Friday, May 15, 2020

WHO Global Aging Report

Photo by Wendy North.

I'm spending May developing a university course on the topic of Global Aging and Health Care. Textbooks are always a few years behind current data. However with COVID-19, the information about the health of older adults is rapidly becoming outdated.

Even with COVID-19, the world's population is aging. Do countries have support services in place to assist them? 

The health of older adults is interwoven with other dimensions of their location--their country's economics, politics, military conflicts, population pyramids, migration patterns, and available health care services, just to name a few.

Nevertheless, I am striving to learn the "lay of the land" about global aging by surveying reports by major stakeholders such as WHO, UN, UNESCO, OECD and others.

I'm starting by reading the World Health Organization's report Global Health and Aging (published in October 2011).

Here are the highlights with some responses based on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Plague: Book Review

Published in 1947.
Albert Camus wrote The Plague, a novel about a plague occurring during the 1940s in Oran, an Algerian town.

I decided to spend the month of April 2020 reading this novel, given the way that COVID-19 aka coronavirus has dominated the attention in most venues--from international news to dinner table conversations.

The book has 30 chapters, so I was able to focus on a chapter a day.

Reading a fictional account gave me the opportunity to gain a little distance from my own experience. 

The two main narrators of the novel--Dr. Rieux and Mr. Tarrou--record their response to Oran's plague.

Camus' novel does not strive for historical or scientific accuracy. Instead, it is an exploration of the meaning of suffering, the meaning of life, and how people create purpose.

For a more detailed summary, see my Goodreads Review, which is more about describing each "tree" (chapter summaries) and not so much about "the forest." Also, the GR review contains over two dozen direct quotes. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Risk Factors for Severe Cases of COVID-19

Image by Pariswestren via Creative Commons
I have been hesitant about posting, because I feel as though all interest is about COVID-19 aka the coronavirus, but I'm not an infectious disease specialist, an epidemiologist, or a community health expert. But I am reading about this every day.

Travel and contact with an infected people are chief risk factors, but what other risk factors are emerging?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tomie dePaola and Strega Nona

Strega Nona first published in 1975.
Yesterday, the world lost a great storyteller-illustrator-artist, Tomie dePaola, who was 85. He died due to complications from a fall. I have probably read about a dozen of his books to my children when they were little, but that's just a small portion of his life's work.
"His writing career spanned over 50 years during which he worked on more than 270 books. Close to 25 million copies of his books were sold worldwide, and were translated into over 20 languages." Source
Over the years, I have thinned out my books, so I went from owning about five of dePaolo's books to owning just one: the first Strega Nona book, published in 1975. He went on to write ten more books that feature this wise, ageful, Italian grandmother. 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Coronavirus, Ageism, Ableism and More

I am a digital native within Twitter. I generally follow accounts related to gerontology.

Over the last month, I have been alarmed by how many people downplay the potential impact of COVID-19 aka coronavirus because it "ONLY" affects older adults and those with underlying medical conditions.


The dismissive language comes not only in the comments to the news outlets but within the language of the media as well.

It's disheartening to read hundreds of responses that convey an underlying ageism and ableism.

(I have also read a lot of responses from the rank-and-file that express xenophobia and/or racism. However, others are better equipped at parsing the origins and implications of those forms of prejudice, which are equally abhorrent.)

I'm alarmed that  many feel emboldened to devalue populations of older adults and people with illnesses.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Books about Aging: M through Z

It's time to split a post from 2012.

Each year since then, I've been reading a dozen or so titles related to aging and listing them in that prior post.

The original post "Books about Aging" expanded to ten screens of titles, so I decided to divide it.

The most recent adds in this half are Elizabeth Strout's Olive Again (2019) Review and  Mary Pipher's Women Rowing North (2019). Review

The book I revisit the most often is Richard Rohr's Falling Upward (2011). Review

They all have merit; they all have their intended audience. I hope that you find a good read for you from the titles below.

Books about Aging: M through Z

Friday, February 7, 2020

Olive, Again: Book Review

Published 15 October 2019.
Elizabeth Strout has extended Olive Kitteridge's life into another novel, Olive, Again (2019), and I am delighted.

Not all of the chapters focus on Olive, but we do learn more about her and her interactions with her love interest, Jack Kennison; her son, Christopher and his family; a couple of former students, including a famous poet; and a few of her age mates.

True to her character, Olive is cranky, cynical, and outspoken. She also displays compassion for people in her odd little way.

Her adventures move her and her associates into late life with many of its challenges:

loneliness, the oddities of remarriage in late life, the complexities of decades' long marriages, the conflict between expectations and realities, estranged adult children, dealing with hardships such as depression, illness, infidelities, and such.

As with Olive Kitteridge, some of the chapters focus on other residents of Crosby, Maine--some of whom are much younger than Olive. There are a significant number of characters in their teens, 20s and 30s. We get glimpse into the lives of an adolescent house cleaners, and young adults who are home health care nurses, and a very pregnant woman attending a baby shower.

Some of the most salient moments from this novel include the many times that people end up offering each other comfort and kindness even though they don't have a lot in common or they only have a tenuous connection.

“The way people can love those they barely know, and how abiding that love can be, even when — as in her own case — it was temporary."

Almost everyone is carrying a heavy burden, and most people feel alone and overwhelmed.  Nevertheless, there are moments of hope and grace that emerge from the pages of the book.

As a gerontologist, I was happy to see many of the characters as people in their 60s, 70s and 80s--people who were still capable of growth and development.


Olive Kittridge: Book Review
Books about Aging

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Elderhood: Book Review

Published 11 June 2019.
Geriatrician Louise Aronson published a book recently that serves as a great overview for the field of gerontology.

Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimaging Life was published on June 11, 2019.

UPDATE: Aronson's book was a finalist for the Pulitzer this year!

My Goodreads Review

Aronson presents 464 pages of observations about the aging process and health care in the US.

Yes, she has a medical degree; however, her outlook on aging comes very much from a humanities standpoint.

Note: Aronson WAS one of the keynote speakers at the 13th Annual MAIA in Evansville, SW Indiana. However, the event was cancelled due to #COVID19 

Check back to see if she will be on the program for MAIA 2021.

First, her book is structured like a memoir. She does talk about aging; however, she also includes a lot of autobiographical detail in chronological order.

Second, her book discusses case studies in a way that foregrounds the qualitative elements of the human experience, such as relationships, emotions, values, bias, limited perspective.

By even making this observation about her vocation, Aronson declares her preference for the more philosophical side of medicine.

Third, her book brings in a lot of material from non-medical sources. She quotes from works of literature, philosophy, psychology and sociology.

For example, this is how she frames the way physicians choose a specialty:
"How doctors choose to spend their careers may depend in part on their tolerance for ambiguity and complexity, and their interest in questions that lend themselves as much to philosophy, psychology, and sociology as to science and statistics." (p. 159)

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

This Chair Rocks: Book Review

Published 15 March 2016.
Ashton Applewhite is a force to be reckoned with.

Author, speaker, and advocate, Applewhite has become renown over the last few years as a significant critic of ageism.

However, she does not merely tear down ageist policies, programs, policies, and attitudes.

Applewhite also describes in rich detail the ways age contains strength, wisdom, sexuality, fun, and creativity.

I have observed Applewhite's work over the last several years by watching her TedTalk, reading her blog, reading several interviews in major magazines and news outlets, following her on Twitter, and even meeting her after hearing her give a keynote address.

I finally sat down to read her book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy 8th Blogoversary

Photo by postbear.
Today marks 8 years since I launched this blog, The Generation Above Me.

Happy Blogoversary to TGAM!


I started this blog as a way to record my online research, primarily for my own reference.

This blog's content reflect my interest in managing wellness at midlife while supporting people a generation above me.

Nevertheless, a few people have joined me.
Over the last eight years, The Generation Above Me has garnished over a million views of its 425 posts.  
Bias towards the Humanities

I do have a master's in gerontology, earned from 2010 to 2012. Most of my classmates had undergraduate degrees in nursing or social work. However, I have a bias towards the humanities.

This explains the heavy presence of book reviewsfilm reviews, and the occasional poem or folktale.

Why this bias towards the humanities? I taught college English for over three decades (composition, rhetoric, literature, linguistics). But I also lean into a the social sciences a bit. I am also interested in psychology, sociology, communications, education, religious studies.