Issue #31, November, 2011

Welcome to the November 2011 issue of the Elderwoman Newsletter
- an e-zine for 21st century elderwomen committed to radical aliveness.


The last few months have been very busy ones for me. First, there was my new book to promote, and I had barely even started on that when it was time 

to get ready for my one return flight of the year from the UK to the USA and back. Since this is the only time I get to see my daughter and her family and hang out with them, it’s a time that is very special to me, and every moment is to be savoured.

Each year we go on vacation with them and this year the choice was Vermont. It was a mere two weeks after the catastrophic floods had swept through the State and the devastation was still very apparent in many places. However, it was as beautiful as ever there. And one of the highlights of our time there was a day-long visit to VINS (Vermont Institute of Natural Science) wonderful and highly educational Raptor Center. The Center’s work is all about rescuing and treating injured raptors – eagles, hawks, owls etc.—and, wherever possible, returning them to the wild.

A few birds, too badly damaged to be able to cope in the wild, remain at the Center in well-appointed accommodation and assist in educating the public about raptors. The owl in the picture above is one of those ‘teaching birds,’ and we enjoyed meeting him face to face, especially my 10-year-old home-schooled grandsons who learned a huge amount that day (and who, unlike me, will probably retain all of it!!)

After several more weeks in New England, I came home to Old England and straight into the hassle of replacing my doddery old computer with a brand new one. Those of you who are members of our Elderwomanspace network will already have heard my grumbles about that. Suffice it to say that the switch-over is the main reason why this newsletter is a little later than intended. But it is here now, and full of interesting bits and pieces, all sent in by you, my wonderful readers. I think you will find it well worth waiting for.

Love and blessings,



A New Wrinkle: A Paradigm-Shifting Musical Revue on Aging

by Gaea Yudron

In 2009, I decided I wanted to write a musical revue about aging, “a subject as thrilling as the Oscars, or even Death!” as the magical hag Baba Yaga quipped early on.

As an archetype, Baba Yaga is unconfined by convention. She is a funny, wise and dangerous old woman. I have enjoyed getting to know her better over the past 2 years and have learned from her fearless frankness. The characters one draws in or creates are always instructive.

Gaea wearing her Baba Yaga Hair       

 I was inspired to create A New Wrinkle by my desire to see some significant social change in the way we view aging and old people. Pervasive ageist stereotypes and prejudices rankle me. I felt I had to do something in self-defense! 

Modern culture is youth-adoring, speedy, short-sighted and superficial. The profound qualities that older people bring into society are largely unrecognized. 

There’s something inherently creative about living a long time, even if you don’t design great buildings or write marvelous poetry. Age brings a broader perspective, development of character, depth of understanding and integration. I wanted to write about that. I wanted to debunk ageist stereotypes and portray a more vivid, life-affirming vision of aging and elders. So I sat down to create some songs. What an exhilarating experience it turned out to be! Song lyrics poured out of me as if they had been standing around in the vestibule just waiting to make themselves known. 

The first song I wrote was Passing for Young. A sardonic commentary on cosmetic surgery and other anti-aging tactics, it’s sung by a character much like Barbie, the famous doll. Next I wrote Baba Yaga’s Raga, which celebrates the dangerous old woman, a topic beloved Clarissa Pinkola Estes has been discussing these days in new CDs. Then I wrote Reclaiming Old, a lyrical choral piece extolling the value and beauty of oldness. 

I wanted to be sure to cover certain topics and issues in the revue. One song, Hip Hop Elder’s Rant, protests warehousing, overmedicating and other dehumanizing ways of treating elders. As Hip Hop Elder says: “I’d rather wrap myself up in a sheet/ and pray my prayers out on the street/ than get sent to old folks’ prison/ just because I’m frail and wizened.” 

The song Sex After 60 has a playful Caribbean beat. It contradicts the popular notion that older people are uninterested in sex and intimacy. One of my favorite songs is Scintillating Secrets of the Older Brain, which was inspired by exciting new research about the creative and integrative capacities of the older brain. Retirement or Refirement investigates some choices for spending the later years. In Why My Grandma Should Be in the Elder Hall of Fame, a grandchild describes his grandmother’s amazing life accomplishments. The bluegrass tune Are You Gonna Take it with You to the Grave? explores the importance of letting go and forgiving.  Baba Yaga sings another song titled Acid and Acid Reflux in which she sardonically reflects upon the drugs people took during their youth and the medications they may take as they age.  Death is Right around the Corner investigates the edge that mortality brings to later life. The lyrical choral piece Ancestors investigates the deeper value of age. 

Fortuna smiled on me when I attracted a wonderful collaborator in the person of Laura Rich, who developed the music for all the songs. Laura is a delightful human being and a very talented and experienced singer, musician and composer. It is such a deep pleasure to collaborate with her.

          Laura and Gaea
We have not yet mounted a full production of A New Wrinkle, but we are moving in that direction. In order to present the revue on stage, we must raise $8,000. Those funds will be used to develop an instrumental soundtrack for the songs and cover other production-related costs. Filming the revue is another of our goals. That’s a budget item estimated at $5,000. So we are definitely in the fundraising arena. Step by step, and each step is full of learning and enjoyment.

We are very pleased with a CD we’ve just finished. It contains four of the songs in A New Wrinkle.  We will be using the CD to spread the word about the revue and to raise funds from philanthropists and grassroots donors. It will be great to get these songs aired on some radio talk shows, too! The CD will be available soon on 

If you would like more information on the paradigm-shifting A New Wrinkle, would like details on making a tax-deductible donation or want to help us get the pro-aging messages in the revue out in the world, please visit We welcome friends and allies!

 (And you'll love Gaea's wonderful blog: ~ Marian )

My Visit to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

 By Toni Snyder

.In the summer heat of August 5th, my spouse Wayne and I pulled out of our driveway to start the trip to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the southwest corner of South Dakota. The Reservation is home to Sioux, Oglala Lakota Indians. Current living conditions for most are comparable to many of Third World countries. This fact is ignored by the average American today.

 I said “This will be a different experience.  I don’t know what to expect.”  I certainly didn’t.  It turned out to be a life changing trip for me.          

We had agreed to follow a 26ft truck loaded with clothing and household items donated by various organizations in Waukesha County.  Karl Ralian donated frozen meat packed in dry ice.  He and Pastor Jerome Spencer took turns driving the truck 800 miles between Pewaukee, Wisconsin and Pine Ridge.          

When we turned off I90 onto the reservation, my first surprise was the wide open geography of soft rolling hills dotted with small pine trees.  I didn’t expect grassland hills. “This doesn’t look so bad” I said. “I thought it would be barren and dusty.”  

As we drove on I saw individual homes far off the highway, isolated and separated by miles.  The expansiveness and isolation of the reservation overwhelmed me.          

Our contacts, Jerome and Theresa High Horse had worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Rapid City, SD and retired back to the reservation in hopes of helping their people. The idea of a thrift store came from them. A store will allow impoverished Indians to purchase what they need or want for whatever amount they can pay.  It will be their investment instead of being handed items. Our mission was to assist in the development of a store and provide a continual supply of donated items.          

The Reservation is divided into nine districts and nine communities. We stayed in Wanblee, a small community in Shannon County with about 20 single family homes.  Fatigue from the long trip heightened my sensitivity to the feeling of arriving on a different planet. There aren’t sidewalks, curbs, or paved roads and I set my feet on the “earth”.  Is this what it feels to be grounded?

 The High Horse family provided their home for us to stay in. It had enough bedrooms to house all of us. The basement had bunk beds for the men. Jerome welcomed us, saying, “This is my home: now it is your home too.”     

Toni (center) with Jerome and Theresa

We did feel at home. The High Horse family is very comfortable with strangers in their home. I was the only white woman with white hair and the High Horse small grandchildren looked at me with curiosity. Later I fed a three year old his supper while he cautiously looked sideways at me. Then he said something to me in Lakota language. I smiled, not understanding what he said but replying “Oh,” and hoping it was an appropriate response.       

We spent the next two days unloading the truck and delivering frozen meat to families chosen by Jerome and Theresa. Delivery was unexpected and those receiving the meat treated it as a special gift. I was hugged by Indian women who had tears in their eyes.  Fresh or frozen meat is limited on the reservation. I heard expressions of gratitude spoken in Lakota language. With Jerome being the interpreter, we encouraged people to cook the meat as soon as it thawed as most homes don’t have a freezer. We also needed to explain how to cook the Canadian bacon. Even our hostess, Theresa High Horse had never seen this type of meat.          

We drove far and wide between homes. I saw one-storey homes with faded, peeling paint, weedy yards and rutted, mud driveways.  It was common to see two to four cars, or pickup trucks, in various stages of disrepair scattered in the yards. We all were troubled by what we saw as neglect of buildings and yards. We never saw the inside of homes, and I’m glad.  


We stopped for gas at the only mart in Wanblee. Inside, packaged and processed food and ‘junk food,’ is sold. I took note that fresh vegetables and fruit are not available but milk, eggs and butter are.  Prices are high. It’s obvious the owner can charge whatever he wants because there isn’t any other place to purchase food. I became irritated with the realization that grocery stores are non-existent on most of the reservation.  Government canned food, flour, sugar, coffee, beans and rice are distributed monthly to those who can get to a distribution center.  Obesity and diabetes are on the rise because of the diet.           

We visited families that live year round in tiny trailers.  Shacks are used as houses, most without electrical power and running water. Weather conditions are severe, both summer and winter. Another volunteer group we met stated that 6,000 sustainable homes are needed for proper housing.  A group from Texas is building a home from wooden pallets for the Walter & Allison Yellow Hair family.  Allison was so proud to show me her new outhouse with an outdoor shower.  I was humbled by her joy. 


 I expected to see poverty, but wasn’t prepared to see people who appear to have lost respect for themselves and didn’t want to better their conditions. “How can this happen?”  My senses picked up everything that is opposite of how I experience life.  Only later did I realize that I was seeing their lives through my eyes.  Lakota Indians have always lived on the prairies, not in the conformity of modern cities. But I felt their powerlessness and abandonment.           

Ian Frazier wrote in his book On the Rez, “There is an aura of unstop-ability that misfortunes acquire.” Problems are great: school dropout is high, no industries or places to work, social services spread over the reservation, no public transportation and little infrastructure.  Alcoholism is rampant, with no treatment available.           

We drove to the border of South Dakota and Nebraska where a cluster of taverns and liquor stores exist to sell to Indians only. Somehow the alcoholic gets there, even without transportation and drinks himself to death.  Two or three bodies are found every day. The area is called White Clay.  I learned how judgmental I can be and needed to see every Indian as a worthwhile human being. I cried at the injustice of their lives

Survival is intermingled with love. I saw a man and woman walk down the road holding hands. I watched Jerome teach his grandsons and sons-in-law ways to respect women, children and the elderly.  I bought a beaded bracelet from a young Indian woman who is self taught and supports her two sons, her sister and baby with her sales.  Families are important and laughter is heard when they get together. Families will take in another member no matter how distant the relation is.  A group of teenagers independently took on a project to prevent adolescent suicides.  We left with gifts in our hands because of a Lakota tradition that guests always received a gift from the host. A horse hide box decorated with Lakota designs is my gift. It now has a place of honor in my home.           

Jerome High Horse is a story teller. While listening to how High Horse became their family surname I was reminded of a dream I had over 30 years ago.  When I privately told him about the dream, he paused and then spoke seriously, looking me straight in my eyes. “Now your dream has brought you here. This is what your dream was telling you.  You have completed your circle.”          

Call it an ‘aha moment,’ insight or intuition, I was overcome with a sense of connectedness.  At age 74, I now feel a purpose outside that of my family.  I have a calling to do what I can to ease the strife I saw on the reservation. I pray for “serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”         

I am now coordinating a clothing drive with six churches in my local area for another truck load to deliver to Wanblee. Karl is providing pallets of applesauce, oatmeal cookies and canned kernel corn. We’re aware of winter closing in and hope to get the truck out while we still can.      

I’ve never done this before. My life is changing.  I continue to practice my three “B’s” – Breath, Balance, Be. I am an Elderwoman with a new energy.

What More Could a Daughter Ask?

by Maria Klassen

...from the anthology Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother, edited by Kate Farrell
I walk down the long hall to my mother’s room every Sunday afternoon. I pass Myrna, a frail-looking woman with short-cropped hair sitting in a wheelchair, head leaning forward, making eye contact with no one. Olive, who is slight and stooped, pushes her and I have no idea where she gets the strength to move the wheelchair. I greet Peter as I pass the table where he is working on a jigsaw puzzle, nose running, hands trembling, mouth drooping. He nods his head ever so slightly in acknowledgment.

I enter my mother’s room, always with a sense of despair after the walk down the hall. My mother’s face lights up and she greets me with a smile, a hug, and a kiss. I don’t know how she can be so cheerful when she lives with disease and death, on the other side of her door, every day of her life. She really shouldn’t be living here I think to myself again. But we have hashed through this many times. My father needed the assistance of a long-term care home in the small Ontario town they lived in, about half an hour’s drive from where I live.

When he asked my mother to move in with him, she didn’t think twice—she had married him for better or worse, and she would go with him. He died two years later, and we offered her several choices of where to live. She decided to stay; the transition had been hard for her, and she didn’t want to move out just to move in again. So it was her decision to stay—I question it every visit—should I have pushed harder for her to change her mind?

 Inside her room I momentarily forget what is on the other side of her door. We quickly move into another world, her world. We go on a journey, delving into her past. She has kept diaries of her life and, and since I have visited Neuendorf, the village in the Ukraine where she spent her first twenty years, I can picture the places she remembers. Every Sunday afternoon I add a bit more to my history.

 She often has music playing when I come into her room. If her knees weren’t crippled with arthritis, I swear she would be dancing. On Saturday afternoons (when I was growing up), when the house was tidy and the chores were done, she would put on music and we would dance around the dining room table. I still love a Strauss waltz.

I look at her closely. She is wearing a soft pink sweater that complements her gray hair. She always wears her strand of pearls, given to her by my father on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, when his business was doing well. She does not look eighty-nine years old. She has aged gracefully. I can only hope I have inherited her genes. She has wrinkles, but fewer than women twenty years younger. Her face does not reflect the hard years of her life.

 She always asks about my children, her grandchildren. Family is so important to her since she had sixteen siblings. She has told me many times how often her mother was pregnant. That is one of the pictures she has of her mother—always pregnant. Only nine children lived to become adults. She tells of a sister who died in Poland, a country they lived in briefly as they were fleeing from one country to another from the Ukrainian village to the refugee camp in Germany, during WWII. She tells of another sister who was born in Poland on the trek from the Ukraine to Germany. This sister survived.

She tells of twin brothers who were born prematurely in Neuendorf and died within two days, as there was no hospital, clinic, doctor, or nurse who knew what to do in the village of the communist country where they lived. Her mother nearly lost her life giving birth and was unable to care for the twins. Her father set them on clean straw by the wood stove to keep them warm, but it was not enough.

 My mother was too young to help or even know what was happening. The weak cries of death haunted her for years. Does one ever become immune to the ravages of death? My mother’s mother lost her parents as a teenager. They died within days of each other. A few years before that, my grandmother’s three siblings died within hours of each other and their funerals were on the same day. When the family came home from the funeral, a fourth sibling had died. All from the deadly disease of typhus fever that spread through the Mennonite villages. My mother thought of her mother as a heroine—because she had faced death so many times and was able to go on living in spite of the tremendous pain.

 We speak German. My mother grew up speaking a Dutch dialect similar to German that the Mennonites had brought with them when they migrated from the land around the Dutch-German border over a hundred years previously. It wasn’t a written language. So with her children she spoke German, a proper language that we could read and write. I have little opportunity to speak it, so I appreciate keeping up my language skills in conversations with her.

 Then she asks me how I am doing. This is also important to her as she nursed me through years of a life-threatening illness. I will never forget how encouraging she was. She would cook anything I wanted just so I would eat. She supplied me with books of various genres; we still share a love for reading and read some of the same books. She always had an amusing story to tell me then: what was happening in the neighborhood, or something she had read, or an original tale. I never saw her discouraged with my health issues or me. Many years later, she shared her worries and concerns, her personal battle with the possibility of losing me, her first-born child; but I never saw that—ever.

 In keeping with our routine, the next topic is our country. She has always loved Canada, from the moment she set her foot on its soil to this very day. It means freedom for her—freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of choice, and free will, and so much more. I know the story of how she had to quit school at age thirteen to work at the local store to help support her family. When the school officials came to ask her why she wasn’t in school, she had to lie and say she didn’t like school and didn’t want to go anymore. If she had told the truth, her father would have gone to a labor camp in the far north, never to be seen again; it had happened to other men in the village. She was fiercely determined to protect her family. She loved them all so very much. That is all they had in those years after the Revolution, during the famine years, and then during WWII—each other.

 Next she asks me if I was in church. I hear her voice in my head every Sunday morning, and sometimes I go, just to get that voice out of my head. God and faith sustained her through many hard years, when she didn’t know if, or how, she and her family would survive. This, she says, is the most important part of your life, your faith in God. She grew up without being able to attend church. During the communist era all the churches were closed down or converted for other uses. Parents were not allowed to talk to their children about God or read the Bible in their own homes.

 At state-run schools, innocent young children were asked what their parents talked about. If religion was mentioned, a wrong answer, a one-way ticket was given to that parent to the labor camps in the north, to Siberia. Parents couldn’t take the chance of a little one being tripped up; so religious training was done when the children were older, in secret. Probably because of this restraint during her formative years, she appreciates any religious and spiritual food that she can glean. She appreciates the fact that she can talk about religion as often as she wants, with whomever she wants.

 We then share a treat I have brought. She so loved cooking and baking and made many ethnic dishes for us—borscht, vareniki, perishki, pfefferminz and kuchen, and zwieback. Now I try to bring her a taste of some of those special ethnic dishes, like platz or paska. She is always so appreciative of anything I bring. She vividly remembers the many years of famine she and her family experienced in the Ukraine. She tells me stories of how she admired her mother for making meals and feeding all her children with no ingredients, using bark to make a “soup” or making a loaf of black bread stretch for days. When my mother sees how food is thrown away in our society, she feels such waste is the ultimate sin.

There were times in her childhood that the only way the family survived was because of care packages sent to them from relatives already in Canada. When she arrived in Canada and her family was able to join her, she loved to have them over for a meal. She enjoyed having people in her home, and I remember always having company, sometimes for a meal, sometimes overnight, and sometimes for many nights. She often invited people who didn’t have family to our house, especially for special celebrations like Christmas. She didn’t want anyone to be alone on the holidays.

 My mother loved to have the extended family gather at our house on weekends. I grew up with many cousins and still see many of them regularly. It didn’t matter who or how many people dropped in on a Sunday afternoon, there was always, and I mean always, enough food for everyone. And the laughter, never did I hear an argument, always good clean fun. My uncles could entertain us children with a simple toy for hours. She still sees her surviving siblings on a regular basis; they celebrate all birthdays.

 I have observed how she deals with the other residents in the home. She sits with someone who isn’t mobile, pushes a wheelchair for someone who wants to go somewhere. She butters the bread of one of her tablemates. She holds the songbook for someone who can’t. She brings in jigsaw puzzles and lends many of her books to others, knowing she may never get them back. She is patient. She listens. She seldom complains and is always appreciative of what she has. And my life lessons continue . . . .

 So I spend my Sunday afternoons with my mother, because I think Sunday afternoons should be spent with family. We talk and we laugh; we cry and we eat. I stand in awe of a woman who came from so little and learned to give so much. She modeled commitment, affection, optimism, style, realism, family, health, patriotism, faith, culture, history, good food, compassion, the love for language and music. She knew that attitude and gratitude were important, long before they became fashionable buzzwords. She is my definition of love. She gave me roots, and she gave me wings. She taught me, and still teaches me, by her life.

What more could a daughter ask? 

Memoir reprinted from Wisdom Has a Voice: Every Daughter’s Memories of Mother by permission of the publisher, Unlimited Publishing, LLC 
Editor: Kate Farrell, with Introductions by Amber Lea Starfire and Carryn Mirriam-Goldberg
Length: 200 pp
Publication Date: Fall 2011
Price: Paperback $14.99, e-Book $2.99
ISBN: 978-1-58832-217-3
Distributor: Ingram, Available online:

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 Creativity Matters

Judith Zausner

I am a creativity advocate.

Through my Caring Crafts business (, I offer unique craft kits and supplies for those who may have cognitive or fine motor difficulties. The goal is to empower creativity and self-esteem which will contribute to improve a person’s well being. As my interest has grown so has my involvement in this field.

I write the Creativity Matters blog ( which is also featured as a column in print, design and lead Creativity Workshops using crafts for older adults, and deliver creativity focused presentations that are both information and inspiration based. In 2010, Seeking Solutions with Suzanne, a national Comcast television program, featured my segment demonstrating Caring Crafts kits.  In addition, I was a recipient of a grant from The Society for the Arts in Healthcare and was given a National Mature Media Award for my article “When Creative Success Comes Later in Life”

As a fiber artist, my Art Scarves are sold in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia and in other museum stores around the country.

Born in New York, I currently live in Philadelphia and am the mother of two grown children; my daughter is currently on a teaching assignment in Bangkok and my son works as a Compliance Analyst in Jersey City.

Background on Caring Crafts, Inc.

I have always been aligned with the world of disabilities on a personal level because of family and friends and also on an academic level with some course work in Occupational Therapy. And then there is the designer and entrepreneur elements in me that ignite my soul. So I never foresaw how all these parts could be combined with a purpose. But it happened one evening.

I was having dinner with a friend and his friend who was struggling with Multiple Sclerosis, a disease that I have met too often in my lifetime with people I loved. In conversation, she casually mentioned the recent home visit of her therapist. I learned that she was working with a pegboard and was not given any projects to create. So surprised by that, I inquired more and was met by more of the same.

And so it resonated in me. Thinking that I would surprise her, I searched the web for appropriate craft sources but found nothing. So all of this cooked in my brain and my soul until finally the idea of Caring Crafts was born.

An online source that can provide craft kits that are simple to create, do not require refined fine motor skills or precision and yet would be elegant. It had a real purpose and a mission to help. And then an interesting thing happened.

In the course of designing these kits, it was clear that my Attention Deficit Disorder problem was now an asset (I never relished small tedious work but loved designing). I realized that I was building a business for one group (adults with fine motor skill difficulties), but that people with concentration problems could thrive with these projects as well because they not only avoid grueling detail work but they are very simple and quick. And then another interesting event was presenting the kits to adults without any overt problems and they said that they wanted to make the kits! So now my kits have universal purpose; they are “inclusive” and can be enjoyed by adults with or without physical limitations.

Judith website is at:
and she blogs at:

Altruism: Lessons for the New Aging

By Mary and Ken Gergen

Excerpted from the Positive Aging Newsletter

There is great pleasure to be had in helping others. But the joys of helping turn sour when others don't want your help. Context is everything! The common stereotype is that the aging need assistance - we are too tired to stand in a bus, to carry heavy objects, to master complex situations, and so on. But do we want to be helped on such occasions?

The issues are complex because receiving help may define us in certain ways. For women, it is especially complex because there is the tradition of chivalry in which help from a man is a complement. There is also the feminist view that such help sustains the traditional stereotype of strong men vs. weak women. And so it is that as we age, attempts to help us seem to cast us into the dustbin: "You are old!" Behind the smile of gratitude, we might painfully be asking, "Do I really look that old?" Sometimes it is annoying, as in the cartoon when the old lady tells the Scout, “But I didn’t want to cross the street.”

These issues came home for us recently when a younger couple from Asia came for a visit of several days. We are used to entertaining foreign visitors in our home, and as these scholars had a keen interest in our professional work, our altruistic intentions were high. Alas, theirs were too! As we tried to behave as gracious hosts, they carried out their cultural tradition by treating us as “ revered elders.” This tension was played out in many ways. After an hour's conversation, they felt we must be tired. They wakened early so that they could make breakfast for us; on their final day they announced that they wished to clean our house. We struggled to teach them that none of this was necessary; rather we wished to treat them as valued guests. We worked it out…

It seems to us that a major challenge confronting the older and fitter generations of today is teaching the young when and where help is appreciated. They need to learn more about "the new aging," and the continuing strengths that can be enjoyed into the 90s. At the same time, we must also take into account the desires of the young to be helpful. When one's grown children want to host a family get-together, for example, one must learn to graciously accept the favor. It is a gift to them to express pleasure in their care of us. Times are changing, and we must be teachers as well as learners.

You can read the rest of this newsletter - and past issues - at Ken and Mary's website:, where you can also sign up for a free subscription


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It's Good to Get Away
Your Brain on Vacation,  Dr. Michael Merzenich explains how taking a vacation can boost your brain fitness. (from 'Brain Fitness News')

Caregiver Village - A new community

A message to our readers from Sheila Watson

As you may be aware, the number of unpaid family caregivers in North America is 50 million and growing every day. I???d like to introduce the readers of the Elderwoman Newsletter to Caregiver Village, an online community designed exclusively for those who provide care for anyone with special needs. Caregiver Village members connect with friends, participate in book clubs with celebrity authors, journal, play mystery games, solve puzzles, and learn valuable information about caregiving. The founders of Caregiver Village have also just put aside a portion of the launch funding to support caregiving organizations. For every person that joins Caregiver Village, they will donate $1 to that persons organization of choice. I've created a page here which explains everything:

I would love it if you would join Caregiver Village and let others know about it. If you are able to post or tweet about this, please let me know. I am here if you need any help or have any questions.

Thanks so much,


Sheila Watson

The latest from Emily

Emily Kimball, 'The Aging Adventurer' always has interesting tales to tell. In the latest edition of Emily's newsletter she wrote:

Since my last newsletter I have added two stories on
This link will lead you to "The Allagash River Canoe Trip," a story about a trip I did with Elder Hostel in Maine with five seniors ages 70-80, and to another piece on the Bike New York Five Boro Bike Tour--where 30,000 cyclists ride in streets and over bridges with no cars allowed.
A Thought to Share

Reader Sue Todd says

 As an elder who uses both a laptop and an e-book, a mobile and a walkman (not yet an iPad), I have realised there are many books in the house that I haven't read. So I have embarked on the delightful task of working my way through them, choosing at random and on a whim, as my fancy takes me.

The latest was John Banville, The Sea, a slow and deliberate book of delicious prose about a widower in grief, who takes himself back to the place of his childhood holidays, and relives the powerful emotions and feelings of his youth.

I'd like to share with you one short sentence. Its concise mastery of the topic, to which nothing requires to be added, makes it a morsel to savour.

"The tea bag is a vile invention, suggestive to my perhaps over squeamish eye of something a careless person might leave behind unflushed in the lavatory."

Thanks, Sue. I'll never look at a teabag the same way again!!! ~ Marian

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Meet The Writers from this Issue

Gaea, Toni, Judith and Kate (who edited the anthology that Maria’s lovely memoir came from) are all members of Elderwomanspace, our very own online network for elderwomen. Come and meet them there and tell them how much you enjoyed their articles. I am sure they would love to hear from you. If you haven’t joined yet the network, just email me and ask for an invitation.

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.

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Some old women can be  innocent...

Miss Beatrice, the church organist, was in her eighties and had
never been married. She was admired for her sweetness and kindness to all.
One afternoon the pastor came to call on her and she showed him into her quaint sitting room. She invited him to have a seat while she prepared tea.

As he sat facing her old Hammond organ, the young minister noticed a cut glass bowl sitting on top of it. The bowl was filled with water, and in the water floated – of all things – a condom!

When she returned with tea and scones, they began to chat. The pastor tried to stifle his curiosity about the bowl of water and its strange floater, but soon it got the better of him and he could no longer resist. 

“Miss Beatrice,” he said, pointing to the bowl, “I wonder if you would tell me about this?”

“Oh, yes,” she replied, “Isn't it wonderful? I was walking through the park a few months ago and I found this little package on the ground.  
The directions said to place it on the organ and to keep it wet and that it would prevent the spread of disease. Do you know I haven't had the flu all winter!”

...but others, not so much

A farmer stopped by the local mechanics shop to have his truck fixed. They couldn't do it while he waited, so he said he didn't live far and would just walk home.

On the way home he stopped at the hardware store and bought a bucket and a gallon of paint. He then stopped by the feed store and picked up a couple of chickens and a goose. However, struggling outside the store he now had a problem - how to carry his entire purchases home.

While he was scratching his head he was approached by an old woman who told him she was lost. She asked, “Can you tell me how to get to 1603 Mockingbird Lane?”

The farmer said, “Well, as a matter of fact, my farm is very close to that house I would walk you there but I can't carry this lot.”

The old woman suggested, “Why don't you put the can of paint in the bucket? Then carry the bucket in one hand, put a chicken under each arm and carry the goose in your other hand.”

“Why, thank you very much,” he said and proceeded to walk the old woman home.

On the way he said “Let's take my short cut and go down this alley. We'll be there in no time.”

She looked him over cautiously then said, “I am a lonely widow without a husband to defend me. How do I know that when we get in the alley you won't hold me up against the wall, pull up my skirt, and have your way with me?”

The farmer said, “Holy smokes lady! I'm carrying a bucket, a gallon of paint, two chickens, and a goose. How in the world could I possibly hold you up against the wall and do that?”

The old woman replied, “Set the goose down, cover him with the bucket, put the paint on top of the bucket, and I'll hold the chickens.”

Wishing all my readers a very happy holiday season. See you all again in the New Year!

The Elderwoman Newsletter by Marian Van Eyk McCain, November 2011
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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