The Misguided Lure of Anti-Ageing Products and Medicine

First off, it's that name - “anti-ageing” (or “anti-aging” if you prefer). Who hates themself so much that they would buy anything labeled “anti-ageing”?

The phrase is slapped on thousands of products but goes further than that. There is even The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (jauntily referring to themselves as A4M for short).

Yes, it is an organization that “certifies” physicians (and corporations) in the medical specialty of anti-aging.

One problem with that, however, is that there is no known medical specialty of anti-aging.

”...the field of anti-aging medicine is not recognized by established medical organizations, such as the American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Medical Association (AMA),” reports Wikipedia...

“The activities of the A4M are controversial: in 2003 a commentary on the response of the scientific community to the promotion of anti-aging medicine noted that the activities of the A4M were seen as a threat to the credibility of serious scientific research on aging...

“Thomas Perls of the Boston University School of Medicine, a prominent critic of the organization, has stated that claims of censorship and suppression are a common theme in what he calls 'anti-aging quackery.'”

No one can spend as much time online as I do reading about ageing in all its aspects without running into the most outrageous “anti-aging quackery” almost every day. One ad led to a Burt's Bees page with this promise:

“Smooth Fine Lines. Erase All Doubt. 96% of women saw a reduction in the appearance of wrinkles after 8 weeks”

Oh, come on. If a word of that were true, don't you think we would all know about it? At least if you fall for Burt's Bees humbug it will cost you only about $10. And even slightly more upscale L'Oreal sells an anti-aging cream for only about $25. But their video ad is no less bogus:

Did you notice that word L'Oreal highlighted? Hyaluronic makes it sound all rigorously scientific. What it is, is the latest hot ingredient with the anti-aging charlatans. The most expensive one Crabby has run across lately - $90 for a one-month supply – is promoted by Oprah's favorite physician, the notorious Dr. Oz.

Ads around the web claim that the cream he touts will turn a 55-year-old into a 35-year-old. As with the other latest anti-aging products, Oz explains, his magic ingredient is hyaluronic acid.

(If you are tempted to try Oz's product, please do check out this page with dozens of complaints and accusations of overcharging, cancellation refusals and misrepresentations by the company, Bella Labs, that sells the cream.)

Here is what WebMD says about hyaluronic acid which is naturally present in the human body (emphasis added):

”There is also a lot of interest in using hyaluronic acid to prevent the effects of aging. In fact, hyaluronic acid has been promoted as a 'fountain of youth.' However, there is no evidence to support the claim that taking it by mouth or applying it to the skin can prevent changes associated with aging.”

Got that? It and other evidence won't stop any of the false promises to reverse the appearance of ageing but all those cosmetic potions are mostly benign fibs compared to the pseudo-scientific products – prescription and over-the counter – that suggest those who use them will regain the energy and vitality of their youth, and even extend their lives by many years.

In the August 2015 issue of Consumer Reports, there is an update article titled “Treatments to Turn Back Time?” in which they report on what science says about the efficacy of such anti-aging products as human growth hormones (HTH), “low T” treatments, vitamin and mineral supplements, smart drugs and games, DHEA and coenzyme Q10 among others.

After explaining what these treatments can and cannot do, Consumer Reports chief medical advisor, Marvin M. Lipman M.D. says that

"...for now, any claim that a particular product or treatment can stop or slow down the aging process simply does not have the science to back it up.

“'There is as yet no evidence-based substance shown to extend life,' Lipman explains. 'Diet, exercise, and good genes are the best we can offer.'”

So save your money and wear your age proudly.


ELDER MUSIC: Run to Paradise

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.


Recently Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I saw Coldplay perform a song called Paradise on TV. Both of us mentioned that we could think of several better songs with the same name.

We pretty much simultaneously came up with The Choirboys, John Prine and Tony Bennett. Others weren’t far behind. Naturally, in the way of these things, it led to this column that I originally called Paradise but The A.M. thought that “Run to Paradise” was a more interesting name, and so it shall be.

Since the column is called Run to Paradise, that’s the way we’re starting. These are THE CHOIRBOYS.

Choirboys

The Choirboys are a rock band formed in Sydney in the tail-end of the seventies and still going to this day. Singer Mark Gable and bass player Ian Hulme are the constants throughout their journey and a dozen or more others have come and gone over the years.

This is the song, a huge hit in Oz.

♫ Choirboys - Run to Paradise

JOHN PRINE was another initial thought.

John Prine

The writer Simon Winchester told me (and all the others listening to the radio at the time) that there are 18 towns in America called Paradise. Due to John's song, the town in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky is probably the most famous.

Ironically, though, the town no longer exists as it was dug up by Mr Peabody's coal company.

♫ John Prine - Paradise

JOHNNY NASH is best known for his song, I Can See Clearly Now. That one has nothing to do with paradise so it won't be in today.

Johnny Nash

Johnny is more associated with reggae music which he recorded in Jamaica even though he's Texas born and bred. He was also a song writer and started a record company (that signed the Cowsills, if you can believe that).

His song is Halfway to Paradise, written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin.

♫ Johnny Nash - Halfway To Paradise

If there’s a possibility of getting BUDDY HOLLY into a column you can pretty much be sure that I'll include him, and here he is.

Buddy Holly

This is how Buddy and the Crickets originally recorded this tune without the overdubs of extra instruments and voices that I think detract from other versions of the song. The song is Fool's Paradise.

♫ Buddy Holly - Fools Paradise

TONY BENNETT had to be present because his contribution is one that pretty much every reader of this column would know.

Tony Bennett

I really don't need to tell you anything about this one; anyone who reads this column would know Stranger in Paradise.

♫ Tony Bennett - Stranger In Paradise

Here is another Australian performer because there are quite a number of people, okay, a hell of a lot, who claim that Australia is as close to paradise as you can get on this planet.

You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment. I'll just give you GRAEME CONNORS.

Graeme Connors

I'll also just let Graeme tell it like it is On the Edge of Paradise.

♫ Graeme Connors - On The Edge Of Paradise

ELVIS, in contrast, suggests that Any Place is Paradise.

Elvis Presley

Well, if anyone would know whether that were so it'd be Elvis (except that he really didn't go anywhere much, so it may be a little problematic).

♫ Elvis Presley - Any Place Is Paradise

If CHARLES BROWN seems to be in the mix there’s no way he could be left out if the A.M. has any say in the matter. Which, of course, she does. With this column anyway.

Charles Brown

The song has the same name as the one by Buddy, but it’s a different one. Fool's Paradise.

♫ Charles Brown - Fool's Paradise

MARCIA BALL's background in Louisiana is obvious in the next song.

Marcia Ball

That's a good thing for fans of music from that area (of which the A.M. and I are two). She sings of yet another place that's paradise no longer – there are far too many of those. The song is This Used to Be Paradise.

♫ Marcia Ball - This Used To Be Paradise

I wasn’t going to include the next one but the A.M. insisted that it be present. The tune is an exercise in overblown-ness (if such a word exists – it should to describe this track). Here for your delectation is MEATLOAF.

Meatloaf

Mr Loaf's song is from his phenomenally successful "Bat out of Hell" album. It's called Paradise by the Dashboard Light. He has the help of Ellen Foley on the track.

♫ Meatloaf - Paradise By The Dashboard Light

I trust that you all had a loaf of bread beneath the bough,
a flask of wine, a book of verse - and somebody or other
beside you singing in the wilderness,
and that wilderness was Paradise enow.


INTERESTING STUFF: 25 July 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY NORMAN LEAR

Monday will be TV producer Norman Lear's 93rd birthday. Here is what he told Huffington Post on Friday:

"The top of my bucket list always included a desire to sing. My friend, actor, singer-guitarist and composer, Paul Hipp, wrote the happy birthday song when he turned fifty. I loved it and asked if I could lip-synch it as I turn ninety-three. This was the result and I don't care what you say, I love it."

I love it too. See if you do and thank Esther Harriot for sending it to us:


FDA NSAID WARNING

”Patients taking NSAIDs should seek medical attention immediately if they experience symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, weakness in one part or side of their body, or slurred speech.

That is from the U.S. Federal Drug Administration's (FDA) new warning about NSAIDs. They are such drugs as Advil, Motrin, Aleve, Celebrex and many others. As Harvard Health Publications explains:

• Heart attack and stroke risk increase even with short-term use, and the risk may begin within a few weeks of starting to take an NSAID.

• The risk increases with higher doses of NSAIDs taken for longer periods of time.

• The risk is greatest for people who already have heart disease, though even people without heart disease may be at risk.

Here is a good news report explaining the new warning further:

Read more at the FDA and the Harvard Health Publication.


WALLOWING IN NOSTALGIA

Every image in this video is an item, product or place that most of us who read this blog are familiar with, things that used to be commonplace in our lives but have mostly disappeared.


AGING.GOV

There are a lot more agencies of the U.S. Federal governments related to aging than just Social Security and Medicare. Until now, they have been scattered all over the internet but recently the Department of Healthy and Human Service (HHS) has rounded them up into a one-stop shop. Here's a screenshot of the home page:

Agingborder

Bookmark aging.gov and you'll have just one place to go whenever you need to check on something related to ageing that the federal government handles.


DEADLIEST ANIMALS

There's SharkWeek and Sharknado and almost every summer day a new shark attack on swimmers or surfers. My friend Jim Stone sent this video that shows sharks are the least of human problems from animals.


JOHN OLIVER ON FOOD WASTE

Hardly a fascinating title, Food Waste, but on his Last Week Tonight show on HBO, John Oliver makes it so – also shocking and funny too.


ELDERS V. 21ST CENTURY

Darlene Costner sent this little joke. Gave me a good laught when I needed it this week:

I was visiting my daughter last night when I asked if I could borrow a newspaper.

"This is the 21st century," she said. "We don't waste money on newspapers. Here, use my iPad.”

I can tell you this - that fly never knew what hit him.


THE ARK COMING TO JFK AIRPORT

According to Huffington Post, a new terminal will open at JFK Airport in New York next year. The Ark's “178,000 square feet of posh amenities"

”...will include everything from a resort with suites that have large flat-screen TVs, to climate-controlled stalls, showers, massages, a private space especially set aside for penguin mating, a paw-shaped dog swimming pool, a jungle for cats made of live trees that will give them a tantalizing view of the aquarium, and stables full of the finest hay a horse could hope for.”

Here are an artist's rendering of the dog area and the export stalls for quarantined horses.

The Ark dogs

The Ark horses

The Ark will be a first-of-its kind terminal at any airport with a price tag of $48 million. You can read more here.


DAD THE FLOWER GIRL

Reader Alan Goldsmith sent this charmer of a video that needs no introduction.


A GORGEOUS, FUN CHARLESTON

The dancer is named Ksenia Parkhatskaya and the video is from the 2012 Stockholm Tap Festival. Isn't she the cutest thing.


ANGRY SEAGULL MOM

After you see this news report about from Seattle about a seagull who won't let anyone park near her nest, I'm sure you'll agree with me that she should probably be added to that most dangerous animals video above.


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 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.


Surprise!

Welcome to the Time Goes By redesign. What do you think? It's certainly brighter and shinier around here.

There are bound to be glitches to fix and design decisions I'll rework over the next days and weeks, but this general look-and-feel will remain.

Time Goes By hasn't changed since it shyly dipped its toes in the blog waters in 2004. Because I'm lazy and it's a lot of work to redesign a site, this day might never have arrived. But then the Google blackmail showed up.

The company that still has more than 80 percent of search engine traffic announced that (their definition of) non-mobile friendly websites would henceforth be penalized in search results; that is, as of 21 April 2015, non-mobile-friendly websites would be ranked lower in search results than those that have been redesigned to Google's standards.

The bottom line from Google - make your website look the way WE want it to look, or else. Which is why most websites look alike these days.

Well, I'm too old to fight back on this one so here we are.

Various items have been moved around or, in some cases, discarded. Let me give you a tour.

The main site navigation is at the top of every page above the banner. The Archive is now by category only; nearly 12 years of date archives are not very useful to anyone.

Contact now opens your email program rather than a form if you want to send me a message.

About leads to a page with links to various information about this website. It's messy-looking right now; I'll improve it in time.

As you can see, there is only one sidebar now, on the right. The same Subscribe buttons are at the top and, as before, the Search form is at the bottom. In between, there are changes to several features. What remain are links to:

  • Best Books on Ageing
  • Elderblog List
  • Geezer Flicks
  • A Mother's Last Best Lesson

We all know that the Elderblog List and Geezer Flicks are painfully out of date. I'll get to both of those one of these days soon. I hope. The Photo Biography is now linked from the About section.

May they rest in peace, four features have been permanently removed. Elder Video was not one of my better ideas so it has been ditched. The Where Elders Blog feature has been discontinued. And Reverse Mortgages is no longer available because the federal government has made several rule changes resulting in some information in the series being incorrect. Maybe I'll fix it in time.

Finally, for a variety of reasons, it has been impossible to keep up In Memoriam so instead of that section, we will hold memorial services here as they become necessary. Not often, I hope.

Of course, The Elder Storytelling Place must also be “upgraded” to Google's specifications. I'm going to take a breather and then go to work on that.


American Politics, Donald Trump and Old People

Even though I am a political junkie, as much as I can recall, we don't do politics at this blog except as it relates to old people. But it's different this time. Or, maybe not. After all, Donald Trump is 69 years old, two years older than Hillary Clinton whom, some say, is too old to be president.

It is hard not to be embarrassed by almost any politician. With few exceptions, they are uninformed blowhards - venal, corrupt, self-serving, self-aggrandizing liars who disdain knowledge and learning and have had no intention of serving the public good.

Then there is a Donald Trump. He is not a politician which might explain why he is magnitudes beyond the professional ones in loathsomeness. I didn't intend to write about Donald Trump today but my planned post got sidetracked and it's hard to escape "news" of Trump these days.

I could carry on about how repugnant I find him but let's let Jon Stewart of The Daily Show do his wonderful, comedian-style Trump schtick – this one from Monday night.

When Stewart did that Trump segment, the man had not yet given out Senator Lindsay Graham's private phone number on television. That shocked me Tuesday more than his reprehensible statements about Mexican immigrants, Senator John McCain and all the rest.

As unimpressive as the entire Republican roster of presidential hopefuls is, Trump's lead in the polls says more about the American electorate, I believe, than the man. Who with an IQ of more than 75 or so believes this person could or should be the commander in chief of the United States.

Almost the worst of it for me is that apparently it is mostly old people who show up to support Donald Trump. That is embarrassing.

It would be easy to rant on but I'll leave it at that today and you may have your say below.

But first, to clear our collective palate, here is a lovely poem about growing old by Wendell Berry that TGB reader Tom Delmore emailed. It is titled, The Blue Robe published in “New Collected Poems” in 2012.

How joyful to be together, alone
as when we first were joined
in our little house by the river
long ago, except that now we know

each other, as we did not then;
and now instead of two stories fumbling
to meet, we belong to one story
that the two, joining, made. And now

we touch each other with the tenderness
of mortals, who know themselves:
how joyful to feel the heart quake

at the sight of a grandmother,
old friend in the morning light,
beautiful in her blue robe!


Rates of Ageing Vary More Than Anyone Knew

It is well-known fact I frequently mention on this blog that we age at different rates. No one disputes that. Now, however, new research reveals that the differences are much wider than has been known:

”A study of nearly one thousand 38-year-olds found that while most had biological ages close to the number of birthdays they had notched up, others were far younger or older,” reports The Guardian.”

The ongoing study, which Cop Car of Cop Car's Beat alerted me to, follows 954 people from the same town in New Zealand who were all born in 1972-73.

”The scientists looked at 18 different ageing-related traits when the group turned 26, 32 and 38 years old...” reports the BBC.

“The analysis showed that at the age of 38, the people's biological ages ranged from the late-20s to those who were nearly 60...The study said some people had almost stopped ageing during the period of the study, while others were gaining nearly three years of biological age for every twelve months that passed.

“People with older biological ages tended to do worse in tests of brain function and had a weaker grip.”

Dan Belsky, the first author of this latest report from the study, who is an assistant professor of geriatrics at Duke University's Center for Aging, explained why they chose such young people to look at ageing:

“Most studies of aging look at seniors, but if we want to be able to prevent age-related disease, we’re going to have to start studying aging in young people,” he told the Duke University website.

“Belsky said the progress of aging shows in human organs just as it does in eyes, joints and hair, but sooner. So as part of their regular reassessment of the study population at age 38 in 2011, the team measured the functions of kidneys, liver, lungs, metabolic and immune systems.

“They also measured HDL cholesterol, cardiorespiratory fitness, lung function and the length of the telomeres - protective caps at the end of chromosomes that have been found to shorten with age. The study also measures dental health and the condition of the tiny blood vessels at the back of the eyes, which are a proxy for the brain’s blood vessels.

“Based on a subset of these biomarkers, the research team set a 'biological age' for each participant, which ranged from under 30 to nearly 60 in the 38-year-olds.”

The next steps, says Belsky are to

”...sift through the lives of the...participants to see how factors such as lifestyle, medical history, family circumstances, and stressful events might affect the speed at which people age,” he told The Guardian.

“...It’s becoming increasingly clear that ageing is really the cause of much of the disease and disability burden we face, but our existing science is based on ageing in older people who already have a lot of age-related diseases...

“The ultimate goal is to target ageing instead of the multiple separate diseases that people are increasingly likely to develop as they age. 'As we get older, our risk grows for all kinds of different diseases. To prevent multiple diseases simultaneously, ageing itself has to be the target,' Belsky said.”

So, it's not just the discovery that we age even more differently from one another than we already knew that is important, but that knowing such can now be put to good use in figuring out how to give humans a healthier old age.

This is a remarkable breakthrough in understanding ageing better than we do now. I suspect it won't advance quickly enough to help thee and me, but if age-related diseases such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, Parkinson's, etc., can be forestalled when people are younger, it will immeasurably improve old age for our children, grandchildren and beyond.

The full study is available online here [pdf]. The website for the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health & Development Study on which this information is based is here.

Other media reports here and here.


ELDER MUSIC: Streets of New York

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.


This column started out as one on streets with names. When I'd finished I found that half of the selections were streets of New York. So I decided to split the difference and have a column entirely devoted to New York streets (as well as the original idea omitting the New York ones – two for the price of one).

Whenever I put on a CD of FRED NEIL I'm pretty sure there are whales out in the Southern Ocean who say, "Pete's playing Fred again.”

Fred Neil

That's because his voice is so low and mellow I imagine that those cetaceans are the only ones who can hear the full range of his singing.

It's not quite as evident on this song as it is on some others but you can perhaps hear what I mean. Fred's song is Bleecker & MacDougal, so you get two streets in the one song.

♫ Fred Neil - Bleecker & MacDougal

Now for a bunch of streets with numbers. I'll feature them in numerical order, starting at 4th Street and BOB DYLAN.

Bob Dylan

With New York streets you knew Bob had to be present as he made that city his home. Here he is with Positively 4th Street, one of the bitterest songs he ever wrote (and that's saying something).

♫ Bob Dylan - Positively 4th Street

LEON REDBONE doesn't sing on his tune, it's purely instrumental, and a nice gentle one it is too.

Leon Redbone

Very little is known about Leon; he defends his privacy ferociously. His style harks back to pre-war jazz, blues and ragtime as is somewhat evident in his selection today, 14th Street Blues.

♫ Leon Redbone - 14th Street Blues

I originally had Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell penciled in at this spot but I omitted them because the version I have is from the sound track of the film. As a purely musical track it's pretty incoherent, full of sound effects, tap dancing, traffic noise, people talking and whatnot. I'm sure as part of the film it's fine but it just doesn't fit.

I've kept the song though and included a version by the DORSEY BROTHERS ORCHESTRA.

Dorsey Brothers

The singers are THE BOSWELL SISTERS.

Boswell Sisters

That picture suggests to me that they're probably listening to Bing on the radio. Here they all are with Forty-Second Street.

♫ Dorsey Brothers Orchestra - Forty Second Street

As I'm doing these numbered streets in order, we have a couple of jazz tracks back to back. That's fine with me, I hope it is with you as well. The first of these is by CHARLES MINGUS.

Charles Mingus

Charles's street is 51st Street. Now he doesn't specify east or west, so it could be in Brooklyn or Queens. Well, they're part of New York so it counts. The tune is 51st Street Blues.

♫ Charles Mingus - 51st Street Blues

BUD POWELL continues the theme with 52nd Street.

Bud Powell

As with Charles, no east or west is specified so we have the same problem. Bud's tune is 52nd Street Theme.

♫ Bud Powell - 52nd Street Theme

Let's keep walking uptown until we get to 57th Street and we come across BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN.

Bruce Springsteen

His street could be from somewhere in New Jersey whence he hails but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt so I can include the song. It's from the fine album, “The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle.” The song is Incident on 57th Street.

♫ Bruce Springsteen - Incident on 57th Street

It's not too far to 59th Street and SIMON AND GARFUNKEL.

Simon &Garfunkel

The official title of their tune is The 59th Street Bridge Song. You may know it as something else. Like Bob's song earlier, and Bruce's as well come to think of it, the name of the ditty doesn't actually appear in the words of the song anywhere. There was a bit of that sort of thing going on around that time.

♫ Simon & Garfunkel - The 59th Street Bridge Song

Now for a bit of a hike until we encounter BOBBY WOMACK.

Bobby Womack

Bobby started as a gospel singer and guitarist along his father and brothers. They were discovered by Sam Cooke and he arranged for them to be recorded. After Bobby went solo, he recorded his own song. It's All Over Now.

Just as it was rising on the charts the Rolling Stones released a version that eclipsed his. He was initially miffed until he received his first royalty cheque. He quickly changed his mind.

Anyway, here's Bobby's street song, Across 110th Street.

♫ Bobby Womack - Across 110th Street

Well, I've run out of numbered street songs and there's only time for one more anyway. We have to scurry on back down town, to one of the most famous streets of them all, Wall Street.

The tune is performed by DUKE ELLINGTON and his orchestra (or his Jungle Band, depending on your source of information).

Duke Ellington

It was recorded in 1929, just after Wall Street laid an egg, and is called Wall Street Wail.

♫ Duke Ellington - Wall Street Wail


INTERESTING STUFF – 18 July 2015


VOLKSWAGEN COMMERCIAL(S)

Linda C wonders what TGB readers make of this Volkswagen commercial.

Then there is this one, also currently running, to consider.

I don't mind jokes about old people but I wonder why we must be portrayed as so damned irritating. There are jokes about all kinds of people that don't make their behavior so annoying.


REAL LIFE FACEBOOK

This little slice of social media life was forwarded by TGB reader Sulima Malzin who describes herself as “a non-facebook elder face from King City, Oregon”:

For those of my older generation who do not really comprehend why Facebook exists, presently, I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles.

Therefore, every day I go down on the street and tell the passers-by what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done the night before and what I will do tomorrow night. Then I give them pictures of my family, my dog and me gardening and spending time in my pool.

I also listen to their conversations and I tell them I love them. And it works. I already have three persons following me: two police officers and a psychiatrist.

LETTERMAN STEPS OUT OF RETIREMENT ALREADY

This video has been all over cable news television so you may have seen it. Even so, it's worth it.

Remember the clip from The Daily Show when Jon Stewart thanked all the comedy gods and few others for providing him with Donald Trump? David Letterman obviously feels the same way. He joined Steve Martin and Martin Short on stage in San Antonio last week to read his Trump Top Ten List.


GANGSTA GRANNY

Gangstagrannycover125 David Walliams is a British comedian, actor, activist and, since 2008, a wildly successful children's book author. I can't remember how I came to know about this one of his kids' novels, Gangsta Granny, but I it was so good I read it straight through one evening last week.
The story concerns an 11-year-old boy whose parents leave him with his “boring” granny every Friday while they have a night out. Ben goes into paroxyms of complaint over how boring his granny is until he finds out she is an international jewel thief.

They then have a rollicking good adventure together that involves the crown jewels and Queen Elizabeth herself with a lovely, bittersweet ending.

Here's a short video teaser for the book from when it was first published in 2011.

If I had a grandchild of the appropriate age, I give him or her this book right away. It's a great story, so good that you are hardly aware there are lessons being taught about what old people are like. Here's the David Walliams website.


JOHN OLIVER ON STADIUMS

After its one week holiday hiatus, Last Week Tonight was back on HBO last Sunday. I'm getting kind of tired of telling you how wonderful John Oliver and his crew are but they keep delivering magnificently.

I've been to – count it - exactly one professional ball game in my life. I was dragged to it by a friend who was appalled that I hadn't seen one in person - which tells you exactly how interested I am in sports.

But what Oliver is telling us about billionaire stadium owners using our taxes while keeping all the profits – even I care about this.


MEDICARE AND END-OF-LIFE COUNSELING

On Wednesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced that it is offering a plan to reimburse physicians for conversations with patients about end-of-life plans. According to The New York Times, the agency's chief medical officer, Patrick Conroy

”...said a final decision on the proposal would be made by Nov. 1. The plan would allow qualified professionals like nurse practitioners and physician assistants, as well as doctors, to be reimbursed for face-to-face meetings with a patient and any relatives or caregivers the patient wants to include. Dr. Conway said the proposal did not limit the number of conversations reimbursed.”

You might recall that when these conversations were first proposed during the debate over the Affordable Care Act several years ago, Sarah Palin labeled them “death panels” which, of course, they are not.

This is excellent news and if all goes well, the initiative will go into effect on 1 January 2016. You can read the full story here.


SMILEY FACE FALLS DOWN AND CAN'T GET GET UP

For me, the television show, America's Funniest Home Videos stopped being funny about two episodes into the first season a zillion years ago. But even they come up with a winner now and then.

This the best, out loud, tears running down my cheeks, belly laugh I've had in ages.

You gotta ask, don't you, why the camera person didn't help...


YOUR BODY OVER 24 HOURS

From asapSCIENCE, here is your nifty, little, internet science lesson for this week.


LIMBERBUTT MCCUBBIN FOR PRESIDENT

You may think there are already too many candidates running for president but I don't care how many there are, we need this one.

limberbutt_mccubbins

That's right, according to his 17-year-old owner, Emilee McCubbin, a cat named Limberbutt McCubbin is an official candidate for president.

As Ms. MucCubbin explained to ABC News, back in May a friend asked for her mailing address and a short while later she received an email from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that Limberbutt is officially registered.

"Personally, I think if you're going to become a leader of the free world you should have to do a bit more of an extensive application process," she said. "You don't even have to put in a social security number, which is a bit worrisome, but you do have to file some papers for tax records and campaign donations. You have to raise $5,000 to get on the ballot.”

Limberbutt now has his own website, Facebook page and Shepard Fairey-style poster:

Limberbutt-mccubbins-meow-poster

You can read more about Limberbutt McCubbin at ABCNews.


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 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.


Uber For Elders

One little piece of news to come out of the White House Conference on Aging on Wednesday was this from Meghan Joyce, East Coast general Manager of Uber:

“Services like Peapod and ride-sharing giant Uber help [old] people 'live life as normal,'” she said during a panel discussion on technology and the future of aging, according to MedCityNews.

According to Emily Study writing at Senior Housing News, Joyce also announced that Uber is

”'...starting a new pilot in a number of cities to partner with local governments and organizations to drive better...mobility and access to older people in those communities,' she said.

“Across the country, Uber will offer free technology tutorials and free rides at select retirement communities and senior centers. The company hopes to further the conversation about the way technology can improve older adults’ day-to-day lives, according to a blog post announcing the new pilot.

“'Twenty-six million Americans depend on someone else as a way to get around, and I think technology helps them to solve that problem effectively,' Joyce said. With Uber, 'older riders are now able to regain their independence.'”

In addition to those free tutorials for elders, Uber may want to hold a few for their drivers. This posting appeared at a discussion board for Uber drivers in April from one calling him- or herself “UberFocus.” I'm quoting at length for the full effect:

”In the last week I've picked up three older people (older than 50). All were terrible.

“The cool thing about Uber passengers is most of them are young. They're in their 20's or 30's and generally know how the game is played. And compared to most other service jobs (retail, serving) tend to be nicer customers in general.

“But all three old people I picked up this week treated me like I was just a cabbie. They all criticized me for using Waze and insisted that they knew how to get to their destination better (they didn't). Two of the ladies were literally pointing in front of my face telling me to go this way or that way at the last second.

“One elderly guy, (seriously he was like 85) argued with me insisting he never selected uber pool. Then he looked upset that I didn't open the door for him. Seriously how entitled are you, I'm not your chaffeur.

“Putting the cabs out of business might be good for ride totals. But now we have to deal with their shitty customers.”

A few other drivers joined UberFocus in elder bashing but a lot of others jumped into with stories of how nice elders they've driven were and then the discussion turned to the fact that the driver, not Uber, has no liability if passengers (of any age) are harmed or injured - an important point I'll get back to below.

I am guessing that Ms. Joyce's announcement at the WHCOA is perhaps an extension of an earlier one last fall about UberASSIST. As the Uber website explains it, UberASSIST is

”...a new platform that will allow those needing an extra hand to request safe and reliable rides at the tap of a button...

“In just a few weeks we’ll be rolling out UberACCESS. With UberACCESS, we are growing our wheelchair accessible vehicle supply, transforming disabled transit and allowing on demand pickups within minutes instead of days.”

Uber is testing these new services in several cities including Gainesville, Florida and Houston, among others.

We have often discussed on this blog the fear we who don't live in big cities like New York and Chicago with good public transportation systems have about how constricted our lives will become if or when we are forced to stop driving.

Since hardly any cities and towns with subpar public transportation have shown an inclination toward improvement, services like those Uber is testing are going to be crucial to elders' ability to get around.

Uber continues to face complaints and backlash from traditional taxi services, activists and local governments (see one of the latest here) along with legal difficulties surrounding lack of benefits for their “independent contractor” drivers and liability issues for riders.

In some of these pilot programs, Uber is partnering with cities or senior living communities – organizations, I am guessing, that would not allow their residents to use a transportation service without appropriate liability insurance. (That's an education guess; I don't know that yet.)

So there are a lot of important issues to be resolved but I'm pretty sure these transportation programs will expand and also will grow beyond Uber to such other similar services as Lyft and to new startups that see the business potential.

However, a big question I have is about how suburbia, not to mention rural areas, can be served. It's one thing to provide urban transportation, quite another where distances between home and destinations can be much farther apart and customers far fewer.

Maybe that there are going to be so damned many of us old folks will make these services financially viable. Imagine how many more than Ms. Joyce's statistic of 26 million elders who now need help in getting around there are soon going to be.

For my own peace of mind and for all elders everywhere who have similar worries, I want Uber-for-Elders-style services moving forward quickly to relieve anxiety for all of us about the day we might not be able to drive anymore.


TGB Reader Appreciation Day

A few days ago, one of the smartest, most interesting political websites, Naked Capitalism, made this announcement:

”We regret to inform readers that we will be shutting down comment on most posts...” wrote Yves Smith.

“The purpose of Naked Capitalism above all is to foster critical thinking. For the overwhelming majority of this site’s history, we have been fortunate to have an articulate and engaged readership...

“That is no longer the case. The comments section has now become negative value added, to the point that Lambert and I are devoting disproportionate time to the moderation queue.”

I'll miss those comments, some of the smartest there are online. As Yves noted in her post, they are far from the only website to shut down comments. The Week in late 2014:

”Too often, the comments sections of news sites are hijacked by a small group of pseudonymous commenters who replace smart, thoughtful dialogue with vitriolic personal insults and rote exchanges of partisan acrimony,” wrote Ben Frumin when he announced the closing of comments at the website.

In November 2014, CNN reported on the closing of comments of many sites including these:

”Reuters, Popular Science and the Chicago Sun-Times have recently nixed comments.

“Fairly or not, comment forums have gained a reputation as a haven for Internet trolls. Several of the sites that have banned comments noted the lack of civility in their decisions.”

Some websites that shuttered their comment sections moved them to Twitter and Facebook explaining that trolls and vitriol notwithstanding, the modern internet requires that conversation now take place on social media.

But not all go along with that. Last Sunday, Mediaite announced their new(ish) comment guidelines:

”Feel like being taken seriously? Don’t make up words that end in '-tards' or come up with creative ways to type out your favorite racial or homophobic slur.

“The use of sexually explicit or harmful language (threats) including the use of misspelled or punctuated words to insinuate, represent any of the above (also known as 'masked swearing') will get you banned with or without warning.

“Not only do these sorts of things lower the level of quality discussion in the comment section, they also turn off would-be commenters and readers from adding their own thoughts and insights.”

All too true. I bring all this up today because like Yves Smith and others, I have been scrambling most days in recent weeks to delete an increased number of comments that are gratuitously mean, make personal attacks on me or commenters, or have nothing useful to say - they just link to a commercial website thinking, I suppose, that gets them free advertising.

That's the bad news. The good news is that 95 percent of these comments are not from regular readers whose names I recognize. They are, apparently, fly-bys who get their personal kicks being ad hominem nasty on websites they do not otherwise participate in.

What I have always done with those commenters is ban them forever without notice, explanation or a second chance which is what I will continue to do and hope for now, as has happened in the past, that the recent uptick in rude comments will die down.

This blog has one of the best comment sections you will read anywhere. As readers regularly note, the comments are at least as good as my posts and provide a great deal of accumulated wisdom. This happens because readers bring experience, interest, humor, concern and thoughtfulness to the issues we talk about.

The people who regularly comment here make this blog what I want it to be: consequential. Individual posts are not always important although they are sometimes utilitarian. And readers won't be interested in every essay I write.

What I hope is that it is cumulative, that there is a benefit over the long term and to the degree that is so right now, it is greatly due to the attention commenters give to adding value. And as Mediaite noted in their guidelines, the only thing you really need to remember about commenting rules is “Don't be a jerk.”

So give yourselves a hand and thank you all. When so many good websites of different sorts are shuttering their comments, this one gets better and for now, I'll go with the hope that most trolls aren't interested in ageing and old people.

[As to the idea mentioned above that comments are moving to social media: not this blog. I distribute Time Goes By there for the convenience of social media mavens, but I never read Facebook and Twitter. I spend more time than I should staring at screens without them.]