Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The In-Person Internet: Bill Thomas, Kavan Peterson and Me

When I started studying ageing 20 years ago, the popular press was concerned with advising readers how to hide indications of age like wrinkles and sags.

Almost all the more useful information was written by and for academics and little of that could be classified under the subtitle of this blog, “What it's really like to get old.”

Nevertheless I persevered, digging through the impenetrable jargon of the ageing industry professionals, making notes of what mainstream media ignored.

Not long after I started sorting those notes into the beginnngs of this blog, a breakthrough book on ageing appeared, What are Old People For?.

I was thrilled that the author spoke about ageing in a positive sense, that a professional in the field supported my belief that growing old couldn't possibly be as bad as everyone else made it out to be and is, in fact, fascinating, important and fulfilling.

The writer was/is a renowned geriatrician named Bill Thomas, a man who was revolutionizing the nursing home business with new ideas in elder living and caregiving called Green Houses and the Eden Alternative. (You can get an overview of those initiatives and more about Bill at Wikipedia.)

It wasn't long after the publication of What are Old People For? that Bill agreed to a two-part interview with me for TGB (you'll find it here) and for awhile Bill was able to find time to write TGB Geriatrician columns for this blog.

In doing all this and more, I have gotten to know Kavan Peterson who for most of these past ten years has been the producer and editor of Bill's website/blog, Changing Aging, and as things happen on the internet Kavan and Bill have become my friends.

INTERNET FRIENDS
Now I suspect long-time readers of Time Goes By may have had enough of my repeated reminders that the internet is, for elders, a modern miracle – not just for fun, information, knowledge and communication, but health too. As I frequently note:

”When we stop working, we lose the daily camaraderie of the workplace. Old friends and relatives die. Others move away. Over time the capability to get out and about easily may wane so our social lives shrink, often dramatically.”

And as new research studies tell us almost weekly, social isolation can lead to loneliness, depression and early death.

But for current elder generations, the internet arrived just in time to help alleviate that problem. I'm guessing but I don't think I'm far off to say that these days more than half my friends are people I've met on the internet and some of those are as close and dear to me as in-person friends of long standing.

It's a new kind of friendship, this long distance, email, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, texting sort that we have now. The media likes to make fun of how old people are confused about technology and don't know the first thing about it.

Maybe so, maybe they are right about our misunderstanding the nuances and undoubtedly they are right about most of us lagging behind on the latest cool apps.

But particularly given that we are not digital natives as everyone 25 and younger is, an amazing number of old people are using the latest gadgets.

Pew told us last year that among people 65 and older, 77 percent have cellphones and 59 percent use the internet.

Using all these new-fangled tools, it is amazing how deeply friendship can grow and flourish in the ether of cyberspace without us ever having met in person.

MEETING INTERNET FRIENDS IN PERSON
As much as I believe in the genuineness of internet friendship it is, without question, a substitute. I've met 30 or40 cyberfriends in person. Some of those were an enjoyable few hours and sometimes, as happens in “real life,” meeting face to face brought us closer than before, enhancing and strengthening our friendship.

It has been years that Bill and Kavan and I have talked of meeting in person. Last week, we finally had the opportunity.

Bill is currently on his Age of Disruption tour throughout the United States, described on the tour's website as an

”...incredible journey into a new and highly disruptive understanding of age and aging that has the power to inspire positive change for members of the audience and the communities in which they live.”

Last week, the tour arrived in Portland, Oregon, near my home. Bill and Kavan were able to make some time for the three of us to visit together for the first time in all these years.

It was the best moment of my week. Nah, that's not true. It was the highlight of my month. At least that. There's nothing like face-to-face time with special people you have come to care about as much as those you knew first in the flesh.

I hardly ever remember to take my cell phone anywhere with me, let alone a camera so thank god, Kavan had his cell phone and a “real” camera, too, to mark this event I had so looked forward to and on Sunday, Kavan posted this photo of Bill, me and him together to his Facebook page.

Bill Kavan Me20150521_370

It was an occasion I had anticipated many times and it felt like we had always done this together – sitting and talking and letting the conversation wander around. You know, the way it should be with people who are old and comfortable friends.

Isn't it the best, how internet friendships can blossom.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (18) | Permalink | Email this post

Monday, 25 May 2015

Long Weekend Potpourri

MEMORIAL DAY
That's the title of a poem for today from Marc Leavitt who blogs at Marc Leavitt's Blog.

On this day we praise the fallen, who fought and died in war;
The men who gave their all to guard the freedoms we adore.
Some watch parades that celebrate their sacrifice for peace,
Recalling ancient battles in the wars that never cease;
And others make this solemn day an opportunity
To pass the day relaxing, scorning all solemnity.

No use to scold the shoppers who descend upon the mall;
Or try to shame the picnickers at gatherings great or small;
Or rail against the worker drones who pass the holiday
In sleeping and drinking; to them, it’s just time off with pay.
Brave soldiers, lying in their graves, invisible, alone,
No longer care in any way, they’re merely heaps of bone.

Marc is a regular contributor to the Time Goes By companion blog named The Elder Storytelling Place. Today's potpourri post gives me an opportunity to introduce TGB readers who may not know that for the past eight years (!), hundreds of elders have contributed stories and poems that are published one at a time, Monday through Friday.

Plus, in the archives now are more than 2,000 wonderful stories of love and loss, of living and dying, of reminiscence and observation and inspiration - sad and happy, poignant and funny.

If you haven't done so, give it a try and note, too, there is always a direct link to The Elder Storytelling Place here in the TGB left sidebar. There is some fine poetry and storytelling going on over there.

BILL THOMAS, KAVAN PETERSON AND ME
One day last week, after knowing them both online for nearly a decade, I finally got to meet geriatrician Bill Thomas and his producer/editor Kavan Peterson in person.

It was a splendid event for me and I'll tell you more about it on Wednesday. Meanwhile, on Sunday Kavan posted a photo of the three of us to his Facebook page. You can see it here.

BOOKS, BOOKS, TOO MANY BOOKS
Now that I have released myself from writing essays for this blog Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have time to putter about and think and read in a more leisurely manner that is so much more fun and, even, edifying than rushing through life as I have done too much of for the past 10 years.

New books around here pile up and tend to get scattered so a few days ago, I did a roundup of unread and partially read books. The idea was to put some reading priority to them but oh my. I had no idea it had gotten this far ahead of me.

I made a list of them all to help me sort and I've copied that here more for me, I think, than you. Hey, it's a holiday and because so few readers turn up on three-day weekends, I'm vamping. You are more than welcome to skip past this:

The Basque History of the World – Mark Kurlinsky
The Library at Night – Alberto Manguel
The Age of Dignity – Ai-Jen Poo
In Praise of Ageing – Patricia Edgar
The Long Life – Helen Small
The Ripley Books – Patricia Highsmith
The Accidental Universe – Alan Lightman
Evening's Empire – Craig Koslofsy
The Siege of the Villa Lipp – Eric Ambler
The Care of Time – Eric Ambler
Tiny Beautiful Things – Cheryl Strayed
The Life of Images – Charles Simic
My Life in the Middle Ages – James Atlas
Will the Circle be Unbroken – Studs Terkel
The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery
Beyond Black – Hilary Mantel
The News Sorority – Sheila Weller
Through the Window – Julian Barnes
Stone Mattress – Margaret Atwood
Fart Proudly – Benjamin Franklin
Grand Central – Sam Roberts
As Luck Would Have It – Derek Jacobi
The Letters of Noel Coward
Solar – Ian McEwan
A Place of Greater Safety – Hilary Mantel
The Middle East - Bernard Lewis
On the Move – Oliver Sacks
Supreme City – Donald Miller

The difficulty, as you no doubt realize, is figuring out where to begin in a list that is even longer when including the 10 or 12 on my Kindle and the too many returned unfinished or, sometimes not even cracked open, to the library because they are due for the next person who has placed a hold on them.

For the record, over the weekend I did read Ursula Le Guin's excellent 2004 collection of essays, The Wave in the Mind.

ONE SPECIFIC BOOK
Now and then I like to let you know about elderbloggers who have written books – specifically, elderbloggers we have come to know and love here at Time Goes By.

You know this author by her comment pseudonym, doctafil, with which she entertains us almost daily. You may have followed that link to her blog, Jive Chalkin'.

BrendaHenryBook150Now, under her real name Brenda Henry, doctafil has written a terrific little book of travel vignettes titled You Lost! Get Off Bus Now!. It's funny, sweet, informative, often fascinating and did I mention funny?

She covers her early years as an English teacher in Bangkok and subsequent travels throughout a lot of the rest of the world while also giving us a native's view of her hometown, Montreal.

I especially liked the chapters about the Afghani women refugees now making their homes in Montreal to whom she taught English while learning their customs and cuisine, as they all became friends.

doctafil is a world-class noticer of the small things that help define places and people we, her readers, have not experienced. Such as the striking sketches of characters in a coffee shop one early morning and others who show up at the food bank where she volunteers weekly.

There are several chapters on Rio and on Santiago, Chile, that will have you booking flights before you finish the book. She's especially good about a five-day cruise off Patagonia on which she managed to get by in six languages she doesn't speak.

It's doctafil's way with the English language that makes her so much fun to read. “Security in Rio is oyster tight,” for example, and describing the Southern drawl of a Georgia woman, “She stretched that word so far I had to run to catch up.”

You Lost! Get Off Bus Now! is available in paperback and Kindle editions at Amazon.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (17) | Permalink | Email this post

Sunday, 24 May 2015

ELDER MUSIC: Australia's Favorite Baroque Pieces (No. 20 – 11)

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, Australia's ABC Classical station had a listeners' poll on their favorite Baroque (and earlier) pieces of music. That gives me an easy couple of columns – just take the top 20 and play bits of each for you.

I notice that J.S. Bach is over-represented in today's list and under-represented in the top 10 you'll have here next week - which is not the way I voted.

Also, where is Telemann, I ask? As an exercise in democracy I shall play them as selected, today counting down from 20 to 11 (as we used to do back in the day with pop music).

20. CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI - Vespers of the Blessed Virgin

Monteverdi

Monteverdi was as radical a composer in his time as Beethoven in his or Phillip Glass today. People would wander the streets muttering, "What's old Claude going to come up with today?"

He's generally considered to have invented opera and he took the madrigal form, previously just a little bitty thing, and made it his own.

The Vespers of the Blessed Virgin, running at more than an hour and a half, was the most ambitious religious work before J.S. Bach turned his quill to such matters. It's also sometimes called the Vespers of 1610, as that's when it was published.

Whatever it's called, here is the Dixit Dominus, or Psalm 109, from that work.

♫ Monteverdi - Psalm 109 (Dixit Dominus)

19. ARCANGELO CORELLI - 12 Concerti Grossi, Op 6

Corelli

There are a lot of tall tales, legends, myths and other such things that have been spread around about Corelli but not much in the way of truth. In today's political climate that would probably be seen as a plus.

He may have been a prodigy (but we don't know) and he may have been chased out of Paris by an envious Jean-Baptiste Lully (when he was only 19) but that story was promulgated by Jean-Jacques Rousseau somewhat later, so who knows.

We do know that he wrote a bunch of trio sonatas, concerti grossi, regular sonatas and probably a lot of other stuff as well. This is the first movement of his Concerto Grosso no. 12 Op. 6 in F.

♫ Corelli - Concerto Grosso n.12 Op.6 in F (1)

18. JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH - Mass in B Minor BWV 232

Bach

Jo's religious works, this mass (and the others he wrote), have been overshadowed by the great St Matthew's Passion (and to a lesser extent the St John's Passion).

Masses really aren't my cup of tea but it's on the list so here is the Christe eleison from that work.

♫ JS Bach - Christe eleison

17. J.S. BACH - Cantata: Herz und Mund und That und Leben, BWV 147

Bach-JS

If you're like me, you'd have read the title of this cantata and it would have gone right over your head, particularly if you don't read German (as I don't). However, lend an ear to it and you might go "Ah ha.” I certainly did, at least for the part of it I've chosen, which includes (in English) Jesu, joy of man’s desiring.

The title of the movement on the CD is actually Jesu bleibet meine Freude.

♫ JS Bach - Jesu bleibet meine Freude

16. J.S. BACH - Brandenburg Concerto No 3 BWV 1048

Bach-JS

The six Brandenburg Concertos were a present to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwed, who was some sort of minor royal and liked a bit of a tune. They were sent with an excruciatingly obsequious note (well, Jo probably wanted him to sponsor him or some such).

Anyway, we thank Chris for inspiring some of the finest works in the baroque canon. Here is the first movement of number 3.

♫ JS Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No 3 (1)

15. GIOVANNI PERGOLESI - Stabat Mater

Pergolesi

Gio was one of the most important composers of the early baroque period. Indeed, J.S. Bach was so taken with his works, he pinched one of his tunes for a cantata and he wasn't the only composer who "arranged" his music as part of their own.

He was also a master of opera buffa (that's comic opera) and there was very heated debate in Paris between his faction and those who preferred their opera to be a bit more serious (led by Lully and Rameau).

Gio wrote religious music as well and it's one of those compositions we're interested in today – the Stabat Mater, in particular the second movement called Cujus animam gementem. That's Núria Rial singing.

Nuria Rial

♫ Pergolesi - Cujus animam gementem

14. J.S. BACH - Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 BWV 1007

Bach-JS

Some say that the cello suites were actually written by Jo's second wife Anna Magdalena. They claim that they are stylistically different from the rest of his work. Also, there's a manuscript in her hand of these.

They also claim she wrote a couple of his other works. People love a good conspiracy theory. The one point I'd make is that someone wrote them (I don't really care who) and they are beautiful.

This is the third movement of the suite number 1, called Courante.

♫ JS Bach - Cello Suite No 1 BWV 1007 (3)

13. ANTONIO VIVALDI - Gloria RV 589

Vivaldi4

Tony makes an appearance. He's in next week as well with a composition you will already have guessed. Today is the Gloria.

This was a little unusual for him because, although he was a priest, he wrote few religious works (well, few is a relative term as he was responsible for hundreds, maybe thousands of compositions).

Here is Gloria in excelsis Deo from the Gloria.

Vivaldi - Gloria in excelsis Deo

12. J.S. BACH - Goldberg Variations BWV 988

Bach-JS

There are about 30 or so of these written for keyboards, clavier originally (which is somewhat akin to a harpsichord) but are often performed on a piano these days. I'll confess that I prefer them played on a piano. How they came about is thus:

It seems that the Russian ambassador to Saxony, Count Kaiserling, was visiting Leipzig and he brought along his friend Johann Goldberg who was a bit of a whiz on the harpsichord and the organ.

Alas, the count came down with some illness and asked Goldberg to play for him in the next room to ease the pain or whatever. This went of for a few days, and Goldberg was running out of material.

J.S. heard about this – he had been contacted earlier by the entourage, and out of sympathy for his fellow musician wrote a bunch of works for him to play. Naturally, they became known as the Goldberg Variations.

He gave them to him but as it turned out, this good deed reaped its own reward. After he recovered, the count gave J.S. a gold goblet filled with 100 gold pieces.

I have decided not to play the clavier, harpsichord or piano version of this work because I have a rather interesting transcription for a string trio. That's what you're getting. This is the first variation.

♫ JS Bach - Goldberg Variations (Variation 1)

11. J.S. BACH - Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043

Bach-JS

Now we're talking. This should have been in the Top Ten somewhere near the top. It's one of the finest concertos of the baroque period. Here is the third movement.

♫ JS Bach - Concerto for Two Violins (3)

The top 10 will appear next week.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (5) | Permalink | Email this post

Saturday, 23 May 2015

INTERESTING STUFF – 23 May 2015


ROCKING OUT IN THE KITCHEN

The song is Ice Ice Baby from Vanilla Ice. That's all we know but she sure inspired me to get out of this desk chair and join her.


KIDS WHO OUTSMARTED THEIR TEACHERS

Buzzfeed does a lot – a lot – of stupid listicles not worth anyone's time but everyone wins occasionally and this one had me going back to re-read and laugh again for a whole day. Here is a sampling:

FunnyKids1

FunnyKids2

FunnyKids3

These aren't even the funniest - I chose the ones that fit best on the TGB page size. There are a lot more of them to laugh over at Buzzfeed.


JOHN OLIVER ON THE CHICKEN INDUSTRY

Hardly anyone doesn't eat chicken and that's only one reason this is an important and also – as always with John Oliver – a very funny report.

Oliver is taking a week off from his HBO show, Last Week Tonight. He'll be back on 31 May.


TRUCK CONVOY TO SAVE CALIFORNIA FISH

Thirty million salmon are ready for their trip downstream to the sea but due to the drought and development in California, riverbeds are too shallow for them to survive the trip. So-o-o-o-o

”For the first time, all five big government hatcheries in California's Central Valley for fall-run Chinook California salmon — a species of concern under the federal Endangered Species Act — are going to truck their young, release-ready salmon down to the Bay, rather than release them into rivers to make the trip themselves.”

It's important work but too late for some:

”Near the town of Lagunitas, in Northern California's Marin County, watershed biologist Preston Brown stood ankle-high in a coastal tributary, searching for endangered California coastal Coho salmon and other, native fish.

“Decades ago, so many coho salmon filled the water that the noise of their jumping kept people in nearby houses up at night. On this day, Brown and his team find none.”

There is enough bad news like this of all kinds of species that it can make you weep. Read more about the salmon lift here.


RAW INGREDIENTS CUBED

TGB's Sunday music columnist Peter Tibbles sent this amazing, strange and wonderful project. Take a look at this:

Farfoodscubedlarge

Maybe you guessed but in case not, that is a group raw foods of all kinds cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes by artists Lernet & Sanders. From a report at Medium:

”Salmon, pomegranate, grapefruit, cabbage, lime and yellow squash jump out at me, here, looking simultaneously fresh and appetizing while also presenting a sort of 'food-mystery-puzzle' to solve.”

Here are a couple of close up images from the cubed food array:

Rawfoodcubedclosup1

Rawfoodscubedcloseup2

I'll be looking at my raw ingredients much differenly from now on. You can see many more and much larger gorgeous images at Medium along with additional explanation.


BLUES LEGEND B.B. KING AT THE WHITE HOUSE LAST YEAR

It was a sad day last week to hear that undisputed king of the blues, B.B. King, died at age 89. For most of us at this blog, there was never a time he was not a part of our lives and we should mark his passing.

This video is from B.B.'s appearance at the White House last year. With him are Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger and many others and they even got President Barack Obama to join them singing Sweet Home Chicago.


A SINGLE LIFE

TGB reader Tom Delmore caught this short animated film at the New Yorker website this week. Clever, witty and beautifully executed, A Single Life was nominated for an Academy Award this year and it is just right for people our age.

You can read more about the film here.


GOOGLE'S AUTONOMOUS CAR SAFETY RECORD

Google tells us that their fleet of 20-plus self-driving cars have now been tested over 1.7 million miles.

”Over the 6 years since we started the project, we’ve been involved in 11 minor accidents (light damage, no injuries) during those 1.7 million miles of autonomous and manual driving with our safety drivers behind the wheel, and not once was the self-driving car the cause of the accident.”

During these tests, Google has learned a lot about the driving habits of Americans including this:

”Lots of people aren’t paying attention to the road. In any given daylight moment in America, there are 660,000 people behind the wheel who are checking their devices instead of watching the road.

“Our safety drivers routinely see people weaving in and out of their lanes; we’ve spotted people reading books, and even one playing a trumpet.

“A self-driving car has people beat on this dimension of road safety. With 360 degree visibility and 100% attention out in all directions at all times; our newest sensors can keep track of other vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians out to a distance of nearly two football fields.”

I hope I live long enough for one of these. Meanwhile, there is much more to the astonishly details safety report and you can read it here.


SEA LION, SEEKING AN EASY MEAL, WINS

It took place, YouTube tells us, near Cabo St. Lucas where the sea lion was determined to get a free meal from the boat.


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.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (3) | Permalink | Email this post

Friday, 22 May 2015

Are You an Elder Orphan?

I am. And it's not a comfortable thing to be.

In case the phrase is new to you:

An elder orphan is an old person who is single, lives alone, has no children or family member or friend who can act on his or her behalf in handling health, legal and financial issues.

An elder orphan has no one, or is uncertain of who, to list on that “next of kin” line in forms, no one deisgnated to carry out end-of-life wishes, and see to the funeral and burial.

Some of the media reported on this growing phenomenon following the presentation last weekend of findings on the situation at the meeting of the American Geriatrics Society:

”Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, who is chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at North Shore-LIJ Health System...estimates that nearly a quarter of all elderly Americans could be orphans...

“The outlook for the future is not any brighter,” continues the news story at CNN. “Based on 2012 U.S. Census data, about one third of Americans age 45 to 63 are single, and in a position to become orphans as they age.”

Further, a University of Michigan report referenced in U.S. News estimates that 22 percent of people 65 and older in the United States are elder orphans now or at risk of becoming so.

British Columbia's Seniors Advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, told news1130 that elders in that province of Canada depend on partners or children but like the U.S., that is changing.

“People who are single, people who don’t have children do need to think about how they are going to plan for their future and the aging process. It’s not going to be as clear who make decisions for them, who is their substitute decision maker, who gets their power of attorney who can be their representative.”

Dr. Carney began looking into the problem of elder orphans after she noticed that Super Storm Sandy left many old people who lived near the shore homeless, she told Bankrate, and she believes that single elders should not postpone making decisions:

”If you think you are going to be aging alone, Carney says now - while you still have the financial, mental and physical tools - is the time to figure out a plan. It could be a cooperative living situation, a shared household, a Golden-Girls' style commune or a formal assisted living facility...

"'It isn't a socioeconomic or intelligence issue. It isn't about race or ethnicity. It is the inability to reach out and make connections. That can happen to anybody at any time,' Carney says.”

She's right about that, and I think about it all the time. Hardly a day goes by that I don't.

I have no family. No husband. No children. I have friends I know I could trust but they all live 3,000 miles away. Not ideal but it might work; I just don't put my mind to it.

What else gets in my way (this is an excuse, not a reason) is that I think it's a good idea that advocate(s) be younger than I am – my most trusted friends are my age.

It embarrasses and pains me to admit all this publicly but perhaps it will impress on you (and me) the importance of designating a personal advocate because:

If I get hit by a truck and am hospitalized, there is no one for the physicians to consult.

If I have a stroke and can't communicate, there is no one who is authorized to speak for me.

I do not have a health care proxy. I do not have a durable power of attorney.

The only thing I have is a newly acquired emergency refrigerator card that lists my primary care physician but that “next of kin” or emergency contact line is empty.

So don't go by my lead. Listen instead to my New York friend, Wendl Kornfeld, who is married but has no children.

Wendl was on to this problem long before Dr. Carney's important advocacy. For the past year or so, Wendl has been conducting Group conversations for elders she calls “the unfamilied” - people like me.

As her notes state:

”The Group urges people without family to be their own strongest advocate and to support that by creating community as their family.”

Wendl, like Dr. Carney, says the time to do this is “RIGHT NOW” and, of course, they are both exactly right.

Stop worrying about which forms should be in place and just get them done – such forms as a will, durable power of attorney, health care proxy, a household handbook, medical history form, wallet card and that refrigerator card – filled in, for god's sake, not empty like mine.

Here's another terrific Wendl idea: “...the '2AM Team,' a couple of people you can call in the middle of the night if necessary. And offer to be on their 2AM team.”

This post doesn't begin to cover it all. For now this is meant to be an ALERT to get us started because, as I often say, if it's happening to me it's happening to millions of others.

Plus, with Dr. Carney's new report, many more - ageing professionals and people like you and me - will be paying attention and willing to help one another.

Let's not allow any of us to become or remain elder orphans.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (29) | Permalink | Email this post

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Planning a Routine Doctor Visit

For me, the less medicine I am subjected to, the happier I am so in the arena of healthcare, I rely on two principles from the non-medical world:

  1. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  2. The hammer and nail rule (if you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail) applies equally to physicians: If your job is to heal people, everyone looks sick.

Now before we go one ssentence further today, let's be absolutely clear: the above is NOT a recommendation for anyone else. Period. Full stop. It's just a jumping off point to help explain how I came to write this blog post.

Okay? Moving along.

It's still two or three weeks until my “annual” wellness visit (“annual” in quotation marks because it's going on two years since the last one). It's a routine visit – I have no complaints - but I want my time with the doctor (which isn't much these days) to count. So I'm already preparing.

This is the kind of checklist I've used for many years and it has served me well particularly, I think, because with so little contact there is no reason the doctor should remember me. But it's a good idea even if you see a doctor more frequently, so you don't forget anything you want to know.

LIST OF MEDICATIONS
This time there are only two but one is a supplement the doctor said I need last time I saw him. So I want to be sure the test is ordered to check current levels.

Some people, particularly those who take a variety of prescription drugs, just drop all the bottles, into a bag to take to the appointment. Be sure to include over-the-counter supplements, pain killers, etc. and dosages.

MEDICAL CARE SINCE LAST VISIT
Another list, this one of health care the primary physician doesn't know about but should probably be in your main record. In my case, cataract surgery, the results of some short-term physical therapy, annual flu shot, pneumonia shot, and my ongoing dental work that includes bone grafts.

If care from other medical professionals is ongoing, include their names, locations and contact information.

MEDICAL/HEALTH QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS
Yes, another list. This one is of changes in how my body is working (it could be my mind, too, if/when I think that is in question) or symptoms that I want to ask about.

There are three or four items I'll ask about during this appointment. There is nothing that worries me but I want to confirm that and ask what's going on.

Such symptoms as dizziness, falling, hearing, incontinence problems, weight changes up or down, insomnia and chest pain among others become more common in old age. Don't ever be reticent about discussing anything of concern with your doctor.

If you have researched the web about any issues you have, bring printouts of what you think is applicable or about which you have questions but use your head. Don't give him/her a sheaf of pages – only what is minimally necessary.

UPDATED CONTACT INFORMATION
If any of your contacts have changed, that's another list to bring. Emergency contacts, health care surrogate, medical insurance changes if any, pharmacy name and telephone and, of course, copies of any DNR (do not resuscitate) and other emergency and end-of-life instructions.

As luck would have it, when I was mostly done with writing this, an email arrived from the National Institute on Aging titled Talking With Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People.

It covers most of what is listed above and one other thing I left out that is important: family and friends.

Many years ago, when she was in her 30s or so, a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is a reporter and of course, went into research mode to see what treatment was recommended for her kind of cancer, what outcomes were expected and what were the variables, among other information.

But she realized, too, how rattled she was so she brought a close friend, another reporter, with her to every appointment and discussion with experts about her case so that she would be certain to have all the notes she would need to make her treatment decision.

I've always been impressed that she thought to do that, especially back when doctors were still perceived to sit on the left hand of god.

It's much more common today to be involved in our own treatment and you can bring a friend or family member with you, even on a routine visit if you need or want to.

The section about talking with your doctor at The National Institute on Aging is very good and there are prepared checklists for doctor visits that you can print out. You'll find it all here.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (19) | Permalink | Email this post

Monday, 18 May 2015

How to Celebrate Older Americans Month

May is Older Americans Month. It is also Jewish American Heritage Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, and National Foster Care Month but this is a blog about growing old.

In case you were wondering, Older Americans Month was proclaimed in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy and that led to the Older Americans Act (OOA) of 1965.

Through that Act, federal agencies, primarily the Administration on Aging, provide services and programs that help local communities promote the well-being of elders, particularly those that help elders live independently in their homes and communities.

So this time of year there are a lot of lunches and other activities to honor old people and I think we should take a day here at TGB to celebrate ourselves too.

We should do that for one day because during all the other 364, the universal doctrine that getting old is the the worst thing that can happen to anyone is what prevails.

If you spend any time at all with any kind of media (in the U.S., certainly), you are relentlessly blasted with anti-aging messages in so many forms that it takes entire books to explain them all. (I know; I own at least three of them.)

The perversion of language is among the worst. The word “young,” for example, is used as a synonym for healthy making the word “old” a synonym for sick. It happens hundreds of times a day in knee-jerk ways in movies, TV shows, books, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, conversation and more.

And it's not just a metaphor. To believe that the definition of old is sick is to cause real illness in yourself and lead to early death. Just accepting the negative stereotypes does that, as a growing body of evidence-based science is showing.

In January this year, CNN explained the results from one of the earliest of these research studies:

”In 2001, researchers from Yale and Harvard University looked at 660 participants between the ages of 50 and 80 who participated in a community-based survey, the Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging and Retirement.

“They measured how self-perception of aging impacted survival over the course of 22.6 years. They found that participants who held a more positive attitude about their own aging - such as continuing to feel useful and happy - lived, on average, 7.5 years longer.

“In fact, they found that perception of aging influenced longevity even more than blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, or a person's tendency to exercise.

And a new study about old age and loneliness, published just last week in England, is the latest in a growing collection of similar results in various aspects of ageing:

”Brunel University London found that expectations and stereotypes of a lonely old age are predictors of actual loneliness. In a sample of 'not lonely' people over the age of 50 years old, a third expected to be lonely and a quarter agreed that old age is a time of loneliness.

“Those with negative stereotypes were twice as likely to report being lonely eight years later and those with low expectations were almost three times more likely to feel this way...

“This is especially significant given the willingness of younger people to accept the stereotype of old age as a time of insecurity, poor health and loneliness - a notion that has persisted in research findings since the 1950s.

“The new research could also shed light on the higher rates of loneliness in England compared with Europe where expectations and stereotypes about old age are quite different.”

Another study has shown that feelings of loneliness increase the risk of premature death by 14 percent.

Note that it is the old person's perception of old age that makes the difference. If you expect to be lonely, to be sick, to be unhappy, to die before your time you are more likely to experience that kind of old age – there is truth to self-fulfilling prophecy.

But you can change that. The way to celebrate Older Americans Month is to check your perspective. Are you harboring stereotypes and anti-aging beliefs about yourself or other old people?

Don't feel bad if you do – they've been brainwashing us about how awful old age is since the cradle. Just take some time to adjust remaining negative attitudes. You'll be healthier and happier for doing so.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (27) | Permalink | Email this post