Saturday, September 19, 2009

An Afterthought to my Previous Post

Lest you think that The Clare represents a racist society, I assure you that it does not. We are integrated by race, religion, ethnicity, and any other standard you can think of (except perhaps economically). I suspect that this incident has more to do with politics than with race, and as a whole, we all get along very well.

Some Uncomfortable Thoughts about Elders

This is the tranquil view from my window on a recent weekend. However, I have felt less calm since I got a disturbing phone call yesterday. It seems that the son of one of my fellow residents took issue with the commentary written by one of our black residents in the September issue of our newsletter, The Clarion, and wrote an angry letter to The Clare's acting Executive Director.

In my view, the commentary was liberal but inoffensive, and it was accompanied by an invitation to submit opposing views; still, the letter writer stated that he didn't want to find this newsletter at his mother's or father's door again. That's all right with me, but I was led to some uncomfortable thoughts. Assuming that this complaint originated with a resident rather than his or her son, have elders become so set in their ways that they cannot abide controversy? Can't they accept opposing views, or anything they don't agree with? Whatever happened to our democratic urge to fire off letters to the editors when we want to criticize something? Do we have at least one closet racist, or at best an arch conservative, in our midst?

I was reminded of TV images of seniors protesting imaginary "death squads" in the health care debate and those praising Medicare while objecting to all government involvement. Whatever happened to logic and fairness? While I have found Clare residents to be generally intelligent and fair-minded, I was caught off guard by that letter. How I wish that the resident involved would identify himself or herself to me and/or write a scathing criticism of the article.

I am a supporter of freedom of the press, including senior newsletters, and this incident, plus the earlier censorship fiasco, made me wonder if we elders are supposed to be sheeplike followers of whatever is the majority position or the senior residence management's view? Without free speech and a free press, life is not worth living, and that is true for elders as much as it is for the young. Let's have intelligent controversy involving logic rather than anger! As long as we have the ability to think, let's do so, and let no young people be surprised to discover disagreements among seniors. Assuming that we all are --or should be-- alike is very dangerous.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

NFPW Conference Photos

The Illinois Contingent at the Awards Ceremony (left) and the Communicator of Achievement Banquet.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reflections on the NFPW Conference, September 10-12

This year's conference of the National Federation of Press Women was held in San Antonio, Texas, this year. This is the second national conference of the group that I have attended (the other was in 2007), and I basically enjoyed the experience. However, I was reminded that traveling is tough for us elders. Here are a few observations (not really meant to be complaints).

1. Must the airport experience be so difficult? I understand about security, but the time it takes to personally examine my whole body with a wand because my two knee replacements set off the alarm seems a bit unnecessary. I certainly can't look like a dangerous terrorist, especially at my age. This process may deter me from flying again for a while.

Then there is the long walk from terminal to gate. Of course I'm old enough, though not visibly impaired, to request a wheelchair, and I often did so before my knee operations. Now I consider myself reasonably healthy and fit, but that walk is a real challenge. Whatever happened to those carts that used to ply the aisles to transport anyone who requested a ride? I only saw one, and it was marked for special VIPs, some of whom looked young and vigorous when they passed me. Can't we older commoners have some help? I've discovered that brisk walking for long distances makes me short of breath and in need of a seat, and often there is no place to sit until I reach my gate, or the baggage claim area when I arrive.

What's with the baggage fees? This is my first time having to take out a credit card once each way to pay $15 to transport my small bag. Many carry similar bags aboard, but I'm not strong enough to do that. And the size and number of bags carried onto a full plane are mind-boggling. There have always been too many carry-ons, but the charges seem to encourage virtually everyone to carry on as much as possible. The loading and unloading of those overhead bins is quite a process; one seems to risk life and limb avoiding having a large bag fall on one's head.

2. We stayed in a nice enough hotel, but I was not especially comfortable. For one thing, the shower was in a slippery bathtub without grab bars, and I did not dare take a shower. One slip (and I'm not very sure-footed) could have disabled me for the rest of my life. I had to make do with what my mother used to call "sponge baths," so I hope I didn't have B.O.

Most of the lamps in the room apparently had burned-out bulbs or other problems. Since there was one good working lamp for reading, as well as a ceiling light, I didn't register any complaints. Actually, the most annoying feature of the place was the toilet. I'd always thought that all toilets are pretty much alike, but then I had my knee replacements. My condo toilets were both rather low, so I had to buy a raised seat. Those here at The Clare are of more reasonable height, and they've given me no trouble. Those at the San Antonio hotel hit a new low. They were too low for all but the smallest child. Getting both down and up provided me with real challenges, and when possible, I used the handicapped stalls in pubic restrooms (not very useful in the middle of the night). What was this hotel thinking? I've never seen such low toilets anywhere outside a child care center. Apparently all the rooms were so-equipped.

All this made me ponder, as usual, the "joys" of growing old. Do I really need to request airport wheelchairs and handicap-accessible rooms when I travel? Or should I just quit traveling altogether? I don't think of myself as a fragile old lady, but this trip make me wonder. It's nice to be back home!

(As I said, I did enjoy the conference, although I ate too much. See my other blog, "Write Your Life!" for an account of my awards.)

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Answer is Yes!

A while ago I wrote, "Are we seniors getting too comfortable?" You may have noticed that it's been a long time since that last post. Yes, the problem is laziness or inertia. I've certainly had time to add posts here, but it's so easy to relax at The Clare. Even though I don't participate in all of the activities offered, I do venture out from time to time. However, I love to read, work puzzles, watch the Cubs games on TV, and just enjoy the lake view.

That said, I want to mention that I actually completed the summer fitness challenge, or so the fitness director says, even though my visits to the fitness center with its machines have been few and far between. What I have been doing is going to the morning exercise class three times a week without fail. That amazes me, since I've never been a fitness buff, or been fit, for that matter. To drag my overweight body to the class is hard, but I'm glad I've done it. Our fitness director, Jan, is great. She knows she is dealing with old people, so she's very understanding. I haven't been able to raise my right arm since an accident in 1942, and I'll never be able to. Jan understands, and lets me adopt the exercises to what I can do. Of course a lot of my peers are far more agile and athletic than I, but no one criticizes. I'd be lost in a class of young, toned bodies, but here it's different.

So what else is happening at The Clare? The Clarion, the residents' newsletter I edit, is going well, thanks to a willing and able staff of about seven. We meet once a month to discuss the contents, and I think The Clarion is getting better and better.

Catastrophe has struck, too. About two weeks ago, a gasket broke in the ceiling over the lounge, sending hot water cascading down. The devastation was huge; the water not only ruined the piano beneath the leak, but ran down a floor to destroy some offices and even down manuy fioors to flood the mail room. What a mess! We have been living with scaffolding and other equipment, but it's being handled well, with interruptions kept to a minimum. I hear the good news is that all this is covered by insurance. I certainly hope so!

I'll try to get back here more often. I'm going to the National Federation of Press Women's conference in San Antonio next week, so that should give me something to write about. Who knows what else will happen in this relatively uneventful, comfortable life? I'll try to avoid getting too comfortable again.