Here is a Monday holiday break for you. Well, we don't actually mention the holiday in this episode of the show. As usual, it's a casual chat between two people who were married once upon a time about half a century ago.
This was recorded on Wednesday 28 August.
We both hope you are having a happy and pleasant holiday weekend.
This episode of The Alex and Ronni Show was recorded last Wednesday, 14 August. Since then, Jeffrey Epstein's death, which we discuss about halfway through the video, has been declared a suicide by the medical examiner.
I've never been a conspiracy theorist but I still think it's fishy.
Unrelated to anything Alex and I discussed in this video, I was was watching live TV reports of the protest marches of Proud Boys and Antifa in Portland, Oregon, on Saturday while idly skimming through online news.
I found this lovely story about a former refugee who was given a bicycle by an aid worker in the Holland camp where she lived with her parents for several years when she was a little girl. "My five-year-old heart exploded with joy," she said.
As young as she was then, she never forgot the man's kindness. Twenty-nine years old now and living in London, she took a long shot recently, posting a photo of him on Twitter asking if anyone knows his name or where he lives.
Given how much bad stuff goes on on the internet, this is a refreshing story. Read it at Daily Kos. It's worth your time and you will feel really good when you've finished.
Every day, my email box fills with half a dozen, often more, newsletters urging me to do, do, do. (AARP and Next Avenue are particularly prolific at this.)
Walk 10,000 steps, they tell me, volunteer, get a part-time job, take a class, declutter my home and much more depending on what a new book or media star is recommending this week.
One important thing about these messages: I can't prove it of course, but I believe they are written by younger adults (let's call them pre-elders for now) who haven't a clue yet what old age is like.
This idea has been rolling around in my head for awhile now. I had intended to write about it but TGB reader Ann Burack-Weiss beat me to it in a TGB Reader Story that I published on Tuesday titled My Comfort Zone.
”You’d think they’d let up by the time you reach your 80s,” writes Ann. “That all you need do to keep yourself going is to keep yourself going. But no; everything you hear or read pushes you toward new horizons...
“Old folks are repeatedly told to heed the siren call of the untried that, from the beginning of time, has lured humans from their caves into the sun of enhanced existence...”
After giving a bunch of good reasons to reject this kind of thinking about elders, Ann concludes:
”So I’ll stay right here. Comforted by the familiar, buoyed by memories. Relaxing? Lolling? No, wallowing – that’s the word I’m looking for, wallowing, in my comfort zone.”
The comments on Ann's post, with only one demur as I write this on Tuesday, join me in enthusiastically supporting her point of view.
These days, I like being home. One trip per day out the door is about all I can tolerate now – to the grocery store, lunch with a friend, and in my particular case, doctor visits. I love it when friends come to my home for a visit. Home is my comfort zone and I “wallow” in the days I don't need to go somewhere – no matter what the pre-elders think I should be doing.
On The Alex and Ronni Show this week we covered a bunch of topics that are in the news this week. Alex emailed to say the picture freezes at some point but the audio is okay, then the video comes back. Sorry. As he says, "I'm getting to hate all technology."
In addition to tomorrow, I'm taking an extra day (today) off from the blog.
Even though the president of the United States has hijacked our country's traditional celebration in Washington, D.C. and replaced it with a campaign rally, including a VIP section at the Lincoln Memorial where only his friends and family are allowed, you and I can still celebrate in our own ways.
Usually I post fireworks on this holiday. But it occurred to me that given the kind of man we have in the White House and the many assaults/insults he has visited on our laws, institutions and ideals, perhaps it would be good to have a reminder of one of our founding documents which this holiday was created to celebrate.
It's a short video, just four minutes, and it couldn't be more timely. Listen to this women who has spent 20 years teaching the Declaration of Independence, explain the “self-evident truths” sentence in that document. The YouTube page explains further:
”Few Americans are aware of the fact that the first printing of the Declaration of Independence contained a copy error. As a result, many subsequent republications of the text display the typo.
“In a new video filmed at the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival in June , Danielle Allen, a political theorist and professor at Harvard University, explains why this seemingly innocuous oversight can have grave consequences.
“Interpreting this sentence correctly, Allen argues, is crucial to understanding how the powers of government are organized—and, consequentially, how to be an effective civic agent.”
Happy July Fourth, everyone - and one more thing:
Here is latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show. I think we talked way too long about elder ailments but Alex doesn't agree.
Pretty much all old people complain about how time moves faster now than it did when we were younger. An hour can, and frequently does, feel like 10 minutes to me. But if you compare your clock to a young person's, they match no matter what your subjective estimate of time's passage is.
Children are well known to have an opposite “wait” problem with time. Even when their birthday is due in a week, it feels to them like the day will never arrive.
I have my own theory about what makes time perception so different between children and old people. I doubt it's unique – I probably read it somewhere but here it is:
Children have short attention spans. They switch what they are doing more frequently than grownups. Coloring is fine until the dog wanders by and the kid wants a snuggle. Then she settles down with a new favorite book until that pales and she tracks down the movie, Frozen. And so on.
In that same period of time, her grandmother has probably read a few news stories – one activity compared to several of the child's. The child, obviously has many different and more importantly, often new experiences in that period which tends to stretch out their time perception, making the activity more memorable than an adult's with fewer new activities.
I've spent a lot of time in my life trying to figure out the slipperiness of time and I've accumulated a small but impressive library of books on the subject.
The website, Exactly what is...TIME?, has collected a lot of information about time too and made it easy for non-philosophers and non-physicists to understand.
People have been trying to figure out time since – well, time immemorial. According to that website:
”Nearly two and a half thousand years ago, Aristotle contended that, 'time is the most unknown of all unknown things', and arguably not much has changed since then.”
In general, time cannot even be adequately defined. Many years ago, I kept a fortune cookie fortune taped to my desk because its definition of time seemed to me to be as good as anyone else's and practical too:
”Time is nature's way of making sure everything doesn't happen at once.”
Works for me. And now I find out that definition is prominently listed on the Time website, where you can also read about black holes (where time began?), the big bang, deep time, space-time and many other theories of time.
Since the mysteries of time are unlikely to be solved any time soon, I'll see if there is anything I can do about my personal difficulty on the subject:
My lament nowadays is how long it takes to do almost anything compared to the past. Apparently I move at about half the speed I once did and time itself seems to be moving at least twice as fast as it did back then. You do the math – no wonder I'm always behind.
What about you?
* * *
My former husband and I held our biweekly chitchat yesterday - The Alex and Ronni Show. We discussed my “new look”, parents, old age and related topics.
As author of yesterday's Reader Story, officerripley, certainly hit a chord with denizens of Time Goes. Lots of other readers joined in with related personal stories, useful information and no small amount of wisdom.
If you missed it, officerripley's story and the comments are all worthy of your time to read about finding our tribes in old age.
There was a consensus among some who commented that this blog is kind of a tribe of its own and some wondered how readers who get to know one another via those comments could be put in touch with one another in person or, at least, email.
We tried that a month or two ago when I explained how I would put one reader in touch with another if both agreed. After all the setup, I received only one request.
Due to how easily I tire these days because of my breathing difficulty, I can't take that on again right now, but remind me in a month or so and if enough people are interested, we might give it another try.
A long while ago, nearly 10 years, when I first moved to Oregon, I held an in-person meet-up at my home. About 10 or 12 local readers came and we had a lovely afternoon.
Yesterday, reader Charlotte Dahl left this note in response to reading about 25 comments before hers:
”Sounds like a family to me. Wouldn't it be great if we could all meet up and form our own tribe? Meanwhile we can still be pen pals.”
As I said, it is a decade later now and with my cancer, breathing, etc., maybe I don't have the energy for it now, but let's see in a month or six weeks. We're in the good-weather period of the year and maybe an in person get-together is something we would like to try - at least for people who are nearby - and perhaps other might be able to do it at the same time in their communities. We could Skype one another's meet-ups.
Now, here is today's episode of The Alex and Ronni Show - this one about a radio program we produced with John and Yoko just about 50 years ago. (The video starts in the middle and I don't know how to fix that. Just move the slider at the bottom to the left to start at the beginning.)
What a terrific discussion you made of Wednesday's post from Crabby Old Lady. I mostly keep our distance on this blog from the constant turmoil from Trump – there is more than enough writing about him and his misplaced belief in his own genius.
As Susan began her comment:
”Dear Crabby Lady: Thanks so much for making me feel not so alone in the spikes of “omg, what is it going to take for someone to do something here?????!!!)”
“Making me feel not so alone”. There is nothing quite like talking with and listening to others to help us understand our predicament whether it is a dangerous president or growing old.
”...it helps – a lot sometimes - to learn that other people are struggling through the same things you are. It doesn't mean we don't also laugh, read books, go to the movies and whatever else engages us that is still possible. But letting off steam together kind of clears the air.”
On The Alex and Ronni Show that my former husband and I recorded yesterday, we took opposite sides in our discussion of growing old. Alex sees the darker side; I take a lighter view of.
It's mid-afternoon and I'm tired so I will cut this short today.
Yesterday, my former husband, Alex Bennett, and I recorded our biweekly video. We caught up on my condition with pancreatic cancer and talked a great deal about Jeopardy! host Alex Trebeck's recent diagnosis of the same disease.
We also spent some time on climate change, on both Trebeck's and my personal feelings of our great, good luck having so many people who send us much love, concern and care about our disease. We even managed to sneak in a short mention of “Jeopardy James” at the end. Have a look:
”Are you, Ronni, considering suicide? I support whatever decision you make. Realize also that there is a suicide hotline phone number. Call them first.”
Not “considering suicide” it, Ellen. I have chosen it – medical aid in dying - when the time comes.
Although we have discussed this before on this blog, it has been awhile. I live in Oregon which more than 20 years ago passed the first “death with dignity law” - also known as “physician-assisted suicide” and “medical aid in dying” along with a few other names.
In April this year, New Jersey's governor signed a bill making that state the eighth to allow terminally ill patients to request prescriptions from their doctors for medication to end their lives. It will go into effect on 1 August.
Of course, using these laws is a bit more complicated than just saying, “Hey doc, I'm ready for those pills.”
All the states that allow medical aid in dying have similar restrictions in place. Among them:
• The patient requesting the drugs must be mentally competent
• He/she must have fewer than six months to live as diagnosed by a physician
• The patient must initiate the request for the drugs
• The request must be confirmed by two people who are not the patient's physician nor employed by the health care facility treating the patient
• If the patient wishes to proceed, he/she must wait at least 15 days before making a second request
• The patient must administer the drug him- or herself
Wikipedia has a good short overview of how the laws generally work.
The State of Oregon's website, About the Death With Dignity Act, has pretty much everything you would want to know about it. Here are links to the pages about the laws in the other states that allow it, where there are also links to more resources:
With way too much on my to-do list yesterday, I never got around to writing a “real” blog post so let's try this.
My former husband and I recorded our bi-weekly video chat on Tuesday and unlike so many of them in the past, we hardly discussed health issues.
Instead, we talked mostly about something I hardly ever write about here, national politics: Trump, the Mueller report, crime in high places, and those 437 Democratic presidential hopefuls (at least it feels like that many).
Of all those potential candidates, I told Alex I have a leaning toward Mayor Pete Buttigiag. Still, it's a long way until the 2020 election and god only knows what will happen or what we'll learn about the candidates by then that will change our minds.
So, here is the video. Take a look and then have your go at the campaign so far, in the comments below.
Thank you for all your lovely birthday messages over these past couple of days. Friends, my son, grandson and neighbors came by on Sunday with lots of wine and food and a good time was had by all.
My apologies for the emails I have not answered. I've been extra tired this time from the chemo infusion last Thursday and I just ran out of steam. Know that I appreciate every one of you and read every message.
I never believed I would make it to this birthday, number 78, and that's not hyperbole. I didn't think I would live this long but here I am and I'm going to stop predicting – what will be will be.
And now I have some cancer news.
Remember two months ago when the CT scan showed that cancer cells had shrunk and some were not visible at all?
This time, last week, the new scan was almost as good as that one – so much so that the oncologist ordered up the next scan to be done in three months rather than the two we've been doing. And he said this too: “You're going to be with us for a good while yet.”
Okay, I don't know the definition of “good while” and, probably, the doctor doesn't either. But it's good to hear anyway.
My former husband and I recorded our bi-weekly chat, The Alex and Ronni Show yesterday. It says some of what we've talked about in this post, but here it is.
It was a nice little vacation from blog work but I'm happy to be back in the groove.
Recently, I overheard some younger people (not youth, more like – oh, early middle-age, late 30s to mid-40s or so) making plans together for a celebration they were looking forward to.
The friends were filled with enthusiasm: You'll do the decorating, right? Who wants to cook? Wait – have we decided on a menu? I'll take care of invitations. And so on.
Pulling it all together sounded like fun (I used to entertain a lot) until I recalled that those days are long behind me. I don't have the stamina nowadays, or even the breath, to do that much work.
What struck me then, however, is that as these younger people continued with their plans, how free they were from even noticing this would be the lot of work I knew it to be.
Because it would not feel like it to them.
That used to be me when I was their age. It never occurred to me then that older people would have trouble getting the preparation done, and I doubt those party planners I was overhearing thought about it either.
Because no one tells us when we are young that old age will be different. It will be harder than when we were 20 or 30 or 40 and maybe even 50.
Part of the reason, too, is that age groups in U.S. culture spend hardly any substantive time together so why would the generations know how we differ (and don't differ) from one another.
Elders' loss of strength, energy and stamina as the years pile up isn't a bad thing; it just is. Bodies wear out and perhaps youth's ignorance of old people's physical decline gives them the freedom to use their energy to full effect. Why burden them with information they don't need yet.
Or not. I'm not sure what I believe about this – it was just a passing thought that day. It's up to you now.
Yesterday, my former husband and I recorded one of our biweekly videos which, once again, centered on old-people chatter. That's because we're old.
Did you miss me? I sure missed you – five days of no access to Time Goes By, nor to email. I left a couple of notes about the problem on Facebook so you wouldn't think something terrible had happened but it's only a small group of you who access TGB from Facebook.
Sorry to have put a scare into you.
The problem came about last Wednesday when I was switching from one domain registrar to a new one. It's been more than a decade since I last did that but as careful as I was I screwed up, losing the blog and email.
Email mysteriously returned on Saturday after several semi-productive telephone conversations with the help desk at one of the registrars. I still don't understand how that happened. I'm just grateful it has returned.
Then, the always wonderful people at the Typepad help desk (which has hosted TGB for all 15 years of its life) restored Time Goes By to its – ahem – glory, and now I'm ready to get back to blog business.
The return of TGB began yesterday with posting a new Reader Story. The fix happened so late in the day, I was too tired to write a new post and I was otherwise engaged on Tuesday so I just went with this explanation and the bi-weekly Alex and Ronni Show. I think after today I'm back to usual TGB form.
THE ALEX AND RONNI SHOW
This is what should have been last week's episode of The Alex and Ronni Show.
The video is frozen for some seconds at the top of the video and it's out of sync otherwise. Alex has been having sync and other problems with the latest version of Skype and we both ask your indulgence as he works out the difficulties.
The Alex and Ronni Show at the bottom of this post featuring Ronni's black eye.
* * *
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week, issued an alert to older people that transfusions of young people's blood as an anti-ageing treatment are “unproven and potentially harmful”.
”The FDA goes on to note that such infusions are known to pose a range of health risks in humans,” reports Ars Technica. “These risks include spreading infectious disease, triggering allergic reactions, and causing lung injuries.
“In some people—particularly those with heart disease—the infusions can also overload the circulatory system, causing swelling and breathing trouble, the agency explains.”
I reported on the goulish “young blood” transfusions two years ago highlighting a private clinic called Ambrosia in Monterey, California, where people could pay $8,000 to have blood plasma from teenagers and young adults pumped into their veins.
Ambrosia's owner, Jesse Karmazin, said then that most participants “see improvement” from a one-time infusion within a month.
Although the FDA did not mention Ambrosia in their warning last week, STATnews reports that
”Karmazin, has yet to report the results of a clinical trial he ran testing the procedure, which involves an off-label use of an approved product. On Tuesday [19 February 2019], however, following the release of the FDA statement, a notice on Ambrosia’s site said it would no longer offer the transfusions.”
Further from Ars Technica:
”The sellers suggest that doses of young plasma can treat conditions ranging from normal aging and memory loss to dementia, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, or post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the FDA.”
People have been looking for a fountain of youth since at least Alexander the Great without any luck. But a growing number of researchers throughout the world have been working for years to develop treatments to slow the ageing process and extend the human lifespan.
I would be a lot happier if they would concentrate on those diseases of age listed above. As an old woman living with terminal cancer, I agree with Markus Kounalakis writing at Washington Monthly:
”The latest young blood therapy will likely only go to risk-taking well-heeled early adopters and late stagers. Here’s an alternative: Live a happy life, love, practice random acts of kindness, drink in moderation, and don’t smoke. It’s a lot easier than getting stuck with either a needle or a big blood bill.”
On Wednesday this week, Representative John Larson (D-CT), Chair of the Social Security Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, announced the introduction of the Social Security 2100 Act.
There are more than 200 co-sponsors for the legislation – all Democrats – even though the bill includes some conservative elements. As long-time Social Security and Medicare advocate, Nancy Altman, explained in Forbes:
”These include a tax cut for middle-income seniors and other Social Security beneficiaries who are currently required to pay federal income tax on their benefits.
“They also include the restoration of Social Security to long-range actuarial balance for three quarters of a century and beyond.
“In addition to requiring the wealthy to contribute their fair share, the legislation would gradually increase the Social Security contributions (FICA) of workers and their employers. FICA, which currently applies to wages up to $132,900, would also apply to wages above $400,000.
“The FICA rate, currently at 6.2% on employees and employers, would increase by .05% a year — 50 cents a week for an average worker — until it reaches 7.4%.”
Even with such strong support among House Democrats, the bill is unlikely to pass the Senate or White House this time. But in the past few years, the political atmosphere about Social Security has shifted from all talk all the time of cutting it because the program is bankrupt (it is not) to expanding it.
Representative Larson is committed to holding hearings throughout the country to debunk such myths and educate the public on the importance of Social Security to all Americans:
“'We need to educate and unmask so many of these myths,' Larson told [Reuters reporter Mark Miller].
“'We need to talk about why Social Security is an earned benefit and not an entitlement. Certainly it is something you are entitled to, but the word makes Social Security sound like a poverty program or a handout. Nothing roils people who have been paying into the program their entire lives more.'”
Keep that in mind: don't let anyone tell you Social Security is a “entitlement”. It is an EARNED BENEFIT that every working American pays for through payroll deductions during his and her working life.
Be sure you let your Congress person know you support this legislation and remind them every now and then how important this is – even if they already support the legislation. You can do that here via telephone, email or postal mail.
The legislation may not make it through the Senate this year, but it will happen eventually. A majority of American support it – even President Trump during his 2016 campaign (although I do know that he can change his mind on a dime).
* * *
My former husband, Alex Bennett, and I had our regularly scheduled Skype conversation on Tuesday.
Somehow it turned into mostly a bitch session - complaints about minor things that are unlikely to get fixed so what's the point. Maybe it's just blowing off steam on entirely unrelated issues going on with the government in Washington, D.C.
Yesterday, my former husband, Alex Bennett, and I sat down for our first Skype chat of the new year. Just two old friends who've known one another for about 60 years catching up with what's going on in our lives.
It's been hard in recent days for me to keep all the balls in the air at once so it is the easiest solution today to post the latest Alex and Ronni Show video. We recorded it yesterday, Tuesday - just a Skype chat between two old friends who were married for awhile about half a century ago.
Before we get to the latest edition of The Alex and Ronni Show, some housekeeping notes.
In the past couple of weeks, I've had some trouble breathing. The simplest things like bending over to tie my shoes or just taking out the trash can leave me heaving to catch my breath. Actually, it's been hard to do almost anything more energetic than sit at the computer these past days.
On Wednesday, my oncologist ordered a new CT scan which shows that the cancer in my lung is getting worse than expected at this point causing the shortness of breath.
A different chemo may help and the side effects, as they have been explained to me, are probably manageable. I'll begin next week and we will know within two weeks or so if it is helping.
As I think I mentioned not long ago, all my life I have kept journals with the goal of helping make sense of my world and figure out what I am thinking or believe. With this cancer diagnosis, I moved some of that to this blog and many of you have been kind enough to assert that these posts are a help to you and others.
To the degree that is so, I am grateful that my meandering thoughts and reports about my predicament have some value. Your comments buoy me, make me feel better and often contain useful information or, even better, make me laugh.
When I started this blog 15 years ago, of course I had no idea this is where it was heading. And I didn't know how important this “job” would become to me. I segued straight from work when I retired to this new work. I still love doing it and I will continue for as long as possible. It is what I do.
Some of you comment privately via email and I appreciate that too. But because of this latest cancer development and its effect on my energy, I can't get nearly as much done as before. Although I've tried (and mostly succeeded) answering all your email notes, I need now to take that pressure off myself.
So you're welcome to email me still, but I won't be able to answer anymore. I hope you will understand.
And now, here is the most recent Alex and Ronni Show recorded last Tuesday before I had received this latest cancer news.
EDITORIAL NOTE:Today's edition of The Alex and Ronni Show, in which we discuss the subject of today's blog post, is at the bottom of this story.
* * *
It was a whim. I've never had much interest in my ethnicity; my face pretty well tells the story so if you don't want to build a family tree – I don't - why bother.
But those DNA websites were having a sale late last year and if my mildest curiosity had not been worth $99 to me, $59 seemed reasonable. I ordered the kit.
A month later, this message appeared in an email via the DNA site. It was a shocker:
”Dear Ms. Bennett,
“It appears you and I are related in a fairly intimate way.”
“Fairly intimate way?” Talk about a gift for understatement - it was a 50 percent match: my child.
Let me back up more than half a century.
I was barely 21, just a kid, when I became pregnant in 1962. Although “the pill” had been available for a year or so, I was not using it and abortion, whatever one's moral beliefs, was illegal. When I told the baby's father, he couldn't get away from me fast enough. I never saw or heard from him again.
In addition, I knew that on just about every level, I was not at all prepared to be a mother. All that left only one option.
We were called unwed mothers in those days and there was a profound stigma attached. Suddenly, girlfriends were too busy to hang out and I certainly could not stay at my job once my condition became evident. Except for my mother, I was alone.
What I did have, however, was a warm and down-to-earth obstetrician who took good care of me and with his staff, found an adoptive family I would have chosen myself. In fact, I did – I was told a lot about them and allowed refusal rights.
One amusing story I haven't thought about for years until now, as I write this: Well into the pregnancy I woke weeping one morning, wailing that I was supposed to give birth to a baby but had a cat instead. It was one of those dreams that was as real as real.
A dream cat notwithstanding, in February 1963, I gave birth to a healthy, (human) baby boy and he went home with his adoptive family at the same time he would have with his birth mother.
Which brings me back to late last year. Tom Wark is in his mid-fifties now. He is married for the third time with a four-year-old son and lives in the Napa Valley. He is a wine expert, owner of a public and media relations company targeting the wine industry. His wine blog, Fermentation, is here.
Early this year, we exchanged some email until May when I dropped away, or so it must have seemed to Tom. Part of it was the two surgeries I underwent to stop the internal bleed that threatened my life then but that wasn't entirely it.
I felt awkward. I didn't know what to say and I didn't know what is expected in such circumstance. I did not and don't feel motherly toward Tom but neither do I believe I should.
Motherhood – and fatherhood – have nothing to do with giving birth. They are about day-in and day-out care and loving of a child no matter what. I have no experience with that nor any of the rights attached.
So although I felt uncomfortable about dropping out of the email conversation, I wasn't sure how to pick it up again. Then, three weeks ago after reading my recent emails about the return of cancer, Tom reached out by email.
Since then, we have had two lengthy telephone conversations with more planned. Tom says that in certain photographs he can see a resemblance between us. I can't. But we have discovered other similarities.
We were both good students except for science and math mainly because neither of us were interested in those subjects. We are both more literary types. We love books and own a lot of them. In my case, they are my friends and I'm betting Tom would say that too.
Further, we share a love of time travel stories, and we've both read everything Gore Vidal ever wrote. Some personality traits seem near matches too.
Oh, and Tom noted that we each started our blogs way back in 2004, when they were a brand new media platform.
After these two long phone chats, I am most interested now in learning more about Tom and what I think I see as similar mindsets – how we tell stories, for example, and the kinds of connections we make getting from one subject to another.
Most of all, after our first conversation which lasted two hours, for several days I felt a warmth and closeness that, in my experience, doesn't show up until I've known someone for a long time. It happened again after our second conversation. I am comfortable with this man.
Plus, I really like Tom's understatement in his first email. I'm always so proud of myself when I can do that, but it's not easy to pull off – at least for me.
Following my cancer surgery last year, it was six or eight weeks before I felt capable of driving to the market, medical checkups and other appointments. I live in the suburbs so there isn't much choice in getting anywhere beyond walking distance except by driving.
I was lucky. Terrific neighbors and friends stepped in to take up that slack while I needed it but not everyone has that choice.
According to the 2016 Older Americans Key Indicators of Well-Being report [pdf], 25 percent of men age 65 and older live alone and 36 percent of women in that age group do. Some have friends and family nearby to help out when needed but tens of millions of us do not.
That's what Andrew Parker realized not long ago that led to his founding Papa, a service that matches elders in need of some assistance with college students who want to help.
Parker had been regularly helping his grandfather – whom he calls Papa – but as his day job workload increased he couldn't always get away to run errands. He hired a woman via Facebook who began assisting Papa in Parker's stead. But as he told TechCrunch:
”The experience made Parker realize there was a gap in the market for seniors who, like his grandfather, were mostly independent and don’t require a caregiver, but still needed occasional help from a trustworthy person.”
That's when he quit his job to create Papa, providing “what he describes as 'pre-care' from college students he named Papa Pals.”
Here's Andrew Parker talking about Papa:
Parker further explained how it works in an interview with Pymnts.com:
“'The first time someone contacts us, they often have a specific idea about what they need, and we catalog that and send it on to the student who will be working with them. Sometimes they want a ride to the doctor, sometimes they are looking for someone to teach them how to use Netflix.
“'We had a member who was on the campaign trail with Ronald Reagan 30 years ago, and her family hired a Papa Pal to help her transcribe her very interesting life story into a digital format for her family.'
“What they often found, however, is that the relationships evolve between the users and the Papa Pals, so that the tasks they end up doing together often range widely from where they started.
The students are carefully screened before being accepted as Papa Pals. Among the requirements, according to the Papa website:
• 3.0 GPA or higher
• Major/Minor in Nursing, Psychology, Pre-med, Health Sciences or other health-related field preferred
• Full or part-time student enrolled in a four-year university
• Must have a valid .edu email address, a vehicle and a valid drivers license
• Must be able to pass a full background check
Clients can pay for services a la carte at about $20 an hour, or use the subscription service. The student Papa Pals earn about $15 per hour.
Beginning in 2019, new rules will make it possible for Medicare Advantage to pay for some of Papa's services, particularly medical appointment transportation.
For now, Papa operates only on Florida but they have plans to expand, first to 10 more states and then beyond.
I think this is an extremely important innovation. Whether we elders like to admit it or not, the time will come when we can't do as much as we once did and may even need to give up our driving privileges.
As I mentioned above, I had a taste of what is to come after my surgery. It was a long time before I could shove the vacuum cleaner around and even pulling the laundry out of washer and into the dryer was difficult.
For people who don't need full-time care but can use some help in other ways, this is a great solution.