The Mortality Club

THE WAR OF THE AGES: Chicken Little and Indiana Jones

July 31, 2016

Tags: pace, fast, slow, fear, New York, driving fast, driving slow

The pace and tempo of old and young are different and out of sync. Older people move more slowly than younger people. This frustrates the young and intimidates the old. Older people walk slowly because their bones are brittle, their balance is off, and they’re afraid of falling. They stop every few feet because their fibrillating heart makes them short of breath. They drive slowly because their synapses don’t fire quite as fast, cataracts are forming and their peripheral vision isn’t what it used to be. They even eat slowly. That may because they aren’t in a hurry, or because they need to chew their food more thoroughly to digest it, or because they just can’t seem to get the fork and spoon to cooperate.

In good humor, let me tell you a story about my mother and spaghetti. She loved spaghetti with meat sauce. She ordered it at every opportunity. My siblings and I tried repeatedly to teach her how to use her fork and spoon and twirl the pasta into a tight roll before attempting to put it in her mouth. She never quite got the hang of that. She persisted in attempting to pick up the pasta one piece at a time with her fork and put it daintily in her mouth. The strand of pasta would hang from the corner of her petite mouth, spewing sauce all over her chin. That made her nuts. She’d put down her fork, and carefully wipe her face with the napkin and then begin again. The meal could last for hours. We finally got to the point where we’d take her to restaurants that didn’t have spaghetti on the menu. (more…)

THE WAR OF THE AGES: The Old Phart and the Upstart

July 24, 2016

Tags: ageism, angry old man, rebel, upstart

The Old Phart refuses to give in or give up. He or she will stand his (her) ground and yell and scream if necessary to be heard over the din created by disinterested and disrespectful younger people who want the obstinate old trouble maker to simply get out of their way. The Old Phart has a thing or two to say to the younger members of the group whom he views not as legitimate heirs to the throne, but as Upstarts who have not earned the right to rule.

Even when the experiences and expertise of an elderly person are relevant to the challenges a younger person is facing, there can be conflict. This happens when the once influential old man or old woman who sat on top of the chain of command now has no direct reports and no legitimate authority. Too often, that old man or old woman holds onto the demeanor and directive communications style that was once appropriate. He or she intrudes and tells the younger people in his world what to do and how to do it. The interference is strongly resented. (more…)

Money Matters

July 16, 2016

Tags: money, elder abuse, exploitation, pensioner, retirement

Money creates choices and maintains options. In doing so, it enables elderly people to be masters of their own destinies. Elderly people without money or assets can have a terrible time.

Think about Shakespeare’s King Lear. Lear decided to dispose of his estate while he was still alive. He assumed that the recipients of his wealth would be grateful and therefore eager to care for him until he died. He decided to gift each of his three daughters a proportion of the estate commensurate with her love for him. He failed to understand that his daughter Cordelia was expressing deep affection when she said, “I love you more than salt.” Insulted by the comparison, he gave all of his assets to the two daughters who played most effectively to his aging ego. (more…)

Old People are Works of Art

July 10, 2016

Tags: wrinkles, old face, smiling old woman, loving ourselves

On Facebook, I have a page devoted to my book, The Hourglass: Life as an Aging Mortal. One of the postings has received more than four thousand comments, “likes” and other delightful reactions. The theme of the post is a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “Beautiful young people are acts of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.”

I posted the quote with this photograph of a smiling older lady which I found and purchased on a digital photo site. Many people have assumed that it’s my face in the photo. I wish!!! I am stunned by the extraordinarily positive response to the quotation and the photo, and thus wanted to share it with you. I believe if we can think like this, when we look in the mirror, we might just learn to like our physical selves as much as we did when we were younger. If we are to live rich and full lives when we are older, it is important that we learn to love ourselves, warts and wrinkles and all. It shouldn’t be hard if we give up the notion that only the young are beautiful. (more…)

THE WAR OF THE AGES: Technophobes vs. Digital Dudes

July 3, 2016

Tags: technology, technophobes, digital age, texting, smartphones

Technology intensifies the great divide between the young and old. Sometimes it even exacerbates the war of the ages. Many older people just don’t think the new technology is relevant to their lives. Many are afraid of it. They feel threatened by the proliferation of new gadgets like smart phones and tablets that make it possible to get connected and stay connected with anyone, anywhere, anytime, and all the time. The longer they resist the new technology, the more foreign and frightening it becomes.

Young people today are all Digital Dudes. They are on the move. With their smart phones, they can keep track of friends’ locations. If someone gets an idea and wants to stage a big event with little planning, all they have to do is send out text messages to everyone on their contact list and urge all within striking distance to come. (more…)

Selected Works

Psychology/Aging and Dying
In youth we are invincible. The world is forever: we are forever. But, sentient creatures that we are, time inevitably plays its part. Aging and illness shadow those early sensibilities until one day we feel the lurking presence of death itself. Fearful of our own dark thoughts, too often we keep such anxieties to ourselves. To deny our own mortality is a parlor game of sorts, played within our own heads and frequently played alone. Pamela Cuming will have none of it. In her latest book, The Hourglass, she throws back the parlor curtains and lets the light stream in. This is a powerful, objective, unflinching, and yet profoundly empathic work that explores the rewards of honest caring⎯the privilege and the pain⎯not only for one’s friends and family but also for one’s self. Drawing upon an uncanny intuitive understanding of human foible plus a broad knowledge of character development, honed from decades of consulting in the business world, this is a book filled with personal stories both engaging and instructive. In short, The Hourglass is a must read for all those who seek to live life to the full, from start to finish. ________________ Peter C. Whybrow MD, Director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Beavior at UCLA and award-winning author of The Well-Tuned Brain: Neuroscience and the Life Well Lived.
Fiction: Publication Date Nov 14, 2014
Set in New York City and Los Angeles between August 1999 and November 2001, The Stranger Box is the story of a mother and a daughter caught like two white dwarf stars in separate orbits, destined to collide. Though she does everything in her considerable power to insure the child never finds out who she is, the vain and self-obsessed Katherine Blair is unable to change the course of her destiny or evade Eden, the resourceful daughter whose pursuit is fueled by the desire for revenge and the determination to steal the family that has been denied her.
Memoir
Widow’s Walk is a bold, brave, and candid admission of bereavement, weakness, and, ultimately, strength.
Nonfiction
A strategic guide to organizational and personal effectiveness
Turf is a direct, and sometimes disturbing book about the use and abuse of power in organizations.

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