Last Week’s Links

Seattle powerlifter, 76, wants you to know it’s not too late to get started

A recent ascent of a steep, rocky hill convinced me that I need to make an effort to strengthen my legs and knees. Fortunately, I found some encouragement in this article.

These Writers Over 80 Are Still Going Strong

Tom Beer writes, “can we pause and pay tribute to the older writers still producing work into their 80s and even their 90s? I ask because I am currently reading Today a Woman Went Mad in the Supermarket . . ., a career-spanning collection of stories by Hilma Wolitzer, age 91.”

Other writers he mentions who are still going strong include Wole Soyinka (age 87), Cynthia Oaick (93), Jerome Charyn, Orville Schell, and Diane Johnson.

Jamie Lee Curtis thinks cosmetic procedures are ‘wiping out a generation of beauty’

The current trend of fillers and procedures, and this obsession with filtering, and the things that we do to adjust our appearance on Zoom are wiping out generations of beauty,” she added. “Once you mess with your face, you can’t get it back.”

James Taylor: “All music is reiteration… We just pick stuff up and use it again. I mean, there are just 12 notes”

A bit of history on the musical icon whose “self-titled debut album was released in 1968 on the Beatles’ Apple Records; he was the first outside artist signed to the label.”

7 Early Warning Signs of Dementia You Shouldn’t Ignore

Dementia isn’t actually a disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s a catch-all term for changes in the brain that cause a loss of functioning that interferes with daily life. Dementia can diminish focus, the ability to pay attention, language skills, problem-solving and visual perception. It also can make it difficult for a person to control his or her emotions and lead to personality changes.

This article contains some information on the various forms of dementia as well as the warning signs to be aware of and how to find help.

Tina Turner’s Swiss Chateau Retirement Is Going Dreamily, Thanks for Asking

“As the Tony-winning Broadway musical about her life returns to the stage, the legendary performer reflects on her career in a new interview: ‘Recently Cher came to visit. We gossiped and laughed a lot.’”

See Tina Turner perform at Harvard Stadium back in 1970 was one of the highlights of my coming-of-age time. In this email interview Yohana Desta asks Turner about her current life: “It’s a blissful life, one that Turner worked incredibly hard to earn.”

The Personality Trait Linked To Living Longer

I feel a certain vindication in reporting these study results. All my life people have been ribbing me about my attention—some call it obsessive—to details. I’m the one who always checks every drawer and shelf at least twice before leaving a hotel to ensure that nothing will get left behind. I’m the one who checks every night at bed time that the kitchen stove has been turned off.

And here’s my payoff: “Persistent and conscientious people” tend to live the longest.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

The Sad Story of Nichelle Nichols

photo: Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols in 2013 (photo from Wikipedia)

For the past several weeks, my husband and I have been watching the original Star Trek series (1966-1969) on Netflix a few episodes at a time. We had watched it back in the early 1970s and loved it. I still occasionally recite this motto: “Everything I need to know about life I learned from the original Star Trek.”

The show was ground-breaking in so many ways, not the least of which was the character Lt. Uhura, portrayed by Nichelle Nichols.

I recently came across this article, and it broke my heart:

Inside the heartbreaking conservatorship battle of a ‘Star Trek’ legend

Last Week’s Links

17 pop songs you didn’t know were directly inspired by classical music

“From Billy Joel’s inability to resist a good Beethoven melody to Lady Gaga’s sampling of rhapsodic violin solos, here are the greatest examples of classical samples in pop.”

Be sure to turn on your computer’s sound! And keep it on for the next piece as well.

5 Minutes That Will Make You Love Symphonies

“Alec Baldwin chooses Tchaikovsky. Darryl Pinckney picks Mahler. And more sweeping, powerful music.”

The New York Times here aims to help people “to love symphonies, the sweeping musical statements at the foundation of the orchestral repertory.”

The Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s, Explained

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s; 1 in 3 seniors die having been diagnosed with some form of dementia or Alzheimer’s. But these conditions are not exactly the same. Here’s why.

Dementia is a broad term referring to “a decline in mental ability as a result of damaged brain cells.” Dementia can be caused by many conditions, one of which is Alzheimer’s disease. “It may not seem like an important distinction, but treatments for one type of dementia and Alzheimer’s can vary.”

Our dreams are changing as we emerge from the pandemic. Here’s how

Sandee LaMotte interviews psychologist Deirdre Barrett for CNN. Barrett has been collecting stories of “our dreams and nightmares since the virus shut down our lives. Many of our night visions revolved around the fear of death, as our subconscious ruminated on the very real threat of Covid-19. Other dreams cast the virus as an invasive predator, often an insect.”

Read Barrett’s analysis of how dreams provide insight into our pandemic lives and how dreams have changed since mid-December 2019, “when it was announced the vaccines were highly effective and were being given emergency use approval.”

The pandemic upended our lives. Here are some changes you think we should keep, to advance equity

Naomi Ishisaka, a columnist for the Seattle Times, asks, “If the pandemic is a portal, what will the new world on the other side look like?”

She asked readers what changes made over the last 16 months they would like to keep “to make a more equitable, just and sustainable world.” Here are some of the answers in the areas of education, availability of virtual activities, work, and cultural and social changes.

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Talking on Zoom could help older people stave off dementia

CNN reports on recent research results:

Talking on video-conference services like Zoom during the coronavirus pandemic has helped older people stave off the effects of dementia, a new study has suggested.

Researchers found that regular communication helps maintain long-term memory, and elderly people who often use online tools showed less decline in memory than those who don’t.

These Farmers Want You to Drink Your Hops and Eat Them Too

“Trashed in the U.S., hop shoots are treasure in parts of Europe.”

Washington State produces lots of hops, the crop that lends much of the bitter taste to beer. In fact, according to this article, “75 percent of the U.S. hops supply is grown in Yakima Valley,” in eastern Washington.

This article presents some entrepreneurs who are exploring ways to use more of the hop plant than the part used in beer brewing.

Mary Beard Keeps History on the Move

“For Beard, change has always been a part of the classics. We need to expose the field’s flaws to learn how we’ve inherited them.”

Since I did my B.A. and M.A. in Latin, I’ve been following the recently publicized issue of universities dissolving their classics departments. Here Katy Waldman profiles British classicist Mary Beard for The New Yorker

Introducing her subject, Waldman writes about how to describe Beard: “‘Classicist’ doesn’t quite capture it. ‘Celebrity historian’ inches closer.” 

The movement to downplay the study of classics centers on the claim that the field embodies an “imperialist mind-set” and “sustains a mythology of whiteness.” But, Waldman writes, “As the field’s most famous practitioner, and a dedicated anti-racist and feminist, Beard takes a middle position: she believes neither that classics deserves a pedestal nor that it must be destroyed.”

Is America a Racist Nation? I Am Sikh and Tired

Vishavjit Singh writes:

My turban and beard have always made me a target of anxiety, stereotyping, or outright racism. Post-9/11, the hate has been taken to a whole new level. Sikhs have been killed, attacked, and verbally abused in a never-ending American saga.

Singh takes a look at some of our inherent biases: “This is not a Black and White problem only. It is an American ailment. It is a human disease.”

They’re Vaccinated and Keeping Their Masks On, Maybe Forever

“Face coverings have been a political flash point for more than a year. But now, the backlash is directed at people who don’t plan to take them off.”

My husband and I have been fully vaccinated since late February. Yet, despite the most recent CDC guidelines, when we went to the farmers’ market yesterday, I put my mask on. 

I’ve decided to continue to wear a mask when I’m in a crowd for quite a while. After being required to do so for more than a year, it’s something I’ve gotten used to doing. I figure that wearing a mask doesn’t hurt me or anyone else, but it does provide an extra bit of protection against any virus particles that might be floating around. My decision has nothing to do with politics. I’m just being as cautious as possible about my own health. 

This article in the New York Times looks at reasons why some people are continuing to mask up.

How About You?

Do you continue to mask up?

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

The Power of Flexible Thinking

“Flexible thinking is often referred to as cognitive flexibility. This means an individual is able to adapt to new thinking patterns. These individuals often see more than one solution to any presented problem.”

Flexible thinking can help us adapt to challenges we face as we get older. The article offers some specific approaches to becoming a more flexible thinker, including change your routine: “Introduce new changes as you feel comfortable. Keep challenging yourself.”

Atwood, Grisham among contributors to pandemic novel

e knew it was only a matter of time until we started to see literature arising from the pandemic of the last year. 

“One of the first novels about the pandemic will be a collaborative effort, with Margaret Atwood, John Grisham and Celeste Ng among the writers.” Titled Fourteen Days: An Unauthorized Gathering, the novel will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media and will raise funds for the Authors Guild Foundation.

“The story is set on a Manhattan rooftop in 2020 as the virus spreads worldwide and the rich are fleeing the city.”

A year of pandemic life, as told by the things we Googled

In “a story sketched out by a year’s worth of Google searches,” Popular Science examines “some of the prevailing themes that emerged in our collective queries.”

Nearly 50% of people are anxious about getting back to normal, pre-pandemic life — here’s how to cope

“A recent survey from the American Psychological Association found that 49% of adults reported feeling uncomfortable about returning to in-person interactions when the pandemic ends.” 

Here’s some advice on how to cope with continuing anxiety and uncertainty as we all continue to emerge from the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fully Vaccinated and Time to Party, If You Are 70

“Older people, who represent the vast majority of Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, are emerging this spring with the daffodils, tilting their faces to the sunlight outdoors. They are filling restaurants, hugging grandchildren and booking flights.”

Jennifer Steinhauer reports on how older adults, one of the earliest groups to be vaccinated against COVID-19, are leading the trend back into activities that used to be considered part of “normal life.” Steinhauer points out the the demographics of this trend will change as more people become eligible for vaccination.

Study: ‘Persistent’ loneliness in middle age increases dementia risk

Social scientists have long known that loneliness is one of the biggest problems older adults face as their circle of acquaintances and their own mobility decrease. But a new study has found that “People who were ‘persistently lonely’ between ages 45 and 64 had a 91% higher risk for dementia and a 76% higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease compared to people who don’t feel lonely.”

“Although loneliness does not itself have the status of a clinical disease, it is associated with a range of negative health outcomes, including sleep disturbances, depressive symptoms, cognitive impairment and stroke.”

At age 80, Sylvia Byrne Pollack of Seattle will publish her first book of poetry

Don’t you love stories like this? I certainly do!

“Part of the magic of poetry is that, when you write the words, you’re a writer,” Pollack continues. “And once you put them down, they’re not really yours anymore. The reader has to do the other half of the work.”

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

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

Keeping Your Blood Sugar In Check Could Lower Your Alzheimer’s Risk

Here’s a report on recent research suggesting that controlling blood sugar levels “might help lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

Can Personality Affect Dementia Risk?

And here’s another report on research. The results of personality tests given to 82,232 teenagers in 1960 were compared with Medicare diagnoses of dementia from 2011 to 2013. Researchers “found that high extroversion, an energetic disposition, calmness and maturity were associated with a lower risk of dementia an average of 54 years later, though the association did not hold for students with low socioeconomic status.”

But the lead researcher emphasizes, “‘our findings are suggestive, and we don’t want to draw strong conclusions about causation.’”

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One: A Robot and a Team of Irish Scientists Walk Into a Senior Living Home

Meet Stevie, a robot from the Robotics and Innovation Lab at Trinity College, Dublin, who lives with the residents of a retirement home for military officers and their spouses just outside of Washington, DC. The purpose of the collaboration is to see if AI (artificial intelligence) can help support human care workers in caring for people 65 and older, “the fastest-growing age demographic in the US.”

VICTIM OF AGEISM? TIME TO CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE

Here’s something to think about:

One can be outraged by the seemingly unfair treatment older workers receive. But are we each without ageist bias? The fact is we can be our own worst enemy when we adopt these assumptions as our truth. While we can’t change how others think, we can certainly tackle our own deeply held beliefs about aging that sabotage our financial future and well-being.

Happy Birthday to the Internet!

Born on October 29, 1969, the Internet is now 50 years old. Here are two articles about that milestone.

50 years ago today, the internet was born in Room 3420

The Internet came into existence in response to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik 1 in October 1957. Chagrined that the USSR had beaten the U.S. in the space race, President Eisenhower formed the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) within the Department of Defense to promote study of science, technology, engineering, and math in U.S. universities and research labs. The need for separate terminals in each place of study led researchers to conceptualize ARPANET, a system that would allow each research lab to communicate with any or all others. 

Welcome to Year 50 of the Information Age

Adam Rogers, reporting for Wired, a publication that came into existence to cover the digital world, remembers (and links to) the article he wrote 25 years ago marking the Internet’s 25th birthday. 

And he laments that the Internet’s 50th birthday “marks not only the internet’s decrepitude but also my own.”

© 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

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

Why Your Brain Hates Other People

This article, originally published in 2017, looks at evidence that suggests our inclination to “otherize” people—to separate people into categories of us vs. them—may be hardwired into our brains. But I especially like the subtitle: “And how to make it think differently.”

Anne Frank: the real story of the girl behind the diary

Boisterous, popular, self-aware: a new collection of all Frank’s known writing brings her into sharp focus, says the Costa-winning biographer.

This article is by Bart van Es, author of Anne Frank: The Collected Works.

David Milch’s Third Act

Despite what dementia has stolen from the cerebral creator of “Deadwood,” it has given his work a new sense of urgency.

Mark Singer offers a profile of and reports on conversations with David Milch.

10,000 Steps A Day? How Many You Really Need To Boost Longevity

A report from NPR:

Many pedometers and fitness tracking apps set a baseline goal of taking 10,000 steps a day. It’s a nice, big round number — with zero basis in science. A recent study of older women found significant health benefits even below 5,000 steps — and no added benefit above 7,500.

Asking our readers about their hometowns brought back nostalgic memories and emotions — some bitter, some sweet

WHEN I WROTE over the holidays about my mixed feelings about my hometown, I asked you to submit reflections on your relationship to your own hometowns. Nearly 100 of you responded, with a depth of insight, searching, humor, pride and pain that left my head spinning.

Read some of the responses about hometowns, complete with an interactive map.

HOW ABOUT YOU?

What memories about your hometown does this article bring up?

© 2019 by Mary Daniels Brown