Issue #16, March, 2007
Off-roadrunner, Safford AZ
to the March 2007 issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter
- an e-zine for
21st century elderwomen committed to radical aliveness.
is shaping up to be a busy time for me in the months ahead, with two
weddings in the family, a magazine to edit, several articles due and
lots of other interesting things. And of course, Spring is a busy time
in the garden, too. So I thought I had better get this newsletter out
now, before I get too caught up in other things.
is Spring again, here in the Northern Hemisphere (well it will
be in another couple of days). The snowdrops have been and gone and now
surrounded by daffodils, primroses, celandines, gorse and forsythia,
shades of yellow from the palest to the brightest. In another few weeks
will come the gradual
change from the 'yellow days' to the 'blue, pink and white' days, as
the bluebells, campions, stitchwort and wild garlic start to take over.
Here in England we switch to daylight saving time in another week
- and of course in the US, the switch has already occurred.
I have become drawn into the fascinating world of blogging, these past few months, writing my own blog
and reading lots of others. It's an amazing world, peopled by all sorts
of interesting and inspiring characters. I am really enjoying it. There
are two sub-groups of bloggers I have been particularly delighted to
discover. One is the worldwide group of people who are simplifying
their lives, and as you know, simple living is something I am
passionate about, so the more of these I find, the more encouraged I
The other is the 'elderbloggers' who range in age from 50 or so to 107. There are heaps of them, especially
women, and they are a wonderful and high-spirited bunch. So I am delighted introduce you,
in this issue, to Elaine Frankonis. Elaine is a veteran blogger and she
will tell you more about blogging and the part it plays in her life. If
it is something you haven't tried, when you read what she has to say
you may just be tempted to have a go yourself.
Also, in this issue, two articles by me and a selection of links to articles in other places.
I hope you enjoy reading this issue of the newsletter as much as I have enjoyed putting it together.
This was a
predominantly Jewish area, and a lot of the women were in their
fifties, sixties and seventies. They switched back and forth between
English and Yiddish, they gossiped and they laughed a lot. They were
great. I enjoyed
THE BODY BEAUTIFUL
When I was in my
forties, working full-time and living
in the city, I took out membership at a local gym. I used to enjoy
going there. Not only for the aerobics classes and the exercise
machines, which gave me a sense of achievement and a pride in my
fitness level, but also for the swimming pool, the whirlpool and the
sauna. Specially the sauna.
something wonderfully intimate about a bunch of women of all ages
working out in the same room and then sitting around naked on benches in the
semi dark, steaming, sweating and chatting.
Venus of Willendorf
c. 24,000-22,000 BCE
the fact that our bodies were all different shapes and sizes, tall
and short, skinny and fat, many with bulging bellies, stretch marks,
boobs. Lots with wrinkles. This was no glamorous ‘health
where people come to strut and be seen in designer leotards. Nobody
worked out while listening to an iPod because iPods hadn’t
invented yet. There was music on the loudspeakers and some of us
hummed to it. That place had its own special feel. It felt sweaty and
communal and totally accepting and utterly real.
was thinking about that last month when I read this piece on the
Reserves’ blog about how the baby boom generation is changing
shape of gyms and health clubs in the USA.
Americans” the article claims, “… are
landscape of physical fitness… the number of people who are
belonging to health clubs surged by 33% from 1999-2004 whereas the
18-34 crowd had zero growth in memberships….Mature exercise
enthusiasts are not merely playing havoc with abstract fitness
statistics; they are rocking the foundations of fitness facilities
across the U.S. "
that’s great – right? It’s nice
to think that a whole age cohort is putting more value on staying fit
and healthy than its predecessors did. But unfortunately
shadow side to all this. Two, in fact. Ten days later, I read a rather alarming story on
Bennett’s ‘Time Goes By’ blog about how
preoccupation with health and fitness is starting to create
dissension in some retirement communities. The ‘young
seems, are starting to crowd out the ‘old old’ by
kinds of facilities that put the fees up beyond the reach of many
long-term residents. Gyms and spas and golf courses are taking
precedence over stair-lifts and hoists and other equipment needed by
the very old and frail.
woman put it:
“The message is: Retirement
ain’t what it used to be…Everybody
is going to be tap dancing and jumping on trampolines. Boards and
property managers are re-engineering senior communities as
destination resorts and health clubs. Senior home-owners who need
wheelchairs don’t fit this marketing plan.
“Boards and management companies want
to upgrade the amenities…to
market to the next generation of retirees. To finance improvements,
they saddle current residents with huge bills they can’t
Nor is it likely that the
atmosphere in these gyms
and spas and health clubs is going to be anything like the laid-back
one I remember from thirty years ago. These folks take their workouts
seriously. And as well as redefining retirement, they seem to be
trying to redefine aging itself. Aging ‘well’ has
become a solemn
duty. Which means not just staying as fit as you can but pretending
that you are not getting old at all. Wrinkles, suggests a New York Times article last
week, are becoming the new taboo. Just as you rarely see anyone with
crooked teeth any more, in these days of orthodontics, soon you
see wrinkles and sagging skin either. Not now that we have Botox,
Restylane, liposuction and all the other weapons in the endless,
expensive (and of course ultimately futile) war against the
natural aging processes.
What pity, is all I can say.
It’s many years since I saw the
inside of a gym. The Earth itself
has supplied all the gym equipment I could ever need ever since I
moved to the countryside. Who needs a treadmill or stationary bicycle
when you can cycle the leafy lanes and walk through the woods? Who
needs weights when there are logs to stack? Who needs a step-stool
when you have to walk up a flight of steep stairs to go to the
bathroom? Who needs a swimming pool when the ocean is just a mile
I’d enjoy a sauna once in a while. Specially if it was full
those jolly women, chatting their heads off in Yiddish and English as
we all sat around the stove and steamed together. Wrinkles and all.
|I USED TO WRITE LETTERS:
now I blog.
by Elaine Frankonis
when we used to write
letters, sharing our thoughts and hopes and frustrations with far away
friends with whom we had much in common?
For me, my weblog is my letter to the world of the Internet, which is
full of far away friends whom I’ve never met in person but
share many of my opinions… and, yes, frustrations.
A weblog is a public diary, and just like any diary, it reflects the
thoughts, opinions, and experiences of the writer. Some are
funny, some are political, some are informational, and some are just
for venting. The weblog writer makes it into whatever he/she
wants. Free services such as Blogger (www.blogger.com)
have made setting up and maintaining a weblog a simple and painless
I have a weblog because it gives me a voice, an identity – a
soapbox when I want one, an friendly ear when I need one.
My current life as the caregiver for my 91 year old mother has
physically isolated me from many of the activities and people I used to
enjoy. Stimulating personal interactions are rare in my life
these days and relegated to the times every other month or so when I go
to visit friends or offspring for a couple of days of respite.
Through the processes of writing my own weblog, reading and
leaving comments on others’, and being contacted by readers
mine, I have minimized my feelings of isolation. I
“met” gracious and fascinating men and women I
ever, have run across in the physical world. I think, for
of the 72 year old female editor of a small mid-western newspaper who
emails me periodically when I have posted something that has touched
her in some way. I think of the young woman blogger in
who is my daughter’s age and who continues to inspire my best
When I began blogging more than five years ago, there were very few
bloggers over 65. Now, we are many, telling our
sharing our wonder and wisdom, asserting our well-earned identities,
and getting to know each other in meaningful and companionable
ways. Over at the Ageless Project website there are
bloggers listed who are in their 90s.
As we get older and reach a point where getting around physically to
socialize becomes more work than fun, blogging is one way to keep
mentally active and personally interactive. It’s
for kids anymore.
Marian looks at...
brother-in-law just sent me these pictures and several others. I
thought they might fascinate you as much as they did me.
me, art like this -- and like the intricate sand paintings that the
Tibetan monks do -- just seems especially precious, somehow.
We have this illusion of permanence about physical things. So there are
paintings and sculptures that have existed for hundreds or even
thousands of years. But even those deteriorate over time, even though
they do it much more slowly than we do. Most of us will not exist for
as long as 100 years.
|As we know, a lot of
people agonise about getting old, as though they
believe they should last for ever. So they spend a lot of their lives
in a state of contraction, trying to fight off the inevitability of
their own disappearance from the world.
artist, Guido Daniele from Milan, who was hired to create these
pictures by an advertising agency, says he regrets that his creations
are soon washed away. Watching his creations disappear down the drain
after they have been photographed is, he says,
the hardest part of his
however, have exactly the opposite attitude.
|In the smaller of these two photographs, the
Dalai Lama is surrounded by the Tibetan nuns who created this sacred
sand mandala in the library at Brandeis University in Waltham,
Massachusetts. In a historic act, the Dalai Lama participated in the
destruction of the mandala--symbolizing the impermanence of life. The
destruction of the mandala is part of the ceremony of the mandala. This
is only the second mandala to be created by Tibetan nuns on U.S. soil
and the first created by women to be viewed by His Holiness the Dalai
Lama. The creation of sand mandalas dates back 2,500 years and was an
art once reserved for monks.
Taking the trouble to create something that will only last for hours
seems to me like a wonderful way of affirming and celebrating the fact
that when you measure it against the immensity of historical time, our
own existence is really just a brief flicker. It's a reminder that we
should fully enjoy that flicker while it lasts, accepting that in the
end, we too shall be washed away under the remorseless tap of time.
Award winner Helen Mirren, who will be 62 in July, received a free
pre-Oscars goodie bag containing vouchers for free plastic surgery and
Botox injections. But she declined to use them.
'I let go of vanity a while ago, let go of trying to look younger than I was,' she says.
'It's brilliant, really, the way life organises itself because you just slowly get used to what you are, don't you?
|(Back to top)
"You will notice that increasingly, it is the elders who are speaking out and
acting boldly and authoritatively to bring understanding of what justice,
kindness, generosity and compassion mean in a world weary of the endless
conquest and dominance mindset of nations." - Cathy Webster, 'A Thousand Grandmothers for Peace'
the last newsletter, I reported that charges against members of the
'Granny Peace Brigade' in Philadelphia had been dismissed.
Well it does not always work out so well. In January, a federal judge in Columbus GA sentenced Cathy Webster to two
months in a Federal prison for her non-violent protest against a
torture-training school. Several other 'Grandmothers for Peace' also
received prison sentences
Read about it in this report from 'Common Dreams'.
(Thank to Brenda Mason from Brisbane for bringing this news item to my attention)
||BERKELEY, Calif., Jan.
22 — It is not every day that tree-sitters are older than the tree, but
on Monday three environmental activists with a combined age of 247
climbed into an oak tree here for an hour to protest a hotly contested
||" 'Still' is a word I don't much like. Nearly everyone I talk to asks me if I am
"still" writing: taxi drivers, shop assistants, members of parliament, traffic
wardens, acquaintances lost for years but inevitably emerging from the past,
doctors and vets and hairdressers. The phrase 'at your age' doesn't please me
either, with its underlying implication that it would be better if women in
their 70s were to stay indoors and pull down the blinds." - Novelist, Ruth Rendell
Read this interview in the Melbourne 'Age', as 76- year-old Ruth talks about aging and her attitude to it.
|"No matter how many times the media says
otherwise, it's Hormone Replacement Therapy -- not menopause -- that's dangerous
Click here for another hard-hitting article by
Margaret Morganroth Gullette about what she calls 'hormone nostalgia'
(Back to top)
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
conscious’ is, after all, not a spooky extra kind of stuff, but
just one of the many interesting things that complex organisms can do.” ~ Mary Midgley
a woman never lets herself go, how will she ever know how far she might
have got? If she never takes off her high-heeled shoes, how will she
ever know how far she could walk or how fast she could run? " ~ Germaine Greer
... and again - " You're only young once, but you can be immature forever. "
you needed further proof that the human race is doomed through
here are some actual label instructions on consumer goods.
On a Sears hairdryer -- Do not use while sleeping.
(That's the only time I have to
work on my hair.)
On a bag of Fritos -- You could be a winner! No purchase necessary.
Details inside. (the shoplifter special?)
On a bar of Dial soap -- "Directions: Use like regular soap."
that would be???....)
On some Swanson frozen dinners --
"Serving Suggestion: Defrost." (but,
it's just a suggestion.)
On Tesco's Tiramisu dessert (printed on bottom) --
"Do not turn upside down." (well...duh,
a bit late, huh!)
On Marks & Spencer Bread Pudding --
"Product will be hot after heating." (...and
On packaging for a Rowenta iron --
"Do not iron clothes on body." (but
wouldn't this save me time?)
On Boot's Children Cough Medicine -- "Do not drive a car or operate
machinery after taking this medication."
could do a lot to reduce the rate of construction accidents if we
just get those 5 year-olds with head-colds off those bulldozers.)
On Nytol Sleep Aid -- "Warning: May cause drowsiness."
taking this because???....)
On most brands of Christmas lights --
"For indoor or outdoor use only." (as
opposed to what?)
On a Japanese food processor --
"Not to be used for the other use."
somebody out there, help me on this. I'm a bit curious.)
On Sainsbury's peanuts --
"Warning: contains nuts." (talk
about a news flash)
On an American Airlines packet of nuts --
"Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts."
On a child's Superman costume --
"Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly."
don't blame the company. I blame the parents for this one.)
On a Swedish chainsaw --
"Do not attempt to stop chain with your hands or genitals."
my God..was there a lot of this happening somewhere?)
The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, December, 2006
The Elderwoman website: http://www.elderwoman.org
Marian's e-mail: marian(at)elderwoman.org
NB: replace 'at' with the @ sign, and please
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