“No Cute Old People”
That headline is the theme of a speech given a couple of years ago by Kirsten Jacobs, the education manager for LeadingAge. a highly respected association of more than 6,000 not-for-profit, member organizations in the United States that provide care and services for elders.
These are such places as hospice, assisted living, legal services, senior centers, meals programs, nursing homes, transportation, even Villages and more.
A critical purpose of all these agencies and organizations is to improve and expand services for elders so more of us can remain in our homes as we get older because there are not nearly enough residential care settings of all kinds now – nor will there be any time soon - to house our growing numbers.
What Kirsten was referring to with “no cute old people” is, of course, ageist language, something regular readers of this blog recognize as one of my signature rants.
As I have written here many times, we are bombarded from the cradle with negative stereotypes about old people and hardly anyone notices, let alone objects - even many old people.
But besides being rude and irritating, negative images and ageist language have serious consequences. Yale professor, Becca Levy, has found that one's personal perception of old age affects longevity more than even such factors as gender, loneliness, health and socio-economic status.
Having a positive perception of aging, Levy's studies show, can extend life expectancy by more than seven-and-a-half years. (Read more about that here .)
However, that is background and I digress. I'm really here today to tell you about spending a couple of hours with Kirsten Jacobs last week discussing all these issues and more.
It was such a pleasure being with a like-minded person as ardent as I am about language, especially one who spends her working life thinking about these issues as she develops educational materials and resources for the members of LeadingAge.
Maybe you could say elders are a family business. Kirsten lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Jake Kirsch, who works with Network for Oregon Affordable Housing (NOAH). They are also the new-ish parents of an 11-month-old.
It always thrills me to meet young people who make elders their life work. We old folks need them in our lives.
Kirsten cares deeply about old people, she dislikes euphemism and ageist language as much as I do and she wants to change how our culture thinks about aging.
Here is that “No Cute Old People” speech she gave at the annual meeting of LeadingAge members in 2013. I'm pretty sure you're going to like her as much as do.
ELDER MUSIC: Book Songs
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here .
I'm a dedicated book reader (that's part of my book shelves above). I know that Ronni and Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, are similarly inclined. I imagine most readers of this column are the same. So, here are some songs about books.
The first two sprang into my tiny brain immediately upon contemplating this topic. I knew they had to be present. The first of these is by THE MONOTONES .
The Book of
Love was inspired by the old Pepsodent toothpaste commercial (you know, all about wondering, and yes, we had it Australia too). It was the only song by the group that troubled the chart makers.
Here is the second one I thought of. NILS LOFGREN has had an interesting career without having a big hit or becoming a household name.
He started by forming the band Grin who had several albums released almost certainly due to Nils playing guitar and piano on some of Neil Young's early albums and touring with Neil.
After Grin folded, he joined Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band and has been with them for more than 30 years. In parallel, he has had his own solo career as well as performing with or backing many other artists. He's a good singer and a great guitarist as you'll hear on Black Books .
Tom Rush did an excellent cover of the song You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover. possibly even better than the original. That will probably sound sacrilegious when I say that that original was by BO DIDDLEY .
As big a fan as I am of Tom's, I will go with the man who wrote the song and performed it first.
There are quite a few versions of the next song I could have chosen and all would be more than acceptable. However, I really like TONY BENNETT so he's the one I'm going with.
Tony says: I Could Write a Book. A lot of people say that but few accomplish it.
JOE TEX takes a couple of elders to task in his song, but they put him in his place.
His song is Buying a Book .
When I say I'm playing My Coloring Book. I bet I can imagine who you think will be singing it. I'm sorry, that's wrong, I've gone for SANDY STEWART .
Kitty Kallen was the first to record the song, George Chakiris had a crack at it as well, but the most famous version was by Barbra Streisand, all recorded the same year as Sandy's. Indeed the same month, November 1962.
It's far from my favorite song, but I thought it had to be present.
There's a really good album with DUKE ELLINGTON and JOHN COLTRANE playing together with only a rhythm section of bass and drums accompanying them.
I wish they had done more in this vein as the results were outstanding. From that album comes My Little Brown Book .
CARL DOBKINS JR had more than one hit but I imagine that you're like me and couldn't name any but his most famous one.
It doesn't really matter as that was a really good one, My Heart is an Open Book .
THE KINKS are the Village Green Preservation Society says the title of the album from which the next song is taken.
Unlike most of the other British groups from the sixties, The Kinks were interested in chronicling English life past and present rather than just playing rock and roll and blues. They really hit their mark with this album, one of the finest from that decade. From it comes the song Picture Book .
GREG BROWN flies under the radar which is a bit of a shame as he should be far more widely known.
In spite of that he's made a couple of dozen or more albums, a number of which are superb and should be in any music buff's catalogue. Probably the best of them is "The Poet Game" and from that comes the song My New Book .