Archive for the 'new york times' Category

Continuity Across A Life: Sexuality

IMG_0019Yes I said it. Sexual elder. What’s the big deal?

Why do we judge elders who are sexual beings, when we know that continuity across the life course can be a lifeline?

Talking with the producers of an upcoming public television series on aging, I got the distinct sense that aging and sexuality wouldn’t be a topic of focus for their five-part program. And yet, they agreed that this topic was real, and important. And often forgotten. They pointed out that once an audience can get over the discomfort/controversy, they may begin to appreciate intimacy at any age.

I told them about the book editor who said I was “taking a risk” opening my book with Lillian’s story. (Lillian was a romantic, and she swore that sexuality was central to her quality of life at any age.) And then Glenn jumped in and told them about how his cleaning lady was “casting aspersions on his manhood” so he found a slip at a thrift shop and put it out on his rumpled bed next to his pajamas. After finishing his story (so well told!) Glenn offered to loan them a three-part book series he enjoyed, called Fifty Shades of Gray.

Everyone laughed, but there was discomfort too. Think of the stereotypes. Dirty old man. Cute little old lady. (See my post on Betty White taking on the latter stereotype.) Take age out of the equation and you get an everyday person who isn’t harming anyone, who deserves our respect.

This week, Paula Span of New York times, tells us how hard it can be for those in assisted living, to gain some semblance of privacy.

Glenn and Lillian are living in their homes, mostly independently. But not so for their peers in assisted living. I cannot forget Joseph and Myra, a married couple living in a nursing home, who had to go to the chapel to hold hands.


Elder Exploitation; Lessons from 2 Unscammable Elders

So far this month I have  heard of two elder women being targeted for scams. Contrary to what we might expect, these ladies proved unscammable.

Their fast reactions contradict the findings of a new research study reported in the New York Times. The study shows that as we age, our brains are less able to assess danger. However, in this case we have a 99 year old who managed to avert a scam.

That newly-unscammable elder was Ruth, who had gotten wise to this type of scam since being targeted once before in a similar way. This time she was on guard. The evening phone caller pretended to be her grandson in great need. “Gramma, it’s me, your grandson. I need your help.” This time Ruth said “Can you please hold for a moment?” and paused to gather herself. When she went back on the line, the caller had hung up.

Similarly, Carol, age 75, recounted how a woman called, and with a kind voice, started asking questions. Carol answered a few of her questions and then managed to ask her own question. “Can I ask who is soliciting this information?” she said. The caller hung up.

It seems as if a stall technique can be a valuable tactic in assessing danger.

The realization that one is being targeted and perceived as vulnerable is a powerful one. I doubt it made either of their days. But it was fine fodder for talk among their friends, and the good news is, that realization will hopefully help them (and their friends) the next time a scam outfit calls.

A friendly holiday message from Ruth and Carol: In this holiday season, when old friends and distant family members may be calling, be on guard for fakes!




Is America Ready for More Old Men?

Or so goes the title of the current debate in the opinion pages of the NYTimes. All of this hullabaloo comes out of a study that reports a narrowing gap between men and women in the 65+ category.  While women tend to outnumber men in this age category, recent numbers show elder men catching up.

However, it is never this simple. Here are some highlights from the debate:

Stephanie Coontz and Susan Jacoby seem to say, “hold on here,” let’s not forget that old women make up the current majority, and that’s not changing anytime soon!  Currently 85 percent of centenarians are women, and women outnumber men by over 2:1 in the 85+ age group.

Jane Gross reminds us that women have the lifelong resilience to make it to advanced old age. Sociologists like me call this social capital. Men, on the other hand, tend to have fewer friendships and social supports, and have depended on their wives to manage their domestic and social lives.

To sum up: If manhood is changing, perhaps men will live longer lives. But it takes more than modern medicine to make that happen.

The Author

Meika Loe

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