Issue #35, Dec 2013

Welcome to the December 2013 issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter
- an e-zine for 21st century elderwomen committed to radical aliveness.


Back in April when my daughter and her family visited us from Boston for a whole month, we spent the first week of that month living at a pretty vacation house called Ripple which is on an island in the middle of the River Thames. And then we spent the last few days in an old 

Dutch barge moored further up the river. I love to be near water, so living on a river, or even right next to one, is always a special experience for me. Which is why, when Sky and I went back to Sardinia in September, to the lovely little town of Bosa that we had discovered the previous year, we stayed in the same apartment as last time, overlooking the River Temo. That picture above is the view from our window, looking upstream just before sunset. For me, there is something really magical about just sitting by the window and looking out, watching the herons and egrets go about their business.
And just as rivers are drawn towards the sea, so am I. Which is why I love islands. So islands were the theme of our travels this year and we visited five of them that we had never been to before. Our entire journey is documented online at Now I am working busily to get the next volume in the GreenSpirit ebook series published before Christmas. This will be the third in the series, which is all about what I call 'applied green spirituality,' and there are lots more in the pipeline, including one on eldering. The books are in all the popular ebook formats including Kindle and if you are interested you can find out more about them here. So as you can see, I have not been idle during the months since you last heard from me. Except, of course, for all those delightful hours spent staring at the water :-)

Blessings and all good wishes for the festive season,


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Passing the Baton

 by Marian Van EykMcCain

When I wrote the final sentence of my first book on aging, I was 53 and just through menopause. Now, as I think about my 80th birthday being a mere two and a half years away, 53 suddenly seems extraordinarily young! 

When I was born, in 1936, there were already fears of another war in Europe and by the time I was two years old my father had left his job and joined the army, anticipating that conscription, which had ended in 1920, would probably start up again soon anyway. Which of course it did, in September 1939. It was a time of unrest and uncertainty and my parents figured that it was not a really good time to be bringing more babies into a troubled world. 

So by the time my first sibling was born, it was 1946 and I was already ten. My longed-for baby brother was followed by an adorable baby sister in 1948. They and all their generation soon became known as the Baby Boomers, the lively, kicking, flesh-and-blood results of all those happy post-war reunions. The name stuck.

My  Boomer sister is now 65, my sister-in-law a little older. When that first book of mine was finally published I was 55 and they were not long past forty. But I had a strong feeling that in another decade or two they would be searching for guidance on how to navigate the rapids of menopause and understand the psychological and spiritual significance of that passage. It was because I hoped the book I was now launching might give them some useful guidance that I dedicated it to them and to all the women of their generation.

 Eleven years later, when I published Elderwoman, it was with a similar feeling. That second book was my attempt to create a trail guide for my younger sisters, a guidebook for territory which, at that time, had barely begun to be mapped.

 My sister's generation got sidetracked for a while. Just as they were reaching menopause, Big Pharma reinvented HRT and plugged it to them big time. Lots of them listened to the 'anti-aging' siren call. But eventually, when research proved that HRT had its own hidden dangers, most got back on track. And that was when I felt other hands beginning to reach out to grasp the batons that a few of us had been carrying for a decade. The Boomers are a powerful group, still lively and still kicking. A bunch of them are strong, articulate, feisty media-savvy women who know how to broadcast the message about how to age well in much louder voices than mine could ever be. These women refuse to be invisible. They refuse to be devalued by a youth-obsessed mainstream culture. They are challenging ageism and because of them, attitudes are slowly changing. The tide is coming in.

 So when it comes to how do we live our third age to the full, there are lots of trail guides appearing now and lots of voices chiming in. I could almost say that my work is done. And yet...

Being in one's seventies has its own story, its own subtleties and nuances and its own lessons to learn and I think being in one's eighties will too. And—if I am fortunate to be here long enough to find out—there will almost certainly be new lessons to learn and new aspects of aging to discover right through the nineties and right to the end. So in one sense I feel I have already passed the baton to my sisters and their Boomer generation and there is a feeling of relief about that. Yet in another sense I can still feel a baton of sorts in my hand. I suppose I shall continue the task of mapping the path of aging and passing the news back down the line as long as I am able. Once a big sister, always a big sister, I guess!
A New Voice 

While we are on the subject of dynamic Boomer-age women, here is one it gladdens my heart to discover. I heard about her in a round robin email from Women's Studies academic Margaret Morganroth Gullette, whose work I have mentioned several times in these newsletters.

Margaret wrote: 
We have been looking - atleast I have been looking - for a public intellectual with a fresh voice in age studies who can attract undergrads and grad students and explain to large mixed audiences what anti-ageism is.

Now here is Ashton Applewhite ("writer, speaker, activist"), a New Yorker, who just opened her lecture with a sold-out event at Cooper Union in NYC. 

Click on her picture, below, to watch her in action.

Although she has only recently started on the speaker circuit, Ashton Applewhite has been doing anti-ageism work for a while, and since 2007 has run a clever feature on her website called "YO is this Ageist?"

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And Speaking of Ageism...

GWAAR (The Greater Wisconsin Agency on Aging Resources) has put out an extremely useful document about ageist language. Its purpose, they say, is help professionals, volunteers, and others understand that the language we use in offering services to older adults or individuals with disabilities must recognize people as individuals first and at all times treat them with respect and dignity.
Click here to read it. And if you happen to come across any institutions where you think the employees could benefit from reading this, you might consider printing a copy and giving it to whoever is in charge of training staff. It is my belief that the majority of folks in the helping professions who use condescending and infantilizing language towards--and about-- the old people in their care don't mean any disrespect. They do it unconsciously, probably because their work evokes the same nurturing impulse we instinctively feel towards babies and small children. All it needs to create change is for someone to bring this into their awareness.

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Britain's Oldest Disc Jockey 
(As reported by the BBC)

"Being 91 has not stopped Margaret Leigh-Jones from trying new things. She has recently begun presenting at Hampshire nostalgia radio station Angel FM, which could make her Britain's oldest DJ. The Havant-based great-grandmother began by answering the phones at the not-for-profit station, but was soon persuaded to take up a role co-hosting a two hour show. The 91-year old says it has changed her life..."

Click here to see a video of Margaret doing her thing
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The Beauty of Aging

A lot of people have posted this trailer on Facebook.  It is quite inspirational. And a 35-minute movie has been made about two of the women who feature in the trailer. It is all part of the Beauty of Aging Documentary Project. Click here to go to the Project's website and find out about the movie, which is available on DVD.


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The Key to Brain Health

According to a recent study, the two main keys to keeping
 your brain active and agile are learning new skills and  being creative.)

Click here to read about it.

Of course,
this article, like so many others, talks about 'keeping your  brain young' (sigh) but I prefer to say '
keeping  your brain active and agile' as there is no way I will use ageist language in this newsletter!! Our brains, after all, are the same age as we are. 
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Insurance for Long Term Care

I promised Barbara Davis  that I would give her website
Compare Long Term Care a mention on this newsletter as it could be a useful resource for anyone wanting to compare the rates from various long term insurance companies all at the same time, online.
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Invisible Grandparents

Some years ago, at a CronesCounsel gathering, I briefly shared a room with writer and sexuality educator Pat Hanson. During the time we were together she told me about the book she was working on, which she called 'The Invisible Grandparent.'
What, I wanted to know, is an invisible grandparent? Well this is how Pat defines it:
An Invisible Grandparent is anyone unable to participate fully in the lives of their children's children. We may have once played a role in a young one's life and were then blocked from it. We have tangible memories and ideas of where these children are and what they look like or may be like. Or we may not even know our grandchildren's whereabouts or even their names.

I could relate to that, for although I have grandchildren with whom I am very close, there is one I have not seen since he was very small and quite possibly will never see again. Family dynamics, sadly, can sometimes create these painful situations, as they have for Pat. She says: I am an Invisible Grandparent. I have two grandchildren that I have been kept from seeing. Writing letters helped heal the hole in my heart that not being able to grandparent caused. In the last three years I have written dozens, in hopes that someday, these children who are part of my gene pool will read them. I have also written others I have no intention of ever sending in order to free myself of negative energy and work toward forgiveness of both myself and others.

Now Pat's book has been published. Today I received a lovely colour postcard about it in the mail. Which is what prompted me to share the news with you and tell you of this very helpful resource she has created. It is crafted out of her own experience. And remembering how she was, this spirited and feisty woman I met, I know that she will have shared her own story with her readers and that she will have told it told in the open, honest, totally down-to-earth way that is so typical of her, for Pat is not a person who dissembles. And I know her book will be full of useful ideas for any other grandparents who find themselves cut off, for any reason, from the grandchildren with whom they yearn for relationship.
Follow-up to the Calcium Article

After the last Elderwoman Newsletter was published, in May,I had a nice letter from Ros Crompton in Australia. Ros is a professional and personal coach,
facilitator and trainer, whose specialty is traning people in public speaking. She and I met when we were both teaching classes at the Council of Adult Education in Melbourne in the early 1990s. What prompted her letter was the piece in that newsletter about calcium. She wrote:
I do think the calcium article is a little alarmist and pushes the pendulum to the other extreme from the one which encourages every kind of supplement. Extremes are not in balance and alarm is counter-productive too, I think. Flooding one’s system with calcium is not necessarily helpful of course, and some of the warning aspects of the article are useful. As we know, more is not better. I would like to share with you some things I have learned when a friend was diagnosed with early osteoporosis which the medical profession has proclaimed in past decades to be irreversible.

1.    Osteoporosis is not necessarily irreversible and my friend’s bone mineral density is now at safe, i.e. above fracture threshold levels. We shouldn’t forget that bone fractures are not the only problem – intractable pain and considerable disability comes with it too. If I have a choice between the risk of cancer and the certainty of osteoporosis, I’m taking calcium plus.
2.    Calcium supplements are okay as long as they are absorbable. Cows milk calcium is not so compatible with humans, not to mention that the calcium caltrate most often prescribed by doctors is not easily metabolised. Calcium citrate is the better form, and ……
3.    Absorption of calcium is also dependent on suitable levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D resistance is far more common than we thought which is particularly odd in places full of sunshine such as Australia. Calcium taken with vitamin D makes a sensible combination when necessary. I do think it’s important to dig a bit deeper and find medical people who are also sleuths.

Warm regards,

We talked further on email and I said I would not only include her comments in the next newsletter but would post both the article and her comments on our Elderwomanspace network so that any readers who are interested in making their own comments can have a forum for doing so. (If you are not a member of Elderwomanspace but you would like to be, just email me and I will send you an invitation)
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Does it Get Better, Like a Fine Wine?

That's the question that long-time subscriber Val McCrae poses in her article on aging that was recently published in an Australian magazine for the over-sixties. Here's a link to the article. It is wonderful to see this in print. Good on you, Val!!

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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.  Don't be shy. You do NOT have to be a professional writer, artist or photographer to send pictures or pieces of your writing to this newsletter. I look forward to hearing from you.


They’re Still There

                                                By Arlene Corwin

They’re still there,

Those awful attitudes,

(unflattering, nothing to brag about)

Inborn, learned – it doesn’t matter:

How would you define ambition,

Vanity, greed, passive anger?

Subtle, languishing

As if not there,

Silent, never screaming,

Beaming secret rays through secret paths:

Holding sway: insidious;

Crafty, stealthy, underhanded attitudes

Still there.


I tell myself

And you.


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FIFTY SHADES OF GREY - (a husband's point of view)

 (Just in case you haven't seen this hilarious poem floating around on the internet I couldn't resist including it here. It is often attributed to theBritish comedian Pam Ayres but she says she didn't write it. It's in her style though, and equally funny.)

The missus bought a Paperback,
down Shepton Mallet way,
I had a look inside her bag;
... T'was "Fifty Shades of Grey".
Well I just left her to it,
And at ten I went to bed.
An hour later she appeared;
The sight filled me with dread...
In her left she held a rope;
And in her right a whip!
She threw them down upon the floor,
And then began to strip.
Well fifty years or so ago;
I might have had a peek;
But Mabel hasn't weathered well;
She's eighty four next week!!
Watching Mabel bump and grind;
Could not have been much grimmer.
And things then went from bad to worse;
She toppled off her Zimmer!
She struggled back upon her feet;
A couple minutes later;
She put her teeth back in and said
I am a dominater !!
Now if you knew our Mabel,
You'd see just why I spluttered,
I'd spent two months in traction
For the last complaint I'd uttered.
She stood there nude and naked
Bent forward just a bit
I went to hold her, sensual like
and stood on her left tit!
Mabel screamed, her teeth shot out;
My god what had I done!?
She moaned and groaned then shouted out:
"Step on the other one"!!
Well readers, I can't tell no more;
About what occurred that day.
Suffice to say my jet black hair,
Turned fifty shades of grey

The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, December 2013
The Elderwoman website:
Marian's e-mail: marian(at) 
NB: replace 'at' with the @ sign, and please remember to insert OKEM in the
 subject line to make sure you get through my three layers of spam filtering!

Unfortunately, the filters are a necessity to stop my in-box flooding with spam.
 - oh and when you write to me, please remember that my name is spelt MARIAN with an 'A' (the same as Robin Hood's girlfriend) 

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