Last Week’s Links

Tony Dow, Big Brother Wally on ‘Leave It to Beaver,’ Dies at 77

Tony Dow, who became a star at 12 as Wally Cleaver, the barely teenage older brother on the popular 1950s and ’60s comedy series “Leave It to Beaver,” died on Wednesday at his home in Topanga, Calif. He was 77.

Joni Mitchell Reclaims Her Voice at Newport

Lindsay Zoladz writes in The New York Times that “the past two-plus years of seemingly unending illness, sacrifice and loss have left so many people hungry for stories of resilience, hard-won strength and new beginnings.”

Joni Mitchell, 78, stunned attendees of the Newport Folk Festival (and the countless people who have since watched viral cellphone videos of the event) when she performed in public for the first time since her 2015 brain aneurysm, playing her first full-length live set since 2000.

Once again, Joni Mitchell gives us all a reason to live

Los Angeles Times columnist Mary McNamara writes:

Mitchell, 78, who has spent years recovering from a brain aneurysm, sang, played guitar and proved there is a reason for social media to exist. Most of us were nowhere near Rhode Island when this miracle occurred, but thanks to video posted to YouTube and shared widely through every media platform available, we all got to start our week watching Joni Mitchell live, performing “Summertime,” “The Circle Game” and most especially “Both Sides Now.”

Here’s why Joni Mitchell’s performance at the Newport Folk Festival is so incredible

And Vanessa Romo, reporting for NPR, marvels at Joni Mitchell’s performance because is remarkable because, after the brain aneurysm, Mitchell had to learn to speak, walk, and play the guitar all over again. 

 The Case for Age Limits in American Politics

“We’ve always had a minimum age to serve in Congress. How about a max?”

“It’s not that older folks, who make up a significant chunk of the American population, shouldn’t be properly represented in the halls of power. It’s that they’re way overrepresented, and it is bending the trajectory of our national life. The American story has been crowded out by the story of the baby-boomer generation,” writes Jack Holmes for Esquire

At 79, Biden Is Testing the Boundaries of Age and the Presidency

In The New York Times, Peter Baker looks specifically at President Biden concerning the question of age and politicians: “If he mounts another campaign in 2024, Mr. Biden would be asking the country to elect a leader who would be 86 at the end of his tenure, testing the outer boundaries of age and the presidency.”

Lynne Tillman’s Solitary, Raw Memoir of Caring for Her Mother

“53 million Americans are caregivers to a family member. How can an experience so common so often remain in the shadows?”

Anna Altman looks at the situation of “the sandwich generation”: “as a culture, in spite of the fact that, as of 2020, some 53 million Americans consider themselves caregivers to a family member, we continue to have a fairly paltry understanding of what it looks like to care for one’s aging parents.”

Altman focuses on the memoir Mothercare: On Obligation, Love, Death, and Ambivalence by Lynne Tillman, “a book-length essay about the experience of caring for her intelligent, frustrated, withholding, competitive, sometimes cruel mother who, at 86, is suddenly and mysteriously changed and utterly dependent.”

Tillman, Altman writes, “wants anyone in this predicament to be given grace and compassion: ‘I want to say about this situation: It is impossible to get it completely right.’”

The Aging Student Debtors of America

“In an era of declining wages and rising debt, Americans are not aging out of their student loans—they are aging into them.”

In The New Yorker, Eleni Schirmer reports “Americans aged sixty-two and older are the fastest-growing demographic of student borrowers. Of the forty-five million Americans who hold student debt, one in five are over fifty years old. Between 2004 and 2018, student-loan balances for borrowers over fifty increased by five hundred and twelve per cent.”

© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

The new Golden Girls: Baby boomers are moving in together to save money

In 1987 Betty White told an interviewer for NPR that the older women in the hit TV show Golden Girls lived together not for economic reasons but for social ones, namely companionship. Although loneliness and social isolation remain crucial problems as people age, economic necessity is now forcing many to look for a roommate.

Soo Youn reports for The Washington Post:

Faced with escalating home prices and rents in tight housing markets, as well as careers or earnings curtailed by age or the pandemic, some boomers are looking to share their homes. Enter the boommates.

The article includes references to nonprofit, commercial, and municipal programs that help older adults looking for shared housing.

Margaret Atwood is not your ‘elderly icon’ or ‘witchy granny.’ She’s better than that

Carolyn Kellogg profiles Canadian author Margaret Atwood: “Audiences want to hear from the 82-year-old author whose fiction foresees the rise of a patriarchal fascist state and cataclysmic environmental collapse.”

The piece centers on Atwood’s recently published book Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces, 2004 to 2021.

Eleven Over Sixty: A Reading List of Later in Life Debuts

Kathleen Stone recently published her first book, They Called Us Girls: Stories of Female Ambition from Suffrage to Mad Men. “With a career in law behind her and over 60 herself, she was thrilled to discover 11 other writers who debuted between 60 and 93 years of age.”

Al Pacino on ‘The Godfather’: ‘It’s Taken Me a Lifetime to Accept It and Move On’

“Fifty years later, the actor looks back on his breakthrough role: how he was cast, why he skipped the Oscars and what it all means to him now.”

In this interview with Dave Itzhoff, Al Pacino, now 81, recalls “making ‘The Godfather,’ the weight of its legacy and why he never played another film character like Michael Corleone after it.”

Denzel Washington tackles Shakespeare and life’s fourth quarter with grace

Denzel Washington has been one of my favorite actors for a long time. I regret that I haven’t yet seen him and Frances McDormand in The Tragedy of Macbeth, which is still available only on the streaming service Apple TV+.

I don’t read many celebrity-lifestyle pieces, but I’m glad I read this one, in which the 67-year-old Washington talks with Glenn Whipp, film and television critic for the Los Angeles Times. They talk about the Bible, Shakespeare, music, and preparing for life’s fourth quarter:

The only way to get overtime is doing the work now. If life has four quarters — zero to 20, 20 to 40, 40 to 60, 60 to 80 — you’re about to enter the fourth quarter. Anything after 80 is overtime.” He pauses, then reconsiders. “This is a sliding scale now that I’ve passed 65. Let’s say, 65 to 85. But the principle remains: You prepare for war in times of peace.”

© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Biden administration asks for public’s help to bring science back

It’s hard to believe that a news story like this exists. But here we are.

The White House is asking the public for help over the next 30 days on how to best restore scientific integrity to the federal government, as a part of its effort to bring science back to the forefront of policymaking and restoring faith in government — no small task.

5 Surprising Causes of Back Pain After 50

“About 6 million older adults in the U.S. live with chronic lower back pain,” reports AARP. Here’s an explanation of “five surprising culprits that may play a role in the pain in your back.”

Talking out loud to yourself is a technology for thinking

“Speaking out loud is not only a medium of communication, but a technology of thinking: it encourages the formation and processing of thoughts,” writes Nana Ariel, a writer, literary scholar, and lecturer in humanities at Tel Aviv University. 

Children commonly talk outloud to themselves while learning new activities such as tying their shoes. But as they get older, such rehearsal of learning switches to unvocalized thought—“inner speech” as opposed to talking out loud. But, Ariel writes, talking aloud to oneself can help people of any age: “Not only does speech retrieve pre-existing ideas, it also creates new information in the retrieval process, just as in the process of writing. Speaking out loud is inventive and creative – each uttered word and sentence doesn’t just bring forth an existing thought, but also triggers new mental and linguistic connections.”

How to Quiet Your Mind Chatter

“To break the tape loop in your head, talk to yourself as another person.”

There’s a type of inner speech different from the one discussed in the previous article: that nagging voice in our heads, sometimes called “monkey chatter.” Here Liz Greene takes a good long look at the voice in our heads that often becomes “a vicious nag, just looping uselessly over the same things, again and again and again.”

Greene emphasizes that she’s not writing about the voices of mental illness, but rather about “just the little voice we all have, cheerily (or naggingly) narrating our lives as we go about our days.”

Her discussion is based on the book Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It and an interview with the book’s author, Ethan Koss, an experimental psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Michigan.

College can still be rigorous without a lot of homework

It’s not uncommon to hear people lament that college students are not learning to think critically because they don’t read and write enough. Here K.C. Culver, Senior Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Southern California, reports on her recent research into whether lots of reading and writing are necessary for students to develop critical thinking skills.

The study found that a curriculum that challenges students to use higher-order thinking skills like analysis and evaluation is more effective in building critical thinking than is a heavy workload measured by number of pages read and written.

Pandemic caused many boomers to retire. What that means for the economy — and everyone else

I’m old enough to have retired a few years before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. This article in the Los Angeles Times reports on older workers who “have reassessed their finances and other factors and have concluded that they are about as well off retiring now as they would be going back to work and soldiering on for a few more years.” 

Anxious as we transition out of the pandemic? That’s common and can be treated, experts say

“If you are tense or anxious about reentering today’s so-called “normal,” experts say that’s understandable.”

“I think for many people this ‘return to normal’ feels awfully abrupt and jarring,” said [psychologist Kristen Carpenter, director of Women’s Behavioral Health at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center], adding that the pandemic has been an incredibly difficult period, “with lots of opportunity for confusion, for disagreement, and for discord.”

The article discusses anxiety, panic attacks, and depression and offers advice on how to seek help if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

A man with Alzheimer’s forgot he was married, and fell in love with his wife all over again

A bittersweet story about a man with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and his wife.

They Didn’t Expect to Retire Early. The Pandemic Changed Their Plans.

“After years in which Americans worked later in life, the latest economic disruption has driven many out of the work force prematurely.”

The New York Times looks at “the millions of Americans who have decided to retire since the pandemic began, part of a surge in early exits from the work force. The trend has broad implications for the labor market and is a sign of how the pandemic has transformed the economic landscape.”

Sufferers of chronic pain have long been told it’s all in their head. We now know that’s wrong

For those of us with this problem, here’s some good news.

Increasingly though, experts are waking up to the idea that chronic pain can occur without any obvious physical injury, or in a completely separate area of the body from the original site of tissue damage. There’s also mounting evidence that seemingly very different pain conditions – chronic headaches, low back pain and jaw pain, say – may share common underlying mechanisms, and that once a person develops one chronic pain condition, they’re predisposed to develop others.

The neuroscience behind why your brain may need time to adjust to ‘un-social distancing’

Kareem Clark, Postdoctoral Associate in Neuroscience at Virginia Tech, looks at a big question for many as we begin to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic:

if the idea of making small talk at a crowded happy hour sounds terrifying to you, you’re not alone. Nearly half of Americans reported feeling uneasy about returning to in-person interaction regardless of vaccination status.

He explains that our brains need to reset our sense of “social homeostasis – the right balance of social connections.”

The pandemic wrought a new America

CNN finds that we are “heading into a best of times, worst of times summer as the longed-for promise of deliverance from Covid-19 is tempered by spasms of violent crime, economic false starts and unexpected obstacles on the road to freedom.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Grace Edwards, Harlem Mystery Writer, Dies at 87

“A former director of the Harlem Writers Guild, she published her first novel when she was 55, and her first mystery, featuring a stylish female ex-cop turned sleuth, when she was 64.”

Finding Meaning and Happiness in Old Age

Jane E. Brody has been a major health writer for the New York Times for quite a while. In honor of her recent birthday, the Times reprinted some of her past, but still relevant, articles. 

In this piece from March 2018 Brody examines two books by authors who share their wisdom on aging learned from years of working and talking with older people: The End of Old Age by Dr. Marc E. Agronin and Happiness Is a Choice You Make by John Leland.

Why Creating the Post-COVID New Normal Is a Job for Individuals

I keep seeing articles about what the “new normal” will look like as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. T.A. Frank writes in Vanity Fair that “staying safe while getting back to ordinary life is a matter of people making good decisions based on science and common sense.”

Read some of his suggestions for modifying our post-pandemic behavior here.

‘Perry Mason’ New Trailer: Matthew Rhys Is Out to Solve a Murder in HBO’s Reboot

I remember watching the black-and-white TV show Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr, with my grandmother. I got goosebumps when I read here that HBO is releasing a updating the series, starting June 21, with Matthew Rhys from The Americans in the lead role. 

“. . . while Burr’s take on the character saw him as a defense attorney helping the wrongly accused, Rhys is set to play a younger take on the character before he entered a courtroom.”

‘What will the years coming look like?’: Coronavirus has thrown a wrench into Washingtonians’ retirement plans

This article from the Seattle Times has a local emphasis, but much of the discussion here, from Washingtonians over age 50, applies to many Americans in this age group.

“The first message: Don’t panic.”

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Older Americans Are Increasingly Unwilling — Or Unable — To Retire

“About 1 in 4 adults age 65 and older is now in the workforce. That number is expected to increase, making it the fastest-growing group of workers in the country.”

This article from National Public Radio (NPR) looks at why so many older adults continue to work after age 65.

Lifestyle changes, not a magic pill, can reverse Alzheimer’s

Clayton Dalton, a medical resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, reports on results of study out of UCLA that suggest lifestyle changes may be more important than medication in treating Alzheimer’s disease. 

the researchers used a protocol consisting of a variety of different lifestyle modifications to optimise metabolic parameters – such as inflammation and insulin resistance – that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Participants were counselled to change their diet (a lot of veggies), exercise, develop techniques for stress management, and improve their sleep, among other interventions. The most common ‘side effect’ was weight loss.

Dalton points out that the study was small. As with all medical research, further study is necessary to replicate and strengthen findings. Still, he concludes, “it’s time to start taking these approaches much more seriously. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple over the next three decades, to nearly 14 million in the United States alone.”

For Sale: Jane Austen’s Wince-Inducing Descriptions of 19th-Century Dentistry

Check out this interesting article from Atlas Obscura for photos and discussion of the state of dentistry when Jane Austen wrote this letter to her sister in 1813. “At the time Austen penned the letter, dentistry was still painfully unstandardized. Treatments varied widely, and troublesome teeth were often yanked out by people from all sorts of professions.”

The search for one woman’s family led a reporter to find her own roots using oral history, archives and DNA tests. It also led to stunning results

Deborah Barfield Berry explains “My search was sparked by an assignment from USA TODAY to write about a family in Hampton, Virginia, who believes its members are descended from the first Africans brought to the English colonies in 1619. If their claim is true, they are connected to a founding American family, heirs of a legacy history has ignored.” The family name is Tucker, and Berry knew that her grandmother’s last name was Tucker and that she was from a place near Hampton, Virginia. So Berry thought, “What if, in this world of six degrees of separation, I was related to the family I was writing about?”

‘I’M A NEUROLOGIST, AND THESE ARE THE 5 THINGS I DO TO KEEP MY BRAIN HEALTHY’

“Ajeet Sodhi, MD, a neurologist and the director of neurocritical care at the California Institute of Neuroscience, shares the habits and activities he does to promote and improve brain function every single day.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

What Were People Reading in the Summer of ’69?

cover: Valley of the Dolls

We’re seeing a lot of articles this summer about that pivotal summer of 50 years ago. This one informs us that, in 1969, The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann was the #1 novel, The Godfather by Mario Puzo was #2, Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth was #3, and The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton was #4.

Do you remember reading those novels? I don’t think I’ve ever read The Love Machine, although I did read Valley of the Dolls. I do remember reading both The Godfather and Portnoy’s Complaint, both of which I enjoyed but wasn’t particularly affected by. But I vividly remember throwing the hardcover edition of The Andromeda Strain across the room as soon as I finished it because the cop-out ending so infuriated me.

It’s All Greek to You and Me, So What Is It to the Greeks?

In a wide-ranging number of languages, major and minor, from all different branches of the language family tree, there is some version of “It’s Greek to me.” These idioms all seek to describe one person’s failure to understand what the other is trying to say, but in a particular, dismissive way. It’s not just, “Sorry, I can’t understand you.” It’s saying, “The way you’re speaking right now is incomprehensible.” And it specifically compares that incomprehensibility to a particular language, a language agreed upon in that culture to be particularly impenetrable.

A wide-ranging exploration into the many different forms of the idiom “It’s all Greek to me.”

ZERNA SHARP, 91, DIES IN INDIANA; ORIGINATED ‘DICK AND JANE’ TEXTS

cover: Dick and Jane

Last Monday, August 12 (1889), marked the birthday of the woman who developed the Dick and Jane books that many of us learned with in our early school years. This article is a digitized version of The New York Times obituary that marked her 1981 death.

Miss Sharp did not write the books, but worked with an illustrator, Eleanor B. Campbell, and several others to produce the texts. In the books, only one new word was introduced on each page and no individual story introduced more than five new words. The illustrations showed the characters carrying out the action of the words.

Liz Weston column: Will you be a scam artist’s next target?

Since people age 50 and older control 83% of the wealth in the U.S., they are often the target of scammers. Business writer Liz Weston offers some specific suggestions on how to become less susceptible to scammers’ efforts.

Weston advises that, since overconfidence can make us part with our money unwisely, we should get a second opinion on financial decisions “from a trusted adviser or money-smart friend.” She also has some advice on steering clear of romance scams, which loneliness can increase our susceptibility to.

11 Groovy Books That Will Transport You Back to the ‘60s

Since we began with books from the 1960s, it seems right to end with the same topic. This article, as the title suggests, references both books originally from the 1960s—such as Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, The Graduate by Charles Webb, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion—and books written later about that era—such as 11/22/63 by Stephen King, The Girls by Emma Cline, and The Road to Woodstock by Michael Lang.

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

A sampling of some of the most interesting items that caught my eye over the last week.

KODAK GOT THE DIGITAL PICTURE TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

Here’s an interesting article on how Kodak, author of all those famous “Kodak moments,” missed the boat by refusing to accept and adapt to the advent of digital photography.

6 EASY HOW-TO COMPUTER BOOKS FOR NEW TECH USERS

Two books on this list are aimed specifically at us older folks:

  • Computers for Seniors: Email, Internet, Photos, and More in 14 Easy Lessons by Chris Ewin, Carrie Ewin, and Cheryl Ewin
  • Computers for Seniors For Dummies by Nancy C. Muir 

Don’t let the title of that second one get your goat. The For Dummies series is well known and even somewhat loved. When you need information on a subject you know absolutely nothing about, the For Dummies guide is often a good place to start.

Study: Retirees lose by taking Social Security at wrong time

Sarah Skidmore Sell reports for The Associated Press on a new study revealing that many older Americans aren’t maximizing their retirement income from Social Security, which “accounts for about one-third of all income annually received by U.S. retirees.” The study concludes that “optimizing Social Security would improve the lives of millions of retirees,” but there is very little information here about how individuals can figure this out for themselves.

HOW SMART TECH IS HELPING DOCTORS BATTLE DEMENTIA

Mention “dementia research” and most people will probably think of scientists looking for biomedical ways to diagnose, treat and eventually cure degenerative brain diseases. But there is also a burgeoning research program that aims to improve care for the increasing numbers of people living with dementia — estimated at 850,000 in the United Kingdom and 50 million worldwide.

Half of women over 40 say older women in fiction are clichés, survey finds

A recent survey by Gransnet, the UK’s biggest social media site for older people, and publisher HQ (HarperCollins) found that 51% of women over 40 “feel older women in fiction books tend to fall into clichéd roles.” Here are some of the most interest findings from the survey:

  • 47% of women over 40 say there are not enough books about middle-aged or older women.
  •  “when older characters do appear in fiction, half of women (50%) say they’ve seen them being portrayed as baffled by smartphones, computers or the internet – and think it’s insulting.”
  • 75% buy their books online.

As a result of the survey findings, Gransnet and HQ are launching a fiction writing competition for women writers over age 40. The article contains more information on both the survey and the writing competition. 

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Here are some of the more interesting articles from around the web that caught my interest over the last week.

A 40-Something Looks Back at ‘Thirtysomething’

As a teenager, a writer secretly viewed the ABC drama in her basement, trying to learn about marriage. Rewatching it now, she is surprised at the actual lessons she’d absorbed.

Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life

BookBrowse offers notes and reviews of this newly released book by Louise Aronson.

Can You Reshape Your Brain’s Response To Pain?

This article discusses the current understanding of how trauma, especially childhood trauma, can cause physical pain that may continue throughout one’s life. A new form of therapy, emotional awareness and expression therapy (EAET), has been shown in a small study to help patients alleviate their chronic pain. According to “Pain Management Best Practices,” a report published in May from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Research indicates that EAET has a positive impact on pain intensity, pain interference, and depressive symptoms.”  

The article focuses on how the treatment’s emphasis on recognizing and understanding childhood emotional trauma can help adults who experience the widespread chronic pain of fibromyalgia. One need not have lived through horrific childhood experiences such as accidents or school shootings. Neuroscientists now recognize that prolonged exposure to verbal and emotional trauma (such as bullying or humiliation by others, particularly adults) can be as damaging as physical abuse.

New payroll tax is pioneering experiment to help Washington state seniors age at home

Nearly a decade after federal officials discarded a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that would have provided Americans with long-term care insurance benefits, two states — Washington and Hawaii — are experimenting with taxpayer-funded plans to help older residents remain in their homes.

Becoming a Digital Grandparent

Paula Span, a grandmother herself, assures us that engaging in interactive screen chats with grandchildren doesn’t violate the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations of limiting children’s screen time. Those guidelines “exempt video chat, which is inherently interactive and doesn’t involve the same sped-up pace, overstimulation or passivity as, say, watching cartoons.”

The Many, Tangled American Definitions of Socialism

I’ve often thought that no self-proclaimed socialist will have a shot at being elected president of the U.S. until after all of us born at the beginning of the Baby Boomer era have died. After all, we remember what that second S in U.S.S.R. stood for.

the historian John Gurda would like to add some perspective to how we think about socialism. The term has been “ground into the dust over the years,” he told me, when we met in his home town of Milwaukee, and his aim is to rehabilitate it. “Part of my self-assigned role is to provide some of the context, the nuance, where it makes sense again. Because it’s the straw man, it’s the boogeyman for an awful lot of people.”

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown

U.S. banks working to guard seniors from rising financial abuse

Elder financial abuse has more than doubled in the last five years and U.S. banks are taking steps to protect vulnerable seniors.

Source: U.S. banks working to guard seniors from rising financial abuse

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