Elder Tweens

I just made that up: elder tweens.

The word “tween” is new since I was young and although the age parameters vary depending on who is talking, it is the name given to an unofficial stage of life somewhere between childhood and teen years.

This new phrase, elder tweens, refers to all the current oldest generations combined, those of us who are retired now or facing retirement in the next decade or so. Let's say it encompasses, generally, all people from about age 50 to dead.

We are the elder tweens and we have a job to do for future generations of old people.

The thought came to me while reading an article about finding meaning and/or purpose in an old age that is longer than it has ever been, a time now when millions of people commonly live into their eighth, ninth and even tenth decade.

”What do we want to do with an extra 30 years?” asks geriatrician Linda P. Fried. “How should we, as individuals and as a society, shape the trajectory of our longer lives?

“...Should we be designing new social policies that will foster these opportunities? How do we prepare young people for longer lives – and can these questions be answered in way that would be beneficial for all generations?

Good questions. Dr. Fried is not the first to consider them but answers, good answers, aren't easy to come by mainly because we have never had to think before about what is a whole new stage of life.

For millennia, we have known what childhood and youth are for. And the middle years too. Even retirement was easily defined for the past century or so since it was invented: a few years of leisure activity for the healthy and (by today's new standard) an early death.

But now that we live so much longer – and healthier too - can anyone really play golf for 30 years? Which brings me back to the elder tweens.

The phrase isn't meant as the name for a new stage of life. Instead, I see it as an era – and a temporary one at that. The idea being that we 50-plus people – the ones who now have a whole lot of time on our hands – should put our minds to figuring out the best ways people can find personal fulfillment and satisfaction during these 30 extra years.

Dr. Fried lays out the problem this way:

”The truth is that we have created a new stage of life but have not yet envisioned its purpose, meaning and opportunities and the space is being filled with our fears...”

I'm not sure I buy the “fears” part but otherwise that's a good starting point and Dr. Fried also underlines the need elders have to continue contributing in significant and positive ways but is generally denied to old people in the United States.

Her solution rests with such venerable volunteer organizations as Encore.org (of which Fried is a co-founder) and Experience Corps along with the federal community service organizations Foster Grandparents, Senior Companions and RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program).

These are important and worthy organizations that do excellent work but, as Dr. Fried notes, these organizations (not including locally based volunteer groups) involve only 360,000 elders.

Also, volunteering is just one way to find meaning in life and not for everyone. I suspect there are as many paths to personal fulfillment as there are people but in all the ageing work I've done over these couple of decades, only volunteering is ever suggested as helping to meet these human needs of heart and soul in our late years.

Without in any manner meaning to slight Dr. Fried's real successes, it is time to look beyond volunteering and perhaps it is we, the elder tweens, who are the people to take a whack at figuring out how to create this new, long stage of life and make it our legacy for the generations coming up behind us.

Perhaps we can outline a way of living in the late years so that younger people might know as much about it when they get here as they do nowadays about – oh, say parenthood.

From those of us nearing retirement, to people like TGB readers Millie Garfield and Darlene Costner who are both past age 90, and the rest of us in the middle – we have wide and deep experience from a variety of perspectives and ages of figuring out our old age.

What if we, the elder tweens, tried to answer Fried's questions on a larger scale - come up with new ways for people think about growing old. To repeat Dr. Fried:

”What do we want to do with an extra 30 years? How should we, as individuals and as a society, shape the trajectory of our longer lives?

“...Should we be designing new social policies that will foster these opportunities? How do we prepare young people for longer lives – and can these questions be answered in way that would be beneficial for all generations?

This is the place in an essay where I should give you some concrete examples and direction to contemplate but I would like to keep this post to a reasonable length and anyway, there are hardly any parameters yet to inventing a new stage of life which is what I'm suggesting we do.

The one thing I know for sure is that as important to society and to the individuals who participate volunteering or, giving back if that phrasing works better, is not the only way to find meaning and purpose. Good works are admirable but there are many other ways to find meaning in life.

One quick example is how fulfilled I am doing the work to produce this blog. I am especially proud of having created the community in the comment section filled with thoughts, ideas and conversation that expand so well on the day's topic. I learn as much there as I do in my research and I know many readers do too. Not to mention that it astonishes and pleases me how many of you find TGB valuable.

That is NOT an invitation for more congratulations today and besides, it's too easy. Instead, I'm asking you for some hard work. Let's pretend for awhile that it is up to us to invent a new old age to leave behind for generations who may live even longer than we do.

We elder tweens who remember what retirement used to be and find ourselves in a brand new kind may be the best positioned to start this crucial conversation. How does society need to change to accommodate all these extra years? What are the many ways we can expand the choices?

Brexit and Old People

You might not think that the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom last week falls under the purview of a blog about growing old. And on the face of it, you would be correct. But not this time.

If you've been under a rock for the past 80 hours or so, the U.K. held an advisory referendum last Thursday on whether the country should withdraw from (“leave”) or stay with (“remain”) the 28-member European Union. It was a one-question ballot:


Hardly anyone expected the outcome so it was a shock heard 'round the world when the Leave vote won, by just under four percent.

Stock markets plummeted. Uber investor Warren Buffet was said to have lost $2 billion, my financial consultant (much grander-sounding than the amount of money involved warrants) emailed an early morning briefing and Donald Trump, whose first concern is always personal gain, said the vote is will increase profit at his Scotland golf courses where he was visiting that day.

The defeat was so crushing that Prime Minister David Cameron, who had lead the Remain faction, resigned Friday morning.

Reporters worldwide spent the rest of the day speculating on the dire economic consequences of a UK withdrawal from the EU and by Saturday morning, more than 2 million Britons, harboring second thoughts about their Leave votes, had signed a petition to hold a second referendum.

Over the weekend, two TGB readers emailed each quoting the same New York Times Op-Ed written by a 42-year-old German reporter, Jochen Bittner. Like those petition signers (now up to more than 3 million) he is furious about the outcome of the vote.

Although a Times editor and not Buttner probably wrote it, the headline reads “Brexit and Europe's Angry Old Men.” One TGB reader asked, “How's this for old people bashing?” and both objected to the word “sclerotic” Bittner uses in this context:

”These politicians — men and women, to be sure — are young enough not to have experienced world war,” he writes, “but they are old enough to idealize the pre-1989 era and a simpler, pre-globalization world.

“At the same time, they are obviously too sclerotic to imagine how democratic institutions can adjust to the new realities. With their aggressive posturing, these Nigel Farages, Marine Le Pens, Geert Wilderses and Donald J. Trumps are driving the debate — and possibly driving the West off a cliff.”

By inference, Bittner is denouncing not just the politicians but the old people of the UK and when you look at this chart, you know the reason:


As the BBC further reported, “Of the 30 areas with the most old people, 27 voted to leave the EU.”

Another British journalist, Felix Salmon, writing at Fusion, pointed out reasons for the clash of generations:

”This vote is also the grimmest of reminders of the power still held by the older generation, not only in the UK but around the world. Young Britons—the multicultural generation which grew up in and of Europe, the people who have only ever known European passports, voted overwhelmingly to remain. They’re the generation that just lost its future.

“Meanwhile, Britons over the age of 65, fed a diet of lies by a sensationalist UK press, voted by a large margin to leave. Most of them did so out of a misplaced belief that doing so might reduce immigration, or make them better off, or save them from meddling bureaucrats.

“In a couple of decades, most of those voters will be dead. But the consequences of their actions will resonate far beyond the grave.“

Among those lies was this audacious one made by former London Mayor (and Donald Trump lookalike) Boris Johnson and the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage: that leaving the EU means the £350 million a week Britain has been paying to Brussels would be rerouted to ailing national health care services.

Here is how Mr. Farage tried to wiggle out of that promise the morning after the vote with host Susanna Reid on Good Morning Britain:

Please indulge me for one more quotation – this one from my favorite lefty political pundit, an American who writes for Esquire, Charlie Pierce:

”Some of the Oldest and Whitest people on the planet leapt at a chance to vote against the monsters in their heads. They may have tanked their economy in the process.

“It was quite amusing to follow along on the electric Twitter machine as members of The Political Revolution on this side of the pond rejoiced at the result as some kind of ensemble rejection of the globalized financial system that indeed nearly did blow up the world.”

All the charts and commentary about the influence of the British elder vote in their referendum remind me that here in the United States we have a similar kind of oldest generation.

Over all the 20-odd years I've been studying ageing and keeping an eye on the cultural zeitgeist of old people in the US, the majority of them always vote against not only their own best interests but more reprehensibly, against those of their children and grandchildren.

Here's how: In every congressional and presidential election over these years, most people 65 and older have voted overwhelmingly for the candidates who want to cut or kill Social Security and Medicare. Every election, in the two decades I've been keeping track, they do this.

I spend a lot of time on these pages defending elders against the slurs that (usually) younger people sling our way. In addition, it is impossible to miss the many faces of ageism and I do my best to chronicle those, to call for change. But that doesn't make me blind to the more repugnant qualities of my generation.

One of those is the tendency of some to become “sclerotic” in their beliefs or opinions – that is, if you accept the dictionary definition of the word as “rigid, losing the ability to adapt.”

It seems to me that applies quite well in the case of the Brexit vote of those who in Britain are often called the "oldies," which has blown up the world economy.

I don't mean to be flip, but we didn't have enough problems in the world before now?

This week's Monty Pythonesque New Yorker magazine cover about Brexit by artist Barry Blitt pretty well tells the story in one picture.


ELDER MUSIC: Seasons - Spring

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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That's one of my pics, taken in Daylesford (Victoria, Australia).

This is the first of a series about the seasons. There will be five of them, not five seasons so don't try to call Vivaldi, although some say that Melbourne has at least that many, often in the one day.

No, it just means that summer had so many good songs that it deserved two columns.

Okay, let's start. I really, really, really hate spring. I cannot abide it. From September to November (for that is when spring is in my part of the world) my eyes water and itch, my nose runs, I'm sneezing all over the place, my face is puffy.

It's wall to wall hay fever for the entire time. Spring! Bah, you can have it.

There have been several years when I avoided it by visiting San Francisco and Portland for the duration. That works a treat but it is an expensive option that I can't afford too often. Well, that's my rant out of the way, let's have some Spring music.

I had a number of choices for the first song – musical heavyweights Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, Red Garland and Roland Kirk, not to mention Deanna Durbin, Joni James and Anita O'Day. So if you're a fan of any of those (and you probably are), I'm sorry. I've gone with my favorite, JULIE LONDON.

Julie London

Julie sings Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year.

♫ Julie London - Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year

The DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET turns up for the first, but far from the last, time in this series.

Dave Brubeck

Taken from their album Jazz Impressions of New York we have Spring in Central Park.

♫ Dave Brubeck - Spring In Central Park

We may have missed SARAH VAUGHAN in the first song, but we have her now.

Sarah Vaughan

Her song is really very well known, It Might as Well Be Spring, a Rodgers and Hammerstein song from "State Fair.” She wasn't the only person to record the song (that's thrown in for a bit of understatement).

♫ Sarah Vaughan - It Might as Well Be Spring

As you'd expect, the BEACH BOYS have a bunch of summer songs, but they have something for spring as well.

The Beach Boys

The members of the group had long since left school but they still remembered their Spring Vacation.

♫ Beach Boys - Spring Vacation

I'm going to slip a little bit of country amongst the jazz and standards today. The first of these is IAN TYSON.

Ian Tyson

Ian writes excellent songs and is a terrific singer. He started professionally in his native Canada and moved to New York as part of the folk boom with his then wife and they performed as Ian and Sylvia.

Besides that, Ronni informs me that he was far and away the most handsome of the folkies. Well, let's see if he can live up to all that with Springtime in Alberta.

♫ Ian Tyson - Springtime In Alberta

WILLIAM TABBERT played Lieutenant Joseph Cable in the original Broadway production of the musical "South Pacific."

William Tabbert

He didn't get to play the part in the film; that went to John Kerr, but I have the Broadway cast album so we have Will singing Younger Than Springtime.

♫ William Tabbert - Younger Than Springtime

MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY takes a familiar song and changes it radically.

Michael Martin Murphey

That song is Springtime in the Rockies. I was a bit unsure about using it at first but playing it several times changed my mind. I like what he's done to the song. Here it is with a little help from Carin Mari.

♫ Michael Martin Murphey - Springtime In the Rockies

FRANK SINATRA's spring song is from his excellent album from the fifties called "Only the Lonely.” This was one of the first albums as we know them today - that is, not just a few hits and a bunch of fillers.

Frank Sinatra

In spite of its rather cheerful sounding title, Spring Is Here, the song is more in line with the rest of the album as suggested by its title.

♫ Frank Sinatra - Spring Is Here

When it's Springtime in Alaska it's probably not very warm at all. As JOHNNY HORTON tells us in the song, it's 40 below at that time (that's the one temperature when Celsius and Fahrenheit are the same).

That doesn't sound very spring-like to me.

Johnny Horton

Johnny had a couple of Alaskan songs around this time. Perhaps he didn't like the California climate (although I can't imagine why he wouldn't). Probably it was his songwriters' idea.

♫ Johnny Horton - When It's Springtime In Alaska

MARK MURPHY was one of the most interesting of the jazz singers.

Mark Murphy

He learned from Lambert, Hendricks and Ross and ran with what they did. He thinks that Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. Given what I said about hay fever, I totally agree with him.

♫ Mark Murphy - Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most



Annys Shin is an editor at the Washington Post. She is working on a story for the newspaper's magazine about ageism and is looking for real people's stories about their experiences with ageism and their observations about it.

If you live in the Washington, D.C. area and are interested in being interviewed for the story, email Ms. Shin at annys DOT shin AT washpost.com (change the DOT to a period, change the AT to the @ sign and remove spaces. Remember, you need to live in the environs of Washington, D.C. The deadline is end-of-day on Monday 27 June.


Tom Delmore sent this short film showing 90-year-old Razie contemplating defying the rules of her religion to eat a bacon sandwich for the first time in her life.

As the YouTube page notes, “Bacon, atheism, the internet, Julia Child and Christopher Hitchens all converge in the Razie's intellectual awakening.” The documentary premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival.

And they say old people can't change. Hmmph.


After more than four decades, Garrison Keillor is retiring from Prairie Home Companion. The last broadcast will be performed at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on Friday 1 July.

As The New York Times reported, Keillor, who is 73, has retired before but this time he said

”...he means it. He has named a successor and lined up meaty post-Prairie projects, among them columns for The Washington Post, a screenplay and a book.”

He also has a solo tour planned through this year, along with a Prairie-esque Labor Day weekend show at the Minnesota State Fair.

If you're a fan, check your local listing for the final broadcast because some public radio stations delay the show. Mine will air it on 2 July.

The New York Times published a terrific profile of Garrison Keillor last week. After more than 40 years, it really is the end of an era.


There are hundreds of more substantive reasons to dislike Donald Trump but this one, a spur-of-the-moment, “diamond and platinum” wedding gift, exposes bedrock character.

It's actor Charlie Sheen telling the story on a recent Graham Norton Show:

It's such a stupid, little lie that any fool could guess would be found out and I wouldn't have featured it today except that two days after I watched the video, a story in The New York Times about Donald Trump's relationship with his late attorney Roy Cohn, turned up this nugget. Mr. Fraser was Cohn's long-time companion.

”After one Cohn coup, Mr. Trump rewarded him with a pair of diamond-encrusted cuff links and buttons in a Bulgari box...Years later, Mr. Fraser had them appraised; they were knockoffs, he said.”

Anything further I would like to say is probably actionable.


A link to this story appeared in an email Darlene Costner forwarded so I checked it out.

You would think the White House comes free for a president, but no. He (or she) is billed for private meals, personal items such as toothpaste, cologne, etc. and “use of waiters and servers and setup and cleanup crews” for private events.

Each month, the president is provided with an accounting and bill to reimburse the government for such expenses.

”Gary Walters, who was chief White House usher for many years, said the payment rule dates back to 1800 when the White House was first occupied by President John Adams and there was no staff. Presidents brought staff with them and paid for everything.

“Congress gradually began spending money to maintain an official White House staff to oversee operations and maintenance, but presidents continued to pay for personal expenses.”

There are more details at The Guardian.


Maybe we really are heading into a post-literate era. As the Chicago Tribune reported last week,

”On June 4, the satirical news site the Science Post published a block of 'lorem ipsum' text under a frightening headline: 'Study: 70% of Facebook users only read the headline of science stories before commenting.'

“Nearly 46,000 people shared the post, some of them quite earnestly — an inadvertent example, perhaps, of life imitating comedy.

“Now, as if it needed further proof, the satirical headline's been validated once again: According to a new study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked: In other words, most people appear to retweet news without ever reading it.”

More at the Chicago Tribune.


I'm pretty good at grammar and more than a bit of a nitpicker about it. For example, sometimes I think I am the last English speaker on Earth know knows the difference between fewer and less – and I'll leave it at that for today lest I start ranting.

Mary Norris, who is a long-time copy editor at The New Yorker magazine, appears in a regular video column about grammar called “The Comma Queen” and recently she explained the answer one grammar problem that I have never been able to keep in my head; I always have to look it up.

Here is Ms. Norris on the difference between which and that.

If you are interested in more grammar advice from the Comma Queen, there is a collection of such videos at her YouTube section.


On Thursday, Britain voted to leave the European Union and you cannot have missed news of the ongoing turmoil since then along with concern about the many ways the exit will affect the rest of the world (as if a big-time, world-wide drop in the stock markets is not enough in itself).

But before that happened, on his HBO show Last Week Tonight, John Oliver made his case for voting against Britain's exit from the European Union. That makes this video way out of date now but let me state my case to you for spending 15 minutes watching it.

It will make you smarter. You will learn a lot about Britain's relationship with Europe. It will give Americans plenty to think about our own foreign policy as Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump vie to be elected president.

Oh, and thanks to Oliver's best comedy style, you will laugh like crazy over the song at the end.


Amazon opened its first bricks-and-mortar book shop in Seattle last November. The second will open this summer in San Diego. And guess what? The third will open come fall at Washington Square, a mall that is about a 20-minute drive from my home.

And I can't wait to have another book store nearby to wander around in. And get this:

”None of the books have prices listed. This forces customers to download the Amazon app to look up prices, or to use an in-store scanner, Business Insider reported.

“Amazon has said it will charge the same price for books in-store as it does online, but the lack of physical price tags could enable Amazon to change prices for the books at any time.”

You can read more here.


Darlene sent this April news report from a CBS affiliate in California about a strange and heartwarming friendship.

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Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

Easing End-of-Life Pain

Ask pretty much any old person and he or she will tell you that dying quietly in their sleep is the way they want to go. It's sure true for me.

Unfortunately, dying isn't always that easy. Sometimes it is painful and some of those times it is excruciatingly so or, equally terrible, it involves constant breathlessness. In fact, Joseph Andrews, a physician at a Connecticut hospice, says that breathlessness is the worst thing.

But there is a drug, a strong, often misused drug we have all heard of that can alleviate much of this kind of suffering at the end of life. It's called morphine:

Morphine is seen by many physicians and laypeople as a sort of single-purpose, liquified grim reaper, and understandably so: It is dangerous and addictive,” reports STAT.

“Older physicians in particular were typically not trained to use it, Andrews said, and can resist recommendations to use morphine even for cancer patients with severe bone pain, for fear of killing them.”

End-of-life patients can also be denied this drug because, according to Dr. Andrews, there is a myth that hospice care uses the drug to send the terminally ill on their way a bit faster than nature intended.

That doesn't happen in hospice, Andrews says, but the myth keeps physicians from prescribing morphine or family members from allowing it.

Fortunately, that was not true of my mother's physician when I was caring for her during her final months of life in 1992. We had a good-sized bottle of liquid morphine he had prescribed and I don't recall any warnings from him about how lethal it can be. For a long time she only chose the other pain pills that, although I couldn't be sure, did not seem to alleviate the pain as much as the morphine might.

When I finally had the wit to ask her why she refused to use it, she said she might become addicted and do something illegal.

This, from a woman who perfectly well knew she was dying and who was no longer ambulatory. “Ma, I said, I really don't see you running down the road to rob the candy store; you can't even get out of bed. And who cares if you become addicted.”

No dummy, my mother, she thought this over for a moment and switched to liquid morphine.

Dr. Andrews says he has seen a small amount of morphine completely change the last days or weeks of life for his patients when they or their family agree to it use.

In the case of one of his hospice patients, a man who could barely breathe and had been told his heart would fail within three days, decided to try the drug. Soon after he began using a small dose,

”...the man’s breathing eased, he started a new routine. Twice a day he’d ask his children or grandchildren or nurses to bring his cap and his overcoat and they’d wheel him to the waterfront with his oxygen tank.

“He’d stay as long as the gathering cold and darkness allowed. He saw the tides flow and the leaves fall and gulls and boats pass. In early December he began sleeping more, and then he slept entire days away, and then he died.

“But that November reprieve, 'It was one of the best morphine stories I can remember,' Andrews said. 'He had a great run.'”

You can tell your physician, family members, medical proxy or, better, all of them what your wishes are about such drugs for pain at the end of life. I'm doing that and if circumstances make morphine usable in my case and if it works as Dr. Andrews describes, I have a better chance of dying in my sleep.

It's worth your time to read the short report on this at STAT.

Empowering Old Women via Fashion Models?

You can count on it these days, that every two or three months there will be feature story about a fashion model who is 60 or 70 or even 80. The thing is, they are featured because there are so few of them.

I was reminded of this while catching up on some online reading. In May, the Senior Planet website published a story headlined, Older Models: Empowering or Not?

The story continues a topic begun at Vogue.com about fashion and ageism reporting that although fashion shows have been featuring a bit more diversity in skin color, gender and size recently, there aren't many models over the age of 20:

”Fashion’s never-ending pursuit of the latest, newest, and coolest extends into the hunt for models, which often results in casts comprised solely of women between the narrow window of 16 to 26, wrote Jenelle Okwodu.

“The issue extends far beyond catwalks,” she continued. “It isn’t uncommon for models in their 20s to serve as spokeswomen for anti-aging creams, or for magazines to completely ignore the existence of older women in their editorials.”

When Senior Planet asked their readers if seeing older models is “empowering” to them, the 13 responses were all in agreement: “Yes!” “Absolutely.” “Refreshing.”

Huh? I don't understand that at all.

Here are photos of three of the top older fashion models. From left to right, Carmen Dell-Orefice is 85, probably about 82 or 83 when this photo was made. Cindy Joseph is about 65 and Yasmina Rossi, about 60.


Gorgeous, all three of them, aren't they? And no wonder.

Whatever their natural beauty, each one is wearing a few hours and several thousand dollars worth of professional makeup and hair work, and god knows what the lighting director is paid but he or she doesn't come cheap.

If someone spent as much time and money on me, I'd look that good too. But should you and I feel empowered by looking at these beautiful old women? Empowered how? What is it I would believe I could go out and do now that I've seen them?

In the Vogue piece, Ms. Okwodu timidly suggests that perhaps fashion runways should include a few more old women, and most of the commenters on her story took the magazine to task for not living up themselves to such an easy remedy – regularly include more older fashion models in Vogue magazine.

Ya think?

I could feel empowered as an old woman if elders were fully integrated into American life. Yes, if we showed up in fashion magazines and on runways more often it might help a little. But also in TV shows and movies - and not only as demeaning jokes.

If we were allowed to compete equally in the workplace, in clinical trials of medications, were not subjected to a constant barrage of anti-ageing products demanding that we do everything possible to pretend we are young.

It is good that a few older women can get work in the fashion industry but do they empower me? I don't think so. Who empowers me is someone like the late Gray Panthers founder, Maggie Kuhn:

”Only the newest model is desirable,” she explained. “The old are condemned to obsolescence; left to rot like wrinkled babies in glorified playpens – forced to succumb to a trivial, purposeless waste of their years and their time.”

Eliminate SHIP? This is Important, My Friends

At lunch last week with a friend who turns 65 early next year, we spent a great deal of time discussing Medicare choices. It's not an easy program to sort out, particularly when you are first signing up.

Serendipity is an amazing thing - when I got home from that lunch, there was an email from The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) notifying me that

”The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee has approved a Fiscal Year 2017 budget appropriations bill that completely eliminates the $52.1 million in funding for the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

This is just another attempt by mostly Republicans in Congress to chip away at Medicare any way they can. Yes, it IS a Medicare cut – if passed, it will take away your one way to get free, informed help with sorting out your Medicare questions.

Do you know what SHIP is and why it is needed? Here is how the press release [pdf] from the NCPSSM and three other Medicare rights organizations explains it:

”Today’s Medicare beneficiary must choose among more than 20 prescription drug plans, an average of 19 Medicare Advantage plans, as well as various Medigap supplemental insurance policies — all with different premiums, cost sharing, provider networks, and coverage rules.”

I remember my own confusion 10 years ago when I faced signing up for Medicare, and the weeks it took me to sort out my choices worrying all the way that I was making mistakes that would cost me later either in money or healthcare because I misunderstood something.

New to Medicare then, I did not know about SHIP and how it could have helped me. Here's how SHIP works:

”For more than 24 years, SHIPs have advised, educated, and empowered individuals to navigate their state-specific Medicare choices. In addition, SHIPs help beneficiaries resolve fraud and abuse issues, billing problems, appeals, and enrollment in low income health assistance programs,” explains the release.

“In 2015, SHIPs provided assistance to more than seven million individuals with Medicare.”

Medicare is complicated but there is a network of 3,300 local SHIPs serving each of the 50 states plus Puerto Rico, Guam, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands with a total of 15,000 counselors.

The service is free. You can find your local SHIP here (which stands for State Health Insurance Assistance Program and find out more about the services they offer.

Eliminating funding for SHIP - as the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee proposed budget does - will kill the service leaving Medicare beneficiaries with nowhere to go for help.

A friend in Washington who knows a thing or two about how Congress works tells me that some Republicans have said that the Medicare 800 number and online plan choosers make SHIP unnecessary when, in fact, those services often refer people to their local SHIP.

I know from personal experience that the 800 Medicare number is so busy sometimes your cell phone battery can die before it's your turn to speak with someone.

And your need for help doesn't end once you've signed on to Medicare. Questions will come up for the rest of your life. Not to mention that baby boomers are becoming eligible for Medicare at the rate of 10,000 a day. Does anyone think an 800 number is enough to help all them?

Kaiser Health News reports that

”The full Senate is expected to vote on the budget bill in the fall, and then it would have to be reconciled with a version from the House, which has not yet drafted its bill.”

It's worth knowing too, that the $52.1 million allocation for SHIP in last year's budget amounts to a miniscule .23% of the FY2017 budget cost of $22.4 billion. That's less than one-quarter of one percent.

It is interesting that the Senate Appropriations Committee, on their page with highlights from their budget, does not list killing SHIP funding.

Maybe they don't want us, the public, the people who need this service, to know what they are doing.

You can call or email your Senators and Congressional representative and let them know how you feel about doing away with SHIP. Maybe one of your senators is on the committee. You can find out here and click the link to their “official website” where you can send an email.

Otherwise, democracy.io is the easiest way I've found to email Congress people. Just enter your street address, city and Zip Code and you'll get a page listing all three of your reps. You can send them all the same message or write to each one individually.

PLEASE DO THIS. Aides to senators and representatives keep a count of constituent opinions on legislation and do take those totals into consideration. Get your friends to do that too.

The press release quoted above is sponsored, in addition to the NCPSSM, by three other organizations working hard to stop the defunding of SHIP. They are the Center for Medicare Advocacy, the Medicare Rights Center and the National Council on Aging.

Follow those links to read more about what they do individually and what is happening with this budget bill.

ELDER MUSIC: Hooked on Classics

Tibbles1SM100x130This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.

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This column has absolutely nothing to do with the dreadful series of records that came out some time ago with that name. I played these for Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and asked her what I should call the column and that was her reply.

There's no linking theme today; these are just some pieces I've saved over time that I thought might interest you, or appeal to you. I liked them, that's why I saved them.

I was lying in bed listening to the radio this morning (when I wrote this) wondering when would be a good time to get up (not for a while, I decided) when they played this next piece of music.

"Gee, that's nice," I thought. My facility with words is not at its peak at that time of day. The announcer said that it was GIOACHINO ROSSINI.


I was somewhat taken aback as I haven't been a fan of that composer. I might have to start listening to some of his other works (that don't involve themes for imaginary western characters).

They played the entire piece but I'm only going to give you the first movement, the one that really took my fancy. Wind Quartet No 1 in F major.

♫ Rossini - Wind Quartet No 1 in F major (1)

Henrik Ibsen wrote his famous work Peer Gynt initially as a verse drama, but then he decided to turn it into a play. He contacted his old mate EDVARD GRIEG and asked him if he'd like to write some music for it.


Eddie was enthusiastic about the idea but after a while, as time went on and the work dragged on as well, it became a real chore for him. He finished it but kept rewriting it over the years.

The finished work is not only for orchestra but for a chorus and solo singers as well. Because it's so long and requires a whole bunch of people, it's seldom performed in its entirety.

Eddie himself pulled out what he thought were the best tunes and turned them into short orchestral suites (Peer Gynt No 1 and 2). These became hugely popular and are still so today.

However, I thought I'd go back to the original and play a part of it with the full trappings. This is Arabisk Dans (Arabian Dance) from Peer Gynt, Op. 23, with Barbara Bonney and Marianne Eklöf singing.

♫ Grieg - Peer Gynt Arabisk Dans

JIŘÍ DRUŽECKÝ, also known as Georg Druschetzky (and various other spellings of his name) was a Czech composer, drummer and oboe player.


He studied the oboe in Dresden and then joined the army where he became a handy drummer. Later he moved to Vienna which was where he started composing proper music (he created some drum stuff when he was in the army).

His work mainly centred around the oboe and other blowing instruments although there were some operas and ballets. This is the first movement of his Quintet in C Major for Oboe, 2 Violins, Viola and Cello.

♫ Druschetzky - Quintet in C Major for Oboe, 2 Violins, Viola and Cello (1)

ALESSANDRO ROLLA was an Italian virtuoso on both the viola and violin.


He also wrote music, mainly for those instruments, and he was a teacher as well. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame is that he taught Paganini how to play. He obviously taught him well.

He was chief conductor at La Scala for some time and besides conducting operas, he played the works of Haydn and Mozart as well as introducing new compositions from Beethoven. All the while writing his own music.

This is a bit of that, the third movement of Duo for Violin and Cello in B flat major.

♫ Rolla - Duo in B flat major (3)

Speaking of BEETHOVEN, here he is with something unusual. Actually, there are a number of unusual things in his canon that seldom get played.


In 1806, Ludwig was somewhat lacking in the loose scratch department so he trawled through his old works to see what he could put out there to earn him a bit of loot.

One of the things he found was his Trio for 2 Oboes and Cor Anglais in C Major. This was something he wrote many years earlier when he was still under the influence of Haydn and Mozart.

Of course, if you're going to be influenced by anyone those two are at the very top of the tree; Ludwig wouldn't admit that influence, of course.

Naturally, he was dissatisfied with his youthful work so he tinkered with it before it was published. Here's the finished product, the second movement.

♫ Beethoven - Trio for 2 oboes & cor anglais in C Major, Op. 87 (2)

People often take the music of JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH and put their own stamp on it, or try to anyway.

JS Bach

This was initially a sonata for harpsichord and violin but we have the piano instead (the piano wasn't around back when old J.S. was performing). I'm including it because of a new album with MICHELLE MAKARSKI and KEITH JARRETT that I really like.

Michelle Makarski & Keith Jarrett

Keith is a jazz pianist but he was classically trained and has released several classical albums in the past. It's interesting to get a jazz player's interpretation as J.S. was essentially a jazz musician himself. He was renowned as one of the finest improvisers of his time, particularly on the organ but other instruments as well.

Michelle plays the violin and as far as I know doesn't play jazz. They perform the second movement of the Sonata for Violin and Piano No 1 in B minor, BWV 1014.

♫ JS Bach - Sonata No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1014 (2)

Continuing with the baroque, GEORG TELEMANN was a composer almost the equal of the great J.S.


Actually, they not only knew each other, they were good friends. Georg was the godfather of one of J.S.'s sons (C.P.E. Bach, probably the best known of the sons). He was also a friend of Mr Handel who will appear a little further down.

Georg was one of the most prolific composers in history with more than 3,000 known works (and his awful wife destroyed many others besides taking lovers and spending all of Georg's money).

Out of his many compositions, I've gone with the third movement of the Sonata in D for Trumpet, strings and continuo. This is essentially a trumpet concerto as far as I'm concerned.

♫ Telemann - Sonata in D (3)

I rather agree with MOZART when he once said, "I become quite powerless whenever I'm obliged to write for an instrument which I cannot bear.”


Okay, I don't compose music; it was about the particular instrument he had in mind. He was talking about the flute. However, he couldn't help himself and wrote an exquisite piece.

Similarly, I think, "Well, that's not too bad at all". Okay, it is Mozart. Make up your own mind while listening to the Andante for Flute and Orchestra C major K315.

♫ Mozart - Andante for flute & orchestra C major K315

SLAVA and LEONARD GRIGORYAN are the best guitarists to come out of Australia since John Williams.

Slava & Leonard Grigoryan

From their album of various baroque guitar works I've chosen something from GEORGE HANDEL.


That something is the first movement of his Concerto in B-flat for two guitars.

♫ Handel - Concerto in B-flat for two guitars (1)

IGNAZ PLEYEL was the most successful and popular composer of his time, and considering that his time overlapped with Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven that's a big call.


He was also a music publisher and because of that, he was easily the richest composer of the era. Besides that, he made and sold pianos. This man was a serious workaholic.

Unfortunately, since then he has rather dropped below the radar, undeservedly so, I think. His compositions didn't match those of the previously mentioned composers but they are pretty good and really should be played more often.

Here is one of them, the first movement of the Octet in E flat-Major.

♫ Pleyel - Octet E flat-Major (1)



When John Oliver's most recent Last Week Tonight show on HBO was broadcast last Sunday night, fewer than 24 hours had passed since the attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

Very little was known about the attacker or the victims yet but Oliver opened his show with a short, moving reference to the amazing and immediate reaction of the people of Orlando.

HBO, for unfathomable reasons, does not allow embedding of that one-and-a-half minute video but you can see it here.

On the other hand, Oliver's former colleague on The Daily Show, Samantha Bee, had a few choice words about the Orlando horror on her new TBS television program, Full Frontal - a response that took the internet by storm.

It's not safe for work or children (well, I'd show to kids but that's just me). It is, however, okay for the grownups who read this blog:


At the end of his commentary on Orlando last Sunday, John Oliver referred to his “stupid show.” I don't often disagree with him but he is wrong about that. His show is never stupid - even in the wake of such a terrible event as Orlando - and this one, about retirement plans, is of particular import to people who read TGB.


Darlene Costner sent this commercial for Evian with the note that it's the “cutest ad ever.” That's true. But it is also really, really funny. I laughed my ass off through the whole thing.

Keep your eye on the teen's face, put yourself in his place as he walks along the beach. Like he's landed in an alternate universe.


Not long ago, the driver of a Tesla car claimed that his car had crashed into a building because it had accelerated on its own.


However, Tesla automobiles are constantly in touch with the manufacturer via the internet. As a company statement noted:

"Data shows that the vehicle was traveling at 6 mph when the accelerator pedal was abruptly increased to 100 percent...Consistent with the driver’s actions, the vehicle applied torque and accelerated as instructed."

MIT Technology Review, where I saw this story, explains that although the majority of new cars sold in the U.S. now have data recorders (“black boxes”), they don't record as much information as Teslas to. But they will do so before long:

”Only about a quarter of new cars have the necessary technology today, but that's expected to reach over 90 percent by 2020. Companies such as GM are open about their interest in expanding the range of data they collect on driver actions to open up new business opportunities.”

Apparently auto manufacturers want to get into the insurance business. You can read more at MIT Technology Review.


Yes, this is an extended commercial for a brand of athletic shoes but it's nice anyway. Thank reader Ali.

You can read more about the desert trek here.


There is a company named SRI International that is developing a robotic suit called Superflex that may allow old people (and anyone else) to ditch their walkers. If it does what they say and is as affordable as they claim, wow. Take a look at the this video.

This, if it works out as well as SRI expects, is an extraordinary development for elders and think of how cool everyone who uses it will look – like a movie superhero.

You can read more details at MIT Technology Review.


Hurray, hurray, hurray. It's been a long time coming and it will probably be challenged in court by the cable carriers. But for now, we – the good guys – won one last week when an appeals court upheld net neutrality. Take a look at a clear explanation from The New York Times.

Read more at The New York Times.


I get them all the time – email that appears to be from friends (and blog readers too) with a link to a news story about a product. It's all a fake. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) explains:

”...they sent millions of people illegal spam emails that were made to look like they came from someone familiar. Their goal? To generate sales. The FTC says the emails linked to fake news sites with fictitious articles and phony endorsements – even, supposedly, from Oprah.

“What’s more, says the FTC, there’s no solid science backing the defendants’ claims about the pills.”

This story from the FDA website is specifically about weight loss pills, but there are plenty of other fake stories emailed in the same way about other kinds of phony products.

Certainly you know by now what kind of links to not click on. But you might want to pass these tips from FDA on to friends who may not know:

Don’t click emailed links or open attachments, even if you think you know the sender. Emails that seem to be from a friend might not be.

Intrigued by weight-loss claims? Anyone saying they lost more than a pound a week without diet and exercise is probably lying.

Learn how to spot a fake news site, which often include fake celebrity endorsements. These actually are elaborate ads created by marketers.

File a complaint with the FTC if you ever spot a scam, or get sold on phony product promises.

You can read more the FDA's consumer information website.


The YouTube page explains that the Republic of Molossia is not officially recognized by the United States as a sovereign nation, however, it has 32 residents,

”...its own post office, bank and space program. Its president (and benevolent dictator), Kevin Baugh, has found the perfect way to combine politics with a sense of humor.”


Reggie, a three-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier, can’t contain his excitement as the ice cream van pays a visit to his neighbourhood captured by smartphone. Keep your eye on Reggie's tail.

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Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” at the top of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog IF you include the name of the blog and its URL.

When are Aches and Pains Serious?

Long-time TGB reader Jean Gogolin emailed recently with this query:

”I have a good friend who's 75 and has been practicing yoga for years. The other day she was complaining to her yoga teacher about her various aches and pains - she takes very good care of herself and practices diligently - and the instructor responded, 'How did you expect to feel in your mid-70s?'

“That response would make me furious,” wrote Jean. “What do you think?”

My first thought? Get a new yoga instructor - and that's not a joke. Pain of any kind is a message from our bodies: “Hey, pay attention here,” it is saying. “This might be a problem.” Or it might not be, but it cannot be dismissed based on age.

Jean's note is a good excuse to talk about these aches and pains that accompany growing old. I don't mean pain from arthritis, rheumatism, osteoporosis along with other conditions, diseases or injuries. I mean the odd pain, usually temporary, that wasn't around in younger years, is often transient and has no explanation.

In my case, a variety of pains come and go but I still have two that I complained about seven years ago in a post about minor aches and pains of age:

”Every few weeks or so, a stabbing pain attacks the second toe of my left foot. I mean, horrendous, teeth-grinding, wanna-scream pain. It is intermittent – each stab doesn't last long – but it repeats every few minutes for an hour or so and then disappears until next time, maybe a month or two. What's that about?

“And here's a strange one: once in awhile, one of my earlobes aches horribly, although not for long.”

Those two weird pains have been going on for years so I'm going to continue to assume there is nothing important about them, they won't kill me.

Getting back to Jean's friend, a lot of pains – especially following exercise, sports or yoga, for example – are explainable by overuse of muscles. It happens even to long-time active people.

For nearly four years, I have stuck with a daily 45-minute fitness workout that involves exercises for flexibility, strength, balance and endurance. I skip the weights on alternate days.

When, these past several months, I was not sleeping enough, I couldn't do it – not every day and when I managed to get started, I couldn't last for more than the lightest flexibility and balance training, and I wasn't doing them to capacity.

For awhile, I did not connect the difficulty with lack of sleep. Now that I'm back to full daily routines, I am making up for a lot of lost ground and that has caused a some muscle aches.

And endurance? Where I easily did 50 pushups before (the girly kind on my knees), I couldn't get past 20 when I restarted the full routine and now, three weeks later, I'm still only up to 30 and I ache most days from the strength work.

It took me a long time to build up to those 50 pushups and number of reps of other exercises so it will take awhile to get back there and it is obvious why my muscles hurt. No worries.

My point in relating this personal experience is that in assessing pain, we need to listen to our bodies and I mean that especially when nothing hurts at the moment so that when something does hurt one day, we have a comparison.

Here are some common-sense things to keep in mind:

When you feel pain while exercising, stop or slow down. If later, it still aches, cool it down with ice packs wrapped in a towel for a few minutes several times a day. If muscles are still sore two days later, switch to heat to help healing.

I know recent research tells us that stretching before exercising doesn't help. I don't buy that but even if it's true, stretching can't hurt and it helps maintain flexibility.

Experts say that muscle soreness tends to be symmetrical and unless you're pushing yourself too hard, should go away in a few days.

If an ache is not symmetrical and does not get better with a week of rest, it should be checked out by a physician.

If pain wakes you in the night or doesn't go away within a week, see your physician.

Of course, a swollen joint or the inability to bend or straighten a joint is an alert. There may be an injury and you should see a doctor.

When I was researching that blog post seven years ago about aches and pains of age, there was hardly any useful information online and even at the best health and medical websites, that hasn't changed much. Those items above are the best I could glean and they have worked well for me.

As to Jean's friend's yoga instructor, she or he should know better. It is wrong to dismiss pain out of hand based on age. Maybe in this case it is only a sore muscle or two but that instructor doesn't know that without asking some questions.

This is yet another case of stereotyping old people: “She's 75, of course she hurts.”

No. Old people are not expected or required to suffer pain just because they are old and an instructor of any kind of physical activity who is indifferent to a client's pain because she is old is not just ageist, she or he is negligent.