So How's Retirement Going for You?

There is a new survey of 1,583 retirees about what makes them happy in their post-employment years. In general, I don't find the the poll useful for several reasons:

All the respondents are long-time customers of a financial services company, TIAA, that commissioned the report

The respondents disporportionately hold advanced education degrees

74 percent have made only “minor or no financial adjustments” in retirement

That certainly does not reflect the real world and most of the 100-plus questions in the survey are about satisfaction with TIAA products – retirement planning and financial packages. That makes a good sales tool for the company but not much interest ordinary folks.

Nevertheless, in reading the survey, I realized that I have never, in 12 years since my last paid employment, given any thought to how life is for me now in comparison to before. Apparently, I just slipped into retirement, kept going and here I am.

At first, I intended to show you a couple of charts from the TIAA survey – one about lifestyle changes and another on activity levels - but for reasons in that list above, it doesn't seem useful and I'm more interested in how you, dear readers, whom I suspect are a better cross-section of elders than the survey respondents, are enjoying your retirement.

Me? I never decided to retire. In fact, I didn't think about it when I was working even into my sixties. I just assumed I would work until I didn't want to anymore, whenever that came about in some indistinct future.

And so it was. Until it wasn't. I was 63 when I was laid off and even giving it a year of intensive searching, I never found another job.

However, during my last year of employment, I was already publishing this blog so I just kept at it. It is what I do now quite similarly to my life when I once produced TV shows and websites, and I am no less engaged with the blog than that other kind of work.

The worst of retirement is that I couldn't afford to remain living in Manhattan where I had been for 40 years. It is the only place I ever felt at home and not being there means that I am not living in the right place, always feeling slightly off-kilter.

But so what. Shit happens in life. There's nothing to do but deal with it and god knows I try in a hundred little ways.

Since this blog bridged my working and non-working years, it is almost as though I haven't retired – except that I luxuriate in the freedom now to schedule time at my whim and not an employer's.

Aside from TGB, the days are filled with fitness workouts, community activities, friends online and in person, reading, cooking, keeping up with politics and a couple of other areas of interest, a weekly current affairs discussion group, and the boring parts of life – shopping, cleaning, etc.

What I have come to appreciate now is something I had not anticipated – time to be. Time with no purpose. Time be quiet and alone with myself. I recall having that kind of time as small child, lots of it, but it got set aside for the most part in the mid-years and I am pleased to have it back.

Life is more fluid and open-ended these days. Without demands from employers, the only obligations are those I choose to make and although “happy” is not in my personal vocabulary, I am essentially content with life as it has come to be now.

So that's how retirement is going for me. How about you?

ADDENDUM: I finished this before realizing that even though I read the entire TIAA survey which is concerned almost mostly with money, that subject didn't occur to me while I was steeped in writing this.

Certainly money is important in retirement. It takes on greater meaning in old age, I think, because most people are stuck with whatever we've got – it's never going to change much, and far too many elders live in poverty. (We'll talk about that here soon.)

For now, do I wish I had more money? Sure. Are there things I go without for lack of money? Yes, but nothing crucial.

I budget carefully, I put aside money for emergencies and worry that it's not enough. And in a world economy as volatile as the one we live in, I wonder what might go wrong before I die that will leave me in financial dire straits.

And then I remember that there is no point in buying trouble, particularly the kind I cannot control.

With that, we're back to the end again: How's retirement going for you? And if you are not retired yet, what do you expect or anticipate from it when the time comes.

(If you are interested in the TIAA survey, the executive summary is here [pdf], the full report is here [pdf].)


The Century-Old Quilt – Like New

The weather has warmed enough where I live that it was time this weekend to put away the winter bed quilts for something lighter.

As there are a number of color and style choices on my shelves, I can pick and choose depending on – oh, who knows or cares. It's not a decision that matters much.

Except for that quilt.

Usually I ignore it. In fact, I've been shoving it aside each spring for (quick head calculation) 32 years. Wow. I had no idea it's been that long.

My grandmother made that quilt. My father's mother. Dad was 10 years old when he saw her for the last time. I met her once, in 1968, at her home in St. Paul, Minnesota. She died in 1984, which is how the quilt came to be in my possession.

It is not an exaggeration to say that part of my family and/or their behavior, can be described as gothic. But I didn't truly understand that until quite recently.

The dawning of that realization came about when a New York City police officer knocked on my door one day in December 1984, to give me the news that my grandmother had died. As I explained in a 2009 story in these pages,

”A St. Paul attorney, whose telephone number the police officer had given me, told me my name and address had been noted among my grandmother's papers marked, 'in case of emergency.' She had been found in her home, he said, frozen to death.

“It got worse from there.”

If you are curious, that 2009 story in four parts titled, The Terrible, Lonely Death of an Old, Old, Woman, can be found here. Until this past weekend, I had not read it in nearly seven years and it's an amazing yarn, if I do say so myself. And by “yarn,” I do not mean to say it is untrue. It is not.

Nor was it my intention on Saturday to dredge up that event along with the the rest of the family history it recalls. I will deal with that in my way but today's post is about a teeny, tiny part of that yarn, Grandma Hazel's quilt.

While closing up her St. Paul home in 1984,

”In another drawer, I found a never-used, hand-made, patchwork quilt, probably sewn by Grandma Hazel in her teens, as girls born a hundred years ago did for their trousseaux.

“It is a remarkably modern design for its time (Hazel was born in 1892), and I've kept it. Early on, I thought I'd use it on my bed, but cats and antique quilts are not a good mix. So, as in Hazel's home, it sits folded in a drawer.”

Not “probably sewn.” Definitely sewn by Hazel and if we arbitrarily choose to have “teen” in her case mean 15, that quilt is now about 110 years old.

Two days ago, while rummaging around through the bedding, I decided to take a look at Grandma Hazel's quilt. I hadn't done so since at least 2010 when I moved here and that's all it took for the terrible story of the death of an old, old woman to come flooding back.

It's a tough story. Harrowing. Sad. Disagreeable. Embarrassing. Enraging. Wretched. The odd thing is that it seems even worse as I recall it now than it did when it happened and when I last wrote about it.

But it has also brought me one small piece of clarity that I am quite pleased with.

The quilt is lovely and as much like new as if it were finished yesterday. As I spread it out on the bed, here is what else I thought in addition to the memories:

So what if it's 110 years old. Who cares if the cat's claws get caught in it. What difference does it make if you spill ice cream on it while watching old movies in bed. What are you saving it for. You're 75 years old and you don't even like that woman. Use the damned quilt.

And here it is. Sorry fat, old Ollie the cat is in shadow but I'm glad he thinks it's a nifty place to sleep.

GrandmotherBedspreadwithOllie2016_680


ELDER MUSIC: Planes

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

Snoopy the Red Baron

Although a few people in this country, like Norma, the Assistant Musicologist and I, know this, it's not generally known outside Oz that the first powered aeroplane flight in Australia was performed by Erik Weisz.

Ho hum, I can hear you say. However, when I mention that Erik's stage name was Harry Houdini that might put an interesting light on the circumstances.

This took place at Diggers Rest, a suburb of Melbourne. Naturally, there are people from Sydney who claim an earlier flight in their city. That rivalry continues to this day.

Australians are among the most travelled people on the planet. We think nothing of hopping a plane to Asia, Europe, the Americas, Africa even. However, suggest to someone in America or Britain that perhaps they might visit us, it’s “Oh no, it’s too far. It takes too long.”

Get a grip, people.

There are many songs about trains. Indeed, I’ve already done a column with a few of them that barely scratched the surface. It’s time for another mode of transport, this time planes.

It’s not as easy as trains. A lot more songs have been written about trains than about planes. I imagine it’s because, as GORDON LIGHTFOOT put it in one of his great songs, “You can’t jump a jet plane like you can a freight train.”

That’s as good a place as any to start the ball rolling. This is Gordie with Early Morning Rain.

Gordon Lightfoot

♫ Gordon Lightfoot - Early Morning Rain


There was quite an interesting album released a couple of years ago called "The Beautiful Old Turn-of-the-Century Songs" where modern artists performed Turn-of-the-Century Songs.

One of those was WILL SEXTON. He had the help of SIMONE STEVENS on his song, Come Josephine in My Flying Machine.

Will Sexton & Simone Stevens

This was a song from 1911, a little past the turn of the century but we won't quibble.

♫ Will Sexton - Come Josephine in My Flying Machine (1911)


THE BYRDS seemed to have been fascinated by flight, not just jets but space ships as well.

The Byrds

Fortunately for us, they sang about these so I can include one of their songs.

Gene Clark was the first of the original group to leave. He said it was he was afraid of flying. McGuinn said that you can’t be a Byrd if you can’t fly. A good line, I hope it’s true.

I wonder about that as after The Byrds called it quits, for a time there was a group called McGuinn, Clark and Hillman, bringing together three of the original group.

I saw them in Melbourne, and that’s a mighty long jet plane ride so maybe Gene got over his fear of flying, or maybe the original story was made up.

The Byrds’ song is Eight Miles High, a song that the wowsers of the sixties said was about drugs but then they said that about a lot of innocent songs (a few of the guilty ones too).

McGuinn said that he wrote it on a plane about flying and if you listen to it it’s a reasonable explanation. Decide for yourself.

♫ The Byrds - Eight Miles High


MERLE HAGGARD employed rather superfluous strings on his song or, more likely, they were foisted on him by the record company. Nonetheless, it's still one of his finest.

Merle Haggard

It is Silver Wings, one of the great country songs.

♫ Merle Haggard - Silver Wings


THE BOXTOPS had a song ostensibly about a letter, indeed it was called The Letter. However, listening to the words you’d think it was about trying to catch a plane. Well, except for the letter bit of the song.

The Box Tops

This song probably epitomizes the frustration of trying to catch a plane these days - even though it was written 50 years ago - better than any of the others that tend to romanticize flying somewhat.

♫ The Box Tops - The Letter


TRUCKSTOP HONEYMOON are husband and wife duo Mike and Katie West.

Truckstop Honeymoon

The reason they called themselves that is that they spent their honeymoon at a truck stop. There's a long and involved story about why that came to pass. They write songs about each other and about their kids. This is one of the latter, Lego Aeroplane.

♫ Truckstop Honeymoon - Lego Aeroplane


The song Outbound Plane was co-written by NANCI GRIFFITH and Tom Russell. They both do fine versions of the song. However, rather than deciding which to use, I noticed that on an album of Tom’s he performs it with Nanci.

Unfortunately, all Nanci seems to do on the track is some oooing and ahhing in the background, so it’s still a toss up. We seem to be overloaded with blokes this week, so Nanci it is.

Nanci Griffith

Tom first heard Nanci when she was playing and singing around a campfire at a festival in Kerrville, Texas and began championing her cause. The story is they wrote this song together sitting at Tom’s kitchen table.

♫ Nanci Griffith - Outbound Plane


When I mentioned this topic to the A.M. she immediately suggested this one.

“Oh, really?” was my reply, looking at her a little sideways.

“You have to include it”, she reposted. So, with her recommendation ringing in my ears, here are THE ROYAL GUARDSMEN with their one and only hit.

The Royal Guardsmen

The group started life as The Posmen, and that’s not a typo, at least not on my behalf. They may have mistyped it on their application for a group-name form, or whatever it is you have to do to create a name.

After the Beatles and other English groups hit it big, they decided to go for something a bit Britisher. This was their second song and the only one to make the charts, Snoopy vs The Red Baron.

♫ The Royal Guardsmen - Snoopy vs The Red Baron


The original CHAD MITCHELL TRIO consisted of Chad Mitchell (naturally), Mike Kobluk and Mike Pugh. After a while, Chad left the group for a solo career but the group retained his name and he was replaced by an unknown writer of songs called John Denver.

The Chad Mitcell Trio

The group performed some of those including one of his best known, Leaving on a Jet Plane. John later recorded the song (a few times) but it first became to my notice with a terrific version by Peter Paul and Mary.

However, I've decided to use the Mitchell Trio's version as I wasn't as familiar with this one as I am with the others. It's not all that different from John's version.

♫ The Chad Mitchell Trio - Leaving On a Jet Plane


KEVIN JOHNSON is an Australian singer/songwriter who is not widely known to the outside world, but should be.

Kevin Johnson

If anyone knows his name, it's usually through his song, Rock & roll I Gave You the Best Years of My Life. There's a lot more to him than that. For example, The Next Plane to New Mexico.

♫ Kevin Johnson - The Next Plane To New Mexico


I resisted the temptation to include a gratuitous song from Jefferson Airplane just because of their name.

Even The Beatles got into the act. Well, sort of. They have a tune called Flying - however, this is an instrumental apart from a few la la las, so it didn’t make the cut.


INTERESTING STUFF – 23 April 2016

LIVING BONE TO BONE

Remember my blog post last week responding to a letter to the editor in The New York Times about a new age-suit? The letter was written by Ann Burack-Weiss who is also the author of recent book, The Lioness in Winter.

Ann and I have been in email touch and she directed me to a guest post titled, Living Bone to Bone she wrote in February for the Columbia University Press blog.

It is so good, so right, so true that it gave me an terrible case of writerly envy. Which means, obviously, that you need to know about it too. Here is an excerpt:

”The Palliative Care experts solemnly drape the Death with Dignity banner over the coffin that awaits us. Get your affairs in order! Have that family conference! Sign those Advance Directives! We comply and here we sit: all papered up and no place to go. At least not yet.

“We listen to the Wellness advocates. Cheerleaders of Successful Aging, they are filled with statistics and inspiring personal stories. Learn a new language! Start a second or third career! Civic engagement! We’ve been there. We’ve done that. And still do. When we’re feeling up to it.

“What no one talks about is the experience of living in the middle stage, the 'bone on bone' stage that occurs somewhere between jazzercise and hospice care. What I want to see is recognition of what it takes to hold our own without the insulating padding that once buffered us from assaults of the outside world.”

That does not begin to give you an inkling of the depth and breadth of this lovely rumination. Go read the whole guest post. You will be glad you did and you will probably print it out for yourself.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Oh my. I can't wait for November. I so enjoy the Harry Potter stories – books and movies – and now there is an extension of them.

Here is a preview trailer of the new movie. It sure doesn't hurt that it stars the great Eddie Redmayne and is set in 1920's New York. The script is written by Harry Potter creator herself, J.K. Rowling, from her 2001 book.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is the first of a trilogy of films. Find out more here.

HOW TO WASH YOUR HANDS

Don't laugh. It's important. And you've probably been doing it wrong all your life.

TRUE NEW YORKER I AM, I AM

Of course, I am - the internet told me so.

Actually, it's a quiz about New York slang - and I aced it.

TrueNewYorkerImage

They're wrong about me being born there. I am/was a transplant but I knew from age five it was my real home (and it still is). Marian Van Eyk McCain of elderwomanblog sent the quiz. You can take it too at women.com.

JOHN OLIVER – LEAD POISONING

Last Sunday on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, John Oliver showed his viewers that the mainstream media hasn't begun to tell us the whole story of Flint, Michigan and the extent of the lead problem in all our 50 states.

WORKING MODEL OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT

After Oliver's evisceration of Congress on lead in the video above, you really do need to see this working model of the U.S. government sent to us by Darlene Costner.

It's complex, makes a lot of noise, is dangerous, needs lots of maintenance and does NOTHING useful.

"PSYCHO" HILLTOP HOUSE NOW A MUSEUM ROOFTOP HOUSE

Everyone here has seen the 1960 horror movie, Psycho, right? Probably more than once. And you undoubtedly remember the infamous Bates House. Here it is with film director, Alfred Hitchcock, on the set.

PsychoHousewithHitchcock

This year, a massive replica of the home...will be on display to transport visitors back to the ominous setting of this classic horror flick,” reports spoiledNYC.

“The piece was created by British artist Cornelia Parker and is constructed from reclaimed wood taken from an actual barn.”

PsychoHouseReplica

The house will be on display on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan until 31 October – Halloween. There is a bit more information at the Met Museum website.

DEATH VALLEY SUPERBLOOM 2016

Death Valley, California, is the lowest, hottest, driest spot in the northern hemisphere getting, on average, less than three inches of rain per year.

Every now and then, however, the Valley gets more rain that usual and thisis one of those years creating what is called a “superbloom” of wildflowers. Here's a video:

IS THE ICEMAKER BROKEN?

A woman couldn't figure out why she never had any ice, then she shot this video. Clever puppies, these:

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


Crabby Old Lady and the Internet of Junk

You've heard of the Internet of Things? Well, forget that.

This once-wonderful means of electronic communication that has become essential to our financial, health, family, civic, educational and social lives has deteriorated into such a deep morass of crap, it can only be called the Internet of Junk.

Crabby Old Lady has sung praises of the internet since she got her first 2400 dialup modem sometime in the mid- or late-1980s.

When the World Wide Web came along a few years later with the first, primitive, graphical browsers and Crabby saw her first webpage, she was hooked.

In 1996, she left behind decades of work in television, signed on as managing editor of cbsnews.com, helping to build one of the first two U.S. news websites ever to exist.

Now, 20 years later, the internet of junk is fraught with scams, viruses, identity theft, malware, data and privacy breaches, spam, stolen bank accounts, spyware, phishing, trojan horses, worms, keylogging, ransomware – shall Crabby go on?

Maybe it should be called the Internet of Scary Junk. But although privacy and security breaches can screw up people's lives for years, that's not what has pushed Crabby Old Lady into rage territory.

What has done that is the day in, day out, page by page, minute by minute onslaught against her eyes, ears and, most crucially, her brain. She is fond of her brain, relies on its proper functioning in old age more than ever and has become convinced that the internet is harming it.

Let Crabby count the ways for you:

Dozens, nay hundreds, of websites Crabby visits interrupt their text with moving gifs – those six- or seven-second repetitive videos going round and round and round - some supposedly "enhancing" the text, others advertising. Often there are even more on the same page flickering in the right column, a constant distraction to eye and mind.

Crabby can barely control her fury when within one or two seconds of arriving on a page, before she's even figured out what to do first, a pop-up covers most of the screen asking her opinion of the website. Let's be clear: this happens before she has even had a chance to glance at the page. Irritating to Crabby but from a business point of view, it's stupid.

Sometimes Crabby tells them what she thinks – in the most colorful language as she can muster.

Equally maddening are pop-ups breaking Crabby's concentration asking her to sign up for a newsletter which is - wait for it - how she got to the site in the first place.

Crabby has come close to putting her fist through the computer screen over this one: she is comfortably settled into reading, maybe three paragraphs in and getting a good feel for the story when suddenly an advertising pop-up covers exactly the paragraph she's reading.

Wait. It gets worse. Every one of the websites that do this - many - are experts at obscuring the X that allows the pop-up to be closed.

By the time Crabby can find the X hidden in a new corner or blending into the background color so it is almost invisible, she has forgotten not only where she was in the story, but even what the damned thing is about.

There was a time, back when Crabby worked on the internet, that it was verboten to assault readers' eyes and ears with autostart video. Now, it's ubiquitous. Every day, additional sites add this aggravation to their growing list of interruptions to one's mental health.

And here is the sneakiest part: sometimes a video, usually unrelated to the story Crabby is reading, buried miles down at the bottom of a page among a blizzard of unrelated images, blasts to life a minute or two into her reading and fries her brain before she can find it.

This is not to say that one or two of these abominations happens now and then. It is dozens, dozens of times every day from the best-known, otherwise most professional websites in existence as well as the shoddy ones. (For many good reasons - see above - Crabby Old Lady doesn't go far afield from generally secure websites so we're not talking sleaze, porn or ripoff webpages.)

The irritation factor is beyond tolerable now. Further, although Crabby is obviously not a neuroscientist or psychiatrist, she doesn't believe she needs to be one to know that constant audio and visual distraction damages the ability to think and reason.

As the The Telegraph reported earlier this year:

"According to scientists, the age of smartphones has left humans with such a short attention span even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.

"Researchers surveyed 2,000 participants in Canada and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms.

"The results showed the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000, or around the time the mobile revolution began, to eight seconds.

"Goldfish, meanwhile, are believed to have an attention span of nine seconds."

Did you get that? Goldfish for god's sake.

This is not the only study to show vastly reduced attention spans. It cannot be good for humankind and it is certainly not good for Crabby Old Lady's mind.


Stay Healthy and Mentally Sharp: Celebrate Old Age

Year by year over the past two decades, evidence piles up that being on the receiving end of ageist attitudes, beliefs and practices not only leads to poor health, it can shorten lives.

And it's not only others' prejudice that adversely affects health. Just as important is an elder's own attitude toward being old; if it's negative, your health is likely to suffer.

One of the leading researchers in the field of ageism is Dr. Becca Levy of Yale University School of Public Health. In fact, as her online profile notes, Levy is credited with

”...creating a field of study that focuses on how positive and negative age stereotypes, which are assimilated from the culture, can have beneficial and adverse effects, respectively, on the health of older individuals.”

To spare you too many research study quotations, here is a fairly succinct overview of the results of some recent health-related ageism studies pulled together for a story in the Wall Street Journal:

”...dozens of studies from psychologists, medical doctors and neuroscientists have shown that older people with more negative views of aging fare more poorly on health than those with less-pessimistic attitudes.

“Even when study participants have similar health, education levels and socioeconomic status, those with more negative outlooks about aging show greater declines in a variety of areas over time.

“They have shakier handwriting, poorer memories, higher rates of cardiac disease and lower odds of recovering from severe disability, according to studies by Prof. Levy.

“They are less likely to eat a balanced diet, exercise and follow instructions for taking prescription medications as they age. They even die younger - the median difference in survival rates is 7.5 years.”

A new study from Trinity College in Dublin, reported at sciencedaily.com, confirms that negative attitudes toward aging affect cognitive as well as physical health.

”...frail participants with negative attitudes towards aging had worse cognition compared to participants who were not frail. However, frail participants with positive attitudes towards aging had the same level of cognitive ability as their non-frail peers.

You will find the full study at Science Direct behind a paid firewall.

Ageism results from the many widely believed myths about growing old that no matter how frequently and authoritatively they are refuted, apparently defy correction. A handful of those persistent myths are:

The majority of old people have no interest in, nor capacity for, sexual relations

The majority of old people are unable to adapt to change

Depression is more frequent among the elderly than among younger people

Old people tend to be pretty much alike

Older workers usually cannot work as effectively as younger workers

None of those statements were true when gerontologist Erdman B. Palmore, professor emeritus of medical sociology at Duke University, published his Facts on Aging Quiz in 1998 - and they are still false today.

Nevertheless, the last one is under attack (again) with a new study my friend John Gear, an attorney in Salem, Oregon, alerted me to.

Using the results from one year of an Australian study of about 6500 people aged from 40 to 70-plus, researchers at the Melbourne Institute have concluded that people 40 and older get stupid after working 25 hours.

Okay, I'll admit that “stupid” is my word but that's what they appear to be saying:

”...in order for people over the age of 40 to perform their best, work weeks need to be three days with a maximum of 25 hours,” reports Daily Sabah.

“This is necessary to ensure productivity and enhance performance, the study said. “It was revealed that people who work three days performed much better than those working for more days.”

You can believe that or not but there is some additional information to consider than none of several news reports I read bothered to mention.

The data was taken from a longitudinal study, the annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics (HILDA) Survey, that has been ongoing in Australia since 2001 but tested for workplace cognitive capability only one of those years.

Disturbing enough to rely on such limited information. But the implication that bothers me is the subtle suggestion that it is only middle aged and older workers who suffer this cognitive failure after 25 hours – a conclusion that is impossible to make since no one younger than 40 was tested.

(The full study, titled Use It Too Much and Lose It? The Effect of Working Hours on Cognitive Ability, can be found here [pdf].)

This follows a worrisome trend I've been been noticing for the past few years: that academics, political figures, governments, corporations and others grab onto isolated statistics or factoids, often as tenuous as this one, to propose ageist alterations to programs and institutions that benefit elders.

Think cutting Social Security, raising the Social Security retirement age, changing Medicare and Medicaid to a voucher programs, instituting an upper cut-off age for drivers licenses, in addition to others as subtlely ageist as this study from Australia.

And that's just off the top of my head. I am kicking myself that over the years I've been noticing the accumulation of these proposals, I've not kept a file. I'll start now (and you can help by sending me any you come across).

Meanwhile, don't take questionable research too seriously and make use of the important work Professor Levy and her cohorts do: Stay Healthy and Mentally Sharp: Celebrate Old Age.


Interesting Ageing Stuff

For many years, I have posted a Saturday listing of Interesting Stuff - internet items that piqued my interest that I think you too might like.

Although the topic of this blog is ageing and what it's really like to get old, that's not required for Interesting Stuff. Sometimes I include one or two pieces related to age, but only if they can be explained in a paragraph or short lead-in to a video.

Longer and more complex stories related to ageing are better suited to weekday posts when there is room for more detail but now I see that there is a third category I have neglected: items too long for Saturday, too short for an entire blog post.

So expect to see Interesting Ageing Stuff here now and then. Today is the inaugural edition.

DOLLARS FOR DOCS

Although doctors have long denied it, there is now evidence that physicians who are paid by pharmaceutical and medical device companies for promotional talks, research and consulting prescribe more brand-name medications than those who do not.

”Doctors who got money from drug and device makers - even just a meal - prescribed a higher percentage of brand-name drugs overall than doctors who didn’t, our analysis showed,” reports ProPublica.

“Indeed, doctors who received industry payments were two to three times as likely to prescribe brand-name drugs at exceptionally high rates as others in their specialty.”

For nearly a decade, non-profit Propublica has been turning out investigative journalism in the public interest and in 2010, became the first online news source to win a Pulitzer Prize.

(FYI: The 2016 Pulitzer Prizes are being announced today. You can watch live at the Pulitzer Prize website at 3PM Eastern time, 12N Pacific time.)

As ProPublica explains, pharmaceutical and medical device companies are now required by law to release details of their payments to a variety of doctors and U.S. teaching hospitals. ProPublica is never anything but scrupulously fair in their reporting:

”ProPublica’s analysis doesn’t prove industry payments sway doctors to prescribe particular drugs, or even a particular company’s drugs. Rather, it shows that payments are associated with an approach to prescribing that, writ large, benefits drug companies’ bottom line...

“Among internists who received no payments, for example, the average brand-name prescribing rate was about 20 percent, compared to about 30 percent for those who received more than $5,000.”

According to the data, the company that paid out the most to physicians is Genentech, Inc.: $388,000,000. The physician who has received the largest total payments is Sujata Narayan, a family medicine specialist in California: $43,900,000.

You can see if or how much your own physician has received at ProPublica's Dollars for Docs page. You can read the entire story here.

THE EFFECT OF EXERCISE ON BONE STRENGTH

When I got serious about devising a daily exercise routine a few years ago, I made a point to include a fair amount of strength training to help maintain bone density and to prevent falls.

It turns out that I, along with many internet health websites, exercise experts, professional medical societies and more, are wrong. Osteoporosis researchers have known that for ten years, reports Gina Kolata in The New York Times:

”The answer came a little more than a decade ago when scientists did rigorous studies, asking if weight bearing exercise increased bone density in adults.

“Those studies failed to find anything more than a minuscule exercise effect — on the order of 1 percent or less, which is too small to be clinically significant...

“[Other] Studies have found that older people who did weight bearing exercise decreased their risk of fractures. But this seems to be more likely explained by the fact that exercise leads to stronger muscles that in turn made falling less likely.

Further, osteoporosis drugs like Fosamex slow the rate of bone loss but do not build bone. All that is the bad news. Here's the good news:

”There is a glimmer of hope for those who have put their faith in exercise. Perhaps, osteoporosis researchers say, even though bones do not get stronger with exercise, exercise might make bones healthier in terms of a mysterious property called bone quality.

“No one knows exactly what it is but it may help explain why some people with bones that look strong get fractures while others with bones that look fragile do not. Maybe those microscopic changes in bone make a crucial difference, but it is too soon to say.”

Even so, on the strong muscle theory, I won't be slacking off on my strength training. You can read the entire story here.

50+ VOTERS, THE 2016 ELECTION AND SOCIAL SECURITY

AARP hired Hart Research Associates and GS Strategy Group who surveyed 1659 registered voters – with an emphasis on blacks and Latinos - in February and March this year about Social Security and other issues.

Here are some of the Social Security responses:

More than eight in ten (82%), including 85% of African Americans and 83% of Hispanics, say that having a plan for Social Security is a basic threshold for presidential leadership.

More than nine in ten (95%) voters ages 50+, including 96% of African Americans and 97% of Hispanics, say that it is important that presidential candidates lay out their plans to update Social Security for future generations.

Seven in ten voters ages 50+ say that it would be “very helpful” in their vote decision to learn about a presidential candidate’s plans for Social Security, including 82% of African Americans and 72% of Hispanics.

You can read more about the survey at AARP, the short version, here. You will find the entire survey results here [pdf].

Let me know if you think an occasional Interesting Ageing Stuff post is useful or interesting to you.

* * *

Interesting Ageing Stuff is an occasional listing of items I like that are too long for Saturday's Interesting Stuff and not quite important enough for a full blog post.

You are all encouraged to submit age-related-only items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


ELDER MUSIC: Blues Brothers

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

* * *

BluesBrothers2

This column will feature the music that the Blues Brothers and their band, along with guest artists, played in the film. However, it's not music taken from the film soundtrack, it's the original versions of those songs.

For those who haven't seen the film, it's along the lines of "Let's get the band together and put on a show". Pretty much the same as those old Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland films of a generation earlier, although those featured fewer car crashes.

The music will be in the order (approximately) that they appeared in the film, so first up is the song She Caught the Katy. That one first came to my attention thanks to TAJ MAHAL, who wrote the song.

Taj Mahal

Taj isn't a straight blues musician who likes to incorporate Caribbean, African and other elements into his music. Here is his take on his song.

♫ Taj Mahal - She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride


The theme for the TV series Peter Gunn was written by Henry Mancini who recorded it for the program. Later, Jay Livingston and Ray Evans put words to it but we're going with the instrumental version, as that was what they played in the film.

Their version leaned more towards DUANE EDDY than Henry, so I'm going with that.

Duane Eddy

Duane's was the biggest seller of all the versions released (and there have been quite a few). It was back when Duane could do no wrong – anything he released became a hit. He's probably the biggest selling instrumentalist in rock & roll history.

♫ Duane Eddy - Peter Gunn


THE SPENCER DAVIS GROUP was blessed in having a fine vocalist and keyboard player in Steve Winwood.

Spencer Davis Group

The song Gimme Some Lovin' was written by Spencer, Steve and Steve's brother Muff (also a member of the group).

[UPDATE 2:15PM Pacific time: The first version of this song would not play. New one is uploaded.]

♫ Spencer Davis Group - Gimme Some Lovin'


JOHN LEE HOOKER was shown in the film performing the song Boom Boom as a busker on the street.

John Lee Hooker

John Lee wrote and recorded the song originally and I see no reason to go past that one.

♫ John Lee Hooker - Boom Boom


In the film, the band needed some instruments, so they went along to Ray's Music Exchange to get them. Ray, of course, is RAY CHARLES.

Blues Brothers & Ray

Like John Lee, Ray was the originator of the song he sang, Shake Your Tailfeather, and this is the way he recorded it originally.

♫ Ray Charles - Shake your Tailfeather


I don't remember this next song in the film but Wiki assures me that it's there so who am I to argue? I really must watch the film again soon. I know the song from the version by SOLOMON BURKE.

Solomon Burke

Solomon is always welcome in any column of mine and here he is with Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. It certainly sounds like something they'd perform.

♫ Solomon Burke - Everybody Needs Somebody to Love


For some reason, the crew happened to venture into church. As far as I can tell, there was no reason for this except to feature James Brown as the Reverend Cleophus James putting on quite a turn with the song The Old Landmark.

I prefer the STAPLE SINGERS to James, and they performed it earlier.

Staple Singers

Mavis Staples sings lead on this one (as she did on most of their songs).

♫ Staple Singers - The Old Landmark


One of the band members was working in a diner run by his wife played by ARETHA FRANKLIN.

Blues Brothers & Aretha

Aretha's character is none too happy about his going off like that and she tells him to Think about it. It makes no difference as he goes anyway, but we get a good song out of it.

♫ Aretha Franklin - Think


Blues Brothers

Now we get to the "chicken wire" part of the film that always brings a smile to my face. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen the film.

Wondering what to play for this particular audience, they came up with the theme from Rawhide. The person who sang that in the TV series was FRANKIE LAINE.

Frankie Laine

♫ Frankie Laine - Rawhide


We're still in "chicken wire" mode and if Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, knew I was including this next song she would disown me (or something even more drastic), so I'm not going to tell. Let's keep it our little secret from her.

Of course, she knows it was in the film, or maybe she's put it out of her mind. If not, she probably thinks I'll omit it. Silly sausage, she should know me better than that.

You can all probably guess what's next (that is if you've seen the film). Yes, it's TAMMY WYNETTE.

Tammy Wynette

This is her best known song, Stand By Your Man.

♫ Tammy Wynette - Stand By Your Man


We've finally got to stage the concert and the master of ceremonies was CAB CALLOWAY.

Cab Calloway

Cab also got to perform his best known song, Minnie the Moocher.

♫ Cab Calloway - Minnie The Moocher


As the film was set in (and around) Chicago, Sweet Home Chicago was an obvious choice for them to perform. It was originally laid down on shellac by ROBERT JOHNSON.

Robert Johnson

In spite of his rather meagre recorded output, Robert is probably the most influential blues performer ever.

♫ Robert Johnson - Sweet Home Chicago


Thanks to all those cars that were destroyed, but that really was due to the incompetence of the other characters' driving, I don't know why our heroes were blamed for that (okay, yes I do), the whole band landed in the hoosegow.

They put on a final concert in prison and naturally performed Jailhouse Rock. This was originally done by ELVIS in the film of the same name.

Elvis Presley

♫ Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock


INTERESTING STUFF – 16 April 2016

CUSTOMERS FIRST IN RETIREMENT INVESTING

The Department of Labor last week announced new regulations requiring financial retirement advisors and brokers who handle individual retirement and 401(k) accounts to act in the best interests of their clients.

You would think that would go without saying even if not codified in regulations but apparently not. As The New York Times explained:

”...brokers are generally required only to recommend 'suitable' investments, which means, for example, that they can push a more expensive mutual fund that pays a higher commission when an otherwise identical, cheaper fund would have been an equal or better alternative.”

It isn't all good news as only certain retirement accounts are affected not to mention that some expect the new regulations to be challenged in court. Let's say, then, that it's a start.

You can read more here and here.

HOUSEHOLD HACKS WITH BINDER CLIPS

For as long as I can remember I've been a binder clip fan. My three major uses are to keep opened berry and vegetables packages closed in the freezer, keep toothpaste tubes from unfolding (#12 in video) and to hold peripherals cables together behind my computer.

But it's obvious from this video that my imagination for binder clip use is pitifully underdeveloped:

PSYCHEDELIC WASP NESTS

Mattia Menchetti, a biology student at the University of Florence realized that by giving a captive colony of European paper wasps different colored paper, the insects would build their own kaleidoscopic houses.

Wow. Look at what the wasps did with that colored paper:

Colorful-paper-wasp-nests-rainbow-mattia-mechetti-4

As the BoredPanda page explains,

”While this experiment was deliberate, unintentional human interference with the insect world has also produced some equally surprising results.

“In 2012 for example, beekeepers in France were amazed to discover that their bees had created green and blue honey. The reason? The unsuspecting insects were using sugar collected from the shells of M&Ms at a nearby waste-processing plant.”

You can see more of the psychedelic wasp nests at BoredPanda.

AN ESCAPE STORY YOU'D ALMOST DIE TO HAVE VIDEO OF

Inky the octopus lived at the National Aquarium of New Zealand, a favorite with the entire country. Until, that is, Inky pulled a Houdini one night by escaping through a small hole in the top of his tank. The New York Times reports:

”Octopus tracks suggest he then scampered eight feet across the floor and slid down a 164-foot-long drainpipe that dropped him into Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast of North Island, according to reports in New Zealand’s news media...

“The aquarium’s manager, Rob Yarrall, told Radio New Zealand that employees had searched the aquarium’s pipes after discovering Inky’s trail, to no avail.

“The escape happened several months ago, but it only recently came to light. 'He managed to make his way to one of the drain holes that go back to the ocean, and off he went, Mr. Yarrall said. 'Didn’t even leave us a message.'”

Hurray for Inky, I say. Here's a photo of him before he escaped:

14octopus_web1-master675-v4

GENERIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

Most candidates for public office do everything, say anything at all to appeal to the largest number of voters possible, making them as bland as Wonderbread.

Of course, with such candidates as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders this year, that age-old strategy doesn't apply but that doesn't make this video any less ironic and funny.

JOHN OLIVER ON THE RAUNCHY ALABAMA SEX SCANDAL

Usually in this space, I post the most recent video essay from John Oliver's HBO program, Last Week Tonight. But I already did that a couple of days ago (you can see it here).

So today, let's get the John Oliver slant on the amazing, expanding scandal at the top echelons of Alabama government in his short essay from last Sunday.

KILLER OF KITTY GENOVESE DIES IN PRISON

Young people may not know her name but it is embedded in the mind of our generation because Kitty Genovese, who was raped and murdered in New York City in 1964, became an enduring symbol of urban apathy.

Although she screamed and screamed and screamed and people heard her, lights went on in the neighborhood but not one called the police.

Her killer, Winston Moseley, died a couple of weeks ago at age 81 in the Dannemora, New York prison. Here is an interview with Ms. Genovese's roommate:

You can read more here.

SECRETS BEHIND FAMILIAR CANDY TREATS

Did you know?

”The Tootsie Roll was a heat-safe chocolate that held up well all year round. Among the many candies appearing in the rations of World War II soldiers, it was so durable and dependable, soldiers used 'Tootsie Roll' as another name for bullets.”

Tootsiemilkduds

Milk Duds were created in Chicago in the 1920s but the company was having trouble coming up with a good marketing name:

”...how do you give zing to a candy you intended to be a perfectly round chocolate-covered caramel ball that sagged and dented? It wasn’t a ball. It was a dud. And that’s when someone in the company came up with a great idea.

“'Let’s call it 'Milk Chocolate Duds! Too long? OK, then just Milk Duds!' It’s too bad that person’s identity has been lost in the annals of history. It was the first and only time, as far as I know, that a candy was named for its liability.”

You can read about the beginnings of more of our childhood candies at Salon where the story is excerpted from the new book, Sweet as Sin By Susan Benjamin.

ONE OF THE SWEETEST ANIMAL VIDEOS

That's what Cathy Johnson wrote in her email with the link to this video. The YouTube page explains:

”Following winters in Africa, storks have been returning to their summer residences in Croatia every spring since ancient times. They weave their nests in close proximity to rivers, swamps and lakes, whose natural wealth guarantee the survival of their offspring.

“However, there are also many hunters in these locals. 18 years ago, a bullet found its way to the wing of a stork just before its first departure for Africa. The wounded bird was saved from sure death by a fisherman who took the bird home with him.”

* * *

Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.


The Imperative to Live and to Die

Stardust

Somewhere among the tiniest twists of our DNA, we are programmed to fear death, to avoid it at all costs and to live. To Live!

To live is, borrowing from Star Trek, the prime directive.

In addition to the practicality and pleasures of our five senses, each is designed to alert us to danger when there is a threat to our own life and, often, others' lives too.

In many cases, it is sub-verbal. We touch something too hot, our hand pulls back on its own. A kid runs in front of the car, we slam on the brakes – no thought necessary.

So fundamental is the human (and other animal) imperative to live that young people, against all evidence, believe they are immortal. I once felt that way and undoubtedly you did too.

Now I know better.

One of the ways that old age is dramatically different from youth and the middle years, and which society does not generally acknowledge, is the courage it requires to be old.

When dying becomes up close and personal, each old person, mostly in quiet times when we are alone, must bravely stand up to all that DNA self-preservation juice and make peace with, in time, letting go of life.

We must do that while keeping the prime directive - living our best possible old age. As Anatole Broyard wrote in The New York Times in 1990:

”If we face the reality, at 63 or 70, 75, 80, or 90, that we will indeed, sooner or later, die, then the only big question is how are we going to live the years we have left, however many or few they may be?

“What adventures can we now set out on to make sure we'll be alive when we die?”

I love that part: “...make sure we'll be alive when we die.” Lin Yutang said something similar in his book, The Importance of Living back in 1937:

”If man were to live this life like a poem he would be able to look upon the sunset of life as his happiest period, and instead of trying to postpone the much feared old age, be able to look forward to it, and gradually build up to it as the best and happiest period of his existence.”

I've been collecting quotations on old age and dying for 20 years and I could copy out dozens of inspiring thoughts for us all day. But I want to get back to the idea of courage.

As en-courage-ing as all the quotations of these wise people are, what many leave out is the loss, the pain - and the fear, too - that accompanies our journey in the final years.

Surveys repeatedly show that the most common regret of old people is not what they have done in their lives but what they have left undone – from travel to not telling someone how much they were loved. We live with those sorrows, especially the ones where we have failed others.

For some, there is physical pain that is often chronic and untreatable. Elders are mostly stoic about it, rarely mentioning how difficult it makes their lives.

The cumulative loss of loved ones and the different sorts of holes that creates in our lives. When my mother died, I remember feeling bereft that no one living now had known me when I was a child. I still haven't worked out, 25 years later, why that leaves an empty spot and still does.

And then, the fear of approaching death when we can no longer pretend it is far away. Like I said, it takes a lot of courage to get through old age and I am surprised how little this is noticed – by others maybe understandably but by elders themselves particularly.

Over these years of thinking about the meaning of old age, I have come to believe that it is part of our job in these last years to cultivate acceptance of the ending of our days and to weave the work of accomplishing that into the structure of our daily lives.

It does take work. You can't just decide one day that you are are comfortable with dying and be done with it. Particularly when, for me, I have never felt as closely connected to life and living, so attached to the shifts in light and weather and the changing seasons of our world as I do now.

Without any effort on our part, death will find us when it is time. But I want more. I seek to stop running from death and to make peace with it as the proper outcome of life.

My greatest encouragement and comfort in that so far is astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson's “We are all stardust” speech:

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago," he said.

“For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.

I'm not there yet but that knowledge gets me a whole lot closer to understanding death as the good and proper outcome of life.

Stardust