What the Oldest Old Know

EDITORIAL NOTE: At the bottom of this post is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show - a now-and-then conversation between me, the proprietor of Time Goes By, and my former husband, Alex Bennett. Today's topic is cats. But first, I want to tell you about one of the best books of the year.

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John Leland, an exceptional reporter, joined The New York Times in 2000 and has been covering retirement and religion for the paper since 2004.

In 2015, The Times published Leland's year-long series, “85 and Up” about six of the oldest old living in New York City, all age 85 or older. I was hooked with his introduction which reads in part:

”Early this year, I began visiting these six elders, asking simple questions about their lives. What gets them going in the mornings? What are their aspirations, their concessions to age? Do they want to live to 100? Without the daily drumbeat of work or family responsibilities, where do they find meaning and purpose?

“What they shared, each in a different way, was a story of abrupt change — the loss of a spouse or a home, a sudden turn in health, the arrival of new love, the pain that signals only more pain to come...

“They buried brothers, sisters, parents, children, peers. They lived through the Depression, World War II, Nazi labor camps and the AIDS epidemic, but now they often find themselves with no one to listen to their memories.

“Few ever expected to be so old. None had a formula for how to do it.

“Their lives are a New York soap opera, unscripted.”

Earlier this year Leland, who is nearly three decades younger than the youngest of his six subjects, told fellow New York Times reporter, Jane Brody:

“These people totally changed my life. They’ve given up distractions that make us do stupid things and instead focus on what’s important to them.

“To a person, they don’t worry about things that might happen. They worry when it happens, and even then they don’t worry. They just deal with it.

“At whatever age we are, we can choose to adapt to whatever happens. We have influence over whether we let things knock us out.”

These six elders are a good cross-section of humanity at any age: an African-American man who is a veteran of World War II, a gay man whose partner of 60 years had died six years previously, a Chinese woman who maintains her social connections playing mahjong, a woman who found a new boyfriend in the retirement home where she lives and a well-known film director.

After repeated visits with each of his subjects over a year's time, Leland put together an extraordinarily informative and poignant story about – ahem, “what it's really like to get old” (see this blog's subtitle in the banner).

As he told host Terri Gross recently on her NPR radio program, Fresh Air, before this series, he was afraid of old age and sometimes still is:

”...when I started doing this series, I'd set out to - what one of the people I talked to calls - rewriting the Book of Job and doing a story on how this is terrible about aging.

“And you fall down, and you break your hip, and then it's all over. And you lose your eyesight, and then your friends all die, and then it's over. And your heart stops working. And you don't have sex anymore. And you don't work. And you don't have anything that gives you purpose. So now, it's all over.

“And that's what I thought old age was. But then you spend time with people, and a lot of that stuff is a part of their lives in old age but in no case was it how they defined themselves. So I wasn't getting it - what the truth about their lives was as they saw it.”

You can listen to Terry Gross's entire interview with John Leland, or you can read the transcript of their conversation here.

LelandBookCover125 In January this year, a book based on Leland's conversations with the six elders was published. Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old, received near-unanimous rave reviews.

In this short video from PBS NewsHour in March, Leland explains that learning how to think about death from his elder subjects changed how he lives:

During the past 20-odd years I've read hundreds of books on just about every aspect of growing old. There is a lot of dreck among the good ones but none has captured what it's really like to be old with such campassion, empathy, humor, genuine interest and, eventually, understanding as Leland does.

That happened because above all else, he is an excellent reporter who took the time to listen carefully and, as he says, “let them guide me through the world as they saw it."

The book is available at all the usual retailers online and off. If you have access to The New York Times, the original series begins here.

Leland's followup to the original series was published last December in The Times.

Given all the age-related reading I do, you'd think I pretty well have the subject covered and to a degree, I do. But John Leland opened my eyes, my thoughts and my imagination to a good deal more than I have considered before. Books like Leland's don't come around every day.

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Here is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show recorded on Tuesday 22 May 2018.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests after me, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.



Ollie the Cat: 2004 – 2018

PosingonBed

That's Ollie the cat in the bedroom late last year, healthy if a bit too fat. A few months ago, he got sick, made it obvious over time that he no longer liked his regular food and nothing else we tried was satisfactory to him. He'd have a few bites and walk away.

There had been no definitive diagnosis and even with the veterinarian's best efforts, Ollie continued to lose weight until his bones were sticking out. Last Thursday morning, he took up residence in a dark and comfy cupboard hidy-hole in the dining room – a place he otherwise had never shown the slightest interest.

On Friday night, I dragged out blankets and pillows from the bedroom and tried to sleep on the floor next to Ollie discovering, in the process, that I am officially too old now to sleep on the floor, even with carpeting and a couple of blankets for more padding.

I lasted there a couple of hours before returning to bed but as far as I could tell in the morning, Ollie didn't mind my having been in another room overnight.

He also didn't mind when I pet him but he didn't really care either – no purring and only the slightest acknowledgement of my touch.

His once bright green eyes had become dull and so on Saturday, another veterinarian from an organization called Compassionate Care came to our home so that Ollie's departure into the great kitty unknown could be done in peaceful, comfortable and familiar surroundings.

Our home feels so empty now and I am so deeply sad.

Here is Ollie in our New York City home early in 2005, when he was six months old.

Ollie6months

In those early days, we jockeyed for position over whose living requirements would prevail. Sometimes I won, sometimes he did but overall we accomodated our preferences fairly well, if you don't count his biting my ankle if I didn't prepare a meal fast enough.

This is Ollie in 2010 helping with the packing to move from Maine to Oregon.

Ollie2010forJB1

And here he is four years ago checking out the front patio/porch where local cats and the occasional squirrel sometimes show up.

OllieintheWindow2014

Ollie was a Savannah cat, a relatively new hybrid breed, a cross between a domestic cat and African serval. Ollie was one-sixth serval with the gorgeous coat similar to a leopard's.

I don't know if it is typical of Savannah cats, but what anyone who ever met him commented on was his direct, almost human-like gaze into a person's eyes. In the beginning it was unsettling how he looked at me with such intensity. It didn't take long to get used to it and and I loved that connection between us every day of our life together.

Here is a photo that almost catches that feeling:

DSCN1138

Many, many years ago, my then-father-in-law told me about how, on weekends, he and his wife might not bump into one another between breakfast and dinner as they went about their pursuits. But what was important is that they each knew there was another heartbeat in the house.

And so it was with Ollie and me but now, that other heartbeat is gone and it feels so empty here today.

As undoubtedly is true for you, I've been through this grief before with people and with beloved animals. I know that – as has already happened once – for awhile I will think I see Ollie out of the corner of my eye as he trots by. But that's just a mirage, right?

And someday I will be able to remember Ollie without weeping. But not yet. He always made me feel that to him, I was the cat's meow. To me, he was my best buddy for 14 years.

I'll leave you with a link to one of my all-time favorite blog posts that long-time readers will probably recall: the adventure of Ollie's disappearance from our second-story deck in Portland, Maine, in 2007. I titled it How Ollie the Cat Lost His Outdoor Privileges, a heart-pounding, scary tale with a lot of photographs and, at the end, my revenge.

Farewell my Ollie. You gave me so much joy. I will always love you.

OllieinRattanChair



ELDER MUSIC: Walls

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.

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Wall7

The Orange Buffoon is still persisting in his idiotic idea to build a wall. I assume he wants to turn America into East Germany, and didn’t that turn out well?

We know this won’t happen and would be pointless even if it was constructed. Has he not heard of aeroplanes? Ships? It may be an idiotic idea to build, but it’s a good one for a music column.

I’ll start with a song about a wall that was actually built (only to be torn down later when it failed to serve its purpose). People of a certain age (and that’d be most of us) will remember the song by TONI FISHER.

Toni Fisher

Toni was a bit optimistic, singing “that soon will fall”. It didn’t come down for another 27 years. The song is West of the Wall.

♫ Toni Fisher - West Of The Wall


Willie Nelson wrote the song Hello Walls, but the first version I heard, quite a big hit in my part of the world, was by FARON YOUNG.

Faron Young

It seems to be the case that the first one you hear is the one that you prefer. That’s generally the case with me (with a couple of exceptions). So, in spite of Willie’s version being particularly good, I’m going with Faron.

♫ Faron Young - Hello Walls


ADAM WADE started out in science but eventually turned to music and TV.

Adam Wade

I assume the money was better, especially when he started hosting TV programs. Initially, he was a singer and what a voice he has. His contribution today is The Writing on the Wall.

♫ Adam Wade - The Writing On The Wall


The writer of the next song certainly listened carefully to I’m Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter. Indeed, letters are an essential component of this song as well. The singer is DEAN MARTIN.

Dean Martin

It seems that his sweetie (or ex-sweetie) was a considerable correspondent, as Dino sings that I'm Gonna Paper All My Walls With Your Love Letters.

♫ Dean Martin - I'm Gonna Paper All My Walls With Your Love Letters


The STATLER BROTHERS were as good a harmony group as any around.

Statler Brothers


Not just harmony, but the interplay of their voices can bring a smile to my face. Besides their solo records, they were often heard backing Johnny Cash. This is probably their best known song, Flowers on the Wall.

♫ Statler Brothers - Flowers on the Wall


BETTYE LAVETTE is ostensibly a soul singer.

Bettye Lavette

However, she doesn’t restrict herself to that one genre, she branches out into rock, gospel, funk, country, blues and whatever else takes her fancy. Bettye’s in a soul mood with a touch of blues thrown in for good measure on Between You Me and the Wall You're a Fool.

♫ Bettye Lavette - Just Between You Me And The Wall You're A Fool


SIMON AND GARFUNKEL recorded the album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme” during Paul’s pretentious writing period.

Simon & Garfunkel

The song from that album was indicative of that, and it also fit into our category today: A Poem on the Underground Wall.

♫ Simon & Garfunkel - A Poem on the Underground Wall


Since there was a big deal album called “The Wall”, I decided I’d better include something from that or questions might be asked. The album was recorded by PINK FLOYD.

Pink Floyd

There were three versions of the song Another Brick in the Wall on the album and they’re all a bunch of bollocks. This is the second of those, the least painful one.

♫ Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall Part 2


Now for some real music, here are EMMYLOU HARRIS and LINDA RONSTADT.

Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris

From an album they recorded together called “Western Wall”, here is the title song.

♫ Emmylou Harris & Linda Ronstadt - Western Wall


This one’s for you Prez, if you happen to be reading (assuming you can read anything other than tweets, that is). I’ll let TOM RUSSELL tell you all about it.

Tom Russell

The song is Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?

♫ Tom Russell - Who's Gonna Build Your Wall



INTERESTING STUFF – 19 May 2018

NEW SHINGLES VACCINE FOR ELDERS

I'm betting that most TGB readers had chicken pox when they were kids. That means we are at risk for shingles. The vaccine that has been available, [Zostavax], is not all that effective but a new one, called Shingrix, is:

”In clinical trials,” reports the Washington Post, “Shingrix was 96.6 percent effective in adults ages 50 to 59, while Zostavax was 70 percent effective.

“The differences were even more marked with age: Effectiveness in adults 70 and older was 91.3 percent for Shingrix, compared with 38 percent for Zostavax. Shingrix also provided longer-lasting protection than Zostavax, whose effectiveness waned after the first year.”

For those reasons and others, I've never taken the Zostavax shot but Shingrix will be at the top of my questions for my primary care physician when I see him in a few weeks.

”The [Centers for Disease Control] CDC,” reports AARP, “estimates that for every 1 million people 60 to 69 years old who receive Shingrix, there will be 87,000 fewer cases of shingles, as well as 10,000 fewer cases of postherpetic neuralgia (severe pain in the location of a previous shingles rash).”

Shingrix can be pricey - $280 for the two-shot series – so check your drug coverage.

IT'S OFFICIAL – I WILL NEVER FLY AGAIN

At a trade show in Hamburg, Germany, in April, a new kind of airline seat – actually a sort of standing saddle – was offered as a way for airlines to cram more passengers into economy class.

As the video notes toward the end, certain existing rules probably won't allow this new “seating” to be installed in planes anytime soon. But if you live in the United States these days, you know how easily regulations can ben ignored or ditched entirely.

Photos and more information at Newsweek.

3D PRINTED HOMES FOR THE WORLD'S 1 BILLION HOMELESS

On the brighter side, a company is making very low-cost 3D printed homes that could provide that could provide affordable, sustainable and customizable homes for the one billion global homeless population. Here's a video:

You can read more and see other videos at the websites of the two companies who created this project, New Story and Icon.

THEY KEEP TRYING TO TELL US BRAIN GAMES WORK, BUT...

Study after study says they don't, as I've mentioned here many times.

Last fall, the fellow-blogger Chuck Nyren had had just enough when the latest overblown research claimed that brain games could ward off dementia:

Those who did the speed of processing training” Chuck quotes, “were 29 per cent less likely to have developed dementia than people in the ”control group.

But…

It is possible that any improvements seen in the processing speed training group may have been due to chance, and not directly caused by the training itself.

And then he laid out his own inimitable thoughts:

”I’m having trouble directly speed processing the above information. It sounds to me like you could’ve had them all play tiddlywinks for ten years and had the same results – a chance that a certain percentage might or might not have developed dementia, but not necessarily because they played tiddlywinks.”

There is more at Chuck's Huffpost piece.

THE PUPPETEER BEHIND YODA AND JABBA THE HUT

I've lost track of the more recent Star Wars movies (are there nine films in the series now?), but the first three? I'm still a fan of those – particularly of Yoda, Jabba the Hut and I'm one of the few people on earth, apparently, who thinks Jar Jar Binks is a hoot.

Here's a new video about David Barclay, the puppeteer behind Star Wars characters.

HOW THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM WORKS

You can understand, after having my gall bladder, duodenum, part of my pancreas and a few other bits and pieces surgically removed a year ago, why I'm interested in how the digestive system generally works. Maybe you are too. Here's a good TEDed Talk on that.

NET NEUTRALITY WIN IN THE SENATE

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats, joined by three Republicans, pulled off 52-47 vote approving a resolution that would undo the FCC’s 2017 repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules.

To reinstate the net neutrality rules, the House now needs to vote on the bill. Even though polls show that 86 percent of Americans want to keep the net neutrality rules, Congressional Republicans

”...described the effort to reinstate 'net neutrality' rules as 'political theater' because the GOP-controlled House is not expected to take up the issue and the Senate’s margin could not overcome a presidential veto,” reported Talking Points Memo.

“Democrats, however, were undeterred, saying their push would energize young voters who are tech savvy and value unfettered access to the internet.”

Maybe once again you could call your Congressional representative and urge him or her to help bring the bill to the floor of the House and vote for it. You can do that here.

LIVE ANIMAL CAMS

Just what you need, right – more sites to keep you glued to your screens.

I've just discovered explore.com which bill itself as the “world's leading philanthropic live nature cam network and documentary film channel.” There many live cams include dozens of kinds of animals. Here is the famous Decorah Eagle came with this year's brood of chicks.

At explore.org, you'll find live cams for many types of birds and fish; walruses and seals brown, grizzly, polar and panda bears; tigers, lions and elephants; farm animals; even dogs and cats and much more along with highlight reels from the hundreds of cams.

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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.



Movie Star Quotations About Growing Old

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And one man:

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

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

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

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

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


Are You Ageing "Normally"?

Depending on how you define the phrase, probably not.

As we have always reported at Time Goes By, people age at remarkably different rates and any gerontologist or geriatrician worth his/her salt, will tell you that people, as they grow older, become more individual from one another than when they were younger.

Because those two, four-day hospital visits in April interrupted my blog life, there are several topics that got lost in the shuffle that I want us to catch up on. One is a story from the highly respected Kaiser Health News (KHN) titled, Is There Such a Thing as Normal Aging?

They don't really answer their question. Instead, the KHN reporter consulted with Dr. Thomas Gill, a geriatric professor at Yale University, and three other geriatric experts to identify

”...examples of what are often — but not always – considered to be signposts of normal aging for folks who practice good health habits and get recommended preventive care.

In doing so, they break down ageing into decades containing these typical changes. My short version – the subheads in the story:

• The 50s: Stamina Declines
• The 60s: Susceptibility Increases
• The 70s: Chronic Conditions Fester
• The 80s: Fear Of Falling Grows
• The 90s & Up: Relying On Others

Those are the generalities of “normal ageing.” (There are fuller explanations at the links to Kaiser above.) Except for noting that the oldest old feel happier than young people, KHN defines normal ageing from only one point of view: negative health issues. I wondered how others approach the idea of normal ageing and checked out the usual suspects:

The Mayo Clinic website provides a long list of what physical things can go wrong in late years and supplies suggestions on how to prevent them.

WebMD has a similar list that's not quite as thorough as the Mayo Clinic.

Area Agency on Aging (in St. Petersburg, Florida) has a long but succinct list of physical changes and the reasons for them.

The Merck Manual Consumer Version online has the most usable, useful and informative version of health issues that can be expected in old age. And I like their pullquotes of these little nuggets of information:

“Disorders, not aging, usually account for most loss of function.”

“To make up for the muscle mass lost during each day of strict bed rest, older people may need to exercise for up to 2 weeks.”

“Most 60-year-olds need 3 times more light to read than 20-year-olds.”

However, all four web pages, each from a reputable health organization, deal only with those negative health developments of growing old, reinforcing the widespread but erroneous belief that to be old is to be sick.

It's a tricky thing to balance curiosity about what “normal” physical changes might turn up in old age without feeling you are being defined as sickly. While surfing around the web on these topics, I came across a blogger named Brian Alger who has some different thoughts on “normal aging”:

Aging doesn’t just place a limit our our lifespan, it also constantly alters the physical, emotional, spiritual, and social context of being alive. In this sense, aging is a medium, a total surround, of our experiences in life.”

That resonates with me for putting into words some feelings I've been having about growing old but haven't been able to articulate even to myself. Further, writes Alger,

”We can confidently expect that every aspect of our life will be touched by the direct felt experience of aging. Normal aging makes time increasingly precious. As a form of communication, aging inspires a conversation with time, impermanence, and the great flow of life that we are immersed in.”

From another page at Alger's blog:

”Aging is our most intimate connection [to] the natural world; it is a source of unity and essential belonging with all life everywhere at once. The very essence of elderhood originates entirely in nature.”

Regular TGB readers would be disappointed, I'm sure, if I didn't bring up how the language of old age reinforces negative beliefs about it in both elders and younger people.

In response to sickliness being the most common definition of growing old, in 2014, Science Daily reported on a study from the University of Alberta. One of the researchers says such terms as “normal” or “healthy” aging themselves fall short how elders actually live:

”"The implication is that if you have a chronic illness as an older adult, you've somehow failed in this goal of aging without chronic disease, which is perhaps not that realistic a goal."

"When aging is just defined as 'healthy' and 'devoid of disease,' it doesn't leave a place for what to do with all of these older adults who are still aging with chronic illnesses..."

I have long contended that issues relating to aging should always include input from someone who is old, as this quotation from a subject of the Alberta study makes clear:

"'I don't know what would be considered normal aging,' said [80-year-old Diana] McIntyre, past president of the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton. 'What's normal for a 45-year-old? What's normal for an 80-year-old? Those are really irrelevant terms as far as I'm concerned.

“'My own philosophy is I would like to do as much as I can, for as long as I can, as well as I can.'”

That last sentence from McIntyre works for me. How about you? Do you think you're ageing “normally”?



What Trump's Proposed Drug Plan Does for Elders (and Others)

EDITORIAL NOTE: This is long-ish and gets a bit wonky in places but it is important to know this stuff.

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We have all known or have read about elders who don't fill medication prescriptions or cut them in half because the cost forces them to make the choice between life-saving drugs and food.

Just recently, I had a personal encounter with such an issue. A newly prescribed drug I inject twice a day costs me hundreds of out-of-pocket dollars a month which is way beyond my means and at first I told the doctors it was out of the question; find something else to help me that I can afford.

Then someone in the meeting realized they had neglected to note that I need the drug for only three months. I don't like dipping into my emergency fund for that much money, but I suppose that's why I call it an emergency fund. And I can handle three months.

I'm lucky to have that fund. Millions of American adults who can't afford their prescriptions with or without insurance converage just don't fill them, endangering their health and their lives.

Why, do you suppose, are prescription drugs so expensive in the United States, higher than in other countries. Here is an explanation from CNN:

What reporter Christine Romans overlooks in this video is that pharmaceutical companies do not bear the entire of burden of new drug development. A great deal of money and help comes from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In the White House Rose Garden on Friday, President Donald Trump unveiled a proposal he says will lower the prices of prescription drugs for consumers. It tells us something that minutes later, the stock market price of pharmaceutical companies soared:

”The stock prices of Pfizer, Merck, Gilead Sciences, and Amgen all spiked after Trump’s speech,” reported STATnews. “Wall Street analysts said the speech posed few threats to the drug industry on the whole.”

Do you think that outcome could that have anything to do with input from the man accompanying Trump at the podium Friday, the one who will be in charge of implementing Trump's proposed drug plan, Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Alex Azar?

TrumpAzarScreenGrab

Until last year, Azar spent a decade employed at pharmaceutical giant, Eli Lilly and Company first as the firm's top lobbyist and later as president of Lilly USA LLC.

So what does Trump's proposal, disingenuously titled American Patients First, include? NBC News reports:

”The plan, presented as a thinly described set of executive actions...focuses on four elements, according to the Health and Human Services Department:

Increasing competition
Better negotiation
Creating incentives to lower list prices
Reducing patient out-of-pocket spending."

That is a far cry from Trump's campaign promise to

”...allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers... The industry is now having the last laugh,” reports The Atlantic. “In a speech Friday on drug pricing, President Trump completed his 180-degree turn on Candidate Trump’s promises.

“The White House’s new plan, as outlined, does seek to address high prescription-drug costs. 'We will not rest until this job of unfair pricing is a total victory,' Trump said. But it doesn’t directly challenge the pharmaceutical industry and the direct role it plays in setting prices.

“Indeed, the new policy largely meets the goals of big pharma, signaling an ever-tightening bond between Trump and drug manufacturers.”

Trump didn't say much about how his proposals will lower prices and what is conspicuously missing, despite the second item on that list, is any plan to allow Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

Big Pharma won that one when Medicare's prescription drug plan, Part D, was introduced in 2003; the legislation specifically disallows price negotiations between Medicare and the pharmaceutical companies. Trump's proposal does not change that.

During the Rose Garden speech, Trump attacked what he called “global freeloading” by countries where citizens often pay much less than Americans for the same brand-name drugs:

“He directed his trade representative to make fixing this injustice a top priority in negotiations with every trading partner,” reports Robert Pear in The New York Times...

“It is not clear,” continues Pear, “why higher profits in other countries would be passed on to American consumers in the form of lower prices, and officials in those countries pushed back hard.”

The Times also reported on another of the proposal's items:

”Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, said the Food and Drug Administration would explore requiring drug companies to disclose list prices in their television advertisements.”

It is equally unclear how that would reduce the cost of advertised drugs. It is worth quoting Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley who served as President Bill Clinton's secretary of labor, at some length on this:

While it’s true that Americans spend far more on medications per person than do citizens in any other rich country – even though Americans are no healthier – that’s not because other nations freeload on American drug companies’ research,” writes Reich in Eurasia Review.

“Big Pharma in America spends more on advertising and marketing than it does on research – often tens of millions to promote a single drug.

“The U.S. government supplies much of the research Big Pharma relies on through the National Institutes of Health. This is a form of corporate welfare. No other industry gets this sort of help.

“Besides flogging their drugs, American drug companies also spend hundreds of millions lobbying the government. Last year alone, their lobbying tab came to $171.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“That’s more than oil and gas, insurance, or any other American industry. It’s more than the formidable lobbying expenditures of America’s military contractors. Big Pharma spends tens of millions more on campaign expenditures.”

And you wonder why your drugs cost so much.

"'This [proposal] is not doing anything to fundamentally change the drug supply chain or the drug pricing system,' said Gerard Anderson, a health policy professor at Johns Hopkins University,” quoted at CNN.

The so-called American Patients First proposal is not a bill and while a small number of the proposals would require Congressional legislation, most can be put into effect with regulations or guidance documents.

So much for lowering the price of prescription pharmaceuticals. Like most everything else in the Trump administration, this proposal is gift to big business.

You can read the full, 44-page proposal here [pdf].



ELDER MUSIC: Classical - Various 4

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.

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Here’s some more music that struck my fancy over the last few weeks.

For much of the 20th century ERICH KORNGOLD was probably best known as a composer of film scores (“Captain Blood”, “Robin Hood”, “The Sea Hawk” “King’s Row” and many others).

Erich Korngold

However, he was also a composer of “serious” music as those who like to think in these terms have a wont to say. He wrote sonatas, chamber music of various sorts, concertos and many other things including several operas, one of which is “Die Kathrin”.

From that opera, the wonderful RENÉE FLEMING presents Ich soll ihn niemals, niemals mehr sehn.

Renee Fleming

♫ Korngold Die Kathrin - Ich soll ihn niemals niemals mehr sehn


MICHAEL HAYDN was Joseph Haydn’s younger brother and has always lived in the shadow one of the greatest composers of all time.

Michael Haydn

Mike was no slouch at the composing biz; his style, not too surprisingly, is quite similar to his brother’s. Indeed, until recently, a number of his compositions were attributed to Jo.

Fortunately, evidence has shown that these works were really Mike’s. As far as I can tell, this isn’t one of those, it’s the second movement of his String Quintet in F Major, P. 112, MH 411.

♫ Haydn M - String Quintet in F Major P. 112 MH 411 (2)


KATIE MOSS was an English Composer, violinist, pianist and singer.

Katie Moss

She wrote the words and music to The Floral Dance in 1911 after visiting the Cornish town of Helston, where she attended the town’s traditional Flora Day celebration.

The song has been recorded many times over the years, but most notably by the Australian bass-baritone PETER DAWSON, who was also a composer, in 1912.

Peter Dawson

♫ Moss - The Floral Dance


FRANCESCO DURANTE was born in Naples in the latter half of the 17th century.

Francesco Durante

His father died when he was about 15, and his uncle, who was a musician, took over teaching young Frank. He later became a pupil of the great Alessandro Scarlatti. Frank later became renowned as a musical teacher, and many of his pupils went on to great things.

He is most noted for composing sacred music, but he did other things as well, including his Concerto No 2 G Minor (which seems to be for violin). This is the third movement.

♫ Durante - Concerto n° 2 G Minor (3)


Little is known of the life of GIOVANNI PANDOLFI MEALL other than he was born in Tuscany about 1630. Also, it seems there was no one was around to take a photo of him either.

Well, there is a bit more known: it seems that he murdered a castrato during an argument and he then decided to hightail it to France and then Spain. There he was employed in the Royal Chapel where, I assume, they didn’t care about his previous misdeeds.

All that survives of his compositions is about 30 violin sonatas. This is one of them, Sonata for violin & continuo, Op. 3 No. 1 'La Stella'.

♫ Pandolfi - Sonata for violin & continuo Op. 3 No. 1 'La Stella'


JAMES OSWALD was a Scottish composer about whom we know little before he moved to London in 1741.

James Oswald

He composed a lot of short works, including minuets and Scottish folk songs. He was also a music publisher which is probably how we know these things. He caught the ear of mad king George, who appointed him chamber composer.

Here is a composition for cello called Steer Her up and Had Her Gaun (whatever all that means).

♫ Oswald - Steer Her up & Had Her Gaun


CLARA SCHUMANN was born Clara Wieck and she was a child prodigy on piano, violin and singing.

Clara Schumann

The piano became her main instrument and she toured extensively giving concerts throughout her life – she lived to 76 years old. Robert Schumann was a pupil of her father’s and when Clara was 18 they decided to get married. Dad was against the union and Robert and Clara sued dad to allow this to happen. They won the case.

Robert seems to have been a troubled lad, but they stayed together until he died. Clara outlived him by 40 years.

She composed quite a few pieces, mostly for piano and was held in high esteem for her playing. Here is one of her pieces for solo piano, one of Four Polonaises, Opus 1. It’s the second of those.

To me it seems to anticipate the compositions of Scott Joplin by many years.

♫ Schumann Clara - Quatre Polonoises Op.1 No 2 in C major


Although often referred to as FRANCESCO LANDINI, that almost certainly wasn’t his name (as he wasn’t a member of the Landini family).

Nitpicking scholars usually refer to him as Francesco da Firenze. He’s also been called Francesco degli Organi, Francesco il Cieco or Francesco Cecus.

Francesco Landini

He was born in Florence sometime between 1325 and 1335, and was blind from childhood due to smallpox (thus one of the aforementioned names, for the Italian speakers among us).

He was the most famous composer in Italy in the 14th century and he wrote much sacred music, but none survives today. What have survived are some madrigals, ballads, and music for various combinations of voices. One of those is Sì dolce non sonò chol lir' Orfeo.

♫ Francesco da Firenze - Sì Dolce Non Sonò Chol Lir' Orfeo


FRANZ KROMMER was a Czech composer who was contemporaneous with Mozart, although he outlived him by a considerable amount – even outliving Beethoven.

Franz Krommer

He was a really prolific composer, with over 300 compositions to his name in just about every field that composers of the time indulged in, except operas. He was especially prolific at chamber music, quartets, quintets, duos, trios, sonatas and the like.

We’ve already had some of those sorts of things today, so I thought I’d include his Concerto for Two Clarinets, Op 91, because I like it. This is the first movement.

♫ Krommer - Concert for Two Clarinets Op 91 (1)



INTERESTING STUFF – 12 May 2018

THE AVERAGE PERSON HIDES 13 SECRETS

Secrets, the YouTube page tells us, are not something you should keep locked away. Do that, and they'll eat you from the inside out:

Curiosity reports:

”According to a May 2017 study, you likely have around 13 secrets brewing in that head of yours — five of which you'll never tell a soul. The researchers say that it isn't the number of secrets you keep that's significant. Rather, it's the burden of those secrets — they weigh on you, literally.”

There are other effects you can read at Curiosity and at The Atlantic.

I don't recall 13 secrets, but most of the ones I do have, that I'll never tell you, are the times I behaved badly and am still ashamed of. What about you?

REAL-LIFE RAPUNZELS

The YouTube page tells us that for thousands of years, the Yao women of Huangluo Village have been keeping up an incredible beauty regimen, growing long, luxurious locks.

Believed to symbolize beauty, wealth and longevity, long hair is considered sacred, and women in the village only cut their hair once in a lifetime. Take a look:

REANIMATING PIG BRAINS

This story freaks me out, a nightmare to end all nightmares. MIT Technology Review explains:

”In a step that could change the definition of death, researchers have restored circulation to the brains of decapitated pigs and kept the reanimated organs alive for as long as 36 hours...

“The work was described on March 28 at a meeting held at the National Institutes of Health to investigate ethical issues arising as US neuroscience centers explore the limits of brain science.”

Ethical issues? No shit. Imagine your living brain sitting in a box somewhere – wait. It's better if I quote MIT:

The setup, jokingly dubbed the 'brain in a bucket,' would quickly raise serious ethical and legal questions if it were tried on a human.

“For instance, if a person’s brain were reanimated outside the body, would that person awake in what would amount to the ultimate sensory deprivation chamber, without ears, eyes, or a way to communicate? Would someone retain memories, an identity, or legal rights? Could researchers ethically dissect or dispose of such a brain?”

It is madness to contemplate this act, even on a pig or any other animal.

More at MIT Technology Review and at Alternet.

WHAT ARE BITCOIN AND BLOCKCHAIN?

According to The New York Times, Goldman Sachs will open a Bitcoin trading operation on the New York Stock Exchange:

”Some of the biggest names on Wall Street are warming up to Bitcoin, a virtual currency that for nearly a decade has been consigned to the unregulated fringes of the financial world...

“Many corporations and governments have expressed interest in the technology that Bitcoin introduced, particularly a form of database known as the blockchain.

“The moves by Goldman and Intercontinental Exchange, or ICE, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, mark a dramatic shift toward the mainstream for a digital token that has been known primarily for its underworld associations and status as a high-risk, speculative investment.”

Oh dear. Apparently the time has come for me to figure out what Bitcoin and blockchain are.

I've tried to understand this without much success. It's a huge puzzle. But this New York Times video gave me my first inkling that with some more work, I might just figure it out.

Clear as mud, right? Read more at The New York Times.

FAKE FOOD FOR REAL RESTAURANTS

In Japan, it's customary for restaurants to display their offerings inside their front windows. Think restaurant window shopping.

The displays come from one city only: Gujo. This ancient town is the epicenter of artificial food. The people who make the displays are real artists, but the "food" they create is not.

It may be one city in Japan, but I have seen this amazingly real-looking food in U.S. restaurant windows in several cities.

SAVING DUCKLINGS FROM CERTAIN DEATH

Is bad news the only kind there is these days? It sure feels that way but then TGB reader Joan McMullin sent this video. My god, there just keep coming and coming and coming.

(This is getting irritating. You may need to click the link in the video to watch on YouTube. If I had time, I would substitute another video but not today. I'll be more careful with my choices in the future to avoid this.)

LETTER TO MY BOSS

All of Congress, both houses, even those members who are not rabid opportunists feeding at the public trough, enrage me these days. A handful come out of their caves now and then to “bravely” denounce the president's latest stupidity or outrage, but then scurry back to hibernation bunkers.

They do nothing at all and every one of them deserves to be booted. So this email from Darlene Costner that is making the rounds gave me some relief for a few moments:

“I have enjoyed working here these past several years. You have paid me very well, given me benefits beyond belief. I have 3-4 months off per year and a pension plan that will pay my salary till the day I die and a health plan that most people can only dream about.

“Despite this I plan to take the next 12-18 months to find a new position. During this time I will show up for work when it is convenient. In addition I fully expect to draw my full salary and all the other perks associated with my current job.

“Oh yes, if my search for this new job proves fruitless, I will be back with no loss in pay or status. Before you say anything, remember that you have no choice in the matter. I can and will do this.

“Sincerely,
Every Senator or Congressman running for President."

Try that at your job and tell me how it works out.”

ANOTHER FROM DARLENE COSTNER

A baby elephant who appears to believe he is a lapdog. Irresistible.

THE WORLD'S TOUGHEST JOB

Interviews for the world's toughest job. Yes, it's a joke, but it's a good one. Stick around for the ending.

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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.



Brain News for Elders, Ageist Headline and Net Neutrality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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