The Elderwoman Newsletter

Issue #15, December, 2006

 photo © Marian Van Eyk McCain 2006
Click here to read Marian's article, 'SLOW TRAVEL', about a recent trip to southern Italy                      

Welcome to the December 2006 issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter
- an e-zine for 21st century elderwomen committed to radical aliveness.

I intended to get this newsletter written in late November or early December. But the sudden death of someone dear to me (my first husband, the father of my children) took my mind away from writing and turned it, instead, to my grief and to the task of supporting and consoling other family members in theirs.
Although we had been divorced for more than twenty years, we were still good friends. He was always a champion of my work and never lost an opportunity to ‘plug’ my books to all and sundry, even though many of his opinions and his views on life were very different to mine. I shall miss his presence in my world.
His death brought home to me the fact that at 70 I am now entering that phase of life when my contemporaries will begin turning up on the obituary pages with increasing frequency. It is a phase which we must all enter, sooner or later, and I’m busy reminding myself that our response to it should not be fear. It should not be a clutching, a grasping for distractions or a frantic attempt to lose ourselves in the things of the outer world. It should be a turning towards the inner life, an ever-deepening appreciation of the ordinary activities of our days – moving, breathing, eating, sleeping, looking, loving…

Remembering this, I turned again to the books of Eckhart Tolle and re-read them both – 'The Power Of Now' and his latest one, 'A New Earth.' As with any books of profound wisdom, I found new insights in them both that I had missed in previous readings. And once again, I dedicated myself to the discipline of living in the Now. Which means bringing oneself back to the here and now moment every time one wanders off along the seductive byways of the mind – into memory, into post-mortems on the past and dreams of the future, into fantasy scenes and imaginary conversations and all the million and one egoic traps that snare the unwatchful mind. For as Tolle points out – and as the Buddhists have always said – there is really nothing else but this moment. The eternal now. And to live wholly in that, if ever we could manage it, would be to taste a deeper joy than we have ever known before.
That is the challenge to us all, and the older we are, the more important it is that we take it up. It is the most significant project that any of us could ever undertake, not just for ourselves but for the Earth, since the more of us who can live this way, the faster we can raise the level of human consciousness on our planet. I feel sure, as do many other people, that it is only this which can rescue our world from the state of crisis it is now in.
Meredith Jordan speaks beautifully to this in the first of our three feature articles in this issue.
Following that, Gaea Yudron and I talk about another important project, this time in the outer world. That’s the campaign to end ageism. The article contains links to several other places on the Internet that I think you will enjoy visiting.

Joyce Kovelman follows with another reminder that we all have a part to play in the birthing of this new consciousness that I spoke of just now.

In this issue you will also find links to several more articles about ageing that I thought you might find interesting. And the usual collection of reports and announcements. So there is a lot of reading for you here, whether you are in the northern hemisphere, huddling around the winter fires or Donwnunder, hiding from the fury of the summer ones.

Wherever you are, I wish you all the very best for 2007. May there be peace on Earth and may wisdom prevail over madness.
Many blessings,


By Meredith Jordan
Recently, I was lucky enough to attend a conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, which featured Angeles Arrien, a cross-cultural anthropologist who spoke eloquently, humorously, knowledgeably, and 
sensitively about what we who have entered it (translation:Boomers) euphemistically call “The Second Half of Life.” One friend who was there with me tagged this “Second ½.”

But it doesn’t matter what we call it: it’s more than a little gripping to those of us who have reached the top of the mountain and have begun the descent to the other side. The clock, in other words, is ticking, and we had better be involved in life’s true work, which is cultivating the inner life, formulating the wisdom we have accrued through our life experiences, and leaving that wisdom in some form as a living legacy for those who follow the path we mark with our efforts.

The baby boomers of whom I am among the first wave stand on the threshold of becoming the next elders of our culture. Are we prepared to inherit such a role, and the responsibilities that go with it? Where do we find our models, those who have preceded us through the wilderness of conscious aging, and left a compass to guide us wisely?

One of the things Angeles Arrien said in kicking off this event, as she screwed her expressive rubber face into a scowl at her audience in the pretense of scrutiny, was this: “If we have reached the age of fifty and are not yet modeling wisdom for the generations behind us, we are behaving in a less than becoming manner!” As an opener, it certainly got our attention; the audience howled with laughter and simultaneously groaned with distress as we recognized ourselves in that truth.

We spent the next three days exploring what it means to become keepers of wisdom in the second half of life. All of us went through our personal rigors as we dove into the hidden corners of our own souls to see where we have left our “business” neglected or untended. Though she did not say this, Angeles would agree that every gardener knows when it is time to cut the garden back and put it to bed for the winter, when it is time for the garden to be quiet and prepare for the burst of life ahead in the spring. That is the inner work of the second half of life: preparing the garden within the soul for the final splendor of its life work.

Most of us are not paying attention though. We are too busy with ... what? Those things we call the activities of daily living?? Paying the bills, reaching the top of the success ladder (the mythologist Joseph Campbell always said, “There can be nothing worse than climbing the ladder of success only to discover you placed it against the wrong house!”), planning for retirement or the time when we can finally “slow down.”

And in the process, who or what do we fail to notice, experience, appreciate, and value?

We are quickly moving toward the season of the year and the season of our lives when we are called to stand still, to notice the beauty of life, to rain extravagant love on those who daily and faithfully love us. This understanding or approach to the right use of our singular lives is an elemental characteristic of one who is in the process of becoming incrementally wise. Life teaches us this.

Are we pushing away the beauty of life in our failure to see the grasshopper that crosses our path, the moose that lumbers into our neighborhood, the sparkle of Venus sitting on the slender hip of the moon? My brother wrote me the other day that he happened to be in the right place at the right time to get a glimpse of a last migrating monarch butterfly, backlit by the sun, radiant in its passing. “Will I ever see such a sight again?” he wondered, sharing his awe. Lucky that he saw it this one time, this precious moment noticing beauty on its way through his life.

And what about the love we push away, and for what reasons? Lauren, the little girl who lives next door to me, appears at the most unexpected (and occasionally inconvenient) times for what we call “a visit.” I’m often in the middle of writing or finishing some task only adults find important and consider just for a moment that I won’t answer when she pounds at my door and calls my name. This is love calling and in my foolishness, I consider not answering the call. Fortunately, my soul is wiser than my mind, and I put away whatever task I’m doing to spend time with a child who loves to love me.

How many times do we push away the ones who love to love us? This is the work of the second half of life: this reckoning with ourselves and the unpleasant truths we might find lurking in the recesses of our spirits. If we have reached the age of fifty, are creeping up on it, or have passed it without awareness, we will inevitably hear the siren call of the wild spirit to come to attention.

So we want to be wise, eh? We want to be respected in our years as elders? Then we better get going, friends, to embrace the beauty and finitude of life and of those who love us. Push none of them away. Take them, instead, into our hearts, and be glad for them. They are our true wealth, our only blessings worth counting.
May our days be filled with the gracious and humble appreciation of everything and everyone that truly matters and makes our beautiful life worth the journey.

A Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor active in the field of psycho-spiritual development, Meredith Jordan, MA, LCPC,  is the Director of Rogers McKay, a non-profit, interfaith educational organization in Southern Maine and founder of The Living Spiritual Elders Project. Jordan maintains teaching and counseling practices in Southern Maine and on the West Coast of Florida. Jordan is the author two books Embracing the Mystery: The Sacred Unfolding in Ordinary People and Everyday Lives (2004) and Standing Still: Hearing the Call to a Spirit- Centered Life (2006). She is also the author of numerous published short stories and articles.  For more information,  visit

Thinking about Ageism

By Marian Van Eyk McCain & Gaea Yudron

We all recognise racism nowadays, and I don’t suppose there are any of us who would even dream of making a racist remark. Most of us recognise sexism too. Not only do we easily recognise these ‘isms’ but we are critical of anyone else who subscribes to them.

Fifty years ago, racism was still alive and well in many places and sexism was rampant. So we have come a long way in a short time.

But there is another important ‘ism’ that is not only widespread nowadays but is almost outside the awareness of the average person in our culture, and that’s ageism.

a blatantly ageist advertisement

Many of us were probably not even aware of it ourselves until we moved into the elderwoman stage of our lives. I scarcely noticed it myself, twenty years ago.

However these days, as you know, I keep a sharp eye out for ageist comments and attitudes and tend to pounce on the offender with a very blunt "Hey, that is ageist!" Followed, if they protest, (which they usually do) by a mini-lecture on the subject.

But that is a rather preachy and boring way to do it, so I love hearing examples of responses that are lighter and wittier.

The Old Women's Project website has some good, basic info about ageism and examples of the various types of ageist remarks - e.g. 'the medical model', 'the service model' - and some excellent suggestions for countering them.

The type that is most prevalent is described beautifully in an article by Mary Blair Immel from Newsweek, back in July. I only just came across it. It's a great article: 

Someone else who is hot on the anti-ageist trail is Ronni Bennett, who writes a blog on the Internet called "TIME GOES BY: What it’s really like to get older."
I only discovered Ronni’s blog recently, and I recommend it to you. She’s great.

With the help of her blog readers, Ronni has compiled a list of what she calls’ ElderMovies’. These are feature films or documentaries…

  • about being old or getting old
  • with elder characters that are well acted or portrayed
  • that may not be about ageing overall, but include good scenes about or with elders
  • that add to our understanding of or celebrate what getting older is really like
  • that do not demean elders

Maggie Smith & Judi Dench in 'Ladies in Lavender'

It’s an impressive list. I discovered that many of my all-time favourite movies are on the list. Click here to see if yours are, too.

Margaret Morganroth Gullette, whose article about body image appeared in last November’s issue of the newsletter is also in the forefront of the anti-ageism campaign. "Thinking our bodies begin to get uglier soon after youth isn't about ageing", she says. "It's about ageism."

In September, she published a great article in Women’s E-News entitled:
What's the Matter With Nora Ephron's Neck?

This drew comments from a number of other women, including one who accused her of creating a dichotomy. "The main problem", this woman wrote, ".. is in setting up such a dichotomy in perspectives–either you are a nonfeminist who hates her neck, or you are a true feminist who loves every wrinkle. . . Ageing is a difficult experience, and not just because youth is prized in our culture. . . ."

To which Margaret responded: "The ‘main problem’ in the body-image context is not ageing but ageism." Read her full response in another piece entitled:
Is it Ageing or Ageism that Causes the Pain?

Gaea Yudron , whom some of you may remember from her marvellous poetry which has been featured in this newsletter and from her lively posts to our Discussion Group, is all fired up about ageism too. Over to you, Gaea …

I just finished reading an excellent report-- Ageism in America-- from the
International Longevity Institute-USA. One of the writers is Dr. Robert Butler, a well-known gerontologist and author. I recommend it to anyone interested in knowing more about prevailing attitudes regarding age in medicine, employment, human relations, media,

One of the items mentioned in the report is a study done by Becca Levy Ph.D.
and others, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in
2002. The study began 23 years ago. In describing the results, Dr. Levy
reports that positive self-perceptions about ageing had more positive effect
upon health than other factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, exercise
and other common health markers. Study participants with positive
self-perceptions about ageing lived 7.5 years longer on average than those
who had internalized negative self-images of ageing.

It makes all kinds of sense for older people/women to cultivate positive
states of mind and being about ageing as a valuable stage of life.

Which leads me to my new creative project, which I hinted at in my last
post to the Elderwoman Discussion Group. I am writing a full-length performance piece/play (1.5 hours minimum) on ageing. It will include songs, dramatic monologues, comedy, a chorus, and audience participation. One of the pieces I plan to write is on the effect of negative stereotypes on older people's health and well-being. I am also working on a piece about Anti-Ageing Activism, and some of this will certainly be comedy.

I hope that some of you can help me. I am looking for 2 things. One,
examples of experiences you've had with ageist attitudes from others. Two,
any useful responses you've developed to deal with ageist communications
from others.

Have you experienced elderspeak, which is what some psychologists call it
when younger people speak in patronizing ways, tones of voice, postures etc
to older people, even when those older people are not disabled or frail?
Have you had experiences of being invisible to or ignored by others? Have
you developed methods to establish your firm presence, either verbally,
energetically or otherwise?

And of course, there is plenty of room for positive experiences of ageing,
significant impressions and influence of older people in your life, etc.

Thank you for your help in this... I look forward to hearing more, if you
wish to share....and I hope you do.

I am pretty excited about this project, which I envision as one that can
have positive impact in spotlighting ageism and the ways it manifests in
society, and helping people of all ages cultivate a more healthy and
conscious awareness of ageing as a valuable stage in human life.
Just as with racism and sexism, ageism too will one day be a thing of the past. But first we have to bring it into everyone’s awareness. It is a job for all of us. Every single thing you do or say, however small, to highlight and to counteract this nasty bit of prejudice will bring us another step closer to banishing it from our culture. So I urge you to be alert, be aware, and look for opportunities to speak out against ageism.

Gaea is an author, poet, teacher and Rapid Eye Therapist. She lives in Northern California. You can reach her by e-mail at: gaea(at)

By  Joyce  Kovelman
This we know: Humanity stands at the precipice. We must quickly decide whether we will continue to desecrate and destroy our planet, or whether we will make the needed changes and sacrifices that allow all of earthly existence to survive and thrive. We are asked to consciously co-create a new reality in which to fulfill our greater, more noble destinies. Indeed it is the very reason that each of us is presently living upon Earth.
This we know: We are summoned, and how we respond is critical. Do we step up to the plate and begin to make the necessary changes, or do we continue to complain, turn away, and wait for others to change?
This we know: We already recognize where change is needed. We already know what each of us must do to become the change we wish to see in our world. We know that there are needy, sick, poor and homeless; and that every one of us makes a difference. And we all realize that we have come to Earth for just such a moment as this.
We may not fully know how to change, we may not fully know what to do, or even if we can succeed. But begin we must! Humankind will surely perish if we do not try.
This we know: Each world begins with You and Me. All of us are Beings of Energy and Light. We are invited to participate in the most sacred task of creating a new world. We already know that all change and creation begins within. So please take a moment or two, or three or more …. Please enter into the silence and stillness at the very core of your being, and please begin the inner process of creating a sustainable and caring world.
Deep within my heart and soul, there is an absolute certainty that We can create the world we want to dwell within; We can evolve; and We can become a loving, compassionate, sustainable and harmonious humanity. We can make it happen, if we but dare to dream and envision once again. It has always been so.
This we know: A dedicated community of vision and light can bring forth a life sustaining and life affirming humanity. I invite you to become the change you wish to see in your world, to be the action you seek, the inspiration you need, and the love you wish to share. Let us join together in the wonder of conscious co-creation and joy. Let us begin!
All who wish to respond to Spirit’s Soulful call to help birth a new world – please contact me at ASOUL1(at) or through Jean Hudon’s EarthRainbow readership. Now is the moment to begin. Please join and make it so.

Dr. Joyce Kovelman holds Ph.D.'s in both Anatomy and Psychology. She is in private
practice in Chatsworth, California. Joyce is the author of ‘Once Upon A SOUL: The Story Continues.... Science, Psychology and the Realms of Spirit’ ,’ Namaste: Initiation and Transformation,’ a five workbook series entitled ‘I AM WOMAN on a Journey called Life’  (also available on CD), and for children, ‘The Reluctant Twin’, ‘The Lonely Triplet‘ and a game, ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You.’
© Joyce Kovelman 2006


Website Make-Over
In case you haven't noticed, the Elderwoman Website has had a facelift. Most of the content is the same, but I have created new backgrounds and colour schemes and the whole thing looks a lot tidier and nicer now, especially the links page and the book purchase page, both of which have been completely redesigned. Have a look, and see what you think of the 'new look'.

I have also started a blog (well you have to, don't you? Everyone is blogging these days!) and you can link to it from the website.

My self-published short story collection is now available for purchase from various different outlets that are linked from the website. If you want to take a peek at one of the stories, you can do so via the Lulu website. From Lulu you can also download it as a .pdf file for US$1.25

Request from Oz
One of our readers from Downunder sent this link, in the hope that all the other Aussie readers will sign up to the climate change campaign (if they haven’t already).

Quantum Touch

Debra Loomis, a long-time reader of this newsletter and a member of our Elderwoman Discussion Group, is studying to become a qualified practitioner in a healing modality called Quantum Touch. This is a healing method, similar to Reiki, that can when necessary be done long-distance. So you can have a session with Debra regardless of where you are in the world.

As part of her training, Debra is offering free sessions to readers of this newsletter . If you are interested, contact her by e-mail on celticowl(at) and she will send you the particulars and ask you for some information about yourself that she can use to connect with you for the healing process to take place.

Wonderful Pictures

Remember Helen Redman’s beautiful pictures in the March newsletter?
Her work is so deep and thoughtful and so celebratory of our ageing female bodies that it never fails to move me. Here’s a link to the paintings she took to the WomanMADE Gallery in Chicago this year, for an invitational exhibition called
Ageing Into Full Creativity

Rubber Messages

In the four years I have been sending out this newsletter, hardly anyone has ever 'unsubscribed'. Yet I lose readers. Every time I send out a newsletter, at least half a dozen bounce back because people have changed their e-mail addresses and forgotten to tell me. Those women are probably wondering why their newsletters don't arrive. Or maybe they think I have stopped sending them. Or maybe they don't think about it at all. Anyway, if you are planning on changing your e-mail address, and you want to keep receiving these newsletters, please drop me a line and let me know your new address.

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Charge Dismissed – Anti-war Protesters Go Free
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on December 1 that a judge had dismissed 'defiant-trespass' charges against eleven members of the anti-war ‘Granny Peace Brigade’. The women had refused to leave a military recruiting office in June after trying to enlist to replace troops serving in Iraq.

The charge did not apply, said the judge, because the women - including poet Sonia Sanchez and Lillian Willoughby, a 91-year-old wheelchair-bound South Jersey Quaker - were in a public place and did nothing except refuse a request to leave.

A crowd rallied outside the court to show their support.

The group’s lawyer argued that the women were engaged in constitutionally protected free speech when they tried to enlist, and he quoted from a Pennsylvania Superior Court decision that quoted Thomas Jefferson saying, "a little rebellion now and then is a good thing."

Some of the women had already spent six days in jail in 2003, shortly after the Iraq war started, for blocking a Federal building. If they had been convicted on the ‘defiant trespass’ charge, they could have been jailed for a further 90 days and fined $500. Thankfully, justice prevailed.

New Tricks
I saw a press release back in October that said the University of New England, in Armidale, Australia, had just granted a Bachelor of Laws degree to a man called Allan Stewart, who managed to complete the six-year course in four and a half years.

Nothing remarkable in that, you might say. But Allan is 91. He was quoted as saying that learning to use the Internet had been the biggest challenge in completing the degree. "I was not literate in computers at all. I was completely self-taught as far as that was concerned."

Get Up & Go
University of Georgia researchers, Patrick O'Connor, co-director of the University of Georgia’s exercise psychology laboratory and a kinesiology professor, and Tim Tuetz, a recent doctoral program graduate, did a study of the relationship between exercise and fatigue. Their findings, which were published in the November 2006 issue of the Psychological Bulletin, showed that "…sedentary people who completed a regular exercise program reported improved fatigue compared to groups that did not exercise." They found that "…every group studied – from healthy adults to cancer patients to those with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease – benefited from exercise." So if you are feeling weary, don’t just sit there and turn on the TV. Go for a brisk walk instead!

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I remember my Great-Granddad really well. He was a kindly old man with a bushy white beard and moustache. It used to fascinate me that when his mouth was closed you couldn’t see where it was. The only clue was that the whiskers all around it were stained with nicotine from the pipe he always smoked. He always greeted me with the same words, spoken in his broad, Westcountry accent: "And how’s my little maid then?" Great-Granddad was 95 when he died. I have always been grateful that I knew him.

New York Times writer Stephanie Rosenbloom points out that as our life expectancies lengthen, more and more children will be lucky enough to know their great-grandparents. And of course more and more of us will become great-grandparents. Here’s a link to Stephanie’s interesting article, ‘Here Come the Great-Grandparents’ (Nov. 2, 2006):

Here are two more New York Times articles that may be of interest to you. The first one, Old but Not Frail: A Matter of Heart and Head tells us that the frailty of elders may be as much a mental construct as a physical reality. Although our bodies will inevitably experience a decline in certain functions as we near the very end of our lives, getting into our seventies and eighties does not automatically mean getting frail.

"Rigorous studies are now showing that seeing, or hearing, gloomy nostrums about what it is like to be old can make people walk more slowly, hear and remember less well, and even affect their cardiovascular systems. Positive images of ageing have the opposite effects. The constant message that old people are expected to be slow and weak and forgetful is not a reason for the full-blown frailty syndrome. But it may help push people along that path."

Live Long? Die Young? Answer Isn’t Just in Genes – another article by the same journalist, explores the connection (or lack thereof) between genes and longevity.

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Contributions for this newsletter are eagerly sought. Please send in your writings, your thoughts, your poetry, a book or website you have found, an announcement or news item that you think would be interesting to others, a comment on one of these articles, a subject you'd like to see, an anecdote, something that moved you - whatever snippet you want to share.


My second favourite household chore is ironing. My first being, hitting my
head on the top bunk bed until I faint.” ~ Erma Bombeck

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.”
 ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you cry with your
girlfriends.” ~ Laurie Kuslansky

I refuse to think of them as chin hairs. I think of them as stray
eyebrows.” ~ Janette Barber


Senior Breakfast

We went to breakfast at a restaurant where the "seniors' special" was two eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast for $1.99.

"Sounds good," my wife said. "But I don't want the eggs."

"Then I'll have to charge you two dollars and forty-nine cents because you're ordering a la carte," the waitress warned her

"You mean I'd have to pay for not taking the eggs?" my wife asked incredulously.


"I'll take the special."

"How do you want your eggs?"

"Raw and in the shell," my wife replied.

She took the two eggs home.



The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, December, 2006

The Elderwoman website:
Marian's e-mail: marian(at) 

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