The Penis Legislation Act

Even with all the controversy and accusations surrounding the hearings of Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, last week, the people who are supposed to know such things are still saying that his confirmation is a done deal.

They may be right. It does not seem to register with Republicans in Congress that polls repeatedly show a majority of Americans want abortion to remain legal, and many people – legislators and voters - are convinced that a Justice Kavanaugh would become the fifth Court vote needed to overturn Roe v. Wade.

My friend Jim Stone sent me a link to a recent post at McSweeney's satirical section by a writer/reporter/author named Devorah Blachor. I had not read her work before but she sure does have my attention now that I have read her latest story.

Below is the first half or so of Blachor's “Why Are Men Getting So Hysterical About The Penis Legislation Act?” At the bottom, there is a link to the rest of it at the McSweeney's website.

This is a great piece of serious fun. (Links within the post are from the original.) Enjoy.

”We get it. Men are overly emotional. Just look at Alex Jones and Donald Trump. Ok, don’t. But the point stands. Your reaction to a perceived threat of the Penis Legislation Act being overturned is overwrought and hysterical.

“Yes, female politicians have been promising to overturn the Penis Legislation Act since it was enacted. And sure, the Vice President has vowed to send the Penis Legislation Act to the 'ash heap of history.' And fine, I concede that even the President has said she will overturn the Penis Legislation Act, which is so strange since she has clearly made use of it multiple times in the past.

“Still. Why do men have to be so loud and disruptive? The Penis Legislation Act is established and totally safe from being overturned, even though so many powerful women keep promising to get rid of it and seem to have no compunction about taking away men’s rights over their own penises.

“Just consider how the latest SCOTUS nominee was chosen. A small group of women who are famously hostile to the Penis Legislation Act carefully selected the best possible candidates.

“One of the women, who is especially committed to overturning the Penis Legislation Act, was an advisor to the President on this weighty decision. And now the nominee, an affable soccer mom, has refused to commit to upholding the Penis Legislation Act and secret emails reveal that she doesn’t believe The Penis Legislation Act is even settled law. Does that sound like The Penis Legislation Act is in peril? Calm down, gentlemen! Smile!

“While you’re smiling (you look so pretty when you smile!) why not consider, for a moment, that men might not actually know what’s best for their penises? What with their hormonal emotions and everything, might it be possible that we women should make the relevant decisions about men’s health, particularly those that are penile-related?

“When you really think about our track record of valuing male life, the answer is clear. You can totally trust us to decide for you.”

You can finish reading “Why Are Men Getting So Hysterical About the Penis Legislation Act? here at McSweeney's. There is no place to comment on that page but if you've got something to say, you can come back here to let us all know.

And, if you like what you've read, you can find out more about Devorah Blachor here.




What About Medicare For All

As soon as someone says “Medicare for All” or “single-payer healthcare” or “universal coverage”, someone else will argue about definitions. And there are important differences.

But today, we are going with what most of us mean when we use one of those phrases: a system of health care under which everyone is covered, however it is paid for.

Most western democracies use some form of this system. As VeryWellHealth explains:

”...several countries have achieved universal coverage, with 100 percent of their population covered. This includes Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.”

No one in these countries worries that a major illness will bankrupt them as happens in the United States.

Currently, in 2018, about 88 percent of Americans, according to Gallup, are covered to one degree or another depending on what they can afford from private insurers.

Among that number, however, there is one group of people in the U.S. who do enjoy universal, single-player health coverage. It's us old folks, 65 and older. It is of course, called Medicare and as it happens, over the past 15 months I've had a crash course in how it works in real life when something deadly serious comes along.

First, back up to 1965 when Medicare went into effect. I paid into the program from that time forward until I stopped working in 2004. Currently, the Medicare tax is divided between employer and employee, 1.45 percent each.

Many people believe that the Medicare tax covers it and that Medicare, once you are old enough to join, is free. Not so. Use me as an example (this is about traditional Medicare, not Medicare Advantage Plans which I'm not discussing today):

Part A - hospital insurance: free.

Part B – medical insurance: a premium, calculated on income, is deducted from the Social Security (or railroad, etc.) benefit each month. There is a deductible, $183 in 2018. Part B covers about 80 percent of Medicare-approved expenses.

Part D – prescription drugs: provided by Medicare-approved private insurance companies. Premiums vary dramatically.

Supplemental (Medigap) coverage: helps pay the 20 percent of medical costs Part B does not. Premiums currently range from about $74 to more than $400 per month.

In addition to all the personal fears and concerns I had when first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, I was terrified at what the surgery and accompanying care would cost me, and if I could even afford it. I decided to deal with after I recovered from the surgery.

What I learned is amazing: Medicare is a whole lot like universal coverage in those other countries: So far, I have paid not a dime for medical treatment.

My biggest expense has been Part D, prescription drugs. Just this month, I finally climbed out of the so-called “donut hole” having paid $5,000 out-of-pocket for drugs this year. I am now in what the program calls “catastrophic coverage” where I pay a small fee for each prescription until next year when the process begins again.

Until I was thinking about this blog post, I had never added up what I pay per year for Medicare coverage. I was surprised to find that the premiums for Part B, Part D and supplemental come to just over $4500 per year.

That sounds like a lot until you know that my treatment costs are, so far, close to $1 million.

Most of the objections to Medicare for All are about cost. I have seen estimates of between $2.4 trillion to $2.8 trillion per year. Who knows if that is anywhere near what the reality would be.

For decades, in certain quarters of the population, a few politicians talked about Medicare for All. Recently, during the 2016 presidential campaign, it was presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, calling for Medicare for All. The idea began to spread and catch on.

In April this year, Paul Waldman wrote in the Washington Post:

”Right now Democrats are coalescing around a new model for health-care reform. This November’s election could validate it in a way that practically settles the issue among Democrats. That will then determine the discussion in 2020, and in 2021 it could become the basis for a hugely ambitious overhaul of the system.

“Right now we could be witnessing the genesis of one of the most important domestic policy changes in our history.”

Also in April, Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Senator Christopher Murphy of Connecticut introduced S.2708, the Choose Medicare Act, that would open up Medicare to anyone who wants it and isn’t already eligible for Medicare or Medicaid.

It is such a good idea to just expand Medicare to everyone rather than start of scratch on a new program. The main infrastructure is already in place, it works well, and could be built upon for the entire population.

Of course, the Choose Medicare Act has gone nowhere due to the Republican control of Congress but if there turns out to be a blue wave in the November mid-term election, that bill – or some others with similar intentions - could come to the floor of Congress.

It won't happen that easily or that quickly, but it would be a fine start to the conversation and eventual reality.

Those countries that have had universal coverage for decades pay a lot more in taxes than we Americans do but I sure wouldn't care if everyone could be as free of economic worry as I have been granted, thanks to Medicare, during the wildly expensive treatment I've received.

Most of all, it is the right thing to do. Health care is a human right and the United States, that so glibly repeats that all men are created equal, that the rights of all persons are diminished when the rights of one are threatened, etc. etc., cannot possibly claim those principles if some cannot afford health care.

The United States desperately need this policy change. If you put more than a minute's thought to it, how can we do differently. Are people without coverage or inadequate coverage just allowed to die in the U.S.? I can't find the answer to that question – or maybe it would be too painful to know.

You might want to think about all this as you consider who to vote for in November.




A TGB Reader Story: The Season of "In Between"

By Carole Leskin

Labor Day weekend. The end of summer. Not really, of course. The calendar tells us that happens on September 22nd. But we know better.

The tourists and summer renters go home. Children go back to school. Families return to their normal, hectic schedules. Carefully tended gardens begin to wilt. And the sun sets earlier as if to say, "Time to go back to work. You've done enough playing for now."

Summer is not my favorite season. I love fall - the colors, fruits and vegetables, crisp air coming through open windows. Wearing sweaters and lighting the fireplace. Walks on brightly colored leaves and listening to them crunch beneath my feet. Hot chocolate and spiced apple cider.

And yet, I always feel this strange sadness as I turn the calendar page to September. A longing. A desire to hold up my hand and say "Stop! I'm not ready". Like I was as a girl - not wanting to leave behind my beloved cabin on the marsh by the bay, my sanctuary, the freedom.

Carolleskin

I will look out over the now-almost deserted beach and listen to the seagulls and crashing waves. Watch the sunsets - different now than just a few days ago. I will think about all the summers past and wonder what the fall will bring.

Mother Nature growing older. As am I.

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.
]




Reasons to Vote in 2018

The 2018 mid-term election in the United States takes place 58 days from today and it may be the most important election of our – the people who hang out at this blog – long, long lives.

Now I know perfectly well that no one here would skip voting. Right? But just in case you know someone who doesn't vote or who thinks is it not important or doesn't believe their vote could make a difference, let's talk about that today.

Let's start with the fact that voting is a fundamental right of all citizens in a democracy. We have the privilege (that many in the world do not) to select our leaders rather than having them imposed or inflicted upon us which gives us a moral duty to take part in that choice.

We cannot take the right to vote for granted. Don't forget that there was a time when only certain citizens – while male landowners – could vote. Changing that took a long time. Here is a reminder of how that went:

There are still too many impediments to voting and right now the majority of legislators trying to change voting laws are the ones who would further restrict the right to vote.

In addition to the high-minded, patriotic reasons to vote, there is the real chance that if too many voters of one persuasion or another stay home from the polls, we are stuck with a leader or leaders who do not reflect the views of the entire electorate, and there is no telling where that takes us.

Elected representatives have the power to affect vital issues of everyday life: taxes, roads and highways, food, health care, education, public safety, air quality, even fair elections, to name only a few. Certainly, you want your voice heard for the people who make those choices.

Don't forget the importance of local candidates in your state, county or town. The voices of the full spectrum of citizens need to be heard to produce a more balanced local government rather than the views of just one faction who turned up at the polls in larger numbers.

And one more thing: you cannot complain, not one word, about what elected leaders are doing if you don't vote.

Here are some more thought on the question, Why Should I Vote:

We have 58 days until election day on 6 November. Here are some things you should do before then:

Make sure you are registered to vote

Mark your calendar so you don't make other plans on 6 November that would keep you from voting

Check out voter ID requirements in your location and be sure to have the correct identification documents

Make sure you know where your polling place is. You can do that at the Polling Place Locator

Check out all the other preparations you might need to know at this well-done page titled, Voting in Person on Election Day, for additional voting information

Unless you live in Oregon or Washington, the two states that vote by mail, make arrangements to get to the polling place if you need to on election day. Or, offer to drive or accompany people who can't easily get there on their own.

If you happen to live in Oregon or Washington or other states that vote by mail, your ballots arrive two or three weeks before election day. Be sure to mark your ballot and mail it before the deadline. There are drop-off areas in your town or city too.

This may be the most crucial election of our lives. Please vote and get everyone you know to vote too. Our entire way of life may depend on it.




ELDER MUSIC: Songs About Cities - Las Vegas

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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Las Vegas

I've been to Las Vegas twice in my life but in spite of two visits, the total time I've spent in the place would not amount to more than four or five hours.

The second of these visits I was driving from Albuquerque to San Francisco with my sister, brother-in-law and a couple of friends. Two cars were involved (thus we could switch around if things got a bit tense).

We hit Vegas around lunch time and we stopped to eat. We had a splendid meal and some spectacular wines (those not driving) for not much money at all. This was back in the days when the gambling subsidized the food.

I thought very highly of the place at the time until we ventured back out on to the streets and reality reasserted itself. We drove on.

The first visit I was flying with my father from San Francisco to Albuquerque (you might notice a theme here) and we had to change planes at Las Vegas.

Like the rest of the city, McCarran airport is replete with slot machines. Dad, who liked a bit of a flutter, dug into his pocket and came up with three quarters. He put them into one of those machines and on the third try he had a mini-jackpot – about $20 or so.

He pocketed his winnings and we flew on. So, it means that my dad is one of the very few people who has gambled in that city and left showing a profit.

So, on the theme of Australians in Las Vegas, here is the LITTLE RIVER BAND.

Little River Band

Their song is Home on a Monday, which doesn't sound much like the topic today, however, they sing (several times) that they are calling from the Las Vegas Hilton. That's good enough for me.

♫ Little River Band - Home On A Monday


DARYL HALL AND JOHN OATES gave us one of the great Vegas songs.

Hall & Oates

Anyone who is familiar with their oeuvre will know immediately that I’m talking about Las Vegas Turnaround, the continuing story of Sarah who has appeared before in their songs.

♫ Hall & Oates - Las Vegas Turnaround


Well, the Queen of Spades is a friend of mine
The Queen of Hearts is a bitch
Someday when I clean up my mind
I'll find out which is which.

That pretty much sums up the city, and probably sums up the writer and singer of the song, the late great GRAM PARSONS.

Gram1 Parsons

That was from his song Ooh Las Vegas, which was on his final album, released posthumously, called “Grievous Angel”. He has the help of Emmylou Harris on this one.

♫ Gram Parsons - Ooh Las Vegas


BUCK OWENS’ mum didn’t seem to like the idea of her little boy venturing to Sin City.

Buck Owens

Buck seems to think that he’s Big in Vegas. He’s either kidding himself or us.

♫ Buck Owens - Big In Vegas


Buck is generally thought of a country singer, but here we have a real country song – drowning sorrows, pedal steels, takeout meals and a talky bit in the middle.

Okay, no takeout meals (that was my own private musical joke – I like to keep myself amused. Norma, the Assistant Musicologist will get it, I don't know about anyone else). The singer is BOB WAYNE.

Bob Wayne

Bob seems to have gone from the top to the bottom in the city. He’s not the only one who’s done that. He tells us all about in Lost Vegas.

♫ Bob Wayne - Lost Vegas


You were expecting this next one I imagine. I don't want to disappoint so here is ELVIS.

Elvis Presley

It is far from my favorite song of his, but it's on topic so it fits right in. It's probably the first one you thought of when the title came up. You know of what I speak, Viva Las Vegas.

♫ Elvis Presley - Viva Las Vegas


THE EVERLY BROTHERS are particularly jaded by our city.

Everly Brothers

Perhaps that should just be Don because as far as my ears can tell, Phil doesn’t seem to be present on this song. I assume that they performed in Las Vegas after their huge success tapered off somewhat.

I believe it pays well, but it could get a bit dispiriting as is evidenced by the song, I'm Tired of Singing My Song in Las Vegas.

♫ Everly Brothers - I'm Tired of Singing My Song in Las Vegas


I assume that SHERYL CROW feels the same as the Everly Brothers (or brother).

Sheryl Crow

That’s because she’s Leaving Las Vegas. The song was written by David Baerwald and is based on a book of the same name written by John O’Brien.

♫ Sheryl Crow - Leaving Las Vegas


Sheryl might pass SOUTHERN CULTURE ON THE SKIDS as they are going in the opposite direction.

Southern Culture on the Skids

SCOTS is a three piece band whose style leans towards rockabilly with a large dose of tongue-in-cheek thrown in for good measure. They’re heading for the city, but it seems it’s still 40 Miles to Vegas.

♫ Southern Culture On The Skids - 40 Miles to Vegas


TOM WAITS is channeling his inner lounge singer.

Tom Waits

That might come as a shock to those familiar with Tom’s work, but he seems to think he’s Frank Sinatra on this one. Indeed, the song sounds perfect for Frank. It’s a bit of a pity he didn’t get to record it. Straight to the Top (Vegas).

♫ Tom Waits - Straight To The Top (Vegas)




INTERESTING STUFF – 8 September 2018

LET'S HAVE SOME BOOGIE WOOGIE TODAY

As Laughing Squid explained recently:

”When hoodied musician Dr K (Brendan Kavanaugh) of Badass Boogie encountered a couple of teenagers who had never heard of Boogie Woogie, he sat down at the Yamaha Platform 88 public piano and rocked a mean Boogie Woogie tune to school them musically on the finer points of the genre.”

There is something about impromptu public music that is such great fun:

That reminds me of one of my all-time, top favorite boogie woogie tracks. I must have posted this in the past but it is more than worth a rerun. From the late, great Long John Baldry, Don't Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie on the King of Rock and Roll.

MERRIAM WEBSTER DICTIONARY ADDS 840 NEW WORDS FOR 2018

As the dictionary company explains in their introduction to those new 840 words,

”A dictionary is almost like a glossary of life: peek inside and you see descriptions of everything around you. The addition of new words to a dictionary is a step in the continuous process of recording our ever-expanding language.”

I was intrigued right away by this one: TL;DR. Maybe you know it already. I didn't:

”Too long; didn't read — used to say that something would require too much time to read”

Speaking of too long, 840 is a lot of words to wade through. Fortunately, MentalFloss chose 25 of them to highlight. Two examples:

“Hangry (adj.) Irritable or angry because of hunger. People have been hangry (or at least using the word) since 1956.

“Rando (n) According to Merriam-Webster, this 'often disparaging' slang means 'A random person: a person who is not known or recognizable or whose appearance (as in a conversation or narrative) seems unprompted or unwelcome.'”

There are another 23 at MentalFloss, and the whole 840 at Merriam-Webster.

HOW “LOL” CHANGED THE WAY WE TALK

In this short, little video, John McWhorter, a professor of linquistics at Columbia University, talks about how texting and other electronic shorthand has changed how we speak – for the better, he says.

(Apparently, putting annoying, nonsense music behind the speaker's audio is, to the producer, a feature, not a bug. Sorry I can't delete it for you.)

What do you think? Does he have a point?

THE LIBRARY

The Two Ronnies was a BBC television comedy show that aired on BBC One from April 1971 to December 1987. All these years later, their sketches hold up – just as funny now as then. Our good friend Darlene Costner sent this:

PLUGGING A HOLE IN THE SPACE STATION

Do you recall reading Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates when you were a kid? Do you remember the part in the story about the kid who plugged a hole in the dyke with his finger?

Now, there is a modern-day, real-life version:

”It may sound like something straight out of a cartoon,” reports Mother Nature News, “but on the morning of Aug. 30, it was the only thing astronaut Alexander Gerst could think of.

“After receiving word from NASA that the International Space Station was very slowly leaking air, Gerst and five other astronauts starting scouring all over for the source. Upon finding the 2-millimeter (0.08-inch) hole in the docked Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, Gerst did what many of us would likely do — he stuck his finger over the opening.:”

In what must be one of the most massive understatements ever spoken (well, at least about space), NASA's Mission Control noted:

"'Right now Alex has got his finger on that hole and I don't think that's the best remedy for it.'”

There is follow-up reporting with more detail and new information at The Guardian.

THE MOST POPULAR (sic) SURNAMES IN THE U.S.

Ancestry.com did some digging and came up with the most common surnames in each of the individual United States.

Here's a map with the top three in each state. (I'm pretty sure Ancestry misspoke: certainly they meant to say the most common, not most popular since no one is choosing their surname.)

Surname-Map-1

Well, that's way too small to try to read. Go see a readable version here.

The top three in my state, Oregon, are Smith, Johnson and Miller – which is close to true for almost every state.

You can also search for the origins and meanings of your own or anyone's surname.

LIVING SPACES IN HONG KONG

Living spaces smaller than the dimensions of a parking space. This is incredibly sad. You should watch it anyway.

AMERICAN CITIZENS BEING DENIED PASSPORTS

If you mostly watch cable news or read the front pages of newspapers, the only news happening this week were the Supreme Court nomination hearings and that unknown person who wrote an anonymous Op-Ed description of chaos in the White House published in The New York Times.

Even if it is not widely reported, other news does happen. In this case, one item is about American citizens who are being denied passports by the Trump administration:

"Juan is one of a growing number of people whose official birth records show they were born in the United States but who are now being denied passports — their citizenship suddenly thrown into question,” reports the Washington Post, among other news sources.

“The Trump administration is accusing hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Hispanics along the border of using fraudulent birth certificates since they were babies, and it is undertaking a widespread crackdown.”

Juan's U.S. birth record shows he was delivered by a midwife. “He spent his life wearing American uniforms: three years as a private in the Army, then as a cadet in the Border Patrol and now as a state prison guard,” continues the Post.

“But when Juan, 40, applied to renew his U.S. passport this year, the government’s response floored him. In a letter, the State Department said it didn’t believe he was an American citizen...

“In some cases, passport applicants with official U.S. birth certificates are being jailed in immigration detention centers and entered into deportation proceedings. In others, they are stuck in Mexico, their passports suddenly revoked when they tried to reenter the United States.”

The story is too long to copy here. You should know more about this – most of those affected have brown skin - more at The Post.

Don't ever forget Martin Niemoller's poem: “First they came for the socialists, but I wasn't a socialist...”

THE CHEETAHPULT

As the YouTube page explains:

”A custom-made contraption has catapulted the Oregon Zoo’s cheetahs toward a new level of fitness. Dubbed the 'cheetahpult,' it’s an 8-foot wooden device that flings a ball far enough for a cheetah — the fastest land animal on earth — to chase.

“After more conventional ball launchers fell short, the cheetahpult was designed and built by staff members with the zoo’s speediest residents in mind.”
.

My god, these animals are beautiful.

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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.




A Mystery of Slow and How Do You Dream of Yourself?

No statistics today or links or research or quotations from experts. Just a couple of observations I'm wondering about, mostly just for fun or, perhaps, some enlightenment among us.

A MYSTERY OF SLOW
One of the things I have done all these years to inform this blog is monitor the ways I am changing as the years pile up. It's not as dumb an idea as you might think as the one lesson I know for sure is that if it – whatever “it” is at a given time - is happening to me, it is happening to thousands and, probably, millions of other people.

A limitation to that monitoring turned up after my cancer surgery 14 months ago: I sometimes can't work out now if a change is the result of that big-time interruption to my life or just a normal part of getting older.

For example, the crepe-y skin that has appeared almost overnight just about everywhere on my body – even my knees – turned up during my recovery. It is due to expected loss of muscle mass, so I put that in the cancer box.

The reason for a new slowness, however, is up for debate.

It's not, as far as I can tell, that I walk more slowly or even need to rest part way through an activity – I've pretty much recovered my energy. It's that I seem to so easily stray from the business at hand. The internal monologue goes something like this:

[RONNI – VACUUMING]
Oh, look here. I've been searching for that book all week.

She sits down on a stool and flips through the book for 10 or 15 minutes)

That's not a one-off. Such distractions happen while making dinner, too, or halfway through sorting laundry or (more internal monologue)

[RONNI – WRITING A BLOG POST AT HER COMPUTER]
Did I remember to pay the cable/internet bill? I'd better check.

Sees headline about Woodward book and clicks link to read about it. When finished, she clicks the next headline about the Senate Kavanaugh hearings. One hour later:

[RONNI – STILL AT COMPUTER]
Okay now, what was I doing before those news stories?

Even with that thought of getting back to the original task, it is not unlikely I'll recall that I didn't take out the trash earlier so I do that or telephone a friend or do something else until I take myself in hand and concentrate again.

This stuff can happen off and on all day. It seems to take forever now to get through my daily to-do list. It's not that it's longer than in the past. In fact, it's often shorter due to some adjustments I've made to what's important and what isn't.

Nevertheless, I rarely, these days, am able to check off all the items and it is due mostly to following distractions wherever they lead me instead to finishing what I've started.

That might be a result of a lot of anesthesia over the past year affecting concentration or, it could be reduced executive function in my brain - not uncommon as we get older.

Is this familiar to any of you?

HOW DO YOU DREAM OF YOURSELF?
It is well known, of course, that everyone dreams but you wouldn't know it by me. Even when I occasionally wake with the wisp of dream in my head, it is trailing off by then and gone before I can grasp it.

So it was a surprise, a few days ago, when I woke with a picture, a short video really, in my head of me getting off a motorcycle and leaning it against a red-brick wall.

While doing that, I noticed a man about 10 or 15 feet away, leaning against the same wall. He had clearly been watching me ride up and smiled in an appreciative manner.

I couldn't miss that he was gorgeous and maybe about 10 years younger than I, not so much that it would necessarily be an impediment to – whatever.

Nevertheless, I went on my way in the opposite direction, immediately had a thought that I shouldn't pass up saying hello to someone as attractive as he was and turned to walk back toward him.

Then I woke up. (What a shame.)

It should be noted that I've never ridden a motorcycle, except once as a passenger, and my response to the man in the dream, reversing my direction, as mild as it seems to me now, was more brazen than I recall being in my dating years.

I'm not interested in interpreting the dream – I don't believe in that. Here is what has been on my mind about it since that morning:

I was the age I am in waking life, 77. I was aware of that in the dream, it was a feature of the dream, and in a passing moment, I was pleased at the grace I could feel in my movements as I got off the bike.

Because I rarely remember dreams, I don't have a history of what I have felt about myself in dreams. Age or capabilities have not been features. I just was. More, perhaps, that I was my internal self, I think, rather than being a certain age or recognizing any particular physical sensations either of youth or old age.

What I am wondering is how you experience yourself in dreams. Are you ever older or younger or different in some ways from what you are when awake? Has that changed as you've gotten older?




What to Call Old People

Although it has been awhile, we have been discussing what words we like and don't like to describe old persons since the earliest days of this blog 15 years ago and there is still not a consensus among us or anyone else.

From past posts, my views are well-known and not counting quotations from others, I don't stray from my personal preferences: old, old person, elder and that's about it.

Not senior or senior citizen and certainly not “older adult” and “older person” which use the comparative adjective as a synonym for “old” in the false belief that it's more polite or somehow doesn't mean the person referenced is old. Come on now, of course it does. Why shilly-shally around.

“Elderly” is another term I eschew as it generally refers to people who are old and medically infirm to differing degrees while implying that all old people are sick or disabled by virtue only of their age and therefore lesser than younger people.

I also don't use cutesy-pooh names like “oldster”, “golden-ager” or “third-ager”, and unless I am referring to a person we know was born between 1946 and 1964, I don't use the word, “boomer.”

In surveys, baby boomers say they don't mind that term as a synonym for old, failing to understand, I guess, that it refers to their specific generation and not all old people up until dead.

There are, give or take, 30 million of us in the U.S. - still very much alive - who were born before and during World War II who do not share the attributes assigned to the boomer generation. Personally, I dislike being lumped with them; we are older, have different experiences, attitudes and outlooks.

A few days ago, the Wall Street Journal took on this long-ongoing debate in a short report titled, “Forget 'Senior' - Boomers Search For a Better Term”, which you can read here [pdf].

I will let it go that, from the context, the WSJ reporter seems to believe “boomer” is a synonym for all old people. Further, Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity, tells the Journal that people don't like the word “old”:

“For a long time, Dr. Carstensen, 64, tried to get people to call themselves old and be proud of reaching advanced age. Getting others to embrace the term was a tough sell, she says. Other, more positive terms, such as sage, don’t always apply either. 'There are a whole bunch of older people who are nothing close to wise,' she says. She prefers perennial...”

As does former Secretary of State Madeleine Allbright. But I agree with Daniel Reingold, CEO of Riverspring Health, a nursing, rehabilitation and managed care company in New York: perennial “sounds like a plant,” he says.

Reingold says his company has struggled through the years to come up with appropriate wording around this issue.

”He prefers 'older adults,'” reports the WSJ, “which he thinks is neutral and accurate. 'The difference between a 90-year-old and a 40-year-old is that one adult is older,' he says. He’s just not sure when the term starts to kick in: 'I’m 64 and I’m not sure I want to be called an older adult.'”

Oh just stop it. Everyone, stop it. If you are asking the question about when being old “kicks in”, you're there.

Referring again to Carstensen's declaration about urging people to feel “proud” of their advanced age, I disagree again. What is there to be proud of? Why should anyone be proud of being old any more than claiming pride for being 17 or 36 or 52 or any other age?

Pride of years makes no sense to me. All ages are equally valid. Unless we die young, we each go through all of them. There is nothing unique or special about a certain age compared to another.

To use respectful words won't suddenly do away with ageism but over the long haul, it will contribute to easing that particular prejudice. Given how far we have not come in regard to racism (for just one example), that haul will be particularly long given that so many people – including millions of old people themselves – deny that ageism exists.

Elders who think ageism is not real or is not important often say, “Age is just a number.” No it is not, not if you can't get a job, are denied medical care or are cruelly dismissed and ignored due to the number of your years.

In regard to choice of words about anything, I do my best always come down on the sides of fact and clarity – something we should all be well tutored in these days while enduring this bizarre era of daily “fake news” accusations from the president of the United States.

For better and worse, language is used every day to persuade, manipulate, exhalt, denounce and more. Let's make sure we each use it with respect for everyone including elders. Language matters.

What do you think should be preferred terms for old people? And why?




Hozho

By Melanie Lee

”Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
        - Rumi, poet

After retiring from university teaching at 70, my husband Louis and I moved to Sedona, an artist’s colony and nature paradise in Northern Arizona.

Settling into our new life as aspiring cultural creatives, we studied up on the original inhabitants of this ancient Colorado Plateau region. I became fascinated with the Navajo concept of Hozho, which loosely translates to beauty.

Hozho is a way of life encompassing harmony peace, peace of mind, goodness, ideal family relationships, beauty in arts and crafts, and health of body and spirit.

A certain mindful focus on beauty has its rewards. And takes a good bit of patience. But fortunately when you reach a certain age (“wisdom's edge”) that becomes more available. Courage too.

I’ve a deep admiration for people who’ve fiercely devoted their lives to beauty like Navajo (Dine') sculptor Larry Yazzie. His sculpture Surrender is the embodiment of Hozho, and his creative process adds gravity.

Surrender by Larry Yazzie

Yazzie begins each new piece never knowing what it will become, the stone itself decides what it will be. Yazzie has said if you know what you're going to do next, then your creative process becomes just a job.

Sometimes, for inspiration, I think about Yazzie and his process. I get up in the morning, make a coffee, sit down, switch on my electric candle (symbolic, handy, economically sensible and besides I'm Aquarius rising), then deliberately start my day by surrendering to beauty.

Turning eyes right, a view beyond my small, lace curtained window appears and behold, Hozho!

Hozho  beauty

Intriguing chunky textures and shapes, a sturdy pink stone wall, a full cascade of English ivy with deep green leafy variations, caressed by an endless expanse of golden sunrise. Hello out there, you big old beautiful world, what's out there for me today?

I’ve come to see that life is awash, just drowning in possibilities for walking the Beauty Way, for the sacred experience of Hozho, not only the visual but also the intangible and spiritual – a wish for someone's well being, gratitude for comfort and safety, gladness for old friends.

Oh, I know. You’re skeptical. "What, sun, lace, rocks, sky, ivy? Oh please, that's nothing to get worked up about."

No, I reply, a thousand times no! It's everything to get worked up about, because in this present moment I am spoken to about beauty. I am breathing, safe, grateful and blessed. I’ve learned, being here in Sedona, how to move into this optimistic and welcoming inner space, no longer trying to force awareness or awakedness.

My part is only to allow the curves of the soul to lead me, listening to the Saguaro cacti, speaking to the gnarly old junipers, saluting the stirring sunsets, marveling at the charm of hummingbirds, honoring the magnetic red rocks turned into enchanted cairns living along well used hiking trails.

Purposely focusing on the Hozho of the present moment as a singular beauty in itself is a way to honor life for what it is now and for what it might yet become.

At 73 years old, I fully understand life should, and can, be more than just a job. Like artist Larry Yazzie, I think life can be a work of art. Maybe you do too.

Here’s an idea for how to begin the day with Hozho: Get up some morning, greet the promise of the day and surrender to beauty.

Muse on a moment when you encountered something in nature so beautiful that it brought you close to tears with its near-perfection. Don't forget the sensual details, sight, sound, taste, feel, smell.

Remember an inspirational person you admire (real person or fictional character), someone who first gave you a sense of beauty and awakened you to the possibility of being so present, that life could be experienced on a higher, more creative and fulfilling plane of existence.

Finish this Hozho greeting by recalling a story (could be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essay) that was so viscerally powerful that, after you’d finished reading it, your life was changed forever in a positive way.

* * *

[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.
]




Labor Day 2018: Stuck In Old People Jobs

[EDITORIAL NOTE: Don't forget, if you are interested the documentary film, RBG, about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it will be broadcast this evening on CNN at 9PM and again at 12 midnight U.S. eastern time.

* * *

Between the beginning of the great recession in 2008 through the year 2010, 8.7 million U.S. workers, many at the peak of their careers, were laid off. Breakdown of the statistics by age is hard to come by but we can estimate that at least tens of thousands were within the last two or three or four years or so their working lives.

When jobs began to return, did they get back on track?

Through the years since the start of the recession I've wondered what happened to those people. And now that the country apparently has attained near-full employment, have they been hired?

As of last month, the number of jobs in the U.S. is 7.7 percent higher than at the start of the recession. So pretty much everyone should be employed, right?

Well, maybe. Except for the fact that the 7.7 percent comes out almost even equal with the number of new workers who have entered the workforce in that period of time. Even so, the unemployment rate is currently at a low 3.9 percent, a number that hasn't been seen since 2001.

Last week, the Boston Globe (paywall) took a look at what such a tight labor market means for older workers.

The jobless rate for workers 55 and older, 3.1 percent, looks good for those job seekers on it face.

”...but that’s little consolation to the longtime unemployed and underemployed in that age group," reports The Globe. "Research dating back to the 1980s shows that job options narrow for those over 50.

“Many of these workers get funneled into lower-paying 'old person jobs' — everything from retail sales clerks to security or school-crossing guards to taxi drivers, according to a 2016 study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.”

Plus, the same-old, same old false prejudices and objections to older workers are still widespread: that they expect higher wages; they increase health insurance costs; they are stuck in their ways and can't learn new skills. The Boston Globe:

”Fairly or not, employers’ reluctance to pay more for older workers can be the biggest obstacle, said Donald Klepper-Smith, chief economist at DataCore Partners, an economic research firm based in New Haven and Martha’s Vineyard.

“'Many employers are looking at what they’re paying a 60-year-old and they’re saying, Wait, I can hire two hungry 30-year-olds  for the same cost,' he said. Klepper-Smith, who is 64, added, 'My wife is joking right now that she’ll outsource me for two 30-year-olds.'”

I don't mean to be snide - well, maybe I do - is age and low wage now the only criteria? Do knowledge and experience have no place anymore in the workplace?

For older workers left out or left behind in those old people jobs, the future can be bleak. After years of no income and/or much lower income, their savings is often depleted, they don't make enough to pay off debts and save for their future which has its own consequences:

”...older employees continue to be pigeonholed into lower-wage positions, Rutledge said, with often dire financial consequences for their retirement savings and income.

“A lot of people think their earnings are going to grow as they get older,” he said. “When that doesn’t happen, it means they’ve probably overestimated how much they can save and what their Social Security benefits will be. And they’ll end up living on less.”

Although the number of unfilled jobs in the U.S. is the highest it has been in 17 years, ”...most of the openings are in sectors like retail, services, and transportation”, reports The Globe. Old people jobs.

Some say the job market is loosening up a bit and that that bodes well for age 55-plus workers. I'm not so optimistic. In all the years prior to the great recession, age discrimination in the workplace was in full force. Many TGB readers, including me, have been caught in that trap as we grew older.

Don't forget too that in the decade since the recession, the gig economy has taken off with its short-term jobs, low pay, often no health coverage, and freelancers and contractors usually required to pay the full Social Security tax including the employer half, not just their own contribution.

That affects workers of all ages but older ones have so little time to make up the difference for their retirement.

Employment these days is not a pretty picture for millions of people and I'm grateful to not be part of it any longer, either starting out or finishing up a career. Like many TGB readers, I had a taste of workplace discrimination when I was laid off at age 63 and couldn't get rehired in the extremely youth-oriented internet work world I had been part of for 10 years, or anywhere else.

That affected my Social Security benefit in the negative but I'm fortunate to have enough to get by in relative comfort anyway. I don't want for anything and I thank the gods daily for Medicare.

And contrary to what the Boston Globe seems to believe, age discrimination in the workplace has not gotten better with time.

It has been 51 years since the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was enacted by Congress. It is administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) but far too often the law favors employers over aggrieved employees.

One way that happens is that in legal proceedings, most employers have attorneys on staff or on retainer and they get paid whatever they are working on. They can drag out paperwork and other delays, as only lawyers can, until the (now laid off) plaintiff can't afford to pay his/her attorney any longer.

As pessimistic as I am, even the EEOC doesn't see much change in attitudes of the culture and employers toward older workers. In a historical overview published in 2017, the agency reported:

“Despite decades of research finding that age does not predict ability or performance, employers often fall back on precisely the ageist stereotypes the ADEA was enacted to prohibit.

“After 50 years of a federal law whose purpose is to promote the employment of older workers based on ability, age discrimination remains too common and too accepted.”

It is true that the workplace is in a huge transition and no one knows how or when or in what form it will settle down.

One thing can be counted on, however: age discrimination in the workplace is only one form of ageism and it will not go away until all forms of ageism are vanquished, and no one is stuck in an old person's job just because they are old.




ELDER MUSIC: 1954 Yet Again

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.

* * *

Rhythm and blues had started to enter into the purview of the general hit parade by 1954. It still hadn't morphed into rock & roll; that would take another year or so. However, it meant that we were starting to get some interesting music, at least from this young lad's point of view.

I'll start with one of the best RAY CHARLES.

Ray Charles

Ray started out performing rather in the same vein as Nat King Cole but he quickly developed his own style. Even by this year his style seems to be fully formed in the song I Got a Woman.

♫ Ray Charles - I Got a Woman


Gene De Paul and Sammy Cahn wrote the song Teach Me Tonight this year. It was first recorded by Janet Brace and hers was the first to make the charts. Not long after, DINAH WASHINGTON had a crack at it and her version is the one most of us remember (or at least I do).

Dinah Washington

Sammy Cahn wrote an extra verse for Frank Sinatra many years later when he recorded it referring to Frank's many affairs. Today it's Dinah's turn.

♫ Dinah Washington - Teach Me Tonight


The late great JOHNNY ACE is a bit of a cliché these days.

Johnny Ace

However, it's quite true that he was a great performer and no doubt would have turned into a superb soul singer. Alas, there's the "late" part. Johnny managed to shoot himself in a very silly stunt (he was overly fond of guns). His song is the one he's best known for, Pledging My Love.

♫ Johnny Ace - Pledging My Love


EARTHA KITT was wonderfully outspoken, famously serving it up to the first lady (Lady Bird Johnson) at a White House lunch. She wasn’t invited back, but I don’t think she cared.

Eartha Kitt

Eartha spent quite some time in France and that’s pretty obvious from her song Under the Bridges of Paris.

♫ Eartha Kitt - Under the Bridges of Paris


GUY MITCHELL was all over the charts around this time.

Guy Mitchell

He took an old song called Sippin’ Cider and transformed it, as I imagine that sounded a bit racy for 1954. Instead we have Sippin' Soda. I guess all the kids down at the malt shop were doing that. At least, that’s what their parents thought they were doing.

♫ Guy Mitchell - Sippin' Soda


I had completely forgotten the next song until I reviewed it for the column. That was not a good thing because, once I'd played it, I remembered that it was a real earworm for me back in the day. I found that it still holds that power and I've been singing it (or bits of it in real earworm style) all week.

The song is I Get So Lonely by the FOUR KNIGHTS.

The Four Knights

On another tack, what's with all these Four Something-or-others back then? There were The Four Lads, The Four Aces, The Four Seasons, The Four Preps and on and on. I would have left the number off because if one member left you'd be scrambling around for a replacement or you'd have to change the name (unfortunate if you already had a following). Anyway, here's that annoying song.

♫ The Four Knights - I Get So Lonely


MUDDY WATERS was selling lots of records by this stage.

Muddy Waters

I had to wait to discover them as they didn’t really impinge on the couple of radio stations that we could pick up regularly in the country town where I was living in far western Victoria in Australia. With hindsight, though, I’m really happy to include Muddy performing I'm Ready.

♫ Muddy Waters - I'm Ready


TONY BENNETT was somewhat puzzled when his producer Mitch Miller suggested he record one of Hank Williams' songs. "Country music?" he asked, somewhat quizzically.

Mitch said that it would be unrecognizable after they arranged it. That song was Cold, Cold Heart and it went on to sell millions. So, when Mitch suggested another song of Hank's, Tony was still a bit reluctant but less so. That song was There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight.

Tony Bennett

The song also sold well, but not as much as the previous one. Here it is.

♫ Tony Bennett - There'll Be No Teardrops Tonight


Probably most of the best songs from this year, and you’ve heard several already, didn’t make the top of the charts. That goes for the next one, which in spite of the good ones we’ve had, I think is the pick of the crop. It’s by RUTH BROWN.

Ruth Brown

As with Muddy, the song isn’t one I remember hearing on the two radio stations we could pick up in my town, a long way from anywhere (Melbourne was 250 miles to the east and Adelaide was 250 miles to the west). I only learned about it later. Oh What a Dream.

♫ Ruth Brown - Oh What A Dream


The MILLS BROTHERS just kept on keeping on.

The Mills Brothers

They had been around since the thirties and were still producing good music, or at least interesting music. I don’t know which category The Jones Boy fits into, but I quite liked it at the time.

♫ The Mills Brothers - The Jones Boy




INTERESTING STUFF – 1 September 2018

EDITORIAL NOTE: As I mentioned Friday, my main computer died and I'm on a cranky, old, slow laptop until a new one is procured and set up.

Because I don't have access to my Interesting Stuff notes stuck in the dead computer, this is a shorter, more slapdash edition of Interenting Stuff with what I could pull together quickly.

* * *

NOTORIOUS RBG DOC AIRS ON MONDAY

Here's your chance if, like me, you missed seeing the documentary about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg titled RBG in a theater earlier this year.

It will be broadcast on CNN Monday (Labor Day) evening at 9PM and again at 12 midnight U.S. eastern time. Here is the trailer:

She's my number one hero for several important reasons. I wouldn't miss this screening for anything.

NEW OPINION SURVEY ON WOMEN IN POLITICS

More women than ever in history are running for public office this year. Pew Research checked out how Americans feel about that:

Wo,/P.menRunningforoffice

Republicans have a way to go to catch up to the prevailing opinion that the number of women on ballots in the midterms is a good thing but men are doing well in accepting that.

You can read more about the survey at Pew Research.

HOW POLLING WORKS

As long as we're speaking of polls, here a short explanation of how a small number of respondents can be representative of an entire population.

What surprises me is that the method doesn't seem to have changed much since, as manager editor of cbsnews.com during the presidential election of 1996, I worked with the head of polling at CBS News.

Do keep in mind as you watch this that the pollsters failed dramatically to predict the winner in 2016.

CLEVER RACCOON

I have first-hand experience with raccoons' ability to foil just about any human attempt to keep them out of the garbage or wherever else they might find food. Take a look at this clever guy:

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ANTLERS AND HORNS

There are, here and there in my life, things I believe I ought to have known about since I was kid. But new ones I'm ignorant of turn up regularly. Here is the latest:

SCREENED OUTDOOR CAT PATIOS

Depending, among other considerations, where you live, it might not be a good idea to let the family cat run free outdoors. But most of them never stop trying to sneak out the door.

Here are some solutions, quite elaborate ones, some people have come up with in Portland, Oregon:

Catio-styles1

Catio-styles2

More photos of cat patios here.

* * *

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.




Elder Guardianship

Two months after it was fixed, my computer crashed again on Wednesday and this time I'm just going to replace it. That will take a little while.

The backup laptop I'm working on hasn't gotten any better since last time. It is slow, cranky and painful to use so until I am up and running with a new one, posting will be sketchy.

Peter's music column is already set for Sunday, so that will be here and a new reader story will post next Tuesday.

I can't promise an Interesting Stuff tomorrow or a Monday post. But maybe. Meanwhile, I can tolerate being on this machine only in short bursts without pulling my hair out so I'm just letting you know.

For today, I had intended to write a piece on elder guardianship but I can't get to my notes in the broken computer so let's do it this way:

  1. It was last October that I first meant to report on this important subject based on a frightening story published that month in The New Yorker. Due to some personal health issues, I didn't get back to it until now.

  2. In June this year, John Oliver, host of the HBO program Last Week Tonight, made elder guardianship the main story of his show one Sunday based largely on the same New Yorker material I had.

So I'll just run the Oliver video without the additional information I had tracked down and intended to include until it got lost inside the broken computer.

Oliver's piece is as excellent (in John's inimitable way) as the New Yorker story. It's important for all elders to know this can happen and to be sure all your late-life, end-of-life papers are in order.

Here is Oliver. If you have access to The New Yorker online, their story is here and includes a lot more detail and useful information than Oliver could fit into his video - although you get to see and hear the people discussed in the magazine piece.

There. I'm done – this is all I can stand to do on this laptop right now.




Elders: Taking Stock of Our Lives

If you live long enough, it's inevitable: you will, in one form or another, do some stock-taking of your life. A sizing up. An account balancing. Or a simple, “how'm I doing?”

There is no particular time or year of life when it comes along. In fact, I think for some it is an ongoing monitor that pops up now and then all through adulthood. But in later years, it becomes more urgent.

Even moreso, as I learned recently from personal experience, when a life-threatening or “just” a serious illness interrupts the steady flow of days. Then a reckoning feels important.

For me and a few others I've spoken with about this, it usually begins with a narrative of one's life.

I never had big plans for mine – actually, I never had any plan. I have a strong memory of a certain day in my mid-teens realizing it was highly unlikely I would grow up to cure cancer. Teens do that sort of grandiose thinking but even then I knew I didn't have the wherewithall for saving mankind.

When college decisions were at hand, I had no earthly idea what I wanted to study and not a single thought about what I wanted to do with my life.

You'll recall that in those days, late 1950s, girls were expected to get married and have babies which a goodly number of my classmates did within a week or two of graduation.

I knew that wasn't for me so I went to work at a typing job. And then another. And another.

It never came to mind to note that I didn't have a real career. No one told us girls back then that a formal, planned career might be an option.

Everyone understood that we could be office workers and waitresses or, if we went to college, teachers and nurses. Women doctors and lawyers hardly existed in those days so most of us didn't think in those terms.

After seven years of pounding keyboards, I married and became the producer of my husband's radio talk show. The 1960s, of course, were an exhilirating time of social upheaval and I booked musicians, political radicals, dissenters, women's movement and civil rights activists, politicians and more as we reported on and chronicled the zeitgeist of the times.

It became the number one talk show in New York City radio and then I moved on to produce television shows for 25 years. In an unexpected instance of great, good luck, I got in on the earliest days of the commercial internet as managing editor of the first CBS News website.

I wouldn't trade my “career” for anything. I met kings and queens and movie stars and heads of state. I worked with the best and the brightest in pretty much all areas of life – music, medicine, politics, art, entertainment, literature, science, fashion, theater and movies and more.

It was my job to learn something of what those people knew and help them make sense of it for television and, later, the internet. They, experts in their fields, were the college education I'd skipped and it has lasted all my life.

When I was forced into retirement 14 years ago, I had already begun this blog so all that changed, aside from loss of a paycheck, were more frequent posts and a shorter commute - from the bedroom to my home office.

Well, work was not quite all that changed. The biggest, most difficult outcome was the necessity to leave my home of 40 years, New York City, when – in the shock of a lifetime – I found no one hires 63-year-olds, particularly in technology. I had no idea then that ageism existed much at all until it happened to me, and certainly not that it was so widespread even among people younger than I.

Now I know and it hasn't gotten any better since then.

You'll note that I didn't mention another marriage or children. That's because there weren't any and unlike most of my life, they were deliberate decisions. Regrets? None about not having a child or two but there is a wonderful and brilliant man I probably should have married...

Certainly I've made varieties of poor decisions along the way, and you don't get to know the things I've said and done of which I'm deeply ashamed.

On the other hand, apparently my mom and dad instilled in me a decent sense of right and wrong, good and evil. In the particular political era of our time, I am regularly shocked out of my senses at the enormity of the lies, misdeeds, avarice, iniquities and crimes committed by almost every high-level elected official and appointee in our federal government.

I am grateful to know I'm am not capable of what they do, although I am fairly sure I can't take credit for it – it's just is.

Sometimes I think the way I made my living, mostly related to entertainment with some politics thrown in, was too frivolous – that I would be happier with myself at this age if I had chosen something of more benefit to the world and other people.

During this past year that I spent in close proximity to a lot of medical, health and hospital workers, I see they are put together differently from me. Their care, concern and patience is genuine, manifest every day with their unending kindness to cranky, tired, frightened, sick people who are often in pain and on their worst behavior.

I know me and I know I could never match the standard set by these amazing people who turn their entire working lives over to helping others. So it's just as well I did something else with my life.

Not that I actually made a choice. A few years after I had conceded to myself that I had no idea what I wanted from life, sometime in my twenties, I made a decision to just follow my nose and see where it would take me through the coming years. It didn't work out too badly.

Recently, I ran across a quotation from the musician Elton John that sums up my 77 years and continues to apply:

“If you let things happen, that is a magical life.”

“Let things happen” is, for me, just a nicer way of saying that I never bothered to choose how I wanted to live. I think that's a failing – a fairly big one - but not something I can fix now and anyway, my life has been close enough to magical to be okay.

Have you done any taking stock?




A TGB Reader Story: Hope On Top of the World

By Gloria MacKay

I still hope: for sunny days; for my other pearl earring to be in the drawer; for my doctor to say see you next year; for my hair to perk up. I know how to hope, but never with the abandon I would have allowed myself if I had not grown up with that woman looking down on my head.

Hope hung in the living room over the couch for so many years she made her mark on the wall, framed with burnished wood finished to look like metal she was an eerie sight: a woman draped in sepia, olive drab and slate gray, head in her hands and legs sprawled over a big, equally sepia ball. I would glance up every time I walked into the room.

I watched when my mother lifted Hope off the hook and set her on the floor, leaving a clean rectangle on the wall as exposed as a patch of skin after you rip off the band aid. I crouched on the carpet as she turned the picture over and pointed to a sticker embossed with fancy gold letters. Hope On Top of the World she read as she turned to me. “This is what Hope looks like.”

I jumped up and ran to my room, my mother’s voice following me. “Don’t be silly, She’s not real. She’s just a picture.”

I was the age when Santa Claus lived within me in the comfortable limbo between real and make believe but I could not be this accommodating with Hope even when she lay face down on the carpet with her sticker showing. Credentials or not, I kept one foot in my room and peeked out the door until I saw her back on the wall where she belonged.

My second encounter with hope happened on one of my early birthdays when I was called upon to blow out my birthday candles all by myself with no help. I felt a circle of tense faces coming down on me as I took a big breath and let go.

I don’t remember how many candles were on the cake but I blew them all out and everyone clapped. “Don’t tell what you wished for or it won’t come true,” someone hollered. Right then all my hope went up with the smoke. I had been so eager to do a good job I had forgotten to wish.

I still don’t like people staring at me. I don’t like it when I sit in the corner of my doctor’s office, for instance, engrossed in a magazine and the nurse blurts out my name so loudly I jump.

All eyes are looking at me as I gather my belongings, straighten the magazines, stand up, sweater dragging, purse unzipped, and head for the open door. I get so rattled that I forget to hope for the best.

Wishing on a star was my next experience with hope. My mother and I would chant “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might get the wish I wish tonight.”

She reminded me, every time, to look sharply because it had to be made on the very first star. I must have wished as many times as stars have twinkles but I can’t remember for sure if any of my wishes came true.

In time I replaced this childhood chant with a more sophisticated song. It begins “When you wish upon a star” and ends, “your dreams come true.” In between it gives us permission to wish on all stars, any stars, any time, any place.

I don't have to strain my eyes in the twilight searching for the very first flicker - any old star will do. And I don’t have to blow hard and not tell to make my birthday wishes come true. And even if I forget to whisper the wish to myself, it is in my head and that just might be enough.

These days when I find one of those touristy little wells sitting in a patch of grass collecting money and wishes I am always surprised at the carpet of coins at the bottom.

If no one is watching I might drop in a coin and make a wish of my own, as though I were Hope on top of the world and the face in the ripples is someone I’ve never met.

Hope On Top Of The World

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[EDITORIAL NOTE: This feature, TGB Readers' Stories, appears every Tuesday. Anyone age 50 and older is welcome to submit a story. You can do that by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of every TGB page or at the Guidelines/Submissions page.

Please be sure to read and follow the guidelines before submitting a story. It will save me a lot of time.
]




Prescription Drug Advertising and Me

No, this isn't a rerun and yes, I wrote about it just six months ago: prescription drug advertising – aka “direct-to-consumer” advertising and no surprise: it hasn't changed since then.

But maybe I have.

Before I get to that, however, consider this: most of us know there are “seasons” for sales of different kinds of products. Holidays are obvious but home appliances get a big push at certain times of the year. Beds and bed linens at other times. Cell phones are big in February. Sneaker sales seem to be everywhere in April. And so on.

I could be wrong – I haven't done a comparative study - but I believe I may have identified summer as the time of year pharmaceutical companies heavily promote their newest drugs.

Have you noticed recently? There are a bunch of commercials about drugs I had never heard of before: Orencia, Verzenio, Neulasta, Toujeo and more.

They sound a lot like the ones we're already accustomed to e.g., Eliquis, Humira, Xarelto, Lyrica, etc. which continue to be aired among these newbies. They are ubiquitous – I once counted seven prescription drug commercials in a one-hour TV show, and three or four is common.

Because people 65 and older are just about the last age group in the U.S. that watches TV and are also the age group that uses the majority of prescription drugs, it's old folks the marketers target and in addition to the billions of dollars big pharma pulls in for their drugs, it is a lucrative source of income for television networks, channels and owners.

”Drug companies spent more than $6 billion [in 2017] on direct-to-consumer ads, according to the consulting firm Kantar Media,” reported the Los Angeles Times in April. “Over 770,000 such ads were aired in 2016, the most recent year for which stats are available. That's up a whopping 65% from 2012.”

Milton Packer is a U.S. physician well known for his clinical research into heart failure.

”Studies report that consumers often place unwarranted trust in these TV prescription drug ads,” Packer wrote at Medpagetoday in May.

“Practitioners report being bombarded by patient requests, and many feel pressured to prescribe drugs that have been requested by patients, even if they believe it is inappropriate to do so. And the conversation often wastes the limited time the physician has allotted to the patient visit.

“Think the situation is bad now?” Packer continues. “A year ago, pharmaceutical companies were seeking FDA permission to use direct-to-consumer advertising to promote off-label use of drugs for nonapproved indications.”

That's not much different from a movie star advising people to not vaccinate their children, is it. Sure, let's tell people they can use a powerful controlled substance for anything they want.

I'm shocked that anyone could or would actually think that up. And it gets worse. This from The New York Times last December about prescription drug commercials in general:

”'The ads, which once focused on treatments for chronic but generally nonfatal conditions, have turned to more serious ailments in the last few years,' said Thomas Lom, a consultant and former senior executive at several health care ad agencies.

“'In the old days, it was allergies and acid reflux and whatnot,' he said. 'Now, it’s cardiology issues. It’s cancer.'”

Did you know that every nation in the whole wide world disallows direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising except two? New Zealand is one. Can you guess the other? (The U.S., of course. But you knew that.)

A 2016 Harvard poll [pdf] asked Americans if prescription drugs should be advertised on television:

57% adults said they support removing prescription drug advertisements from television

39% said they opposed this change

The researchers report that there were no significant differences in opinion on this question by political party affiliation, income or gender.

Not that anyone in power, let alone the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) which sets the rules for pharmaceutical advertising, will do anything.

Okay. Believe it or not, all the above is background for what I really came here to say today.

It's not just the adverts themselves that disturb me. It is that, as one citation above notes, there are so many of them for the most debilitating and life-threatening diseases that exist (and the ads are always so damned cheerful about it.)

As most of you know, in June 2017, I underwent a 12-hour surgical procedure for pancreatic cancer. That and chemotherapy have been successful and in January the surgeon said there was no evidence of cancer, which my oncologist confirmed in February.

But that doesn't mean I can go back to the life I had before. I am forever stuck now in a “before and after” personal world, and I haven't found a way to ignore the event that divides the two sides of my life.

Although I'm still working out how my belief system has been challenged and I recognize that some of my outlook and attitudes may not be quite as solidly held as they once were, mostly I don't want to hear the word cancer anymore and certainly not the phrase “pancreatic cancer.”

I am not in denial. And I know that statistically, I am more likely to have a new cancer one day than someone with no previous cancer.

But I don't see a reason to think about that unless or until it happens. Unlike the majority of pancreatic cancer patients, I somehow made it through the first year after diagnosis and then some. A miracle, some say.

Living requires forward motion and I dislike the darkness, however fleeting, that shadows me for awhile following each drug commercial. I will never be as health carefree as in my “before” life but television free of drug commercials about dire diseases sure would help a lot.

(I'm not looking for advice today – just ruminating on something I've noticed that some others may recognize. Nor is it about 'don't watch tv' especially when we are living through a golden age of scripted programming - there is a lot of great stuff on TV these days. I'm only reporting something that may or may not be useful to discuss.)




ELDER MUSIC: Roy

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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Roy Orbison

ROY ORBISON was unique, and I use that word advisably. He had a voice like no other in popular music with a huge range that probably would have fitted easily into opera if that's what he wanted to do.

He wrote songs that didn't fit into the normal pop music structure; these were free flowing, story songs, operatic to some extent. Until Bob Dylan, no one broke the mold like he did.

Roy Orbison

Roy didn't start out like the way I described. His first recordings were at Sun Records with Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and others. He tried to fit into rockabilly but it really didn't work.

However, anything he recorded is worth a listen. The most famous song from that the time is Ooby Dooby.

♫ Roy Orbison - Ooby Dooby


Roy Orbison

After leaving Sun, he flourished into the performer we know now. The first song that impacted on my brain was Only the Lonely. Way back, when it came out, the first time I heard this song I was gobsmacked. Even now, I get the same reaction. The song came out of the blue, there was nothing like it before in my popular music listening history. Here it is.

♫ Roy Orbison - Only The Lonely


Not too long after that song, ROY came out with an even better song. That one is Crying. Instead of Roy's original version, I've decided to use a later one he performed with K.D. LANG.

Roy Orbison & kd lang

Norma, the Assistant Musicologist thinks this is better than the original. She may very well think that, I wouldn't dare disagree.

♫ Roy Orbison & k.d. lang - Crying


Something else ROY performed with others is Indian Summer. In this case it's BARRY GIBB and LARRY GATLIN.

Roy Orbison & Barry Gibb & Larry Gatlin

Barry is the oldest of the brothers who made up the Bee Gees, and alas, the only one still with us. Larry also performed with his brothers as Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers as well as being a solo performer. Here are the three of them performing the song.

♫ Roy Orbison - Indian Summer


There are few performers who could sing any of Roy's songs that you'd really want to listen to in preference to the original. One cover version that held up really well was by LINDA RONSTADT – neither the A.M. nor I am surprised at that. This was a big hit for her (and Roy too), Blue Bayou.

Linda Ronstadt

♫ Linda Ronstadt - Blue Bayou


The Crowd is a song that sounds like a lot of others of Roy's. Indeed, the A.M. scoffed at my choice, but I remember it fondly from my final year at school – there might have been a girlfriend involved. Actually, an ex-girlfriend would be closer to the mark by the time the song was released.

♫ Roy Orbison - The Crowd


Roy Orbison

Another song that the A.M. didn't think deserved its place is Leah. However, this is my column so it's included. It's not like most of his other songs.

♫ Roy Orbison - Leah


Traveling Wilburys

THE TRAVELING WILBURYS were a garage band – literally, they got together in one of their members' garage. The story is that Tom Petty, one of the group, skipped all the way home to tell his wife that Roy Orbison was going to be in his band. Roy Orbison!

He neglected to tell her that those also-rans Bob Dylan and George Harrison were also present. Jeff Lynne as well. They all enjoyed each others' music and had a ball playing together, such that they decided to record an album.

Alas, Roy died soon after, before he could participate in the second record. From that first album we have End of the Line, with all members singing parts of the song.

♫ Traveling Wilburys - End of the Line


We know that EMMYLOU HARRIS has recorded with many people over the years, and of course, ROY is in the mix.

Roy Orbison & Emmylou Harris

With those two you know it’s going to be a good song, and it is. That Loving You Feeling Again.

♫ Roy Orbison & Emmylou Harris - That Loving You Feeling Again


Roy Orbison

The A.M. and I were watching a vid of one of Roy's concerts and this next song came up. I had my mouth open to say that this was far and away the best song Roy ever recorded when the A.M. beat me to it saying exactly the same thing.

Anyone who is familiar with Roy's oeuvre knows that the song is Running Scared. This could almost be considered to be a mini-opera, or at least, an homage to Ravel's Bolero.

♫ Roy Orbison - Running Scared




INTERESTING STUFF – 25 August 2018

NABISCO FREES ANIMAL CRACKERS FROM CAGES

After more than a century, the company that owns Nabisco freed the animals on its Animal Crackers boxes.

”Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco, has redesigned the packaging of its Barnum's Animals crackers after relenting to pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,” reports The Associated Press.

“PETA, which has been protesting the use of animals in circuses for more than 30 years, wrote a letter to Mondelez in the spring of 2016 calling for a redesign.

Here are the before and after. The new boxes on now on shelves in the U.S.

Anim alCrackersBefore

AnimalsCrackersAfter

HE CAN PRONOUNCE THE ENTIRE DICTIONARY

Jacques Bailly is the official pronouncer of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the U.S. He started his wordsmith career as the 1980 spelling bee champion. Take a look:

There is more at Laughing Squid.

CROWS AS TRASH COLLECTORS

And you thought robots would take all the jobs. In France, it may be the crows: This from The New York Times:

”...the wily crow is getting a makeover. Puy du Fou, a historical theme park in the Loire region about four hours from Paris, has trained six crows to pick up cigarette butts and bits of trash and dump them in a box.

Here's how it goes:

This isn't the first time crows have been trained to do this, just the most recent. Damned clever, they are.

BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT

Isn't magic fun? This one is more than that, it is spectacular. Thank Darlene Costner for sending it.

The magician's name is Marc Spelmann and he was given the first Golden Buzzer of 2018. (I have no idea what that means; I'm just telling you what I read.)

”TRUTH ISN'T TRUTH”

- said Rudy Giuliani on Meet the Press last Sunday.

On Monday, Axios listed more of the infamous Orwellian phrases from the Trump administration:

“Alternative Facts” - Kellyanne Conway on Meet the Press, January 22, 2017

“Fake News” - President Trump every day

“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening" - Trump at the VFW National Convention, July 25, 2018

Axios also listed a few from the Party in George Orwell's 1984.

"War is peace”
“Freedom is slavery”
“Ignorance is strength"

There's no daylight I can see between the Trump folks and Orwell's Party.

CARVING A BIRDCAGE ON THE TIP OF A PENCIL

Artist Salavat Fidai uses a jumbo pencil with a diameter of 5mm to do this. I could be convinced that the video is a lot like watching paint dry except for the exquisite payoff of the result.

JOHN OLIVER ON TRADE

On HBO's program, Last Week Tonight last Sunday, host John Oliver took on some of the intricacies of trade. Sound boring to you? No way.

Oliver makes what generally is complicated understandable, compelling and even – as he so capably can do – funny. Oh, while you watch this, keep in mind that on Thursday, Trump imposed another $16 billion in new tariffs on China which immediately retaliated in kind.

FREE NYU MEDICAL SCHOOL TUITION

How about some really good news.

Ten days ago, New York University School of Medicine announced it will cover tuition of all its students regardless of merit or need. The move resulted from NYU's concern that students saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt are choosing high-paid specialties rather than family practice, pediatrics, geriatrics and research.

”N.Y.U.’s plan...may spur other top medical schools to follow suit. In a statement, N.Y.U. said that it would be the only top-ranked medical school in the nation to offer full-tuition scholarships to all students.

“The plan, effective immediately, covers all current and future students. Annual tuition is roughly $55,000. There are 93 first-year students, and another 350 students who have up to three years left before obtaining their degrees...

“The plan does not cover room and board or fees, which together are an additional $27,000, on average.”

What great news – for students and for patients. Read more at The New York Times.

RESCUE BEAVER BUILDING DAMS IN HIS HOUSE

What happens when you take in an orphaned beaver...

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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.




Our Poor Bedraggled USA

WTF just happened this week?

(NOTE: Sorry for the length but all this happened - and much more I haven't mentioned - in only four days.)

It's been a month since I announced here that I believe our national emergency is important enough that now and then we should trade in our single topic of age on this blog for our current political debacle. If any week ever called for it, this one does.

Whatever else we do in life, it is a requirement of citizenship that we pay attention to what our elected officials and their appointees are doing for (or against) our people, our country and our Constitution.

Although it has not been a pretty week, it has surpassed previous ones only in drama, not outrage. The president now stands accused of real crimes, not that the rational among us have doubted that all along.

But now it's official, on the record, hanging out there in the breeze waiting for those elected officials to damn well do something.

Is there anyone else, like me, who believes that the Republicans, who are in control of Congress, will pretend it didn't happen?

I'll circle back to the week's dramatic turns in a moment but first, here are a few other things that happened in Trumpland this week:

A new climate proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), admits within the proposal itself that the relaxed regulations will kill 1,400 people per year from power plants burning more coal.

"'We're canceling Obama's illegal anti-coal destroying regulations, the so-called Clean Power Plan,' [Trump] said during a rally in Charleston, West Virginia” reports CNBC.

“'Just today we announced our new Affordable Clean Energy proposal that will help our coal-fired power plants and save consumers — you, me, everybody — billions and billions of dollars.'"

The EPA likes to keep busy. As a bee, perhaps? The agency this week quietly delayed its final determination on bee-killing pesticides called neonicotinoids even after the European Union and now Canada have banned them.

In case you haven't kept up with the growing worldwide problem of bee decline, here is a little video about what will happen to all of us if they die off much further. (The video no less factual for have been produced in 2015. It just means you can skip the ad in the final 20 percent of the video.)

You can read more here and here.

In the “what could possibly go wrong” department, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVoss (she who registers at least one of her many yachts in a Caribbean nation to save a few bucks) announced she is considering allowing states to use federal school funds to arm teachers with guns.

Such a move, reports The New York Times appears to be unprecedented,

”...reversing a longstanding position taken by the federal government that it should not pay to outfit schools with weapons. And it would also undermine efforts by Congress to restrict the use of federal funding on guns.

“As recently as March, Congress passed a school safety bill that allocated $50 million a year to local school districts, but expressly prohibited the use of the money for firearms.

“But the department is eyeing a program in federal education law, the Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, that makes no mention of prohibiting weapons purchases.”

This change is not imminent but it is not unlikely to become reality given the massive number of other rollbacks of protective measures have been made during this administration. And how long after that will the first kid be killed, I wonder?

That's just some of the so-called boring news. What's got everyone banging on is the legal news. As you undoubtedly know by now, on Tuesday, former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight counts of tax evasion and bank fraud by a jury in Virginia.

Not 90 minutes later, President Trump's attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen confessed in court, under oath, that the president directed him to pay

”...hush money to two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, to buy their silence in the run-up to the 2016 election...” according to New York magazine, “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”

Since then, there has been a wall-to-wall news flurry of speculation about Trump's involvement in criminal activity, while resurrecting talk of impeachment that had been tamped down for the past few months.

Trump has praised Manafort for “refusing to break” - meaning he has not plead guilty to anything (some say Trump signaling that he will pardon Manifort), while trashing Cohen for “flipping”, an act the president told Fox and Friends on Thursday should be illegal.

Here is Trump's take on impeachment from the same Fox interview. (If the video does not play for you, here is the Twitter page.)

The president's response brings to mind his earlier boast that he is so powerful, he can pardon himself. For the record, he cannot. According to Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution,

”...[the president] shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”

Meanwhile, the Republicans, who have total control of Congress, have nothing to say. They just want to cram through the confirmation of their Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and ignore their Constitutional duties.

Here's my question: what about the children? According to the U.S. Department of Justice and the ACLU, a month after the deadline to reunite immigrant families, 565 children (!) remain in government custody. Is anyone doing anything about the kids?

Now it's your turn. Have at it.




Is This the Beginning of Dementia? Plus The Alex and Ronni Show

Most old people I know ask themselves that headline question from time to time. It usually follows such instances as these:

In the middle of a sentence, you forget the name of the movie or book or author you're talking about.

Sometimes it's the name of an everyday item you forget. Not long ago, I perfectly well knew I wanted the word, “scissors,” but it wouldn't come to mind. I resorted to “that thing you cut paper with.”

Now and then I forget what I did yesterday. It happens often enough that I've begun joking that as far as I can tell nowadays, I go to bed on Sunday night and wake up Saturday morning.

These common incidents of forgetfulness are unlikely to be signs of serious disease. According to the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA),

”Forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. As people get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. As a result, some people may notice that it takes longer to learn new things, they don't remember information as well as they did, or they lose things like their glasses. These usually are signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems, like Alzheimer's disease.”

Here's a handy chart from the NIA on the differences between normal forgetfulness and Alzheimer's disease:

ForgetfulnessVAlzheimers

According to the NIA, there are both biological and psychological causes of non-dementia and non-Alzheimer's forgetfulness:

Tumors, blood clots, or infections in the brain
Some thyroid, kidney, or liver disorders
Drinking too much alcohol
Head injury, such as a concussion from a fall or accident
Medication side effects
Not eating enough healthy foods, or too few vitamins and minerals

”Emotional problems, such as stress, anxiety, or depression, can make a person more forgetful and can be mistaken for dementia. For instance, someone who has recently retired or who is coping with the death of a spouse, relative, or friend may feel sad, lonely, worried, or bored. Trying to deal with these life changes leaves some people feeling confused or forgetful.

“The confusion and forgetfulness caused by emotions usually are temporary and go away when the feelings fade.

The Mayo Clinic website has an easy-to-use report about dementia-or-not-dementia on a page titled, Memory Loss: When to Seek Help. Here is an encouraging list of possible causes of memory loss that are reversible:

Medications
Minor head trauma or injury
Emotional disorders. Stress, anxiety or depression
Alcoholism. Chronic alcoholism can seriously impair mental abilities
Vitamin B-12 deficiency
Hypothyroidism
Brain diseases. A tumor or infection in the brain

Not to mention plain-old old age which, if not reversible, does not disrupt one's life much. The Mayo Clinic discusses a condition known as mild cognitive impairment thusly:

”This involves a notable decline in at least one area of thinking skills, such as memory, that's greater than the changes of aging and less than those of dementia. Having mild cognitive impairment doesn't prevent you from performing everyday tasks and being socially engaged.

“Researchers and physicians are still learning about mild cognitive impairment. For many people, the condition eventually progresses to dementia due to Alzheimer's disease or another disorder causing dementia.

“Other people's memory loss doesn't progress much, and they don't develop the spectrum of symptoms associated with dementia.

As the Mayo piece notes, professionals “are still learning” not only about cognitive impairment but how the brain works in general so what is thought to be true today may not be tomorrow.

And what else I found out in researching this post is that just about everyone from health and medical reporters to doctors and researchers have a bias. They interpret the same information on a scale that runs from “don't worry about, it's normal” to “oh my god, see your doctor immediately.”

Okay, I'm overstating for effect, but as far as I can find it works that way a lot of the time.

That notwithstanding, personally I am relying on the conclusion of the bevy of physicians from five disciplines (!) who worked together on the solution to my internal bleed problem last spring.

When all of them showed up together in my hospital room late one afternoon, each trailed by two or three of his or her medical students, I asked for a clarification of a point because, I told them (and it's true), I get really stupid every day after about 3PM.

Each immediately replied with some version of “Oh, please, Ronni, you're sharp as a tack, you've got nothing to worry about.” I have decided to believe that until something untoward happens.

I've carefully monitored my mind for decades. I know the kinds of mistakes I make regularly and I know the ones – mostly memory – that have increased as the years pile up. Knowing these things helps keep them at bay or allows me to compensate for them to a degree I couldn't do otherwise.

For example, I can't recall even a list of just three items I want at the grocery store so I never rely on memory. I always make a list and these days I can do it on my phone via Alexa, adding items between shopping trips as they occur to me or I notice I'm out of olive oil.

I must have been in my 20s when I started making daily to-do lists at the end of the day. I never shut my computer without having made my tomorrow list.

Obligations to others such as in-person appointments but also via internet or telephone are always in red pen. I use yellow highlighter for things that have a close deadline or that I could but should not let go to another day. Most of the rest are reminders.

If there is something I absolutely must take with me when I leave the house, I put in front of the door where I will trip over it if I don't pick it up. I've learned that a sticky note on the door doesn't work, especially if it's been there for more than a day when it becomes just part of the woodwork.

A great help is that I have come to see my memory lapses as funny – at least when they are not annoying. I wrote this to give you a little information on the dementia/not dementia question but I also wonder how this stuff affects you and what you do about it.


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Here is the latest episode of The Alex and Ronni Show recorded yesterday. If you would like to see Alex's entire two-hour show with other guests following our chat, you can do that at Facebook or Gabnet on Facebook or on YouTube.