How to track your mail-in ballot

In 44 states and the District of Columbia, voters can keep an eye on where their ballot is through systems that track when a ballot is requested by, sent to and returned by the voter.

Source: How to track your mail-in ballot

Last Week’s Links

Inside the Fall of the CDC

One of the most painful experiences, for me, of the COVID-19 pandemic, has been watching the formerly revered CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) cut its own throat. I fear it won’t recover in the remainder of my lifetime. 

Going Out With a Bang: Janis Joplin’s Hard-Partying Wake

I still remember where I was when I heard that Janis Joplin was dead. But I don’t remember hearing about this:

When Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose on October 4, 1970, she left behind a will that included an offbeat, albeit totally in-character, stipulation: $2500 of her estate should be dedicated to funding a hard-partying wake in her memory.

Today something like this would be big news, all over the internet, but times were simpler back in 1970. So we’ll have to content ourselves with reading about it here.

‘I Was Unprepared’: Louise Glück on Poetry, Aging and a Surprise Nobel Prize

I always enjoy reading about accomplishments of older adults. In this interview Louis Glück says, “Aging is more complicated. It isn’t simply the fact that you’re drawn closer to your death, it’s that faculties that you counted on — physical grace and strength and mental agility — these things are being compromised or threatened. It’s been very interesting to think about and write about.”

How I met my mother: dementia brought back her true self

All of my life I had a troubled relationship with my mother. When I took my aging mother on a long trip to visit, for probably the last time, her aging sister who had dementia, my aunt talked about some long-ago family events that involved me as a child. I learned just enough to wonder if my mother, if she developed dementia, would fill in some of the blanks—secrets never talked about—of our lives.

My mother did develop dementia, but hers was marked my aphasia, the inability to put words together to express complete thoughts. If you asked her if she was cold or hungry, she could answer either yes or not, but she couldn’t say more than two or three words. As her physical condition worsened, we went to visit her in the memory-care facility where she spent her final months. When she saw me, her eyes lit up, she smiled, and said, “I want to tell you . . .”

Those five words were all she could manage. I’ll never know exactly what she wanted to tell me. I know what I want her to have wanted to tell me, but I’ll never know what was on her mind. That’s why this article caught my eye. Ina Kjøgx Pedersen of Copenhagen, Denmark, was able to talk with her mother as her dementia deepened. She was fortunate: “At last I got to know my mother as something other than just my mum, and saw the contours of the strong-willed, vibrant and incisive person she might have let out if she hadn’t experienced so much personal tragedy so early in life.”

Perhaps if my mother had been able to talk through her dementia, I would have learned a similar story

Dementia deaths rise during the summer of COVID, leading to concern

Deaths from dementia during the summer of 2020 are nearly 20% higher than the number of dementia-related deaths during that time in previous years, and experts don’t yet know why. An estimated 61,000 people have died from dementia, which is 11,000 more than usual within that period.

Geriatrician Laurie Archbald-Pannone, Associate Professor Medicine, Geriatrics,  at the University of Virginia, examines some of the possible reasons for this increase and offers some tips for caregivers.

A Disturbing Twinkie That Has, So Far, Defied Science

When I was a kid, my favorite treat was a Hostess Twinkie. If you remember this cloyingly sweet treat, you might be interested in this story.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Study: Older adults may be excluded from many COVID-19 trials

More than half of all clinical trials evaluating vaccines and potential treatments for COVID-19 are “at high risk for excluding older adults,” according to an analysis published [recently] by JAMA Internal Medicine.

And here’s why we should care about this:

“My biggest concern is that without clinical trial testing, older adults will ultimately be denied treatments and vaccines — as a result, equitable distribution to this population will not be possible, and this will be an egregious oversight,” said [study co-author Dr. Sharon] Inouye, director of the Aging Brain Center at the Marcus Institute for Aging Research in Boston.

After 71 years, their marriage — and that wedding gift of a toaster — endure

Here’s one of those heartwarming stories often featured in the weekend magazine section of local newspapers. It’s too good not to share.

The older I get, the more I appreciate stories like this. How about you?

older man and woman

Older people like President Trump are at more risk from COVID-19 because of how the immune system ages

It didn’t take long into the COVID-19 pandemic for the date to start to accrue indicating that older adults are at higher risk than younger people from this particular disease. Here’s a good explanation of why that’s true and how we can take appropriate action to protect ourselves.

Carter Williams, Who Unshackled Nursing Home Residents, Dies at 97

“By closely describing the inner lives of older people, Ms. Williams altered legal regulations and clinical standards applied to nursing homes.”

Although I didn’t know anything about Carter Williams before coming across her obituary, I now know that we all owe her an enormous debt of gratitude.

Ms. Williams, a social worker, amassed hundreds of accounts . . . for the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform as it lobbied for legislative change in the 1980s. And they proved influential as the group helped shape the 1987 Nursing Home Reform Act, which required skilled nursing facilities to maintain the “physical, mental and psychosocial well-being of each resident.”

Celebrate her achievements, which benefit us all, by reading her life story.

Who is handling the pandemic best emotionally? Boomers and other retirees.

As the social lockdown has gone on since March, I’ve felt for the younger people I know who were having to shuffle times and locations for their own work-from-home requirements along with their children’s remote-learning activities. I realized quite early on that, with little day care available, their lives had become a pressure-filled chaos that I’m not sure I could have handled.

Even though I’m in the older demographic most at risk from COVID-19, I’ve been grateful all along for being retired. Sure, the pandemic means that we can’t eat at a restaurant or hold our weekly social get-togethers, but other than that, my life hasn’t changed much from what it was like before March. Or at least the logistics haven’t significantly changed, even with the increased anxiety and existential dread of the whole situation. 

In fact, I’ve even been feeling a little guilty about how relatively easy my pandemic-constrained life has been. I was therefore relieved that I’m not the only one feeling this way. According to Daryl Austin in the Washington Post:

The emotional toll of the coronavirus pandemic is steep for most everyone, but it turns out that one group is handling it better than the rest: retirees.

That might seem counterintuitive, since the virus is more dangerous for older people, but studies looking at mental health in the pandemic show that retirees who live at home are free from two of the stressors that are squeezing their younger counterparts — job security and parenting children as they navigate at-home learning and isolation.

 How about you?

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

John Lennon 80th Birthday Anniversary Essay – Remembering the Beatle, Abuse and All, 40 Years After His Death

How exactly do we remember John Lennon? In recent years, the legacy of this revered icon has gotten more complicated, and more problematic. This season will be presenting us with multiple opportunities to assess his current reputation: October 9 would have been his 80th birthday, with a tragic twin anniversary just a few months away, as this December 8 will mark forty years since Lennon’s murder. Alan Light unpacks Lennon’s legacy, which has only become as complex as it is staggering.

Source: John Lennon 80th Birthday Anniversary Essay – Remembering the Beatle, Abuse and All, 40 Years After His Death

Last Week’s Links

Books to Celebrate the Life & Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The New York Public Library has compiled a list of books about the life and legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The list includes several children’s books.

Leave the Kids with Grandma: 7 Insightful Stories Featuring Grandparents We Love

“Here are seven heartwarming and insightful adored stories about beloved grandparents to remind us of their lasting impressions.”

What Made Black and Blue Pens Standard? A Colorful Look at Ink

When I was a kid, ballpoint pens—which we didn’t get to use in school until 4th grade—came only in blue, black, or red. By the time I started college, green ballpoints were available, which the rebel in me promptly adopted as my main writing implement.

24 colored pens

In this article Yashvi Peeti delves into the history of ink and the psychology of color to help us choose among all the writing implements and colors now available.

How to make friends as an adult

“Making more friends in adulthood is going to take some deliberate effort on your part.”

My husband and I made a huge move—from St. Louis, Missouri, to Tacoma, Washington—when we retired. We moved to be near our daughter, but that move also meant leaving behind the friends we’d made over the course of living in the same general area for more than 40 years. One of the reasons we chose to move into a retirement community instead of buying a house in the city was to be near people of similar age with whom to share planned activities. We’ve been very happy with the new friends we’ve made here.

Nonetheless, making new friends as an adult can be difficult. Here psychologist Marisa G. Franco offers some background on the benefits of friendship and hints about making new adult friendships.

The Pandemic Is Chasing Aging Coaches from the Field

Although I’m a pretty big sports fan, here’s one aspect of the COVID-19 health crisis I hadn’t thought about until I read this article

“While young athletes are considered less vulnerable to Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, aging coaches are at higher risk of infection and having a severe response.” As a result, many older coaches are choosing to leave their sports rather than risk getting sick.

On Remembering to Be Grateful on the Darkest Days

“Through the coronavirus and a loved one’s cancer scare, I’ve found immeasurable relief through writing in a gratitude journal.”

woman's hand holding pen and writing

Dom Nero explains the benefits from keeping a gratitude journal, which, he writes, “doesn’t have to be all about the big picture stuff. In fact, I often find it’s more satisfying when I focus on the random joys from my day.”

The act of recording even short and simple snippets of things to be grateful for can help relieve the anxiety and uncertainty most of us have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, he says.

Nursing Homes Oust Unwanted Patients With Claims of Psychosis

Here’s an alarming trend to be aware of:

Across the United States, nursing homes are looking to get rid of unprofitable patients — primarily those who are poor and require extra care — and pouncing on minor outbursts to justify evicting them to emergency rooms or psychiatric hospitals. After the hospitals discharge the patients, often in a matter of hours, the nursing homes refuse them re-entry, according to court filings, government-funded watchdogs in 16 states, and more than 60 lawyers, nursing home employees and doctors.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Does forgetting a name or word mean that I have dementia?

September is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and therefore a good time to talk about dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common dementia, but there are others to be aware of, a gerontologist explains.

Source: Does forgetting a name or word mean that I have dementia?

Jesmyn Ward on Her Husband’s Death and Grief During COVID-19 | Vanity Fair

Please read this piece by award-winning novelist Jesmyn Ward.

Source: Jesmyn Ward on Her Husband’s Death and Grief During COVID-19 | Vanity Fair

Last Week’s Links

The Literature of Elder Care is Often About Shifting Power Dynamics

As people live longer, adults frequently face “elder-care responsibility.” 

“An important facet of these relationships, which often appears in fiction and nonfiction works, is the shifting power dynamic between older adults and their adult children, particularly in the United States and other predominately white Western countries,” writes Ellyn A. Lem. In this article Lem looks at how these relationships play out in literature by Shakespeare, A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, Let Me Be Frank with You by Richard Ford, Days of Awe by Lauren Fox, several works of nonfiction, and several films. 

How to Embrace Uncertainty, Even If You’re Not Sure What Will Happen Next

Not only are we dealing with our usual sources of uncertainty, but then there’s the whole global pandemic, where we’re trying to stop the spread of a virus we have never seen in humans before. We’re not just in uncharted waters—we’re scrambling to stay afloat. As it turns out, there are ways to more effectively deal with feelings of uncertainty, and embrace what’s next with some level of confidence (even if it’s very low).

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko, a bioethicist and adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham University, offers “two strategies for handling uncertainty in a healthier way.”

The Museum Where Racist and Oppressive Statues Go to Die

“Germany has found ways to display problematic monuments without elevating them.” Daniela Blei reports on the job of the Citadel Museum in the Berlin suburb of Spandau, which “aims to contextualize the past, putting uncomfortable realities on display in productive, educational, and sometimes challenging ways.”

Whether you are a night owl or early bird may affect how much activity you get during the day

I am definitely a night owl. When I was in college, I discovered that I worked better if I stayed up studying until about 2:00 AM, then slept until about 10:00. Because I went to a huge university with lots of class offerings, I was able to take almost all my classes between 1:00 and 6:00 PM. Unfortunately, after graduating from college, I realized that the rest of the world doesn’t work that way. Very few workplaces accommodate a night owl’s preferred schedule, and once I had a child who had to be gotten up and out for school, any possibility of catering to my own schedule went out the front door.

Because of my own experience, I’ve been interested in relatively recent research into the differences between early birds and night owls. This article reports on various chronotypes, the “master clocks” in our brains that determine how our bodies respond to the time of day. Recent research out of Finland found that “among both men and women, the morning types and many of the day types moved significantly more than the evening types, even when the researchers controlled for people’s health, professions, socioeconomic status and other factors.”

The conclusion: “Overall, the study’s findings suggest that late risers may want to monitor how frequently they move.”

How to not fear your death

Sam Dresser suggests “several philosophically inspired reasons not to be fearful of your own death.” 

In addition to the philosophical insights offered her, the article includes some links and references to use if you want to dig more deeply into this topic. 

One Twitter Account’s Quest to Proofread The New York Times

The former English teacher and copy editor in me could not resist this article. Overall, not just in particular news sources, I’ve been appalled by all the examples I constantly find in publications (both print and digital) that make me groan, “If only you’d had a copy editor take a look at this . . . .”

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

How Colin Kaepernick inspired activism, awareness and Seattle athletes to speak out against racial injustice | The Seattle Times

Four years after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest racial injustice, more athletes — including Sue Bird, Megan Rapinoe and Russell Wilson — are speaking out themselves.

Source: How Colin Kaepernick inspired activism, awareness and Seattle athletes to speak out against racial injustice | The Seattle Times

Birthday at the Zoo

My husband and daughter took me to the zoo yesterday for my birthday. It was the first time we had seen our daughter in 6 months. I felt especially celebrated because Mount Rainier came out splendidly.

The zoo is now offering timed entrance tickets and has done a good job of adapting to necessary COVID-19 restrictions.

We had a beautiful day for our visit: sunny and clear but not too hot. We got a good look at two of the zoo’s tigers, one lolling in the shade and the other enjoying a catnap in the sun.

One of the zoo’s biggest attractions right now is Trebek, the muskox calf born last spring. He’s named after Alex Trebek, host of the TV game show Jeopardy, whose favorite animal is the muskox.

You can read more about Trebek and his mother, Charlotte, here.

This was my first visit to the new Pacific Seas Aquarium, which showcases sea animals from the Pacific Ocean area. This building opened late last summer.

I was happy to see lots of families with children enjoying the zoo along with us. Everyone wore their masks and did a good job of maintaining appropriate distancing.

walrus statue wearing mast at zoo entrance

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown