Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Cab Ride I'll Never Forget

Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. One time I arrived in the middle of the night for a pick up at a building that was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.

Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door and knocked.

"Just a minute," answered a frail, elderly voice.

I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.

The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.

"It's nothing," I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated."

"Oh, you're such a good boy," she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"

"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly.

"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice."

I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.

"I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don't have very long."
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."
We drove in silence to the address she had given me.

It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

"How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse.

"Nothing," I said.

"You have to make a living," she answered.

"There are other passengers."

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Kent Nerburn

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Shoebox

A man and woman had been married for more than 60 years.  They had shared everything. They had talked about everything. They had kept no secrets from each other except that the little old woman had a shoebox in the top of her closet that she had cautioned her husband never to open or ask her about. For all of these years, he had never thought about the box, but one day the little old woman got very sick and the doctor said she would not recover.

In trying to sort out their affairs, the little old man took down the shoebox and took it to his wife's bedside. She agreed that it was time that he should know what was in the box. When he opened it, he found two knitted dolls and a stack of money totaling $95,000. 

He asked her about the contents. 

"When we were to be married," she said, "my grandmother told me the secret of a happy marriage was to never argue. She told me that if I ever got angry with you, I should just keep quiet and knit a doll." 

The little old man was so moved; he had to fight back tears. Only two precious dolls were in the box. She had only been angry with him two times in all those years of living and loving. He almost burst with happiness. 

"Honey," he said, "that explains the dolls, but what about all of this money?  Where did it come from?"

"Oh," she said, "that's the money I made from selling the dolls."

- Anonymous

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Beautiful Older Women of the World

You can only perceive real beauty in a person as they get older.  -- Anouk Aimee
Beauty is found in all ages and cultures.  I put together this music video because I wanted to showcase beautiful women from all over the world.  Whether they are wrinkled and grey, or have had surgery or botox, I think they are all beautiful in their own way.

Go to this link to see my video on, Beautiful Older Women of the World:

Age well,
Angela Gentile

Saturday, February 12, 2011

“Diapers” No More

Loss of bladder or bowel control (incontinence) is a medical condition that often comes with shame, embarrassment and sometimes denial. The stigma attached to this condition often makes it difficult for people to seek the help needed, possibly putting them into a more embarrassing situation (such as having unprotected accidents in public, smelling of urine or feces, or isolating themselves).  Part of this problem has to do with the fact that "babies wear diapers", and we continue to use the word “diapers” for adult products.

If you live long enough, there is a chance that you may need to wear a continence management product that keeps you dry and dignified.  Statistics show that 1 in 5 older adults experience problems with bladder and/or bowel control.  Some medical conditions can be treated with surgery, medications or exercises (like Kegels).  Some conditions need to be managed with products.

The term “diaper” is used to refer to absorbent products that are used for babies and children that are not able to control their urine flow and/or bowels. This is a developmental issue that eventually the child will grow out of.   When adults have problems with their bladder or bowels, it is usually due to a medical problem or a problem with their cognition.  Although children and adults use a similar type of product, it’s important to change the language when referring to adults.

What I want to bring to your attention here is that although many people who are older still recognize and use the term “diapers”, there is a cultural shift that is discouraging this word, as it can be offensive to some.  The following terms are more acceptable and encouraged.

Instead of using the word "diapers", considering the following alternatives:

  • Briefs
  • Incontinent pads (also used in the UK)
  • Incontinence products
  • Adult incontinent products
  • Absorbent products
  • Disposable products
  • Protective undergarments
  • Disposable incontinent pads
  • Underwear (for those who are cognitively impaired)

Sometimes it’s helpful to use one of the above words, with “adult diaper” as a qualifier if the person does not quite understand what you are talking about.  The word “incontinence” is only understood by half of the population.  It’s helpful to let the person know that we don’t use the term “diaper” for adults anymore.  Adults are not big babies.  We want to provide them with the respect and dignity they deserve. 

When I asked the company that sells DEPEND absorbent products what language they use and find acceptable, they replied with:
          “…we try to refer to all our products by their name. 
          Or we may use the terms ‘pull on’ vs. ‘open at the

Let’s all do our part in ensuring dignity, respect and appropriate language when talking about products used for adults.  After all, those with medical conditions deserve respect, and avoiding embarrassment with such a sensitive topic is the least we can do.

- Angela Gentile

Friday, February 11, 2011

Aging Beauties

Celebrity status depends a lot on how a woman looks as she ages.  Plastic surgeries, botox, and skin care can all help women "fight" the signs of aging.  Most important is how a woman caries herself as she ages, and what kinds of messages she gives to the world.  Some plastic surgeries completely change the look of how a person looks, and it's not always for the better.

Wrinkles and saggy skin are a natural part of aging.  Do images of aging beauties (that most likely have had a lot of help in the anti-aging department) harm people?  Or does it inspire?  Is this a positive view of aging?  Or is it unrealistic?

In the USA, there are many beautiful aging women in show/music business, and here is a great video I found on  It's called, "20 Most Beautiful Women Over 50". It is set to an Etta James song. Not everyone can afford the money it takes to keep up with the wrinkles and sags, but here are some famous women who appear to be aging well in the looks department. To go to this link, click here:

There are probably many more women that can be added to this list. Who would you add?

Age well,
Angela Gentile

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Language and Terms for People who are Past Middle Age

There are many terms used for people who are in the 60-ish plus age category.  Those who move from that undefined "middle age" into the next age category don't want to be labeled with a negative term that makes them sound "old".  Sometimes I wonder when did "old" become a bad word?  The majority of today's older people are remaining quite active and longevity is challenging our beliefs about the ways in which we refer to our older population. Words such as elderly, seniors and senior citizens often conjure up negative connotations.  Political correctness, and acceptable language is helping to eradicate ageism and help people in their later years (and others) look at their stage of life in a positive light.  Here's what I've found in my research in terms of language:

Thumbs down to:
Seniors (now considered passé to the Baby Boomers) 
Senior Citizens
Elderly (associated with the term geriatric or those who live with senility) 

Thumbs up to:
Older adults
Third age (the age of personal fulfillment termed by the late Peter Laslett) 
Active agers
Elders (Very different from elderly.  Adopted from the First Nations community in Canada.  Elders are revered for their wisdom and life experience and the title Elder is a compliment in First Nations communities) 
Active Older Adults
Baby Boomers or Boomers (those born between the years 1946-1964)
Retirees (if in fact they are retired)
A person aged _______ (fill in the blank with their age with no other label)
People aged _______ (fill in the bland with an age-range with no other label)

Pensioners (mainly a U.K. term)
Older people
Older person

If you're really struggling :)

Old = Chronologically gifted or experientially advanced
Old person = Gerontologically advanced

Just as we would call someone a child, a teenager, or an adult, I think it's most acceptable to use the term "older adult" when speaking about those who are in the 60-ish plus age category.  Middle age can span many years, and that magical time when one becomes an older adult is quite individual and undefined.  In Canada, one receives the "Old Age" Pension when they are 65.  Is this the magical age then?  Not world-wide that's for sure.  There is a more definitive breakdown from there - the young-old, the old-old, very old and the oldest old. 

Remember the old saying, "To Me, Old Age is Always 15 Years Older Than I Am", Bernard M. Baruch.

Whatever term you decide to use is okay as long as you do it with good intentions in mind.  It is never okay to refer to older adults in a negative manner as this perpetuates ageism and puts our views of aging in a negative light.

Age well,
Angela Gentile

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Focussing on the Positive Side of Turning 65

I came across this great website, The Eldering Institute, and I was quite impressed with the positive messages that it has about the second half of life, and more specifically, turning 65.  Eldering ceremonies, education sessions, and other material is available to those in the USA, Canada and South America.  Here is their "Vision", taken directly off their website:

The Eldering Institute Vision

The Eldering Institute® is about what we can do, and more importantly, 
who we can be as we grow older. We are committed to creating a new interpretation 
or paradigm for the second half of life—one that allows us to experience love, 
health, happiness, creative self-expression and being valued and to have as much 
possibility on the last day of our lives as we had when we were born.

Our purpose is to supply support, training and development, books and materials 
for those engaged in transforming the paradigm of aging.

To get more information on The Eldering Institute, please click on this link:

Age well,
Angela Gentile

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Dirty Old Man in Pop Music

There is a song by a popular female artist Kesha called, Dinosaur(2010).  Although the tune is catchy, when you listen closely to the lyrics, you quickly realize that it is about a young girl that is complaining about an "old man" looking at her.  This conjures up negative feelings in me, and it perpetuates a "dirty old man" image.  I wish the younger generation would not produce songs like this because it puts old age in a negative light.  This is called, "ageism".  This is where people assume that older people do not deserve to be treated with respect and do not deserve the same privileges of the younger adult population because of their age. Ageism is harming our society, and songs like these aren't helping the situation.

Here are some of the lyrics:

Oh man, Why are you starrin' at me
Mack on me and my friends it's kinda a creepy
You should be prowling around the Old folks home
Come on dude! Leave us alone

When Kesha was discussing why she wrote this song, she said,

"Dinosaur" came "about [when] this old guy who was hitting on me, and his toupee was kind of falling off, and I was like, "Oh my God, you're so old, you're prehistoric, you're like a dinosaur. D-I-N-O-S-A-you are a dinosaur." (From

Click on this link to see a music video (not the official one) of Ke$ha's Dinosaur:

Angela Gentile

Monday, February 7, 2011

Over 90 and Loving It - Documentary

Over 90 and Loving It is a new documentary about people over 90 and all the wonderful things they are doing.  Getting married, getting Master's Degrees, and Breaking World Records for the Pole Vault. are just some examples.  It looks like a great video, and I look forward to checking it out.  Kudos to Excutive Producer and Director Susan Polis Shutz for a job well done, and putting a positive view on the "oldest-old"!

Check out the Over 90 and Loving It website here:

Age well,
Angela Gentile

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Positive Aging with Arnie

It is encouraging to see positive views of aging in the media.  There is far too much negative out there, and I wanted to share this commercial that I came across on TV.  It's about an older man who is getting ready to go out to see two older ladies, and he realizes that his glasses are not quite cutting it anymore.  Kudos to Lenscrafters for a well-done advertisement and presenting older adults in a positive light.

Here is the link for the video on, "Arnie and Two New Lovely Ladies" :

Age well,
Angela Gentile