The New Age of Not-So-Old Age

by Kerry Cue

Sacha Nauta (The New Age of Longevity, The Economist, 6 JUL 2017) commented that the aging population should be seen as a boon not some Doomsday scenario for the economy. While increasing numbers of 60-plus population still work, even if part-time, the stereotype of the retiree has not shifted since Simone De Beavoir’s day. Retirees were either sponging off society or of no use to it.

Nauta claims that a new definition for the 60-plus age group is long over due. Childhood, she explained, was reclaimed in the 18OOs. (The 1833 Factory Act, UK, banned children under 9 years of age from working.) Teenagers did not exist by name until the 1940s. In 1944 Life magazine insisted that teen-agers made up ‘a big and special market’.

So now it is time to rename and reclaim the 60-plus years. Nauta suggests NYPPIES (Not Yet Past It) or OWLS (Older, Working Less, Still earning). Whatever name eventually gets taken up by the culture, let’s make it positive, a name that makes growing old look ‘cool’ to the young.

I suggest ROCrRs. (Really Old. Can Really Rock.)

Puffing Your Way to a Better Brain

by The Sibyls

‘If it’s good for the heart, it’s good for the brain.’ Health advisers are constantly telling us that exercise  is  good  for  the brain. Now researchers in Germany claim to have discovered the reason why. It has everything to do with a vitamin-like chemical called choline.

In  an article titled Get on your bike and ride out dementia risk (Fin Review, July 2017), Jill  Margo  explained  that  there  have  not  been  many  randomised,  control  trails  of  brain metabolism before. Prof Johannes Pantel, Goethe University, Frankfurt, said the small study showed that regular aerobic exercise protects and maintains brain function by keeping the choline levels constant.

Choline maintains brain cell membrane health. Dementia is commonly marked by a sharp rise then crash in choline levels.

So get smart and ‘Puff Puff Puff’ your way to better brain health.

(Note: ‘Banging’ (see above) may also be beneficial to brain health.)

In Praise Of Clutter

By Rita Erlich

sibylesque Rita Erlich Quote

So what’s clutter, exactly, that we should be decluttering? As if it were stress, and we need to de-stress. There seems to be a theory that stress and clutter are somehow linked. Get rid of them both so you can start afresh, clean, pure, and untroubled.

It’s a dangerous path. I heard years ago that there was a de-clutter at the Royal Botanic Gardens in the early 20s. ‘All these papers!’ someone must have said, clucking a bit. Why, who needs all these old letters! And out went decades of great scientific correspondence, all the letters of Ferdinand von Mueller, the government botanist, who had corresponded with botanists all over the world.

Sibylesque food and memoriesHerald Sun

That wasn’t clutter, those were archives. I’ve always hung on to papers and documents. Just in case they come in handy. And they do: I have a copy of a book of recipes that was produced by (and for) the creches of Paris about thirty years ago. It’s a record of French nutrition for children and eating habits that I think has great value and potential application here.

And I had decades of menus from decades of reviewing restaurants before the internet meant all menus were on line. They were donated to the State Library of Victoria – and became the basis of a book, Melbourne by Menu. It made the 7.30 report on the ABC. That made me laugh: I tidy up my study and it becomes a television item.

But supposed clutter is about more than papers. The rule (so I’m told) is that if you haven’t used it or worn it (whatever it is), you should ditch it. But there’s that platter that sits on the dresser. I don’t use it, because there’s a hairline crack in it. I won’t throw it out. It’s the last piece of the dinner service my mother bought when she arrived in Melbourne in the 1920s. Every so many years I point it out to my adult sons, who look a bit misty-eyed at the tangible memory of the grandmother who loved them and whom they loved. We’re a family for whom food matters. When I look at the platter, when her grandchildren look at it, we’re thinking about all the meals that were served from it and all the people, now gone, who sat around the table.

platterThat’s not clutter. It’s the start of a story that begins when my mother arrived in Melbourne as a teenager. There are stories everywhere in my house. The little tapestry made by a cousin of my father’s, the drawings given to me by friends now gone, my late mother-in-law’s embroidered napkins. Who made these? Let me tell you her story.

Clutter is the stuff that has no use at all. I can recognise rubbish when I see it. I’ve just thrown out a dozen glass jars that have no lids. A jar without a lid is no use for those of us who re-use endlessly for home-made preserves. I’ve just ditched three little bottles of nail polish that I bought years ago, thinking that they were good colours and that one day I might apply them to my nails. No story there, they can go.

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Rita ErlichRita Erlich is a passionate food writer and consultant, who pioneered many areas of food writing and criticism. She writes about food in its many forms and meanings – restaurants, recipes, nutrition, history, culture, agricluture, wine – in newspapers, magazines and websites. Her latest book will be co-written with chef Scott Pickett, of Estelle and Saint Crispin.

Photo Source: Herald Sun

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Old Age: The Doddery vs The Dazzling

by Kerry Cue

sibylesque Iris Apfel quote

The doddery Old Age stereotype versus dynamic new old Agers was dramatically apparent in The Australian Weekend Review, (22 Aug 2015. There is a paywall but you can see the cartoon here.) Deidre Macken wrote a thoughtful and lively article about older women, which left anyone over the age of 60 feeling foot-tappin’ good about getting old.
Iris Apfel Fashion Icon 93

Primarily, Macken paid homage to Iris Apfel a New York fashion icon at 93, who is the star of a documentary titled simply Iris (below).

Macken also captured the dynamic zeitgeist of aging for a new generation of women.

‘Finally relieved of kids, parents’ stuff, jobs and sometimes partners, women of the first youth generation are in the mood for breaking out again.’ Too true.

But the cartoon accompanying Macken’s intelligent piece dished up the same old shriveled-cold-tripe imagery we mature age readers are fed daily namely a sketch of three doddery oldies on walking frames. The cartoon had nothing to do with the article theme. Even if we see old women bush walking, riding bikes and pumping more iron than that cartoonist (Jon Kudelka. Google him), we are still surrounded with these negative stereotypes. But as Macken noted:

‘You’re only old once.’ And we are not about to beige up and fade away.

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 We, THE SIBYLS, declare Deidre Macken an Honorary Sibyl for her insightful writing, her independent thinking and her intelligent reporting on the lives of vibrant older women.

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Deirdre Macken

Deirdre Macken

……

Best known as a journalist and columnist, Deirdre Macken wrote on business and marketing for The Australian 1975-1979, worked for The Age 1979-1987 and was a senior writer on The Sydney Morning Herald and its Good Weekend from 1987-1999. She is currently a columnist and senior writer for The Australian.

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Photo source: Film Website

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Your memory is a building site you wander around in work clothes constantly repairing, retrieving, and rebuilding.

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque  Billy collins quote

The poem ‘Forgetfulness’ by Billy Collins is one of my all time favourite poems. I first heard it in the car and had to stop the car to listen. I found it hilarious and gloriously lyrical and true to the human condition all at once. You will find the full poem – it’s very short – here.

As I had to lead a workshop on poetry at a recent conference, I started the workshop by reading this poem. The workshop participants, all in the forties and fifties, had one answer.

‘It’s about Alzheimer’s’ they said.

Only one other participant saw the poem as I saw it.

“I thought it was about me’ she said.

Sibylesque Joan Didion Memory quote

And this had me thinking about our perceptions of memory and aging. We protect ourselves from the ‘horrors’ of aging by seeing the OLD as THEM and, naturally, we are US. This keeps us safe. We aren’t like them. Our memories are fine. Maybe, the odd ‘senior’s moment’.

Memory is, has always been, something of a major building project. We collect bric-a-brac and build memories. Then we rebuild these memories, often shoddily, every time we think of them. We neglect some memories. How many of us over 60 can remember how to do a cartwheel, say, or sing Psalm 23, the Psalm you sang in the church you used to go to as a child. Hint: Sheep are involved. Now it is irrelevant to many Australians. Only 8% of us are regular churchgoers.

So memory is not something that is all there or all gone. It is a building site you wander around in work clothes constantly repairing, retrieving, and completely rebuilding when necessary. Some areas are difficult to access. There is a pathway, but where? Often you are peering into the dark. Some memories fade, decay because they never have the light of thought shone upon them. Other memories seem so new, so sparkling, so complete; you stand back and watch them in awe. Other memories are both hidden and dangerous. There should be warning lights, but there are none. Suddenly you are there and the pain is real.

I wrote three books about my childhood when I was in my thirties. Exercising my memory everyday for months, I could recall every cupboard in our kitchen and every object in those cupboards. I could hear my parents speak. How accurate were those memories? Who knows? But they were vivid. Brilliantly vibrant memories.

It is not just the old or demented who forget. We all remember. We all forget.

Or as Billy Collins wrote:

‘and even now as you memorise the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,

the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

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The Science of Laughter: Guess what? It’s hilarious!

By Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Laughter Quote

Watch this TED talk if you want a laugh. But watch it also to learn why we laugh less as we age.

Do we really become GRUMPY OLD men and women? Or is something else happening. In this funny talk (Watch especially for the You Tube Clip at the end), Sophie Scott, who is both a neuroscientist and a standup comedian, explains that we do not learn to distinguish spontaneous laughter from fake laughter until we hit our late thirties or even our early forties. But as we age we become more and more immune to contagious laughter.

WE need the social context. Don’t sit in front of the tellie. You are immune to canned laughter. Get out the door and socialise … that’s where you will pigsnort-laugh yourself silly.

Remember, laughter is therapeutic.

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And you will find some funny Sibylesque posts here and here.

If you learn how to die, you’ll learn how to live

Sibylesque Being Mortal quote

BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End

By Atul Gawande 

Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, 2014.

Review by Kerry Cue

Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande

The reason this book is so meaningful, so compelling and why it ranks as a rare must-read is because, in telling the story of how to die a good death, it slowly addresses an equally important question namely ‘how  are we to live a good and meaningful life?’

Sibylesque The three fates

Atul Gawande, surgeon and writer for The New Yorker, dreams of new ways of caring for the frail and old. He questions the bureaucratic nature of aged care institutions where the elderly are kept ‘safe’, but hardly ‘alive’. And he rails against the invasive, painful and ultimately futile medical procedures inflicted on the dying. Yet this book is no dry academic tome. Gawande tells the storxy of dying and death of his father, also a surgeon, from first discovering the tumor in the spinal column, through the family’s struggling with medical options – operate? His father might become a quadriplegic. Don’t operate, he may become a quadriplegic! – to his father’s final days.

There is one strong and clear message from this thoughtful exploration of the end stage. Patients could have good days even when dying. But to achieve this goal they must be asked, or think about, at least, ‘what are your greatest fears?’ and ‘what are your current goals?’ Simple questions but from the answers patients discover how they are to live in their final days and, eventually, die.

Gawande has managed to take the fear away from our modern, Western view of dying, which, in many aspects involves, an impersonal, sterile, ICU bed intubated with a tube down the throat and a total loss of control. Dying need not be like this. Gawande shows how the human spirit can flourish and life can be fully lived to the very end.

curlicue

Photo source: Unsourced book review blog, Tapestry held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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Vote 1 Wisdom ….. or How not to be a victim by Hillary Clinton

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Wise woman quoteHillary Clinton is 67 years old and running for President. If she is voted into office, an increasingly unlikely scenario, she will be 70 years old and, after 2 possible terms, she will be 78 years old.

Why all the brouhaha? Opponents have dubbed Hillary ‘grandma’, which, indeed, she is, but the term is used as an insult. It is meant to demean her status.

Sibylesque Vote 1 for WisdomThere have been 44 presidents with 3 in Hillary’s demographic. Margaret Thatcher was 54 when she became Prime Minister in 1979 and held that office for 11 years. Golda Meir was 71 when elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1969. Angela Merkel was 51 when elected German Chancellor. She remains in office at the age of 61.

There are now 46 million Americans over 65 and the numbers are rising. Last election they represented 23% of the voting population. Only a fool would set out to insult 23% of potential voters. Then again, fools rush in where the older and wiser fear to tread.

Hillary had the last say. She started a Twitter account #Grandmotherknowsbest.

Thus ends the lesson in how not to be a victim.

curlicuePhotosource: Winedentity

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I am old … hear me roar in numbers too big to ignore!

by Kerry Cue

Sibylesque Mary Beard Quote 2

Mary Beard, The Spectator

Mary Beard, The Spectator

In the Telegraph, UK, today Prof Mary Beard explains in an article by Hannah Furness (05 Oct 2014), that she aims to reclaim the word ‘old’. Baird, who is recognised by The Sibyls, for her feisty contribution to the feminist debate, has called for a revolution to break down the stereotypes of ‘hunched old lady’ and ‘Darby and Joan’ and claims that “old” should now become something that “fills people with pride”.

Beard was attacked by TV Critic AA Gill in the Sunday Times in his review of her history documentary Meet the Romans for being ‘too ugly’ to be on camera. He also implied that she should appear on ‘The Undateables’, a BBC reality TV show involving mentally disabled and facially disfigured participants.

Has anyone attacked the BBC’s David Attenborough for being ‘too old’, ‘too ugly’ or ‘too mentally disabled’ to appear on TV?

Sibylesque Agatha Christie

This is not just about being old. It is, explains Beard, about being old and female.

Bring on the revolution.

Go get ‘em, Mary!!!

Photo source: The Spectator, unsourced.

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I will not be a stereotype when I grow old

Sibylesque Paul Coelho QuoteChange is a Beautiful Thing is a part of The Beauty Project by New York director Kathryn Ferguson. This short  film does not whitewash aging. It is full of the foibles, doubts and uncertainties of growing old. Yet it also bubbles with individuality, vitality and the honesty age, hopefully, brings.

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