Friday, 07 March 2014
Elder Role Models
Last week, the Guardian published the results of a survey the newspaper had conducted about aging. It appears the U.K. government hasn't done any better preparing for the big demographic shift to an older population than the U.S. government has.
We could discuss that and other outcomes of the survey but this is Friday and if you are like me, you prefer a lighter touch to end the week – this week, anyway.
So how about we play around today with this question from the Guardian survey: Who is a good role model for elders?
(This topic screams for photographs but the Guardian commissioned such good ones that it is futile for me to try find anything better than I can legally use. So go to the Guardian to see theirs.)
Most choices for good elder role models were, of course, Britons but not all. Star Trek's Lieutenant Sulu, George Takei, is included “because of his perspective, usefulness in campaigning and visibility around being older and gay.”
Nelson Mandela is on the list because “he showed that you are never too old to add to the wealth of nations."
Moving on to the Brits: "Sir Ian McKellen, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Michio Kaku and Diana Athill. Intelligent, talented people who are still engaged and not defined by their age."
Actor and member of Parliament Glenda Jackson was not overlooked nor was poet Billy Connolly.
David Attenborough was mentioned because “his observations on life spread a much needed sense of wonderment and he has been going strong, doing what he loves, well into his eighties, sustainably."
[Although it is not directly related to this survey, that last quotation does remind me of the single thing I envy about celebrities (and many corporate leaders) – successful ones, anyway: that they are allowed to work for as long as they want, whereas we 99-percenters are forced out of the workplace as young as 45 and 50.]
All right, now it is our turn. How about we start with Evelyn from yesterday's post:
If you don't know who Evelyn is, you can see the video about her here.
Maybe you don't buy the idea that elders need role models but if you do, who would you choose? And be sure to tell us why.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: What's a Half Dime?
Thursday, 06 March 2014
Being Good at Being Old
TGB reader chlost, who blogs at Just My Life, sent this video that in a kneejerk manner of many years at doing this, I bookmarked for Saturday's Interesting Stuff list.
But it kept pulling me back so I watched it again. And again. And then I realized that in fewer than four minutes it contains so many good-to-know things about old age, it deserves a page and a discussion all its own.
Take a look at Evelyn's story. Maybe watch it more than once. I'll see you on the other side.
Here is what makes this video an important reminder – and inspiration - to all elders:
• Retirement communities into which elders have bought and paid can take away services any time they want. (This is another good reason for the Villages movement in which members choose and deliver what they need and no outside corporation or group can cancel them.)
• Government agencies can revoke privileges based on nothing but age. More and more states are considering an age cut off for driving licenses without any consideration of or understanding that everyone ages at different rates and in different ways.
Ninety-seven-year-old Evelyn is a capable driver. Some 50-year-olds are not.
• Yes we can fight city hall (or the DMV) and we can do it at any age. Do not think otherwise.
• It is important to do everything possible to keep our promises to one another especially so because not all institutions and government agencies are reliable.
• Perhaps moreso than at earlier times in our lives it is important for elders to be there for one another because the older we get, the fewer of us there are to do the helping. We need each other.
• And no matter how hard it is to do any of this, remember to laugh and to laugh a lot. Take another look at the video and at Evelyn's wonderful laugh. This woman is really good at being old.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Nancy Leitz: I Might Have Known
Wednesday, 05 March 2014
I don't think it is an overstatement to say that cataract surgery is a modern medical miracle. That said, there is some archaeological evidence that as far back as ancient Rome, surgery may have been performed to treat cataracts.
But it certainly was not accurate or as safe as today or in widespread use. Plus, they didn't have the chemicals for dilation and anesthesia we have nor the tiny instruments that make cataract surgery today as routine as any invasive procedure can be.
So blindness from cataracts was common until 20th century surgery techniques were developed and I sometimes think we - well, me anyway - take our modern miracles too much for granted.
Here is me on Monday an hour or so after I returned home from having my second cataract surgery done.
Even though my eye was still dilated and that protective cover limited my vision when I took that selfie, I could already clearly see things at a distance – something I have not been able to do without eyeglasses or contact lenses since I was ten years old, more than 60 years.
In choosing my new options, I repeated the “monovision” I have used with contact lenses for the past 30 years: my left eye is corrected for reading and other closeup work; my right eye for distance
I am thrilled to have these “new eyes.”
According to an excellent article at MedicalNewToday (MNT), age is the most common cause of cataracts exacerbated sometmes by underlying health issues.
Every elder should have regular eye examinations and adjust behavior to lower risk of cataracts. Some of the preventive measures below, reports MNT, are proven while there is strong circumstantial evidence for others. They are all things you already know you should be doing:
• Stop smoking
• Nutrition - eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, unrefined carbohydrates, good quality fats (avocado, olive oil, omega oils), and either plant sourced proteins or lean animal sourced proteins
• Sleep - make sure you get at least seven hours of good quality, continuous sleep every night
• Obesity - obesity significantly raises the risk of developing diabetes type 2, which in turn is an important cataract risk factor
• Diabetes - be careful to have your diabetes under control; follow your treatment plan assiduously
The MNT article is the best I've found to explain pretty much everything you need to know about cataracts - risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, surgery and recovery.
In time, I will become accustomed to my new eyes and the thrill will fade. But right now, for a few days, I intend to wallow in the joy and excitement of the clearest vision I can recall having in my life.
At The Elder Stortytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Cycles
Tuesday, 04 March 2014
From Drug Lord to Elder Fitness Guru
Once upon a time, a young drug dealer was riding high. Before he was 25 years old, he had amassed
”...18 properties, including a five-bedroom, five-bathroom retreat in the affluent Long Island community of Dix Hills; 18 luxury cars, including two Rolls-Royces, two Mercedes-Benzes, a Ferrari and a Lamborghini; and a 38-foot Bayline yacht kept near a condominium Mr. Mickens owned in California.”
According to detectives, Thomas Mickens employed more than 50 people to sell drugs for him on the streets. He used some of his profits to open legitimate businesses (or launder money depending, I suppose, on your point of view) in the area where he operated in Queens, New York – a sporting goods store, a deli and two dry cleaners.
He was, in a sense, a young man on the go, a successful entrepreneur - and then it all came to an end:
”In 1989, Mr. Mickens, then 25, was convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, money laundering and tax evasion. He was fined $1 million and sentenced to 35 years in federal prison.”
The sentence might have been even worse except that Mr. Mickens's drug operation was not associated with violence. There were never any killings.
After 20 years in prison, in 2008, Mr. Mickens was paroled. Jump to six years later, sometime in February 2014:
”Thomas Mickens bounded into the Rochdale Village Senior Center in Jamaica, Queens. He was 15 minutes early to teach his 8:30AM aerobics class, and his boisterous entrance was met by friendly jabs and laughter from about three dozen enthusiastic older people.
“The group ranged in age from 60 to 89 years old, most on the younger side of old age; none relied on walkers and only two had canes.”
Now, Mickens is on his way again, a 50-year-old entrepreneur this time with what appears likely to become as big an empire as the drug business that sent him to prison.
And that's where Mickens found his new calling, in prison, where two events pointed the way: he was deeply affected by his mother's health condition which he, locked away, could do nothing to help and by the time he spent helping disabled prisoners build their upper body strength.
Although today he and the team of trainers he employs may be bouncing around among 79 senior centers and nursing homes in New Jersey, Long Island and New York teaching fitness classes to elders, Mickens has bigger plans as president and CEO of the Tommy Experience.
But I shouldn't spoil it for you. This is one of the most remarkable, oddly funny and unexpectedly inspiring true stories I've read in a long time.
Go read the article for yourself at The New York Times. You're gonna love it and I predict we old folks will be hearing a lot more from Tommy Mickens before long.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: Australia Dreaming
Monday, 03 March 2014
Proposed Changes to Medicare Part D
Although it's been out there in public for about six weeks, proposed changes to Medicare Part D, the prescription drug coverage, had escaped my notice until an email press release from my Senator, Ron Wyden, arrived over the weekend.
”In a letter today,” the press release began, “Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, were joined by 18 colleagues in urging Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner to reconsider changes proposed for the Medicare Part D prescription-drug program.”
I continued to read – in vain – for what exactly it is that Senator Wyden and his colleagues object to. The announcement failed to enlighten me.
Even Wyden's formal letter to Ms. Tavenner that was attached at the bottom of his message made no reference to what the objections are.
You know, we pay these people in Congress the big bucks to be, if nothing else, vaguely competent at what they do. Telling constituents about policy issues – pro and con – is well and good but it does require, at the most basic, communications101 level, a list of those changes and the reasons for opposing (or supporting) them.
What a useless piece-of-crap email. Does Senator Wyden expect me and everyone else to jump on his bandwagon just because he says so?
End of rant and on to the real issue.
From here on, this gets wonky but I will be deeply disappointed in you if you bail because these proposed changes to Part D would directly affect the amount of money you pay for prescription drugs and, possibly, for Part D coverage itself.
Here are some facts about Part D as it stands now:
• Ninety to ninety-five percent of Part D participants are satisfied with the program.
• In the 10 years since Part D went into effect, costs amounting to $346 billion have been 45 percent lower than projected when Part D began.
• In the same 10 years, Part D beneficiaries have saved $8.9 billion on prescription drug costs.
• The ACA (Obamacare) gradually reduces the notorious donut hole (during which elders pay full price for drugs) until it disappears entirely in 2020, when only usual co-pays will apply.
• The Part D legislation does not permit the federal government to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies as is allowed with, for example, the Veterans Administration.
Personally, I don't believe there should ever have been a donut hole, nor should there be the rule against price negotiation which has been a billion-dollar gift to the pharmaceutical companies.
Note that the changes being proposed to Part D do not include an elimination of the no-negotiations rule.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published the proposed changes in the Federal Register [pdf] on 10 January 2014.
The paper is 157 pages long. You may read it if you are so inclined; I have relied on several different reports, points of view and commentators.
Although the proposal contains a number of changes all of which would go into effect in 2015, three are causing all the talk, argument and confusion in Washington among Congress, pharmaceutical and insurance companies and other interested parties. Here are the short versions of those three for you:
Plan Choice Reduction: This proposal would cut the number of drug plans. As The Wall Street Journal explains:
”Drug-plan providers can currently offer up to three options [each]. The proposed rule calls for two options per drug plan: a basic and an enhanced plan. This year seniors were able to pick from an average of 35 different drug plans in their regions...”
I didn't check, but I'm pretty sure I complained during the sign-up period last fall that the number of choices is unnecessarily long and confusing and that is one of the arguments for this change that CMS is making – to simplify the process for elders.
Reduce Coverage Requirements A second controversial proposal reduces the requirement that an insurer cover all drugs in two “protected classes” of drugs. This time I'll let Reuters explain:
[Those two classes are] “antidepressants and immunosuppressants used in transplants. Three other protected classes would remain: antineoplastics used in chemotherapy, anticonvulsants for epilepsy and bipolar disorder and antiretrovirals used in the treatment of HIV.
“Another class, antipsychotics, would remain protected at least through 2015 while CMS evaluated the need to retain its status.”
Medicare chief Jonathan Blum has suggested that this change would lead to greater competition and lower prices. He told Congress
”...that beneficiaries would still have access to the drugs they need and that there would be adequate notification for patients before a drug could be removed from a plan's coverage.”
Open Program to Additional Pharmacies The third important change would affect many more of the nearly 40 million Part D beneficiaries – it widens the number participating pharmacies. This time, let's read The Hill's explanation:
”...the new regulations will ensure two things: (1) that plans may continue to have preferred cost sharing contracts with pharmacies, and (2) any pharmacy that meets the terms and conditions of the contract can participate.”
Reuters points out that this change has bipartisan support amont rural lawmakers.
It also would prevent mail-order pharmacies from charging lower co-payments than retail pharmacies.
You can imagine that in addition to Senator Wyden and his colleagues, others oppose these changes including powerful interests in the insurance and healthcare industry. Bloomburg BNA reports that more than 200 groups have sent their own letter to CMS with their objections:
“'We urge you in the strongest terms to withdraw the proposed rule that would have unintended consequences for seniors and beneficiaries with disabilities, the groups said. 'Weakening these programs will result in a less healthy patient population and, consequently, increased Medicare costs in the long term.'
“The 236 organizations included health plans and various consumer and medical groups, such as Easter Seals, America's Health Insurance Plans, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, American Osteopathic Association and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.”
Although the overview I have provided gives you the essentials, there are – what else is new? - convoluted details that could affect the outcome of these proposed changes. You will find a variety of explanations and points of view in the links throughout the post above, though not enough detail.
More information about the consequences (unintended, perhaps?) of these changes could change my mind but I'm leaning toward supporting the changes.
How about you? Let your senators and congressperson know.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ralph Lymburner: Pretty Good And You?
Sunday, 02 March 2014
ELDER MUSIC: 1946
This 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.
What happened in 1946?
- Linda Ronstadt was born
- The League of Nations was dissolved (I didn't realize it was still around then)
- Tupperware was sold for the first time
- The bikini made its first appearance (in Paris)
- The Big Sleep was released
- America won the Davis Cup
- Essendon were premiers.
The song To Each His Own was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. It made the charts four times this year, the final time by THE INK SPOTS, easily the best version of them all.
Choo Choo Ch'Boogie is the epitome of jump blues but in spite of that, it was written by three songwriters who, before this one, had only written country songs (Vaughn Horton, Denver Darling, and Milt Gabler).
One of those songs was Mocking Bird Hill, so they knew how to come up with a decent tune. Choo Choo Ch'Boogie was LOUIS JORDAN's biggest hit – it stayed on top of the R&B charts for 18 weeks.
Les Trois Cloches is a Swiss song by Jean Gilles. It first became a hit when sung by ÉDITH PIAF et Les Compagnons de la Chanson.
Edith sang this extensively when she toured America that year and it was very popular. So much so that The Browns recorded it and had a big hit with English words written by Bert Reisfeld.
CHARLIE PARKER's tune is a sly joke about his nickname (Bird). He called it Ornithology.
The tune started out as How High the Moon but the jazz great turns that into something completely different. The trumpet player rather surprisingly isn't Dizzy Gillespie, but Miles Davis. The pianist is Dodo Marmarosa. The trumpeter Benny Harris is credited with co-writing the tune.
THE RAVENS were one of the first DooWop groups, or at least an early precursor of that style.
They were greatly influenced by The Mills Brothers and The Ink Spots. Hear what they do to Ol' Man River.
ARTHUR CRUDUP wrote and recorded the song That's All Right.
Later he added (Mama) to the title. It really is a bunch of lines from blues songs thrown together. It doesn't matter, they work. This song was also Elvis's very first hit.
Are you ready for your yearly dose of NAT KING COLE?
Well, even if you're not that's who's next. Nat and the trio are performing one of their famous songs, (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, written by Bobby Troup who was married to another regular here, Julie London.
To keep the interesting musicians coming, I next present THELONIOUS MONK.
Monk was there with Diz and Bird developing BeBop. He has a style of playing the piano that's all his own although on this one he plays it pretty straight. He does tend to divide people's opinions. That's okay, there's plenty of music out there if you don't like it.
Monk had composed Round Midnight some years earlier and he wasn't the first to record it. His is still the definitive version though.
Here's something and someone to bring a smile to your faces, HOAGY CARMICHAEL.
The song is Ole Buttermilk Sky, one of his own. I really like the piano playing on this – that's Hoagy tinkling the ivories. He is underrated as a pianist. It really is a nice song (if that's not damning it).
From a piece of faux country to the real thing, although back then there were more instruments in the mix than is generally the case these days. This is MERLE TRAVIS with Divorce Me C.O.D.
1947 will appear in two weeks' time.
Saturday, 01 March 2014
INTERESTING STUFF – 1 March 2014
REST IN PEACE, ALICE HERZ-SOMMER
At the top of last Saturday's Interesting Stuff, I told you about Alice Herz-Sommer, the 110-year-old musician and oldest Holocaust survivor. The next day, Sunday, she died in a hospital in London after having been admitted on the previous Friday.
Many have remarked that Ms. Herz-Sommer held little rancor for her Nazi captors. The Huffington Post obituary recounts this story:
”She recalled an awkward conversation on the night before her departure to the concentration camp with a Nazi who lived upstairs and called to say that he would miss her playing.
“She remembered him saying: 'I hope you will come back. What I want to tell you is that I admire you, your playing, hours and hours, the patience and the beauty of the music.'
“Other neighbors, she said, stopped by only to take whatever the family wasn't able to bring to the camp.
"'So the Nazi was a human, the only human. The Nazi, he thanked me,' she said.”
The documentary film about Alice Herz-Sommer, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, is up for an award at Sunday evening's Academy Awards.
BRAIN PHYSICS ON THE DAILY SHOW
It is always a treat when theoretical physicist Michio Kaku visits The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and this one was extraordinary as the two men discussed the cutting edge of brain technology.
Pay special attention at just past two minutes into the interview when Kaku explains how British physicist, Stephen Hawking, who is paralyzed, uses a chip in his eyeglasses to mentally type what he wants to say.
That one is not wishful thinking for the future – it is real technology that exists now.
ELDER PHOTO CONTEST DOWN UNDER
The subjects of these photos are elders but the photographers are not. This skateboard photo of 78-year-old Nancy Irvin with a young companion was made by 18-year-old, Philipa Crampton-Smith.
What I like best about all 16 photos is that they present old people doing what they like doing; they could be photos of people at any age – these just happen to be old. Here's another.
CAROL BURNETT TV SHOW SKIT
It has been decades since the brilliant comedian Carol Burnett left regular television. Darlene forwarded this video of a skit from her show - a rehearsal with some bloopers and wild lines from the cast.
In the skit, Mr. Tudball (Tim Conway) is looking for a secretary, but his wife (Vicki Lawrence) doesn't like any candidates until Wanda Wiggins (Carol Burnett) shows up.
TODAY'S VOCABULARY LESSON
Do you know what coulrophobia is? Neither did I until I read a weird news story online this week. According to the Independent (U.K.),
”America may soon be bereft of clowns. That’s the claim being made by the country’s shrinking clown-based trade organisations...which warns of an imminent national clown shortage brought on by a decline of interest in clowning, and the advanced age of its existing practitioners.”
Read more at the link above. And coulrophobia? It means fear of clowns which is, apparently, more widespread that I ever knew.
BONOB0S AND THEIR PHOTOGRAPHER
My internet friend, Chuck Nyren, who keeps the Advertising to Baby Boomers blog, wrote a terrific story this week for Huffington Post about 76-year-old Marian Brickner who made the decision in her 50s to become a professional photographer.
Now there is an upcoming short documentary titled, Growing Up Bonobo, about both Ms. Brickner and her specialty photography subject, the endangered species, bonobos. Here is the trailer:
[Yeah, I'm sorry too and this infuriates me. If I had known, when I was writing this item, that the embed code Vimeo provided shows this instead of the video, I would have killed the entire item. By the time I checked, I had other obligations and no time to redo this post. So, you'll need to click the "sorry image" above to see the video.]
There is more information about bonobos, Marian Brickner and the documentary's producers at Chuck's HuffPo story. Please don't hold the Vimeo cheat against him.
SOCIAL MEDIA EXPLAINED
It undoubtedly gives away my age that I almost entirely ignore social media. This blog is distributed via Facebook and Twitter, but it is set up to do that automatically and I pay no attention; I hardly ever visit my own pages.
Nowadays there are so many different kinds of social media websites that I no longer even think about trying to find out what they all are.
That should tell you why this image, send by John Starbuck (who hasn't blogged for a long time at For a Dancer) gave me such a good chuckle.
The image originally appeared here on Twitter but credit John for letting me know that.
OWL VERSUS SQUIRREL
This brilliant and exciting wildlife video is from Darlene Costner and I'm not giving away too much telling you that the squirrel survives. The YouTube page says the images are from National Geographic but that's all we know about it.
Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.
You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.