I tried to take down the Christmas menagerie in the yard and found that three of them are frozen solidly to the ground, so they'll be with us until we have a thaw. The bitter cold this week also reminded me that one of the many things that happens as we get older is having more difficulty adjusting to extremes of cold and heat. One of my favorite things to do when it is this cold is to sit inside where it's warm and read, enjoying the beauty of the snow from the inside of the house. Here are a few things I have been reading that may be of interest to you.
The first is an amusing column written by Calvin Trillin in the New York Times Book Review, “When All Thumbs Becomes a Compliment.” As we get older, we all recognize our growing difficulty keeping up with new technology. Trillin points out that language changes, too, over time, and the words and phrases we use may become obsolete or the meanings may even change. Think about what describing someone as “all thumbs” means to you, and then compare it to young people who can work wonders on their cell phones with their two thumbs. Trillin identifies other expressions where the meaning is changing or may not be understandable to someone under 40 years of old.
You can read the article at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/29/books/review/idioms-language-smartphone.html
In a more serious vein, I am reading The Warmth of Other Suns, a book by Isabel Wilkerson about the migration of large numbers of African Americans from the South to the North and West. I had wanted to read the book since I saw a review when it was originally published in 2010, but had never bought it. Thanks to our daughter-in-law, Cindy, I received a copy over the holidays. The book is compelling. Ms. Wilkerson interviewed three people at length who made this journey and interweaves their stories and briefer accounts from other people with a history of how Jim Crow laws in the South re-created a harsh form of servitude, and ultimately led millions of African Americans to leave to seek a better life. Ms. Wilkerson does not preach, but lets people tell their stories.
Another interesting story in the NYT underscores how the Dutch are a practical people. When they recognize a problem, they come up with solutions. The article, “Afraid of Falling? For Older Adults, the Dutch Have a Cure,” describes an approach to reducing falls among older people. Falls are quite common and can lead to serious injuries or even death. There has been excellent research in the US and other countries on risk of falls and on efforts to reduce falls in hospitals. But less has been done to bring fall prevention into the community.
What the Dutch have hit upon is a combination of creating awareness of the conditions that lead to falls with learning how to fall safely. The developers of this program argue that fear of falling creates a self-fulfilling prophesy where an older person restricts activities that could lead to a fall and thus becomes more frail and less flexible and more likely to fall. The program builds people’s confidence to engage in activities. There are terrific photos and video with the article, so you can see how the program works.
For our own fall prevention, it helps to de-clutter the house and remove hazards like throw rugs and poor lighting. Grab bars in bathrooms are useful. Exercises that improve strength, flexibility and balance can also be helpful.
You can access the article at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/02/world/europe/netherlands-falling-elderly.html
Finally, I mention a story that you almost certainly have not read. It was in our local newspaper this morning. A car crashed into a cow. The cow had gotten past a fence and went into the road. The car was disabled by the crash, but neither the driver nor the cow were injured.
Sometimes it’s great to live in a place where a cow versus car story makes the news.