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July 2023

Words Make A Difference

One reason I enjoy blogging is that I can write whatever I want.  I don’t have an editor, so I only have to please me, and hopefully you.

But I have been thinking about words sending the wrong message.  The Reframing Aging Initiative, for example, suggests that one way to help combat ageism is to change our vocabulary.  Here are some examples:

Don’t Refer to:                                         Instead, Use

elderly or senior citizens                         older adults

they and them                                           us and we

a silver tsunami                                         people living longer and healthier                                                                              lives as contributing citizens

Most importantly, don’t use Elderspeak (as if talking to a child).

Some habits are hard to change. 

We should try.

My Love/Hate Relationship with the U.S.P.O.

In my fifteen-plus years of writing this blog (1627 blog posts to date), the United States Post Office has not been a subject. Until now.

I am grateful for our mail service, especially for those amazing individuals who adhere to their motto:

“Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

Here’s the hate part.  Due to my recent overheating-while-walking issue, I ordered a headband which allegedly, if soaked in water, would keep me cool.  I couldn’t order just one because they come in packages of three.  I mentioned this to my son Seth and offered him one.  He said OK.

The head bands weigh almost nothing, so I put one in a small clip-closed envelope to mail to him.  I put three stamps on it.  Then I decided to walk to the post office to be sure that was enough postage.  Well, because the envelope didn’t lie flat, it became a package, not a letter, and as a package, the cost to mail it was more than I paid for the headband.

I hope he likes it.

Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life

Elderhood by Dr. Louise Aronson is probably the most important book I have read this year.  Aronson is a geriatrician and a scholar who argues that ageism in healthcare has a devastating impact on the well-being and dignity of older people.

Our devaluation of older adults is reflected in a health care system that medicalizes aging and dying by, among other things, emphasizing standardized interventions and procedures that work with the young and middle-aged without considering their negative impact on older patients.

Aronson tells it as she has  witnessed it.  I was especially moved by the examples of her interventions in emergency rooms, correcting treatment underway that the elderly often cannot tolerate.

Aronson describes her own burnout and recovery.  Her book, published in 2019 is a call to action. What I wonder is...

Who's listening?




Pick Up Sticks

I was a summer camp lover.  Camp Wingfoot was on Lake Erie in Madison, Ohio.  It wasn’t fancy, but it suited me, especially because it had horseback riding. Some of the campers cried when their parents dropped them off at the start of camp. I cried when my parents picked me up.

Of course, we had the hated “rest hour” every day after lunch.  It was then that we had rousing games of jacks and Pick Up sticks on the floor of our cabin because no one wanted to “rest.”

It’s probably been about seventy years since I played Pick Up sticks.  Until last week.

I spied a familiarly-shaped tall container on a table next to the sofa while visiting friends.  Why would they have pick up sticks?  No idea.  Of course, I had to play. 

A couple of differences from camp.  1. Pick Up sticks are now plastic.  Ours were wood. 2.  Now the different colors have different points. 3.  And perhaps the most important difference is that we had to play on the kitchen counter because it was unlikely that we could get up if we played on the floor.

I won.


I was in a state of denial.  For too long, I believed that the warnings about weather extremes being harmful for elders didn’t apply to me.  Then a couple of weeks ago, I had to find a bench toward the end of my regular 4-mile 9:00 a.m. Monday walk, even though I was drinking water all along.  My face was purple.  My younger walking partner had no problem.

A week later, the same walk was fine.  It’s all about the air quality.  But when I had to turn around just moments into a very hot noon-time walk later that week, I could no longer ignore the weather wisdom I had been denying.

There is some good news.  I turned to Google and read about the necessity of replacing electrolytes when exercising in the heat.  There are lots of choices besides Gatorade—including coconut water, peppermint tea and more.  So when a quick Saturday morning walk to the post office was a bit of a challenge, I was prepared with a bottle of peppermint herbal tea.

The cure was instantaneous.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

My father was a huge baseball fan.  When we lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, he taught me to love the Reds.  I was nine when we moved to Pittsburgh, and it took me a while to stop loving the Reds and start loving the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Today, I could (but won’t) name the players on the Pirates team in the 1950’s.

Of course, I became a Red Sox fan when I moved to Boston, and my loyalty is still strong.  But I had not been to a game at Fenway Park in more than a decade. Until July 4th.

The park has changed.  There are more bright signs and a new clock that makes sure the pitcher or batter doesn’t waste any time.  The fans still do the “wave” and sing Sweet Caroline at the top of their lungs, me included.  And the big screen captured the surprise proposal of a fan to his now fiancée.

It didn’t matter that the Sox lost.


Why is a visit from a child never long enough?  Because of teaching responsibilities, my son Seth could only visit for 2.5 days during the July 4th weekend.  He arrived from New York City by train at 1:00 a.m. Friday morning after teaching. He had to be back to teach on Monday.

We spent 24 of those hours in a magic world with my cousin and his partner on a tiny island off the coast of Connecticut that has six houses and is reachable from the mainland only by a little motorboat and only when the tide is right.  The house, built in 1848 has no electricity, but propane gas drives the stove and refrigerator.  Every window has a gorgeous view. 

Saturday was beautiful, so it didn’t matter that it poured on Sunday morning. There was no newspaper or TV, so lots of great catching-up conversation and lots of laughter. We had to rush back to the mainland in a short break between downpours.  It was a lovely adventure.

I dropped Seth at a commuter rail for his short trip back to New York City, and headed off for my 2-plus hour drive home alone.

Any visit from a child is over too soon.

Medical Appointment

Feeling a bit under the weather the other day, I made an appointment to see a nurse practitioner at my health plan.  He found nothing to be concerned about.  My self-diagnosis was that I didn’t pay attention to the advice that older people should limit exercise when the heat and humidity are high, especially between the hours of 10:00 and 4:00. The day before I had walked four miles at the wrong time of day. My body told me that I shouldn’t try that again.  (Yes, I was drinking water!)

While awaiting the results of a test he ordered for me, we got to talking. I mentioned that I had lost my husband after 56 years of being together.  He raised his left hand to show me his wedding band, still shiny after two years of marriage.  Probably inappropriately, I asked if he and his wife are hoping to have a family.  He told me that they are unsure because they are concerned about bringing children into a world fraught with problems. 

My unsolicited advice was to not miss the joys (and challenges) of parenthood. 

Instead, change the world.


P.S.  For those who want to know more about pencil sharpeners, a 80-something reader referred me to:

Stop by the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center and visit one of the more unique museums you will see, the Paul A. Johnson Pencil Sharpener Museum. Reverend Paul Johnson began his collection more than 20 years ago. This amazing collection of more than 3,400 pencil sharpeners has been featured in national magazines and is reputed to be the largest collection in America.

Here's Good News!

If you are somebody who grabs a quick nap after lunch (or for me, around 4:00 p.m.) and you feel at all guilty about it, (I don’t) it’s time to stop. (Stop feeling guilty, not stop napping.) Napping appears to be beneficial to the brain, with research showing that even brief naps of 5-15 minutes can instantly improve how well you perform mentally.

A study reported in The Conversation also promotes napping.  It suggests that regular naps may act as a safeguard, compensating for inadequate sleep and preserving brain health.

It does not matter whether it’s a 10-minute snooze in the back seat of a moving vehicle, or a serious nap on your favorite sofa, it’s appears to be good for you.

Bien Dormir!