1949 and the Calendar Page Opens to a New Year

January 1 – UN sponsored ceasefire brings an end to the Indo-Pakistan War of 1947. The war results in a stalemate and the division of Kashmir, which is still continuing as of 2014.  (In compiling these events, I find it astounding how many things continue to this day!)

January 5 – U.S. President Harry S. Truman unveils his Fair Deal program.

January 17 – The first VW Type 1 to arrive in the United States, a 1948 model, is brought to New York by Dutch businessman Ben Pon. Unable to interest dealers or importers in the Volkswagen, Pon sells the sample car to pay his travel expenses. Only two 1949 models were sold in America that year, convincing Volkswagen chairman Heinrich Nordhoff the car had no future in the U.S. (The Type 1 went on to become an automotive phenomenon.)

January 25 – In the first Israeli election, David Ben-Gurion becomes Prime Minister.

March 25 – Operation Priboi: An extensive deportation campaign begins in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Soviet authorities deport more than 92,000 people from the Baltic states to remote areas of the Soviet Union.

March 28 –  English astronomer Fred Hoyle coins the term Big Bang during a BBC Third Programme radio broadcast

April 4 – twelve nations sign the North Atlantic Treaty establishing NATO

May 5 – The Council of Europe is founded by the signing of the Treaty of London.

May 6 – EDSAC, the first practicable stored-program computer, runs its first program at Cambridge University

May 20 – The AFSA (predecessor of the NSA) is established.

May 31 – First trial of Alger Hiss for perjury begins in New York with Whittaker Chambers as principal witness for the prosecution, but would end in a jury deadlock (8 for, 4 against)

June 2 – Transjordan becomes the Kingdom of Jordan

June 8

Red Scare: Celebrities including Helen Keller, Dorothy Parker, Danny Kaye, Fredric March, John Garfield, Paul Muni and Edward G. Robinson are named in an FBI report as Communist Party members.

George Orwell‘s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four is published in London by Secker & Warburg. (rather ironic that 1984 was published at the same time that the “Red Scare” was at its height in the U.S.

June 14 – Albert II, a rhesus monkey, becomes the first primate to enter space, on U.S. Hermes project V-2 rocket Blossom IVB, but is killed on impact at return.

June 19 – Glenn Dunaway wins the inaugural NASCAR race at Charlotte Speedway, a 3/4 mile oval in Charlotte, North Carolina, but is disqualified due to illegal springs. Jim Roper is declared the official winner. (and the sports world dominates to this day, with similar stories of illegal whatevers whenevers)

June 24 – The first television western, Hopalong Cassidy, airs on NBC.

June 29 – Apartheid become official in S. Africa: The South African Citizenship Act suspends the granting of citizenship to British Commonwealth immigrants after 5 years and imposes a ban on mixed marriage.

August 5 – A 6.75 Richter scale earthquake in Ecuador kills 6,000 and destroys 50 towns. 

August 8 –   Bhutan becomes independent

August 12 -The Fourth Geneva Convention is agreed to.

August 14 –

The Salvatore Giuliano Gang explodes mines under a police barracks outside Palermo, Sicily

A military coup in Syria ousts the president.

August 28 – The last 6 surviving veterans of the American Civil War meet in Indianapolis. (wow!)

August 29

The Council of Europe meets for the first time.

The Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb, code named “Joe 1“. Its design imitates the American plutonium bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.

August 31 – The retreat of the Greek Democratic Army in Albania after its defeat at Mount Grammos marks the end of the Greek Civil War.

September 6 – Howard Unruh, a World War II veteran, kills thirteen neighbors in Camden, New Jersey with a souvenir Parabellum P.08 pistol to become America’s first single-episode mass murderer. (and so it began and the NRA is still screaming “2nd amendment!”

September 19 – The United Kingdom government devalues the pound sterling from $4.03 to $2.80, leading to many other currencies being devalued.

Sept. 21 – German Federal Republic (West Germany) established

Oct. 1 – Communist People’s Republic of China formally proclaimed by Chairman Mao Zedong

October 2 – The Soviet Union recognizes the People’s Republic of China.

October 7 – The Democratic Republic of Germany DDR is officially established. (the other side).

November 17-  Second trial of Alger Hiss begins in New York, again with Whittaker Chambers as principal witness

November 24 – The ski resort in Squaw Valley, California officially opens.

November 26 – The Indian Constituent Assembly adopts India‘s constitution [1].

November 27 – Indonesia is recognized.

November 28 – Winston Churchill makes a landmark speech in support of the idea of a European Union at Kingsway Hall, London

December 16 – Sukarno is elected president of the Republic of Indonesia.

and some more events of 1949:

The Vatican announces that bones uncovered in its subterranean catacombs could be the apostle Peter; 19 years later, Pope Paul VI announces confirmation that the bones belong to this first pope.[6]

The first 20 mm M61 Vulcan Gatling gun prototypes are completed.

1949 was the first year in which no African-American was reported lynched in the USA.[7]

Joseph Stalin launches a savage attack on Soviet Jews, accusing them of being pro-Western and antisocialist.

Samuel Putnam publishes his new translation of Don Quixote, the first in what we would consider modern English. It is instantly acclaimed and, in 2008, is still in print.

This also seems to be the year that pinup pictures with focus on breasts became mainstream.

1946, The First Year of the Baby Boom

As a boomer, I have decided that I am going to post events that happened every year from 1946-1964, the years that have been coined the Baby Boomer Years.  Each new post will take the next year up until the last year of the boomer years.

As it turns out, 1946 was an incredibly crucial year in which many events formed or helped create scenarios which have continued to be the backdrop of the world that we Boomers have lived in.  As a few: the Cold War and the CIA came into existence; the first computer was completed; the Zionist were making forays into creating a Jewish state in Palestine; the Nuclear weapons race begins; the United Nations was created; Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam entered the world stage; many new governments were created and a very definite line was drawn between the Eastern and Western blocs; many colonies were demanding their freedom, some of which were granted in 1946.  Television as a source of entertainment began; the issues of racism start to be acknowledged politically in the United States; the NFL is formed; the first commercially designed helicopter is introduced; the bikini bathing suit is introduced; the first Cannes Film Festival is held; Nehru forms a government in India; George Orwell publishes “Animal Farm”; Dr. Spock publishes his book on rearing babies, the bible used to bring all us boomers up.


President Harry Truman was President of the United States.  Within the country, much upheaval and change was being felt.  According to Wikipedia:

The end of World War II was followed by an uneasy transition from war to a peacetime economy. The costs of the war effort were enormous, and Truman was intent on decreasing government expenditures on the military as quickly as possible. Demobilizing the military and reducing the size of the various services was a cost-saving priority. The effect of demobilization on the economy was unknown, but fears existed that the nation would slide back into a depression. A great deal of work had to be done to plan how best to transition to peacetime production of goods while avoiding mass unemployment for returning veterans. There was no consensus among government officials as to what economic course the postwar U.S. should steer. In addition, Roosevelt had not paid attention to Congress in his final years, and Truman faced a body where a combination of Republicans and conservative southern Democrats formed a powerful voting bloc.[68]

The president was faced with the reawakening of labor-management conflicts that had lain dormant during the war years, severe shortages in housing and consumer products, and widespread dissatisfaction with inflation, which at one point hit 6% in a single month.[69] Added to this polarized environment was a wave of destabilizing strikes in major industries, and Truman’s response to them was generally seen as ineffective.[69] A rapid increase in costs was fueled by the release of price controls on most items, and labor sought wage increases. A serious steel strike in January 1946 involving 800,000 workers—the largest in the nation’s history—was followed by a coal strike in April and a rail strike in May. The public was angry, with a majority in polls favoring a ban on strikes by public service workers and a year’s moratorium on labor actions. Truman proposed legislation to draft striking workers into the Armed Forces, and in a dramatic personal appearance before Congress, was able to announce settlement of the rail strike. His proposal passed the House of Representatives, but failed in the Senate.[70][71]For commodities where price controls remained, producers were often unwilling to sell at artificially low prices: Farmers refused to sell grain for months in 1945 and 1946 until payments were significantly increased, even though grain was desperately needed, not only for domestic use, but to stave off starvation in Europe.[72]

Although labor strife was muted after the settlement of the railway strike, it continued through Truman’s presidency. The President’s approval rating dropped from 82% in the polls in January 1946 to 52% by June.[73] This dissatisfaction with the Truman administration’s policies led to large Democratic losses in the 1946 midterm elections, when Republicans took control of Congress for the first time since 1930. The 80th Congress included Republican freshmen who would become prominent in the years to come, including Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy and California Congressman Richard Nixon. When Truman dropped to 32% in the polls, Democratic Arkansas Senator William Fulbright suggested that Truman resign; the President in response indicated that he did not care what Senator “Halfbright” said.[74][75]

When I was looking at what was happening in 1946, I was a little surprised at how familiar many of the entries sounded to our world today.  I did leave out a lot of references to sport events, Broadway events, and music premiers, since, although influences, I was wanting to focus more on events that caused major changes in our outlook as a society and influenced our perception of the world around us, clearly to this day.

Anyway, have a look below.

On the very first day of 1946, January 1,  the first computer was completed by Mauchley/Eckert.  How about that!

January 10: we make first radar contact with the moon and the U.N. General Assembly meets for the first time in London, England.

January 17:  United Nations Security Council holds its 1st meeting

January 22: US president sets up the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  How about that!  And Rear Admiral Sidney W Souers, USNR, becomes 1st Director of CIA.

February 16: 1st commercially designed helicopter tested, Bridgeport Ct

In between January and February of 1946, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Albania form their dictatorships with Communism as their mantel.  Salazar in Portugal forms his dictatorship independently of the communist mantel.  And Franco continues his dictatorship of Spain.

February 14-15: Bank of England is nationalized

February 21: Anti-British demonstrations by Egyptians

February 24: Juan Peron elected president of Argentina

February 26: 2 killed & 10 wounded in race riot in Columbia Tenn

Mar 1st – Panama accepts its new Constitution

Mar 2nd – Ho Chi Minh elected president of North Vietnam; Kingman Douglass, becomes deputy director of CIA

Mar 5th – Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech (Fulton Missouri)

Mar 9th – Ted Williams is offered $500,000 to play in Mexican Baseball League.  He refuses

Mar 12th – Part of Petsamo province ceded by Soviet Union to Finland

Mar 14th – Belgian creates several governments over the course of the year, beginning with Spaak.  Until then, Belgian was ruled by a monarchy.
Mar 15th – British premier Attlee agrees with India’s right to independence

Mar 22nd – Britain signs treaty granting independence to Jordan

Mar 28th – Cold War: The United States State Department releases the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, outlining a plan for the international control of nuclear power.

Mar 31st – The first election is held in Greece after World War II.
Apr 1st – 400,000 US mine workers strike
Apr 1st – Tsunamis generated by a quake in Aleutian Trench strike Hilo Hawaii;  Weight Watchers forms; Formation of the Malayan Union.

Apr 3rd – Netherland-German postal relations resume

Apr 7th – Part of East Prussia incorporated into Russian SFSR; Syria’s independence from France is officially recognised.
Apr 8th – League of Nations assembles for last time

Apr 13th – Eddie Klepp, a white pitcher signed by defending Negro League champ Cleveland Buckeyes, is barred from field in Birmingham Alabama

Apr 18th – Jackie Robinson debuts as 2nd baseman for the Montreal Royals;  US recognizes Tito’s Yugoslavia government

Apr 20th – 1st baseball broadcast in Chicago, Cards vs Cubs

Apr 21st – SED, Socialistic Einheitspartei Germany forms in East Germany (another dictatorship forms under the mantel of Communism)

Apr 27th – 1st radar installation aboard a commercial ship.
Apr 29th – 28 former Japanese leaders indicted in Tokyo as war criminals

May 1st – Start of 3 year Pilbara strike of Indigenous Australians; The Paris Peace Conference concludes that the islands of the Dodecanese should be returned to Greece by Italy; Fieldmarshal Montgomery appointed British supreme commander

May 2nd – Prisoners revolt at Alcatraz.  The revolt lasts two days.  Two guards and three inmates are killed.

May 7th – William H Hastie inaugurated as 1st black governor of Virgin Islands; Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering (later renamed Sony) is founded with around 20 employees.

May 8th: The Estonian school girls Aili Jõgi and Ageeda Paavel blow up the Soviet memorial that preceded the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn.  Aili was 14 years old at the time and very active in the resistance movement.  She was finally caught and found guilty as an under-aged terrorist and sent to a Gulag labor camp,  west of the Ural mountains. She was exiled from the Estonian SSR for eight years.

May 9th – 1st hour long entertainment TV show, “NBC’s Hour Glass” premieres

May 10th – Umberto II succeeds Victor Emmanuel III as king of Italy; Red Sox win 15th straight beat Yanks 5-4, DiMaggio hits Grand Slam

May 11: The United Malays National Organisation, (UMNO) founded and  is  presently Malaysia’s largest political part and a founding member of the National Front coalition

May 13th – US convicts 58 camp guard of Mauthausen concentration camp to death

May 25th – Abdullah ibn Hussein becomes king of Jordan

May 26th – Klement Gottwald becomes premier of Czechoslovakia.  He was a founding father of the Communist party in Czechoslovakia; Patent filed in US for H-Bomb.

Jun 2nd – Italian plebiscite chooses republic over monarchy (National Day)
Jun 3rd – US Supreme court rules race separation on buses, unconstitutional;  1st bikini bathing suit displayed (Paris)

Jun 6th – The Basketball Association of America is formed in New York City

Jun 7th – US Supreme Court bans discrimination in interstate travel

Jun 8th – Sukarno calls for anti colonial defiance in Indonesia

Jun 9th – Bhumibol Adulyadej, becomes king of Thailand; Joe Louis KOs Billy Conn in 8 for heavyweight boxing title

Jun 10th – Italian Republic established; Rear Admiral Sidney W Souers, USNR, ends term as 1st director of CIA Lieutenant General Hoyt S Vandenberg, USA, becomes 2nd director of CIA
Jun 13th – 1st transcontinental round-trip flight in 1-day, California-Maryland; King Umberto II of Italy abdicates

Jun 29th – British mandatory government of Palestine arrests 100 leaders of Yishnuv
Jul 1st – Rajah cedes Sarawak to British crown; US drops atom bomb on Bikini atoll (4th atomic explosion)

Jul 3rd – 1st Dutch government of Beel forms

Jul 4th – Philippines gains independence from US

Jul 14th – Dr Ben Spock’s “Common Sense Book of Baby & Child Care” published; Mass murder of Jews in Kielce Poland

Jul 15th – British North Borneo Co transfers rights to British crown
Jul 16th – US court martials 46 SS to death (Battle of Bulge crimes) in Dachau

Jul 22nd – Menachen Begin’s opposition group surprise attack on King David hotel
Jul 23rd – Menachem Begins opposition group bombs King David Hotel

Jul 24th – US performs atmospheric nuclear Test at Bikini Island; US detonates underwater A-bomb at Bikini (5th atomic explosion)
Jul 25th – At Club 500 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis stage their first show as a comedy team.
Jul 26th – President Harry Truman orders desegregation of all US forces
Jul 26th – Aloha Airlines began service from Honolulu International Airport

Aug 1st – Pres Harry Truman establishes Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)

Aug 6th – US officially submits to jurisdiction of World Court
Aug 7th – 1st coin bearing portrait of Negro authorized
Aug 8th – India agrees to give Bhutan 32 sq miles

Aug 13th – Britain transfers illegal immigrants bound to Palestine, to Cyprus
Aug 16th – Great Calcutta blood bath – Moslem/Hindu riot (3-4,000 die)

Aug 17th – George Orwell publishes “Animal Farm” in the United Kingdom

Sep 1st – Greece votes for monarchy

Sep 2nd – Nehru forms government in India

Sep 8th – Bulgaria ends monarchy

Sep 20th – Churchill argues for a ‘United States of Europe’; The first Cannes Film Festival is held.

Sep 26th – 1st edition of Tintin (Kuifje), publishes until June 1993

Sep 28th – Greek king George II returns to Athens from exile

Sep 29th – Los Angeles (previously Cleveland) Rams play 1st NFL game in LA
Sep 29th – NPS, Nationale Party Suriname, forms
Sep 30th – 22 Nazi leaders found guilty of war crimes at Nuremberg; Von Ribbentrop & Hermann Goering sentenced to death by Nuremberg trial
Oct 1st – 12 war criminals sentenced to death in Nuremberg

Oct 8th – Kwo-less-shrew selects Gen Chiang Kai-shek as president of China

Oct 27th – Georgi Domitrovs National Front wins Bulgaria elections (78%)

Oct 28th – German rocket engineers begin work in USSR
Nov 1st – Charles S Johnson becomes 1st black president of Fisk University

Nov 3rd – Emperor Hirohito proclaims new Japanese constitution

Nov 4th – UN Educational, Scientific, & Cultural Organization formed
Nov 5th – John F Kennedy (D-Mass) elected to House of Representatives

Nov 9th – Pres Harry Truman ends wage/price freeze

Nov 12th – A branch of the Exchange National Bank in Chicago, Illinois opens the first ten drive-up teller windows.

Nov 15th – House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) interrogates astronomer Harlow Shapley

Nov 21st – Georgi Dimitrov, a communist,  elected premier of Bulgaria

Nov 23rd – French Navy fire in Haiphong Vietnam, kills 6,000
Nov 23rd – The Workers Party of South Korea is founded.

Dec 3rd – US government asks UN to order dictator Franco out of Spain
Dec 5th – Pres Harry Truman creates Committee on Civil Rights by Exec Order #9808

Dec 11th – Spain suspended from UN; UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) established (Nobel 1965)

Dec 12th – Tide detergent introduced; UN accepts 6 Manhattan blocks as a gift from John D Rockefeller Jr
Dec 13th – Leon Blum elected French premier

Dec 14th – Togo made a trusteeship territory of UN; UN General Assembly votes to establish UN headquarters in NYC

Dec 19th – War breaks out in Indochina as Ho Chi Minh attacks French in Hanoi

Dec 23rd – U of Tenn refuses to play Duquesne U, because they may use a black player in their basketball game
Dec 24th – 4th French republic established
Dec 24th – US General MacNarney gives 800,000 “minor nazi’s” amnesty

Dec 25th – Constitution accepted in Taiwan

Dec 26th – Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas opens (start of an era)
Dec 31st – French troops leave Lebanon














Social Security, Let’s Take a Look

I decided that since there has been so much hooplah, and do I dare suggest, misinformation about social security, that I would focus on the history of social security and move forward to the present as I had done with the healthcare question last month.  As it turned out, the author of one of my favorite blogs, “Time Goes By” found a great little video on YouTube explaining Social Security.  Since I certainly cannot do it any better, I thought I would pass it along.  However, I am still interested in writing about the history of Social Security (in particular when it was started in the ’40’s and when it was first reviewed in the ’80’sand why it keeps being put on the table as an area that needs to be adjusted.  In the meanwhile, please enjoy this video explanation.

I am placing this in the boomer blog because clearly, Social Security is the next big thing facing boomers.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2013





Retirement Communities That Fit The Need

Boomers, on average, are less likely to acknowledge their age than the previous generations did.   According to an article By Del Webb, an active adult retirement community:

A recent survey from Del Webb revealed just how much older adults value their youth. Researchers found that about 80 percent of boomers feel younger than they actually are. Looking more closely, boomers in their 60s feel about 13 years younger while those in their 50s feel about 10 years younger.

One area that is already being influenced by the age wave of aging boomers and their changing attitudes towards aging is the retirement community.  Instead of passively accepting what is out there, the attitude of being younger has empowered this demographic to demand the environment that will best suit what they want to pursue at this stage in their lives.  In a previous article, I wrote that many individuals who are entering retirement communities today are demanding environments that reflect more a country club atmosphere than the traditional concept of a retirement community.  But it is more than that.  Besides the money factor, different people want different things out of their third season in life.  It seems that this factor is being acknowledged by our society.

More and more in different locales are what have been coined the Natural Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC) in which a neighborhood becomes an aging one.  The neighbors pool their resources and services to help each other remain at home.  For those who wish to move into a more formalized setting, there are a variety of choices that, according to a report from ABC range….

From developments with a spiritual focus to resorts catering to gays and lesbians, the range of options for today’s retirees is wider than ever.

Quoting Elinor Ginzler from AARP, the report states that diversification is more important than climate for the aging boomer.  Being in a stimulating environment that offers exposure to education and entertainment, physical activity, and spiritual activities are getting larger demands than sunshine and warm weather.

The ABC report continues:

Another innovative model for retirement housing comes from Denmark: co-housing, where younger residents and retirees share responsibility for the design, maintenance and management of their community.

I personally like this arrangement.  I feel it is important to have an inter=generational community. There are so many benefits that each group can provide the other.  The youth have the energy and strength and the older the life-experience and nurture.  Also, i think it is important for young people to see the aging process in action so that they fully understand what will be occurring to them down the line.

Looking for communities that fulfill a spiritual need is another focus that is starting to gain ground in people’s search for a community.  ElderSpirit is a community developing in Abingdon, VA near the Appalachian mountains

“Our mission is a community of mutual support and late-life spirituality,” said Dene Peterson, executive director of the Trailview Development Corp., the nonprofit group building ElderSpirit.

“Spirituality is what people were really looking for,” said Peterson. But she emphasizes that this does not refer to organized religious services. “Spirituality doesn’t mean religion,” Peterson added.

ElderSpirit welcomes residents from a range of backgrounds and beliefs. “We’ve attracted Buddhists, and Hindus, and a Unitarian minister, as well as Presbyterians and Catholics,” Peterson said. The community is developing a small prayer room, but “we’re not going to call it a chapel because that usually denotes a Christian place,” she said.

And then there are the communities that are starting to form to meet the needs of the Gays, Lesbians, and Trans-genders.  Remember that it was only in the late ’60’s that Gays were allowed to come out into the open.  Those individuals are now reaching an age when they are needing what retirement homes have to offer, but may not feel comfortable being themselves or being open about themselves in a traditional home.  This then has opened the closet, so to speak, into retirement homes that expressly serve that population.

Another format that is coming into being is a retirement community for artists.  According to an article in Our Parents, one has started in Burbank, CA and is being exported to Arizona, Minnesota, and Oregon.  Artists living with other artists or individuals who always aspired to becoming an artist populate this community.

So a lot of changes on the horizon.  I think it is great that there are more choices out there.  Just because someone is becoming older does not mean that their life has to end early.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2012


New Trends in Senior Living

If there is one thing that can be said about the Baby Boomer generation, we do not accept things passively.  Apparently this is also true in how we are approaching the twilight years.

According to Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging, control, choice, connections, and continued intellectual stimulation and physical activity will be in great demand within this demographic.   Of course, one might reflect on the fact that these same needs/demands might be true of anyone who has found themselves sidelined because their hair has turned white or they take a little longer processing their thoughts or tend to become forgetful.  That being said, however, let’s look at how a convergence of aging boomers might change the face of aging now that we have arrived at that point ourselves.

Aging in place is probably one of the things that most people wish for themselves.  Besides remaining in one’s home, there is the choice of entering continuing care facilities.  When one does that, they invest in a “villa” [usually a two bedroom one story home that has easy access everything] where they are able to live in relative autonomy.  They have the choice to participate in a meal plan and are able to participate in all of the activities offered by the retirement community.

When they are no longer able to do for themselves, they move to an assisted living section of the facility.  If they are a couple, this permits the healthier person easy access to their spouse.  But make no mistake, the hardest transition is the one from independent to assisted living.  There are at least two reasons for this: 1)  when one enters assisted living, they know there is no turning back and this takes its toll on one’s psyche; 2) one’s autonomy, one’s sense of dignity is undermined by the fact that their personal care needs are being taken care of by a “stranger.”

The third level is the nursing care facility.  The two most attractive aspects of a continuing care facility is the independent aspect and the nursing care aspect.  In most continuing care facilities, the nursing care section is well run with caring staff.  However, as I have cautioned in previous entries, it is always important to ask to see all levels when being given a tour, as you will be looking at your future.

But, of course, when retirement communities invite prospective clients to their “home,” they are catering to the independent client who is wanting to downsize but sees themselves as living an intellectually and physically active life for some years to come.

So what should retirement communities do to more fully cater to the upcoming seniors of America?  First, know that you are dealing with one of the most educated group of aging citizens ever.  Secondly, you are dealing with the most active group of aging citizens ever.  Thirdly, you are dealing with a group that is not shy to demand responsiveness on the part of their circumstances.  Fourthly, this is a group that, for the most part, has lived the good life and does not want to minimize that experience by virtue of age.

According to Mather Lifeways,

Older adult living communities and care providers must anticipate and cater to the personal needs and interests of residents by offering options beyond the basics and plan to include more comprehensive provision for in-home care.

Technology will be important as will keeping mentally and physically healthy.  Thus retirement facilities will have to anticipate access to the WWW and be able to provide home care and home health services, onsite health clinics, and geriatric assessment programs.  Resident participation in lifelong learning opportunities will continue to grow.

Mather LifeWays states that:

Senior living providers will provide services “beyond” their four walls. Social connections are just as important to one’s health, and thus programs to prevent social isolation are important for community-dwelling older adults. For example, the Mather’s—More Than a Café model provides services and programs for older adults in a single location, serving as a dining venue and as a place for social engagement, learning, wellness activities, and community resources.

The Institutionalized environment of “old people’s homes”of the 20th century  will not draw this generation of aging citizens.

Again, from Mather LifeWays’s study on the subject:

Above all, consumers want choices and value. If there is a single phrase that sums up the future of senior living, it is “resident choice.” The model of senior living has come a long way from the “we know best” view. There is no one-size-fits-all community or program. Older adults are demanding more choices, control, a redefinition of what community means, and convenience within and outside of the community. These choices include financing options and customized portfolios of services that take into account individual expectations, services, and programs considered to be “added value,” access to “on demand” services, and purposeful engagement in activities.

Although there is no dollar value put on this attractive projection of what retirement communities will need to provide, having this ideal environment to spend one’s remaining years will not come with a small price tag, and thus will mostly be catering to a certain class of people.

© Yvonne Behrens

Change makers for equality for women

By Marcia Barhydt

There’s an extraordinary new group of women coming together to lend their visibility and wisdom to all of us women boomers. The name of this group is Makers and their name refers to a three-hour documentary for PBS called MAKERS: Women Who Make America.

Their ranks include some very high profile women — Hillary Clinton, Gloria Steinem, Condoleezza Rice, Marlo Thomas, Barbara Walters, Oprah. And with only slightly lower profiles, Roe vs. Wade Attorney Sarah Weddington, First Female Justice at the Supreme Court Sandra Day O’Connor, Tennis Ace Billie Jean King, Stewardess Fighting Discrimination Dusty Roads, Xerox CEO and first woman member of the Augusta Golf Club Ursula Burns. Plus many “ordinary” ground-breaking women confronted with what equality means in their own lives.

From the program’s website: “MAKERS: Women Who Make America will tell this remarkable story for the first time in a comprehensive and innovative three-hour documentary for PBS, to air in early 2013. Built on the extraordinary archive of stories already completed for MAKERS.com, the film will feature the stories of those who led the fight, those who opposed it, and the unintentional trailblazers — famous and unknown -– who carried change to every corner of society.”

So, what does this group do for us, for you and me? To start, at the very least they bring their own brand of equality for women and at the very most, they bring their high profile to lend credibility to their message in the documentary. The more visible equality is for women, the more this equality filters down to all women, particularly Boomer Women who are having some dynamic influences of our own in our own small circles.

These women, this documentary, both are highlighting the remaining imbalance of the roles women take on today. The women individually are inspiring, and collectively they are a steam roller for equality in allfacets of our lives.

I’m old enough to have witnessed the original Feminist Movement in the 1960s when feminism became mainstream for female boomers. Between the impact of the issues and the huge size of the female boomer population, the message of equality spread quickly, often aided by some evening news story of yet another bra burning. We fought for and often won a new vision of equality; not always, but often.

I’m also old enough to have gushed with excitement when I met Gloria Steinem in 2007 as I covered a luncheon fundraiser for a local women’s shelter. Between gushes, I said, “You spoke to me; you spoke to all of us.” Ms. Steinem replied, “And there are still so many to speak to, so many that we still have to help.”

Makers and their documentary will, I believe, bring the concerns of today’s boomer women to the forefront once again, just as they did in the 60s. But today we’ll be adding our forty more years of experience to our cause and to our voices.


Aging and Single: A Trend in the U.S.

The boomers are all over the map when it comes to marriage, divorce, grandparenting, new parenting, gay parenting, adoptaparenting.  But one trend that seems to be growing by virtue of divorce is the aging single person.  I personally do not understand this trend.  Having just entered the world of “widowhood” choosing to go it alone is something I have a hard time grokking.  I do understand that there are all sorts of reasons why people separate.  But I also wonder, whether in our throw-away society, many of these separations might occur without long-term thought about consequences.  For example,  are people afraid that they will end up as caregivers?  My question then becomes: who is going to take care of them when they can no longer take care of themselves?

According to an article written by for The New York Times,

Over the past 20 years, the divorce rate among baby boomers has surged by more than 50 percent, even as divorce rates over all have stabilized nationally. At the same time, more adults are remaining single. The shift is changing the traditional portrait of older Americans: About a third of adults ages 46 through 64 were divorced, separated or had never been married in 2010, compared with 13 percent in 1970, according to an analysis of recently released census data conducted by demographers at Bowling Green State University, in Ohio.

At some point, I think that we will have to recognize that we need to work together.  The fraying and continual fraying of relationships in, at least the United States, as exemplified with the above statistics, not to mention our political system, has got to reverse itself.  Our good friend William H. Frey, demographer at the Brookings Institution states:

that many unmarried baby boomers will confront greater economic hardships than their married parents and grandparents, and their married counterparts. Many members of this generation, which has been battered by the recession, have fewer children and thinner financial cushions in savings and pensions.

Susan L. Brown, co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State, said the trend would transform the lives of many older people.

The elderly, who have traditionally relied on spouses for their care, will increasingly struggle to fend for themselves. And federal and local governments will have to shoulder much of the cost of their care. Unmarried baby boomers are five times more likely to live in poverty than their married counterparts, statistics show. They are also three times as likely to receive food stamps, public assistance or disability payments.

I am sure there are many single people that these statistics do not reflect.  However, with these realities looming, we are really going to have to work to come up with a viable alternative to aging in marriage as well as aging alone.  Marriage is not easy to maintain.  And with all the distractions keeping us from each other, ie, television, computers, etc.,  it is easy to believe that one is no longer living with someone one feels connected to.  On the other hand, if one once felt love for that person, there might still be something there worth cultivating and helping to grow.

For many, having financial independence is also a determinant as to whether a person remains in a relationship.  However, when we use that as the criteria, we may be making a big mistake in deciding to go it alone, unless, of course, we made poor choices to start.  Yet, I can’t help but reflect that the “idea” of having the freedom to determine your own schedule may seem worth the separation, that freedom is short lived; particularly if one is in their ’50’s when they decide to seek that freedom because anything can happen in a moment to make one become totally dependent on somebody else and this time it could be a total stranger — a stranger who will only care for you until the money runs out rather than an intimate who will take care of you out of love or obligation or both.  And yes, I know, these are generalities and life is nuanced.  And the reality is still that people are going it alone either by choice or by circumstances.  So that is why I am suggesting that we put our heads together and figure out a way not to grow old alone.

© Yvonne Behrens

“The Choice to Die or Live Life as a Ghost”

Michael Wolff of the New York Magazine wrote an article called “A Life Worth Ending.”   His topic?  The approach that our modern society takes towards aging and death.   His focus?  His personal journey dealing with the healthcare system and his mother.

His ability, through his choice of words, to bring the topic front and center is as rich as the questions he poses in the topic he explores.  For example, read how he describes aging in our affluent society, in which death has become the ultimate frontier to tame and subjugate:

Age is one of the great modern adventures, a technological marvel—we’re given several more youthful-ish decades if we take care of ourselves. Almost nobody, at least openly, sees this for its ultimate, dismaying, unintended consequence: [emphasis added] By promoting longevity and technologically inhibiting death, we have created a new biological status held by an ever-growing part of the nation, a no-exit state that persists longer and longer, one that is nearly as remote from life as death, but which, unlike death, requires vast service, indentured servitude really, and resources.  ……

This is not anomalous; this is the norm.

Mr. Wolff writes of the irony that:

The longer you live the longer it will take to die. The better you have lived the worse you may die. The healthier you are—through careful diet, diligent exercise, and attentive medical scrutiny—the harder it is to die. Part of the advance in life expectancy is that we have technologically inhibited the ultimate event. We have fought natural causes to almost a draw. If you eliminate smokers, drinkers, other substance abusers, the obese, and the fatally ill, you are left with a rapidly growing demographic segment peculiarly resistant to death’s appointment—though far, far, far from healthy.

Seventy percent of those older than 80 have a chronic disability, according to one study; 53 percent in this group have at least one severe disability; and 36 percent have moderate to severe cognitive impairments; you definitely don’t want to know what’s considered to be a moderate impairment.

Phew!  What have we done?  How did we go from acknowledging that death is a part of life and there is no way around it to believing that if we only do……then we will live longer and, hey, don’t we want to do that?  Sure, we all clutch at the idea of dying.  It is inherent to our nature.   Moving into an unknown is scary and death is the biggest unknown.  But does that warrant doing everything, at any cost to avoid it?  It really does seem that by doing everything to avoid it, we actually have created a nightmarish extension that includes all sorts of physical and mental break downs and more and more frequent visits to the hospital.

In Mr. Wolff’s case, his mother started to decline physically and mentally sometime in her ’80’s.  As Mr. Wolff found out:

There is a precept here, which no doctor quite spells out: Once it has begun, it has begun; decline follows decline; incident precedes incident. Here’s the medical language: “A decrement in capacity occurs.”

The system has been created that encourages families to follow one course of action after another to delay the eventuality that this “decrement in capacity” will ultimately lead.  And so we are creating a citizenry of individuals who have no quality of life but live on because the natural breakdown of body and/or mind is delayed with round the clock attention (at unbelievable costs).  Pharmaceuticals intervene to prevent the stroke or the heart attack or the pneumonia that might otherwise allow a person who has entered into a state of decremental capacity to leave this world with some dignity.

I lived this with my mother-in-law, a brilliant, vivacious human being who at the age of 93 started to develop memory loss.

Focusing back on Mr. Wolff’s reflections:

From a young and healthy perspective, we tend to look at dementia as merely ­Alzheimer’s—a cancerlike bullet, an unfortunate genetic fate, which, with luck, we’ll avoid. In fact, Alzheimer’s is just one form—not, as it happens, my mother’s—of the ­ever-more-encompassing conditions of cognitive collapse that are the partners and the price of longevity.

There are now more than 5 million demented Americans. By 2050, upward of 15 million of us will have lost our minds.
Speaking of price: This year, the costs of dementia care will be $200 billion. By 2050, $1 trillion.

That is the thing that you begin to terrifyingly appreciate: Dementia is not absence; it is not a nonstate; it actually could be a condition of more rather than less feeling, one that, with its lack of clarity and logic, must be a kind of constant nightmare.

As Mr. Wolff and his family chose to do, so did my husband and I: We put my mother-in-law in a very homey like assisted living facility just before her 95th birthday.  The first year was actually quite good.  The local owners very much wanted to create a home-like environment.  But then they decided to expand which adversely affected their original home.  And like Mr. Wolff, we also learned:

That assistance in an assisted-living facility, even as you increase it and pay more for it, is really not much more than kind words and attendance, opened doors, a bit of laundry, and your medications delivered to you. If there is a need for real assistance of almost any kind that involves any sort of calibration of concern, of dealing with the real complications and existential issues of aging people, then 911 is invariably called. This is quite a brilliant business model: All responsibility and liability is posthaste shifted to public emergency services and the health-care system.

The rate of hospitalization for all other age groups is declining or holding steady, but for people over 65 it’s skyrocketed. The elderly use 50 percent of all hospital days, according to one study. Emergency rooms, …. the land of the elderly, and their first step into the hospital system—where, as Medscape matter-of-factly explains, the “inability to recognize normal aging changes … raises the chances of iatrogenic illness.” Iatrogenic illnesses being the ones caused by hospitals or doctors.

In Minkie’s case, she developed pneumonia while in the assisted living facility.  In the old days, before immediate intervention and antibiotics, she probably would have died peacefully and the horror of her memory loss would not have plagued us for another six years.  But in our modern society, off to the hospital she went, tubes and catheter inserted (I was told this was done automatically because nurses did not have time to take elderly patients to the bathroom every time they needed to go.  Of course, the consequences of stretching the muscles by inserting a catheter — itself a painful procedure — is never addressed by those who do it and the family is not given a choice).

And so we found that for any real care, this was no longer the place to keep our parent.  We were lucky.  We had a friend who was a CNA.  She had just lost her father and had the extra space in her house.  She asked us if we would feel comfortable having Minkie move in.  We said yes.  She lived right down the street from us and so we became the modern model of an extended family.  She and her housemates and my husband and me.  Five people with our friend and us doing most of the care, but all being able to continue with our daily responsibilities without too much taxation on any one person.   Also, at this stage, Minkie was no longer moving on her own, which made her care much more manageable and less dangerous.

Back to Mr. Wolf’s story.  His mother had been living for years, unaffected by a potentially detrimental heart situation.  At some point, she had expressed shortness of breath at the assisted living facility in which she resided and they sent her off to the hospital.  Her cardiologist decided she should have surgery:

…. now that she was showing symptoms that might suddenly kill her, why not operate and reach for another few good years? What’s to lose? That was the sudden reasoning and scenario.

My siblings and I must take the blame here. It did not once occur to us to say: “You want to do major heart surgery on an 84-year-old woman showing progressive signs of dementia? What are you, nuts?”

This is not quite true: My brother expressed doubts, but since he was off in Maui, and therefore unable to appreciate the reality of, well, the reality of being near, we discounted his view. And my mother protested. Her wishes have always been properly expressed, volubly and in writing: She urgently did not want to end up where she ultimately has ended up. She had enough sense left to resist—sitting in the hospital writing panicky, beseeching, ­Herzog-like notes, to anyone who might listen—but of course who listens to a woman who scribbles such notes?

The truth is you’re so relieved that someone else has a plan, and that the professionals with the plan seem matter-of-fact and unconcerned, that you disregard even obvious fallacies of logic: [in this case] that the choice is between life as it was before the operation and death, instead of between life after the operation and death. (emphasis added).

So often, I find that people, myself included, although much less so than the average, walk into their territory (the healthcare industry’s territory) and listen to them spout something that may make no sense, but they are the experts, right?  We nod our heads, and walk out with the decision made.  When my husband had heart surgery, the cardiologist suggested that he start taking Lipitor.  I objected, citing all the side effects.  My husband pointed out that he did not have a history of high cholesterol.  The doctor replied with, “Yes, but you had heart surgery.”  His nurse practitioner added in helpful tones: “Lipitor prevents death.”  (You can imagine how I responded to that statement!).  My husband ended up taking the Lipitor.

As for Mr. Wolff and his story, when they confronted the medical team about the fact that their parent had deteriorated so badly and asked why they had not been better informed of this possible outcome:

Here’s what the surgeon said, defending himself, in perfect Catch-22-ese, against the recriminations that followed the stark and dramatic postoperative decline in my mother’s “quality-of-life baseline”: “I visited your mom before the procedure and fully informed her of the risks of such a surgery to someone showing signs of dementia.”

Six weeks and something like $250,000 in hospital bills later (paid by Medicare—or, that is, by you), she was returned, a shadow being, to 86th Street and her assisted-living apartment.

At the publication of his article, his mother was still alive, still living her shadow existence with occasional moments of clarity.  I doubt that this will ever change.  It certainly did not with my mother-in-law.

Would we have done things differently?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  Would Minkie have chosen to stay alive in a half state?  I don’t think so.  But by the time she ended up in her half state, she was no longer the same person.  We have made advancements in our medical care.  But hand in hand with the advancements has developed this  fallacy that lives should be saved no matter the cost.  And so, I end with Mr. Wolff’s conclusions:

I do not know how death panels ever got such a bad name. Perhaps they should have been called deliverance panels. What I would not do for a fair-minded body to whom I might plead for my mother’s end.

The alternative is nuts: to look forward to paying trillions and to bankrupting the nation as well as our souls as we endure the suffering of our parents and our inability to help them get where they’re going. The single greatest pressure on health care is the disproportionate resources devoted to the elderly, to not just the old, but to the old old, and yet no one says what all old children of old parents know: This is not just wrongheaded but steals the life from everyone involved.

…. My bet is that, even in America, even as screwed up as our health care is, we baby-boomers watching our parents’ long and agonizing deaths won’t do this to ourselves. We will surely, we must surely, find a better, cheaper, quicker, kinder way out.

© Yvonne Behrens 2012







Self-esteem in the Elderly

Self-Esteem for sale

Self-Esteem for sale (Photo credit: fran6co)

My colleague, Denise Scruggs, and I will be giving a workshop on promoting self-esteem in older adults at the Southern Gerontological Society Conference in Nashville, TN.

One might ask, “Why?”  Boomers, the next aging population, are known to have higher self-esteem than their parents or grand-parents apparently had, aren’t they?

But according to a recent study, those facing the big six-0 will also be facing a decline in the value they place upon themselves.  That’s the broad conclusion of a new study showing changes over the human lifespan based on interviews with a total of 3,617 Americans over a 16-year period from 1986 to 2002  (Orth, Trzesniewski, Robins).

Because we boomers, as a group, have had the tendency to be in denial with regard to our aging, that decline could be dramatic. Stop with the hair coloring, stop with the face lifts, stop with marrying someone younger than you, stop all those super athletic recreational activities, stop one’s role in the work place and what is left?

The above mentioned study found that the factors that had the largest influence on one’s sense of self include:

*Income and health.  In our money oriented society, it follows that we would associate money with power.  It also follows that if our independence becomes eroded by health issues, this would affect our sense of self in a negative way.

*Education plays a major role in maintaining self-esteem. Participants with higher education outranked those with less education throughout their lives.

*  The study confirmed that women had lower self-esteem than men through most of their lives, but the two genders were about equal by the time participants reached their 80s.  I suppose that men in their ’80’s have probably lost pretty much everything by which they defined themselves earlier in their lives.  One might reflect on the statement that it is at this time that men and women “were about equal” in their self-esteem.

*The self-esteem of whites and blacks differed only a little at age 25. However, black participants declined more sharply than white participants from about age 60. A further study to look into the factors that cause this discrepancy would be warranted

Beyond these global attributions to the loss of self-esteem, there are also factors of daily living.  The loss of loved ones, in particular spouses, can have an impact on one’s self-esteem.  In fact, findings from a study conducted by Julie Ann McMullin and John Cairney (2004) showed that single people have lower self-esteem than married people demonstrating that receiving feedback from a significant other helps promote a positive self-image.  When that person, with whom you could confront major challenges, bounce ideas off of, share life’s moments with, or was your biggest fan is no longer there and you do not receive regular feedback of your existence, that can erode self-esteem.

What about finding yourself not being able to keep up with the rapidly changing world you used to be a part of?  How would that make you feel?  Pretty worthless, no?

Or, and this is probably the saddest of all, being an old person that people are not interested in because, well, let’s face it, ageism is alive and well in our society.

So this is why Denise and I plan to present tools to our colleagues by which they can help promote positive self-esteem to those confronting that change of life: aging.

I will let you know how it went.

© Yvonne Behrens  2012

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Be Prepared

As a boomer who married late in life, has no children, and who will probably outlive her husband who is older than she is and is presently battling cancer, I fall in the category of the 40% who will probably end up in a nursing home.  Well, maybe not since I have a community of friends who may pull together to create an environment where we can all age together, providing each other the social and emotional support we may need and pooling our resources to take care of our physical needs.

[by the way this picture is of a girl scout, not me, although I was a girl scout for a couple of years. I am using this picture to reflect the girl scout motto, “Be Prepared.” That explained, back to my entry…..]

I am hopeful.  These friends have been very forthcoming and helpful with my circumstances with my husband.  Since we are all aging at the same time, we may recognize the need to be pro-active in preparing for our twilight years, which is the point of this article.

Mostly, we boomers, especially at this age, are not really thinking about the time when we may become more frail.  The fact is, we are very much not prepared for that time in our lives.  At this stage, we are probably loosing parents and possibly friends or spouses.  But we are still thinking about hiking with friends or traveling rather than being fed by somebody else or having a portable commode next to our beds.

But, and I can’t repeat this enough, now is the time to contemplate where and how we want to be spending those last years or months because NOW is when we can do something about putting everything in place.

According to presentations at the 4th Annual Symposium on Policy and Health, the complexities of family structures in today’s society does not lend itself to the traditional forms of caregiving for the elderly within the family units.  Presently, families perform about 75 percent of elderly care. This can be anything from running errands to full-time caregiving.  We are the group that is doing this caregiving.  But with the out of the box way we have proceeded with our lives,  we need to ask ourselves who will be taking care of us when we need that help?

Then there are the sub-groups such as the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) who may have a more difficult time with care in their more frail years.  Recent research suggests that LGBT seniors are more prone to isolation and psychological distress than their heterosexual peers. Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles’ Center for Health Policy Research reported in a study that half of Californian gay and bisexual men aged 50 to 70 live alone, compared with only 13.4 percent of straight men. More than one in four lesbian and bisexual women in California live alone as well.

Studies show that ethnic minorities rely on family members much more than their white counterparts.  But they are also less likely to seek outside help through social services or the medical establishment. According to studies provided by the American Psychological Association:

Studies show that ethnic minority caregivers provide more care than their White counterparts and report worse physical health than White caregivers (McCann et al, 2000). Several studies have found that African American caregivers experience less stress and depression and garner greater rewards from caregiving than White caregivers (Cuellar, 2002; Haley et al, 2004). Hispanic and Asian American caregivers, however, exhibit more depression than white caregivers (Haley et al, 2004).

Being boomers, we may end up causing a paradigm shift in how we approach our twilight years.  We may even affect how our society looks at the aging process.  We may develop creative ways of approaching support systems to serve our needs as we become more frail.  But unless we focus on this question now, we may end up in a nursing home, with strangers [sometimes — when they are not being pulled in 20 different directions] responding to our needs.

Anyone for the idea of a Commune for the Aging?