How Long Do You Want to Live?

EDITORIAL NOTE: At the bottom of this post is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show - a now-and-then conversation between me, the proprietor of Time Goes By, and my former husband, Alex Bennett. There is a lot of health talk in this one with a lot of laughing too. But first, some thoughts about living for hundreds, even a thousand years.

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In just 100 years, average life expectancy at birth worldwide has more than doubled, from 31 years in 1900 to 69 years in 2016. It differs wildly among nations from 50 years in Sierra Leone to 83 years in Japan.

However, the longer we live, the higher our life expectancy becomes so currently, average world-wide life expectancy at age 65 ranges from 74.7 years in Sierra Leone to 86.8 in Japan.

Throughout history, humankind has sought eternal youth - we are familiar with Ponce de Leon's search for the fountain of youth along with other who sought the storied philosopher's stone, varieties of panaceas and the elixir of life.

Today, people are looking harder than ever for a magic formula that will allow people to live to be hundreds of years old.

Some people put stock in learning about how to extend their lives from the “blue zones” scattered around the world. Blue zones, explains Reuben Westmaas at curiosity.com is, broadly,

”...a place where people live to be 100 at extraordinarily high rates, have an extraordinarily average high life expectancy, or an extraordinarily low mortality rate for middle-aged people.”

Millions of others believe a variety of supplements peddled online by hundreds of people claiming to be life extension “experts” will keep them alive for longer than without the supplements.

One of the earliest extreme longevity researchers is Aubrey de Grey, chief scientific officer at his own charity, the partially self-funded Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (Sens) Research Foundation in California. de Grey claims the first person to live to be 1,000 is already alive.

Here's a little video about de Grey from Canada's National Post. (Thank you, doctafil, for the link):

Zillionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Peter Thiel, who helps fund de Grey's research firm, is among some other wealthy individuals who are funding life extension and anti-aging research. Australian geneticist David Sinclair believes a pill that would extend human life is only 10 years away.

The two founders of Google are spending spending big bucks on extending life too:

”In 2013, Google started Calico, short for the California Life Company. Employing scientists from the fields of medicine, genetics, drug development and molecular biology, Calico's aim is to 'devise interventions that slow ageing and counteract age-related diseases.'”

Another tech billionaire, Larry Ellison, funds a research foundation that goes even further with a related, more expansive idea. The Guardian explains:

”They investigate the details of the ageing process with a view to finding ways to prevent it at its root, thereby fending off the whole slew of diseases that come along with ageing.

“Life expectancy has risen in developed countries from about 47 in 1900 to about 80 today, largely due to advances in curing childhood diseases. But those longer lives come with their share of misery. Age-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and Alzheimer’s are more prevalent than ever.”

Jay Olshansky, a sociologist at The University of Chicago School of Public Heath, rejects the standard approach of curing one disease at a time. He believes the life extension goal can be reached by concentrating on “healthspan” rather than lifespan:

”By tackling ageing at the root [heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's] could be dealt with as one, reducing frailty and disability by lowering all age-related disease risks simultaneously, says Olshansky. Evidence is now building that this bolder, age-delaying approach could work.”

And then we can all happily live de Grey's thousand years. Disease free. Right?

Every time I peruse the most recent life-extension literature, I am astonished that hardly anyone mentions the enormous drain on the planet's already strained resources that would ensue if we all lived hundreds of years.

South Africa and some other places are already running out of water. Once fertile lands around the world are turning into deserts. More frequent and disastrous weather events are wreaking havoc around the world. The oceans are rising and there are more problems to come from climate change that we have yet imagined.

Most basically, where would we put everyone? How would we feed them? The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that one-tenth of the world population, about 815 million people were dealing with chronic undernourishment in 2016.

I doubt that number has dropped in two years and I am hard pressed to believe that efforts to feed the hungry would be any better with a longer-lived world population than it is now.

Even if you can shrug that off, there are important ethical and philosophical questions. To scratch only the surface...

Would life be as meaningful without death?

How long would people be expected to work?

Would everyone's lives be extended or only rich people's?

Would marriage mean the same thing?

With more time, would people have more children?

Would life become boring?

Paul Root Wolpe, chief bioethicist for NASA and director of the center for ethics at Emory University, told the National Post:

“Look, I want to live to 150, too. I mean, don’t misunderstand me. I want to see my great-grandchildren. I want to see the first people on Mars. I want to see all that Aubrey [de Grey] wants to see. I just don’t pretend that it’s not a narcissistic desire because I can’t think of a single good that would give society.”

I'm with Wolpe on that. What about you? Would you want to live 200, 500, 1,000 years?

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Here is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show recorded on Wednesday 6 June 2018.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests after me, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.


The Elder Guardianship Scam

A few days ago, TGB reader Kate Gilpin sent me an email about what she calls her “latest ageism tale from the trenches.”

”Yesterday I had lunch with three wonderful, smart, interesting, funny women,” she writes. “I was the youngest there, at 80, and two of them were over 90. We all live independently and quite competently, thank you.

“One of us told a story of her experience considering whether or not to have some solar panels put on her roof. She talked to a consultant - I don't know if this was on the phone or if the consultant came to the house (they usually do).

“After some discussion of what was available, what required, etc., the consultant announced to my friend that in order to sign a contract with them, she would need to have a younger family member present in the room to endorse the proceedings.

“No, really. They wouldn't accept her own responsibility. She thanked them immediately for their time and terminated the consultation.

“I was shocked at this report and asked among my friends of various ages for their reactions to this incident. I got an unsurprising number of replies expressing dismay.”

Dismay? Try loathsome. Offensive. Disgusting,

Nevertheless, this story is only a mild version of what can happen just about anywhere in the United States: that someone you've never met nor heard of arrives at your home unannounced waving a Family Court “removal order” that gives him or her “guardianship” over your entire life from that moment forward.

The “guardian” then orders you to leave you home immediately, drops you (and your spouse if you have one) off at an assisted living facility and then steals all your worldly goods and money.

I first read of this horrible racket in a stunning article in The New Yorker last October reported by the estimable Rachel Aviv. As she recounts it in her piece, titled “How the Elderly Lose their Rights,” Rudy and Rennie North were ordered out of their home in Las Vegas by April Parks, owner of a company called A Private Professional Guardian:

”'Go and gather your things,' she said.

“Rennie began crying. 'This is my home,' she said.

“One of Parks' colleagues said that if the Norths didn't comply he would call the police. Rudy remembers thinking, You're going to put my wife and me in jail for this? But he felt too confused to argue...

“Rudy and Rennie had not undergone any cognitive assessments. They had never received a diagnosis of dementia.”

And that is only the beginning of the ordeal they suffered over the next two years that included being drugged at the assisted living home, depriving the North's adult daughter of information about their whereabouts or their medical condition and refusing to allow the daughter to visit her parents.

There is not a word in this long New Yorker story that is not important or worth reading and if you have access to the magazine's archives, you can read it here.

If not, fortunately for us, all elders and their families, last Sunday John Oliver devoted the largest part of his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, to the story of Rudy and Rennie North and the nightmare of unregulated, unsupervised state guardianship programs.

Here is Oliver's report with the accompaniment of an all-star team of elder celebrities: William Shatner, Rita Moreno, Fred Willard, Cloris Leachman, and Lily Tomlin:

Even with all they suffered, Roy and Rennie North are, to a degree, lucky - they eventually got out of their forced incarceration; others taken from their homes against their will died before anything could be done to help them.

The North's home, money and belongings are gone now and they live with their daughter who will support them for the rest of their lives.

”Parks spent all the Norths' money on fees – the hourly wages for her, her assistants, her lawyers, and the various contractors she hired – as well as on their monthly bills, which doubled under her guardianship.”

What happened to Roy and Rennie and so many others is a form of elder abuse. Numbers are elusive but it is estimated that 10 percent of people 65 and older are abuse victims - from strangers such as April Parks and, too often, from family members.

One way to help protect yourself or loved ones from such predatory “guardians” is to have all the appropriate health and end-of-life documents in order. These include your will, an advance directive, durable power of attorney, health care proxy, your state's POLST (Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment – called a MOLST is some states) and others.

An elderlaw attorney is a great help and there is a lot of useful information online to help you understand these documents.

When your documents are in order, keep copies in a safe place in your home (my elderlaw attorney suggested the freezer and so they sit, in a sealed plastic envelope). Be sure the people named in the documents – heirs, relatives, proxies, etc. - have copies and that your physicians have copies of what they need too.

After a lot of work from concerned people, Nevada has begun reforming its guardianship system and April Parks, along with her lawyer, office manager and husband, were indicted for perjury and theft, among other charges.

Richard Black, who is the son-in-law of another elder victim of this kind of scam in the Las Vegas area, is director of a national grassroots organization, Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship. He, reports Aviv, considers the Parks indictment “irrefutably shallow.”

”'It sends a strong message of: We're not going to go after the real leaders of this, only the easy prople, the ones who were arrogant and stupid enough to get caught,” he said.

“He works with victims in dozens of what he calls 'hot spots', writes Aviv, “places where guardianship abuse is prevalent, often because they attract retirees: Palm Beach, Sarasota, Naples, Albuquerque, San Antonio.

“[Black] said that the problems in Clark County [Nevada] are not unusual. 'The only thing that is unique is that Clark County is one of the few jurisdictions that doesn't seal its records, so we can see what is going on.'”

This kind of thing begins in small ways and grows. If it is all right for a random sales person to refuse selling a service to anyone he alone decides is incapable of making a decision about solar panels, it lays the groundwork for worse abuses of elders.



Thrifty Elders

Last year, inflation was so low that Social Security recipients received only a 2 percent cost-of-living (COLA) increase for 2018. But that was a relatively giant raise compared to 2017 (.3 percent) and 2016 (nothing).

Of course, I can't speak for you, but I live almost entirely on Social Security (about 85 percent of my income) and in each of the named years above, my expenses for Medicare Part B, Part D and supplemental coverage along with auto insurance and certainly food increased at much high rates.

In no way do I mean you should think I'm destitute or anywhere near. For many obvious reasons, it is much less expensive to live in retirement than during earning years and every month I surprise myself that I have money left over to add to the emergency fund.

But not a year goes by that the increases in my fixed expenses don't go up between five and 10 percent.

That doesn't sound like much except that over even a few years, it adds up to a great deal more than the Social Security COLA covers so I worry a bit about future price hikes.

Even so, I don't feel deprived but I know a good number of elders who live on Social Security only and whose benefit is smaller than mine. In those cases, hardship can be a daily reality.

So for many of us frugality and thrift are in order and, at least for myself if not others, I'm pretty good at it.

My most successful single savings came not quite two years ago when my Verizon cell phone bill jumped to just over $105 a month. Fed up, I finally did the homework and switched to one of the small providers that gives me the same service – unlimited calls and texts and one gigabyte of data - for $22 a month. How great is that, and the service is as reliable as with Verizon.

Since then, however, expenses for necessities listed above have more than eaten up the $83 I saved in that one change.

There isn't much other wiggle room in my budget. I would be willing to cut cable TV from my life but that company is the only local broadband provider in my area and they charge more for internet-only than for internet with basic cable. (Grrrrrrrrrrrr.)

I may cancel Netflix soon. In the past year or two, the dreck increasingly exceeds the better quality offerings. But that saves only $10 a month. Amazon Prime is, even with the recent 20 percent per year increase, still worth it for me. I save hundreds of dollars on shipping costs each year and more often than not, prices are better than elsewhere online.

Over the past year I lost a lot of weight. So much so that I've had to replace part of my wardrobe. There are a couple of excellent resale shops here so I've done well to get the replacements I need while spending embarrassingly little, and several items were brand new.

I still prefer to read on paper than a screen of any size so I have kept a few hard-copy magazine subscriptions. Somehow my favorites are the most expensive but I'm going to continue them until I'm stretched too thin to not give them up.

It's easy to cut down on whim shopping especially (I'm being blunt here) having faced what I thought was certain death within a handful of months and so what could I possibly need to purchase.

Now that I have been given a reprieve from the cancer for whatever period of time, I've already got a year's practice in that kind of thrift.

That leaves the possibility for further cuts to types of necessary spending that can be down-sized, like food. On Saturday, I visited the second farmer's market day of the season and I was shocked that the price of a locally-made jam I like has increased from $5 to $7 over winter.

A bunch of six – SIX! - small, sweet turnips are up to $4.50 now while fresh halibut, never cheap, is $25 a pound. (I stuck with the cod.) It's high season for certain strawberries and I can't remember if a pint was $4 last year or less but that's the price now.

I'm not a rabid coupon cutter but I watch for sales especially on food items I like to always have in the house. That's what supermarkets are for and I suspect I'll be buying fewer items at the farmer's market this year.

I think we should all buy local when we can, to keep our dollars in the community, but the prices at that market this year take my breath away.

And, finally, restaurants. I don't eat out often enough to need to reduce that spending and there are some good, reasonably priced restaurants near me.

You've probably noticed that gas prices are up and expected to climb further over the summer. Some experts are predicting that depending on how Trump administration foreign and domestic policy changes play out, we could be in for increasing inflation (which has already climbed a couple of points this year) and higher prices in general.

So this would be a good time, I think, for us to crowdsource our best ideas to keep down personal and household expenses.

Most TGB readers are old enough to have weathered several economic downturns and a few remember growing up in the Great Depression. That ought to be good for some suggestions. Who among us are cutting back and how are you doing it? What are your best tips and secrets for surviving hard times?



ELDER MUSIC: Murder Ballads

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

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Murder has been a topic of songs for centuries. I imagine it’s the same reason that it’s very popular in books, films and TV. People can get a vicarious thrill without all the messy reality. Today, most get their comeuppance, but not all. Here are some songs about murder.

I’ll start off gently with a song that doesn’t sound as if it fits, but it does. MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY can make even the worst material sound good (not worst musically, I’m talking about the content).

Michael Martin Murphey

In this case it’s one of the best known songs of the old west, The Streets of Laredo.

♫ Michael Martin Murphey - The Streets of Laredo


NICK CAVE released a whole album called “Murder Ballads” so there are plenty to choose from in that one. He has the help of KYLIE MINOGUE on the song I selected.

Nick & Kylie

As seems often the case in these songs, Nick bumps off Kylie just because he can. The song is Where the Wild Roses Grow.

♫ Nick Cave - Where the Wild Roses Grow


You knew JOHNNY CASH had to be present today, so I won’t disappoint.

Johnny Cash

Johnny’s song isn’t a tale of the old west, it’s a modern story. That’s not too surprising when you learn that Bruce Springsteen wrote it. Normally I’d have used Bruce’s version, but I think that Johnny really nails it. I imagine Bruce was really pleased when Johnny recorded Highway Patrolman.

♫ Johnny Cash - Highway Patrolman


Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darin both had huge hits with Mack the Knife. STING recorded the song too and his version, although also in English, was much closer to the original as written by Kurt Weill.

Sting

The song was part of his opera/musical/play with music “The Threepenny Opera” based on the much earlier “Beggar’s Opera”. In the original, Captain Macheath was a good guy, but by the time we get to this one (through a couple of other plays) he’s evolved into Mack the Knife. Jack the Ripper might have been an influence.

♫ Sting - The Ballad Of Mac The Knife


The song Knoxville Girl has a long history, stretching over several centuries, and a number of different countries. It’s also known by various names, but the story is basically the same – bloke kills girl for no apparent reason. Today we have the LOUVIN BROTHERS telling the tale.

Louvin Brothers

The straightforward style of the Louvins admirably suits the old ballad.

♫ Louvin Brothers - Knoxville Girl


Tom Dooley is one of the most famous murder ballads. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the Kingston Trio’s version. The Kingston based theirs on the one by FRANK PROFFITT.

Frank Proffitt

In the way of things at the time, they smoothed it out somewhat and changed some the words, but it’s certainly recognisable as the same song. Also in the way of these things, Frank learnt the song from his aunt who learnt if from her mother. The folk process in action. The song was originally called Tom Dula.

♫ Frank Proffitt - Tom Dooley


Very early in his career TOM RUSH recorded a song called Duncan and Brady.

Tom Rush

The song has had several names over the years and many people have recorded it. It tells about Harry Duncan, a bartender, who shot James Brady, a cop. It’s about an actual event that happened in St Louis.

Duncan was eventually hanged even though there are doubts about who was the actual shooter. No such doubts in the song though.

♫ Tom Rush - Duncan And Brady


MARTY ROBBINS is another artist pretty much guaranteed to be present today.

Marty Robbins

This is from his album “Gunfighter Ballads”, so you know that murder is involved somewhere. In this case it seems that They're Hanging Me Tonight.

♫ Marty Robbins - They're Hanging Me Tonight


Marty also recorded a fine version of the next song, but as we’ve just had him I went for someone else. In this case TONY CHRISTIE, who, to my ears, seems to be channeling Tom Jones.

Tony Christie

This was Tony’s biggest hit in England, where he’s from, and was written by Mitch Murray and Peter Callander. It’s yet another song of revenge, I Did What I Did For Maria.

♫ Tony Christie - I Did What I Did For Maria


I’ll end with my favorite song in this genre and when you listen to it you might start looking at me a little sideways. Surprisingly, several people have recorded it and the one I like best is by JACK KITTEL.

Jack Kittel

If anyone had bought the 45 record of the song (and I did) they would find that the flip side was the same song played backwards. Make of that what you will. The song is Psycho, written by Eddie Noack.

♫ Jack Kittel - Psycho



INTERESTING STUFF – 2 June 2018

WORLD'S OLDEST BLOGGER

She lives in Sweden. She's 106 years old. She didn't get her first computer until she was 100 years old. Her blog name is Bojan; her real name is Dagny Carlsson:

NOTE: Since I originally posted this video, it has been removed from embedding. You can watch it here.

Her blog is called Blogga Med Mig (Blog With Me) and you can see it here. (Thank TGB reader Joared for sending this item.)

UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANT SAVES LITTLE BOY

You must have seen this by now but it's too good to ignore. A 22-year-old immigrant from Ghana, Mamoudou Gassama, didn't hesitate to risk his own life to save this little boy hanging from a high balcony in Paris.

What an inspiration Gassama is and a rebuke to anyone who would close our borders to all immigrants. He has been hailed as a hero worldwide, met with French president Emmanuel Macron who offered him citizenship and has accepted a 10-month internship with the French fire brigade. Read more at the Daily Mail.

FREE CREDIT FREEZE

A year or more ago, when my personal information was caught up in one of the massive data breaches that happen so frequently these days, I froze my credit report at all three of the major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUniion.

That meant no one (except companies with which I already do business) could see my reports unless I lifted the freeze. Here's the catch: it cost me $10 at each agency to freeze those reports and there would be additional fees to unfreeze them if I was applying for a loan, credit card or other transaction that needs a credit report.

I was fairly pissed off since it's not my fault those three agencies can't or won't keep their electronic files safe from thieves.

But now, Congress has done us this small favor: Tucked in that awful bill reversing many Dodd-Frank banking provisions put in place after the 2008 crash, is a requirement that there be no fee for credit freezes.

”By Sept. 21,” reports the Washington Post, “everyone will be able to place and remove a 'security freeze' on their credit files for free.

“Such a freeze — also called a 'credit freeze' — blocks lenders from pulling your credit reports. It’s a powerful tool to thwart identity thieves from using your financial information to open credit cards or take out loans.”

There are more details at the Washington Post story.

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO TO AFFECT CLIMATE CHANGE?

The effects of climate change are awful for the future of mankind and for the planet in general, and it seems impossible that anything a single individual, like you or me, can do could change anything. But maybe not.

Just because you and I can't make a large difference in carbon emissions doesn't mean we each should not do what we can. There is more information especially about the effect of plastic on planet Earth in the latest issue of National Geographic and at the magazine's website.

A GRANDFATHER'S MEMORY BOOK

From The New York Times' Op-Docs video series, Colin Levy’s charming, illustrated remembrance, 'My Grandfather’s Memory Book.

NEW MEDICARE CARD IS ON ITS WAY TO ME

A couple of days ago, I got this email:

MedicareCardEmail

Yes. Medicare is sending the new Medicare cards to my state, Oregon, this month along with California, Alaska, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and some U.S. territories. Here is the map the email directed me to:

NewMedicareCardShipped

So sometime this month I'll have that new card. If you are signed up for MyMedicare, you too can receive an email to let you know when cards are being shipped to your state. Or sign up here.

COMMON PHRASES YOU DON'T KNOW ARE QUOTING SHAKESPEARE

This is fun – everyday phrases that started with William Shakespeare or were used in his era.

Knock, Knock. Who's there? - Macbeth, Act II, Scene III
"Knock, Knock. Who's there, in th' other devil’s name?” - Porter

Geez, he even invented the knock-knock joke?

Green-eyed monster - Othello, Act III, Scene III
"O, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on." — Iago

Kill with kindness – The Taming of the Shrew, Act IV, Scene 1
"This is a way to kill a wife with kindness, and thus I'll curb her mad and headstrong humor." — Petruchio

Mental Floss has 18 more familiar phrases most of us don't know are from Shakespeare.

PRO GUN RALLY – FROM THE DAILY SHOW

Comedy Central's The Daily Show host, Trevor Noah, sent one of the program's contributors, Roy Wood, Jr., to a pro-gun rally in Helena, Montana. Weirdness ensues. (Thank TGB reader Jim Stone for this.)

JAKE THE DIAMOND DOG

If you love baseball and dogs then you’ll appreciate the work that Jake the Diamond Dog does at minor league baseball games. Jake has been trained to retrieve the bats as well as to deliver water to players and referees on hot summer days.

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

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



Insomnia in Elders

A month or so ago, TGB reader Salinda left this comment:

”Over the past year, sleep has become very elusive, and despite good advice from herbalists and docs, meditation, lots of exercise, no screens before bed, ETC, the situation persists.

“For now a coping strategy is to take a nap each day, whenever possible. Not only is my capability to function impaired by the tiredness, it's also more difficult to keep a positive attitude. Would love to hear how others deal with this.”

Remember what sleep was like when we were teenagers? In 1957 when I was 16 years old, I woke one morning with my bed two feet from the wall and no memory of how that could have happened without my noticing, even while asleep. Soon, radio news informed me that there had been an earthquake during the night.

There is no way I could sleep through that nowadays and for more than a decade nothing the so-called “experts” recommend to treat insomnia had helped me.

People don't take insomnia seriously enough. Even though masters-of-the-universe types and tech workers have for many years made it a point of pride to brag that they work 16, 18 and more hours a day, regular lack of sleep can have important consequences and it affects more people than I thought.

According to the National Institutes of Health, it is common problem affecting nearly 50 percent of people 60 and older and about 30 percent of younger adults resulting in significant impairment.

Lack of sleep causes difficulty with concentration, memory, reasoning, problem solving, not to mention attention lapses and slowed reacton time.

”The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA),” reports Medscape, “estimates that at least 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths annually are attributable to sleepiness/fatigue.”

With so many people affected, you would think there are remedies, but there are not many that actually work well.

Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep. How many jokes have you heard over the years about old men getting up half a dozen times a night to use the bathroom? I'm living proof that it's a problem not only for men and until recently, I could never get back to sleep afterwards.

Treatments fall mainly into categories of “natural,” of over-the-counter and prescription drugs, and of alternative or life-style changes. Before you try anything, be sure to find out if your insomnia is a result of an underlying disease or condition, or a side effect of medications. If not, here is a short overview.

NATURAL
Acupuncture, guided imagery, yoga, hypnosis, biofeedback, aromatherapy, relaxation, meditation and massage fall into this category. There are herbs like melatonin and valerian that work for some people.

Exercise too, including tai chi, are useful although it needs to be no later than three or four hours before bedtime.

OVER-THE-COUNTER SLEEP REMEDIES
The names of these are probably familiar to you: Nytol, Sominex, Tylenol PM, etc. They contain antihistamines which induce drowsiness and they lose effectiveness over fairly short periods of time.

PRESCRIPTION SLEEP REMEDIES
Ativan, Xanax, Valium, Restoril and others are benzodiazepines which are habit-forming, contribute to falling and can be difficult to stop using. Old people's bodies metabolize drugs of all kinds differently from younger adults and because drugs are almost never tested on people older than 65, it is hard to know what is safe.

There is a comprehensive list of safety and efficacy of sleep medications in older adults at this website.

LIFESTYLE CHANGES
These suggestions for a good night's sleep may seem obvious but many studies have shown that they work as well of and, often, better than drugs.

Keep a regular sleep schedule

Avoid heavy meals, smoking, alcohol, or caffeine near bedtime

Avoid naps during the day

Keep your sleep surroundings as dark as possible

Don't watch TV in bed (I record late-night shows for later viewing)

Don't use other tech toys in bed – no phone, tablet, etc.

A few experts suggest no reading in bed either

Make sure you have a comfortable bed in a room not too hot and not too cold

If, in the end you can't get to sleep asleep, specialists suggest you get out of bed, leave the room and return when you feel sleepy again

SECOND SLEEP

That last suggestion brings me to a historic practice that was similar: First Sleep/Second Sleep which I wrote about here in 2012. I first heard about it in a fascinating book, At Day's Close – Night in Times Past by A. Roger Ekirch who posits that from about 1500 to 1850, before the advent of artificial light, people may have commonly slept in two shifts – so commonly that hardly anyone thought to mention it.

”...fragments in several languages...,” writes Ekirch, “give clues to the essential features of this puzzling pattern of repose.

“Both phases of sleep lasted roughly the same length of time, with individuals waking sometime after midnight before returning to rest...Men and women referred to both intervals as if the prospect of awakening in the middle of the night was common knowledge that required no elaboration...”

“After midnight, pre-industrial households usually began to stir. Many of those who left their beds merely needed to urinate...

“Some persons, however, after arising, took the opportunity to smoke tobacco, check the time, or tend a fire. Thomas Jubb, an impoverished Leeds clothier, rising around midnight, 'went into Cow Lane & hearing ye clock strike twelve' returned 'home & went to bed again.'”

I've tried this in the past and it worked for me to a degree except that too often, I stayed up several hours then slept in too late in the morning than I felt comfortable with.

CANNABIS
For the past several months, I've been using a tincture of cannabis to help me sleep and now, after at least a decade of not sleeping more than three or four hours a night, it feels like a miracle to me.

I use a tincture of THC (the non-high-producing CBD works for some people) and I'm easily getting seven or eight hours of sleep a night. Plus, when I get up to use the bathroom, I can go right back to sleep when I return to bed.

I could give you a long list of online websites to consult but it's just as easy for you to search “insomnia remedies” or “insomnia treatment”. There is an enormous amount of information and with minor discrepancies, most agree with one another.

Meanwhile, let's help out Salinda. What is your experience with insomnia? What have you tried that did not work and what have you used that does?

(Remember: no medical advice, no recommendations of medications, no links to other websites.)



How Time Slips Away in Old Age – Or Maybe Not

Sometimes I go to bed on a Monday night and wake up on Friday morning. Okay, not literally but it often feels that way.

In addition, I am now so terrible at recalling how long ago something happened that I have taken to warning people - “well, when I say a year ago, it is just as likely to have been two or three years ago, or the reverse, six months ago.”

Year-end holidays are often the touchstone for old people with time shift problems. It's common for us to say, in March for example, “Christmas will be here before we know it.” And it usually is.

The increasing speed of time has come up frequently on this blog - how it is that the older we get, the faster time passes. For those posts, I looked into the issue and there are dozens of explanations but all are guesses. Nobody really knows.

Now, I have a new-ish guess.

As the years have passed in my retirement, my energy has waned - physical AND psychic - so I ration my time. One “event” a day is pretty much my limit. I can have a lunch date or a doctor appointment or go to a movie or visit with friends or grocery shop, etc. but rarely two per day and never three.

That's it. I'm done for the day and when I can, I like to take the next day off from public encounters.

Sometimes I am amazed to recall my middle, working years. Drop the laundry off on the way to work, stop at the bank before the office, produce a live TV show at 9AM, prep the next day's show with production meetings, pre-interviews, video editing, script writing while keeping a lunch date on the other side of town, meeting friends for drinks after work and later, a dinner date.

Whew. It exhausts me now to even think that once was a normal day – no big deal.

A couple of weeks ago, I had way overbooked myself for a single day. Doctor, veterinarian, prescription refill, groceries, book shop, lunch, writing the next day's blog post. Way too much activity for me these days.

But then a funny thing happened. As I noted above, my days generally run into one another so that I can barely recall them. In the case of my overbooked day, however, in retrospect it felt like it lasted a long time, much longer than what my old-age “normal” day generally feels like.

It felt like it lasted as long as eight or 10 hours should last if they hadn't been speeding up so much. And I think I know why.

I had many more encounters that busy day with more people in more places than I usually allow in a week. I did so many different kinds of things that when I recalled them, I had so sense of time disappearing quickly, as I usually do.

So maybe that is the trick to keep time from slipping away: not necessarily to be busy, busy, busy, but to make sure we participate in several varied and/or different activities during each day. It would probably help for at least a couple of them to be out of the house.

That's just a guess but I did a quick search around the web and of course, I'm not the first person to have thought of this. Scientific American tells us:

”Our brain encodes new experiences, but not familiar ones, into memory, and our retrospective judgment of time is based on how many new memories we create over a certain period.

“In other words, the more new memories we build on a weekend getaway, the longer that trip will seem in hindsight.”

Further, explains Scientific American, the phenomenon has been dubbed the “holiday paradox” and is a good clue to why time seems to pass more quickly as we age:

”From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments.

“As a result, our early years tend to be relatively over-represented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer.”

I like this explanation a whole lot better than any I recall from previous research and there is even a remedy. How cool is that.



Happy 93rd Birthday, Darlene Costner

Well, her birthday is actually tomorrow but this post will still be at the top of the home page then so we get to celebrate the beginning of Darlene's 94th year for two days.

Think of it. Calvin Coolidge was the U.S. president when Darlene was born in 1925, and she has lived through 16 more presidents' terms. She is old enough to recall World War II as a young adult. And to have witnessed teenagers' screaming adulation of crooner Frank Sinatra long before The Beatles came along.

Darlene is one of the people ageing experts call the “oldest old” - a designation given to people 85 and up. She shares that great age with these celebrities in the trailer for a 2017 HBO documentary titled, If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast. (Thank you Susan Penn for the link.)

They are right, those celebrities – mostly comedians – that no one knows why some live to become, as Darlene once labeled herself, one of the ancients.

I've known Darlene, via our blogs, email and phone calls, for at least a decade, probably longer. She is a fiercely partisan political animal with no reticence about stating her opinions. For many years she ran her own blog and more recently has become one of Time Goes By's most prolific commenters.

Whatever she says, it's always what she really feels. Recently, she wrote about living as one of the ancients:

”There are still days when I feel like I am going to live forever and the specter of death is not looming closer. Of course, that's nonsense. Nonetheless, that's a whole lot better than living in the doom and gloom of the knowledge that one day you will be no more.

“When the doom and gloom thoughts hover I am more prone to think of what my death will mean to my loved ones. I vacillate between thinking that it may be a relief to them to not have to worry about me anymore or thinking that they will miss my presence in their lives. Then I go from selfishly hoping they will miss me or being magnanimous and hoping that they are not too sad. How stupid is that?

“Today is a good day; the pain is minimum and so I will just enjoy the day. I can still hear the twitter of the birds joyously preparing their nests for another generation of feathered flyers and the morning air is cool so all is right with my world.”

She is also a great contributor of items for Saturdays' Interesting Stuff posts here and I've got a new one Darlene sent this week. It's longer than I usually publish and I don't necessarily agree with them all but I think there is in this list something for everyone. Like pretty much everything in life, take what you can use and leave the rest.

No author or origin is listed – it was one of those emails that gets passed along – this with some advice for people “between 65 and death.”

  1. It’s time to use the money you saved up. Use it and enjoy it. Don’t just keep it for those who may have no notion of the sacrifices you made to get it. Remember there is nothing more dangerous than a son or daughter-in-law with big ideas for your hard-earned capital. Warning: This is also a bad time for investments, even if it seems wonderful or fool-proof. They only bring problems and worries. This is a time for you to enjoy some peace and quiet.

  2. Stop worrying about the financial situation of your children and grandchildren, and don’t feel bad spending your money on yourself. You’ve taken care of them for many years, and you’ve taught them what you could. You gave them an education, food, shelter and support. The responsibility is now theirs to earn their own money.

  3. Keep a healthy life, without great physical effort. Do moderate exercise (like walking every day), eat well and get your sleep. It’s easy to become sick, and it gets harder to remain healthy. That is why you need to keep yourself in good shape and be aware of your medical and physical needs Keep in touch with your doctor, do tests even when you’re feeling well. Stay informed.

  4. Always buy the best, most beautiful items for your significant other. The key goal is to enjoy your money with your partner. One day one of you will miss the other, and the money will not provide any comfort then, enjoy it together. (For us this should read buy the best for yourself.)

  5. Don’t stress over the little things. You’ve already overcome so much in your life. You have good memories and bad ones, but the important thing is the present. Don’t let the past drag you down and don’t let the future frighten you. Feel good in the now. Small issues will soon be forgotten.

  6. Regardless of age, always keep love alive. Love your partner, love life, love your family, love your neighbor and remember: “A man is not old as long as he has intelligence and affection.”

  7. Be proud, both inside and out. Don’t stop going to your hair salon or barber, do your nails, go to the dermatologist and the dentist, keep your perfumes and creams well stocked. When you are well-maintained on the outside, it seeps in, making you feel proud and strong.

  8. Don’t lose sight of fashion trends for your age, but keep your own sense of style. There’s nothing worse than an older person trying to wear the current fashion among youngsters. You’ve developed your own sense of what looks good on you – keep it and be proud of it. It’s part of who you are.

  9. ALWAYS stay up-to-date. Read newspapers, watch the news. Go online and read what people are saying. Make sure you have an active email account and try to use some of those social networks. You’ll be surprised what old friends you’ll meet. Keeping in touch with what is going on and with the people you know is important at any age.

  10. Respect the younger generation and their opinions. They may not have the same ideals as you, but they are the future, and will take the world in their direction. Give advice, not criticism, and try to remind them that yesterday’s wisdom still applies today.

  11. Never use the phrase: “In my time.” Your time is now. As long as you’re alive, you are part of this time. You may have been younger, but you are still you now, having fun and enjoying life.

  12. Some people embrace their golden years, while others become bitter and surly. Life is too short to waste your days on the latter. Spend your time with positive, cheerful people, it’ll rub off on you and your days will seem that much better. Spending your time with bitter people will make you older and harder to be around.

  13. Do not surrender to the temptation of living with your children or grandchildren (if you have a financial choice, that is). Sure, being surrounded by family sounds great, but we all need our privacy. They need theirs and you need yours. If you’ve lost your partner (our deepest condolences), then find a person to move in with you and help out. Even then, do so only if you feel you really need the help or do not want to live alone.

  14. Don’t abandon your hobbies. If you don’t have any, make new ones. You can travel, hike, cook, read, dance. You can adopt a cat or a dog, grow a garden, play cards, checkers, chess, dominoes, golf. You can paint, volunteer or just collect certain items. Find something you like and spend some real time having fun with it.

  15. Even if you don’t feel like it, try to accept invitations. Baptisms, graduations, birthdays, weddings, conferences. Try to go. Get out of the house, meet people you haven’t seen in a while, experience something new (or something old). But don’t get upset when you’re not invited. Some events are limited by resources, and not everyone can be hosted The important thing is to leave the house from time to time. Go to museums, go walk through a field. Get out there.

  16. Be a conversationalist. Talk less and listen more. Some people go on and on about the past, not caring if their listeners are really interested. That’s a great way of reducing their desire to speak with you. Listen first and answer questions, but don’t go off into long stories unless asked to. Speak in courteous tones and try not to complain or criticize too much unless you really need to. Try to accept situations as they are. Everyone is going through the same things, and people have a low tolerance for hearing complaints. Always find some good things to say as well.

  17. Pain and discomfort go hand in hand with getting older. Try not to dwell on them but accept them as a part of the cycle of life we’re all going through. Try to minimize them in your mind. They are not who you are, they are something that life added to you. If they become your entire focus, you lose sight of the person you used to be.

  18. If you’ve been offended by someone – forgive them. If you’ve offended someone - apologize. Don’t drag around resentment with you. It only serves to make you sad and bitter. It doesn’t matter who was right. Someone once said: “Holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Don’t take that poison. Forgive, forget and move on with your life.

  19. If you have a strong belief, savor it. But don’t waste your time trying to convince others. They will make their own choices no matter what you tell them, and it will only bring you frustration. Live your faith and set an example. Live true to your beliefs and let that memory sway them.

  20. Laugh. Laugh A LOT. Laugh at everything. Remember, you are one of the lucky ones. You managed to have a life, a long one. Many never get to this age, never get to experience a full life. But you did. So what’s not to laugh about? Find the humor in your situation.

  21. Take no notice of what others say about you and even less notice of what they might be thinking. They’ll do it anyway, and you should have pride in yourself and what you’ve achieved. Let them talk and don’t worry. They have no idea about your history, your memories and the life you’ve lived so far. There’s still much to be written, so get busy writing and don’t waste time thinking about what others might think. Now is the time to be at rest, at peace and as happy as you can be!

  22. REMEMBER: Life is too short to drink bad wine or warm beer.

Darlene has contributed not only oodles of Interesting Stuff items over many years, her wise words in the comments, almost daily, are lessons for us “youngsters.”

Here is Darlene's big, beautiful birthday bouquet:

Dasrlenebirthdayflowers


ELDER MUSIC: Scott Joplin

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

* * *

Scott Joplin

SCOTT JOPLIN wrote more than 40 ragtime tunes, a ballet and two operas. There were probably more compositions that are now lost.

One of those is his first opera “A Guest of Honor” which was about Teddy Roosevelt hosting a White House dinner in honor of civil rights leader Booker T. Washington. The opera was performed once, but due to nefarious shenanigans the score was confiscated and destroyed.

Most of you will be familiar with some of his music but I think I have some things that may be new to you or, perhaps, played differently from the way you’re used to hearing them.

Scott was born in Texas and he started his musical career as part of a vocal quartet as well as a teacher of guitar and mandolin. His big break occurred when he performed his music at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

Entertainer

By far my favorite album of Scott Joplin’s music is by ITZHAK PERLMAN and ANDRÉ PREVIN.

Perlman-Previn

That album came out in the seventies and was called “The Easy Winners” and the music was scored for violin and piano. When you have two of the best playing those instruments it’s bound to be a great album, and it is.

From that is one of Scott’s most recognizable tunes, The Entertainer.

♫ Itzhak Perlman & André Previn - The Entertainer


Elite_Syncopations

For a solo piano version of Scott's music, RICHARD DOWLING is hard to beat.

Richard Dowling

He has a light touch playing the music. I've found that many others tend to thump the keyboard. This is one of the more famous compositions, Elite Syncopations.

♫ Richard Dowling - Elite Syncopations


Treemonisha

“Treemonisha” is unique. It’s the only opera written by a black person about the reconstruction era after the civil war who actually lived during that period. It’s also a splendid piece of music and we’ll have three excerpts from it.

Much of it was thought to be lost but many years of research and much digging around have brought it back to life. It’s really only been in recent years that a full production has been possible.

From act 2, we have Treemonisha (a young, educated freed slave) being rescued by Remus just as she’s about to be thrown into a wasps’ nest. It’s called The Rescue.

♫ Treemonisha - The Rescue


Maple_Leaf_Rag

One of his first compositions was Maple Leaf Rag which is certainly one of his most recognisable tunes. It pretty much single-handedly was responsible for the popularity of ragtime music.

Instead of the usual piano version, here is DAVE VAN RONK playing it on guitar.

Dave Van Ronk

♫ Dave Van Ronk - Maple Leaf Rag


Felicity

Felicity Rag was published in 1911 and Scott Hayden might have had a hand in the composition as well. Once again we have Richard Dowling playing piano.

♫ Richard Dowling - Felicity


Harmony Club Waltz

JEAN-PIERRE RAMPAL was probably the finest flute player of the 20th century, and he’s joined by JOHN RITTER on piano.

Rampal-Ritter

They perform Harmony Club Waltz, a tune published in 1901.

♫ Jean-Pierre Rampal - Harmony Club Waltz


Treemonisha

More from Treemonisha, from act 3. Monisha was Treemonisha’s mum, and she implores Ned, Treemonisha’s dad, that I Want to See My Child.

♫ Treemonisha - I Want to See My Child


Solace (A Mexican Serenade)

Spanish-influenced music was popular in the 19th century, mostly from Cuba, but also New Orleans and Mexico. Scott picked up on that and wrote a tune called Solace, subtitled A Mexican Serenade. This is played by Itzhak and André.

♫ Itzhak Perlman & André Previn - Solace (A Mexican Serenade)


Chrysanthemum

Jean-Pierre and John again with a jaunty little number called The Chrysanthemum. It’s sub-titled An Afro-American Intermezzo and was published in 1904.

♫ Jean-Pierre Rampal - The Chrysanthemum


Treemonisha

Treemonisha has been elected leader of the group and she was instrumental in removing from the group various ne’er-do-wells who were preying on them. They acknowledge her by performing We Will Trust You as Our Leader.

♫ Treemonisha - We Will Trust You as Our Leader


Sunflower Slow Drag

I'll end with the man himself. SCOTT JOPLIN recorded this in 1901.

Scott Joplin

Well, you can put all sorts of interpretation on the word "record". What he did was create a piano roll. That could be considered an early form of recording.

Scott was considered a fine pianist early in his life and some revelled in beating him in cutting contests. By the time these piano rolls were recorded, he was suffering from terminal syphilis and it’s thought they may have been doctored somewhat. The same thing happens today with recordings.

Anyway, this is Sunflower Slow Drag.

♫ Scott Joplin - Sunflower Slow Drag



INTERESTING STUFF – 26 May 2018

REMAKING LONDON'S ICONIC RED PHONE BOOTHS

Since just about everyone has a mobile phone now, old fashioned phone booths are going the way of dodo. People in London, however, are finding interesting new uses for their iconic red booths. Two examples - a defibrillator and a community library:

DefibrillatorPhoneBooth

Communitylibraryphonebooth

Both photos by Andrew Testa for The New York Times where there are more photos and an interesting story to go with them.

WHAT WOODY ALLEN TOLD DIANE KEATON ABOUT DEATH

Friend and TGB reader, Richard Lombard, sent this quotation in response to my announcement earlier this week of Ollie the cat's death.

Last June, Richard explained in his email, the American Film Institute (AFI) presented actor Diane Keaton with a lifetime achievement award. Here is what Woody Allen told Keaton when he presented her with the award – video and transcript below:

”She's always had a morbid fear of death. And I tell her there's nothing to worry about. Because if you've ever had a colonoscopy, they give you an injection and you're out! And it's black and peaceful and nice. And so death is like a colonoscopy. The problem is that life is like the prep day."

At the end of his message, Richard noted to me, “Ollie is in the beautiful place. We are still doing the prep!”

INTERIOR DEPARTMENT TO LIFT RESTRICTIONS ON HUNTING BEAR AND WOLVES

According to NBC News (and many other news organizations),

”The Trump administration is moving to reverse Obama-era rules barring hunters on some public lands in Alaska from baiting brown bears with bacon and doughnuts and using spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs hibernating in their dens.

“The National Park Service issued a notice Monday of its intent to amend regulations for sport hunting and trapping in national preserves to bring the federal rules in line with Alaska state law.

“Under the proposed changes, hunters would also be allowed to hunt black bears with dogs, kill wolves and pups in their dens, and use motor boats to shoot swimming caribou.

“These and other hunting methods — condemned as cruel by wildlife protection advocates — were outlawed on federal lands in 2015.”

My heart is breaking. It has always baffled me what people get out of shooting animals for sport.

The public has 60 days from Tuesday 22 May to comments on the proposed roll-back of sane hunting regulations. You can do that at the regulations.gov website.

In the search box, type "RIN (1024-AE38)" (with the quotation marks). When the next page loads, click on the “Comment Now” button.

When the comment page loads, type your message and include the words “National Park Service” or “NPS”. And maybe you could pass this on to your readers or friends.

TWO LYNX MEET ON AN (ALMOST) DESERTED ROAD

A testy conversation ensues:

(The internet tells me the plural of lynx is lynxes. I think that sounds weird, so I made the plural lynx for today.)

“EMPATHY” CARDS THAT SAY WHAT YOU'RE THINKING

My friend Ann Burack-Weiss sent these/ The sentiments are honest, real and hard to find:

Empathycards

You can purchase these cards and many other more “traditional” ones at Emily McDowell Studio along with a variety of other products. (Warning: this website is heavily commercial – many things for sale – but they are much more clever and interesting than many.)

TRUE FACTS ABOUT ANTS

As the Big Geek Daddy page explains:

”This is the latest video in the True Facts series from Ze Frank. Each episode is like a miniature science lesson from a teacher full of humor and sarcasm that any student would find entertaining.”

I agree – see if you do too.

RULES FOR AIRLINE PASSENGERS

My friend Dave Delaney posted these rules on his LinkedIn page. You wouldn't think grownups need to be told such things as, but apparently not:

Only jerks recline their seats on domestic flights. Passengers are already packed like sardines up there.

Avoid the airport seats near power outlets if you’re not going to use them. Be sure to unplug and share that power once you are all juiced up.

If the person you strike up a conversation with doesn’t ask you questions, it’s time to be quiet.

You can read the rest of Dave's rules at his LinkedIn page.

HOW HAS YOUR U.S. COUNTY CHANGED FROM 2000-2016

Pew Research compiled the statistics on how some demographics have changed over 16 years in every U.S. county. Just as useful, Pew allows embedding this interactive feature.

Just type in the name of your county and click on the correct one in the dropdown menu. Your selected county information will appear:

If for some reason this doesn't work here, you'll find the Pew Research page here which also has more information about the survey.

THE SOLDIER AND THE KITTEN

As you might imagine, I've been thinking a lot this week about how important our pets are to us. In this case, a soldier with PTSD and a stray kitten rescued each other.

* * *

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

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


Old People and Skin Hunger

”...the part I actually find hard about being single is that I never get touched, and this is always overlooked and undervalued.”

I ran across that statement in a story at Medium written by Emma Lindsay who is, gleaned from her story titled Being Single is Hard, much younger than most of us who hang out at this blog.

But she's writing about something that affects elders at least as much as people her age. In the past, I've called it “skin hunger.” People also call it “touch hunger.” The meaning is obvious – the primal need of all humans (and, probably, some animals) to be touched, one living being to another.

When I last wrote about touch hunger here, I quoted my friend Ken Pyburn who had explained to me that it is

”...the idea that when, through death, divorce or other circumstance, we live without a partner in old age, we can feel our skin longing, even aching for the touch of another person.”

It can be a sexual longing or not. There is a poignant observation from an old woman, Estelle, who took a class about how to write sex scenes from reporter Steve Almond. He describes her first essay:

”What emerged was miraculous: a heartbreaking scene between an elderly couple in a museum,” explains Almond.

“The woman is full of suppressed longings. She fantasizes about going back to their hotel room and lying back on the bed and letting the man part her legs and her sex. She can’t express these desires out loud, though, so instead, when they get back to their room, the sexual act focuses on the man and his failure to achieve an erection.”

The woman, half a century older than the other students, was shy about reading her essay aloud, but she got through it. And then, as I said in that previous post, Almond's essay really got interesting:

“After she finished reading,” he continued, “Estelle glanced around the room sheepishly. I can’t remember her exact words, but they went something like this:

“'I came here today because I want people to know that elderly people still have desires. Nobody wants to think about it. But we do. I live in a retirement community where it’s mostly women and the men are sort of beat up. But we still have needs. We still need to be touched.'”

Yes, that is so: “We still need to be touched.”

It starts in infancy – babies do not thrive if they are not touched and held – and the need doesn't go away with age.

Some people have been attributing a growing prevalence of skin hunger to fewer people choosing marriage, preferring to live alone. Others believe a great deal of the problem is a result of technology and

”...the disconnected lifestyle a majority of the population leads. In America, work life and student life is often demanding, allowing little time for intimate, one-on-one periods with friends, family and loved ones.

“When individuals do find time to be around loved ones, exhaustion or unhappiness frequently stall or prevent intimate interactions, both of sexual and nonsexual nature.”

I'm not certain I buy that explanation in general, but my reluctance doesn't make the the need less real.

In the past, I have found solace in massage. That hasn't been possible for the last 11 months due to recovery from surgeries but I'm about ready to get back to that once a month or so. Here is something new (to me, anyway) going on to deal with this hunger - professional cuddlers.

At the website of one such enterprise, you can book a cuddler or learn how to become one. Here is a short video from the co-founders of The Cuddlist:

Without being able to explain the reason, I am more comfortable with a masseur or masseuse but that is undoubtedly an individual choice.

I've lived alone, now, for decades and what I have missed during all these years is not the sexual touching as much as the casual touches of two people long familiar with one another – a pat on the shoulder while passing by, holding hands on a walk, the warmth of another person sitting or sleeping next to me.

But, as I am suddenly and acutely aware after the death of Ollie the cat last week, our pets go a long way to helping meet this mutual need.

What's your take on this?



What the Oldest Old Know

EDITORIAL NOTE: At the bottom of this post is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show - a now-and-then conversation between me, the proprietor of Time Goes By, and my former husband, Alex Bennett. Today's topic is cats. But first, I want to tell you about one of the best books of the year.

* * *

John Leland, an exceptional reporter, joined The New York Times in 2000 and has been covering retirement and religion for the paper since 2004.

In 2015, The Times published Leland's year-long series, “85 and Up” about six of the oldest old living in New York City, all age 85 or older. I was hooked with his introduction which reads in part:

”Early this year, I began visiting these six elders, asking simple questions about their lives. What gets them going in the mornings? What are their aspirations, their concessions to age? Do they want to live to 100? Without the daily drumbeat of work or family responsibilities, where do they find meaning and purpose?

“What they shared, each in a different way, was a story of abrupt change — the loss of a spouse or a home, a sudden turn in health, the arrival of new love, the pain that signals only more pain to come...

“They buried brothers, sisters, parents, children, peers. They lived through the Depression, World War II, Nazi labor camps and the AIDS epidemic, but now they often find themselves with no one to listen to their memories.

“Few ever expected to be so old. None had a formula for how to do it.

“Their lives are a New York soap opera, unscripted.”

Earlier this year Leland, who is nearly three decades younger than the youngest of his six subjects, told fellow New York Times reporter, Jane Brody:

“These people totally changed my life. They’ve given up distractions that make us do stupid things and instead focus on what’s important to them.

“To a person, they don’t worry about things that might happen. They worry when it happens, and even then they don’t worry. They just deal with it.

“At whatever age we are, we can choose to adapt to whatever happens. We have influence over whether we let things knock us out.”

These six elders are a good cross-section of humanity at any age: an African-American man who is a veteran of World War II, a gay man whose partner of 60 years had died six years previously, a Chinese woman who maintains her social connections playing mahjong, a woman who found a new boyfriend in the retirement home where she lives and a well-known film director.

After repeated visits with each of his subjects over a year's time, Leland put together an extraordinarily informative and poignant story about – ahem, “what it's really like to get old” (see this blog's subtitle in the banner).

As he told host Terri Gross recently on her NPR radio program, Fresh Air, before this series, he was afraid of old age and sometimes still is:

”...when I started doing this series, I'd set out to - what one of the people I talked to calls - rewriting the Book of Job and doing a story on how this is terrible about aging.

“And you fall down, and you break your hip, and then it's all over. And you lose your eyesight, and then your friends all die, and then it's over. And your heart stops working. And you don't have sex anymore. And you don't work. And you don't have anything that gives you purpose. So now, it's all over.

“And that's what I thought old age was. But then you spend time with people, and a lot of that stuff is a part of their lives in old age but in no case was it how they defined themselves. So I wasn't getting it - what the truth about their lives was as they saw it.”

You can listen to Terry Gross's entire interview with John Leland, or you can read the transcript of their conversation here.

LelandBookCover125 In January this year, a book based on Leland's conversations with the six elders was published. Happiness Is a Choice You Make: Lessons from a Year Among the Oldest Old, received near-unanimous rave reviews.

In this short video from PBS NewsHour in March, Leland explains that learning how to think about death from his elder subjects changed how he lives:

During the past 20-odd years I've read hundreds of books on just about every aspect of growing old. There is a lot of dreck among the good ones but none has captured what it's really like to be old with such campassion, empathy, humor, genuine interest and, eventually, understanding as Leland does.

That happened because above all else, he is an excellent reporter who took the time to listen carefully and, as he says, “let them guide me through the world as they saw it."

The book is available at all the usual retailers online and off. If you have access to The New York Times, the original series begins here.

Leland's followup to the original series was published last December in The Times.

Given all the age-related reading I do, you'd think I pretty well have the subject covered and to a degree, I do. But John Leland opened my eyes, my thoughts and my imagination to a good deal more than I have considered before. Books like Leland's don't come around every day.

* * *

Here is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show recorded on Tuesday 22 May 2018.

If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests after me, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.



Ollie the Cat: 2004 – 2018

PosingonBed

That's Ollie the cat in the bedroom late last year, healthy if a bit too fat. A few months ago, he got sick, made it obvious over time that he no longer liked his regular food and nothing else we tried was satisfactory to him. He'd have a few bites and walk away.

There had been no definitive diagnosis and even with the veterinarian's best efforts, Ollie continued to lose weight until his bones were sticking out. Last Thursday morning, he took up residence in a dark and comfy cupboard hidy-hole in the dining room – a place he otherwise had never shown the slightest interest.

On Friday night, I dragged out blankets and pillows from the bedroom and tried to sleep on the floor next to Ollie discovering, in the process, that I am officially too old now to sleep on the floor, even with carpeting and a couple of blankets for more padding.

I lasted there a couple of hours before returning to bed but as far as I could tell in the morning, Ollie didn't mind my having been in another room overnight.

He also didn't mind when I pet him but he didn't really care either – no purring and only the slightest acknowledgement of my touch.

His once bright green eyes had become dull and so on Saturday, another veterinarian from an organization called Compassionate Care came to our home so that Ollie's departure into the great kitty unknown could be done in peaceful, comfortable and familiar surroundings.

Our home feels so empty now and I am so deeply sad.

Here is Ollie in our New York City home early in 2005, when he was six months old.

Ollie6months

In those early days, we jockeyed for position over whose living requirements would prevail. Sometimes I won, sometimes he did but overall we accomodated our preferences fairly well, if you don't count his biting my ankle if I didn't prepare a meal fast enough.

This is Ollie in 2010 helping with the packing to move from Maine to Oregon.

Ollie2010forJB1

And here he is four years ago checking out the front patio/porch where local cats and the occasional squirrel sometimes show up.

OllieintheWindow2014

Ollie was a Savannah cat, a relatively new hybrid breed, a cross between a domestic cat and African serval. Ollie was one-sixth serval with the gorgeous coat similar to a leopard's.

I don't know if it is typical of Savannah cats, but what anyone who ever met him commented on was his direct, almost human-like gaze into a person's eyes. In the beginning it was unsettling how he looked at me with such intensity. It didn't take long to get used to it and and I loved that connection between us every day of our life together.

Here is a photo that almost catches that feeling:

DSCN1138

Many, many years ago, my then-father-in-law told me about how, on weekends, he and his wife might not bump into one another between breakfast and dinner as they went about their pursuits. But what was important is that they each knew there was another heartbeat in the house.

And so it was with Ollie and me but now, that other heartbeat is gone and it feels so empty here today.

As undoubtedly is true for you, I've been through this grief before with people and with beloved animals. I know that – as has already happened once – for awhile I will think I see Ollie out of the corner of my eye as he trots by. But that's just a mirage, right?

And someday I will be able to remember Ollie without weeping. But not yet. He always made me feel that to him, I was the cat's meow. To me, he was my best buddy for 14 years.

I'll leave you with a link to one of my all-time favorite blog posts that long-time readers will probably recall: the adventure of Ollie's disappearance from our second-story deck in Portland, Maine, in 2007. I titled it How Ollie the Cat Lost His Outdoor Privileges, a heart-pounding, scary tale with a lot of photographs and, at the end, my revenge.

Farewell my Ollie. You gave me so much joy. I will always love you.

OllieinRattanChair



ELDER MUSIC: Walls

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

* * *

Wall7

The Orange Buffoon is still persisting in his idiotic idea to build a wall. I assume he wants to turn America into East Germany, and didn’t that turn out well?

We know this won’t happen and would be pointless even if it was constructed. Has he not heard of aeroplanes? Ships? It may be an idiotic idea to build, but it’s a good one for a music column.

I’ll start with a song about a wall that was actually built (only to be torn down later when it failed to serve its purpose). People of a certain age (and that’d be most of us) will remember the song by TONI FISHER.

Toni Fisher

Toni was a bit optimistic, singing “that soon will fall”. It didn’t come down for another 27 years. The song is West of the Wall.

♫ Toni Fisher - West Of The Wall


Willie Nelson wrote the song Hello Walls, but the first version I heard, quite a big hit in my part of the world, was by FARON YOUNG.

Faron Young

It seems to be the case that the first one you hear is the one that you prefer. That’s generally the case with me (with a couple of exceptions). So, in spite of Willie’s version being particularly good, I’m going with Faron.

♫ Faron Young - Hello Walls


ADAM WADE started out in science but eventually turned to music and TV.

Adam Wade

I assume the money was better, especially when he started hosting TV programs. Initially, he was a singer and what a voice he has. His contribution today is The Writing on the Wall.

♫ Adam Wade - The Writing On The Wall


The writer of the next song certainly listened carefully to I’m Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter. Indeed, letters are an essential component of this song as well. The singer is DEAN MARTIN.

Dean Martin

It seems that his sweetie (or ex-sweetie) was a considerable correspondent, as Dino sings that I'm Gonna Paper All My Walls With Your Love Letters.

♫ Dean Martin - I'm Gonna Paper All My Walls With Your Love Letters


The STATLER BROTHERS were as good a harmony group as any around.

Statler Brothers


Not just harmony, but the interplay of their voices can bring a smile to my face. Besides their solo records, they were often heard backing Johnny Cash. This is probably their best known song, Flowers on the Wall.

♫ Statler Brothers - Flowers on the Wall


BETTYE LAVETTE is ostensibly a soul singer.

Bettye Lavette

However, she doesn’t restrict herself to that one genre, she branches out into rock, gospel, funk, country, blues and whatever else takes her fancy. Bettye’s in a soul mood with a touch of blues thrown in for good measure on Between You Me and the Wall You're a Fool.

♫ Bettye Lavette - Just Between You Me And The Wall You're A Fool


SIMON AND GARFUNKEL recorded the album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme” during Paul’s pretentious writing period.

Simon & Garfunkel

The song from that album was indicative of that, and it also fit into our category today: A Poem on the Underground Wall.

♫ Simon & Garfunkel - A Poem on the Underground Wall


Since there was a big deal album called “The Wall”, I decided I’d better include something from that or questions might be asked. The album was recorded by PINK FLOYD.

Pink Floyd

There were three versions of the song Another Brick in the Wall on the album and they’re all a bunch of bollocks. This is the second of those, the least painful one.

♫ Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall Part 2


Now for some real music, here are EMMYLOU HARRIS and LINDA RONSTADT.

Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris

From an album they recorded together called “Western Wall”, here is the title song.

♫ Emmylou Harris & Linda Ronstadt - Western Wall


This one’s for you Prez, if you happen to be reading (assuming you can read anything other than tweets, that is). I’ll let TOM RUSSELL tell you all about it.

Tom Russell

The song is Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?

♫ Tom Russell - Who's Gonna Build Your Wall



INTERESTING STUFF – 19 May 2018

NEW SHINGLES VACCINE FOR ELDERS

I'm betting that most TGB readers had chicken pox when they were kids. That means we are at risk for shingles. The vaccine that has been available, [Zostavax], is not all that effective but a new one, called Shingrix, is:

”In clinical trials,” reports the Washington Post, “Shingrix was 96.6 percent effective in adults ages 50 to 59, while Zostavax was 70 percent effective.

“The differences were even more marked with age: Effectiveness in adults 70 and older was 91.3 percent for Shingrix, compared with 38 percent for Zostavax. Shingrix also provided longer-lasting protection than Zostavax, whose effectiveness waned after the first year.”

For those reasons and others, I've never taken the Zostavax shot but Shingrix will be at the top of my questions for my primary care physician when I see him in a few weeks.

”The [Centers for Disease Control] CDC,” reports AARP, “estimates that for every 1 million people 60 to 69 years old who receive Shingrix, there will be 87,000 fewer cases of shingles, as well as 10,000 fewer cases of postherpetic neuralgia (severe pain in the location of a previous shingles rash).”

Shingrix can be pricey - $280 for the two-shot series – so check your drug coverage.

IT'S OFFICIAL – I WILL NEVER FLY AGAIN

At a trade show in Hamburg, Germany, in April, a new kind of airline seat – actually a sort of standing saddle – was offered as a way for airlines to cram more passengers into economy class.

As the video notes toward the end, certain existing rules probably won't allow this new “seating” to be installed in planes anytime soon. But if you live in the United States these days, you know how easily regulations can ben ignored or ditched entirely.

Photos and more information at Newsweek.

3D PRINTED HOMES FOR THE WORLD'S 1 BILLION HOMELESS

On the brighter side, a company is making very low-cost 3D printed homes that could provide that could provide affordable, sustainable and customizable homes for the one billion global homeless population. Here's a video:

You can read more and see other videos at the websites of the two companies who created this project, New Story and Icon.

THEY KEEP TRYING TO TELL US BRAIN GAMES WORK, BUT...

Study after study says they don't, as I've mentioned here many times.

Last fall, the fellow-blogger Chuck Nyren had had just enough when the latest overblown research claimed that brain games could ward off dementia:

Those who did the speed of processing training” Chuck quotes, “were 29 per cent less likely to have developed dementia than people in the ”control group.

But…

It is possible that any improvements seen in the processing speed training group may have been due to chance, and not directly caused by the training itself.

And then he laid out his own inimitable thoughts:

”I’m having trouble directly speed processing the above information. It sounds to me like you could’ve had them all play tiddlywinks for ten years and had the same results – a chance that a certain percentage might or might not have developed dementia, but not necessarily because they played tiddlywinks.”

There is more at Chuck's Huffpost piece.

THE PUPPETEER BEHIND YODA AND JABBA THE HUT

I've lost track of the more recent Star Wars movies (are there nine films in the series now?), but the first three? I'm still a fan of those – particularly of Yoda, Jabba the Hut and I'm one of the few people on earth, apparently, who thinks Jar Jar Binks is a hoot.

Here's a new video about David Barclay, the puppeteer behind Star Wars characters.

HOW THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM WORKS

You can understand, after having my gall bladder, duodenum, part of my pancreas and a few other bits and pieces surgically removed a year ago, why I'm interested in how the digestive system generally works. Maybe you are too. Here's a good TEDed Talk on that.

NET NEUTRALITY WIN IN THE SENATE

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats, joined by three Republicans, pulled off 52-47 vote approving a resolution that would undo the FCC’s 2017 repeal of Obama-era net neutrality rules.

To reinstate the net neutrality rules, the House now needs to vote on the bill. Even though polls show that 86 percent of Americans want to keep the net neutrality rules, Congressional Republicans

”...described the effort to reinstate 'net neutrality' rules as 'political theater' because the GOP-controlled House is not expected to take up the issue and the Senate’s margin could not overcome a presidential veto,” reported Talking Points Memo.

“Democrats, however, were undeterred, saying their push would energize young voters who are tech savvy and value unfettered access to the internet.”

Maybe once again you could call your Congressional representative and urge him or her to help bring the bill to the floor of the House and vote for it. You can do that here.

LIVE ANIMAL CAMS

Just what you need, right – more sites to keep you glued to your screens.

I've just discovered explore.com which bill itself as the “world's leading philanthropic live nature cam network and documentary film channel.” There many live cams include dozens of kinds of animals. Here is the famous Decorah Eagle came with this year's brood of chicks.

At explore.org, you'll find live cams for many types of birds and fish; walruses and seals brown, grizzly, polar and panda bears; tigers, lions and elephants; farm animals; even dogs and cats and much more along with highlight reels from the hundreds of cams.

* * *

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

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



Movie Star Quotations About Growing Old

It's been an overly serious week at TGB or, at least, heavy going on Monday and Wednesday so I feel the need to lighten up.

How about this? We all love quotations. They are short, easy to read and sometimes they clarify or illuminate thoughts and ideas we (well, me anyway) have but have not articulated satisfactorily.

Today's quotations are mostly from entertainers – those people, especially women actors, whose livelihoods depend on being beautiful or handsome or some facsimile thereof. In Hollywood, even 35-year-old actors – again, especially women - are considered too old to cast.

The men usually have a longer shelf life but sooner or later, every one of them, male and female, will see their opportunities decline because they are not 20-something anymore.

Among the most interesting quotations about growing old as an entertainer, men spoke about advantages – maybe because they don't experience much work-related ageism.

"I feel the older I get, the more I'm learning to handle life ... being on this quest for a long time, it's all about finding yourself." - Ringo Starr, age 77
"Getting old is a fascinating thing. The older you get, the older you want to get!" - Keith Richards, 74
"Aging is an extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been." - David Bowie, died in 2016 at age 69
"I find that as you get older, you start to simplify things in general." - George Clooney, 57

It is four women actors who sounded most angry about the discrimination against them in Hollywood:

“Ageism is alive and well.” It is okay for men to get older, because men become more desirable by being powerful. With women, it’s all about how we look. Men are very visual, they want young women. So, for us, it’s all about trying to stay young.” - Jane Fonda, 80
“I do think that when it comes to aging, we’re held to a different standard than men. Some guy said to me: ‘Don’t you think you’re too old to sing rock n’ roll?’ I said: ‘You’d better check with Mick Jagger’.” - Cher, 71
“Ageism is pervasive in this industry. It’s not a level playing field. You don’t often see women in their 60s playing romantic leads, yet you will see men in their 60s playing romantic leads with costars who are decades younger.” - Jessica Lang, 69

The fourth is only 28 years old but has two good reasons to resent Hollywood's age bias:

“This industry is f—ing brutal,” Dakota Johnson told British Vogue. “Why isn’t my mother [Melanie Griffith] in movies? She’s an extraordinary actress! Why isn’t my grandmother [Tippi Hedron] in movies?”

Most of the women actors bravely talked about ageing naturally – whatever may come with it.

“I want to be a role model for not only younger men and women — and not just in my profession. I think that cosmetic enhancements in my profession are just an occupational hazard. But I think, more culturally, I’m interested in starting the conversation about aging gracefully and how, instead of making it a cultural problem, we make it individuals’ problems. I think that ageism is a cultural illness; it’s not a personal illness.” - Frances McDormand, 60
“There is a saying that with age, you look outside what you are inside. If you are someone who never smiles, your face gets saggy. If you’re a person who smiles a lot, you will have more smile lines. Your wrinkles reflect the roads you have taken; they form the map of your life.” - Diane von Furstenberg, 71
“All my life I’ve been looking at 16-year-old girls selling beauty, so I think it’s fabulous that they’re using a 70-year-old woman to sell products to other 60 to 80-year-old women.” Helen Mirren on representing L'Oreal cosmetics in France, 72
“The older you are, the more interesting you are as a character. There’s a whole life history and knowledge of the world and self-possession that come from someone who has seen more. That experienced point of view is always more exciting. Yes, things may start to sag and shift, but the older you are, the wiser, the funnier, the smarter you are. You become more you.” - Melissa McCarthy, 47
"I am appalled that the term we use to talk about aging is 'anti.' Aging is as natural as a baby's softness and scent. Aging is human evolution in its pure form. Death, taxes, and aging." - Jamie Lee Curtis, 59
“Please don't touch my wrinkles. It took me so long to earn them.” - Anna Magnani, died in 1973 at age 65
"I think your whole life shows in your face and you should be proud of that." - Lauren Bacall, died in 2014 at age 89
"Nothing makes a woman look so old as trying desperately hard to look young." - Coco Chanel, died in 1971 at age 87
"I'm very f*cking grateful to be alive. I have so many friends who are sick or gone, and I'm here. Are you kidding? No complaints!" - Meryl Streep, 68

And one man:

"As you get older, you feel you need to pay more attention to what is around you and relish it. I'm greedy for beauty." - Bill Nighy, 68

It is only in recent years that Hollywood actors have begun to speak out about ageism in their business. It comes up more and more frequently in the media nowadays and that is a good thing for rest of us – the more attention it gets, the higher general consciousness becomes and with any luck, then, corrections are made.

Meanwhile, I give Truman Capote's the last word about growing old:

“Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act.” Capote died in 1984 at age 59

Feel free to join in with your own favorite quotations about age – from celebrities, anyone else or even yourselves.


Are You Ageing "Normally"?

Depending on how you define the phrase, probably not.

As we have always reported at Time Goes By, people age at remarkably different rates and any gerontologist or geriatrician worth his/her salt, will tell you that people, as they grow older, become more individual from one another than when they were younger.

Because those two, four-day hospital visits in April interrupted my blog life, there are several topics that got lost in the shuffle that I want us to catch up on. One is a story from the highly respected Kaiser Health News (KHN) titled, Is There Such a Thing as Normal Aging?

They don't really answer their question. Instead, the KHN reporter consulted with Dr. Thomas Gill, a geriatric professor at Yale University, and three other geriatric experts to identify

”...examples of what are often — but not always – considered to be signposts of normal aging for folks who practice good health habits and get recommended preventive care.

In doing so, they break down ageing into decades containing these typical changes. My short version – the subheads in the story:

• The 50s: Stamina Declines
• The 60s: Susceptibility Increases
• The 70s: Chronic Conditions Fester
• The 80s: Fear Of Falling Grows
• The 90s & Up: Relying On Others

Those are the generalities of “normal ageing.” (There are fuller explanations at the links to Kaiser above.) Except for noting that the oldest old feel happier than young people, KHN defines normal ageing from only one point of view: negative health issues. I wondered how others approach the idea of normal ageing and checked out the usual suspects:

The Mayo Clinic website provides a long list of what physical things can go wrong in late years and supplies suggestions on how to prevent them.

WebMD has a similar list that's not quite as thorough as the Mayo Clinic.

Area Agency on Aging (in St. Petersburg, Florida) has a long but succinct list of physical changes and the reasons for them.

The Merck Manual Consumer Version online has the most usable, useful and informative version of health issues that can be expected in old age. And I like their pullquotes of these little nuggets of information:

“Disorders, not aging, usually account for most loss of function.”

“To make up for the muscle mass lost during each day of strict bed rest, older people may need to exercise for up to 2 weeks.”

“Most 60-year-olds need 3 times more light to read than 20-year-olds.”

However, all four web pages, each from a reputable health organization, deal only with those negative health developments of growing old, reinforcing the widespread but erroneous belief that to be old is to be sick.

It's a tricky thing to balance curiosity about what “normal” physical changes might turn up in old age without feeling you are being defined as sickly. While surfing around the web on these topics, I came across a blogger named Brian Alger who has some different thoughts on “normal aging”:

Aging doesn’t just place a limit our our lifespan, it also constantly alters the physical, emotional, spiritual, and social context of being alive. In this sense, aging is a medium, a total surround, of our experiences in life.”

That resonates with me for putting into words some feelings I've been having about growing old but haven't been able to articulate even to myself. Further, writes Alger,

”We can confidently expect that every aspect of our life will be touched by the direct felt experience of aging. Normal aging makes time increasingly precious. As a form of communication, aging inspires a conversation with time, impermanence, and the great flow of life that we are immersed in.”

From another page at Alger's blog:

”Aging is our most intimate connection [to] the natural world; it is a source of unity and essential belonging with all life everywhere at once. The very essence of elderhood originates entirely in nature.”

Regular TGB readers would be disappointed, I'm sure, if I didn't bring up how the language of old age reinforces negative beliefs about it in both elders and younger people.

In response to sickliness being the most common definition of growing old, in 2014, Science Daily reported on a study from the University of Alberta. One of the researchers says such terms as “normal” or “healthy” aging themselves fall short how elders actually live:

”"The implication is that if you have a chronic illness as an older adult, you've somehow failed in this goal of aging without chronic disease, which is perhaps not that realistic a goal."

"When aging is just defined as 'healthy' and 'devoid of disease,' it doesn't leave a place for what to do with all of these older adults who are still aging with chronic illnesses..."

I have long contended that issues relating to aging should always include input from someone who is old, as this quotation from a subject of the Alberta study makes clear:

"'I don't know what would be considered normal aging,' said [80-year-old Diana] McIntyre, past president of the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton. 'What's normal for a 45-year-old? What's normal for an 80-year-old? Those are really irrelevant terms as far as I'm concerned.

“'My own philosophy is I would like to do as much as I can, for as long as I can, as well as I can.'”

That last sentence from McIntyre works for me. How about you? Do you think you're ageing “normally”?



What Trump's Proposed Drug Plan Does for Elders (and Others)

EDITORIAL NOTE: This is long-ish and gets a bit wonky in places but it is important to know this stuff.

* * *

We have all known or have read about elders who don't fill medication prescriptions or cut them in half because the cost forces them to make the choice between life-saving drugs and food.

Just recently, I had a personal encounter with such an issue. A newly prescribed drug I inject twice a day costs me hundreds of out-of-pocket dollars a month which is way beyond my means and at first I told the doctors it was out of the question; find something else to help me that I can afford.

Then someone in the meeting realized they had neglected to note that I need the drug for only three months. I don't like dipping into my emergency fund for that much money, but I suppose that's why I call it an emergency fund. And I can handle three months.

I'm lucky to have that fund. Millions of American adults who can't afford their prescriptions with or without insurance converage just don't fill them, endangering their health and their lives.

Why, do you suppose, are prescription drugs so expensive in the United States, higher than in other countries. Here is an explanation from CNN:

What reporter Christine Romans overlooks in this video is that pharmaceutical companies do not bear the entire of burden of new drug development. A great deal of money and help comes from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In the White House Rose Garden on Friday, President Donald Trump unveiled a proposal he says will lower the prices of prescription drugs for consumers. It tells us something that minutes later, the stock market price of pharmaceutical companies soared:

”The stock prices of Pfizer, Merck, Gilead Sciences, and Amgen all spiked after Trump’s speech,” reported STATnews. “Wall Street analysts said the speech posed few threats to the drug industry on the whole.”

Do you think that outcome could that have anything to do with input from the man accompanying Trump at the podium Friday, the one who will be in charge of implementing Trump's proposed drug plan, Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Alex Azar?

TrumpAzarScreenGrab

Until last year, Azar spent a decade employed at pharmaceutical giant, Eli Lilly and Company first as the firm's top lobbyist and later as president of Lilly USA LLC.

So what does Trump's proposal, disingenuously titled American Patients First, include? NBC News reports:

”The plan, presented as a thinly described set of executive actions...focuses on four elements, according to the Health and Human Services Department:

Increasing competition
Better negotiation
Creating incentives to lower list prices
Reducing patient out-of-pocket spending."

That is a far cry from Trump's campaign promise to

”...allow Medicare to negotiate directly with drug manufacturers... The industry is now having the last laugh,” reports The Atlantic. “In a speech Friday on drug pricing, President Trump completed his 180-degree turn on Candidate Trump’s promises.

“The White House’s new plan, as outlined, does seek to address high prescription-drug costs. 'We will not rest until this job of unfair pricing is a total victory,' Trump said. But it doesn’t directly challenge the pharmaceutical industry and the direct role it plays in setting prices.

“Indeed, the new policy largely meets the goals of big pharma, signaling an ever-tightening bond between Trump and drug manufacturers.”

Trump didn't say much about how his proposals will lower prices and what is conspicuously missing, despite the second item on that list, is any plan to allow Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

Big Pharma won that one when Medicare's prescription drug plan, Part D, was introduced in 2003; the legislation specifically disallows price negotiations between Medicare and the pharmaceutical companies. Trump's proposal does not change that.

During the Rose Garden speech, Trump attacked what he called “global freeloading” by countries where citizens often pay much less than Americans for the same brand-name drugs:

“He directed his trade representative to make fixing this injustice a top priority in negotiations with every trading partner,” reports Robert Pear in The New York Times...

“It is not clear,” continues Pear, “why higher profits in other countries would be passed on to American consumers in the form of lower prices, and officials in those countries pushed back hard.”

The Times also reported on another of the proposal's items:

”Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, said the Food and Drug Administration would explore requiring drug companies to disclose list prices in their television advertisements.”

It is equally unclear how that would reduce the cost of advertised drugs. It is worth quoting Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley who served as President Bill Clinton's secretary of labor, at some length on this:

While it’s true that Americans spend far more on medications per person than do citizens in any other rich country – even though Americans are no healthier – that’s not because other nations freeload on American drug companies’ research,” writes Reich in Eurasia Review.

“Big Pharma in America spends more on advertising and marketing than it does on research – often tens of millions to promote a single drug.

“The U.S. government supplies much of the research Big Pharma relies on through the National Institutes of Health. This is a form of corporate welfare. No other industry gets this sort of help.

“Besides flogging their drugs, American drug companies also spend hundreds of millions lobbying the government. Last year alone, their lobbying tab came to $171.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“That’s more than oil and gas, insurance, or any other American industry. It’s more than the formidable lobbying expenditures of America’s military contractors. Big Pharma spends tens of millions more on campaign expenditures.”

And you wonder why your drugs cost so much.

"'This [proposal] is not doing anything to fundamentally change the drug supply chain or the drug pricing system,' said Gerard Anderson, a health policy professor at Johns Hopkins University,” quoted at CNN.

The so-called American Patients First proposal is not a bill and while a small number of the proposals would require Congressional legislation, most can be put into effect with regulations or guidance documents.

So much for lowering the price of prescription pharmaceuticals. Like most everything else in the Trump administration, this proposal is gift to big business.

You can read the full, 44-page proposal here [pdf].



ELDER MUSIC: Classical - Various 4

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

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Here’s some more music that struck my fancy over the last few weeks.

For much of the 20th century ERICH KORNGOLD was probably best known as a composer of film scores (“Captain Blood”, “Robin Hood”, “The Sea Hawk” “King’s Row” and many others).

Erich Korngold

However, he was also a composer of “serious” music as those who like to think in these terms have a wont to say. He wrote sonatas, chamber music of various sorts, concertos and many other things including several operas, one of which is “Die Kathrin”.

From that opera, the wonderful RENÉE FLEMING presents Ich soll ihn niemals, niemals mehr sehn.

Renee Fleming

♫ Korngold Die Kathrin - Ich soll ihn niemals niemals mehr sehn


MICHAEL HAYDN was Joseph Haydn’s younger brother and has always lived in the shadow one of the greatest composers of all time.

Michael Haydn

Mike was no slouch at the composing biz; his style, not too surprisingly, is quite similar to his brother’s. Indeed, until recently, a number of his compositions were attributed to Jo.

Fortunately, evidence has shown that these works were really Mike’s. As far as I can tell, this isn’t one of those, it’s the second movement of his String Quintet in F Major, P. 112, MH 411.

♫ Haydn M - String Quintet in F Major P. 112 MH 411 (2)


KATIE MOSS was an English Composer, violinist, pianist and singer.

Katie Moss

She wrote the words and music to The Floral Dance in 1911 after visiting the Cornish town of Helston, where she attended the town’s traditional Flora Day celebration.

The song has been recorded many times over the years, but most notably by the Australian bass-baritone PETER DAWSON, who was also a composer, in 1912.

Peter Dawson

♫ Moss - The Floral Dance


FRANCESCO DURANTE was born in Naples in the latter half of the 17th century.

Francesco Durante

His father died when he was about 15, and his uncle, who was a musician, took over teaching young Frank. He later became a pupil of the great Alessandro Scarlatti. Frank later became renowned as a musical teacher, and many of his pupils went on to great things.

He is most noted for composing sacred music, but he did other things as well, including his Concerto No 2 G Minor (which seems to be for violin). This is the third movement.

♫ Durante - Concerto n° 2 G Minor (3)


Little is known of the life of GIOVANNI PANDOLFI MEALL other than he was born in Tuscany about 1630. Also, it seems there was no one was around to take a photo of him either.

Well, there is a bit more known: it seems that he murdered a castrato during an argument and he then decided to hightail it to France and then Spain. There he was employed in the Royal Chapel where, I assume, they didn’t care about his previous misdeeds.

All that survives of his compositions is about 30 violin sonatas. This is one of them, Sonata for violin & continuo, Op. 3 No. 1 'La Stella'.

♫ Pandolfi - Sonata for violin & continuo Op. 3 No. 1 'La Stella'


JAMES OSWALD was a Scottish composer about whom we know little before he moved to London in 1741.

James Oswald

He composed a lot of short works, including minuets and Scottish folk songs. He was also a music publisher which is probably how we know these things. He caught the ear of mad king George, who appointed him chamber composer.

Here is a composition for cello called Steer Her up and Had Her Gaun (whatever all that means).

♫ Oswald - Steer Her up & Had Her Gaun


CLARA SCHUMANN was born Clara Wieck and she was a child prodigy on piano, violin and singing.

Clara Schumann

The piano became her main instrument and she toured extensively giving concerts throughout her life – she lived to 76 years old. Robert Schumann was a pupil of her father’s and when Clara was 18 they decided to get married. Dad was against the union and Robert and Clara sued dad to allow this to happen. They won the case.

Robert seems to have been a troubled lad, but they stayed together until he died. Clara outlived him by 40 years.

She composed quite a few pieces, mostly for piano and was held in high esteem for her playing. Here is one of her pieces for solo piano, one of Four Polonaises, Opus 1. It’s the second of those.

To me it seems to anticipate the compositions of Scott Joplin by many years.

♫ Schumann Clara - Quatre Polonoises Op.1 No 2 in C major


Although often referred to as FRANCESCO LANDINI, that almost certainly wasn’t his name (as he wasn’t a member of the Landini family).

Nitpicking scholars usually refer to him as Francesco da Firenze. He’s also been called Francesco degli Organi, Francesco il Cieco or Francesco Cecus.

Francesco Landini

He was born in Florence sometime between 1325 and 1335, and was blind from childhood due to smallpox (thus one of the aforementioned names, for the Italian speakers among us).

He was the most famous composer in Italy in the 14th century and he wrote much sacred music, but none survives today. What have survived are some madrigals, ballads, and music for various combinations of voices. One of those is Sì dolce non sonò chol lir' Orfeo.

♫ Francesco da Firenze - Sì Dolce Non Sonò Chol Lir' Orfeo


FRANZ KROMMER was a Czech composer who was contemporaneous with Mozart, although he outlived him by a considerable amount – even outliving Beethoven.

Franz Krommer

He was a really prolific composer, with over 300 compositions to his name in just about every field that composers of the time indulged in, except operas. He was especially prolific at chamber music, quartets, quintets, duos, trios, sonatas and the like.

We’ve already had some of those sorts of things today, so I thought I’d include his Concerto for Two Clarinets, Op 91, because I like it. This is the first movement.

♫ Krommer - Concert for Two Clarinets Op 91 (1)



INTERESTING STUFF – 12 May 2018

THE AVERAGE PERSON HIDES 13 SECRETS

Secrets, the YouTube page tells us, are not something you should keep locked away. Do that, and they'll eat you from the inside out:

Curiosity reports:

”According to a May 2017 study, you likely have around 13 secrets brewing in that head of yours — five of which you'll never tell a soul. The researchers say that it isn't the number of secrets you keep that's significant. Rather, it's the burden of those secrets — they weigh on you, literally.”

There are other effects you can read at Curiosity and at The Atlantic.

I don't recall 13 secrets, but most of the ones I do have, that I'll never tell you, are the times I behaved badly and am still ashamed of. What about you?

REAL-LIFE RAPUNZELS

The YouTube page tells us that for thousands of years, the Yao women of Huangluo Village have been keeping up an incredible beauty regimen, growing long, luxurious locks.

Believed to symbolize beauty, wealth and longevity, long hair is considered sacred, and women in the village only cut their hair once in a lifetime. Take a look:

REANIMATING PIG BRAINS

This story freaks me out, a nightmare to end all nightmares. MIT Technology Review explains:

”In a step that could change the definition of death, researchers have restored circulation to the brains of decapitated pigs and kept the reanimated organs alive for as long as 36 hours...

“The work was described on March 28 at a meeting held at the National Institutes of Health to investigate ethical issues arising as US neuroscience centers explore the limits of brain science.”

Ethical issues? No shit. Imagine your living brain sitting in a box somewhere – wait. It's better if I quote MIT:

The setup, jokingly dubbed the 'brain in a bucket,' would quickly raise serious ethical and legal questions if it were tried on a human.

“For instance, if a person’s brain were reanimated outside the body, would that person awake in what would amount to the ultimate sensory deprivation chamber, without ears, eyes, or a way to communicate? Would someone retain memories, an identity, or legal rights? Could researchers ethically dissect or dispose of such a brain?”

It is madness to contemplate this act, even on a pig or any other animal.

More at MIT Technology Review and at Alternet.

WHAT ARE BITCOIN AND BLOCKCHAIN?

According to The New York Times, Goldman Sachs will open a Bitcoin trading operation on the New York Stock Exchange:

”Some of the biggest names on Wall Street are warming up to Bitcoin, a virtual currency that for nearly a decade has been consigned to the unregulated fringes of the financial world...

“Many corporations and governments have expressed interest in the technology that Bitcoin introduced, particularly a form of database known as the blockchain.

“The moves by Goldman and Intercontinental Exchange, or ICE, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, mark a dramatic shift toward the mainstream for a digital token that has been known primarily for its underworld associations and status as a high-risk, speculative investment.”

Oh dear. Apparently the time has come for me to figure out what Bitcoin and blockchain are.

I've tried to understand this without much success. It's a huge puzzle. But this New York Times video gave me my first inkling that with some more work, I might just figure it out.

Clear as mud, right? Read more at The New York Times.

FAKE FOOD FOR REAL RESTAURANTS

In Japan, it's customary for restaurants to display their offerings inside their front windows. Think restaurant window shopping.

The displays come from one city only: Gujo. This ancient town is the epicenter of artificial food. The people who make the displays are real artists, but the "food" they create is not.

It may be one city in Japan, but I have seen this amazingly real-looking food in U.S. restaurant windows in several cities.

SAVING DUCKLINGS FROM CERTAIN DEATH

Is bad news the only kind there is these days? It sure feels that way but then TGB reader Joan McMullin sent this video. My god, there just keep coming and coming and coming.

(This is getting irritating. You may need to click the link in the video to watch on YouTube. If I had time, I would substitute another video but not today. I'll be more careful with my choices in the future to avoid this.)

LETTER TO MY BOSS

All of Congress, both houses, even those members who are not rabid opportunists feeding at the public trough, enrage me these days. A handful come out of their caves now and then to “bravely” denounce the president's latest stupidity or outrage, but then scurry back to hibernation bunkers.

They do nothing at all and every one of them deserves to be booted. So this email from Darlene Costner that is making the rounds gave me some relief for a few moments:

“I have enjoyed working here these past several years. You have paid me very well, given me benefits beyond belief. I have 3-4 months off per year and a pension plan that will pay my salary till the day I die and a health plan that most people can only dream about.

“Despite this I plan to take the next 12-18 months to find a new position. During this time I will show up for work when it is convenient. In addition I fully expect to draw my full salary and all the other perks associated with my current job.

“Oh yes, if my search for this new job proves fruitless, I will be back with no loss in pay or status. Before you say anything, remember that you have no choice in the matter. I can and will do this.

“Sincerely,
Every Senator or Congressman running for President."

Try that at your job and tell me how it works out.”

ANOTHER FROM DARLENE COSTNER

A baby elephant who appears to believe he is a lapdog. Irresistible.

THE WORLD'S TOUGHEST JOB

Interviews for the world's toughest job. Yes, it's a joke, but it's a good one. Stick around for the ending.

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

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