Update on Aging

It’s curious when one becomes the subject of one’s academic endeavors. I became involved with the Center on Aging at the University of Texas Medical Branch when it was first created in the late 1980’s and did an internship experience in 1990. I was then in my 40’s and felt quite distant from the population I was studying.

Now, in my 70’s I have joined Pogo who said, “He is us.”

Aging does bring changes. Short term memory becomes an issue. Passing thoughts that used to stick in my mind, now slip away easily. It is necessary to focus on passing thoughts to attach them in my mind and I find the calendar and notepad apps on my phone to be essential tools. Strength and balance are other issues. My horse riding activities pointed up how long it took me to develop the strength and balance necessary to participate in dressage competitions.

I recently was asked to contribute an article for the Summer Horse Show Series Supplement in the Dripping Springs Century-News. In the article (click on the link below) I go deeper into the challenges presented by the passage of time.

Riding in Competition (May 2018)


Humor in America, The Morphology of a Humorous Phrase: “We have met the enemy and he is us”

Texas Oncology has been exploring how their patients with cancer have kept life positive and growing.  They have produced a series of short films that focus on “… stories of the fighters, believers, and survivors who’ve inspired us with their determination and hopeful spirit.” Recently, yours truly was the subject of one of these stories.

Rodger (on right) and Dakota

I have been a patient at Texas Oncology for over 3 years and two years ago I took up horse riding. My physician, James Uyeki, thought my equestrian endeavors would ft into this series of short films. He was right.

The film is now part of the Texas Oncology website and has been featured in an ad in the January 2018 issue of San Antonio Magazine. Watch the film at Texas Oncology.

My riding began as a lark and over time I grew to find it both an intellectual and physical challenge. Dakota and I can trot and canter. We can jump small fences with a single bound. Currently, I am focusing on dressage. Dressage calls for an almost transparent bond between horse and rider and achieving that level of control and communication is a most difficult challenge. Riding has helped be to be stronger and more balanced and my bond with Dakota is quite amazing.

The film was shot at Bel Canto Farms on a hot August morning. There was quite a crew there and a behind the scenes pic is below.


The people in the photo are: Amanda Cowherd (junior copywriter), Sarah Green (Texas Oncology client), Michele Evans (art director), Jim Webb (videographer), Michelle Wells (Texas Oncology client),  and James Hamilton (writer). Kim Bissell (Account Supervisor) took the photo. The film was made by HCB Health of Austin, Texas for Texas Oncology.

Texas Oncology gave me permission to include the film here as well.



Finally, a pic of the two camera shoot set-up.


More Behind-the-Scenes

Hay bales banner UTMB logo

The occurrence of multiple, chronic health problems is often a pattern as we grow older. These debilitating conditions may make one want to re-read the Book of Job to try to get some perspective.

My UTMB colleagues and I taught a graduate course between 2006 and 2012 that was titled, Suffering: Cultural and Spiritual Perspectives. It was developed and taught by Kay Sandor, Ph.D., RN, Harold Vanderpool, Ph.D., Th.M., and myself.

One of the topics we visited was why does God allow bad things to happen. As the texts, we used two classic books by Frankle and Kushner (see below). The academic discipline of  Theodicy was also relevant to this topic. Theodicy is an area of philosophy that attempts to answer the question: Why does God permit the manifestation of evil? One of the faculty, Vanderpool, is an expert on Theodicy and his section on this topic was brilliant.

In 2008, he needed to leave the course. To enable his ideas to still influence the course, we made a short movie (22 minutes) in which he condensed his views on Theodicy and it was a part of the course until 2012 when we stopped teaching it.

The movie is below.

Further, between takes the camera captured Dr. Vanderpool musing on karma and cheap grace. This is included as a bonus.

As an aside: Dr. Vanderpool has a new book out: Palliative Care: The 400-Year Quest for a Good Death, Harold Y. Vanderpool, McFarland Press.


  • Book of Job, New Oxford Annotated Bible, 3rd Edition, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 726 Hebrew Bible.
  • Frankel, V. (1959). Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Kushner, H. S. (1981). When Bad Things Happen to Good People. New York: Avon Books.

The two movies are copyright © 2008 by Harold Vanderpool and used here with his permission

I have two parallel thoughts for today. I want to talk about each and then try to pull them together.

Thought Number One

When I was a kid, my parents allowed me to wander the streets of Oakland, California on foot and by bus. Things were pretty safe and I never thought twice about being and going anywhere. There was a local clothing store on East 14th Street. It was part of a shopping area that once was its own little suburb. Before World War Two, my father had been the manager of the Western Auto Store along that street and he knew all the shop keepers; the barber, the watchmaker, the guy who ran the war surplus store, the insurance salesman, the skating rink owner, and on and on. He also knew the people at the clothing store (its name lost in the mists of time). My parents had a charge account at the store and as a teen I got to charge stuff on their account. No credit cards yet. The salesman knew who I was and put it on the account.

My father and his two Sisters in Oakland around 1922

My father and his two Sisters in Oakland around 1922

Those were simpler and safer times. As Oakland changed over the years all those people died and the stores closed. New people and new stores are there along East 14th street. It’s not so safe as it was, stores have big steel bars on the windows and probably the credit cards are scrutinized carefully to insure they are not stolen.

I think that living in a rural community is one way those of us of a certain age return to those simpler times of a more trusting society where everyone knew your name.

Thought Number Two

My usual source for ideas, the Austin American Statesman, presented me with this article by Michael Young (Young, 2015) dealing with how rural communities are losing population and floundering to stay in business. In the article, Young points to whole counties in Texas that are losing population. Now Texas is a big place and growing rapidly in the major urban areas. On the other end of the scale, there are 14 counties (whole counties) that have fewer than 1,500 people living in them. If there were major businesses in these counties and towns – be they railroads, oil, coal, cattle, farming or manufacturing – now they have all moved on. Young said, “People don’t move to Foard County to find a good paying job.”

So why would someone move to Foard County, Texas?

Young suggests this: people move there because… “they live beneath a sky so filled with stars they seem uncountable. They know their neighbors. Their kids can be good friends with everyone in their class and maybe everyone in their school. And they remain what most of Texas once was.”

Merger of Thoughts

Rural places in Texas that are currently losing population preserve much of what made life good a half century ago in urban areas that now are growing rapidly and may no longer offer those values. A future exists for these empty communities as folks like me and my family return to rural areas to seek that quieter, friendlier life. We can do this because we do not need those steam-age industries that in earlier times were the sole sources of an income. I work on-line at my own work as do many others here (here being Wimberley, Texas). Still others work in service businesses (restaurants, hardware stores, grocery stores, etc.) where we take our trade. Small communities can continue to exist using new models for income but keeping that more trusting society where everyone knows your name.


As a side note: Not everything about rural life is nostalgic. I just watched the film “The Homesman” and it dealt with the awful privations and stresses that faced early settlers on America’s Great Plains in the 1850’s. In all things there is a perspective to keep.


  1. The Homesman (2014), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2398231
  2. Young, M. E. The other Texas the boom forgot: Rural counties struggle to stay afloat. Dallas News, July 17, 2015.
    Story: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/state/headlines/20150717-2.ece
    Photos: http://www.dallasnews.com/photos/20150714-trip-to-foard-county-is-a-step-back-in-time.ece

August 1, 2015

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month — an opportunity to join the global conversation about the brain, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Did you know that everyone who has a brain is at risk to develop Alzheimer’s… a fatal disease that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed? During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association® asks people around the world to take the Purple Pledge and use their brains to fight Alzheimer’s disease.Print

Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death and kills more people each year than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.  The Alzheimer’s Association offers 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, tips that may reduce the risk of cognitive decline:

  1. Break a sweat. Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.
  2. Hit the books. Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online
  3. Butt out. Evidence shows that smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
  4. Follow your heart. Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke – obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.
  5. Heads up! Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
  6. Fuel up right. Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
  7. Catch some Zzz’s. Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking.
  8. Take care of your mental health. Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.
  9. Buddy up. Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community – if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter.
  10. Stump yourself. Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic.

Our Guest Blogger this week is Krista Bohn, MPH, Galveston/Bay Area Regional Outreach Coordinator, Alzheimer’s Association® – Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter

A Suggestion from Rodger: There is a movie that deals with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, Still Alice, and that raises some of the questions and issues inherent with this condition. A brief review of the issues illustrated by the film is found in the Daily Beast.


June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month and “everyone with a brain is at risk for Alzheimer’s”(1).

Alois Alzheimer

Alois Alzheimer

Of the 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease, 5.1 million are older adults (> 65 years of life experience) (1).  This video illustrates the pathological process of this disease:  http://www.alzheimers.org/rmedia/adanimation.htm.

Clinically, Alzheimer dementia presents as a gradual decline in cognition over months to years with impaired memory and dysfunction in one or more other cognitive domains (ex. language, visuospatial presentation, executive function) (2).

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and effective treatment remains a research goal (3).  Studies of physical activity effects on biomarkers and cognitive function indicate potential for neuroprotection to reduce the slope of decline (3).

As a physical therapist, I appreciate opportunities to work with patients who have dementia.  Increasing physical activity is an important goal, one that requires astute interaction with patients, caregivers, and families.  Although it is difficult to see and hear about struggles and challenges they face along with their loved ones, it is also a privilege to learn their life stories.  In fact, I find it is usually essential to figure out what their life was like before cognitive decline in order to adapt therapeutic activities to meet their needs.basketball hoop
For example, if the patient is a retired basketball coach, then I can work on standing balance and endurance by simulating basketball maneuvers. Familiarity of this activity is more likely to engage the patient’s interest and attention than unfamiliar, standard balance exercises.  The needs of every patient are different, and responses to treatment sometimes change; this variability makes creative thinking even more important.


What physical activity do you think you will perpetually enjoy in the context of altered cognitive health?

Our Guest Blogger this week is: Rebecca Galloway, PT, PhD, GCS, CEEAA, Assistant Professor & Director of Clinical Education, Bridge PTA to DPT Program and Fellow of the Sealy Center on Aging.


  1. Alzheimer’s Association. 2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. http://www.alz.org/facts/overview.asp. Accessed 6/15/2015.
  2. Guy M. McKhann et al. “The diagnosis of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease: Recommendations from the National Institute on Aging – Alzheimer’s Association workgroups on diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease.” Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, 2011; 7(3): 263 – 269.
  3. Phillips C, Akif Baktir M, Das D, et al. The link between physical activity and cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer disease. Phys Ther. 2015;95: http://ptjournal.apta.org/content/early/2015/04/01/ptj.20140212.


  1. Alois Alzheimer. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://ihm.nlm.nih.gov/images/B30091.  Accessed 6/15/2015.
  2. Basketball-Goals.jpg; Image Source: Microsoft Office

A friend of mine was at a party on Sunday evening of May 25th. She met a woman in her 80’s who was enjoying the party and they fell into conversation.

My friend learned that this woman and her husband spent the previous night on the roof of their house waiting to be rescued from the rapidly rising waters of the Blanco River. Not the sort of activity one expects from a couple in their 80’s.

This news astonished my friend and she further wondered how the woman and her husband managed to climb up onto the roof of their house. The woman said that was rather easy as they just hung onto things until the rising water lifted them to the roof. Then, they simply waited for rescue.

The recent floods along the Blanco River in Hays County, Texas produced many stories of horror, tragedy, bravery, survival, and resilience. Many of the people affected were elderly and saw homes they had lived in for 30, 40 years flooded or washed away.

This one story, touched on a most admirable quality. This elderly couple found themselves in a difficult and dangerous situation where they stayed calm, literally rode with the tide, and were able to enjoy a party that evening.

blanco 5-25-2015

This is the 200th article written for the Weekly Update on Aging. There have been many guest bloggers and I’ve written a few myself. The ETGEC grant is ending on June 30, 2015. This blog will continue, but may become less frequent and the Weekly Discussion on Aging will not be held in the future.

Image from video taken by Stephen Ramirez, Birds Eye Video, and shown on the San Marcos Corridor News website. The picture shows RR12 as it crosses the Blanco River and looking towards the square in Wimberley.

lightingAs Texas and Oklahoma recover from the dramatic rainfall last week brought, I began to research ways in which seniors could be better prepared for future disaster. The Red Cross had a simple three step approach to preparedness that I found to be helpful.

1. Get a Kit – Disasters can happen at any moment. By planning ahead you can avoid waiting in long lines for critical supplies, such as food, water and medicine and you will also have essential items if you need to evacuate.

  • For your safety and comfort, have a disaster supplies kit packed and ready in one place before a disaster hits.
  • Assemble enough supplies to last for at least three days.
  • Store your supplies in one or more easy-to-carry containers, such as a backpack or duffel bag.
  • You may want to consider storing supplies in a container that has wheels.
  • Be sure your bag has an ID tag.
  • Label any equipment, such as wheelchairs, canes or walkers, that you would need with your name, address and phone numbers.
  • Keeping your kit up-to-date is also important. Review the contents at least every six months or as your needs change. Check expiration dates and shift your stored supplies into everyday use before they expire. Replace food, water and batteries, and refresh medications and other perishable items with “first in, first out” practices.

2. Make a Plan – The next time a disaster strikes, you may not have much time to act. Planning ahead reduces anxiety. Prepare now for a sudden emergency and remember to review your plan regularly.

Meet With Your Family and Friends

Explain your concerns to your family and others in your support network and work with them as a team to prepare. Arrange for someone to check on you at the time of a disaster. Be sure to include any caregivers in your meeting and planning efforts.

Assess yourself and your household. What personal abilities and limitations may affect your response to a disaster? Think about how you can resolve these or other questions and discuss them with your family and friends. Details are important to ensure your plan fits your needs. Then, practice the planned actions to make sure everything “works.”

Family Communications Plan

  • Carry family contact information in your wallet.
  • Choose an out-of-town contact person. After a disaster, it is often easier to make a long-distance call than a local call from a disaster area.

Community Disaster Plans

Ask about the emergency plans and procedures that exist in your community. Know about your community’s response and evacuation plans (e.g., hurricane, nuclear emergency, severe weather). If you do not own a vehicle or drive, find out in advance what your community’s plans are for evacuating those without private transportation or make arrangements with a neighbor who would drive you.

If you receive home care, speak with your case manager to see what their plan is in times of emergency and how they can assist with your plan.

3. Be Informed – What hazards threaten your community and neighborhood? Make a list of how they might affect you. Think about both natural (e.g., hurricanes, flooding, winter storms and earthquakes) and human-caused (e.g., hazardous materials and transportation accidents) and about your risk from those hazards.

Preparing for a hazard that is most likely to happen in your area will help you be prepared for any disaster. Remember, disasters can happen at any time.

The full Red Cross Disaster Planning document is available at: http://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4640086_Disaster_Preparedness_for_Srs-English.revised_7-09.pdf.

While there are many resources out there, the key to disaster planning is to have a plan prior to the disaster. Waiting until the disaster is eminent is too late.


Our Guest Blogger this week is Amanda W. Scarbrough, Assistant Professor, Sam Houston State University.

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: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.

birthday cakeYesterday, I turned 70 years of age.

In the Bible, mention is made of “three score years and ten” as one’s life expectancy. Now, the Bible does go on to suggest one might get four score years with the application of sufficient grit and determination.

I always think Abraham Lincoln used this phrase in the Gettysburg Address. He was however referring to “four score and seven.”

I’m not going to belabor the question of life expectancy again. I did that last week. Yesterday my family and I were happily cooking BBQ ribs, savoring hoppy ales, and consuming wonderful birthday cake. There was too much going on yesterday for me to write a more insightful and intellectually demanding essay for today.

So for today, I’ll send a positive thought from a future philosopher… “Live long and prosper.”


  • Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 11-19-1863, Wikipedia.
    “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth…”
  • Bible, Psalm 90:10, King James Version (KJV).
    “The days of our years are three score years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

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: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.

Preview: Next week, due to the recent flooding events here in the Texas Hill Country,  we will look at emergency preparedness for older people.

cat wallsWhen I was in elementary school, we were only occasionally allowed in the library, could only take out a book or two and were threatened with dire consequences if we damaged or lost them. I remember that some books were very popular and we all waited for our turn to read them. One was a book about Homer Price by Robert McCloskey and the others were science fiction stories by Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988).

I continued to read his books throughout his career and yesterday I finished re-reading “The Cat Who Walks Through Walls.” This book deals with a recurring theme in Heinlein’s work that of people, with interesting gene pools, who live a very long, long time. Another theme is that in the future medical science has advanced to the point where the body and mind can be “overhauled” (so to speak) so that long life is achieved if not via genetics then by science.

In our time, even those with the most fortunate genes rarely live to be 120 years old and medical science is pretty good (compared to 100 years ago) but has not gotten to the rejuvenation stage unless face lifts and tummy tucks count.

Next week, I turn 70 and have decided that growing old gracefully is not such a bad decision for these times.

Previous Essays Dealing with Lifespan:

  1. Forget Aging. Let’s All Be Ageless!
  2. Mortality and the 100th Blog
  3. Living Old: What It Really Means
  4. Family Ties

Books by Robert A. Heinlein dealing with topics related somehow to long life or alternative time lines: The Man Who Sold the Moon (1950), The Green Hills of Earth (1951), Revolt in 2100 (1953), Methuselah’s Children (1958), Orphans of the Sky (1963), The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), The Past Through Tomorrow (1967), Time Enough for Love (1973), The Number of the Beast (1980), The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (1985), To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987).

Children’s Books: Rocket Ship Galileo (1947), Space Cadet (1948), Red Planet (1949), Farmer in the Sky (1950), Between Planets (1951), The Rolling Stones (1952), Starman Jones (1953), The Star Beast (1954), Tunnel in the Sky (1955), Time for the Stars (1956), Citizen of the Galaxy (1957), Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958).

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: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.

Somehow in my day-today life I see little evidence of “gender inequality” yet interesting examples that it’s alive and well pop up on occasion.

the road

Looking Towards an Uncertain Future

Did you know that not one major league football, basketball, baseball, etc. team has a woman as the head coach? When a ball club is recruiting for coaches, the option of a woman in the role apparently never enters anyone’s mind. Update from Time, August 17, 2015 – A woman has been appointed as an assistant coach, the very first, on an NFL team.

I have trouble getting to caught up in the details of sport, but an editorial did alert me to a more troubling circumstance. In today’s Austin American Statesman, Debra Umberson, UT Department of Sociology, wrote about equality in marriage. She was concerned about who we let marry each other and made an interesting observation, in passing, about male and female behaviors that affect the elderly, and hence come into our purview here.

Speaking about the support same-sex couples give each other when one is ill, she said, “Perhaps most striking, same-sex patients and their spouses are more likely to mutually support each other when one of them is seriously ill, and to have more confidence that the spouse will provide the support he or she needs if future health problems occur. In contrast, heterosexual marriages are characterized by strong gender dynamics in which women provide more support to men than men provide to women. Heterosexual women provide more support to their spouses even when the woman is the patient. Indeed, heterosexual women more often feel they cannot rely on their spouses to take care of them. And couples are more likely to divorce if a wife becomes seriously ill than if a husband becomes seriously ill.”

A troubling perspective, as a woman enters into the last stages of life with a husband who may prove to be less dependable than expected.


Umberson, D. Health is a benefit to same-sex marriage nobody talks about. Austin American Statesman, May 13, 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: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.

Harlan AR HospIn the 1970’s, I worked on a project to introduce health science students to rural health care systems and issues. We would take teams of students to rural communities in Kentucky and the most memorable towns were in the Appalachian mountains. Health care here was scattered and sparse but local home health nurses and Miners Memorial Hospitals tried to fill the gaps. These hospitals (called the Appalachian Regional Hospitals when I was there) were the heart and soul of the rural communities where they were located.

Rural hospitals have always had a difficult time making financial ends meet. Because they are set in farming and mining communities with widely scattered populations, who often do not have health insurance, rural hospitals have come and go as the economy and health policies fluctuate.  A quick overview of these swings in rural care can be found in Lieb’s two articles cited below and the web site about Man Community Hospital.

I saw Lieb’s article in the Austin American Statesman and it got me to thinking about this issue. I’ve been in a lot of rural hospitals and they pretty much all were local operations, greatly beloved by the community, and funded by creative solutions that took a great deal of community involvement. This is all very good but things change and hospitals are slow to adapt. And adapting is difficult because new ideas often are not revenue generating or limited for some reason or the other. They might not be approved by Medicare/Medicaid, not reimbursed by insurance, not allowed by statute or practice guidelines, etc.

Another Op Ed piece in the selfsame Austin American Statesman by Sid Miller, Agriculture Commissioner, repeats these issues and suggests that telemedicine might be one key to the rural healthcare puzzle. And in my April 15th column, I commented on the issues surrounding the wider use of telemedicine in Texas. So, here is a possible help for rural care that is bogged down in policy.

There are solutions and good people can find them. I have hope.


  1. Lieb, D. A. Q&A: Why have rural hospitals been closing? Idaho Statesman, 5-1-15.
  2. Lieb, D. A. Rural hospitals struggle to stay open, adapt to changes. Austin American Statesman, 5-1-15.
  3. Miller, S. Don’t pull the plug on rural health care. Austin American Statesman, 5-5-15.
  4. Appalachian Regional Healthcare. Site accessed on: 5-6-15
  5. Man Community Hospital. Web site: Abandoned – Telling the story of a forgotten America. Site accessed on: 5-6-15

I’ve visited my experiences in Appalachia before in this forum:

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: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.

yoga class
My wife gets this yoga magazine each month. The people pictured in it are not only bending in ways I never could and, this is the interesting part, they demonstrate great strength as well.

Recently, I have gotten back into doing my yoga routine. I learned  to do Bikram’s yoga style about 20 years ago and come back to doing it from time to time. As I approach 70 (next month), I find that not only am I less limber now, I have less core strength.

This need for core strength is something I did not pay attention to before. Bikram’s routine begins with five poses that require balance. Balance requires strength. I always worked at the balance poses as a matter of focusing and being mindful of balance and then my body followed along. It did that when my natural core strength was greater, but now I find I need to build up my strength in order to be able to balance.

So yoga 3 or 4 times a week now.

We have discussed exercise among the older population before. I refer you to two earlier columns:


Choudhury, Bikram. Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, NY, 1978.

Photo Credit:  Still frame from the movie, Nudged. Actors pictured are, from left to right, Bill Bender, Dorothy Knight, Tiffany Patch and Jan Gauvain.

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: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.

Telescope in the eyeThe good old Austin American Statesman comes through again with a great story on aging. This week it’s teeny, tiny telescopes implanted in eyes affected* with Macular Degeneration.

As the eye ages, the light-sensing cells in the center of the eye can begin to stop working and one cannot see anything in the middle of the field of view or up close. Only peripheral vision is left and that makes life tricky.

Telescope real version in the eyeThis little telescope redirects the light to parts of the eye that still work and one can see again. It takes a lot of rehabilitation and practice to learn to see using another part of the eye, but it is possible. The Statesman article tells about a 93 year old man who did it. Now he can sees much better, moves safer and can care for his animals.Telescope in eye really

The second and third photos show the device on a finger tip and how it looks embedded in the eye.  Click on the photos to see them bigger. The first photo is a bit bogus.

* or is that effected? I can never figure that usage out. What do you think? See if this web site helps: Diffen


  1. Roser, MA. Telescopic eye implant shows promise for patients losing their sight.
    Austin American Statesman, April 17, 2015.
  2. Telescopic implant restores vision in patient with advanced macular degeneration. University of California Davis Newsroom, September 11, 2012.

Image Source: I don’t know the original source for the first photo. I found it on TheDarkPower.com.  The other photos are from the UC Davis article.

Yesterday’s Austin American Statesman featured an editorial by Roy Smythe. The article discusses the limits that the Texas Medical Board wishes to place on the practice of medicine by remote and virtual methods. This is usually called telemedicine and it has a number of possible formats.

diagnosis by radioSmythe works for a company that is involved in the health services area, so I’d say while he is an advocate for telemedicine providers in his article that his points are well taken. He was previously associated with Scott & White and the Texas A&M University College of Medicine. I refer you to his complete article below.

I have long been an advocate for telemedicine in any form for rural and remote areas. For the elderly and home bound, telemedicine is a useful option if the physician is down the block. Barriers to access take many forms and there are many solutions. I refer you to an earlier post in this series from week 124, Medicine at a Distance.


Smythe, R. Why Texas telemedicine rules restrict access to health care. Austin American-Statesman, April 14, 2015.

Image Source:

Novak, M. Telemedicine Predicted in 1925. smithsonian.com, March 14, 2012

Chris in the morningIn the fictional town of Cicely, Alaska, the local radio station, KBHR, keeps the scattered residents informed of local events and emergencies. The morning host, Chris Stevens, mixes classical philosophy and erudite quotes with local news, and everyone in town pays close attention via their radios.

Radio is a unique medium. It was the first mass communication channel in the world that could offer live information and news. Newspapers reached millions of people and in their heyday had four or five editions a day in big cities. Newspapers are however “old news” compared to the instant interactivity of radio. Even Television, which supplanted radio as an entertainment medium, does not offer the immediate “live” connection of radio.

So, why not just do “radio” over the Internet? In many ways the Internet is an ideal alternative to the radio waves. In fact, almost all radio stations stream their content over the Internet. However, when your power goes out in a storm, your battery operated radio will work. Also, radio is a very simple technology to use. And it’s always free.

To serve local communities the FCC licenses low power FM radio stations. Wimberley, where I live, has had several groups of people interested in starting a new local, radio station. One group has recently gotten the go ahead from the FCC to build a station and if all goes well soon there will be local programming on the public air waves. For now, they stream a full schedule on the Internet, but real radio is the shining goal.

In anticipation of going “on air” soon, the station is seeking local people to develop and host programs. The light bulb goes on… What about a program on aging? How valuable would it be to have a local program focusing on the issues and needs of the elderly? Sounds good to me. Does it sound like something your community needs?

References and Links

  1. Chunovic, Louis. Chris-In-The-Morning: Love, Life, and the Whole Karmic Enchilada
    Contemporary Books (April 1993)
  2. Northern Exposure. TV program created by Joshua Brand and John Falsey. It ran 1990-1995.
  3. Wimberley Valley Radio, Susan Raybuck, board president and acting station manager
    Live Internet stream from Wimberley Valley Radio – http://www.radiowimberley.org/listen.html

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: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.

Ren fair
Another day at the Renaissance Faire and I am again struck by an interesting observation. While Renaissance Faires are usually thought of as fun for children who like dragons and younger adults who like wearing costumes and drinking ale, I have noticed a number of people at the faire in wheelchairs and motorized scooters.
Thomas ren fair
A case in point is Mr. Thomas Williamson, who was at the faire both in costume and using his scooter to get around. There was an older couple, in full Tudor-period costume, and the husband was guiding his lady who was using her scooter. One wonderful lady had created a dragon costume for her scooter and she looked like she was riding the dragon as she sailed through the faire.

I was delighted to see people out and enjoying themselves in spite of mobility issues. At one time, mobility issues kept people at home and they even would feel embarrassed at trying to join in at such celebrations. It is a sign of the generation that spawned these re-enactment events that we get out there and enjoy. It is also a sign that no one took exception to the wheeled visitors and everyone simply merged into the process.

This is not an isolated case. Across the country there is a new mobility.  There is even a magazine, New Mobility, that discusses the ins and outs of getting out and profiles neat places to go.

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: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.


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, Ancestory.com 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. http://time.com/3706807/facebook-death-legacy
  2. Stewart, C & Cross, B. What Happens to Your Digital Assets When You Die? Amarillo Magazine, Feb. 20, 2015. http://www.amarillomagonline.com/article/1100

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: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.

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: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_World_Lit_Only_by_Fire.
  3. Adams, Jeremy duQuesnay (January 1995). “Review of William Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire”. Speculum 70 (1): 173–74. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2864746.

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: http://tinyurl.com/cjfx9ag.

Next Page »