Caught in the Web of Time

autumn-1072827_960_720As the leaves turn, the sky changes, and school begins anew it always brings back childhood memories for me. Think of the autumns  you lived through. If you keep even the most erratic form of a diary or calendar books, you have some perspective. Have you changed? We scrutinize ourselves for lines or spots or receding hairlines, clothes that now tug, or shoes that don’t fit, but what about the INSIDE? Have you really changed over the years  – your dharma  – the essentials that make you, you?

Twenty years ago, when I was exploring why some people age so well and others don’t, I learned from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study that in aging we actually just enhance our essential selves. Hard wiring gets more fixed — though we create many more offshoots. That means that two 75-years olds are far different from one another than they would have been at age 18.  Nonetheless, the curious person becomes more curious; the grouchy one, more grouchy.

One advantage of the World Wide Web is to have an easy way back in time. To see the songs and books popular in our youth, the actual facts our memories may condense or blur. OMG is it REALLY 55 years since Marilyn Monroe died? Ah, i THOUGHT it was a Sunday when I was born! But had forgotten that the Berlin Wall was erected overnight in 1961.

Long-term memory remains even as we forget the name of the person we just met ten minutes ago. So although the Web is fantastic for instant facts and data, it’s more fun to try to name all the presidents with their vice presidents throughout your lifetime without any assistants, screen or Siri.

I’m astounded at the memories our older learners at Generations on Line recall. And very happy to provide them with onscreen instructions for those lapses in the unimportant though useful thoughts, such as how to make the @sign for an email address.

Here’s to autumn, to happy memories, to perspective, to hard wiring, and to the World Wide Web – whose first website was posted in 1990! (I had to look that up!)


That Einstein quote – and who really wrote it!

The other day someone sent me one of those circulating jokes titled “What Einstein Feared Most Has Arrived”.  NO! it wasn’t about Nukes. it was a series of photos showing a family at the beach….sitting on bench together — all staring down grim faced at their phones. A couple on a date, food in mouth, typing on their individual devices. Three young women clearly in a Museum of Art, seated on a bench, doing email. And Einstein’s quote: “I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.” But the grammar threw me, and I wondered if A.E. really ever said that. So, once again, through the fast free power of the Web I consulted the Quote Investigator ( who debunked the attribution.

So who would issue this “fake” quote? Perhaps one of the 17 million older, wiser Americans whose perspective brings this phone fixation into greater clarity. We all talk about tech compulsion but since we also do it, we don’t rage. They do!

Our elders who are by chance or choice offline are building up defenses that makes them reluctant to join us, despite the obvious advantages of free instant information and connections.  I’ve met many of them over the past two decades as we created Generations on Line (

Who are they, and why are they mad? “If I get one of those things, my grandkids are never gonna visit me — they’ll just ‘text’,” was one answer from a woman with warm eyes and a resolved smile. As we approach the contrived holiday of “Grandparents’ Day” September 10, perhaps a lovely compromise would be the gift of sharing this wondrous tool called the Internet with them along with a commitment to use it with them only to enhance and not replace the face to face to connection. FaceTime, anyone?

This author and her team have created free apps with large type and familiar language instructions on every screen. “Easy Tablet Help For Seniors” in Google Play and “Generations on Line” in iTunes and Apple APP store. I think A.E. would approve.


What makes a woman beautiful?

How to look better at 75 than 50?

It’s in the eyes!

I looked around the table at 12 older women in a low income subsidized residence building last week.

At first I saw the posture, revealing or signaling a range of attitudes — from hunched helplessness to ramrod pride.

Then I noticed the mouths – frowning as though it was the normal state for that mouth. Or open in wonder, ready to laugh. Or tightly shut — perhaps so not to let the wrong words out. These mouths had worn this frame for decades.

Hair styles or scarves –one even in a shower cap  – can’t escape notice.

But what really told the story was the eyes.

The hooded, half closed ones that seemed to stop just behind the pupil with no visible interest in the present.

The crinkly, smiley ones that looked with obvious seeing.

Those smiling eyes moved with the moment. they revealed curiosity.

After studying aging – and why some people seem to age so well and others not for nearly two decades, I’ve learned the key to successful aging: it’s curiosity! The curious stay flexible in mind and spirit. They look beautiful because they are looking at you.

Here are some of my favorite beautiful women pictures.

Camel to care-giver!

he doesn’t ask for much — but…

So I now know what it means to be a family “caregiver” – which is a silly word because families always care for one another even in perfect health. Nonetheless, it has particular meaning when applied to an invalid – sudden or chronic. And wow – shredding up a quadricep while getting off a camel in Mongolia was sudden and unexpected! Makes for a great story, but also fascinating insights into the world of disconnected or connected medical support and the adaptive technologies and aidsneeded. Lots has been written about this – but I see it through the prism of my work in getting elders online. As my adorable husband —  whose quadricep was shredded – -maneuvers walker and cane up the many steps of our house, wearing a full leg fixed brace for months, he doesn’t ask for much – not pills, not pillows, not pets – all he wants is his iPad! That connects him to the real world and business as usual.

Think about life without connectivity next time you are researching schedules, ordering supplies, writing to friends, opening Facebook, checking the weather, browsing a catalog, or watching CNN online.

More than a third of people over age 65 – and far more than that over age 71 – have never used email or the Internet. Some know what they’re missing and others don’t. This little adventure in Nightingale land sure makes me grateful that I have devoted my professional life these past two decades to this cause. Generations on Line is overcoming the barriers of access, skill and intimidation that prevent our oldest and often wisest generations from connecting…..

Stay tuned and we’ll see how it all turns out!