Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Crabby Old Lady v. the Cable Company

Crabby Old Lady does not like using her blog for rants about personal issues but every couple of years something so egregious happens that she cannot help herself.

This one is about trying to reduce her cable/internet costs and let Crabby say up front that if any of you are intending to flaunt your supposed virtue by telling her you have better things to do than watch television, don't.

Crabby likes television. She spent more than a third of her life producing network TV shows. It's in her blood.

She watches a lot of news and politics on television and, as she has maintained for the past four or five years, she believes we are living through a golden age of television drama - of much higher quality that most feature movies which Crabby hardly ever attends.

Now. Moving on.

Crabby's internet and television services are supplied by Comcast which is, according to the most recent annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) from the University of Michigan, the second most hated company in the U.S., besting Time-Warner by one whole point.

When the new figures were released in May, ACSI noted,

”High prices, poor reliability, and declining customer service are to blame for low customer satisfaction with pay TV services.”

Crabby can attest to that, having had many arguments with the company's so-called customer service representatives (CSR) over the past four years mostly about unexplained and unexpected price increases every six months.

Not to mention, if your cable/internet service is anything like Crabby's, the monthly statement is so cryptic that it may as well be written in Martian; there is no way to tell what the prices are for individual services.

This month, the new bill arrived with an increase of 9.5 percent – for this discussion, let's just round it up to 10. It's not like Crabby has noticed any enhanced service.

As far as she can tell, the increases are arbitrary – maybe when the company wants a new jet? Who knows? This time was more than Crabby could stand.

She called to see what could be done to lower her bill.

Because all the CSR's speak the same Martian language in which bills are written, Crabby doesn't understand how it happened but by the end of her first conversation with Comcast yesterday, the CSR told her that with the new “bundle,” she would be charged “only” a price that was - wait for it - six dollars higher than the new bill.

Did you get that? Higher.

There was no point in continuing so Crabby, with an immoderate comment or two, hung up. (Crabby just hates how CSRs turn people into raging harridans.)

So Crabby spent an hour looking into cutting the cord, dropping Comcast altogether. However, in her area, it is the only real broadband internet provider so she decided to see about keeping the internet but finding another source for television.

Since Crabby doesn't subscribe to premium channels, there ought to be a way with her smart TV, to work out television via internet apps. And there is. But it is complicated and Crabby doesn't have time this week to learn the details and make the best choices.

So she called Comcast again telling the recorded voice that she wants to cancel her service. (That statement always gets a better class of CSR.)

Crabby's intention was to give up the DVR on which she records programs so that she can watch them on her schedule and to reduce the service on her main TV set to what she has on the 10-year-old, 15-inch TV near her desk for news and political programs.

Her goal was two TVs each with only the most basic number of channels and no HD, no DVR, no On Demand viewing.

Just internet at the mid-level speed offered and the smallest number of basic channels on two sets.

But that was not possible. Not in the world of monopoly Comcast. The company does not allow anyone to buy these services individually; we are all forced to buy a “bundle.”

To have any television at all, Crabby is required to get a new box that doesn't record (DVR) or supply shows in HD but does give her the onscreen listing service and On Demand viewing (no other choice allowed) along with that intermediate level broadband for internet.

Now take a moment and see if you can figure out how much money Crabby saved. Here are the differences:

  • She gave up all those extra channels on her main TV in exchange for about 20-25 basic channels.
  • She got rid of HD and the DVD recorder.
  • She kept her little “news TV” at her desk for the same $2.99 per month.
  • She gave up TV altogether on the extra TV in the guest room. It can be used now only for DVDs.

Are you ready? The saving is approximately 20 bucks – 15 percent below the newest jacked-up price – about five percent lower than last month's bill before that increase. It doesn't seem worth the time - the CSR's or Crabby's.

According to several sources, about 19 percent of U.S. television customers have dropped cable altogether. Most are replacing it with combinations of indoor or outdoor rabbit ear antennas (remember those? they're back) along with Roku, Tivo or similar boxes and streaming services via smart TVs.

Crabby will soon join them but it shouldn't be this way. There shouldn't be only one premier TV/internet service per city but if we must, prices should be regulated.

Better would be other television providers and my town is one of half a dozen nationwide being considered by Google for their new fiber service for TV and internet. Maybe we will get it. Maybe at an affordable price. Or maybe not.

Meanwhile, it's a lot harder to set up television independent of the cable company so any experienced advice on handling the transition will be happily received by Crabby Old Lady.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Karen Zaun Kennedy: I Am From (take two).

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Monday, 20 October 2014

It's That Time Again - Medicare Enrollment

(EDITORIAL NOTE: International readers can take the day off – most of you live in countries with more sane health programs than the United States has and don't suffer this tedious, irritating annual ritual.)

Last Wednesday, 15 October, marked the start of the Medicare Open Enrollment period which lasts until 7 December. During this time, people 65 and older may, if they choose, make changes to their Advantage programs and their Part D prescription drug plans.

Oh joy.

If you currently have traditional Medicare, you are allowed to change to a private Advantage plan – or vice versa. Traditional Medicare does not provide drug coverage so you need a separate plan (Part D) for that.

Some Advantage plans cover drugs and others do not, so if you choose a plan without drug coverage you will need a stand-alone drug program as traditional Medicare enrollees do.


  • Part A covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing, hospice and home health care. It is free.
  • Part B covers preventive care, outpatient services and doctor visits. The monthly premium is deducted from your Social Security benefit.
  • Optional Medigap (or Supplemental) coverage pays for the “gap” between what Parts A and B cover and your out-of-pocket costs. You MAY NOT CHANGE this coverage during the 15 October-7 December open enrollment period.
  • Part C is another name for Advantage plans. These take the place of original Medicare (Parts A, B and Medigap). Premiums are usually lower, they often cover drugs but physician choice is limited to the company's network and physicians are allowed to drop out of the program mid-year.

Here is some good news. The monthly premium for Medicare Part B will remain unchanged for the second year in a row: $104.90 for most people which is deducted from your Social Security benefit.

Certain people pay higher Part B premiums. There are charts at the Department of Health and Human Services website where you can see if you are among them.

In past years during the open enrollment period, I have covered the possibilities in a lot of detail without even scratching the surface of all there is to know about Medicare.

This year, because it is such a gigantic, complicated program, I'm cutting down my reporting to the minimal you must know, and then provide a little context along with good links to help you through the ordeal – um, I mean process - of changes to coverage you might like to make.

Remember, even if you think you are happy with your current coverage, prices change, deductibles are added, subtracted, increased, etc., and drugs are added and deleted from companies' formularies. So it is just good sense to review your plans each year.

The Medicare.gov website is not perfect but it gets better and easier to use each year. You can check your current enrollment, premiums, drugs list and find all sorts of general health information.

The steps to find your current coverage information are straightforward: fill in Zip Code, Medicare number, surname, the effective date of your initial Medicare enrollment and your birthdate. Medicare number and initial enrollment date are both on your Medicare card.

From there you can follow instructions to compare your current coverage to what is available in your state for 2015, be it Advantage plans or drug coverage. You can sort the lists by, among other criteria, deductible, star ratings, monthly premium and plan name.

Each listing tells you that information in addition to any restrictions, co-pays and for drugs, estimated annual cost. You can select several plans to compare them side-by-side.

When you have made a selection, you can follow a link to enroll online or you can enroll by telephone. If you want to keep your current coverage, do nothing and it will continue – well, except for a premium increase in most cases.

One of the best things about the Medicare.gov selection tool for drug coverage is that if you take the time to enter all your prescriptions and their dosages, you will get a list of plans that cover what you need and you can then compare other criteria to select what works best for you.

In my case, I use no prescription drugs and since there is no way to guess what might happen to me and what kind of drugs I would need, I punt.

I choose the least expensive plan and hope (how's that for healthcare planning?) that whatever happens to me, I will be able to afford whatever drugs I need until the next year when I can select a different plan based on the drugs I need.

There were 28 prescription drug plans in my state, the least expensive of which would mean a premium increase of more than 104 percent. Huge. My current insurer is increasing the premium by “only” 25 percent with a slight increase in the deductible – so it's a no brainer.

I assume this is one method by which insurers keep current customers. Apparently, I am supposed to be grateful for such a “low” increase but I have trouble reconciling 25 percent compared to what will be about a 1.5 percent increase in the Social Security benefit for next year.

The annual open enrollment period is open season for scammers. You will likely receive many snailmail advertisements for Advantage and drug plans, and phone calls too. Be smart.

  • Never give out personal information such as Medicare and Social Security numbers, account numbers, etc. to anyone who has telephoned you. Ever. Medicare representatives never call to ask this kind of information.
  • If you are due a refund for any reason from a private insurer, it will be sent to you via postal mail. If anyone calls asking for personal information to receive your refund, it is probably a scam. Hang up.
  • Many legitimate companies are offering a variety of health coverage plans during this period. But some are not who they say they are or will employ high pressure tactics to try to sell you coverage you don't need. Be aware.
  • Many offers of “free” medical supplies or checkups via postal mail are excuses to extract personal information from you. Check them out carefully before agreeing to them.

Medicare website
Medicare telephone: 1-800-Medicare

Medicare and You
By now, Medicare enrollees will have received your annual Medicare and You booklet. If you have not received it, or misplaced it, there is an electronic version [pdf]. Note that only the print version has a list in the back of plans available in your state.

Medicare Find a Plan
Here is a direct link to the Medicare Find a Plan main page.

My Medicare Matters
The National Council on Aging (NCOA) maintains a good educational website with lots of trustworthy information about Medicare and how it works.

Medicare Rights Center Roadmaps
Another website with lots of helpful information from the Medicare Rights Center.

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is a national program that offers one-on-one counseling and assistance to people with Medicare and their families. Search for your local SHIP website and counselors.

65 and Signing Up For the First Time
If you are new to Medicare, Kaiser Health News has a succinct one-pager to get you started with a lot of links to additional online information.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Trudi Kappel: Love by Gefilte Fish

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

ELDER MUSIC: States – South Dakota to Wyoming

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.

We're in the home stretch now. Here are the last of the states (alphabetically).

SouthDakota125It seems that whenever a town or city is mentioned in these songs, I have been there.

Not too unusual except that I live in a country on the other side of the world.

Rapid City is one place where I spent some days waiting for a radiator to be fixed. It came into close contact with a deer. I hasten to add that I was a passenger at the time, not the driver.

I don't know if KINKY FRIEDMAN has ever hit a deer but nothing would surprise me when it comes to the Kinkster.


Kinky is better known for being from Texas (and writing books about New York), but his song is about South Dakota. It's called Rapid City, South Dakota.

♫ Kinky Friedman - Rapid City, South Dakota

Tennessee125I don't know what it is about Tennessee that inspires waltzes, but there you go.

You probably think you know what's coming up given that introduction, but it's is not to be.

Anyone who knows the music of JESSE WINCHESTER has got it right though.


Jesse's song is The Brand New Tennessee Waltz.

♫ Jesse Winchester - The Brand New Tennessee Waltz

Texas125Another Texan, LYLE LOVETT, and his song is about that state.


To quote Tom Rush, "Lyle is not like the other children.” He has a really quirky attitude when it comes to writing songs but it's not too obvious in this one. It's called That's Right (You're Not from Texas). He performs it as if it's 1940 and Bob Wills is still the king.

♫ Lyle Lovett - That's Right (You're Not from Texas)

Utah125I couldn't find any songs about Utah, at least none with the state's name in the title.

I did find one where Utah was mentioned and that's good enough for me.With some of these I got a bit desperate. You might have noticed.

The song is sung by MARTY ROBBINS.

Marty Robbins

The song is Utah Carol, and it's taken from his terrific “Gunfighter Ballads” album.

♫ Marty Robbins - Utah Carol

Vermont125My choice for Vermont is Moonlight in Vermont.

There are many different versions of it, but one stood out as far as I'm concerned, and that is the one by BILLIE HOLIDAY. Regular readers are probably not surprised by that. I won't say anything else, just let Billie sing the song.


Billie Holiday - Moonlight in Vermont

Virginia125DAVE ALVIN first came to prominence in the band The Blasters with his brother Phil.


Since then he's had a solo career singing fine songs in his superb baritone voice. He mostly writes his own material, but he has released an album called "Public Domain" where he performed fine old songs, some dating back a century or more.

East Virginia Blues is one from that album.

♫ Dave Alvin - East Virginia Blues

Washington125Now to the hardest state of them all, Washington.

Oh, there are a lot of songs about Washington but they all refer to the city on the other side of the country.

I resorted to the intertube and there are some websites that suggest that there are no songs about Washington or, at least, none that mention the state in the title.

That was my unofficial criterion for these columns - that the name had to be in the title. Undeterred by that, I spent several days searching and finally found one. It's by M. WARD.

M Ward

M (his mum and dad weren't very imaginative in the naming department) has a song called Four Hours in Washington which I was assured is about the state. However, it isn't actually mentioned in the lyrics, but I'm desperate so it'll have to do.

♫ M. Ward - Four Hours in Washington

WestVirginia125KATHY MATTEA really was born in West Virginia.


So she's not lying when she sings West Virginia, My Home. Kathy was classically trained as a singer but discovered folk music and took up the guitar.

Since then she's ventured into gospel, bluegrass and has become a respected singer/songwriter. Anything she performs is well worth a listen.

♫ Kathy Mattea - West Virginia, My Home

Wisconsin125Thank heaven for GLENN YARBROUGH, he had the solitary Wisconsin song.


Readers with long musical memories know that Glenn started out as the lead singer for the Limeliters. He then went on to have a long solo career. Actually, the career is still continuing.

Glenn's song today is just called Wisconsin.

♫ Glenn Yarbrough - Wisconsin

Wyoming125Poor old Wyoming, always coming last alphabetically.

It never seems to be the thing to do something or other in reverse order. Even I haven't done that.

I could completely rearrange all these columns but that sounds like too much hard work, so I won't. Anyway, we have JOHN DENVER for this final state.


John's song is called Song of Wyoming.

♫ John Denver - Song of Wyoming

Well, that's it. Or is it? There's an obvious clichéd way to end this series and never let it be said that I'll always avoid the clichés.

So, an extra track from SIMON AND GARFUNKEL to sum up all that's gone before, simply called America.


♫ Simon and Garfunkel - America

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Saturday, 18 October 2014

INTERESTING STUFF – 18 October 2014


Anna Stoer is 114 years old. You read that right – 114. She lives in Minnesota. She wanted to create a Facebook page. She had to lie because the age dropdown menu goes only to age 99.

Here's the video story:

You can read more at Buzzfeed but watch out for that $%^ autostart audio.


From my friend Jim Stone, here is how the YouTube page explains this extraordinary video:

”...a fourth-grade class in a primary school in Kanazawa, northwest of Tokyo, learns lessons about compassion from their homeroom teacher, Toshiro Kanamori.

“He instructs each to write their true inner feelings in a letter, and read it aloud in front of the class. By sharing their lives, the children begin to realize the importance of caring for their classmates."

Take a look at Part 1 – you will be astonished and wish that all children could have a teacher like this man.

You can watch the full documentary here. It is about 40 minutes long.


Cruelty to animals seems an especially heinous crime to me because unless provoked, they have nothing but love for humans. Certainly you remember the case of NFL star Michael Vick and his dog fight ring.

What you might not know is how widespread dog fighting rings and other kinds of animal cruelty are. Now, reports Alternet,

“...the FBI is making animal cruelty a Group A felony, along with homicide, arson and assault. The move, announced two weeks ago, will take animal cruelty out of the category of 'other' crimes not considered major by the FBI and will offer a way to track animal abuse.”

Read more here.


Darlene Costner sent this video of juggler Michael Davis performing at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C. For then-President Ronald Reagan and his wife along with then-Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill and his wife.


...are grammar mavens. So this image from my friend John Brandt seems to be a good fit for us.



John Oliver's HBO show, Last Week Tonight was on hiatus last Sunday so he provided us with this web-only diatribe against pumpkin spice flavor – have fun.


In 1970, The New Republic magazine printed a story by Douglas J. Stewart calling for denying the vote to elders. An excerpt:

”...it makes no sense to allow the vote to someone who is actuarially unlikely to survive, and pay the bills for, the politician or party he may help elect...As a class they are not...wise, benign, and tolerant...their chief characteristics are greed, cowardice, resentment over the cheats of life...”

The New Republic gave the rebuttal forum to Fahrenheit 451 author, Ray Bradbury, which he used in the tone and attitude the proposal deserved. An excerpt:

”I am much in your debt for publishing the brilliant article by Douglas J. Stewart. Taking the vote away from old people is great. But, may I suggest an even better alternative? Let us build ovens and gas chambers and really do the job right.

“I have other plans for cripples, the blind, and the Jews, if Mr. Stewart wishes to hear them. Meanwhile, onward and upward. Let’s get that vote, first, and then the life of the Voter!”

You can (and should) read Bradbury's entire response here.

This exchange is part of a celebration of the magazine's 100 years in existence with reprints of 100 stories from their century of publication. You'll find that series here. (Hat tip to TGB reader, Tom Delmore)


Maybe you think you know something about paper sculptures. Unless you've seen this video, you probably don't.

If you would like to know more, here's another video of the artist, who started out in his professional life as a book publisher, talking about his work.


I know someone who has a dog named Walter. What makes that wonderful and pleases me every time I think of it is that the person's surname is Brennan. (Maybe you have to be older than 60 or so to get the joke.)

Here's another dog named Walter although I don't know his person's surname. The temperature had been more than 90 degrees in Sicily where Walter lives and he can't wait to cool off in the sea.

The YouTube page says Walter has “an insane passion for diving and swimming.” Here is little more of his over-the-top joy – can't you feel it?

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 upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably 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.

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Friday, 17 October 2014

Beer and Billiards for Healthy Aging

“Active aging” is what they call it. You know, all that bungee jumping, marathon running and climbing high mountains they tell us old people need to do these days to stay healthy.

No slacking off with a nap in the afternoon when you can speed ride your bike 15 miles to the gym for an hour or two on the elliptical. Active aging is the key to a healthy old body and brain they tell us these days – exercise, exercise, exercise.

Within more reason, I don't disagree but I think a recent report on other kinds of activity has a great deal of merit:

”...to equate active ageing strictly with health is too narrow a focus, new research from University of Copenhagen shows; the elderly can reap social and health benefits from activities that do not necessarily conform to official life style recommendations - billiards for instance.”

The researcher, Aske Lassen, a PhD student at the University of Copenhagen's Centre for Healthy Ageing, explains further:

“Playing billiards often comes with a certain lifestyle, drinking beer and drams for instance, and I am quite sure this was not what WHO [World Health Organization] and EU [European Union] meant when they formulated their active ageing policies.

“But billiards does constitute active ageing. Billiards is, first of all, an activity these men thoroughly enjoy.

“That enhances their quality of life while immersing them in their local community and keeping them socially active.

“And billiards is, secondly, very suitable exercise for old people because the game varies naturally between periods of activity and passivity - and this means the men can keep playing for hours.”

Mr. Lassen's work has led him to believe that we need a less restrictive definition of healthy aging. He continues:

”The question is how we define 'good ageing' and how we organise society for our ageing generations.

“We therefore need a broader, more inclusive concept of healthy and active ageing that allows for the communities the elderly already take part in and that positively impact their everyday lives, quality of life, and general health.”

None of us is very good at moderation. Here in the U.S., the obesity epidemic speaks to our collective sloth while Silicon Valley is inventing gadgets to monitor our every waking (and sleeping move).

Billiards and beer – or their regional equivalents – return some sanity to the question of what active aging should be.

You can read more about Aske Lassen's work here and here.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: Plunging My Poundage

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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Elder Women and Eleanor's Hope

When I starting out in the world on my own in the late 1950s, there weren't many careers available to women. Our choices were mostly confined to waitress or office worker and, for the few who attended college, teacher or nurse.

The quip in those days about “girls” in college pursuing their MRS degree was more fact than joke and most left school or the workforce as soon as they married.

However, after the publication of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique in 1963, set off the second wave of feminism, the “women's lib” movement took off with astonishing speed and today, large numbers of women are, as men have always been, doctors, lawyers and corporate chiefs.

No one can deny that women have come a long way, baby. Just not far enough and that, it has become evident, is particularly hard on elder, retired women.

As increasing numbers of cracks appear in the glass ceiling, pay equity between men and women in the same jobs has lagged dramatically. For as many years as I can recall, women have been paid about 77 cents for every dollar men earn.

(Some people dispute that figure, usually Republicans, and others say the gap is even larger. Whatever the number may be, no one argues that there is no pay gap.)

What that means for elder women is that because their earnings throughout their working years are lower so, then, is their Social Security benefit. In fact, reports the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM),

”In 2012, the average annual Social Security income received by women 65 years and older was only 76 percent of the benefit received by men ($12,520 compared to $16,398).”

One early morning last week, I attended a conference call sponsored by the NCPSSM announcing their new initiative called Eleanor's Hope.

It is named in honor of Eleanor Roosevelt who throughout her years as First Lady of the United States and for 17 years thereafter until she died in 1962, was a beacon of light to the world for so many social justice causes including that of women.

As NCPSSM president and CEO Max Richtman writes:

”The latest census reports that nearly 2.6 million elderly women are living in poverty and 733,000 of those live in extreme poverty. For women who live longer on lower benefits, America’s retirement crisis is very real.

“That’s why the financial protection Social Security provides is even more critical for the millions of women who depend on this vital program to keep them from poverty.”

Among the speakers during last week's conference call announcing Eleanor's Hope, were Senator Elizabeth Warren, Representative Gwen Moore, NOW president Terry O'Neill, and Franklin Roosevelt's grandson, James Roosevelt.

The goals of the initiative are ambitious – to recruit and train activists at the grassroots level, to support Congressional leaders who make a difference on women's retirement issues and to advocate for legislation that will improve women's health and wellbeing.

In that regard, Mr. Richtman lists these he says are among the proposals Eleanor's Hope intends to pursue:

  • Provide Social Security credits for caregivers
  • Improve Social Security survivor benefits
  • Equalize Social Security’s rules for disabled widows
  • Strengthen the Social Security Cost of Living Allowance
  • Boost the basic Social Security benefit of all current and future beneficiaries
  • Build on preventive care provisions in the Affordable Care Act and expanding coordination of care for beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions
  • Generate greater savings on the cost of prescription drugs by increasing manufacturer discounts, allow Medicare to receive the same drug rebates as Medicaid for dual-eligibles, and promote lower drug costs by providing for faster development of generic drugs

Definitely ambitious which is a good reason to support it. You can do that by finding out more at the Eleanor's Hope website. By learning more about the gender wage gap here [pdf].

And don't forget that we have midterm elections coming up in less than three weeks. Initiatives like Eleanor's Hope depend on electing the right kind of people to both local and national office.

You can sign a pledge at the Eleanor's Hope website to vote for the people who will make a difference.

And then, do it please on 4 November. We have come a long way in our lifetimes, but we're not there yet.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Sheiner: I Remember...

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

To Reclaim the Word “Old”

As I have explained here many times in the past, I made a deliberate decision when I began this blog a decade ago to never use old-age euphemisms - those cutesy-poo names like golden-ager, third-ager and oldster along with the offensive ones such as coot and biddy.

For similar reasons, I also avoid senior, senior citizen and mature because they are meant to hide the idea of old age.

Instead, my references would be straight forward – old and older, as grammar requires - and a push to reclaim elder beyond its too-limited usage for church and tribal persons of age.

As I regularly try to remind you, dear readers, there is nothing wrong with being old but you wouldn't know that from even some elders themselves.

Every time I write about the demeaning language old people are subject to, I can count on a number of comments insisting that language doesn't matter or that people who use demeaning language for old people are only trying to be kind.

No. Language intended to mask old age is not kind; it reinforces the idea that growing old is bad.

Last week, the British classicist Mary Beard spoke at the Cheltenham Literary Festival about why reaching old age should be a source of pride. As The Independent reported:

"The 59-year-old also said attempt to pay someone a compliment by saying they did not look their age was 'one of the weirdest bits of double-think in our culture.'

“'I’m really trying to do that to reclaim the word old. I think about it in terms of other kinds of reclamations of vocabulary we've had over the years, such as "black" or “queer,” she said, according to The Daily Telegraph.

“'I'm rather keen for a campaign to do that for old, instead of "old" instantly connoting the hunched old lady and gentleman on the road sign, or the picture that you get on the adverts you get for senior railcards.'"

Whew! I've been banging on about the glory and honesty of the word “old” for ten years so I am pleased to have someone of Ms. Beard's stature joining the campaign. It's about time.

And it also seems a good occasion to repeat the great George Carlin's outstanding riff on the abomination of euphemisms for “old” that I've posted before.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: Who, What, When and Why?

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