284 posts categorized "Crabby Old Lady"

Shopping While Old

A side issue that came up in the recent conversations here about elder fashion and mean (old) girls is shopping which got Crabby Old Lady thinking about how much she despises it and wondering how others her age feel.

As Paula commented in part,

"I'm a big fan of shopping carefully, trying things on (including the dreaded bras), doing alterations, etc., etc., BUT I realize this can be a LOT of work...

"If I didn't feel well, had recent surgery, or had worse caregiving responsibilities than the ones I have already, I would be wearing my two favorite pairs of yoga pants...

"I totally get why people do what fashion types disparage as 'giving up.' It's apparently unfathomable to them that life sometimes has other plans beyond a 'pretty blouse.'"

So true even if you can't find one that fits.

Crabby hates shopping for clothes (and pretty much anything else) so much that for the greater part of her working life she did it only twice a year, spring and fall, almost entirely at a certain shop in Greenwich Village (now long gone) where a wonderful, young sales woman kept file cards about what Crabby had bought in the past.

At the beginning of those seasons, Crabby did an inventory of her closet, made a list of what should be replaced, what was still good to go, along with the colors that needed complementing and any fripperies she was interested in having.

Then she set a total price limit and with that terrific sales woman, Crabby could get out of the shop in under an hour, before the irritation of taking clothes off and on turned her into a screeching harridan.

Pretty good, don't you think: two hours a year for all the clothes she needed.

Of course, back in those days, well-constructed clothing in good fabrics and classic styles that can be worn for years didn't cost hundreds of dollars and sizing was standard then, too.

Let Crabby Old Lady, who is 5 feet, 2 inches tall and currently in her weight loss program at 135 pounds (with 15 more to lose), give you an example of sizing insanity.

A week ago in an actual store (as opposed to online), Crabby tried on (which as noted above she despises doing), a pair of pants that from looking and guessing, seemed to be about the right fit.

Maybe she's not accustomed to her smaller body yet; they were so big Crabby could have fit two of her into them.

And what was the size? Wait for it: 0/1 – whatever that means – and not mislabeled, according to the sales clerk who said it was the shop's smallest size. Since it was not a fat women's store, Crabby wants to know what smaller people wear.

Never mind – that's not a real question.

It is probably true that Crabby Old Lady is not the one to discuss shopping of any kind. Seven years since she left New York City and she still doesn't understand how to shop when you drive everywhere.

For the 40 years Crabby walked to most destinations, she window shopped along the way. “Ooooh, that would be a nice gift for Mary.” Or, “cool shoes; I check out this place next time.” And when there was time, she stopped in newly opened stores or wandered the aisles of others making mental notes of what was available.

Crabby has no idea how people who don't walk around their cities and towns know where to go when they need to buy a certain item. No one can tell what's available driving by and anyway, most stores are set back from the street in little strip malls.

Don't get Crabby started on malls. Awful places. She was forced into visiting one a week ago and as with all others she's ever seen, it was filled with nothing interesting – only chain stores and restaurants that, by definition, are bland and boring to appeal to as many people as possible.

It was late morning on a mild, sunny weekday and hardly anyone was there – mostly old women window shopping but not buying, if their lack of shopping bags was any indication.

But the biggest shopping difference in Crabby's life at age 72 is this: there is nothing she needs. She has furniture to fill her home, enough crockery and kitchen utensils to stock a small restaurant and so far, her appliances are in good shape.

Books and food are Crabby's main expenditures and she wonders if this is common among her age group; if after a certain age we just lose interest in shopping or as Paula noted, her “life has other plans beyond” wandering stores in search of what Crabby probably can't find.

Even when there is an item or two that she wants to buy – especially something she needs to see and hold rather than purchase online – she often doesn't because it's more effort to drive and check out several stores than to live without the item.

This is a much too long and amorphous post without much of a point but if it rings a bell for anyone reading, Crabby is eager to hear from you.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On the Subject of “Race”

National Senior Citizens Day?

Minus the question mark, that's what a press release Crabby Old Lady received on Monday tells her about today. Ever heard of it? Neither has Crabby and the more she looked into it, the more she wished she hadn't. What a stupid idea.

First the history. The commemorative day was invented by President Ronald Reagan. In August 1988, he issued a proclamation that is, predictably, filled with empty platitudes Crabby won't quote. You can read the short statement here.

It is so completely vapid that Crabby could be convinced the proclamation is in response to another August commemorative day: presidential joke day on the 11th.

It's certainly a bad joke to have a day “honoring” elders sandwiched among two or three dozen other commemoratives for such days as those for bad poetry, sewing machines, garage sales, mosquitos and the Slinky – all in August.

There is also Just Because Day in August paired on the same date, the 26th, as Women's Equality Day. Oh, yes, let's remind ourselves of women's equality because - well, just because.

Crabby Old Lady discovered that there are separate days in August for cats and for dogs but most of all, there are food days:

Trail Mix
Toasted Marshmallow
Raspberry Cream Pie
Ice Cream Sandwich
Rice Pudding

You have probably figured out by now that the majority of silly days are promotional. It doesn't take a president to name a day; anyone can do it for anything they want and it is mostly commercial enterprises that name them to create reasons to clutter our lives with more advertising and marketing.

Although the U.S. celebrates fewer official national holidays than many other nations – 11 annual and one quadrennial public holiday, Inauguration Day - there is a good reason to have few: it gives each one more meaning when they come around infrequently. Too many and they all are cheapened.

Crabby Old Lady is way ahead of you in thinking she is making way too much of this stupid Senior Citizens Day that means nothing and everyone ignores. But it just ticked her off to see elders mashed up together in the same breath with trail mix and mustard.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ross Middleton: Someone Has to Say It

Crabby Old Lady on a Dumb Medical “Fact” of the Day

In a vague sort of way, Crabby Old Lady keeps her eye on commercial websites aimed at her age group hoping to see something that marshals a whole lot more resources than Crabby – only one person – can bring to the subject of “what it's really like to get old.”

About a year ago, Twin Cities Public Television in Minneapolis-St. Paul launched a website for people 50 and older called Next Avenue. The subtitle of Next Avenue is “where grownups keep growing” and in an interview with The New York Times, vice president and editorial director, Donna Sapolin, said the site would

“...'bring a PBS sensibility,' to the online venture. 'It’s a certain level of gravitas and erudition and mission focus,' she said.”

Crabby supposes what that means is dependent upon PBS's definitions of gravitas and erudition because Next Avenue's stories are so consistently light and airy they are in danger of floating off the screen.

When they are not insulting a reader's intelligence with vague platitudes (on unemployment: “observe strict daily grooming habits”), they indulge in the kind of pop-psychology and generic advice articles more suited to Cosmopolitan. Except, that well may be an insult to Cosmo.

Although most are too superficial to be useful, there are the usual (and totally unoriginal) nuts-and-bolts stories on health, finance, living, etc. that are more interesting and thorough almost anywhere else online. Here is a sampling of some current headlines:

Can Bubbly Boost Brain Power?

How to Beat 'Tip of the Tongue' Syndrome

Nutrition Facts: Reading the Label

6 Money-Saving Travel Secrets

The biggest puzzle for Crabby is why, at a website that purports to be for people who are 50 and older, the only old people mentioned are readers' parents.

The reason Crabby Old Lady bothers with Next Avenue at all anymore is she keeps hoping it will get better. But this week, they have moved from dumb and irrelevant to fake and irresponsible:

“Beware Your Cell Phone!” blares the headline. “It Causes Wrinkles, Cosmetic Surgeons Say.”

John Stark, the “articles editor” at Next Avenue, writes:

”According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery [ASAPS], smartphones can make you look prematurely old. There’s no medical name for this condition, at least not yet. Until there is I’m calling it 'smartphone face.'”

Then he quotes the ASAPS website where he says he discovered this “condition:”

“Lines and creases may develop if you spend an excessive amount of time texting and checking your email on your smartphone. The constant downward gaze caused by smartphone use may be causing some individuals to experience more lines and creases on their neck than would appear naturally.”

Wha? How stupid does Mr. Stark think Crabby Old Lady is? This screams FAKE and CHARLATAN and SNAKEOIL and anyway, people have been reading books - which also involved a "downward gaze" - for centuries without developing "bookface." This, apparently, what passes for gravitas and erudition at PBS these days and although Crabby has always held a healthy skepticism of the organization's pretensions, this is a new low.

For some inexplicable reason, Time magazine bothered to look into this “smartphone face” claim a few days ago, asking British cosmetician, Dr. Mervyn Patterson to weigh in on the validity of it:

”According to Patterson, more and more people are noticing what they look like while they’re Skyping or video-conferencing. And they’re not happy with what they see. But is there any truth to it?

“Short answer: probably not. There’s no real science to prove that smartphone face even remotely exists...”

In other words, this Next Avenue story is more suited to Weekly World News or pretty much any supermarket tabloid than a website for elders that promises "gravitas and erudition."

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marc Leavitt: On Money

Why Crabby Old Lady Has No Blog Post Today

Crabby Old Lady is acutely aware that this is a post so self-indulgent and so light and airy you may not be able to see it on your screen. She has several meatier stories in various stages of production but couldn't make one of them ready because her time yesterday got eaten up by ephemera – stupid, ordinary errands and chores that repeatedly went wrong. All day.

One example is enough to give you the idea.

Crabby needed three items that required stops at two stores, neither of them far away. At first she thought she could remember the three but quickly recalled that not infrequently she gets to the store with her brain empty of one of the items.

So she stopped to write down her three items: salmon for a new recipe she wanted to try for dinner, fresh berries for breakfast and kitty litter.

In preparation, Crabby changed from slippers into outdoor shoes. She checked her wallet to be sure there was enough cash, grabbed the keys and headed for the door.

As she stepped across the threshold, she noticed that although the sun was out, it was colder – a lot colder - than she had anticipated so back in the house to get a jacket.

Then, just as she was locking the door, she realized she didn't have a reusable grocery bag with her, so back inside again to get one.

Arriving at her car, Crabby checked her handbag, didn't see the shopping list so she walked back home, unlocked the door and went over to the desk to pick up the list. No list.

As she stepped into the kitchen to see if it was there, only a lucky grab of the counter kept Crabby vertical as she slipped on something wet. Wha-a-a-a-t?

Ollie the cat's water bowl was tipped over and water had spread over most of the floor.

When did that happen? Crabby asked herself. Ollie appeared to be snoozing in his chair so it must have been before Crabby had left the house – maybe while she was in the back of the apartment and couldn't hear the CATastrophe happen.

It was a 15-minute, entire-paper-towel-roll cleanup project.

Now where was I, Crabby asked herself. Right. Shopping list.

Not in the kitchen so Crabby just wrote it all down again and made certain to put it in her handbag before she once again headed for the car. She was about to put her key in the ignition when another glance in her handbag revealed that her cell phone was not there.

As usual in that situation (which happens more often than you would think), Crabby asked herself if she really needed it. After all, she had spent half a century driving all over the United States and several foreign countries without a telephone or terrible consequences.

But there was the incident Crabby told you about two or three months ago when the car would not start and only the kindness of a young man lending his phone in pouring rain made it possible to easily call the tow service.

(Annoyingly, everything up to this point in Crabby's story is the result of commonplace, old age, short-term memory problems.)

So once again, Crabby trudged back to her apartment to get the mobile phone and at last made her way to the stores where everything worked out fine – if you don't count the heart-attack-inducing price of wild salmon.

It was one of those days. Later in the morning it included another kitchen floor spill – much worse, olive oil – that was entirely the fault of Crabby's inattention - can't blame the cat for it. And running out of printer ink before finishing a copy job that needed to be sent yesterday, entailing a trip to another store.

After getting the papers mailed, Crabby took a nap. So much for blogging.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Camping at El Golfo

Crabby Old Lady: A Tale of Two Blogs About Aging

When Crabby Old Lady started this blog a decade ago, hardly anyone else was writing about aging – not online, in magazines and newspapers or anywhere else. Apparently it was too much of a bummer in those days to remind people they will get old and anyway, no one wants to look at pictures of old people, right?

That changed when the oldest baby boomers began turning 60 in 2006, the media realized there was money to be made from targeting that 78 million-strong generation with pertinent aging information and now, seven years later, it's a growth industry.

Most major publications – online and off – have reporters and/or sections dedicated to aging or retirement and this is generally good for all old people. But a subtle kind of ageism in media coverage of aging issues is too often evident.

Simply put, when boomers are being addressed the stories are mostly upbeat, optimistic and cheerful unless they are practical as in the case of financial information and advice.

But when the 40 million Americans who are, like Crabby Old Lady, older than boomers are targeted the subject is usually failing health. Period. Everything else there may be about us is ignored as though we have already checked out, no longer involved with or curious about the world we live in.

Although The New York Times is far from the only transgressor, it is the most widely read and it offers the most stark examples with their two blogs devoted to aging - The New Old Age and the newer one, Booming.

To show you what Crabby is talking about, here are half a dozen representative stories published in the Booming blog this month:

A celebrity interview with singer Emmylou Harris

A funny piece about reporters' daydreams of bedding their interview subjects then and now (Disclosure: the writer, Joyce Wadler, is an old friend)

Another music story about how, if you like Billie Holliday you'll love Madeleine Peyroux

How to make yourself virtually immortal for the generations who come after you

Funny, rueful story (again, by Crabby's friend Joyce) about how low-rise jeans don't work on old bodies but there is, infuriatingly, nothing else for sale

Thoughts on what to do with Mom's mink coat when she has retired to a warm climate

Pretty good lineup, Crabby thinks. Some amusing and interesting stuff related to getting old. Now here is (also representative) a list of half a dozen stories this month at The New Old Age blog.

Painfully honest, wrenching story about caregiving

Interview with Martin Bayne about the realities of assisted living

Designing homes that are safe for elders and disabled people

Much delayed treatment World War II veterans are now receiving for PTSD

New medical research that suggests elders may want to reconsider their DNR (do not resuscitate) orders

Why elders may not need as many colonoscopies as are prescribed

Quite a difference between the two lists. All the stories on both blogs are useful, interesting or entertaining, but the younger old get the fun and older old get no fun at all, just health, health, health and not much good news about it.

In fact, The New York Times seems to have planned it this way. Here is their description of the Booming blog:

”Booming is a section about baby boomers — the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964. Besides news and information useful to this generation, you’ll find essays by boomers and by their children.

“You’ll find debates about books, new music to embrace and some secrets to enduring love. The wide-ranging conversation will be led by Michael Winerip, who has covered education, parenting, politics and his fellow boomers.”

Sounds good to Crabby Old Lady and importantly, it anticipates and respects the the intelligence of boomers – not something that is always true among media offerings for aging people.

Now, here is The Times' description of The New Old Age blog – also for boomers but the subject is more specific: people who are not only older than they, but sick:

”Thanks to the marvels of medical science, our parents are living longer than ever before. Adults over age 80 are the fastest growing segment of the population; most will spend years dependent on others for the most basic needs. That burden falls to their baby boomer children.

“In The New Old Age, Paula Span and other contributors explore this unprecedented intergenerational challenge.”

So in all the daily publication of these two blogs about aging (at least two stories a day week in and week out), The New York Times consistently ignores the existence of an entire generation of Americans, those 40 million women and men who are older than the boomers, except to declare “most'” of them to be dependent burdens on boomers for their "most basic needs."

Even if The New Old Age is "supposed" to be a blog about caregiving, the facts are that it covers much more than that, often speaking directly to Crabby's generation, and their description of the oldest population is nowhere near the reality.

According to the U.S. Department of Health Administration on Aging Profile of Older Americans 2011 [pdf], 84.4 percent of people 65 and older live with a spouse or alone. There is no information in the report about how many of the married elders are caring for an ailing spouse at home, but Crabby thinks it safe to assume that a long way from “most” are not.

Here is what can be said for sure: if you live long enough you are likely to have more health problems than when you were young and old people are definitely interested in information that will help them maintain their health.

But that is just one among what are certainly thousands of things people older than boomers collectively care about - things like “debates about books, new music to embrace and some secrets to enduring love...[and] wide-ranging conversation.”

Crabby Old Lady founded this blog a decade ago when everything she read about what getting old is like spoke only of disease, decline and debility. She didn't believe that could possibly be so and she has proved to be correct about that right here on these pages every day since.

It's not hard to do if you treat old people with respect. However, in the focus and presentation of its two dedicated aging sections, The New York Times persistently demeans elders who are older than boomers by characterizing them in a pejorative, ageist manner and Crabby Old lady expects better than that from the Old Gray Lady.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Loss of Appetite

Crabby Old Lady Takes a Breather

Here's how it works: if you put yourself out here on the internet and if you don't hide your identity and if you take strong positions on political and cultural issues, some people are bound to give you a hard time.

Crabby Old Lady (aka Ronni Bennett in ticked off mode) knows this, expects it and ignores most of it. But too much online and offline communication recently has been just offensive. Or ignorant or mean or rude or presumptuous.

The same can be said for requests and “suggestions” about how this blog should operate, look or behave. (If you think it's so easy, run your own damned blog and if you don't understand basic internet functionality, keep your complaints to yourself.)

Generally, among TGB readers, such stuff is rare but the amount that has been pouring over the transom this week feels like an avalanche. It has sucked all the energy from Crabby leaving her tired, resentful and angry.

And although there is a serious purpose to Time Goes By, Crabby Old Lady enjoys it but this week, it stopped being fun and Crabby needs a breather.

So except for links to new stories at The Elder Storytelling Place, next week Time Goes By will go dark while Crabby ignores any- and everything related to this blog.

IMPORTANT: In the past when Crabby and Ronni have been fed up enough with the trolls to back away for awhile, some of you have left lovely messages of commiseration and appreciation for TGB.

Of course, those are nice but this post is not an appeal for compliments, flattery, praise or felicitations of any kind. It is just an explanation of Crabby's absence.

So please restrain yourselves, and we'll meet back here on March 25 after Crabby's breather.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Pleasures

Crabby Old Lady: Dead or Alive?

This has been a disastrous holiday season for Crabby Old Lady. Not the holidays themselves; just everything else. To give you an idea, the least of it is that her heating has not worked since Christmas.

It is finally being repaired today but the other problems, involving a handful of the largest corporations in the U.S., may put Crabby in her grave.

Let's start in November with Amazon and The New York Times. The Times has a painfully perverse set of subscription choices. Aside from dead tree delivery, the newspaper can be displayed on the computer and smartphone. Or on the computer and tablet. Or you can pay way too much for access on all three.

Even though it costs $60 more per year, Crabby wanted to change her subscription from computer/smartphone to computer/tablet due to her new Kindle HD that is so much easier on her old eyes than the tiny phone screen. Hear Crabby's warning: don't.

The change involved getting her Times password to work for both devices but when she tried – again and again – the website tossed her into a loop that repeatedly requested the password.

Crabby will spare you further details except to say that more than two hours of wait and discussion time on the telephone (all coming off her cell minutes) with the two companies' representatives resulted in the same contradictory information from each: “I can't help you; it's Amazon's problem.” Or, when talking to Amazon – well, Crabby's has no doubt you can figure out on your own what that representative said.

Don't forget that this is a service for which Crabby pays money but neither company was willing to make the product available. How is this different, Crabby wonders, from the supermarket snatching the carrots out of her bag after she's been through the checkout counter.

A couple of days later the password process – as computer things sometimes do - miraculously succeeded through no help from either company.

Moving right along, Crabby's December internet/cable television bill arrived from Comcast in mid-December with a jump in price of 21.5 percent. This signals a Kabuki dance the company and Crabby do every six months: they raise the price, Crabby calls to cancel everything except internet and basic TV and they lower the price.

Now, Crabby Old Lady likes television. She follows the political scene on it, she watches some fine dramas (there is good stuff being produced these days) and along with some comedy, movies, Netflix, etc. to choose from, it is particularly enjoyable on evenings after she has fried her brain during eight or 10 hours working on this blog.

So all you sanctimonious abstainers who don't sully your pristine minds with grubby television, Crabby grants you your intellectual superiority but keep it to yourself today.

Crabby called her Comcast representative. He's a nice guy and she likes her twice-a-year chats with him. In the end, she gets to keep the television package she likes at an amount that (within the ruinous confines of monopoly pricing) is tolerable for another six months.

She made her first call on December 14th and left the requested information for her service representative. The recording states that a 24-hour turnaround is expected.

Since this is a Crabby Old Lady bitch session, you already know that didn't happen. Not the next day nor the next nor the next. Given Crabby's normally short temper in such circumstances, she has been remarkably polite in the nine or ten subsequent messages she has left.

Oh, wait. She did get one return call but it arrived while she was being examined by her eye doctor and in no position to chat about television and internet prices.

The terrible part of this is with the cable TV/internet access monopoly in almost every city in the U.S. including Crabby's, there is no comparable competitor and this is deeply wrong in what is supposed to be a free market economy.

Crabby continues to call Comcast, so far to no avail.

You might think this covers Crabby's electronic travails and she is done bitching now. Oh no, not yet.

Thanks to all of the above, Crabby Old Lady has gone way over her cell phone voice limit and at 45 cents per extra minute, her monthly charge doubled.

She may have talked more than usual during the holidays but not enough to put her over the top without the two to three hours of extremely unsatisfactory wait and talk times with Amazon, The Times and Comcast's voicemail system.

However, even without these corporate/customer failures, Crabby was thinking she needs more voice and less data time to avoid crushing overage charges in the future.

Because it is another year until her contract is up and there is a $350 penalty to cancel before then, Crabby checked what else was available at Verizon.

It was useless. There is no choice but to pay a lot more for more minutes or, in subscribing to a different kind of less expensive plan, to purchase a new phone not nearly as spiffy or useful as the one she has and which, finally, Crabby has learned to navigate with relative ease.

Crabby took a crack at negotiating with a Verizon representative via live chat one day. The asinine conversation is too stupid to recount – the text equivalent of those verbal scripts read by customer reps for whom English is a third or fourth language.

As you can see, nothing has been resolved not to mention that Crabby doesn't like The Times tablet app and wants to return to using the smartphone option for The Times but is exhausted already thinking about what else will go wrong.

There is also the day or two during this period when suddenly, without warning or explanation, Crabby could no longer access her online bank account. An hour-long, in-person visit with the bank on Christmas Eve morning produced no solution but on the day after Christmas, one of those computer miracles occurred and she could again do her banking from home.

So. Let's add this up. Heating: may return today if nothing goes wrong. Banking: working, for now. Comcast: unresolved. Verizon: unresolved. Times/Amazon: does Crabby have the stamina to take them on again?

Up at the top of this lengthy complaint, Crabby mentioned her grave.

From time to time, through many years of her life, when all Crabby's efforts to have an affect her personal world repeatedly fail, she fancifully(?) posits that she is dead and doesn't know it yet.

Could that be so this time? she wonders.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: A Good Woman

Crabby Old Lady's New Health Annoyance

Another year, another ailment. And nobody ever tells you to expect them.

So there was Crabby Old Lady last Thursday afternoon sitting in the place she can most frequently be found - in front of the computer. She doesn't recall what she was doing when, with no warning, there were a bunch of black strings and spots in front of one eye.

She blinked. She blinked some more. The strings and spots remained swirling here and there as Crabby glanced from side to side.

Although it was odd that they were not irritating her eye, Crabby still thought it must be dirt or an eyelash. Upon removing the contact lens from her left eye, that proved wrong: the strings and spots floated around in her near vision with or without the lens.

The doctor's assistant gave Crabby Old Lady an appointment three hours hence.

This being the internet age and all, Crabby spent a good deal of that wait time at medical websites. Did you catch that word “floated” in a paragraph above?

It is likely that a lot of you who read this blog know all about “floaters” because they are a common affliction of old people and are more prevalent in people who, like Crabby, are nearsighted although they can also be caused by certain eye diseases and injuries.

The Mayo Clinic tells us:

”Most eye floaters are caused by age-related changes that occur as the jelly-like substance (vitreous) inside your eyes becomes more liquid. When this happens, microscopic fibers within the vitreous tend to clump together and can cast tiny shadows on your retina, which you may see as eye floaters.”

The little dark gray things the arrows are pointing at in this image are what floaters look like inside the eye:


Floaters are elusive little buggers which is what makes them, to Crabby, so annoying. They come into view most often against white or light backgrounds like a book page or computer screen or blue sky and when you try to look at them carefully – hard to resist – they float away as this scene from the TV cartoon, Family Guy demonstrates:

Both the Mayo Clinic and Crabby's eye doctor are reassuring about floaters:

“Floaters are usually harmless and are seen by many of us at one time or another.”

Only rarely are they serious. Crabby's doctor confirmed what the Mayo Clinic says about that:

”If you notice a sudden increase in the number of eye floaters, contact an eye specialist immediately — especially if you also see flashes of light or lose your peripheral vision. These can be symptoms of an emergency that requires prompt attention.”

After reading that, Crabby Old Lady had walked into the doctor's office with trepidation. There had been flashes of light when she bent over to add some food to Ollie the cat's bowl just before she left home in the late afternoon.

The doctor explained that the light flashes can be signs of vitreous or retinal detachment that sometimes accompany floaters which can be a serious vision problem.

After an examination that included photographs of the inside of her eyes and a physical exam of the same areas, Crabby's doctor believes her vitreous detachment is minor and, additionally, hers are ordinary, run-of-the-mill floaters. But he wants to check on them weekly for the coming month and during that time, Crabby should not use aspirin for anything at all and not bend over.

As he put it, I want you to be vertical or horizontal on your back but nothing in between, and you should call if there are increased numbers of floaters, more light flashes or if a shadow fades across your visual field.

There is no treatment for floaters. The doctor and everything Crabby has read tell her that people learn to ignore them. Oh yeah? Maybe not. As Crabby writes this on the computer, their random movement is an constant if small distraction.

But aside from this and a couple of other minor afflictions of age, Crabby Old Lady is healthy and you know what? In the overall scheme of things, she will take floaters over the variety of serious ailments that plague many old people. What are a few spots and strings in front of her eye compared to cancer, stroke, diabetes, Parkinson's, heart disease, arthritis, etc.

It's just that there are so many annoying little things about old age and Crabby wishes someone prepared us for them. These are not the fun kind of surprises Crabby likes.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Better Than a Sleeping Pill

How Not to be an Old Person

With so many baby boomers entering their mid-sixties, being old has become the new cool age group for the media. They vie among themselves for attention, intent on advising Crabby Old Lady on how to avoid being old – or, at least, to not be perceived that way.

They don't say it out loud, but the can't-miss message is that it's not good to be old. They never give a reason but it is obvious that old people behaving like – well, old people somehow offends the sensibilities of the world at large and especially younger people.

Apparently, we dress badly and the biggest fashion faux pas in their judgment is elastic waistbands. (Oh, what Crabby wouldn't give to live long enough to see how quickly they change their minds when they get old.)

They don't much like our hair either, preferring that the gray be colored away, and we simply must, must, must keep it cut short.

Long hair on old women, you see, might be mistaken for sexy which disturbs young people's idea of their elders. Well, they don't say that, but it's what they mean.

(Yes, yes, Crabby knows - it's confusing. On the one hand, we are supposed to look young; on the other, not too young. Crabby wishes they'd get their messages organized. She's having trouble keeping up.)

Crabby gets a lot of spam email urging her to hire a life coach specializing in “senior citizens” to show her how to be old and wonderful and get the most out of her later years.

Crabby already thinks she is wonderful and she is adequately fulfilled. But if you believe someone else (almost always a couple of decades younger than you) can tell you how best to live, go for it.

Do keep in mind, however, that there are no academic standards for life coaching and many get their “certificates” after a few hours of online training for about $500-$600.

Republicans in Congress keep threatening to raise the age of Medicare eligibility to 67 and the age for full Social Security benefits to 69 or 70. Crabby guesses that means their advice for the nation's elders is to keep working - an okay idea for people capable of it, but nobody seems to have explained age discrimination to Congress let alone physical impediments to continued employment.

Crabby sometimes wonders if those Congress people are in cahoots with “experts” who advise elders to start businesses. Of course, no start-up evangelists mention that about 33 percent of new businesses fail in the first six months, 50 percent are gone within two years and 75 percent within three – undoubtedly along with the elders' life savings.

Then there are the standard suggestions: take a class, join a club, travel, volunteer, find a part-time job – the ones you and Crabby have read hundreds of times.

None are bad ideas – Crabby Old Lady and many other old folks get quite a bit of pleasure from doing those things. But Crabby always has to laugh that the writers reveal them as though the ideas have been a secret until now and think they deserve a Nobel Prize for their originality.

What makes Crabby Old Lady laugh the most, however, are the websites and magazines aimed at elders (invariably called boomers because no one can be old, you know) where for every story about how to look ten years younger there are ten more about cholesterol, arthritis, diabetes, living with MS, back pain, cancer, painful sex, managing prescription drugs, heart disease and every other affliction of old age plus a few new ones.

Is there anything that says old to young people faster than discussing our ailments?

Not that Crabby believes it's a bad idea to talk about our health. That's always been a bad rap for old folks since until the boomers made aging popular, no one ever talked or wrote about what old age is really like and they still don't do a very good job of it.

With a handful of excellent exceptions, the media stuff floating around advising us about how to behave in our old age is written by people who are too young to know anything at all about getting old. Their only idea about our sensibilities is that we're just wrinkled young people and it's hard to be more wrong.

Many years ago, Crabby Old Lady was asked to consult an internet startup aimed at elders. The first question she asked was how many people older than 60 were on the staff. The answer was none and in fact, there was no one older than 39 or 40.

Crabby didn't take the gig but she gave them one piece of advice that she stands by today for any endeavor aimed at boomers and elders: you cannot talk or write intelligently about old people without having a few of them (at least age 60) around to advise you.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Dad's Car

Being Old is Time Consuming

Crabby Old Lady is worn out and it's not because she has been extra special busy lately. It's just ordinary living that takes up more time than it did when she was younger. Or, maybe, it's the consequences of ordinary living that weren't there years ago.

Take grocery shopping. Except for rare occasions when Crabby is cooking for guests, you would think her food needs would be minimal. For most of her life – in New York City – she carried her purchases home without a problem and gained some walking exercise in the bargain.

These days she drives but on many trips she can't carry the groceries into the house in one go. It's two and, occasionally, three trips to and from the car. Okay, she'll admit there is the walking itself and that's not a bad thing but Crabby usually has better uses for her time than hauling bags from the car.

Sleeping or, rather, lack of it is another time eater. Because many days Crabby Old Lady wakes after only four or five hours without a chance of going back to sleep, she is up at ungodly early hours and wears out by 2PM or so.

A nap eats up another couple of hours and then – and THEN, it's twice in one day she needs an hour to get mind and body functional again. Plus, here's a catch: without a nap, Crabby would fall asleep at night by 7PM and be wide awake at midnight. It's happened. Oy.

We have discussed here how our stamina and energy are not what they once were. For decades, Crabby whizzed through weekly house cleaning finishing by noon on Saturdays. Now she spreads it over an entire week – kind of never-ending cleaning, one room a day – but even so, she often needs to stop and rest between chores.

Cleaning house is boring enough. It's worse not being able to finish in the time Crabby has been accustomed to all her life until now.

And walking. As she mentioned, Crabby has always been a walker although in New York, it is just the way one lives and not “exercise.” But these days, Crabby's feet ache if she walks for more than about an hour, even leisurely as in window shopping and browsing a book store.

It's not pain and Crabby is not afflicted with bunions, corns and her feet are not deformed (just lucky, she guesses) from decades of high-heeled shoes. It's just that her feet get tired so she must stop and sit for awhile when she would rather be moving and getting things done.

Hair too. For most of Crabby Old Lady's life, shampoo and a brush were all she needed to keep her hair looking nice. A couple of minutes in the morning and she was out the door.

Now that her hair has become so thin in front and at the crown of her head, it takes a good deal of arranging to be presentable without looking like a female version of a guy's bad comb over.

Crabby loses the most time, however, to elder forgetfulness. You know, the same old stuff of finding yourself in the bedroom – or kitchen, or bathroom – wondering why you're there. Or being halfway through telling a story to a friend and losing the point.

And way too frequently, Crabby forgets the third item she wanted at the grocery, goes home without it and THEN remembers what it is and that the recipe won't work without it.

Back to the store. More time gone.

So far, Crabby doesn't have a condition or disease in need of regular attention that for many elders requires additional physician visits; prescriptions filled, counted and taken; treatments required; special diets, etc. But she can empathize with what must be frustration at the time taken up with care and maintenance.

There are dozens of other elder time eaters that may not consume more than a couple of minutes each but add up over a day or week.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: There is - well, was - an additional thought Crabby intended to insert here, but she's forgotten it. If it comes to mind, she will enlighten you in an update.]

There is no earlier era of Crabby's life that she wants to relive or return to. Through no effort on her part – it just happens – she has found each new period, decade, year to be more compelling than the previous one.

But Crabby doesn't think many people consider how damned much more time it takes just to be old and sometimes, just living an ordinary day wears her out.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Joanne Zimmerman: Hair Today

To Be Old in America in 2012

[NOTE: I know I told you yesterday that there would be a post today from a resident in an assisted living home. That's still coming soon but until then, this today. It's long and will probably bore some of you, but Crabby Old Lady believes it needs to be said.]

If you are old today – let's say 55 and up – and not wealthy (that is, most of us), you live under constant threat of financial disaster. Here is Crabby Old Lady's list of what has happened to elders in the past four years since the 2008 crash:

  1. IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement investments have been decimated; many have never recovered and never will

  2. Home values have dropped by a third or more leaving many with underwater mortgages and in some cases, unfair foreclosures

  3. Millions have been and continue to be laid off from their jobs

  4. Age discrimination means it takes older workers longer to find the next job than any other age group

  5. Many older workers who don't find that next job are forced into early retirement resulting in a lower Social Security Security benefit for life

[Crabby understands that people of all ages are living with brutal financial circumstances but this blog is concerned with elders.]

For many elders, the slightest uptick in food prices, for example, or even a minor emergency can mean choosing between eating and buying prescribed medications.

Those are the current conditions. Let's take a look at some of the threats.

About half the politicians in Congress want to take away or dramatically cut Social Security, Medicare and food stamps among other programs for the poor, disabled and aged. Just as many of them, along with a large number of state governors, want to kill Medicaid which affects elder dual eligibles.

Many of those same elected officials want to raise the retirement age – that is, the age at which full Social Security benefits are allowed – to 70.

Generally, Crabby Old Lady has no objection to people working longer than 66 or 67 but only if they are physically capable so she believes that any legislation raising the retirement age must include accommodation for those whose bodies cannot do it any longer.

Please recall, too, as we have said here many times, that people's bodies age at dramatically different rates so it is not just those who have done heavy physical labor who may not be able to continue working.

With all that in mind, however, there is the elephant in the room, the unspoken Catch-22: they already refuse to allow us work even until we reach the current retirement age.

It's called age discrimination in the workplace. It has always existed but it has become grimly more visible during our four-year recession than in the past.

The average length of unemployment for older workers is at an all-time high — well over a year. On average, it takes someone age 55 or older three months longer to find a job than a younger person.

“These long-term unemployed are disproportionately composed of older workers — who, compared to younger workers, are less likely to lose their jobs, but more likely to have trouble finding re-employment if they are laid off,” reports The New York Times

“Given how far behind these workers have already fallen, it may turn out that many of these Americans will never work again.”

Exactly. Just like me as I've written about here in the past. But I was 63 when I was laid off from my last job. Even though with careful budgeting and belt-tightening I was able to squeak by until I was old enough for full benefits at age 65 and 10 months, I still wound up with a reduced Social Security benefit for not having any income during the last two-and-a-half years until my eligibility.

It's much worse if you are laid off, for example, in your late fifties or early sixties and must scrimp by until age 62 and then take reduced early Social Security benefit. And don't forget that when you do that, you're stuck at the lower figure for the rest of your life. But many have no choice if they enjoy eating.

Speaking of eating, 46.2 million people (nearly one in seven Americans) receive food stamp (SNAP program) aid. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), three million of them are elders.

[By the way, many more elders than the three million are eligible but do not know it. If you believe you or someone you know might be among them, you can find eligibility rules for people age 60 and older here.]

Last week, the House passed a farm bill that cuts $16 billion from the SNAP program while retaining subsidies for corporate farmers. If the bill passes in the Senate, between two and three million people will be thrown off SNAP and 21 million children will not longer qualify for free school lunches.

So one way or another, the people who already stole elders' savings, homes and livelihoods leaving millions in drastically reduced financial circumstances for their old age now seek to further impoverish them.

This is how it is to be old in America today.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: The Idaho Trip

How to Invent a Generational War

Crabby Old Lady went into near fits Sunday morning when she saw a story in The New York Times titled, Old vs. Young.

Not again!

Yes, again, although the Times, as is so often the case, is a long way behind the rest of the media.

All of them have been trying to build an argument that greedy geezers are impoverishing young people and they all cite a November 2011 study from the Pew Research Center headlined, The Rising Age Gap in Economic Well-Being subtitled, The Old Prosper Relative to the Young.

Like yesterday's screed in the Times, most of the media amplify the tone and point of view from Pew's headline. As reporter David Leonhard wrote in Sunday's Times story:

“If there is a theme unifying these economic and political trends, in fact, it is that the young are generally losing out to the old.”

Although a large part of his story is devoted to the differences in political and social attitudes between young and old, Leonhart continues the onslaught against elders by contrasting, for one example, what he calls the “wealth gap,” based on Pew figures, as unfair to young people. This is Pew's chart on net worth by age:

Pew Net Worth

The stupidity of seeing inequity here astounds Crabby Old Lady. Under 35s have a net worth $3,662 versus $170,494 for 65 and older. So? The largest part of everyone's net worth is the value of their home. Elders have been paying off their mortgages for 30 years longer than 35-year-olds have.

Crabby hates to be obvious, but that is the way the world works. We start out young with very little, we work hard, pay our bills and when we get old, we have accumulated a little wealth to see us through until we die. That is how it is supposed to work.

It's not just net worth. The “wealth gap” Leonhard blames old people for includes income and home ownership all of which are the largest since record-keeping began.

Apparently, he does not know that for the past four years, the U.S. has been living in a recession so deep, some believe it is a depression. Apparently, he does not know that the 2008 crash stole trillions of dollars in savings from everyone, that millions of homes have been foreclosed upon or are underwater, that unemployment is stuck on hold and that employers haven't raised anyone's salary in 30 years.

But never mind that. Young people are hurting and it's old people's fault:

“Young adults are faring worse in the private sector and, in large part because they have less political power, have a less generous safety net beneath them.”

In Leonhart's world, Crabby is guessing, the average $1,100 per month Social Security check is way too much and if young people can't have Medicare then old people shouldn't have it either.

It doesn't occur to Leonhard (or anyone else who blames elders for everyone else's ills) that the better solution all around would be to expand Medicare to everyone along with paying all workers a living wage and seeing that the wealthy among us pay their fair share in taxes.

Yes, young people are having a terribly hard time getting started in the world. Just ask the old people – parents and grandparents – they are still living with after college.

But it is not the fault of old people.

Just as Crabby was winding down this story, an email arrived from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) with economist Dean Baker's response to Leonhard's story.

Baker and Crabby pretty much agree but because Baker is smarter and follows this stuff more closely than Crabby, he had some interesting additional information:

”There is a well-funded effort in this country to try to distract the public's attention from the massive upward redistribution of income over the last three decades by trying to claim that the issue is one of generational conflict rather than class conflict.

“Billionaire investment banker Peter Peterson is the most well-known funder of this effort, having kicked in a billion dollars of his own money for the cause.”

Baker ends his tirade acknowledging that young people are not doing well. Then:

“But this is a story of Wall Street greed, corruption, and incompetence. It has nothing to do with the Social Security and Medicare received by the elderly.

“Leonhardt should be ashamed for falling for this tripe.”

Hear, hear. Do not let the one percent and their sycophants start a generational war.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mary Hertslet: An Episode of Life or Death in Rome

How Dumb is Crabby Old Lady? Let Her Tell You

Late yesterday morning, Crabby Old Lady had half a blog post written for today. She stopped for lunch and then checked her email which nagged her about updating the program to a new version.

STUPID! IDIOT! MIGHT AS WELL HAVE BEEN DRUNK! As Crabby's hand, on autopilot, maneuvered her mouse pointer toward the update button, her brain clang-clang-clanged a warning too late to prevent her finger from clicking.

When the updated program reloaded, Crabby's calendar - the place where she keeps not only birthdays, appointments, comings and goings, etc., but daily (get that, daily reminders necessary to run Time Goes By smoothly) - was, GASP, gone.

DUNCE! DIMWIT! DOLT! The calendar is an add-on to the email program and Crabby perfectly well knows never to update until she is certain the add-ons have been updated too which years of experience have taught her can take a few days. Sheesh.

After several hours of failed attempts to retrieve her calendar - HER LIFE! - by reverting to the previous email/calendar version, Crabby walked away from the computer. Disgusted with her witlessness, she spent the evening with a bad movie and a good book.

About 40 minutes ago, armed with her first cup of coffee of the day, Crabby sat down at the computer. Oh. My. God. There on the screen was today's half-written blog post.

Crabby forgot not to click the update button AND she forgot to finish her blog post. Next stop: dementia ward.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sydney Halet: Hope

No Way to Treat a Crabby Elderblogger

Crabby Old Lady has been on a rip-roaring tear for most of the weekend and it is about nothing – or very nearly nothing - that affects you, dear reader. Nevertheless, she is going to carry on about it for the next few paragraphs to no purpose whatever except to bitch. You are welcome to take the day off from here.

Time Goes By is an ad-free zone. Many years ago, Crabby tried taking advertisements but they cost way too much in maintenance effort than the amount of payoff that is possible for a blog with only a few thousand readers.

Now, after all these years, Crabby enjoys living and working on a website where no story is ever sliced in half (or thirds or quarters) with text exhortations to spend, spend, spend; where no screen yo-yoes up and down from gigantic banner ads opening and closing; and where she never needs to frantically punch the audio-off button when a video commercial starts shouting at her from the sideline.

(Please don't tell Crabby about ad blockers. She has her reasons not to use them.)

The Elderblog List – what others call a blogroll – lists only personal blogs maintained by people who are age 50 and older. The several hundred on the list cover about every topic under the sun but the key (and requirement) for inclusion is that they are all personal blogs.

Business blogs are not allowed and personal ones cannot carry advertisements beyond a smattering of text-style Google Ads or similar services for those trying to make a few extra pennies from their blogs.

This is not new but it has escalated dramatically over the past couple of weeks so that Crabby has been fending off up to half a dozen business owners a day requesting to be added to the Elderblog List.

The only goal of these requests is to flog their product or service to a fairly large, ready-made population of a certain age group – that is, they are trying to fool Crabby Old Lady into giving them free advertising.

And get this: when Crabby explains via a short, polite email why they don't qualify – damn - as often as not, she gets return messages arguing with her. Geez, that's a fairly high level of hubris.

What pissed Crabby off more than usual, however, was a request on Sunday morning from the owner of a business specifically targeting elders.

Not that it would make any difference for inclusion on the Elderblog List, it's a pretty good business idea, even useful for old people. But the owner, besides attempting to fleece ad space from Crabby with a “blog” that is a minor section of the marketing site and hardly ever publishes new material, nowhere tells readers or potential clients how much it costs.

Not anywhere on the website are there individual prices or even price ranges for service levels.

Now, depending on how much she needs or wants it and how good the product/service appears to be, Crabby Old Lady (and probably most of you, too) knows nearly to the dollar how much she will pay for a given product or service.

If it's in her range, she will reveal personal information to a website to learn more or continue the transaction. If it is out of her range, she will not and it is ludicrous for a business owner to expect otherwise by not listing prices.

What makes this lack of price more than a nuisance, contemptible in fact, and infuriates Crabby is that the service – help for elders with downsizing and moving – is often necessary when people become frail and, possibly, confused enough that they are easy prey for zealous sales people.

Many who run small businesses are just trying to get by in a bad economic climate and it can't be easy. But that's not an excuse for bad behavior. Call her paranoid if you like, but Crabby suspects that anyone looking to fool her into giving them free advertising on her blog would not shrink from conducting their business in a similar manner.

That is not to say that Crabby has any recourse but to deny a place on the Elderblog List (which she would have done anyway) and bitch a bit in public.

Oh, my. Crabby feels so much better now.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson Phillips: Flat Feet

“Honoring” Elders During Older Americans Month

ITEM: The public transportation agency in Portland, Oregon, TriMet, avoids using the word “old” with a hokey euphemism Crabby Old Lady had not heard before moving here. As they explain on their website:

"'Honored Citizen' is how TriMet identifies seniors age 65 or older, people on Medicare and people with mental or physical disabilities. Honored Citizens receive reduced fares and priority seating on buses and trains.”

What a crock. Empty phrases like "honored citizen" are what give political correctness (and in this case, elders), a bad name.

ITEM: A local service organization that does excellent work for elders in many areas of need and interest is using the May designation of Older Americans Month as a fundraiser urging people to donate in the name of an old person who will then receive a “handmade card” recognizing the gift made in their honor.

Just what every elder needs; Crabby is sure they are thrilled.

ITEM: The U.S. government's Administration on Aging (AOA) website explains that Older Americans Month is meant to “honor and recognize older Americans for the contributions they make to our families, communities and society.”

But that's not what the AOA does. Instead, each year, the organization issues a theme for Older Americans Month:

”This year's theme 'Never Too Old to Play' encourages older Americans to stay engaged, active and involved in their own lives and in their communities.”

The AOA's big suggestion for communities to encourage older Americans' engagement is to host a “Day of Play” during May with such activities as a “team trivia night, inter-generational Wii bowling tournament or...a photo scavenger hunt.”

Oh yeah, Crabby is certain that a round of miniature golf will honor elders as never before.

To be fair, an activity guide brochure [pdf] has some other, more palatable, “play” suggestions but to Crabby, it still looks like the same two, disturbingly wrong depictions of elders repeated in every discussion about us:

  • Photos of grinning old people who don't look all that old

  • Concentration on activities that are usually more suitable for second-grade recess period

Crabby Old Lady is not saying crossword puzzles, quilting and Pokeno are not perfectly fine pastimes in their place. But she finds it demeaning that what are, undoubtedly, well-meaning efforts to include elders are always about light entertainment and provide nothing that can be defined as the AOA's own call for elders to be “engaged, active and involved in their own lives and in their communities.”

And just to be clear, Crabby's complaint about all this has nothing to do with the thousands of local social workers nationwide who do amazing work helping elders against sometimes astronomical odds no small part of which is constant cutbacks in federal and local funding.

What Crabby Old Lady objects to is this belittling of old people with empty "honoring." Crabby does not want to be honored, especially with such a pandering title as “honored citizen” that nobody believes in anyway.

Nor does she want a card - hand-made or store-bought – in “honor” of someone else's donation.

She does not want an afternoon of games one day a year and to be ignored for the other 11 months.

Crabby wants inclusion for elders in daily life every day of the year.

There is so much that needs doing for elders that would help them take part in the life of their communities - that would help everyone else too. Such as:

  • Improve public transportation

  • Enforce age discrimination in the workplace laws

  • Encourage better geriatric education for physicians

  • Invite elders onto the citizen advisory boards of cities and towns

  • Create opportunities to serve that make use of elders' decades of experience and knowledge

  • Teach elders how to effectively lobby government officials

Most of all, stop Congress from scaring the crap out of elders with constant threats to cut or kill Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Working on these issues would be real honoring of elders.

February is Black History Month and every year, there are hundreds of activities that involve poetry, music, science, politics, military, entertainment, lectures, book signings, famous firsts, civil rights movements, biographies, exhibits and that doesn't begin to cover it all.

Lots of this information is on the television broadcasts we regularly watch and on the websites we visit every day and in special sections of book stores, for example. Black History Month is hard to miss and each year, Crabby learns more and more about the African American experience.

What Crabby Old Lady would be thrilled to see something similar for Older Americans Month. Now, THAT would be honor. After all, elders come in all colors and there is a lot more to know about us than games, greeting cards and demeaning euphemisms.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia Hirtz: Abraham

Advertising the Agony of Old Age (from 2008)

EDITORIAL NOTE: Time Goes By Sunday Elder Music columnist, Peter Tibbles and his Assistant Musicologist are visiting from Melbourne for a few days.

While they are here, in place of new posts are some vintage TGB stories that I kind of like and hope you will enjoy them in rerun. I won't disappear entirely. I'll be checking in now and then to see how it's going and perhaps join in the comments.

And, IMPORTANT, all Elder Storytelling Place stories linked at the bottom of these repeats are NEW.

This story has been rolling around in Crabby Old Lady’s head for several months. She kept meaning to record some hours of prime time television over a few days and then zap through the shows to the commercials with pen and paper in hand to have some hard numbers for you. But it would undoubtedly raise her blood pressure and she never got around to it. So you’ll have to trust her general impression:

According to television commercials, old age is so dangerous or painful or simply annoying, it may not be worth hanging around for. Some say old people are more visible on television these days, but not in any manner Crabby wants to be portrayed.

Mostly, elders appear in commercials for remedies to treat diseases and ailments that range from minor through deadly serious to disgusting. Even that icky, mucus, cartoon character is old and these ads outnumber all other types.

Take a look at this list, typed out off the top of Crabby Old Lady’s head. There are so many commercials and public service announcements broadcast so frequently that any young person watching can only assume old age is agony:

Back pain
Aching joints
Loose dentures
Gum disease
Bad breath
Heart disease
Hair loss
High blood pressure
Acid Reflux
Restless Leg Syndrome
Erectile Dysfunction

Just to check that her memory isn’t failing, Crabby pulled out a recent issue of AARP magazine to see what they advertise to their readers. Most of the items on the list are represented and the rest of the ads are for insurance.

Crabby wouldn’t be so ticked off if she had ever seen an old person in a car commercial. Not even detergent ads feature elders, as though we don’t wash clothes or dishes in our dotage. And no one old appears in glossy ads for clothing, expensive watches or fancy electronics – none of the glamour stuff.

It’s enough to make a Crabby Old Lady sicker than advertisers believe she already is.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Terry Hamburg: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Elder Media: For Women Only? Dumb Ones?

As Crabby Old Lady has written here in the past, the largest impetus behiind this blog was the fact that after seven or eight years of diving deep into available research on aging and what it would be like for her to get old, there was nothing to be found that had anything positive to say. It was all about disease, decline and debility.

When Crabby began planning Time Goes By in 2003, with the idea of opposing that negative spin, there was hardly any attention paid by mainstream media to elders. The lives of old people in newspapers, magazines and on television were, for all intents and purposes, non-existent; there was even less of it online.

Soon, however - 2004, 2005 or so - the media checked their calendars and saw that the oldest baby boomers would soon hit the 60 milestone. There was a sudden flood of stories all pretty much on the same theme: boomers will “redefine” retirement, repeated ad infinitum based on not a whit of evidence (nor any since then, but that rant is for another day).

By last year, as the first wave of boomers became eligible for Medicare, the media had taken advantage of what they belatedly realized was an entirely new (to them) advertising demographic – old people.

One way that was manifest through these years, was a proliferation of websites meant to attract boomers. Crabby frequently checks the web looking for elder online trends and regularly disappointed that these websites are generally awful.

Crabby is not talking about the serious organizations that deal factually with crucial aspects of aging like Social Security, Medicare, caregiving, health and medical information, financial services, choosing new living arrangements, etc. Those serve specific purposes and the best of them, quite a few, do it well.

No, Crabby is talking about the brand-name, general-interest websites aimed at boomers and seniors - magazine-style publications meant to both entertain and inform.

When Crabby Old Lady was studying aging in her pre-blogging days, it was all about how terrible getting old is – might as well shoot yourself was the impression she got.

Nowadays, it is the opposite. Although the websites openly target their aging audiences by name – boomers and, sometimes, seniors – there is little in the topic selection to indicate the audience has left puberty.

According to the headlines, life in people's 50s, 60s and beyond hasn't changed since they were reading Seventeen magazine or maybe .

The headlines make Crabby cringe: Why We Marry the Wrong Men, 10 Weight Loss Myths, Five Steps to Healthier Nails, Is Your Relationship in Trouble? and the one that sent Crabby over the edge to this blog post: Spandex Done Right.


Like Crabby said, she is embarrassed. When she read those stories half a century ago (with only slight variations in the headlines), she had an excuse: she was young, unformed and uninformed.

Crabby is old now, smarter, much better informed and she resents being treated like nothing has changed, that she has learned nothing in the intervening 55 years.

In addition to the juvenilia – not to mention the anti-aging articles and advertisements - all of these websites are aimed at women. Most have home page links with such titles as Women's Health, Women's Health News or Women's Health Center without comparable links to men's health.

And as far as Crabby can find, there are no websites specifically for boomer and senior men which doesn't seem fair. If this blog is any indication, male readers – although fewer in number - are just as interested in what we talk about here as women readers.

But from the websites that target boomers and seniors, Crabby wouldn't know there were any elder men at all (except for those causing “relationship” problems).

All these years since Crabby Old Lady first began investigating what it is like to get old, the subject just gets more intense, complex and compelling. But you wouldn't know it from boomer and senior websites.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Michael Gorodezky: Metaphor

Crabby Old Lady on Awareness Junk

You could say that Crabby Old Lady is on a tear this week, what might be called a bitch roll. First Komen, then White House communication and today, awareness junk – the ribbons, car magnets, wristbands and other trinkets that trivialize cultural, political, medical and personal issues that deserve better.

Crabby got herself wound up in this topic coming off the Komen/Planned Parenthood brouhaha. She was interested to learn, from the trailer for the new Canadian documentary, Pink Ribbons, Inc., the origin of the pink breast cancer ribbon; it was the idea of Charlotte Haley, then appropriated by corporate America.

(The full Pink Ribbons, Inc. trailer is here.)

Crabby will get back to ribbons in a moment but long before there were awareness ribbons, there were bracelets. Crabby's first – um, awareness of them was in 1970, when people began wearing copper and nickel bracelets engraved with the names of American servicemen captured or missing in the Vietnam War.

A lot of effort went into finding names and dates for these bracelets. Here are two of three that are on display at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.

POW Bracelets

Today, bracelets are usually made of stretchy silicon and are only slightly less ubiquitous than ribbons used, in addition to disease awareness, as giveaways at birthday parties, weddings and as corporate swag. Crabby has seen people whose wrists are covered in half a dozen or more rubbery bracelets, each in a different color.

Find a Cure Crabby assumes the this pink silicon bracelet has escaped a lawsuit by Susan B. Komen For the Cure because the wording - Find a Cure instead of For the Cure - does not match the Komen trademark.

Red_ribbonThe first symbolic ribbons in the signature foldover shape that Crabby recalls seeing were red ones in early 1991 for AIDS/HIV awareness. Where she lived then, in Greenwich Village, they were suddenly on everyone's lapel and for a good portion of that 90s decade, the red ribbon was a fashion accessory without which no actor dared show up at the Academy Awards ceremony.

Diamond ruby aids pinWhen Crabby began writing this post, she had a vague recollection of having been disgusted back then at seeing some well-known person wearing a bejeweled red ribbon. A quick check around the web shows that her memory is probably intact on that subject. This diamond and ruby red ribbon sold at Christie's in 2000 for $21,837.

Goldred926Or, if that's too rich for your pocketbook, how about this ruby and 14K gold red ribbon to hang on your charm bracelet. It's a bargain, just $926.10 marked down from $1029 at generousgems.com.

PinkjeweledbellybuttonringamazonThe pink ribbon is trademarked in Canada by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation so there are probably not as many variations of it there as in the U.S. Crabby's current favorite piece of cash-in-on-cancer junk is for sale from BodySparkle at Amazon, a pink “jeweled breast cancer awareness ring” for your belly button at $16.99.

There is no mention on any of these websites that the disease organizations get a dime of the price - expensive or cheap.

It is no longer just pink and red ribbons. There are dozens of colors for every conceivable disease and condition. When they ran out of colors, they started combining them into stripes and checks and other designs. Here is a tiny representation of ribbon types a screen grab of part of a long page at Google. There are thousands more.

Many Ribbons

While multitudes of colors have confused awareness of everything, ribbons are further debased by no longer representing one disease or condition, but many including, now, political issues.

100px-Green_ribbonGreen is for aging research awareness (did you know that? Crabby didn't), cerebral palsy, kidney cancer, Lyme disease among seven others.

100px-Orange_ribbonOrange is for ADHD, animal cruelty, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, malnutrition and – wait for it, self-injury.

100px-Blue_ribbonBlue now represents at least 15 problems, among them addiction, chronic fatigue syndrome, colon cancer, the Electronic Freedom Foundation for online free speech, von Hippel-Lindau and sex slavery.

Red_ribbonEven red stands for more than AIDS/HIV. It represents heart and stroke, substance abuse (not to be confused, Crabby is guessing, with addiction which is blue's responsibility) and vasculitis.

Gray-ribbonGray is for asthma, brain cancer, diabetes and – get this! - zombie awareness. That must be a joke, right?

But how could it be and still take real disease seriously. And that is, of course, part of what is wrong with all this. It's time to put away all ribbons and bracelets. They have become meaningless.

Now you might think all this puts Crabby in a really bad mood but you would be wrong. It is possible to be angry and not unhappy plus, all this talk of awareness ribbons has reminded Crabby of one of the best practical jokes she ever heard of.

100px-Yellow_ribbonIt happened some years ago when Crabby Old Lady's friend, Neil Thompson, noticed at a mall two identical SVUs SUVs parked next to one another. In every way but the license plates, they were indistinguishable except for the big, yellow, magnetic ribbon on the back of one.

If you knew Neil as well Crabby Old Lady does, you would easily understand that this was an irresistible opportunity for him. He checked to be sure no one was watching and as he strolled toward the store, casually plucked the ribbon from its mooring, plunked it in a similar position on the second car and continued on his way.

Crabby Old Lady thinks everyone should continue on their way without the awareness junk. It has long outlived its usefulness.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: A Lifetime of Speeding Tickets

Crabby Old Lady and the White House

Here we go again.

Remember when Crabby Old Lady told you about a letter emailed from her house to the White House? And then, a few days later, the pro forma reply that bore not a single reference to the subject of Crabby missive?

Last Friday, Crabby received a second email from the White House (full message is below) - this time addressing elder issues in general but again, making no meaningful reference to the topic of her letter.

Crabby had written to President Barack Obama about Social Security but more than half the latest response is about how wonderful the Affordable Care Act is for Medicare recipients. (It is, if not wonderful, a welcome improvement in some areas.)

Only three sentences of the five-paragraph, boilerplate letter address Social Security. One is simply PR, another is a pitch for the president's request that Congress authorize another one-time, $300 payment to Social Security beneficiaries as was distributed when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e., the “stimulus bill”) was passed by Congress in 2009. (Don't hold your breath.) A third says this:

“By protecting Social Security from risky privatization plans, we are preserving its solvency and maintaining it as a reliable income source for seniors.”

It's not at all clear that is what the Obama administration is doing but more importantly, it makes no mention of Crabby's point that by giving workers a two percent break on the payroll tax and replacing that money in the Social Security trust fund from general revenue, the seal on the trust fund door as been seriously breached.

Because it holds the budget purse strings, Congress can, if it chooses, refuse repayment thereby NOT “maintaining [Social Security] as a reliable income source for seniors.” Who needs protection from privatization when the trust fund door is left wide open?

Plus, there is no mention of the possibility, put forth by some in Congress during the last session, to change the method of computation of the cost-of-living adjustment that would drastically reduce those adjustments from what they are now.

The letter finishes with a bunch of links to government web pages for elders that, like the letter, do not address the reason Crabby wrote her letter in the first place.

If Crabby Old Lady were running the White House office to answer citizen mail, she wouldn't allow such claptrap out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. First, she would commission software to flag email with too many expletives. Just save them in the F*** File.

Crabby's software would also sort for keywords related to current and ongoing issues: Social Security, Medicare, Afghanistan, taxes, ACA, housing, unemployment, Wall Street, Occupy, banking, Wall Street, Syria, Israel, abortion, immigration, unions, budget, etc. etc. which would, obviously, be updated as needed.

Snailmail would be sorted by hand but could be easily scanned into the electronic file folders.

The White House communications office would supply Crabby's mail-answering crew with briefing books by topic so that responses would conform to fact. All the crew would be supplied with email addresses and phone numbers of designated federal experts on each topic or subtopic for fact checking.

Of course, there would also be parameters past which the workers are not authorized to speak/write.

Workers then could respond with answers that make sense. The letters would not need to be long or elaborate. But they could address the writer by name (the computer could do this part too) and speak to the actual point of the writer's message. Crabby would not have been disappointed to read:

Dear Crabby Old Lady:
Your point about the trust fund breach is well taken and the White House keeps its eye on that. The president also agrees with you about not changing the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment calculation...

(Or, they could have said, “disagrees” and briefly explained why.)

Now and then, as the White House tells us they occasionally do, a handful of really good letters could be shown to the president for him to answer personally. Yeah, they can promote doing it; that won't offend Crabby.

Crabby's point is that to her, the boilerplate letters are counterproductive. They make her feel a bit foolish for having wasted her time slaving over a hot keyboard to write a smart letter that made her points clearly and, maybe, effectively.

In fact, in an era when only wealth has access to power in Washington and the problems for the middle class seem insurmountable, the president could score a lot of points with disaffected voters by nothing more than greeting letter writers by name: Dear Crabby Old Lady:

That would have worked or, at least, softened the boilerplate.

Here is the White House letter, below which is the daily link to The Elder Storytelling Place.

February 3, 2012

Dear Friend:

Thank you for writing. I have heard from many Americans about issues affecting older Americans. Today's economic climate further intensifies the unique challenges faced by seniors, and I appreciate your perspective.

My Administration continues to support older Americans encountering unfair treatment, financial hardship, or difficulty obtaining health care. The historic Affordable Care Act strengthens Medicare by providing free preventive care and improving care coordination. It gradually closes the "donut hole gap" in prescription drug coverage, and provides individuals who fall into this gap a $250 rebate. This law also helps prevent and eliminate elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

Additionally, the Affordable Care Act implements unprecedented measures to fight waste and fraud, and to improve the quality and outcomes of care for Medicare beneficiaries. It ends unwarranted subsidies to private insurance companies, and takes important steps to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions, improve patient safety, modernize payment systems, and streamline record-keeping. It also realigns incentives to reward medical providers for the value, not the volume, of their care. For resources and information on how to prevent, report, and stop Medicare fraud, visit: www.StopMedicareFraud.gov. To learn more about the Affordable Care Act, please visit: www.HealthCare.gov.

By protecting Social Security from risky privatization plans, we are preserving its solvency and maintaining it as a reliable income source for seniors. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included an additional payment to supplement Social Security benefits for seniors struggling to make ends meet, and I have called on Congress to extend this relief again. Together, we will ensure all our citizens, not just a privileged few, can retire with dignity and security.

Finally, as we work to keep America's promises to senior citizens, we are helping ensure older Americans can continue to enrich communities across our Nation through service and community involvement. By expanding the Senior Corps and implementing the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, we are creating more opportunities for seniors to share their knowledge and experience with younger generations.

Thank you again for being in touch. To find assistance for senior citizens and their families, visit www.Eldercare.gov or call 1-800-677-1116. For help with Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE. Additional information and resources are available at: www.usa.gov/Topics/Seniors.shtml.

Barack Obama

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Hellos: The Church was Closed but Angels were on Duty

Crabby Old Lady on Komen/Planned Parenthood

The first thing Crabby Old Lady did last week when she read about Susan G. Komen For the Cure withdrawing their grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings was send a donation to Planned Parenthood.

Apparently, she was not alone. Hundreds of thousands of others agreed with Crabby, and Planned Parenthood raised $3 million or more, effectively overnight.

Of course, Crabby's contribution was not anywhere near as large as the $250,000 matching grant promised by New York City billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but Crabby's sentiment was not any smaller than his. For many years, Crabby has been suspicious of the pink-ribbon campaign in general and the Komen organization in particular.

It started sometime in the mid- or late-1980s when Komen was relatively new. Someone affiliated with them contacted Crabby about getting her friends to pay money to sponsor her participation in an upcoming walk. Crabby politely declined and thought that was the end of it.

But oh no. Then the high-pressure tactics began. Several calls from Komen associates at home over the next two or three weeks trying to guilt Crabby into agreement and then more calls to Crabby's office. Crabby was at a loss to understand why her personal participation was so important to someone. She never found out.

The calls eventually stopped and life went on without Crabby much noticing Komen campaigns except that through the years, she felt uncomfortable about the increasing number of pink-packaged, breast cancer products associated with Komen.

Crabby couldn't identify what bothered her until she read a 2001 rant from advocate journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, herself a breast cancer survivor, against Komen, other breast cancer charities and the relentless cheerfulness cancer patients are pressured to display:

"If you can't run, bike, or climb a mountain for the cure - all of which endeavors are routine beneficiaries of corporate sponsorship - you can always purchase one of the many products with a breast cancer theme...Bears, for example...

"What sustained me through the 'treatments' is a purifying rage, a resolve, framed in the sleepless nights of chemotherapy, to see the last polluter, along with, say, the last smug health insurance operative, strangled with the last pink ribbon.

"Cancer or no cancer, I will not live that long of course. But I know this much right now for sure: I will not go into that last good night with a teddy bear tucked under my arm."


Ms. Ehrenreich is interviewed in a new Canadian-produced documentary titled, Pink Ribbons, Inc. which takes on the corporatization of breast cancer. Here is a trailer:

Unlike Ehrenreich, it was not pink teddy bears that crystallized Crabby Old Lady's ire with Komen; it was when the organization partnered with KFC in 2010, putting pink ribbons on big buckets of greasy fried chicken. It turns out that other products wrapped in Komen pink are unhealthy too.

There is an excellent backgrounder on Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the current controversy by Susan Seltzer at Alternet.

For Crabby Old Lady, it has been many years of disheartening behavior by Komen that fed her growing anger about their motives. One of the biggest is this: Komen trademarked the phrase “for the cure” and according to several reports, spends at least a million dollars a year defending that trademark against other, smaller charities. From Huffington Post in 2010:

”So far, Komen has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred of these Mom and Pop charities, including Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure - and many of the organizations are too small and underfunded to hold their ground.”

A year ago, Stephen Colbert handled the Komen trademark issue much better than Crabby can do it for you:

So it wasn't much of a surprise to Crabby when Komen canceled their breast cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood particularly after Congress voted last year to defund Planned Parenthood. She always suspected the Komen leadership was as much about political power (Republican in this case) as cancer research.

Just yesterday, Crabby learned this from breast cancer advocate, Betty Pinson, reporting at Daily Kos:

”In 2009, Komen lobbied behind the scenes to weaken the health care bill (ACA) as it was being debated in Congress. They hired Hadassah Lieberman, wife of Joe, in an effort to convince Joementum to vote against the Public Option. Komen spent over $1 million in 2008 & 2009, on behind the scenes lobbying related to the health care reform bill, so who knows what else was on their agenda.”

Compared to Komen's flashy, rhinestone pinkness, Planned Parenthood is a no-nonsense - you might even say, boring - organization that goes about the day-to-day business of providing women's and children's health services.

According to Planned Parenthood, 75 percent of their clients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level. For many of them, Planned Parenthood is the only health care they can afford and/or is available in their area. Some people estimate that over the years, as many as one-fifth to one third of American women have used Planned Parenthood's services at least once in their lives.

In a rare moment of political kumbayah, the backlash against Komen was instant and fierce forcing the organization to restore funding to Planned Parenthood – sort of. Here is the less than fulsome retraction on the Komen blog posted Friday:

“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.”
Whatever that means.

For many years there have been public indications that the agenda of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is not as pinkly pure as they want us to believe. Crabby Old Lady thinks an important reminder from this episode is that it's good to follow our instincts and also do some research when deciding where to put our charitable dollars.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Andrea Kline: Nameless Neighbors