Bipartisan support needed for elder visibility

Written by Bette Dewing on . Posted in Dewing Things Better, Opinion and Column, Opinion Our Town, Opinion West Side Spirit, Our Town, West Side Spirit.


Critical elder issues are missing from the mainstream

Always a lot to talk about, and though I do the talking here, thankfully some of you email a response. (Response is so important!) And, much as I wish cyberspace hadn’t been invented (TV was bad enough), I worry that many in the 70-plus age group are being left out of society’s mainstream even more because they don’t have access to the internet.

Overcoming “being left out” takes a whole lot of doing, so let’s do some immediate good and help prevent a whole lot of falling. I’ve just learned www.icanwalk.com or 1-888-667-4046 can tell you about the revolutionary Sure Step cane that strangers stop me on the street to ask about, as I myself use it.

When I was waiting to get into the Vince Giordano Jam Session at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, Jane Russo of the American Heart and Stroke Association stopped to ask about the cane, remarking that a family member could use the extra stability.

So check it out, and—oh, how good for the heart and whatever ails us (especially those allergic to post-swing-era music) are the Sidney Bechet Society concerts? Special guest, music legend George Wein, now 82, needed a helping hand getting to the piano at the Giordano Jam Session, but not in getting his moving musical message across. Songs about elderhood are also needed; about family, friendship, love and even the “blues.” (Such liberating themes also belong in 85-year-old Barbara Cooke’s repertoire.) Check out www.sidneybechet.org for information about the November 5 “Sidney Bechet and the New Orleans Trumpet Greats” concert.

Here’s to making this happy pre-rock-era music part of election campaigns’ musical mix, along with bipartisan promises to get it back on the charts. And here’s to making elder people visible on those campaign trails and platforms—especially those needing canes and walkers and wheelchairs. But where is that first grandmother who takes such incomparable care of the first daughters? And where are the challenger’s elders? They must exist, since Mormons are known for leading healthy lives.

But critical elder problems are woefully missing from mainstream view; how many Yankee fans knew Joe Girardi’s dad suffered from Alzheimer’s disease for many years before his recent departure from this life? And this only made the news because his son, “with a heavy heart,” managed the first game of the ALS playoffs only 24 hours later.

And here’s to mainstreaming this grieving son’s tribute to Joe senior for teaching him “the value of hard work and making a living, and being a good husband and father.” He added, “If I could be half the father and husband he was, then I’m doing something right.”

That’s all-important, but now this son must teach the world about being, yes, a good offspring, but above all, describe the suffering, like no other, caused by this dreaded disorder, with no known cause or cure or truly effective treatment. And protest how it’s often hidden with even a stigma attached! Is this why so little was said about the late George Steinbrenner’s failing brain power? Attention must be paid.

With Halloween upon us, we might also pay attention to the spiritual elements of the holiday. There’s comfort and hope in this passage from the Litany of Commemoration that Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church used to print in its All Saints Day Sunday bulletin: “For dear friends and kindred ministering in the spiritual world; whose faces we see no more but whose love is with us forever … for every hallowed memory and our abiding hope that where they are, we shall be also.”

dewingbetter@aol.com

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