Last Week’s Links

THE RISE OF THE ‘GRANNY STATE’ IN AMERICA’S NURSING HOMES

The growing number of older people entering assisted living facilities is spawning an accompanying fear of elder abuse:

More and more states are passing laws and introducing regulations requiring nursing homes to let relatives set up webcams in the private rooms of elderly family members. Until 2014, only three states — Texas, New Mexico and Washington — had laws on such cameras in assisted living facilities. But over the past five years, five more states — Illinois, Louisiana, Utah, Oklahoma and Virginia — have introduced statutes.

But the use of such cameras raise a whole menu of privacy concerns:

  • Who has the right to request such a camera, the patient or the patient’s family?
  • Is the patient mentally competent to either request or refuse placement of a camera?
  • Do caregivers in rooms with cameras have their own right to privacy?
  • Do roommates or significant others who live in the same space also have to consent?

These are significant questions that will have to be addressed in efforts to balance safety concerns with privacy issues.

The Decline and Evolution of the School Librarian

School budget cuts inevitably lead to reductions in support staff such as school librarians:

Between 2009 and 2016, more than 9,000 full-time equivalent school library positions were eliminated in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s about a 15 percent reduction in the country’s total number of school librarian positions. What’s at risk, advocates say, is not just children’s access to books, but also the development of their research skills, digital literacy, and critical thinking.

DASH HAPPY: 6 DASHING EM DASH EXAMPLES IN LITERATURE

This article about the em dash—“possibly the most adaptable and intuitive punctuation mark there is”—just warms this former college composition teacher’s heart.

Engineers Sprint Ahead, but Don’t Underestimate the Poets

David Deming, director of the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, argues in The New York Times that, over time, liberal arts majors earn salaries comparable to their peers with scientific degrees.

Most of the Mind Can’t Tell Fact from Fiction

Most humans find intense pleasure in stories about universal themes of love, death, adventure, family conflict, justice, and triumph over adversity.

That may help explain why, when stories are done well, we love them so much. Just as artificial sweeteners fool our minds into thinking we’re eating sugar, stories—even weird ones like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—take advantage of our natural tendency to want to learn about real people, and how to treat them.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Cheating, Inc.: How Writing Papers for American College Students Has Become a Lucrative Profession Overseas

In my earlier years I did freelance writing and editing. Scrambling for freelance gigs was a frustrating, humbling, and often thankless task. But one type of writing gig was always on the job boards: writing papers and admission essays for students. The evergreen presence of these jobs meant that, periodically, the question would arise about whether writers could or should accept them. There were always passionate answers on both sides: (1) morality be damned, I’m trying to earn a living, and (2) I may be starving, but my conscience is clear.

Just to be clear, I never took any of these jobs. But one thing I learned from this article surprised me: Many of the people taking paper-writing jobs live abroad, not in the U.S. And many of these college-educated writers make a better living at this job than they’d earn in the profession they had trained for in their country.

People Who Read Before Bed Not Only Sleep Better, But Eat More Healthily and Make More Money

This article is concerned mainly with people who read in bed at night. I have sleep disturbance problems, and people like me are always told not to eat, read, watch TV, knit, or do anything else in bed at night. The idea is to train your brain that when you go to bed, you’re ready to fall asleep. I feel deprived of the great luxury of reading in bed, but, for me, reading in my recliner before getting under the covers will have to suffice. 

But it is good to know that people who read before bed are healthy and wealthy as well as wise.

Is Dying at Home Overrated?

“A palliative care physician struggles with the complex realities of dying at home, and the unintended consequences of making it a societal priority.” 

Unless a family has the significant resources necessary to hire aides or nurses, informal caregivers become responsible for nearly everything — from feeding to bathing to toileting. These tasks often get harder as the dying person weakens. In my experience, most family members want to care for their loved ones at home, but many are unaware of caregiving’s physical and emotional toll.

Dr. Richard Leiter compassionately looks at the multiple aspects of end-of-life care and, on the basis of his own experience, concludes “we need to focus not only on where, but also on how they die.”

Nursing Homes Are a Breeding Ground for a Fatal Fungus

This article examines the potential problems involving “Candida auris, a highly contagious, drug-resistant fungus that has infected nearly 800 people since it arrived in the United States four years ago.” 

Daydreams Shape Your Sense of Self

Psychologist Eve Blouin-Hudon addresses the question “Why is daydreaming so prevalent?” She observes that we often daydream about ourselves, about how we may feel and react in certain situations. Such daydreams contribute to building our life story: “These self-related stories allow people to make sense of who they are and to build their narrative identity—their sense of continuity through time. People need to connect who they believe they are to ongoing experiences.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

The best books on Critical Thinking

I’ve been concerned that schools are not adequately teaching critical thinking skills since I first started teaching writing to college students back in 1971. Since then my concern has turned into alarm as I’ve seen the results of the lack of these skills pervade modern culture. 

Here philosopher and writer Nigel Warburton lists five books to help us learn about topics like straw man arguments and weasel words.

What Role Should Work Play in Retirement?

Behavioral scientist Utpal Dholakia, Ph.D., explains that “the idea of retiring as not working may need to be reconfigured for our times.”

Can Bullet Journaling Save You?

I keep reading about the benefits of bullet journaling, a process touted as not only the best productivity tool but also as many people’s favorite creative outlet (just search Instagram to see all the fancy bullet journal layouts pictured). “Bullet journaling has taken off as a kind of mindfulness-meets-productivity trend that equates organized journaling with an ordered interior life.”

Here Anna Russell writes about her discussion with Ryder Carroll, the thirty-nine-year-old digital designer who invented the Bullet Journal. Carroll offered Russell this parting advice: “You’re not doing it right, you’re not doing it wrong, you’re just figuring it out as you go along.”

On planes, adults have tantrums too. Here’s how to handle bad behavior at 38,000 feet

Writing for The Seattle Times, travel writer Christopher Elliott declares, “The worst behavior on a plane? It’s often adults.” And doesn’t it seem that we’ve heard and read of lot of examples that prove him right on news broadcasts and Facebook lately? Elliott has some concrete suggestions on how to deal with bad adult bahavior if it should happen near you on your next flight.

And as you’re crammed into your ever-shrinking coach-class seat, console yourself with this fact: “The worst behavior on a plane often happens in the first-class section. It’s the super-elite frequent flyers who behave as if the plane belongs to them.”

Tina Turner Is Having the Time of Her Life

I was lucky enough to watch Tina Turner perform at Harvard Stadium in the summer of 1970.

Here Amanda Hess reports on the retirement life of Tina Turner, “the symbol of rock ’n’ roll stamina for 50 years.” Now 79 years old, she has been retired for 10 years in now lives in Switzerland in a home she calls the Chateau Algonquin, with an unobstructed view of Lake Zurich. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Friday the 13th Harvest Moon

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Harvest Moon to glow bright on Friday — the 13th

Tonight’s the night:

Superstition will fill the air on Friday the 13th, a day commonly known as one of the unluckiest days of the year. As the sun sets, one of the most well-known full moons will fill the night sky and possibly bring a little extra bad luck with it.

Friday night’s full moon is the Harvest Moon, considered one of the most popular moons of the year. The origin behind this moniker dates back hundreds of years.

Take a look at this article from UPI for photos and information about both Friday the 13th and harvest moons.

Last Week’s Links

In the 1890s, Female Medical Students Embroidered a Yearbook on a Pillow Sham

The first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States was Elizabeth Blackwell, in 1849. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on her autobiography plus the life stories of four other pioneering 19th century women physicians. At that time the Victorian notion of separate spheres ruled society: The world of business and politics was the sphere of men, and the world of home and church was the sphere of women, who were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine. Keenly aware of their ground-breaking significance, most early women physicians chose to emphasize that their work was not a transgression into the world of men, but rather a logical extension of their traditional position as women, responsible for the care of their family’s health. 

I was therefore delighted to come across this article about women medical graduates of the time who turned women’s traditional task of needlework to the service of expressing their professional selves. Be sure to check out the photos in this article, which offers a short history on the entrance of women into the profession of medicine.

Why hasn’t evolution dealt with the inefficiency of ageing?

Jordan Pennells, a PhD student in bioengineering at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, addresses the question “how has ageing persisted within the Darwinian framework of evolution?” 

Here’s his concluding sentence:

In the drive towards the cure for ageing, evolutionary medicine has the potential to further our understanding of why human diseases arise, and elucidate the unanticipated costs of subverting this intrinsic biological process.

That phrase the cure for ageing caught my eye because it suggests that aging is not a necessary and unavoidable process of life, but rather a condition to be studied and overcome. But I can’t help but wonder what the result would be if we did, in fact, discover how to cure aging.

How Not to Grow Old in America

Tag line: “The assisted living industry is booming, by tapping into the fantasy that we can all be self-sufficient until we die.”

Geeta Anand, formerly a reporter for The New York Times, is a professor at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. In this article she uses her own experience caring for aging parents to look at the assisted living industry. Here’s her conclusion:

Assisted living has a role to play for the fittest among the elderly, as was its original intent. But if it is to be a long-term solution for seniors who need substantial care, then it needs serious reform, including requirements for higher staffing levels and substantial training.

What Statistics Can and Can’t Tell Us About Ourselves

“In the era of Big Data, we’ve come to believe that, with enough information, human behavior is predictable. But number crunching can lead us perilously wrong.”

We come across a lot of statistics in our daily lives, particularly in consideration of whether a particular medication will benefit us. In this article Hannah Fry, professor at University College London’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, explains how statistics work, particularly in the context of scientific study results.

Do you have a self-actualised personality? Maslow revisited

If you ever took an introductory psychology course, you undoubtedly learned about Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, usually pictured as a pyramid with several levels. At the bottom of the pyramid are basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter. Only as each level of needs, starting at the bottom, is met can an individual move up to the next higher level. At the pinacle is the achievement of self-actualization, or the pursuit of creative goals and the achievement of one’s highest potential.

This article by Christian Jarrett reports on research by Scott Barry Kaufman, a psychologist at Barnard College, Columbia University, aimed at reformulating Maslow’s work and linking it to contemporary psychological theory. 

Jarrett concludes:

The new test is sure to reinvigorate Maslow’s ideas, but if this is to help heal our divided world, then the characteristics required for self-actualisation, rather than being a permanent feature of our personalities, must be something we can develop deliberately.

He writes further that Kaufman says he believes that his work can help people reach their highest potential: “‘ Capitalise on your highest characteristics but also don’t forget to intentionally be mindful about what might be blocking your self-actualisation … Identify your patterns and make a concerted effort to change. I do think it’s possible with conscientiousness and willpower.’”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

‘Murder, She Wrote’ & Me

Crystal Arroyo writes in The New York Times that, as a child, she never understood the appeal the TV show Murder, She Wrote held for her mother. Then, as an adult, she discovered the series airing on Netflix and immediately became a superfan. “I soon recognized that the entire series, which aired for 12 seasons, was very forward-thinking, with episodes about abortion, women in male-dominated careers and prisoners’ rights.”

But here’s what she really appreciated about the series:

What really drew me to the show, however, was Jessica herself. Brilliantly embodied by Lansbury, she is a sassy, smart and funny older woman who — despite not knowing how to drive — is totally independent. As she travels the world, she seems as comfortable in Cairo as she does back home in Maine. While she has many admirers, she doesn’t have any interest in moving on from her dead husband Frank. She has no children. This is not as sad as it sounds; she’s genuinely happy with life.

Girl, You’re a Middle-Aged Woman Now

With tongue firmly in cheek, Wendi Aarons and KJ Dell’Antonia imagine some upcoming “original TV programs, books, and movies that offer new perspectives on what it means to be ‘a woman of a certain age.’” Examples include The Middle-Aged Woman on the Train, The Middle-Aged Woman with the Dragon Tattoo, and Gone Middle-Aged Woman.

Accept The Awkwardness: How To Make Friends (And Keep Them)

When we retired, we moved 2,000 miles away from where we had spent our entire adult lives. Making new friends (and nurturing older friendships) can be just as difficult for older adults as it is for the junior high student entering a new school after a relocation. Here, from NPR, are some suggestions from experts on how “to make new friends, as well as to take better care of the friendships you already have.”

Home health aides care for the elderly. Who will care for them?

Subtitle: “One of the fastest-growing jobs in America is also one of the hardest.”

According to estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. is experiencing, and will continue to experience, a “surge in the need for workers to care for the sick and elderly in their own homes.” But such jobs, which require minimal training and no college degree, prey on an easily exploitable workforce:

Because of the job’s roots in slave labor, these workers have long been excluded from US labor laws. Live-in caregivers are not entitled to overtime pay or a minimum wage under federal law, or any other labor protections. Neither are caregivers who spend less than 20 percent of their job helping clients do basic tasks. None are protected from racial discrimination or sexual harassment. They have no right to a safe workplace, and in some cases, they have no collective bargaining rights. One of the fastest-growing jobs in the US is a really lousy one.

This article provides an in-depth analysis of how to improve working conditions for this large workforce and how such improvements will increase the quality of care available for the aging population.

One of the best places to grow old? Washington has 8th-highest life expectancy in U.S., study finds

We chose to retire to Tacoma, Washington, primarily because our only child lives in this area. But we also love the quality of life here. And here’s some validation for our choice.

While Washington gets a lot of attention for being a millennial magnet, it’s also a great place to grow old, according to a new study from Senior Living, which found that our state has the eighth-highest life expectancy in the nation. Washington residents can expect to live an average of 80.2 years, according to the study.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

‘Holden Caulfield at 27’: Esquire’s 1968 Profile of Peter Fonda

Apparently prompted by the recent death of Peter Fonda, Esquire reprints its 1968 in-depth profile of the actor.

I consider myself part of the universe. The universe is a religion. Man is a religion. It’s all heaven, it’s all hell. Everything is everything. Death is just a change.”

The Misconception about Baby Boomers and the Sixties

Louis Menand declares in The New Yorker:

Thankfully, we are within sight of the end of the fiftieth anniversaries of things that happened in the nineteen-sixties. What’s left is mostly stuff that no one wants to remember . . . One reason to feel glad to be nearly done with this round of fiftieths is that we will no longer be subjected, constantly, to generalizations about the baby-boom generation. There are many canards about that generation, but the most persistent is that the boomers were central to the social and cultural events of the nineteen-sixties. Apart from being alive, baby boomers had almost nothing to do with the nineteen-sixties.

For his argument, he defines baby boomers as those born between July 1946 and December 1964; approximately 76 million people were born during those 18 years, he says, and the “expectations and potential life paths of Americans born in 1946 were completely different from the expectations and life paths of Americans born in 1964.”

Menand’s point is that baby boomers were consumers of significant social and cultural changes that were created by older people born before July 1946.

The idea that youth culture is culture created by youth is a myth. Youth culture is manufactured by people who are no longer young. When you are actually a young person, you can only consume what’s out there. It often becomes “your culture,” but not because you made it.

Our Brains Tell Stories So We Can Live

despite the verities of science, many of our most important questions compel us to tell stories that venture beyond the facts. For all of the sophisticated methodologies in science, we have not moved beyond the story as the primary way that we make sense of our lives.

Robert A. Burton, M.D., a neurologist and novelist, explains how and why our brains construct narratives to make meaning our of our experiences.

‘The Last Ocean’ Considers Dementia in All Its Uncertainty

The first, startling epigraph in Nicci Gerrard’s new book, “The Last Ocean,” comes from Emily Dickinson: “Abyss has no Biographer.” Gerrard sets out to tell the story of dementia, a disease that can appear to consume those it afflicts. After her father, John, died in 2014, the author — who writes best-selling thrillers with her husband under the name Nicci French — embarked on learning more about the disease as both a journalist and an activist. The result is a tender, inquisitive tour of a subject that can be raw and painful.

In an interview with John Williams in The New York Times, Nicci Gerrard talks about her latest book.

“I knew there was a book I could write about how mysterious it is to be human, really.”

“For three or four years, I spent my working days talking to doctors, nurses, carers and, above all, people living with the illness. I knew I had to find a way of making that into a book full of lots of different voices and stories.”

“I didn’t want to write a book that was certain and had answers. I wanted to write a book that was full of questions and feelings.”

“If I had to think of one thing that knocked me back: I became more optimistic and less scared about getting old, becoming frail, than I had been before I started.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown