Since next week is elections for various Federal and state offices, I was wondering what the voter turn-out rates were for older citizens and if they had changed over time.  I first hit upon a summary of exit poll results from interviews of randomly selected voters as they exited voting places across the country on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 (1). This sample broke down into four groups: age 1-29 – 19%, age 30-44 – 27%, age 45-64 – 38% and 65 and over – 16%.

That number for the 65+ seemed to disconnect, so I found another source. This time a Pew Research summary of the Census Bureau’s voting report (2). It said, “The turnout rates of adults ages 65 and older rose to 71.9% in 2012 from 70.3% in 2008.” This seemed more in line with my expectations. See attached figure.PF_13_05_08_VoterTurnout_03

Another report from the Census Bureau shows that the 65+ group had the highest voter turn-out rate among all age categories.  This has not always been the case. “The phenomenon of elderly Americans voting at higher rates than all other age groups is a fairly recent development in American elections. Between 1964 and 1992, voting rates for the 65 years and older group were either lower than or not statistically different from at least some other age breakdown” (3).

I then wondered about the exit poll survey that showed that the 65+ group were only 16% of those polled. Are the elderly simply grumpy people who won’t respond to survey takers’ requests upon exiting the polls?  Maybe, but what about early voting and mail-in voting?

An older report (1994) from the Federal election administration provides some insight but because early voting and mail-in voting is managed by the states, the available data was rather limited (4). Texas actually provided fairly good data on a county-by-county basis and showed early voting rates between 47% to 24% in the largest counties. Mail-in ballots were lower, varying from 1.7% to 5.5% (p. 40). A report from the organization, Nonprofit VOTE, shows that early voting has expanded over the last twenty years (5). “National polls showed 33-40% of voters voted early in-person or by mail, up from 31% in 2008 and 23% in 2004″ and “Older voters prefer to vote early, while younger voters prefer to vote in-person on Election Day. The same poll revealed that nearly half of voters 65 and over had either cast their votes in advance or were planning to, compared to a quarter of young voters aged 18-29.”

I used early voting this last Wednesday and it seems from the local news that early voting rates are way up this go around (6). Frankly as a techie person, I’m waiting for on-line voting myself.


  1. How Groups Voted in 2012. Roper Center for Public Opinion Research. Accessed at
  2. Paul Taylor, P. & and Mark Hugo Lopez, M. H. Six take-aways from the Census Bureau’s voting report. Pew Research Center. Accessed at
  3. File, T. Young-Adult Voting: An Analysis of Presidential Elections, 1964–2012. U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, April 2014.
  4. Rosenfield, M. Early Voting. National Clearinghouse on Election Administration, Federal Election Commission, April 1994.
  5. America Goes to the Polls 2012. Nonprofit VOTE, Accessed at
  6. Roth, Z. After push to mobilize new voters, turnout surges in Texas. MSNBC, 10/22/14.

It’s curious how the mind jumps from point to point. As an example, let’s look at my mind this morning.

Lockheed_P-38_Lightning_USAF_The newspaper today was describing a man’s car collection and one of the cars was a 1942 Oldsmobile B-44 Sedanette. The B-44 was in honor of WWII bomber airplanes. That reminded me of the P-38 Lightning, another WWII airplane. The P-38 reminded me of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who was flying an F-5B photoreconnaissance version of that plane in July 1944 when he was shot down and killed (1).

Saint-Exupéry was a pioneer flyer and author of many well-known books, The Little Prince, Wind, Sand and Stars, etc. Recalling his last flight reminded me that he was quite old to have been in a fighter airplane over France in 1944.

He wrote on the last day of his life, “… I fight as earnestly as I can. I must be the oldest fighter pilot in the world. The normal age limit for the type of fighter plane I fly is thirty. And the other day I had mechanical trouble while flying over Annecy at the precise moment I became forty-four years old! … If I’m shot down, I won’t regret anything.” (2, p. 208)

Saint X, as he liked to be called, learned to fly in 1921 when airplanes were little more than sticks, fabric and wire (3). His P-38 Lightning was an all-aluminum, twin engine, turbo-supercharged, fighter that could hit 400 miles per hour. Aviation had advanced several generations between 1921 and 1944 and Saint-Exupéry had shown great flexibility in advancing as technology marched onwards.

This is where Saint X, who never really lived long enough to be an old person, fits into our new old person model. The old are no longer the depository of the past but are staying on top of new developments and current trends. I recall how my parents and their friends (all greatest generation) were so old. My friends (and me too) are in the same chronological ballpark now and we are so young. It boggles the mind.

As this is supposed to be an interactive discussion, I’d like to hear some stories of how the old are staying new. Got anything interesting to share?


  1. Lockheed P-38 Lightning. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. See section 7.6 discussing Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
  2. Saint- Exupéry, A. de. Wartime Writings: 1939-1944.  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, San Diego, CA., 1986.
  3. Liukkonen, P. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944) – in full Antoine-Marie-Roger de Saint-Exupéry. Authors’ Calendar – Books and Writers, 2008.

Image Source:

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The latest information on the average life expectancy for people in the US has inched up to 78.7 years. Women of course live longer than men on the average too. If you make it to 65, men will go on for another 18 years with women again getting a few more years extra (1, 2).

What does one do with all this time?



Endless visits to physician’s offices?


In a new book, Being Mortal, Atul Gawande takes a look at quality of life for an aging population (3, 4). He also points out that the healthcare system is good at keeping us alive but pretty poor at helping people to fulfill their dreams and potentials.

A quote from Being Mortal: “People with serious illnesses have priorities besides simply prolonging their lives. Surveys find that their top concerns include avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others and achieving a sense that their life is complete. Our system of technological medical care has utterly failed to meet these needs, and the cost of this failure is measured in far more than dollars. The question therefore is not how we can afford this system’s expense. It is how we can build a health care system that will actually help people achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives.”
Catrinas 2
I don’t think he goes far enough. It’s all well and good to stay connected to family and friends and feel one’s life is complete as death comes nigh, but there is the creative side of some people that must be fostered. Not everyone has creative output in the arts, music, dance, literature, etc., but 1) we all benefit from the creative output of others, and 2) those that do create need to be helped to hold on to the creativity until death.

In Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (5) a reference is made about a person who died in the middle of composing a poem and who was so engrossed in his work that not noticing  dying, went on to complete the poem anyhow. The character in the book points to this remarkable art with great pride.

Who knows maybe life will repeat fiction and someone will create art at the moment of death and provide for us an essential connection between the two planes of existence.


  1. CDC report finds US life expectancy reaches new high. Fox News, Oct. 8, 2014.
  2. National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2013: With Special Feature
    on Prescription Drugs. Hyattsville, MD. 2014.
  3. Cummings, Q. A Book About Dying Tells You How to Live. Time, Inc., Oct. 9, 2014
  4. Gawande, A. Being Mortal. Doubleday Canada, 2014.
  5. Stranger in a Strange Land. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Image: A sculpture illustrating Catrina, one of the figures used in Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) celebrations. La Catarina © Tomas Castelazo, / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Join us for a real-time discussion about questions raised by this essay on Tuesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. We use the self-same virtual world as was mentioned above. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room:

I’ve been reading a biography of Orson Wells (1) as I move through the editing process for my own feature film (2). Wells was and still is considered a genius at filmmaking. His career in films was marked by nearly constant struggle with the people financing his films. At the end of his life he was very unhappy about how it all worked out for him.

madeleine-leaning-on-her-elbow-with-flowers-in-her-hair-1918Yesterday I was at the McNey Art Museum in San Antonio and saw a wonderful landscape by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. At the end of his life Renoir suffered from terrible rheumatoid arthritis and then was confined to a wheelchair due to a stroke (3). Even up to the end he continued to paint outdoors. His assistants carried him and handed his brush to him, as picking them up was difficult due to the rheumatism. He died in 1919 and retained his mastery of painting until the end. The image here is of one of these last paintings done in 1918.

It was the parallels of these two lives that struck me. Both were creative geniuses and widely acknowledged as such by the world. Both men were working at their crafts all their lives. One however was successful and, apparently happy, throughout his life. While the other experienced stress and frustration.

We say that one component of aging well is to stay busy. I content that being busy is not enough. One needs to foster the energy that comes from creative endeavors. I think it’s the creative fire that feeds the soul.

So, why was one man unhappy and the other content? We might look to their past for issues and phobias. Better however I think to look at the decisions made moment-by-moment. No matter how hard we always have a choice and we can always chose again. Nothing extends beyond now. Each man chose and got his choice.

“Wells refused to accept ‘that genus disappears with old age… Fitzgerald [like Hemingway]… was rotted with the same anguish. That attitude is death.” It was that process of creation that kept Wells alive and kicking (1, p. 353).”

I just don’t think he was very happy about it.


  1. Heylin, C. (2005). Despite the System: Orson Wells Versus the Hollywood Studios. Canongate Books, Ltd., Edinburg, Scotland.
  2. Nudged. (2014). The website. Retrieved 07:32, Oct 03, 2014, from
  3. Pierre-Auguste Renoir. (2014). The website. Retrieved 07:32, Oct 03, 2014, from

Image Source: WikiArt: Visual Art Encyclopedia. (2014). Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair (1918) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Retrieved 07:32, Oct 03, 2014, from

Join us for a real-time discussion about questions raised by this essay on Tuesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. We use the self-same virtual world as was mentioned above. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room:



grandparentsHere’s another topic about which I know little: being a grandparent. Neither of my two sons has ever married or become a father. As a consequence, I have no experience with re-visiting the raising of children as an indulgent spectator, which is the role I assume most grandparents fulfill. Many of my retired friends seem to have focused their lives on grandchildren. I guess that’s a good thing.

Actually my notion of grandparenting is a stereotype. Grandparents take on many active and important roles in helping their children to raise their children. Often even becoming the only parent a child has.

I wondered if the role of grandparent has changed over the years. I could not really find any information on the role of grandparents changing over time. I’d hazard a guess that we are more indulgent and spend more on grandchildren than in earlier times, but change data was a bit thin. The role of back-up parent seems to have always been the role. The age of grandparents is a variable over time.

These days, the average age of becoming a grandparent is about 47 (1) and the average age of grandparents in general is 64 (2). Also, there are about 70 million grandparents in the US (3). Back a few hundred years there were not so many grandparents, they tended to be younger and even still in their own childbearing/rearing processes (4).  However, the trend in childbearing is changing and current generations are having children later in life and this means the role of grandparent may not become available so early in the future (5).

So, maybe there is hope for me still.


  1. Graham, B. ‘Grandma gets a Reboot. AARP Bulletin, September 2014, 55, 7, 10-12.
  2. AARP. The Grandparent Study 2002 Report. AARP, May 2002.
  3. Grandparent Statistics. Statistic Brain.
  4. Grandparents. Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society.
  5. Tergesen, A. The Long (Long) Wait to Be a Grandparent. Wall Street Journal, March 30, 2014.

Some miscellaneous Links:

  1. Francese, P. The MetLife Report on American Grandparents. MetLife Mature Market Institute®, July 2011.
  2. Fun facts about grandparenting.
  3. Source for everything about America, statistics-wise anyhow.
    U.S Census Bureau, American Community Survey.

Image Source:

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We are moving into the cooler days of autumn and I’m losing my excuses for not exercising more. As I age I’m finding that while my weight is still the same at 150 that my muscles are getting smaller. I need to do better and for me that’s an exercise in willpower over sloth.

Rodger's avatar tries the Tree pose at the Avatar Fitness Club

Rodger’s avatar tries the Tree pose at the Avatar Fitness Club

As we get even older sloth acquires a helper: loss of function. Aging brings physical changes and with those changes comes the need for new approaches to exercise. Now while you see the occasional 90 year old marathon runner, most 90 year olds are doing well to get to the mailbox and even then endurance and balance often require holding on to the mailbox for a moment before hiking back to the house.

For those who still are mobile, gyms or senior centers often offer classes in yoga, tai chi, chair-based exercise, aerobic dance, etc. All of these are good and provide a dose of human contact and companionship, as well as, the exercise part. Here in Wimberley there is an inexpensive yoga class at the community center that fills the hall every week.

When daily travel to the gym or senior center becomes difficult there are some home-based options. Hiring a coach to come to  your house is nice but not necessarily affordable for everyone. I’m aware of three additional options.

First, get an exercise video or find a TV program that offers guidance and, most importantly, moral support for something you like to do for exercise. One video I know about is Tai Chi for Seniors. This was developed by Mark Johnson ( and it’s a well designed program.

The second option is to find a web site that offers basically the same as a video or TV show but web sites have an additional advantage. Web sites usually provide for the users/students to comment to the coach and discuss techniques and progress with each other via text chat. This adds back in the personal, human contact element and can be very supportive. An example of this is Yoga with Adriene. This is a series of yoga videos that are well conceived and that offer the opportunity for socializing as well. It is hosted by Adriene Mishler, who is based in Austin (

My third option is fairly strong on the support side and not much on the exercise. This alternative is to participate in a virtual exercise program in a 3D virtual world. An example of this is the Avatar Fitness Club run by the Cooperative Extension Service. They offer a number of exercise programs that you do as a virtual avatar. Some limited research as shown that virtual exercise can have both mental and physical results. Find the club in the Second Life® virtual world at

Join us for a real-time discussion about questions raised by this essay on Tuesday from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. We use the self-same virtual world as was mentioned above. See Discussion and SL tabs above for details. Link to the virtual meeting room:

Over the last three years the Weekly Update on Aging has been published 163 times. Over that time period there have been 10,487 views of these thoughtful columns written by those involved with the ETGEC.Rural lighting

How often a single essay (or blog) has been viewed varies from 1 to 849. Below are listed the top three blogs. Each of these has been viewed over 100 times.

Hello in There – Thoughts on Loneliness and Aloneness by Tony DiNuzzo – 106 views

The Kindness of Strangers by Rodger Marion – 313 views

What is Elderspeak? by Bronia Michejenko – the most viewed of all the 163 posts with 849 views.

Following closely are two of my favorites, Yet Another Surprise About Aging (88 views) and Of Cougars and Founding Fathers (71 views).

Y’all may wish to revisit some of these top posts. Further you can use the Search function (on the left there) to jump to any of the posts. I encourage you to explore some of the really incredible richness of the posts from the past.

Today’s image: One of my favorite photos from a past post that discussed rural electrification.

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


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