guitarist. Someone who would make Robbie Robertson think twice about playing alongside.

However, apart from the odd piece on TimeGoesBy and trying to get to the end of "Stage Fright" before the arthritis kicks in, I haven't given up the day job yet.

I started in this business in 1967. It's been 42 years now. The first computer I worked on, and this is for the folks who appreciate these things, was an IBM 360-20. This was a giant machine that had its own air-conditioned room. It was about the size of four refrigerators laid on their side. High enough to lean on (which we did quite often). This had 20K of memory, no disk, no terminal.

It had a card reader and punch, a printer and four tape drives. To compile a program required the computer to read it from the card reader, burble away for a long time, backwards and forwards on the tape drives and eventually spit out the program on the card punch.

This process took so long that we quickly learned to write efficient, accurate programs. If there was a mistake we couldn't repeat the process until the next day. Try telling that to the young folks today and they won't believe you (sorry, I couldn't resist that).

There were some positives about this industry. One was being able to travel and be paid for it. It resulted in my spending some considerable time in the USA (that's travel for a young lad from Australia) in a few of the more entertaining parts - San Francisco, Boston, Albuquerque and Los Angeles.

An interesting point, as we are on TimeGoesBy: about ten years ago I was on a contract for a development that had to be completed rather quickly, about a year or so - that's quick in this business. There were eight contractors brought in to do the job. Not one of us was under fifty years old.

The job came in on time and under budget (as they say in Hollywood). Actually, I don't know about the budget bit, but as it was on time I assume this was so. Imagine that. A bunch of fifty-plus folks doing cutting-edge IT work. Tell that to the young folks (etc).

I was out of work for a couple of years not so long ago which did nasty things to my bank account. The company I was working for (actually as a contractor, not an employee) decided I was surplus to requirements. Oh dear, check the job adverts.

I'd apply for jobs and pretty much always get an interview. However, you could see it in their eyes: "Hmm, I'd be employing my father. What does he know about computers?" Sometimes even grand-father. "What's this old codger doing here? My grand-dad doesn't even know how to turn on a computer." Well, he probably does, he's almost certainly surfing the web for whatever turns him on.

They wouldn't say anything like that, of course. That was just my over-active imagination.

Now and then the person was closer to my age. For ten or fifteen years after I started in this strange way to make a living, everyone knew everyone in the industry. Or at least knew of everyone. These interviews usually were more reminiscences of people and places we had in common. Didn't get those jobs either.

After a couple of years, the company alluded to above decided that they needed me after all. Back in the day I'd have told them to go jump but, as I was getting somewhat nervous about buying food and the like, I rejoined.

Fortunately, they decided they wanted me badly enough I could negotiate. More loose scratch than I was getting before and only working four days a week. I could buy groceries again (not to mention good wine, CDs and books).

[The story bin at The Elder Storytelling Place is empty so until some new ones arrive, let's revisit some from the archive. Today, The Ring-Tailed Tooter of Thunder Road from Cowtown Pattie. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Hope and Fear

Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today’s guest blogger is Kate Winner of KateThoughts who says she is a product of her time, her family, her religious history, her (often much older) friends, and her varied, and not always traditional education.

She thinks she knows all about the School of Hard Knocks, says Kate, but her life has been pretty easy. She has written and/or “journaled” for years, and began blogging back in the days when she was creating a coaching business. Now she blogs for fun, for clarity of mind, and for exploring the ideas that sprout from the writings of others.

Lately, there has been a lot of stuff about hope and heart and resolutions, about change and pulling together, and about bailouts and bunglers. Some of it is seasonal, some is political and economic. All of it has to do with, and can be affected by our consciousness, both individually and collectively.

Most people I know are fearful these days. Me too. Often.

But fear works directly against me, I think. So does hope.

Consider hope as a word. According to the Free Dictionary, it always points to the future. It means,

  • to look forward to with confidence or expectation
  • ...theological virtue defined as the desire and search for a future good...

Pema Chödrön, in her book called When Things Fall Apart, has this to say:

"Hope and fear is a feeling with two sides. As long as there's one, there's always the other…In the world of hope and fear, we always have to change the channel, change the temperature, change the music, because something is getting uneasy, something is getting restless, something is beginning to hurt, and we keep looking for alternatives."

She goes on to say,

"Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can't simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment."

So, if we abandon hope and its partner fear, what is left to us? I think it is mindfulness; an opportunity to be fully present with ourselves – right now – in a way that can clear up the turmoil we feel when we focus on the current economic news, for example. Those of you who meditate may understand this better than I or be able to articulate it better.

I believe that all, literally ALL, is rocking along exactly as it should. I can imagine that everything that has and is happening is doing so in order for me to get just exactly the right lessons to move me forward on the path I've chosen. I believe that is true for us as a nation, too.

We got here by the actions that we took, the decisions we made. Collectively, of course. The fact that I didn't vote for Bush didn't stop him from being my president. It means to me that, collectively, We the People chose him. So my job now is to learn from the experience and determine what my next step(s) will be.

I learned to count worth in terms of dollars. Most of us did. And that has led us to a culture that builds in obsolescence. Things must get old and worn out, so we can buy a new one - a better one - one that comes with everything! If we don't, the economy will falter and people will lose jobs and it will all be my fault.

What does this have to do with aging?

Is it any wonder that people become obsolete, too? That ”old” in our culture starts at about 30 or 35, and that we “should” all die, or at least have the grace to stay out of sight with our mouths shut?

What am I to do about that? What is most important for me to consider now, at age 61-and-a-half?

I can be clear. I can be present. I can NOT play the “ain't it awful” game with my neighbor. I can choose to see that right now I have the best opportunity to reconsider how I live and what I model for others.

I'm learning more about recycling; I'm considering what I really need rather than continuing that sort of knee-jerk shopping that I used to do so thoughtlessly. I can start a discussion about the future here, and with my friends and neighbors. I can imagine a new and different country. Yes, we need some economic recovery. And don't we also need a new and different ethic and a little less fear?

I strongly believe that the words we use and the thoughts we think all have an energy of their own that has a part in creating the world in which we live. So, I must choose my words and actions carefully and imagine that someone is watching; someone who will learn from me about how to be.

This, I believe, is a part of my purpose for being here and a big part of my legacy for the future; my job, if you will. I believe it applies to all of us. It is in these things that our present happiness resides. If we attend to these now, the future will take care of itself, and us.

[The story bin at The Elder Storytelling Place is empty so until some new ones arrive, let's revisit some from the archive. Today, The Man Who Thought He Was a Train from Susan Fisher. All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Old and Leading the Way

Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today’s guest blogger is Paul Goode who blogs as Citizen K and lives in the Pacific Northwest.

After a career in the high-tech business, he enjoys writing about such lifelong obsessions as politics, music, movies, books, travel and the Boston Red Sox. Getting older doesn’t stop him from having a good time even if getting out of bed isn’t as easy as it used to be.

A sure sign of pending dotage came when I idly flipped through Rolling Stone magazine’s top 50 CDs of the year and realized that of the two I owned, one of them was by 67-year-old Bob Dylan. And not only that, I hadn’t even heard of the other 48.

A deep fear set in, forcing me to confront the question I had been evading for years. Does aging mean the end of being cool? Does it imply a cultural hip replacement that relegates our CD player to endless repeats of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Greatest Hits?

It is true that the best work of many of the singers and bands we came of age with is long behind them. When I saw CSN last summer, it was to hear Teach Your Children and Almost Cut My Hair, to hear the old songs and reconnect with my youth. That’s fine: our kids might make fun of it now, but they will do it too.

I'm not getting any younger and much new rock and rap music doesn't speak to me by virtue of differences in life experience. That hardly disqualifies it from excellence, but it does disqualify me from grasping it well enough to comment on it intelligently.

That being said, I'm nonetheless struck by the exceptionally high quality of music released in 2008 by older artists, even if I am predisposed to appreciate it. In particular, I mean those musicians who find inspiration in aging, using perspective and hard-won wisdom to expand and deepen their artistic vision.

The best album I heard in 2008 was, hands down, Bob Dylan’s Tell Tale Signs: The Bootleg Series Vol. 8 (1989-2006). This collection of demos, alternate versions, old folk songs, live cuts and previously unreleased songs coheres unexpectedly into a sweeping dystopian vision of a major artist approaching old age.

This world is no great shakes, Dylan says, but music is at least a way of getting to the truth of it while celebrating the ability of humans to create and communicate through song.

On About Time, the trailblazing avant-garde pianist Paul Bley (75) improvises for 33 minutes about the nature of time and memory. Tempi shift suddenly, dynamics change, phrases linger nostalgically and then give way to something more pressing.

Largely contemplative, Bley explores the elusive nature of his subjects with insight and nuance. While his introspective style recalls Bill Evans, to these ears Bley plays with greater complexity and muscularity. Like time, About Time passes all too quickly while seeming to stand still, so for fun he includes an interpretation of Sonny Rollin's Pent-Up House. Beautiful, wise and compelling.

Joan Baez’ (67) pristine soprano is now more of a weathered contralto. No matter: On Day After Tomorrow, the voice of experience buttressed by a deeply held faith and Steve Earle's sympathetic production betters the easy certainties of her youth.

Singing ten songs by the likes of Earle, Patty Griffin, Elyza Gilkyson, Elvis Costello and Tom Waits (!), Baez makes them all indelibly hers. She looks back with few regrets, looks ahead with hope and still believes.

The Cuban songstress Omara Portuondo (78) may not be well known in this country, but that’s a function of misguided politics and not talent: Omara has the pipes of 25-year-old but sings with the wisdom of age.

Gracias consists mostly of ballads and lullabies supported by spare arrangements featuring fingerpicked seven-string guitar and various Cuban percussion instruments. The occasional guest enhances the proceedings, but they are hardly necessary.

The accompanying booklet is a gem: there's a photograph for every song of Omara at different stages of her life starting with childhood. The pictures range from candid family photos to glam shots from her days at the Havana Tropicana. The name of the CD may be Gracias, but it's we who should thank her for recording this gem.

Other older artists who released notable CDs in 2008 include Jackson Browne (60), Dr. John (68), Dick Gaughan (60), Emmylou Harris (61), Richie Havens (67), Charles Lloyd (70), Otis Taylor (60), and Andre Williams (72).

Last year, I saw outstanding performances from Baez, Kevin Burke (58), Gaughan (60), Lloyd, Robert Plant (60) with Alison Krauss, Bruce Springsteen (59), James Blood Ulmer (66), and Johnny Winter (64). 74-year old Leonard Cohen toured Europe and received scintillating reviews.

If I had to pick, the best performance I saw last year was by the 70-year old saxophonist Lloyd. It's enough to make me believe that my most creative days lie ahead.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Morgana King reflects on a most remarkable life in Second Saturn Cycle Retrospective.]


Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today’s guest blogger is 90-year-old Leah Aronoff. Here is the short bio she sent to go with this story:

Born 1918, in New York City. Daughter of Russian immigrants. Hunter College graduate (no tuition!). Latch key child, both parents worked in garment industry. Our social life was in the arts and theater.

Grew up, more or less, and married a Cincinnatian, which meant moving to Cincinnati. Fish out of water. Work experience: from NYA to car hop to dental assistant to University of Cincinnati Art Librarian, to faculty member in the Graduate Department of Community Planning, University of Cincinnati.

Retired and stopped smoking at the same time. Two grown (of course) children. Grandcats and granddogs.

Current activities: reading, museums and galleries, politics, theater. Also interested in modern dance, masks, and, in the past, did a lot of spinning, dyeing, weaving.

Trying to deal with a diagnosis of stomach cancer, and not looking forward to a late January operation. I mention this only because I’m trying to find people with a similar experience with whom I can feel free to chat about related issues, and this seems a straw-grasping opportunity.

Being ninety is what others make of you. It is not necessarily what you are. This leaves you free to be whatever you want to be.

Time and timing take on extra significance. You think you did or said something five minutes ago, when actually you did or said it five months ago - or weeks, or years. When the discrepancy is noted, you weakly respond, “Oh, yes,” with an expression on your face that you hope looks less foolish than you feel, or sound.

Mentally, things are just a wee bit worse than they were at 89. Fortunately, the downward progression is gradual for the most part and barely noticed, certainly by the 90-year-old. The drawback? The person who catches one in a memory lapse is likely to say, or think, “What else can you expect of someone that old?”

This 90-year-old feels wistful about the future, which could be next week as well as six months from now. There is a definite uncertainty about just how much future lies ahead.

Some things lose relevance to a greater or lesser degree. Take the AARP publications, for example. For some years you’ve been letting your anger build up at the belief that AARP and its writers have no understanding of the differences between 50 (the age of membership acceptance) and 70 and above. Many over seventy are not only unable to manage the physical accomplishments of their 50-year-old selves, they completely have lost all physical resemblance to the vibrant, slim, full-haired overachievers pictured in AARP publications.

At 90, the sight and contents of these newsletters and magazines cause the reaction, “What the hell does all that have to do with me?”

(I personally believe AARP should split in two and thus be more appropriately able to serve the two separate age groups in every category, including finances and health. For instance, at 50 your financial efforts are certainly more lively than at 70, at which time you are more than likely retired, or unable to work. And how many 50-year-olds are helped by the advice to take their multiple pills in pudding?)

A good part of being what you are at 90 is, as noted, is what others make of you. As described above, according to those younger than you, you are probably dragging a bit mentally. It takes a little longer to get the right words out, but you do eventually manage, either by yourself or with the help of your listeners.

Does this make you more stupid than you were? I don’t know, protestations of my grown children and my younger friends notwithstanding.

Physical incapacities are definitely assumed by everyone in your immediate vicinity. Not necessarily noted, just assumed. That is, the 90-year-old is distinctly viewed as incapable, true or not. Offers of help come pouring out from friends and strangers alike. “I’ll take that.” “Let me carry that.” “I’ll do that.” Hands grab for elbows - “That’s a curb.” “That’s a step.” “I’ll open that.” And there’s the generic, “Let me.”

I am offered the most help by an 88-year-old friend who is no more capable than I. Perhaps it’s the maudlin tenor of the voice that disturbs me most. I’d be so much happier if people waited for me to ask for help, which I would do without qualm if I felt the necessity.

If, at 90, you enjoy being catered to and waited on, be my guest. I suspect your slothful ways may work against you - keep you from doing things for yourself when the capability is there, and no one is around to give you a hand. It is easier to lose your self-sufficiency and capability at 90, when it is downright refreshing to be able to say, “I can do that.” “I don’t need help,” I often feel like shouting. I don’t feel the need to make other people feel better at my expense.

Fifty- and sixty-year-olds of my acquaintance don’t need help opening jars and cans. Eighty- and 90-year-olds pour over self-help catalogs with the same enthusiasm once reserved for Esquire and Vogue. Gadget manufacturers take notice!

Fifty- and 60-year-olds can still afford to be adventuresome in their dining habits. My taste buds seem to have been eroded sometime within the past few years. I, who couldn’t prepare food without garlic, can no longer taste that necessity of life. Food no longer tastes as good, and we don’t seem to need as much of it. (Could all the medications we consume be replacing part of the pyramidal food chain?)

Finally, I, for one, am quite a bit easier going than I was and don't get so upset by behaviors and comments that once drove me nuts and kept me awake at night.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sydney Halet gives us a poem of childhood, Goin' Fishin'.]

Early Work Tips

Some good friends, all met through blogging, are filling in for me while I take a two-week sabbatical from Time Goes By. Today’s guest blogger is Steve Sherlock who blogs mainly at Steve’s 2 Cents and also at quiet poet where his verse and sherku can be found at Franklin Matters, about his current hometown in Massachusetts.

Recently part of a "reduction in force" by his former employer, he is enjoying some "sabbatical time" to put together a business plan for what he will do next. This business plan will the be key to assuring Dolores, his wonderful wife, that all will be well. Together, they want to continue enjoying the empty nest while their daughters are away; one at college, one recently graduated and working.

  • Wet it but don't let it drip
  • Hit it while it's pink

These are two good pieces of advice I received early in my working life that still ring true. Knowing how to slice steel or scoop ice cream is important.

In the early 1970's, my first "real" job was scooping ice cream for the Newport Creamery that used to operate on Central Ave in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. I learned quickly that the ice cream scoop needed to be wet to scoop the hard packed ice cream without breaking your arm.

The scoop shouldn't be dripping wet. That would bring water into the ice cream which would crystallize and make the ice cream more "ice" than cream. Taking the scooper from the little shelf where running water kept them wet, shaking it on a towel to remove the excess water, and then reaching in to the container to bring out the single or double scoop of maple walnut, pistachio, or one of the many other flavors that Newport Creamery was noted for was much easier that way.

I only worked at the take out counter for about six weeks before my father managed to get me into his steel mill, Washburn Wire Company in Phillipsdale, Rhode Island. This was a steel mill that had operated from the early 1900s. I felt like I was stepping back into time going there. I also tripled the hourly wage I was making so that was great.

If you were given a hatchet and asked to take a sample from that coiled steel rod, would you say something like: "You're crazy!" I did.

But it was true. Holding the end of the coiled steel with a pair of tongs, I would use the hatchet to slice about a foot off the rod. The sample would be put into a bucket for the metallurgist to test to ensure that the mill was running well. He would check to see that the rod was indeed being drawn into the round, oval or rectangular shape that the run required.

In the #2 Wire Mill, the rod started out in the furnace where the two-inch by six-inch billet was heated to approximately 1900 degrees F. It ejected from the furnace and was guided into a series of rollers.

There were four monstrous devices that at each step pulled the billet, shaping it and stretching it out from its original 30-foot length to end up coiled at my foot more than 300 foot in length. It was still so hot that stepping up to the coil, I could drop a candy wrapper into the center and in would incinerate before touching the ground as flakes.

Using the tongs, I grabbed the end of the rod, stretched it out over a cutting block and used the hatchet to slice off the sample. The key was to hit the steel while it was still pink. Once it started turning silver, the hatchet would bounce off. If a sample was really required from that coil, I would need to use some serious wire cutters. But as long as the steel was pink, the hatchet sliced it like butter.

I have not had much opportunity to cut steel recently but when scooping ice cream for dessert, the water trick works as well today as it did then.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson deals with the difficulty of dressing for the holiday season in The Joy of Aging.]

Time Goes By Takes a Sabbatical

As the headline indicates, there is no Elder Music today.

I started planning Time Goes By in the summer of 2003. I wasn’t posting yet, but it took all my free time (I was still working then) for two or three months planning what the blog would be, creating the design, layout, general look-and-feel, and tweaking the code until it was just right.

Soon thereafter, I was laid off work and spent one year making employment search my full-time job and when that failed, another year preparing my New York home for sale, looking for a new one in Portland, Maine, and making the move, at last, in June of 2006.

In all these years, I’ve never taken more than a week at a time off from the blog and rarely that. I’m feeling a bit weary, stale and in need of refreshing my mind. Not that there isn’t a lot of research and reading to do and plenty to write about – I have a list of dozens of stories I want to do. But I’m supposedly retired, damn it, and have no idea what I would do faced with a period of unstructured time with no daily obligation.

So I’m taking off the next two weeks. I won’t be traveling and I’ve made no plans beyond a stack of books I haven’t found time to read and a movie or two I want to see. Maybe I’ll take a couple of days to paint the dining room. Or maybe I won’t.

For the interim, I have collected from hither and yon a fabulous group of original guest posts from elderbloggers along with a couple of columns from regular TGB contributors and some other goodies to entertain, instruct and amuse you while I’m absent. I know you will give the writers the same attention and contribute the same thoughtful, funny and compelling comments you so graciously leave on my own scribblings.

And if not, I’ll be checking in to urge you on.

The Elder Storytelling Place will also appear, as usual, five days a week, so please continue to send your excellent stories. It’s not like I’m going to shut down the computer and email, and I look forward to whatever you come up with next, as I always do.

Elder News, Elder Music, Crabby Old Lady, Ollie the cat and I will return in our regular places in two weeks and who knows, maybe I’ll think up some new features while I have a rest.

Since I won't be at Time Goes By for the day of the the most extraordinary inauguration in my lifetime, here is a video of all 44 presidents. (Hat tip to Melinda Applegate) [3:58 minutes]

Elderblogging Friends in Person

Back in May, results of the TGB survey of elderbloggers, 50 percent said they had made friends through blogging and 27 percent said they had met at least one blogger in person. In the past month, I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with four bloggers.

Stan James of Wandering Stan (and a founder of Lijit) is, in his 30s, hardly an elderblogger, but he has become a good friend since we met in Seattle at the 2007 Gnomedex conference. This visit was his second long weekend with me here in Portland. In between rainstorms we drove up to Wiscasset for lobster rolls at Red’s Eats. That’s Stan on the far right.


It doesn’t feel like there are 30-odd years between us and from our first meeting, as sometimes happens, it was as though we had known one another for years. It was nice that he likes the name of this shop in Wiscasset as much as I do.


A couple of weeks ago, Citizen K and his wife, Premium T – who live in Seattle and keep eponymous blogs – stopped by on their way to New York City after visiting K’s father in northern Maine. Over brunch, we talked politics (of course) and books and places we’ve been and people we’ve met.


It’s such a shame we all live to far apart, but good to know that when next I travel to the west coast, there are people I look forward to seeing again.

Last week, I spent three days with Alexandra Grabbe and her husband Sven in Wellfleet on Cape Cod where Sandy runs a bed and breakfast – Chez Sven.


It’s a beautiful, 200-year-old house where Sandy cared for her mother during her last year and half which she recounted in her blog, By Bea’s Bedside, where I first became acquainted with Sandy online.

The place is surrounded by gardens…


And I even had just-picked raspberries for dessert one evening, a fresh treat I’ve not had since childhood.


Sandy was generous with her time. On a tour of the town and surrounding area, we stopped by the ocean…


And went by the local library, the hub of community activity in Wellfleet, says Sandy, which you can see from the bulletin board of upcoming events.


Sandy managed to snag free tickets for us to a new play, The George Place, at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (W.H.A.T.). All three of us decided the play needs work, but it was an enjoyable evening out.

Sandy and Sven were warm and comfortable hosts, providing me with not only a lovely mini-vacation just before winter descends, but a chance to get to know another elderblogger in person.


Plus, there was this peculiar, little shrine just down the dirt road from Chez Sven. I’ll blame it on old age that I can’t remember the story Sandy told me about its origin – maybe she’ll stop by and explain in the comments.


[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Linda Carmi explains the importance of Yoga Schmoga.]

Our Blog Friends

Over the past couple of months, I have received a fair amount of email from new readers wanting to know how to make friends online. Some ask for advice about starting a blog; others aren’t quite ready for that leap but would still like to connect with people their age.

In my own experience, I’ve found that it’s hard not to find friends if you jump in and make yourself part of the conversation on blogs. Darlene, now of Darlene’s Hodgepodge, had been a regular around the blogosphere for a couple of years before she began her blog, as had joared of Along the Way and Naomi Dagen Bloom of A Little Red Hen. I’m sure there are others who don’t come to mind right now.

There are also non-blogging readers we come to know through their comments (and at this blog, from their contributions to The Elder Storytelling Place) and with some, we further the friendship through email. In the TGB Blogging Survey in May, half of the 187 who responded to the question (all were age 50 or older) said they had made friends through blogging.

blog friends graph

In a follow-up question, nearly 32 percent of the 373 who answered the question described their relationship with blog friends as “good friends” or “as important as real world friends."

blog relationships

Sometimes we get to meet our online friends in person. I’ve been pleased to meet quite a few: Claude of Blogging in Paris, Millie of My Mom’s Blog, Pete of As I Was Saying…, Marian Van Eyk McCain of ElderWomanBlog, amba of Ambivablog, Frank Paynter of listics, Betsy Devine of Betsy Devine: Funny Ha-Ha or Funny Peculiar, Francine Hardaway of Stealthmode, Deejay of Small Beer, younger bloggers like Chris Pirillo of pirillo.com and Stan James of Wandering Stan and more (apologies to those unnamed).

I've known some of these people for years - they have become old friends now as have others there has not been the opportunity to meet (yet).

Although it is unlikely I’ll ever get on airplane again unless it’s a matter of life and death, wherever I go, I check to see if there are elderbloggers in the city to which I’m traveling and if we can make time to get together. Also, I’m surprised at how many bloggers I know online have reasons to visit so far afield as Portland, Maine. Citizen K and I are making arrangements now to meet when he and his wife are here in September.

Just guessing, but my closest friends are now split about evenly between offline and online, and those with whom I’m closest are equally important, whichever "world" they fall into; whether I know them in person or at the distance of a keyboard.

A sad result of getting old is how friends tend to die. One here, one there and pretty soon you’re talking about big-time holes in your life. The memories of old friends are wonderful to have, but it’s hard to meet them for dinner or have a phone chat.

Which is a big reason I work hard to advocate elderblogging. In retirement, we lose the daily camaraderie of the workplace, we may need to give up the car keys and sometimes physical mobility becomes limited. But sitting at the computer, we have a literal world of potential friends at our fingertips.

All you need to take advantage of that is to be open, join the conversation (don’t lurk for too long) and follow up with those for whom you feel a simpatico. And bloggers – be sure to welcome newcomers when you see their names in the comments more than once. Help bring them into the world of elderblogging and the world of friendship it creates.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Younkins is back with another poem, Golfer's Lament.]