M.D.-Free and Lovin' It

As of today, it has been 7.5 weeks since my last medical appointment.

Normally, when I get into my car, it expects to head to one of two medical locations. Earlier this spring, I had so many appointments in one week that I accidentally “let” my car drive to the wrong location and barely made it to the correct place without missing my appointment.

I am grateful for my good medical care because no one I know my age has nothing wrong.  But I don’t like the feeling that going to a doctor is my job!

My extra free time has been delightful—more walking, more writing, more reading—all good. But like all good things, this too comes to an end. In the next four weeks, I have five medical appointments.

Just part of being 80-something.

What Happened to Playing Outside?

I grew up on a street with lots of kids.  Among its many advantages, my best friend’s family got a TV way before we did. 

Except in the winter, we were outside after dinner playing the games that children played back then.  One of my clearest memories is of practicing the piano with a clock above the keyboard so that the minute my required half hour was over, I could join the gang outside in whatever activity was underway.

According to Jonathan Haidt in his new best-selling book The Anxious Generation, childhood has been phone-based rather than play-based since 2012.  Haidt reports that children spend approximately five hours a day on their phones, mostly on social media and to a lesser extent on games.  Haidt asserts that this is a cause of increased mental illness among children.

Obviously, there is another side to this story, but still…

It’s troubling. 

Birthday Greetings

Birthdays are complicated.  It’s part “how lucky I am to be here!” and part “how can I be this old?!”  

I love receiving birthday greetings.  But a birthday card like this, “You know you are getting old when your boobs hang so low you can have a mammogram and a pedicure at the same time” is just plain offensive.   And the greeting card industry needs to hear about this.  A few efforts to combat ageism have produced cards like “You’re at the age when you realize they were all wrong about this age.” Or “Celebrating you never gets old.” A great improvement...

In a statement to AARP, Hallmark said it does have age-positive cards and is shifting its focus to a tone that “aligns with what people want to feel today — thankful, appreciative, wise and accomplished to be ‘getting older’ ”

Ageist birthday cards are reportedly best sellers in the multibillion dollar greeting card industry, so they aren’t going away anytime soon. 

But I won’t be sending you one.

Tall, Taller, Tallest

As a niece of three extra-tall uncles and the sister of a 6’2” brother, I was not surprisingly the tallest girl in my high school class at 5’10”.  (And no, I did not play basketball.)

Also not surprising, my two grandsons are taller than their above-average-tall father. Not sure of the height of the older (6’2-ish I think), but the younger, finishing his junior year of high school is now 6’5”. 

Pictured above, a shorter-than-I used-to-be-me with two very handsome quite tall young men. 

I just had to share this!

(Apologies--I have failed to get the photo to be smaller so you will have to scroll across.)

The Too Hard Box

Have you heard the joke about leaders who have three boxes on their desks:  IN, OUT, and TOO HARD?

In 2024, TOO HARD boxes must be overflowing.  At 80-something, I probably won’t see many Too Hard problems get solved.  But here’s a problem that we might tackle now—our workforce.

There are five generations in today’s workplace.  The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. However, Generation Z has 3,000,000 fewer people than projected and that could mean an insufficient future workforce. On the other hand, some members of earlier generations want to (or must) work longer than anticipated. We need to find the easiest way for generations to work together. That requires tapping the best of each generation’s communication methods. 

Older generations worked face-to-face or communicated by telephone and typewriter. More recently, email and texting became the preferred methods.  Today, the Millennial generation prefers texting and social media.

When all five generations are working side by side, communicating among them should not have to be in a TOO HARD box.

Who Am I Talking To? Or, To Whom Am I Talking?

Lately I’ve noticed that I am talking out loud when the only person in the room is me.  Not often, but not so seldom either.  And it’s never a conversation because no one is there to answer. 

For example, as I peer into the mirror—"Where did that new wrinkle come from?” Or as I stand in front of the refrigerator, “I was sure I had another avocado.”

It turns out that there are people who study talking to one’s self. Ethan Kross, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and the author of “Chatter,” says that talking to yourself in midlife is an “understudied phenomenon” and not uncommon.

It seems that it’s not a problem unless you are muttering out loud to yourself when you are not alone. So far, I’m OK on that.

And here’s a suggestion: if you find yourself talking out loud to yourself in a public place.  Stick those little earbuds in and everyone will think you are having a conversation with someone.

Excellent advice.

A Tough Topic

Long-time subscribers to 80-something.com know that I tend not to write about topics that are especially controversial. Today I am making an exception.

It’s almost three years now since my husband Peter determined that his Parkinson’s Disease had diminished his quality of life to a point where he didn’t want to live.  After consulting with me and our children and taking extra time to live with his decision, he decided to end his life by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking.

Medical aid in dying was (and is) not legal in Massachusetts and therefore he and his loved ones endured the worst eight days of our lives.  I realize that for religious and other reasons, many people object to medical aid in dying.  I honor their beliefs, but ask that they don’t impose them upon others, and so I have been hoping that my state would join the ten others (and the District of Columbia) that permit medical assistance in dying under very strict conditions and with very detailed safeguards to ensure that it is used appropriately.

I write about this today to urge everyone to think about the inevitable and to take ownership of their end-of-life while they have a choice.  I ask that 80-something readers listen to Compassion and Choices' wonderful (and short) song, This Is Your Show:  https://www.compassionandchoices.org/this-is-your-show

The Sound of Music



I love where I live 362 days of the year.  My living room windows look over the Charles River where crews and pleasure boats pass regularly in nice weather.  I have lovely places to walk nearby.  My neighbors are congenial.

There are three days of the year, however, that don’t work for me.  Those are the three days of Memorial Day weekend when a music festival, “Boston Calling,” takes place on the Harvard athletic fields on the other side of the river. 

Fifty-two bands played this year. There are four stages with four bands going at the same time.  I cannot hear any melodies, but a constant vibration assaults my ears from 1:30 to 11:30p.m. each day. There is no escaping it without leaving town.

This year I had a look at the program, pictured above.  No surprise that I had not heard of one performer.

Have you?

Class of '84 Reunion

When I retired from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2013 after 33 amazing years, it was a huge adjustment, but although I have stayed in touch with some of my former colleagues, I have (of course) moved on. 

Still, I was delighted when a member of the graduating class of 1984 asked me to join her and 40 of her classmates for lunch during their 40th reunion last week.

I was a bit apprehensive.  Would I recognize any of the attendees?  Would people remember me? 

Yes and yes.  Once I saw their name tags, I could immediately picture them as they looked decades ago.  Yes, some gray hair, and some other signs that they are no longer twenty-something, but they have the same dedication to making the world a better place and there is some evidence that they have done so.  People kindly said that I looked the same, and they recounted ways I had been helpful to them. 

I had a fabulous time. I’m hoping to join them for their 45th.


Mysteries of Life

There are just some things in life I don’t get.  For example:

  1. Why do people hold their open umbrellas to the front of their bodies, thereby allowing the rain to wet their backpacks?
  2. Why does the person in front of me in the supermarket line always have an issue with his/her payment?
  3. Related, why do I always do the automated checkout in my local CVS badly enough that I must ring for help?
  4. Why do my not-so-frequent phone calls usually come when I am in the shower?
  5. And finally (for now) when did I start talking out loud to myself?