Friday, 17 May 2013
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Part 1
My gradual balding, which I have mentioned in the past, becomes more noticeable by the day so because I am tired to death of thinking about it, over several months, I have spent serious time and effort looking for a solution.
This, then, is a report on one old woman's odyssey in search of hair.
Before I treat you to that narrative, let us be clear: nothing, not anything, zilch, zero, nada regrows hair in women (nor many men).
Unless there is a medical cause, no matter what anyone tells you or what advertisements promise, it's all snakeoil.
That said, two-percent Rogaine (minoxidil) for women is the only FDA-approved hair loss drug in the United States. It comes in liquid or foam and must be applied twice a day producing only minimal regrowth in about 20 percent of women. But you won't know if you are in that minority for about six months of use. If you are, any improvement will be lost if you ever stop using Rogaine.
There has been some small success with the higher-dosage Rogaine but not much. Here is part of what WebMD says about the use of the five-percent version which is available under a physician's supervision:
”Results from clinical studies of mostly white women ages 18 to 45 years with mild to moderate degrees of hair loss report that after using minoxidil for eight months, 19% of users had moderate regrowth and 40% had minimal regrowth.”
There are a few annoying and, sometimes, possibly dangerous side effects so all-in-all, Rogaine is not for me. Remember, aside from these minimally successful treatments, hair loss is permanent.
And if you still believe hair can be regrown, just back up a minute and take a breath: don't you think if there were anything that successfully regrows hair it would be headline news with millions of people standing in line to get it at any price? Of course that's true. It would not be a secret.
There are those colored powders that supposedly fill in and make bald areas less noticeable but they look exactly like what they are and you're in big trouble when caught in the rain. It is not a reasonable solution.
So, other remedies must be found.
My hair has been thinning for at least ten years and all treatable causes have been ruled out. Both my great grandmother and grandmother on my father's side became bald – my great grandmother after childbirth (which may not count), my grandmother in old age.
My mother's hair, by the time she died at age 75, was much thinner than mine is now so you could say I come by my own hair loss honestly.
It's called androgenetic alopecia, sometimes referred to as female pattern baldness which is more diffuse over the head than male pattern baldness. It is usually inherited and although it does occur in young women, it is far more common after menopause affecting at least 30 million women in the U.S.
Here is a photo from Wednesday of my crown:
Now really – would you want to walk around looking like that? I sure don't.
What I have been doing for several years is twisting my long hair in a updo and securing it with a clip to cover the growing empty area. But that is less effective now than in the past and doesn't do anything for the front hairline area that is becoming bald even faster these days than the crown.
Here are some of the solutions I have entertained seriously and not so seriously:
Learn to tie scarves
Buy a lot of hats
See if there is a hair style that will cover it
Shave what's left and go bald
Hair extensions and weaves are, of course, out of the question as they would cause more strain on the hair and more baldness.
Scarves? I've never been any good at arranging them around my neck so I doubt I can learn the more intricate skill of making them work on my head. They, along with full-time hats, feel like a nuisance that would quickly become a daily irritant.
Going bald is a solution that is attractive for its ease – no work except regular shaving. I'm tempted and may yet wind up there. But the downside is that it would create an identity I don't relish: “Oh, you know who Ronni Bennett is – that old lady with the bald head.”
I don't want that to be the main way people describe me.
So I set off some weeks ago to see if I could find a hair stylist who has experience with balding women's hair and if there are styles that can minimize the pink scalp exposure.
To be continued...
UPDATE: Although as someone below suggests, arthritis is a good topic for us sometime in the future, today's topic is hair loss. Nothing kills an online conversation faster than off-topic comments so as is routine at this blog, arthritis comments have been removed.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Judith Dubin: On Sailing
Thursday, 16 May 2013
Forced Time Out
Apparently, I have offended the gods of ordinary life. Yesterday was a disaster beginning at 5AM - even before the coffee was ready or the cat fed.
To keep it short, there was no internet leading to the discovery of a dead router. It took an hour of tinkering and phone calls to deduce that the router was a goner and to revive the laptop internet connection via hard wire.
Since life at Chez Bennett requires several Wi-Fi connections, a couple more hours were lost to researching how to buy a router (it had been seven or eight years since I had last done so), deciding how fancy a router I could or should afford, finding a well-reviewed one at the best price and ordering it.
By then it was past 8AM and I still needed to shower and organize myself for a couple of appointments away from home. But wait.
As I was getting up from the desk, an email popped in from the router vendor saying my credit card had been denied. Huh?
That required another hour on phone calls with the vendor and the card company to learn that overnight, a criminal had been trying to use my card number to buy some free stuff.
Hurray to Chase for catching it and making the remedy easy, but time was bearing down on me and I still had not showered. During those ablutions I idly wondered if, given the amount of electronic disarray, it was wise for me to drive to my appointments.
I did and as you can see, I survived without harm to myself or others.
There's more – it was an infuriating day of one damned thing after another. But you've been there and don't need chapter and verse. For me, this rendition is just a place holder to have a page to put today's Elder Storytelling Place link (below).
Come to think of it, however, maybe from this there is an amusing question for us to fool around with: why, do you suppose, time-consuming nuisance problems come about in clusters that waste entire days? It's not like I have a whole lot of them left, you know.
Personally, I'll stick with blaming the gods who enjoy finding opportunities to remind me that any control over time I believe I have occurs only at their indulgence.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: 1942
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Elder Breast Cancer and Celebrities
It's no secret that the risk of breast cancer increases with age but did you know that 80 percent of breast cancers are found in women older than 50, and 60 percent of them in women older than 65?
It is also deadlier for old women. Those who are 75 and older die at a much higher rate from breast cancer than younger women. My mother was one of them.
These thoughts came to mind yesterday after reading actor Angelina Jolie's Op-Ed story in The New York Times about her bilateral mastectomy. She chose it as a preventive measure because she carries the BRCA1 gene defect which sharply increases the risk for breast and ovarian cancers:
”My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman.”
Ms. Jolie, who acknowledged that BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing costs $3,000 in the United States, says she decided to go public about her surgery and reconstruction because
“...there are many women who do not know that they might be living under the shadow of cancer.
"It is my hope that they, too, will be able to get gene tested, and that if they have a high risk they, too, will know that they have strong options.”
Is it possible she means strong options like the elite Pink Lotus Breast Center in Beverly Hills where she was treated.
Jolie's cavalier attitude toward cost ($3,000 just for the BRCA screening which is covered by Medicare only under severe restrictions) infuriated me. But I don't have to tell you about that because Ruth Fowler, writing at Counterpunch, has done a fine job of taking on the subject of a rich woman's privilege.
In response to Jolie's stated reason for her Op-Ed, Fowler writes:
”Really, Angelina? You honestly think that the 27 million (20%) of women in the US who don’t have health care, and the 77% who apparently have it, but still have to forego care because they can’t afford it even with insurance — you think that your Op Ed is actually going to do anything for these women except remind them that they don’t have access to the expensive screening tests you seem to think people don’t undertake simply because they haven’t read your article?”
And that's just the clean part of Fowler's rant. She is one pissed off woman – righteously so in my book even is she does put it a bit more profanely than I would - although not by much.
An important fact that Jolie omitted (among others) is that the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations cause only about five to ten percent of breast cancers. Another is that Ashkenazi Jews are more likely than other ethnic groups to carry the gene mutation.
It is hard to discern the point of a 37-year-old privileged woman of wealth writing about her expensive preventive and reconstructive surgery – something hardly any other women in the U.S., let alone the world, could even dream of affording.
I might be impressed if Ms. Jolie used her celebrity to promote more money for breast cancer research so that fewer people would die of it each year. But the media and others around the web I read mostly seem to think she has done something important and many say she is “brave” to write this.
I don't get it. Do you?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Day Dream
Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Growing Old with Grace
Recently, I've been running across a lot of online writing about growing old with grace. Most of them are saccharine and say the same few things:
Some throw in the phrase “stay in love.” That's how you can tell it is mostly young people who write this stuff. They aren't old enough to have lost a spouse of many decades yet. As to the first four – well, duh. But they speak more to health than grace.
Yes, that overused, well-worn idea that no two people define the same way. What I have come to after nearly 20 years of reading, studying and thinking about age is that a graceful old age cannot happen (whatever the definition) without accepting our age and saying farewell to our youth.
There is the perennial question about when is someone old. Many people – some who have commented on the subject at this blog – think 50 or 55 is still young.
Really? Anyone who hangs on to that belief hasn't had to look for a job at that age. Workplace age discrimination starts at 40 – even 35 in the case of women – and it becomes painfully obvious in job interviews that even people your own age think you're old.
In western culture, 50 to 55 is the beginning of old age. But that's a good thing. Geriatricians and researchers who study aging tell us that on average these days, the diseases of old age don't start to kick in until about age 75.
So if we do not deny that aging is inevitable and do not obsessively try to prolong youth, we have 20 or 25 years before we hit old-old age to discover, move toward and live in a stage of life that is as different and distinct as childhood is from adolescence and adulthood.
Oh, the books and movies and TV shows and 50-plus websites and anti-aging “experts” will incessantly proclaim that we must and can maintain the appearance and behavior of people 20 and 30 years younger by whatever means they are touting – chemical, surgical, pharmaceutical.
They foist examples upon us of “supergrans” and “supergrandads” who climb mountains at age 80 and skydive at 90, strongly implying that we who don't are failing to keep up.
The best thing we can do is ignore them and rejoice in our aliveness for they believe only exteriors matter. If we don't listen to them, we can continue to love ourselves however different our bodies become.
Be honest, now: does having a saggy, old body prevent you from being happy, prevent you from knowing pleasure, however you derive it? Of course, it doesn't.
What makes any- and everyone beautiful in old age is acceptance of their years, of themselves as they are.
After about 60, it is a victory of sorts just to awaken in the morning. We can face each new day with sadness for our lost youth or with joy for our luck at reaching this time of life. It's a personal choice.
We eagerly said farewell to childhood when adolescence beckoned and goodbye to that stage of life when adulthood was upon us. It is a mistake – one of monumental proportions, I believe – to cling to adulthood when age arrives.
Instead, when we accept the losses age imposes on us – youth, physical power, our position in society – say yes to old age, open ourselves to its mysteries and live every day in the present tense with passion and an open heart, we can't help but experience this time as an opportunity for happiness, fulfillment, joy and in time, serenity.
In moving on from adulthood, we allow ourselves to grow into new dimensions of life and we get a chance at completion.
That is, at our own pace over the remaining years, we can review our pasts, learn to forgive our failures and trespasses, face our regrets – those coulda, shoulda, wouldas – find some peace and, maybe, wisdom.
I don't want to waste those wonderful opportunities by pretending I'm not old enough for them.
In no way do I mean to dismiss the debilities and diseases that can shadow old age and make everyday life difficult. But I do mean to say that we can explore distant horizons even as our physical worlds may shrink. All we need to do is ignore the charlatans of anti-aging and most of all:
Adapt as circumstances require
Accept our limits with humor
Find new pleasures to replace the ones we must surrender
In these acts, I believe, we find grace in old age.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Carl Hansen: Famous Folks I Have Known
Monday, 13 May 2013
Early or Late Retirement?
For all my life, 65 was the traditional retirement age. In the United States, that number came into general use for this purpose when Social Security was created in 1935, and 65 was set then as the age to receive full benefits.
In fact, before Social Security, the idea of retirement barely existed. It's invention is traditionally attributed to then-Chancellor Otto von Bismarck of Germany in 1865, when he announced a government pension to any non-working German 65 or older thereby inventing in one fell swoop both Social Security and the year at which old age is said to begin.
(There were, of course, political reasons for Bismarck's move. If you're interested, look it up – it doesn't apply to today's post.)
Nowadays, the age for full Social Security benefits in the U.S. is 66 and rising. By 2027 it will have reached the “new normal” of age 67 – one of the oldest in the developed world. Only Germany at 67 and the U.K. at age 68 match or surpass the U.S. although some other countries are beginning to increase retirement age.
Over the weekend, I came across a new study from Merrill Lynch [pdf] about retirement. Of course, because Merrill is an investment firm, it is mostly about financially well-off people – the kind with money to invest which I doubt is a majority. But a couple of their charts caught my attention.
This one, for example, about the percentage of people who retired early, at the age planned or later than scheduled (asked of retirees only):
(The survey was conducted from December 2012 through January 2013 of 6300 people age 45 and older - approximately half with investable assets of between $250,000 and $3 million.)
I was struck by what seems to me to be a huge number who retired earlier than intended – 57 percent. What could be the reason for such a high number leaving the workforce?
At age 63, I retired long before I had any thought of doing so. A year after being laid off, I had not found work, was digging myself into a gigantic debt hole and the only way out was to sell my home. Not an ideal situation.
So I wondered how many others, particularly after the financial collapse, had been forced into a path similar to mine.
Well, there's a Merrill Lynch chart for that giving five reasons:
• Personal health problem
• Sufficient financial resources to retire
• Lost my job
• More time with family
• Had to look after a family member
Here's the chart with the percentages. It's obviously way too tiny to read so click it for a larger view.
Nearly one-quarter, like me, retired because they lost their job. Unfortunately, the survey doesn't give ages at which that 24 percent retired or tell us if they spent a lot of time working their tails off to find work only to be thwarted by age discrimination.
It's true I can't prove that last statement but it's a good indication what's going on when an interviewer who thought you were hot stuff at 4PM yesterday on the telephone informs you in person at 10AM the next day that the job has been filled and oh, my – so sorry someone forgot to phone you.
And although the number of people age 55 and older who are working is up by more than 4 million since 2009, it takes a full year – 51.3 months – for old people to find work. And that's counting only the ones who do find work. Two million more, as of December 2012, were still looking.
As awful as unemployment is for workers of all ages, for older ones there are not the years left to make up the lost wages and savings that (hopefully) the younger ones will have.
So what happens when a person is forced to take early Social Security is that the benefit amount is reduced from about 25 percent (at age 62) to 6.7 percent (at age 65) for the rest of your life.
I was luckier than many people. Although I was laid off at age 63, spent until age 64 looking for work and another year waiting for my home to sell, I was able to squeak by – thanks to a good price for my home – with careful frugality until I reached full Social Security age of 65 and eight months.
The question today is, did you retire early and if so, under what circumstances? If you are not yet retired, what are your plans and will you be able to fulfill them?
As always with personal questions, feel free to post anonymously in the comments.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Deb Cavel-Greant: Sometimes It's Best to Keep Your Mouth Shut
Sunday, 12 May 2013
ELDER MUSIC: Sleepless Nights
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.
I started writing this the morning after a sleepless night caused by extreme heat. Here in Melbourne the temperature overnight didn’t get down below 30 degrees (that’s 86 of your obsolete American degrees) and for most of the time was way above that.
Naturally, it’s the middle of summer as I write this. It may not be when you read it or it might be your summer so you can sympathise with me if that’s the case.
I did a search for sleepless and came up with one song, many versions, but just the one. It’s going to kick off this column. The rest may involve sleep in some manner or other, however, as it transpires, some of them do involve sleeplessness in some way.
I had the help of Don, the D.A.M. (Deputy Assistant Musicologist), for this one. He suggested some I’d missed.
Okay, here is the song that inspired the column, Sleepless Nights. Now which version of this song to play was a bit of a problem. Gram Parsons had a good one. Emmylou Harris an even better one. However, both of these were based on the one by the EVERLY BROTHERS.
I don't need to tell you about the Everlys, at least not until I finish my column on them. I'll just let their singing and playing inform you.
My first wife (well actually, she’s been the only one) used to talk in her sleep (she may still do that but I wouldn’t know). I would lie there amused by what she was saying.
She’d ask me next morning what she said and I’d smile enigmatically and say nothing. At least, I hope it was enigmatic. This had nothing to do with our divorce, I don’t think.
Indeed, she and I used to joke about this next song and its appropriateness. At least I think she was joking. GORDON LIGHTFOOT summed up the situation perfectly in his song, Talking in Your Sleep.
Talking in your sleep is one thing, walking in your sleep is another. It seems that SANTO & JOHNNY know about that as their biggest hit was called Sleepwalk.
Santo and Johnny Farina’s father learnt to play the pedal steel guitar when he was stationed in Oklahoma during the war (that’s the big one, WWII). He later taught his sons to play the instrument.
However, Johnny decided he preferred playing a regular guitar so the pair has an interesting combination of sound that made this track so memorable. This is probably the best instrumental of the early rock & roll era.
While we’re on the subject of sleep walking, we have another song about it by SMILIN’ JOE.
That’s one name by which he’s known. He was also called Pleasant Joe, Cousin Joe, Cos (probably a shortening of Cousin Joe) and quite a few other names.
The CD seems to think his name was Joe Harris however, other sources claim that he was born Joseph Pleasant. He recorded with many other artists throughout his life and helped some of them get the recognition they deserved.
According to the CD notes Joe was a sharp dresser who didn’t need songs to impress women but sang them anyway. Here we have whatever his name was singing Sleep Walking Woman.
From someone who talks in her sleep, and walks in her sleep to crying in her sleep. To tell us about that is the great HANK WILLIAMS.
I have a hell of a lot of Hank's music (I have a hell of a lot of many people's music) but this is one that I didn't know before I performed this search.
That’s the great thing about writing this column – I often come upon music with which I'm unfamiliar even though it's sitting there on my data base or in my CD collection. Sometimes I discover gems.
I don't know if this is a gem, but it's pretty good. It's (Last Night) I Heard You Crying In Your Sleep.
T-BONE WALKER is always welcome in my columns.
The line between blues and jazz is blurred in T-Bone's music. Although he's often lumped into the blues category, he more often than not incorporates jazz players into his music. Besides, he was as good a jazz guitarist as he was playing the blues.
This is the case in this song, She's the No Sleepin'est Woman.
I eventually found another sleepless song, but not from its title, so it was a bit difficult to find. But the D.A.M. starting singing it and from that we eventually figured out what it was called. Ah yes, I’ve got that one, I said, You’re the Reason. The singer is BOBBY EDWARDS.
Now and then I throw in a song by Canadian singer/songwriter WILF CARTER. This is another of those times.
Wilf spent a lot of his musical time in America where he was known as Montana Slim. He really liked a bit of a yodel and this song is no exception. I don't know if that would put you to sleep or wake you up. This is Sleep, Little One, Sleep.
JODY REYNOLDS’ song Endless Sleep always seems to be included in the “death disks” category. If you listen to the words, it really doesn’t belong there as he saved her in the end.
Jody wrote the song in an afternoon and after its success he did, well, nothing terribly much in the entertainment industry. He released a bunch of songs but they went nowhere. Here is the song that charted.
That great songwriter from the first half of last century has the last say today. I'm talking about HOAGY CARMICHAEL who sang a bit as well.
He has a couple of songs in contention but I've decided not to go with the more famous one, Two Sleepy People, and instead use Shh, The Old Man's Sleeping.
I hope you appreciate that I resisted the temptation to play Nessun dorma; that would have been too pretentious in the current circumstances.
Saturday, 11 May 2013
INTERESTING STUFF – 11 May 2013
OLD PEOPLE DRIVING
Two-and-a-half years ago, I showed you a clip from a 24-minute documentary about three oldest old people – near centenarians – driving. Here it is again:
This week the producer, Shaleece Haas, emailed to tell me one of the featured drivers, Herbert Bauer, died a few days ago at age 103. She sent this photo of the two of them together last year.
In January this year, Shaleece's grandfather Milton, another of the featured drivers in her film, turned 100. Here's a photo of him at his centennial party.
You can find out more about the Old People Driving film here.
SEND YOUR MESSAGE TO MARS
November 18 is the scheduled launch date for an unmanned Mars mission (MAVEN) to study the upper atmosphere of the planet. Here's an artist's animation of what the spacecraft will look like in orbit:
NASA is inviting the public to send their names and messages to be carried via DVD on the spacecraft, particularly messages in the form of a haiku. Every name submitted will be placed on the DVD, but only three of the haiku.
“The deadline for all submissions is July 1. An online public vote to determine the top three messages to be placed on the DVD will begin July 15.”
I know just how comedian Don Friesen feels about passwords. They drive me nuts keeping track. The wonderful Darlene Costner sent this video.
DASHCAM SAMARITANS IN RUSSIA
Two weeks ago in this Saturday column, I showed you a video of a good Samaritan stopping his car in traffic to help an old woman cross the street.
Now, I've discovered a compilation of many Russian good Samaritans caught in the act on dashcams. In fact, the one I showed you before is included near the middle of this one – and an amazingly large number of these are protective of elders. It's good to see...
EIGHT YEARS AND NOTHING HAS CHANGED
TGB Reader Cathy Johnson emailed to tell me her husband, Roger, had been laid off suddenly without notice from his job of 20 years. COBRA health coverage costs too much and Roger won't be old enough for Medicare for several months.
That happened to me – a few months without health coverage – and it's so frightening, you don't want to get out of bed for the duration for fear of injury. I wish Roger well.
Meanwhile, he hasn't lost his sense of humor. Cathy sent along this cartoon, by Wiley, her husband had saved from the Bush era in 2005. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
ALAN CUMMING AS LADY MACBETH
If the name is not familiar, perhaps you know Scottish actor, writer, singer, director, producer Alan Cumming as the host of Masterpiece Mysteries on PBS. Or maybe in his brilliantly done turn as the cunning election campaign chairman in the wonderfully written TV series, The Good Wife.
Cumming is currently starring on Broadway in MacBeth. But not just as MacBeth himself; he is playing every significant role in Shakespeare's powerful tragedy making it all but a one-man show.
Here is a short clip of Cumming as Lady MacBeth:
You can find out more about the production in The New York Times review.
”TO FIND BEAUTY AND ART IN DECAY"
My old friend Frank Paynter sent this photo of a sculpture by Charles Sherman.
Sherman explains that this piece, on display at MOCA's Urs Fisher Clay Project, is in a state of gradual decomposition. [emphasis is mine]
”When a sculpture made from clay is not kiln fired it will dry out, lose it's strength, and eventually fall apart,” says Sherman. “Unfired clay work is called green ware and as such may be recycled...
“The decomposition process in the Urs Fischer exhibition raises questions about beauty and decay, art and life.
“As we age, we look at ourselves in the mirror, see wrinkles and make an esthetic choice: Am I beautiful or am I wrinkly and ugly? The lesson in this exhibition is to find beauty and art in decay.”
TWO MONTHS ON AN ANTARCTIC ICE BREAKER
Cassandra Brooks narrates this video of a two-month voyage at the bottom of the world compressed into in less than five minutes. There's a nice little surprise for you at the end.
SEA OTTER'S ABLUTION
Here is another seagoing creature with a much more pampered life at the Lisbon Zoo having a morning scrub.
Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.
You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.