tombstonesMy wife has been a student of genealogy for many years. Originally she learned how to find government archives and write off to them for copies of records and spent days in the special genecology library in Houston. After much work she discovered that she had an ancestor who was at the battle of San Jacinto and found his name engraved on the monument at the battlefield site. She has drug me to far flung meadows at the end of dirt roads where live ancient graveyards where she found a relative’s name chiseled on a weather worn stone. The activity combines scholarly research with detective work.

Then, one day she got a computer program, Family Tree Maker, that helped to organize the information into family trees. This was a big, digital step forward.

Now, has made genealogy research a social media extravaganza. Via the Internet she can now search 1000’s of government databases for family records and reach out to the world to find other people with similar names who may be distant relatives with valuable bits of family lore.

The end result of this process is a huge archive of family information, trees of descendants, photos, digital documents and links to resources.

A question comes to mind: What happens to this trove of specialized information when we die?

Digital assets has become a complicated issue. Linshi (1) says, “Several state legislatures have debated the question of whether families can access someone’s digital assets after they die. Most large Internet companies, citing federal privacy laws, will not allow your family to access your account after death. Though some states — including Delaware and Virginia — allow parents or guardians to manage their deceased children’s accounts, in most areas, families must seek a court order to obtain the rights, which can take months or years.”

Similar questions arise about social media sites, like Flicker or Facebook, and what about the “cloud?” What happens to all those songs, books and photos I’ve uploaded to the iCloud? What about Google Drive or Drop Box?

A pretty good and recent (given that this stuff changes all the time) article that looks at all these areas is by Stewart & Cross (2). It was written by a lawyer and since it appeared in a Texas magazine considers Texas laws.


  1. Linshi, J. Here’s What Happens to Your Facebook Account After You Die. Time Magazine, Feb. 12, 2015.
  2. Stewart, C & Cross, B. What Happens to Your Digital Assets When You Die? Amarillo Magazine, Feb. 20, 2015.

Join us for a real-time discussion about ideas raised by this essay on Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room:

This week’s column will be devoted to an upcoming workshop about virtual learning environments. Each week there is a discussion, based on the weekly aging column, in UTMB’s virtual campus. This workshop will give you an introduction to that virtual world if you have never explored it.

Virtual Learning Committee Meeting in Old Red

Virtual Learning Committee Meeting in Old Red

It is an interactive workshop dealing with virtual learning environments in general and specifically with the advantages of using the UTMB virtual campus in Second Life for small group meetings with distance students or colleagues. The virtual tour of the campus will show the 3D graphical environment and demonstrate current activities. The discussion will focus on possible uses for virtual learning environments.


Participants will have the opportunity to:

  1. tour the virtual UTMB campus in Second Life.
  2. observe the ways in which a virtual world has been used in education.
  3. discuss ways to incorporate virtual world experiences in their educational activities.
  4. contract with the presenter to develop a pilot educational experience of their own.

The workshop will be conducted twice and in virtual space as the facilitator is in Wimberley.

  • Thursday, March 19, 2015, noon to 1 pm CDT
  • Tuesday, March 24, 2015, 4 to 5 pm CDT

The technology requirements have been kept as simple as possible. We will connect by phone via a conference call.

So that the participants can see what UTMB’s virtual campus looks like, the facilitator will share his computer screen via a simple, video streaming method, called LiveStream. Participants will need to register with LiveStream but this is free and only takes a few steps.

If you have a Second Life account, join the workshop in-world as opposed to using LiveStream. The SLURL is under the Discussion tab above.

Teaching Skills Workshops are sponsored by the UTMB Academy of Master Teachers and the Office of Educational Development.

On Saturday, my two sons and I are going to a Renaissance Faire (the antiquated spelling for fair is part of the shtick). Faires are a loosely interpreted form of historical reenactment popular in the US , England, and probably other places as well. This particular faire is called the Sherwood Forest Faire and is somewhat based on the legends of Robin Hood.  The two big faires in Texas, the Texas Renaissance Festival and Scarborough Faire, are based on the reign of Henry VIII at the end of the Renaissance, hence the generic name for all such faires.

Faires are fun and festive. We all wear period costumes (sort of, my costume is more 18th century than 16th but it’s all in the spirit of play not historical accuracy). The day is spent in watching the actors play out the storyline of the Faire, listening to music from flutes and dulcimers, drinking good English ale, eating, and watching knights on horseback jousting.

lit by fireWhat does this have to do with aging? It all ties back to a remarkable book by William Manchester called A World Lit Only By Fire (1).  Manchester’s book has been criticized (quite rightly, I might add) for numerous errors of fact and interpretation (2, 3), however he draws a compelling portrait between human periods of ignorance and enlightenment. The value of this book lies in this overall point: Western civilization has moved from periods of immobility to periods of mobility (and probably back to immobility and so on in an endless cycle).

The Renaissance is characterized as a time when new ideas were encouraged and new practices were allowed to flourish. Those two conditions, in the 15th and 16th centuries, resulted in the Reformation, exploration of the “New World,” acceptance of new notions of physics and natural history, advances in technology and commerce, etc.

The echoes of the Renaissance persist today. One area where this “new birth” has been slow to mature has been in the perceived roles of the various ways people can be grouped: men, women, children, adults, elders, not to mention stereotypes due to race, religion and culture.

Over the last few decades there has been a shift in the perception of the elderly. People in their 70s are now actively engaged in the world not as the exception but as the rule. I felt sad to learn that Harrison Ford had engine failure and had to crash land his airplane on a golf course. That he is 74 and still flying never occurred to me as unusual.

Much of this altered perception is due to improvements in public health and medical care. People live longer, are healthier and are lots more active. Back in the Renaissance times, living to 60 was remarkable. Now we are shocked when illness takes one so young.

Finally, our expectations for older people have shifted. We do not automatically assume that everyone over 65 is retired and playing golf. In reality their 401K accounts ran out and they need to work. Regardless, the elderly are part of the mainstream of our society not a group on the periphery waiting for the next bus to paradise.


  1. Manchester, W.  A World Lit Only by Fire. The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age.  Little, Brown and Company, 1993.
  2. A World Lit Only by Fire. In Wikipedia:
  3. Adams, Jeremy duQuesnay (January 1995). “Review of William Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire”. Speculum 70 (1): 173–74.

Join us for a real-time discussion about ideas raised by this essay on Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room:

Where I live we don’t have cable or DSL. Our Internet connection comes via an antenna on the roof that gets a signal from a line-of-sight transmission from the next hill. Our Internet provider is a sort of homebrew  company that was founded by a guy at my church. It’s all a local effort.barbed wire telephone

When people ask me about the speed of my Internet, I usually say, jokingly, that we get it via the barbed wire fences that run between all the houses.

Well, at one time using the fence wire was how rural people communicated (Trew, 2003; Wheeler, 2014; Zhang, 2014). Stop here and go read one or more of these links. If you just read one, make it Wheeler.

I meant to use the barbed wire telephone story almost a year ago, but somehow it fell between the cracks. What struck me about this story was how people did this themselves. They figured out new technology and made it work where no business or corporate entity would. This sort of creativity, that overlaid the latest technology on mundane everyday things, seems lost today.

I wonder if health care has any niches that would profit from this sort of frontier innovation? I don’t have an already selected answer for this question.  I think though that more problems need to be solved at a grass roots level than by a bunch of specialists in some exotic corporate structure.

Maybe the rural environment is more conducive to practical innovation. Sort of a skonk works* for real.

Join us for a real-time discussion about ideas raised by this essay on Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room:

* Skonk Works – a small, independent group charged with a highly innovative task and characterized by reduced corporate interference. Term originally came from Al Capp’s newspaper comic strip, Li’l Abner, and was adopted by Lockheed Martin for its development facility. In the latter usage as Skunk Works® it is registered by Lockheed Martin.


  1. Trew, D. Barbed Wire Telephone Lines Brought Gossip and News to Farm and Ranch. Farm Collector, September 2003.
  2. Wheeler, C. Wired for Sound. Texas Co-op Power, May 2014.
  3. Zhang, S. Barbed Wire Fences Were An Early DIY Telephone Network. Gizmodo, January, 2014.

Next week will be March and Spring will be blossoming in Texas. This week however it’s still Winter and the water in my birdbath is frozen solid. I am again pondering my lack of motivation for exercise, especially over the Winter months. In the Winter about all I manage is a daily hike up and down the hill to the mailbox and chopping wood for the fireplace.

Spring will bring new resolutions. I was reminded of an earlier column where I found a compromise, or perhaps false hope, in the exercise continuum.

 And so, without further adieu, a recycling of a post from week 41 titled Springtime in Texas.


I tend cycle my level of exercise with the seasons. Winter in Texas does not qualify as more than a cool Fall day in Northern climes, but the trees do lose their leaves and I do a mild form of hibernation. With Spring comes the growth that stirs me to action. Some of the trees I hoped the drought did not kill, are dead and need taking out. The meadow is being taken over by thistle. Dianne wants a new meditation spot below the house. So, I’m out doing all that physical labor I put off in Winter and feeling more fit and muscular as a result.

I do feel however a change in strength and coordination as I age and it seems an area to be mindful about. Now loss of muscle mass as a function of age is pretty well documented (Doherty, 2001; Newman et al., 2003; Janssen & Ross , 2005; ). This age-related reduction in skeletal muscle even has a name, sarcopenia (Abellan van Kan, 2009: Visser, 2009). It seems to become more prevalent as we move through the 70s and 80s and to be associated with a variety of factors. However, one consensus is consistent, as we age we get weaker.

Now it seems obvious that a good diet and exercise is about the best thing one can do to prevent or at least slow down this situation. (Fielding, 1995). What sort of exercise is optimal is difficult to proscribe and probably varies with the individual. See Onambélé-Pearson, Breen & Stewart (2010) and Zak, Swine & Grodzicki (2009) for studies of the benefits of various exercise intensities and nutritional approaches.

Science aside, I think there is a functional component to eating, working and living. Carefully regulated diet plans and finely delineated exercise regimens have their place in maintaining wellness, but I feel there is a natural flow of heath that can be tapped by listening to the land, working it as needed and feeding the body as a result of those labors. This model has a champion in my wife’s hero, Tasha Tudor. Her approach to a long life is worth considering (Tudor & Brown, 1992).

I may stick with Winter hibernation and long Summer days of work. That’s a form of cross-training, right?

Image copyright Tasha Tudor and Family Inc.References

  1. Abellan van Kan G. Epidemiology and consequences of sarcopenia. J Nutr Health Aging, Oct 2009, 13(8), 708-12.
  2. Doherty TJ. The influence of aging and sex on skeletal muscle mass and strength. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, Nov 2001, 4(6), 503-8.
  3. Fielding RA. The role of progressive resistance training and nutrition in the preservation of lean body mass in the elderly. J Am Coll Nutr, Dec 1995, 14(6), 587-94.
  4. Janssen I & Ross R. Linking age-related changes in skeletal muscle mass and composition with metabolism and disease. J Nutr Health Aging, Nov-Dec 2005, 9(6), 408-19.
  5. Newman AB et al. Strength and muscle quality in a well-functioning cohort of older adults: the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study. J Am Geriatr Soc, Mar 2003, 51(3), 323-30.
  6. Onambélé-Pearson GL, Breen L &Stewart CE. Influence of exercise intensity in older persons with unchanged habitual nutritional intake: skeletal muscle and endocrine adaptations. Age (Dordr), Jun 2010, 32(2), 139-53. Epub 2010 Apr 21.
  7. Tudor, T & Brown R. The Private World of Tasha Tudor. Little, Brown & Company, Boston, 1992.
  8. Visser M. Towards a definition of sarcopenia–results from epidemiologic studies. J Nutr Health Aging, Oct 2009, 13(8), 713-6.
  9. Zak M, Swine C & Grodzicki T. Combined effects of functionally-oriented exercise regimens and nutritional supplementation on both the institutionalised and free-living frail elderly (double-blind, randomised clinical trial). BMC Public Health, Jan 2009, 28, 9, 39.


It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you [1]

Those are the beginning words to the song “It’s My party” written and performed by Lesley Gore back in 1963. I was a freshman in college then and the advent of the song was not one of the milestones that I recall, but the tune does stay with one and the notice of her death the other day brought back that tune again and again [2].

Some characters from fiction, like Sherlock Homes and Dr. Watson, have an immortal existence. They stay the same age and live in the same place forever. This is also true for actors who play these fictional characters. We will always hear Clark Gable tell Vivian Leigh that he doesn’t give a damn in a dimension where the old South still lives.

It is curious that these entertainment figures, who are so remote and removed from my daily life, actually live in the same time stream and world as I do. They have lives and they die. Why aren’t they like Bogey and Bacall who are always young and smoking (when that was OK) on some far away Caribbean island?

I recalled that about three years ago I did a column about aging singers and thought this would be a good time to bring back a “Golden Oldie”  [3].


Funny this column is about rock and roll and when I was thinking about old rockers, my offhand guess was that Jerry Lee Lewis might be about the oldest available. In fact his web site says, “… of all the great musicians who created rock & roll in Memphis Tennessee at Sun Records in the 1950’s, The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis would be the last man standing” (

Not trusting the veracity of Killer’s web site, I looked him up. He was born in 1935 in Ferriday, Louisiana. Now I knew that because my wife has family in Ferriday and they were all familiar with the Lewis family. There are no coincidences but my wife’s Ferriday aunt passed away this week at the age of 90. She was a wonderful woman and had lived in Ferriday since the 1940’s. The photo is of the Ferriday post office from about 1995.

The thing about musicians who now are in their 70’s and up is the amazing preservation (in many cases) of their singing voices. PBS does specials with old musical groups (like The Osmonds – 50th Anniversary Reunion and Magic Moments: The Best of 50s Pop) and while the singers were grayer and wider than I recall from my youth, their voices still sounded sweet. Even those guys who sang in falsetto (like in Big Girls Don’t Cry by the Four Seasons) could still hit the high notes after 50 years.

So, I wondered if this was just luck or if singers take an active role in maintaining their voices. The Texas Voice Center (in Houston) offers analysis and therapy to keep the professional singer’s voice up to snuff. “… our bodies change as we age and subsequently, so can our voices. The voice can begin to sound weak, hoarse or even raspy” ( This is apparently due to a loss of fatty tissue in the vocal folds and injecting one’s own tummy fat into them can correct the raspiness   (

Finally then I ran across the notion of “The Elder’s Voice” which has nothing to do with singing but seemed relevant never-the-less. Try out this web site for another aspect of raising one’s voice in the latter years –


Guess What? You can still see Jerry Lee Lewis performing with Chubby Checker (of all people) at the  NYCB Theatre in Westbury, NY on April 10, 2015. Rock ‘n Roll forever!


  1. Lyrics for “It’s My Party” by Lesley Gore.
  2. Bacle, A. ‘It’s My Party’ singer Lesley Gore dies at 68. Entertainment Weekly, Feb. 16, 2015.
  3. The original post is from week 30, Jerry Lee Lewis is Old and Still Rockin’.

Join us for a real-time discussion about ideas raised by this essay on Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room:

roll barLast week I spent a significant portion of four days installing a roll bar in my Miata. Such a simple looking thing… two steel hoops, one behind each seat. I had to take half the car apart to bolt that thing in. It was worth it. Now my aging bean is really protected should the Miata ever roll over and the chassis is somewhat stiffer. The stiffness improves the handling, converting it from a roller-skate to a roller-skate on steroids.  My car adventure reminded me of an earlier blog Tony wrote in 2013. So today we reprise Tony’s examination of driving while elderly.


Remember when the ultimate sign of freedom was being able to jump in your car and just drive? No one was telling where to go or what time to you had to get there.  Just drive!  The only thing you loved more than your car was probably your mom and her apple pie!

Lately there have been a slew of news articles examining current trends in driving habits – number of people with driver’s licenses, monthly average number of miles being driven, who are buying new cars, etc…  Almost all indicators suggest a decline in driving, especially among young adults and teenagers.  According to economists Don Pickrell and David Pace, driving habits peaked in 2007 and they suggest several reasons for the decline since.

Mostly reasons seem to be economical – high gas prices, recession, and high cost of new cars.  But there are other possible reasons.  Maybe there is less fascination with the cars themselves – driving a ‘computer car’ just doesn’t compare to driving a classic pink Cadillac, an old Chevy Coupe or a ‘Hot Rod Lincoln.’  We have become more sensitive to environmental pollution due to gas emissions and the dependence on foreign oil.

But the groups being most affected seem to be younger.  The older driver seems to be hanging in there with their driving habits, especially older men.  The paradox here is that economically you would think the older driver would be less inclined to drive.  Elderly on fixed incomes may be more negatively affected by high gas prices and the outrageous cost of a new car (average price $31,000).  Yet, older folks seem to be driving as much as ever or even more.

I’m not sure why, but I have some theories.

First, driving equates to independence.  Older drivers seem to be more likely to hold on to that old feeling of freedom and driving.  Giving up their driver’s license is like a death sentence and the first major indicator of losing one’s independence.

Second, older drivers drive more for purpose than pleasure.  I think they drive more often for a specific reason – to get to the store, the doctors, to socialize.  The art of joy riding doesn’t fascinate them as much as it might a younger person who is looking for kicks in a fast car and wanting to be noticed.

Also, older drivers may have advantages in driving habits compared to younger drivers. It’s been said that older drivers are the safest drivers on the road – as long as they are healthy.  Insurance is cheaper for them and maybe an ‘old-timer’ is more likely to hold on to that old car longer, have it paid off and drives only when absolutely necessary.  No need to trade it in for something they can’t afford.

As I get older I find myself holding on tighter to my 2002 Camaro and not being so in love with newer cars.  I can hear the sound of my car’s engine, especially when I start it.  I can feel and ‘hug the road’ with my wide tires.  Deep down I know if I wanted to I can blow the doors off most cars on the highway.  And when I close the door, it sounds like a car, not a tin can.  I still want to know how to do basic maintenance on my own car.  And, if needed, I have a trusted mechanic who is a good friend of mine and understands my car, as well as me. So I am probably on my way to being one of those folks who will probably hold on to that car forever and that feeling of freedom while driving.

How do you feel about driving in today’s world?  Sitting in traffic as your expensive gas is used up.  Is it still fun?  Can you still remember the first time you got in your own car after getting your driver’s license and you could go anywhere you wanted?  I do!

2002 camaro

Our Guest Blogger this week is Tony DiNuzzo, PhD, Director, East Texas Geriatric Education Center-Consortium.

Join us for a real-time discussion about ideas raised by this essay on Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room:


Lowy, J. Americans Driving Less as Car Culture Wanes. ABC News, Aug. 29, 2013.

Original Posting from Week 111 – Goodbye Yellowbrick Road –



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