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 –


This week’s Time magazine has a cover story about the new entrepreneurial economy typified by such businesses as Uber (the ride sharing business) and Home Away (the house sharing business). The author, Joel Stein, wonders about the value of these emerging businesses. Stein asserts that the corporations are taking advantage of workers by allowing them to participate in these businesses as independent contractors and then ignoring benefits, like health insurance, or any other sign of corporate responsibility. He’s probably right and these new practices have a high technology, urban flavor that seems foreign to those of us who live somewhat apart from the urban world.barter2

I’m talking about rural living of course and here independent contractor and sharing are the rule, not the new exception. Living in a small, rural community engenders a lot of non-corporate businesses and just plain old barter for services and goods. The I.R.S. hates rural entrepreneurs because they often don’t pay enough taxes or jump over all the regulatory hurdles.

Regardless, rural life depends on the handyman, the friend next door, and the mom & pop stores in town for daily existence.

This is of course changing somewhat. Large firms based in cities have expanded their service areas to include rural towns. I can ask my friend, the handyman, to fix my stove or I can call Sears and get a technician to stop by. Which is better?  As a recent rural inhabitant with a long history of urban living, I tend to want the security of Sears but really the local guy is the better moral choice.

As we all get older and find that age has cut our mobility and strength options, a local person who can fix things and who is also a friend looks better and better. My son, when he first moved from San Francisco to Wimberley, worked with one of our venerable handymen. It usually ended up with my son doing all the work while the handyman chatted with the customer. It turns out that human contact is as important as fixing the toilet. My son wondered how the handyman ever got any work done before he had him as the assistant.

We don’t really “live-off-the-grid” here but a bit of that old Texas grit and independence of sprit is alive and well in rural communities.


Joel Stein. On-Demand Economy. Time, February 9, 2015, 185, 4, 32-40.

Image Source

Join us for a live discussion about this post on Friday at noon. Link to the meeting room in the virtual world of Second Life: Also, see Discussion and SL tabs above for details.

Yesterday I stopped in at the post office in Driftwood. It’s a tiny building with a steel roof and apparently one employee. It has great ambiance and it’s fun to just visit there. Driftwood is a small town between my home and Austin. It has a Methodist church, defunct general store/gas station and a post office. There are wineries, restaurants and small subdivisions nearby as one goes towards Austin but Driftwood itself is as small and rural as it gets. But, as I posited in last week’s post, will it remain rural?

This thought reminded me of a post done two years ago that discussed dying small towns. I present it below with some minor edits.

We made a movie about older people in East Texas and one of the subjects was Lois Dyes. She was 93 at the time of this interview and was the oldest person we interviewed. She tells a wonderful story and it all centers on the little town of Melrose, Texas.

In addition to her story, I was intrigued by the little town too. It is a dying town. All the stores are closed. Only the two churches (with tiny congregations) and a catfish restaurant are still open. The Dyes family owns the restaurant. Mrs. Dyes taught at the school in Melrose and its closed also.

Small towns struggle in the U.S. Many small, rural towns seem to exist on a delicate balance. Just a few stores run by aging owners, no jobs with a career, and maybe a post office. For these little towns just one change in the local equation could cause a major economic shift.

For example, Keen (2008) discusses how some small towns actually do not have electricity and depend on generators for electric power. Rising prices for diesel fuel could drive people out of business. She give an example of a general store in rural California where the refrigerators, freezers, lights and ice machines are powered by diesel generators. The store owner says, “I’m scared to death of rising fuel prices.” (Note: in early 2015, with gas prices quite low, these people must be feeling some relief.)

Another example. The U.S.P.S. proposed to close thousands of post offices, most in small, rural communities where Internet services are limited and people depend on the post office (Podkul & Stephenson, 2012).

People fear that the loss of their local post office would cause the whole town to go (Vogel, 2011).

The town of Gabbs, Nevada is shrinking like Melrose. Vogel’s article says, “The town looks like a place where time stopped in the 1950s. Three-fourths of Gabbs’ residents are older than 60. It’s a place where many people are living on Social Security and food stamps. They depend on the Postal Service to deliver not only their mail, but also life-saving medications. Almost everyone moves away after high school because there are no jobs. If the U.S. Postal Service closes the post office in this 300-person community, they will face 80-mile rides to Fallon or 60-mile trips to Hawthorne to transact business.”

One resident of Gabbs said of losing the post office, “It will kill the town.”

Well, the U.S.P.S. has backed off on closing these small post offices (Liberto, 2012). Communities will have a choice of closing them, having shorter hours or having them privatized and run as “village post offices.” Still, the point remains that small, rural towns are hanging by a thread and their aging residents are running short on options.

It’s not just about services for the elderly either. Rural life offers a quality of life that is closer to nature, where people are friendly, and the air is clean. Qualities not to be lost.


  1. Keen, J. High gas prices threaten to shut down rural towns. USA Today, July 2, 2008 (
  2. Liberto, J. Ax won’t fall on rural post offices. NNMoney, May 9, 2012 (
  3. Podkul, C & Stephenson, E. Towns go dark with post office closings. Reuters, Feb 24, 2012 (
  4. Vogel, E. Residents say closing post office would kill small Nevada town. Las Vegas Review-Journal, Oct. 24, 2011 (

Based on the post from week 59 – Lives Lived in East Texas, Part 3 – Old People, Old Towns.

Join us for a live discussion about this post on Friday at noon. Link to the meeting room in the virtual world of Second Life: Also, see Discussion and SL tabs above for details.

I live at the edge of the city limits of Wimberley where my neighbors are out of sight and the nearest store is a couple of miles away. The four chickens who live in the chicken coop down the hill are cranking out so many eggs that my spouse and I are supplying all the neighbors with free eggs. We feel live we live in a rural community with all the benefits of quiet surroundings, wildlife with four legs,  and friendly neighbors sharing a modicum of frontier spirit.256px-Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_Project

However are we really in a rural area? Austin is 45 minutes to the North East and San Marcos (20 miles East) may be re-classified as a “small urbanized area” and that would disqualify them from funds set aside for rural transportation, like the Capital Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) buses.

Might we become a “small urbanized area” too?

How to know?

There is an on-line resource center for rural programs for the elderly. It’s called the Rural Assistance Center.  It’s not a new operation nor probably unknown to the majority of our regular readers.

To digress for a moment, this is what the center does. “A product of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Rural Initiative, the Rural Assistance Center (RAC) was established in December 2002 as a rural health and human services ‘information portal.’ RAC helps rural communities and other rural stakeholders access the full range of available programs, funding, and research that can enable them to provide quality health and human services to rural residents.” (From the RAC About page)

Now back to the fun and relevant feature of the web site. Ever wonder if you actually live in a rural area? Well, if like me you do, then you can check your address at the Am I Rural feature of the RAC. Enter your address and it will check a bunch of Federal databases and tell you under which Federal classifications your one acre falls.

I put in my address and after much whirling of gears and clacking of electrons I learned that I’m rural in every category and a Medically Underserved Area as well.

Join us for a real-time discussion about questions 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:

Today’s image is of American Gothic a classic painting of rural Americana by Grant Wood. This image of the painting is in the Public Domain.

One half of this weekly publication is the blog you are reading now. The other half is an interactive discussion based on the blog and held in a virtual world.

The University of Texas Medical Branch has an island in Second Life®. There we have created/built a representation of the UTMB campus on Galveston Island. The discussion is held here, every Friday at noon (10 am SLT).virtual world

Participation in the discussion has varied from a high of seven to a low of zero. Even I have missed on occasion. While there are many, many reasons why people may not participate in this discussion, one that comes up often is the strangeness of appearing in a virtual world as an avatar. The older one is and the less one has engaged in first-person shooter games or massively, multiplayer on-line games, the stranger this behavior seems.

Actually, it is quite comfortable to create and use a virtual avatar. I’ve schlepped around Second Life for (quickly checking my “rezz date”) for 2668 days or for over seven years. In that time I’ve visited a number of places, built some spaces, and taught some classes. Overall, it has been a rewarding experience. And I’m not the odd man out either.

Some recent research has shown that one’s avatar expresses the personality of the person behind it (See refs 1 and 2 below). In Second Life one gets to design his/her avatar to look however one wishes. It can be very realistic or very fanciful. As it turns out, from the aforementioned research study, we reflect ourselves in whatever we select and others can gauge some aspects of our personality by how we look and comport ourselves. Avatars then are reflections of the people who are represented therein. So, in a virtual world I see the human in you and you see the human in me. Thus, virtual worlds are more personal that it might seem.

Each week we gather for a discussion on aging on the UTMB campus in Second Life. Consider joining us. It will be fun and quite human.


  1. Alison Bruzek. Your Online Avatar May Reveal More About You Than You’d Think. January 12, 2015.
  2. Katrina Fong & Raymond A. Mar. What Does My Avatar Say About Me? Inferring Personality From Avatars. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, February 2015,   vol. 41,  no. 2. pp 237-249.

Join us for a real-time discussion about questions 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:

Image Source:  An imaginary virtual world from


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