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.