Archive for the ‘Intergenerational’ Category

I once saw a short Italian film about a 10 year old boy whose widowed father, a highly- regarded author, was killed by a pig. The father was walking under a balcony in an old Italian village. The balcony crumbled due to  the weight of a huge hog – which spent its life sunning on the balcony and consuming leftovers.

When at boarding school everyone laughed at this boy when they heard how the his father died. The boy was mortified and ashamed.

Fast forward in the story.

A young man- let’s say…. a young teen,  he falls in love with a young woman. He is deeply smitten. So smitten  he invites the young woman to visit with is dour, maiden Aunt, his only living relative.

His  Aunt has deified her late brother, having built an altar-like centerpiece in her living room featuring all the books her late brother wrote, celebratory reviews, photos, etc.  The shrine creates  a haunting, stuffy, and sad  atmosphere.

Prior to  this visit, all the girl knows is that her beau is fatherless. So, upon seeing the altar she is motivated to ask, “Exactly; how did he die?”

You have to remember that this young man has become a withdrawn and hesitant fellow due to the barrage of laughs shot at him whenever he had to recount that his illustrious father was killed by a falling pig.

In the climactic scene, the girl’s innocent, and perfectly reasonable question hangs in the air.

Our hero gazes at her, swallows hard. His  Aunt proceeds to recount the facts.

The young couple remain staring  at one another. Her eyes register some question-but she hesitates, and they remain silent.

After the meal we see the young couple walking, holding hands, glad to be out the tomb-like cage of the Aunt’s flat. Then the young woman turns to him, and with love in her eyes asks, “ Is it true? Is that really how your father died.” He hesitates…. We feel his tension, but, love is at stake. Trembling with newly found, never-before-used  courage  he says,  “Yes, that’s how it happened.”

Their eyes locked;  she laughs…… and so does he(!!) for the first time.

This same sentiment is the theme of the compilation Exit Laughing, How Humor Takes the Sting Out of Death, edited by Victoria Zackheim (North Atlantic Books, 2012).

This comforting book makes the reader feel as if she has been invited to a dinner party to share not only good food, but personal stories about how humor appeared at times of death of a loved one.

Most of the stories are written about the author’s experience of caring for an elderly parent. The stories reveal how humor arises, unplanned and unchoreographed – it just happens in the juxtaposition of dealing with one of the greatest mysteries of living- that of dying.

Through the stories we experience  the power humor has  to dissolve old competitions between siblings, and long-held grudges against parents. Moments of profound tenderness and love make surprise appearances. These are not contrived tales or overly sweetened messages. Each entry is written with clear eyes and an opened-heart.

This “generosity of spirit” can empower and inspire the rest of us to step into the role of caregiver, free of old  and petty arguments, eager to feel the unique sort of love that is only possible when caring for a dying parent.

Read Full Post »


You can listen to our interview and discussion about bringing wellness tools to caregivers on the eCareDiary blog talk radio

Read Full Post »

Transitional Keys grew from the field of aging- so we are keenly interested in articles such as this:


Take a look at this guy’s resume and ask yourself whether you’d hire him at an ad agency. He’s worked for clients such as Pepsico, ConAgra, Walmart, Skintimate Brands, the NBA, and General Mills.

In a normal industry, that kind of experience would be valued as gold.

Yet David Shea spent all of last year unemployed (or freelancing) simply because he’s 56 and has gray hair, according to Ad Age.

Welcome to Madison Avenue, where experience and actual client knowledge work against you.

Agencies favor 20-somethings, particularly in their creative departments, because they assume that youngsters are more cutting age. I recently spoke with an agency CEO who agreed. When I asked him what type of experience he likes to see on a job applicant’s resume, he replied that he wasn’t looking for experience. Or even a resume.

He was more interested in what movies and bands they listened to.

The problem is that the consumers they’re marketing to are increasingly not young people. Young people are a declining portion of the U.S. population. The International Longevity Center at Columbia University told Ad Age that by 2025, one of every five Americans will be 65 or older.

And it’s not as if the over-50s are all reading newspapers and writing each other letters on typewriters, either. They love their iPads. And if you give them grandchildren, they’ll be bothering you on Facebook and Skype all the time. And, of course, older people tend to have a lot more disposable income than teenagers.

Yet age discrimination is rife with the ad business:

At the CEO level, that discrimination is reversed. Both WPP and Publicis have post-retirement age CEOs, and neither shows any immediate sign of leaving.

As I’ve said before: Eventually, Madison Avenue and its clients will figure out that it needs to start paying a lot more attention to the silver dollar. At that point it might find its cadre of 20-somethings rather lacking in insights.

Read Full Post »

New article on Transitional Keys appears in GENERATIONS – Journal of American Society on Aging.

This current Fall journal features articles all related to the work of anthropologist, Dr. Barbara Myerhoff – who was the inspirational force for Transitional Keys.

Here’s the article, Generations

Read Full Post »

Springtime! When blossoms burst and birds sing.
See how Spring is welcomed in Takayama Japan

Read Full Post »

In 1970 Joan Dye Gussow began teaching the course, Nutritional Ecology at Columbia Teachers College. It was a course she designed as she was a doctoral student, and newly appointed chair of the Nutrition Department. This course proved to be the beginning of an inquiry that “connected the dots” between the American diet, food advertising, how people spend their food dollars, agricultural systems, the landscape, and the inescapable and glorious interconnected web of life.

She is a seminal voice in support of sustainable agriculture and has influenced and inspired the legions that now strive for a sustainable food system. Locavores, Slow Foodies, dumpster divers, CSA members and more, lean on her scholarship, her insights, her passion, and her example.

Growing, Older was written after the swift death of her husband, the artist Alan Gussow. His passing happened shortly after they downsized their suburban home, to move to a river town on the Hudson River. They moved into a house they chose for the immediate view of the river and sky, and land to have a garden so they could grow their own food.

Her previous book, This Organic Life, was the first volume that chronicled putting her philosophy into action. In Growing, Older Joan shares honest reflections about the loss of her husband, juxtaposed with the work involved with maintaining the house and the garden that is repeatedly flooded by the Hudson River.

She is candid. And, she is lucky. She concludes the book acknowledging that she got what she wanted from life, and that she earned it from hard and rewarding work. Though deeply pragmatic, the book is also speckled with charm and grace.

In the chapter Bees, she quotes a conversation she had with a local beekeeper about  Colony Collapse Disorder – the dramatic  emergency brought about by the tragic disappearance  of bees; “But do you know what’s really killing the bees?…..They’re dying of unrequited love. They love what they do for us. We just don’t love them back enough.”

Her response, “What a theme for the whole planet!”is especially poignant as we strive to figure out what ARE sustainable values, and how do our feelings and attitudes about growing older, aging, and caring for older people  figure into that inquiry.

Again, thank you, Joan.

Read Full Post »

This is a lovely book, Lastingness, The Art of Old Age by Nicholas Delbanco. The author shares his  lifelong and  deep appreciation of  artists and their work. He also shares  personal reflections, memories and  philosophical musings  about meaning, creativity and productivity. He lovingly takes us through a selected gallery of artists who shared “… some common denominator, some stubborn refusal to retire or let well enough alone.”

The title may sound resonate of the term coined by satirist Stephen Colbert’s, “truthiness”, alluding to strong opinions based on strong hunches or gut feelings. But Truthiness feels  dangerous, and Lastingness is warm, and  invokes the comfort of mindful and honest reflection.

There aren’t any answers or grand conclusions here. The author speculates about the  insights brain science might reveal  about the resilience of a creative mind rather than reference the science that IS now available; and he avoids the digital  briar patch and the implications that now artwork never dies and can  live forever in digital form. Instead,  Lastingness invites the reader to take some time and reflect, appreciate, and bring a heightened value  to the short amount of time we have to muse,  to create, and to appreciate how art can move the human soul, motivate the heart, and challenge the mind.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »