Wednesday, 28 January 2015
Social Life in Old Age
It has become a tenet of old age that without plenty of friends and family, and an active social life, we are doomed to die before our time.
In fact, one study, as reported in The Guardian last year, went so far as to state that loneliness is twice as unhealthy for old people as obesity:
“Compared with the average person in the study, those who reported being lonely had a 14% greater risk of dying. The figure means that loneliness has around twice the impact on an early death as obesity.”
Now, one research project does not a verdict make; such studies are an indication to be further confirmed but they are still worth a tentative consideration until proven or not and in this case, the study results confirm what aging experts have always said – loneliness is bad for elders' physical and mental health.
Now there is a new study that appears to refute last year's report. From The Independent:
The researchers, from McGill University in Canada, examined the widely held assumption that social contact – or the lack of it – is linked to mortality.
They analysed almost 100 studies (involving 400,000 people from 17 countries, including the UK) of “social contact frequency” – defined as the frequency of social interactions with others...
“Our findings show a minimal effect of social contact frequency on mortality and call into question interventions and clinical advice that simply seek to increase one’s social contact frequency,” said Dr Eran Shor, who led the study.
Shor notes that he and his colleagues are not suggesting the lack of a vibrant social life is a good thing but that any connection to early death for lack of is it “misplaced.”
Because research studies rarely compare apples and apples, let us be clear that there is a big difference between liking to have a lot of time alone and loneliness. Nevertheless, this new study of studies does call into question the certainty of many aging experts about the negative health results of being alone.
These ideas for and against the importance of loneliness in old age are tangentially related to our discussion last week about growing old without a partner or romantic interest.
The majority commenters said living alone was mostly good and quite a few thought that the effort required to possibly find a late-life romantic partner is greater than they want to make.
It was an excellent conversation and today, since you guys are my (unscientific) research group on all things aging, let's see what we think about the need – or not – of a busy social life.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Harry Lowenstern: Future Shock
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
New Clues for the Internet and You
In 1999, four middle-ish-aged guys who were stars in the development of the still-emergent internet wrote a book about how the internet, an amazing global “conversation” platform whereby individuals could share information at blinding speeds that gave them, us – we the people - a kind of power never before available was being misunderstood and misused mostly to sell stuff.
Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, Rick Levine and Dave Weinberger were pissed off enough to write book. It was/is 95 theses called The Cluetrain Manifesto and it exploded on the scene in controversy.
I recall everybody in the internet world I knew online and off, talking about it. “Cluetrain” was a big topic at the websites where I worked – coworkers arguing, debating, agreeing and disagreeing. There was a lot of lively conversation for a long time.
These four guys were warning us that corporations were turning the internet into a one humongous shopping mall that could throttle the freedom it was bringing to the masses.
Of course, I hoped that wouldn't happen and now that I'm thinking about it again, I'm rather pleased that this blog, which doesn't sell anything except ideas about growing old, may be a pretty good example of the best of what the web can be.
Anyway. Back to the story.
Were these men, in a country as capitalist as the U.S. being idealistic? You bet. To give you a feel for it, here is a handful of those original 95 theses:
• Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
• Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.
• Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human concerns.
• We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.
• If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
It struck me then as it still does that if you remove the business references, all 95 theses are pretty good lessons for humans to live by.
So here we are 16 years later and two of the original authors, Doc Searls and David Weinberger, now both in their seventh decade of life, have looked around the internet and again, they are not pleased.
In addition to the corporations, they tell us, there are new dangers that can take away our web.
”It has been sixteen years since our previous communication,” they write.
“In that time the People of the Internet — you and me and all our friends of friends of friends, unto the last Kevin Bacon — have made the Internet an awesome place, filled with wonders and portents...
“Now two more hordes threaten all that we have built for one another.
“The Marauders understand the Internet all too well. They view it as theirs to plunder, extracting our data and money from it, thinking that we are the fools.
“But most dangerous of all is the third horde: Us.”
Searls and Weinberger go on to remind us that mass media is the least of the Web's powers and we should not lean back and consume only the junk food of entertainment while the Marauders steal our valuables:
”An organ-by-organ body snatch of the Internet is already well underway,” they warn. ”Make no mistake: with a stroke of a pen, a covert handshake, or by allowing memes to drown out the cries of the afflicted we can lose the Internet we love.
“We come to you from the years of the Web's beginning. We have grown old together on the Internet. Time is short.”
All that is from the introduction to an update of The Cluetrain Manifesto titled New Clues wherein Searls and Weinberger give us 121 New Clues.
Here are clues 28 through 32:
• 28. The Web is an impossibly large, semi-persistent realm of items discoverable in their dense inter-connections.
• 29. That sounds familiar. Oh, yeah, that's what the world is.
• 30. Unlike the real world, every thing and every connection on the Web was created by some one of us expressing an interest and an assumption about how those small pieces go together.
• 31. Every link by a person with something to say is an act of generosity and selflessness, bidding our readers leave our page to see how the world looks to someone else.
• 32. The Web remakes the world in our collective, emergent image.
In the ten years I worked at websites I was, in addition to my "regular" job, the privacy officer, although no one took my concerns seriously. Hardly anyone cared about privacy then (pre-2005) and not enough do now. Here, from New Clues, is the entire section on “Privacy in an age of spies” – the Marauders of which the men spoke in the introduction above:
• 84. Ok, government, you win. You've got our data. Now, what can we do to make sure you use it against Them and not against Us? In fact, can you tell the difference?
• 85. If we want our government to back off, the deal has to be that if — when — the next attack comes, we can't complain that they should have surveilled us harder.
• 86. A trade isn't fair trade if we don't know what we're giving up. Do you hear that, Security for Privacy trade-off?
• 87. With a probability approaching absolute certainty, we are going to be sorry we didn't do more to keep data out of the hands of our governments and corporate overlords.
I have written so much longer than I usually do because what Doc Searls and David Weinberger have created with New Clues call to action is critical to our future.
I cannot imagine life without the internet.
I cannot imagine being old without the internet.
I cannot imagine being without the friends I would never have known without the internet.
It would be so much harder to learn anything, to learn anything at all, without the internet as it is supposed to be, as it should be, as Searls and Weinberger are reminding us it can be.
Please go read all of New Clues for yourself. You will be enlightened and, I hope, inspired to post it or send it around widely. It is an open source document you are free to share and re-use without permission.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Clifford Rothband: Material Things
Monday, 26 January 2015
Old People's Sense of Time or
[EDITORIAL NOTE: As far as I know, the following has no basis in fact and may or may not be related to age (although I believe it is). It is no more than my observation of a personal quirk over – ahem, SOME period of time, the amount of which I cannot be certain.
For most of my life, when I used the word “recent” or “recently,” the target point in time was at least within hailing distance. I meant a few weeks at most or, depending on context, it might have been an entire year but unlikely to be more than that.
Nowadays there is no telling what I mean. A couple of weeks ago, in a telephone conversation with an old friend, I mentioned a restaurant where we'd had dinner on one of my “recent” trips to New York.
“Recent?” she said. “Ronni, that was in 2008.”
I did a quick calculation and came up with seven years. It didn't feel like that long ago or, at least, not what I think seven years should feel like.
Something similar happened just this Saturday. I ran across a reference to the animated film, Monsters, Inc., and was surprised to notice it was released in 2001. I know I saw it when it was first in theaters and if you had asked me when that was, I would have said, oh about 2008, maybe 2010.
I can give you dozens of such instances but the point is that some (unknown) while ago, my perception of time became more flexible than it had been in my past and maybe more than others experience.
Many years ago (I do know that it was decades ago because of a roll top desk I gave away to S in 1985 or '86), I taped to said desk a fortune cookie I'd received that resonated: “Time is nature's way of making sure everything doesn't happen at once.”
I like playing with that idea and in my more whimsical moments I have always sort of, kinda, maybe believed it. Yes, I realize that such a belief involves some philosophical acrobatics on the question of free will, but just go with me on this, okay?
That fortune cookie slip of paper left my home with the desk, but the “wisdom” has remained with me and it now feels related to the new-ish plasticity of my sense of time.
I'm capable lately (whatever that word means to me these days), of being shocked at how long ago 1990, for example, was. It “feels” like that year was relatively “recently” but it is actually, now, a quarter of a century ago.
And when you put it that way, I feel something like Rip Van Winkle must have. How could that much time have gone by since a year that contained some events I remember quite vividly?
So far, this time slippage works only in the direction I have described – that I am surprised at how many years have passed, not how few. I have yet to say, “That was only last year? I thought it was ten years ago.”
In the greater scheme of things this doesn't matter. I keep a calendar, as I always have, so I do show up on time although I occasionally wonder at how much more time than I realized there has been between visits or phone calls, even emails, with friends. But it doesn't impede my life.
Having zero information on which to base my thinking, I suspect this fluidity of time is related to growing old. Who knows? Maybe it is harder for the brain to parse time after X number of years of living.
There are those who will say it's just another way to look at the phenomenon of time seeming to move faster as we age. I certainly experience that but these little events feel different to me, a little more cosmic – more in line with that fortune cookie I saved for years.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Peter Tibbles: Why I'm Watching the Australian Open
Sunday, 25 January 2015
ELDER MUSIC: The Impressions, Etc.
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.
The Impressions were usually thought of as a trio but at times the number in the group has gone as high as five or more. The trio version consisted of Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden and Fred Cash.
The group started out when old friends Curtis and Jerry Butler formed a DooWop group called The Roosters with Sam and Richard Brooks and his brother Arthur. When they got a record deal they changed their name to Jerry Butler and the Impressions thus, to my mind, signaling that Jerry wasn't really in it for the long haul.
And so it proved although, to be fair, the name was the record company's idea.
While still with the group, Jerry sang lead on Your Precious Love, a song he wrote. As mentioned, it was released under the name JERRY BUTLER & THE IMPRESSIONS in 1958.
Some have suggested that this was the first soul record. Not too far off the mark.
When Jerry left to become a solo artist, Curtis toured with him as guitarist and songwriter. He (Curtis) was lured back to The Impressions where he took over the reins as lead singer. He was also the guitarist, main songwriter and arranger as well.
He had a distinctive high tenor voice that complemented the deeper voices of Sam and Fred. Here they are, just as THE IMPRESSIONS with I'm the One Who Loves You.
Okay, if you're even vaguely familiar with The Impressions, here's the song you've been waiting for.
Their best known, and their best song by far, and one of the classic songs of our era, People Get Ready. Curtis sang lead and played guitar with Fred and Sam contributing beautifully to the mix. Even this grumpy old non-believer is inspired by this song.
One of JERRY BUTLER's early hits as a solo performer was
Jerry wrote the song with Curtis and Calvin Carter, and Curtis sang harmony The song has been covered a number of times but no version is a patch on the original.
I've Been Loving You Too Long was written by Otis Redding and Jerry Butler.
Otis had the first version and (unarguably) the best. Jerry recorded it as well and his version is nearly, almost, just about as good as Otis's and coming from me, that's a huge call.
The famed songwriting team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff along with Jerry Butler wrote the song, Hey, Western Union Man.
This is a song that's been covered by a number of people and is one of the standard songs in any aspiring soul band's repertoire. Jerry does it best though.
Just after leaving The Impressions, CURTIS MAYFIELD recorded the album “Superfly,” a soundtrack for the film of that name.
It was very successful and extremely influential. It also prompted Curtis to create several more soundtrack albums. None was as good or as influential as the first one. Here is Superfly from the album and film of the same name.
We're A Winner was one of a succession of singles Curtis Mayfield wrote for The Impressions.
Here he performs that song.
In 1990, Curtis was paralyzed from the neck down when stage lights fell on him at a concert where he was performing. From then on he was unable to play guitar but he could still write songs. He could sing too, with some difficulty, and even recorded an album.
He eventually had to have his leg amputated and died in 1999 of various complications brought on by the accident.
A couple more songs with the Curtis, Sam and Fred version of The Impressions. First is I Need Your Love.
Next, The Impressions with Love's A Comin'.
Saturday, 24 January 2015
INTERESTING STUFF – 24 January 2015
GROWING OLD ALONE RESPONSE
There was a strong response to our Wednesday feature about growing old alone that used an interview with actor Jack Nicholson as a jumping off point. It caused a lot of interesting comments.
Herm is a long-time reader of Time Goes By. Although we rarely hear from him, this time he spoke up and I want to be sure you all get to read what he wrote:
”I watch NBA basketball. Just last week as I watched the LA Lakers, there was Jack in his reserved seat watching the game. I thought, 'This guy never misses a game. Doesn't he have a someone that's more interesting than the lousy Lakers?' Now, I have my answer.
“Forty-five years married and still have romance with her. Let the music play and keep dancing.”
MOST ANNOYING PEOPLE ON THE FLIGHT
The travel website Expedia recently published a survey ranking the most annoying kinds of airline passengers. Jimmy Kimmel asked actor Patrick Stewart to portray the top five.
It always cracks me up to see Stewart chewing the scenery. To me, he will always be the very reserved Captain Picard.
HALF OF ALL GLOBAL WEALTH SOON TO BE OWNED BY 1 PERCENT
As the world's elite meat at the annual World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland this past week, the British charity Oxfam released their latest research. Note that this is not U.S. wealth distribution; it is the world's:
”...the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5%.
“Oxfam added that on current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.”
U.S. and now world. We've been hearing this for years but nothing changes. What happens when it hits 60 percent or 70 percent or more? I doubt it is anything good. Here is a chart of just the 80 richest individuals compared to the poorest 50 percent of the world's people.
FANTASTIC CARD TRICK
This is so much fun from magician James Galea. You're going to love it. (Peter Tibbles: This was recorded at The 2009 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala.)
90 YEAR OLD TECH DESIGNER
From time to time I write here about how important it is for technology designers to employ elders. I've even given a couple of speeches about it because young people have no idea, no reason to know what kind of difficulties aging produces with eyesight, dexterity and other issues.
Hardly anyone pays attention to me but one Silicon Valley design company, IDEO, has 90-year-old Barbara Beskind on staff to help them out. In one instance, as explained in an NPR story,
”IDEO is working with a Japanese company on glasses to replace bifocals. With a simple hand gesture, the glasses will turn from the farsighted prescription to the nearsighted one.
Initially, the designers wanted to put small changeable batteries in the new glasses. Beskind pointed out to them that old fingers are not that nimble.”
Good for IDEO. You can read more at the NPR website or listen to the full interview:
SWEDISH KIDS CARTOON OF DANCING GENITALIA
I'll bet that headline made you wake up and pay attention. Swedish public service TV station, STV, produces a show called Bacillakuten, designed to teach the basics of biology to children age three through six.
As Atlantic magazine explained recently:
”The show’s episodes are based on questions about the body that children send in...For instance, one of the questions they received, Holmström said, was 'Why do you lose your pee?'”
As so, a two-minute cartoon of Willie and Twinkle – penis and vagina characters – were produced to a catchy tune explaining how they work. Part of the Swedish lyric is translated
"Here comes the penis at full pace" and "the vagina is cool, you better believe it, even on an old lady. It just sits there so elegantly.”
At first, YouTube labeled the video “adult” but protests set them straight. See what you think:
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S FOOD
Ever since the internet took off, the news media has complained that they can't make a buck anymore. Newspapers and magazine have cut their reporter staffs to the bone.
Then this comes along - a couple of Time magazine reporters who have found time to put together a list of every meal – every, single meal - President Barack Obama has eaten outside the White House since inauguration day in 2009.
For each meal, the story includes the date(s) Obama ate there, location, number of Yelp! stars, links to the web pages of each restaurant and photos of the food. Do you have any idea how much time it takes to put such a feature together for this many meals? And for what bloody purpose?
After this, Time magazine can never again legitimately complain of staff costs. If you really must waste your time, you can see the feature here.
COP GROOVIN' TO HIS SOUNDS
When doctafil sent this video, it hadn't gone viral yet. Now it's all over the internet.
Too often, police dashcams show us cops behaving badly. This one is just a guy have have a good time on his rounds to the tune of Shake It Off by Taylor Swift.
LET'S TRY THE BUS-RIDING DOG AGAIN
Last week when I tried to show you the bus-riding dog, the video had been taken down. It's up again so let's see if works. It's a terrific dog story.
JUST IN CASE THAT VIDEO DOESN'T WORK
Or, if it does work, consider this a bonus cute animal video. From Darlene, baby red pandas in the snow. (It's still winter in the northern hemisphere, you know.)
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.
Friday, 23 January 2015
A New Late Night Star For Us
Larry Wilmore's Comedy Central program, The Nightly Show, premiered this week in Stephen Colbert's old time slot following The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
On Tuesday, all the reviews were laudatory and I agree. Strongly. We have a new late night star who will, I predict, become as beloved as Colbert.
Before I tell you more, I must first take to task The New York Times reviewer, Alessandra Stanley, for her nasty little aside about Wilmore's age:
”“Mr. Wilmore, 53, isn’t young,” she wrote, “but he has dimples and a disarming way of laughing at his own jokes and those of others.”
Isn't young, BUT??? You are free to disagree but I don't see the difference between that and "isn't white, but."
Each Nightly Show is built around a single theme that, during this first week, were taken from the news. Monday night was the state of black protest in the U.S.; Tuesday was the Bill Cosby sexual revelations; Wednesday, Obama and the State of the Union address; and Thursday, Cuba.
The opening segment of each show is, essentially, an extended monologue reporting on the night's topic. Here is Wilmore in his first outing:
It was a little ragged there in the beginning but as the minutes went by, Wilmore got better and better and if you stuck around for the rest of week you probably put The Nightly Show on your “must watch” list. I did.
In the second segment, Wilmore introduces the show's panel – four guests discussing the night's topic. The star guest of the first show was New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. The second night an acquaintance of mine, Baratunde Thurston, was there. And on Wednesday, a comedian I like but had seen only a couple of times, Godfrey. I hope he will be back regularly.
The jokes fly with the panel, but it is serious too and unlike the hosts on a certain liberal cable news channel, Wilmore keeps the conversation going without either monopolizing it or allowing the guests to all talk at once.
The guests remain for the third segment titled, “Keeping It 100.” If, like me, you are way too white to know what that means, I checked one of the online urban dictionaries for us:
”...to keep yourself real and true, to be honest and stick to the way you are, no matter what anyone else thinks.”
In this part of the show, Wilmore has a single prepared question for each of the four guests about the night's topic. Take a look. This is the Keeping It 100 segment from Wednesday's program about President Obama.
Make no mistake - this is a black show with more of a straight ahead, black sensibility than we have seen in mainstream media and, I think, more than any interview program we've seen before, the black guests aren't tokens to fill the politically correct diversity requirement.
In fact, after the first two shows where, each night, there were three black guests and one white, I thought maybe that was going to be an unspoken, running joke – the token white. But on Wednesday (see above) there were two black and two white guests and anyway, Wilmore is too good at his job for such a simplistic joke.
For fans, it was painful to lose Stephen Colbert but Comedy Central, executive producer Jon Stewart and Larry Wilmore have a winner.
It's timely, it's smart and it's painfully funny – a righteous replacement for a beloved program that will become as important a commentary on the state of American politics and culture as Colbert was.
Just because I can't resist, here is Larry Wilmore's monologue on President Obama the night after the State of the Union address. (I am so sorry if readers in other countries can't see these videos; they are so worth your time.)
There are full shows and other clips at The Nightly Show at Comedy Central.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Wendl Kornfeld: By Any Other Name
Thursday, 22 January 2015
A Dog's Tale of Aging Well
An American friend, Jim Stone, who is wintering in New Zealand where it is summer, emailed urging me to read a story he had found with some good advice from our dogs about how to deal with old age.
Before the writer, David Dudley, gets to his personal story, he tells us that science is finding human and canine life to be more intertwined that you (well, me, anyway) might suspect even at the microscopic level:
”Human and canine genes, shaped by the environment we share, are evolving in lockstep. Today, along with home security and leftover disposal, dogs confer a host of wellness benefits, especially to kids and older people.
“People with dogs sleep better, weigh less and get more exercise than dog-free peers. And there are the less tangible perks, the ones cataloged in Marley & Me–style books.
“This burgeoning 'dogoir' literary genre revolves around the reductive but basically correct idea that a dog is foremost an instrument of personal growth: It exists to ease your existential anxieties, impart lessons about love and friendship, and teach you how to be a better person.”
[I don't disagree at all but I believe similar benefits result from human/feline relationships; they just occur on a different kind of psychological plane. But that's for another day.]
The research, Dudley tells us, shows that dogs and humans age in similar ways, including age-related dementia:
”...dogs' plaques look a lot like those in humans — more so than the ones found in our fellow primates. [Neuroscientist Elizabeth] Head is not sure why. 'It could be that living in our environment — our food, our water, our homes — has made dogs more vulnerable,' she says.
“Age-related dementia, in other words, might be 'a feature of the domestication process,' she says, a kind of unintended side effect of civilization.”
For 18 years Mr. Dudley and Foghat shared their lives – the walks, the games, marriage when it arrived and the two children who followed.
”...he entered his dotage in roaring good health...”, writes Dudley. “He was what gerontologists would call a successful ager.
“And then, seemingly overnight, he wasn't...He started limping after a vigorous bouncing-a-soccer-ball-off-his-nose session. Then he needed help climbing into the car or crawling under the bed, his favorite sleeping spot.
“Our epic rambles through the woods became short hikes, then brief spins around the block. Sometimes he'd stop midwalk, frozen like a Parkinson's sufferer. The stairs grew perilous.
“He became a wandering insomniac, barking at ghosts, claws clacking aimlessly through the darkened house. He'd vanished into the shadowlands of canine cognitive dysfunction, and he would not be coming out.”
The last weeks or months of Foghat's life were, for Mr. Dudley,
”...a glimpse into the future. Foghat's senescence appeared as both a comfort and a warning of what awaits: Some fears and eccentricities will lift with the years; others will only deepen. “One by one, the things you love to do become too difficult and slip out of your life. But despite it all, you will still be you, and people will still cherish your wobbly presence. Even a diminished life is worth living on its own terms.”
In due course, however, the terrible day arrived when it was time for the final trip to the veterinarian.
I tell you all this not only because it is a beautiful story of a man and his dog, but because I want to be sure you read his final paragraphs:
”And now that I'm no longer young, and he's dead, I'll do my best to follow the path Foghat blazed into my life's last half. This is sound medical advice, as neuroscientist Head says: 'Everything you do for a dog to help them age well, you should do with them.'
“So eat the best food you can afford. Go for a walk, even if it's raining. Take a lot of naps. Keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh, so that the people you lick will not flinch.
“And when someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, go totally insane with joy.”
I think it will make your day to go read David Dudley's remarkably graceful story at the AARP website. Then give your dog or cat a big hug.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dan Gogerty: At Sea with Rock Hudson and a Drunk Stowaway