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ELDER NEWS: 11 November 2009

Posted Nov 11 2009 10:01pm

Several items of interest to elders today, and let's start with the holiday – it is Veterans' Day, the time we set aside to honor the men and women who put their lives at risk in combat for the rest of us. Given the frightful nature of what they do, one day doesn't seem enough and there are some people in Bangor, Maine, who have been making every day Veterans Day since the Iraq War began.

Tonight, the PBS documentary series, POV, broadcasts the story of these elder men and women in an episode titled, “The Way We Get By,” about the volunteers who greet every soldier traveling through Bangor on their way to and from the United States. As the program's website notes, the film

“...takes a look behind the hearty smiles, handshakes, heartfelt thanks and free cookies and cell phones the greeters bring to the airport, and discovers a world in which the seniors are engaged in their own struggles with aging, disease, loneliness, memories of war and personal loss.

“The film discovers a remarkable symbiosis between the soldiers' fighting mission and the greeters' fight to overcome pain, fatigue and depression in making sure no soldier departs or returns without thanks.”

”The Way We Get By” concentrates on three of the “troop greeters” - 87-year-old Bill Knight who served in World War II; 76-year-old Joan Gaudet who has a grandson and granddaughter readying to serve in Iraq; and 74-year-old Jerry Mundy who lost a son at an early age. Here is the trailer:

Find out more about the elder troop greeters and the film here, and you can check here for broadcast times on your PBS station. Beginning tomorrow, 12 November, the program will available for viewing online for one month.

* * *

As we have discussed here in the past, more than a third of people 65 and older take a fall each year and one in ten of those breaks a bone. Twenty percent of elders who suffer a hip fracture die within a year.

To some degree, we can “fall-proof” our homes through such means as removing throw rugs, installing grab bars in the bathroom, keeping clutter off the floors, improving lighting, etc. and now science is coming to the rescue with some inexpensive digital tools to monitor elders at home and provide personally-tailored fall prevention measures.

According to a story in the Sunday New York Times,

“For an older person, a fall is often a byproduct of some other health problem: cardiovascular weakness, changes in medication, the beginnings of dementia, gradual muscle degeneration. Motion analysis aided by inexpensive sensors and computing, researchers say, may well become a new 'vital sign,' like a blood pressure reading, that can yield all sorts of clues about health.”

One study using these methods has reduced falls by 30 percent and researchers believe that can be increased to 50 or 60 percent. There is much more to this and it's fascinating. Read more here.

* * *

Yesterday, in his Reflections column, Saul Friedman mentioned what fun it is to watch Jon Stewart on The Daily Show take down members of Congress for their idiocies.

Stewart and his team often succeed magnificently and sometimes they are only mediocre. That's forgivable; no one can turn out that much comedy and satire four days a week and hit the jackpot every time although Stewart and company come close. And occasionally, they turn out something that deserves to be enshrined in a comedy hall of fame (if there isn't such a thing, there ought to be).

There was such a moment last week. In a solo impression of the Republicans' latest superstar crazed buffoon, Stewart is so dead-on and so funny that, as someone noted online, he should win an Emmy for this single performance alone. I've watched it every day since it was broadcast and am still blown away each time.

Savor this Jon Stewart take on Glenn Beck. It is one of the most brilliant impressions ever created.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Claire Jean: Remembering

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