Queen’s Students Share Myths About Ageing

Recently my daughter Alexandra, who is a graduate of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, came across this Twitter thread where a professor from Queen’s is sharing some work by upper-year undergrads on myths about aging.

I’ve linked to the thread here and also to the individual infographics below. The individual links will allow you to zoom in to actually read what the students’ wrote. Just thought this might be of interest to our ‘Boomerality’ readers! 

Whole thread

Frailty is not inevitable

Myth: Older adults are not crucial members of society

Myth: Older adults should skip exercising to avoid injury

Myth: Aging means being more isolated and alone

When You Were Growing Up, Who Controlled the Money in Your Household? Garmus in Conversation with bell hooks

Last week I talked about Chemistry Lessons, the wonderful novel by best-selling author, Bonnie Garmus. I noted just a few of the challenges that the protagonist, Elizabeth Zott, faced as a woman scientist in a male-dominated 1950s-early-1960s world.

This weekend I just finished reading another excellent book, part memoir and part social commentary, by bell hooks, who wrote extensively on issues of race, gender, class and culture and how they intersect with each other. This now classic book is called: Where We Stand: Class Matters. Sadly, hooks died prematurely less than a year ago, on December 15th, 2021.

In the opening pages of her book, hooks writes: “Nowadays it is fashionable to talk about race or gender; the uncool subject is class.” (p. vii.) But as she notes, we cannot talk about ending racism or sexism without also talking about class. She asserts that the commonly held belief that America is a classless society is a myth, as is the notion that if the poor just worked harder they would be able to get ahead and live a life of comfort and affluence. The same myth is believed by countless Canadians too.

There is much to commend in this little book and I urge you to read it if you can. What strikes me, especially in light of Garmus’ novel about Elizabeth Zott, are the challenges faced by bell hooks’ real life 1950s-1960s mother. Like Zott, she was confronted by the limitations of poverty and misogyny. Unlike Zott, the fact that she was black meant that she also suffered from the debilitating oppression of racism.

Her description of her mother’s relationship to her father, especially in terms of how money was handled in their home, reminded me of my own mother’s situation. As in the case of hooks’ family, my father controlled the purse strings. My mother was given a weekly allowance on which she was expected to run the household. Like hooks’ mother, my mother never knew how much my father earned. Unlike hooks’ mother, she could go back to my father and ask for more if she found that what he was giving her was not enough to meet expenses. (One of my aunts was not so fortunate. Her husband never allowed her to do this. She was even expected to pay the phone and hydro bills from what her husband gave her for grocery money! He then reduced what he gave her once she began to receive the meager Old Age Security Pension, in much the same way as hooks’ father reduced the amount he gave his wife to run the household once she went out to clean houses.)

While my mother, as a white woman married to a middle-class professional, did not face the kinds of extreme challenges that hooks’ mother faced as a poor working-class black woman in the south, she did find it demeaning and humiliating to always have to go back and ask my father for more money. He was always generous, but that’s not the point. She was working hard to maintain a home and look after my brother and me. Moreover, she had given up a job she had worked at for seventeen years before she married my Dad and, while it was not the kind of work she would like to have done (her family had no money to send her to art college), she could feel proud of what she earned (which was more than my Dad made when she married him), an income that also gave her a sense of self-respect.

Garmus’ protagonist Elizabeth Zott found a way out of poverty, which makes her story both unique and novel worthy, the stuff of fantasy, which we all love. But for the vast majority of poor women, the so-called American “rags to riches” dream is just that: a dream. Until we find a way to eradicate the predatory systems of classism, racism and sexism that pervade our society, most poor women (especially women of colour) and their children will remained mired in poverty.

Bonnie Garmus’ “Chemistry Lessons” is One of the Most Delightful and Insightful Novels of the Year

A few weeks ago I talked about Chemistry Lessons, a wonderful novel by best-selling author, Bonnie Garmus.  The protagonist, Elizabeth Zott, was telling her partner that there was no way that she would ever change her name if she married him, even though it was unlikely they would ever marry. Zott saw marriage as antiquated and an instrument of female oppression. Still, they had a close, loving relationship and a real synchronicity that would likely have carried them right through to old age, if it had not been for the unpredictability of life.

So it is that Zott finds herself a single mother to a delightful, precocious little girl in early 1960s California when it was frowned upon to have a child without the benefit of marriage. On top of this, Zott is a brilliant chemist who struggles to be taken seriously among scientists in what was very much a man’s world.

Through a series of coincidences she finds herself the star of a very popular cooking show, Supper at Six. But not only does she teach women across North America how to cook meals that are both nutritious and tasty, she gives them chemistry lessons as well. More than this, she teaches them to believe in themselves and never to regard themselves as just average.

If you are an early wave Boomer or the child of someone born in the mid-1930s to mid-1940s, you need to read this book. It will give you insights into the cultural challenges faced by your mother, which continued to plague Boomer women as well. This novel will also make you laugh and cry. The characters are dazzling, especially the adorable and clever little dog “Sixty-Six”, who knows well over five hundred words! Enjoy!

Baby Boomers Less Likely to Attend Remembrance Day Services

I recently read an article which stated that, while more Baby Boomers than Millennials will wear a poppy on their lapel, the reality is that more Millennials are likely to actually attend a Remembrance Day service than Baby Boomers. This surprised me because Baby Boomers are the children of those who fought and were often injured during World War II. My own father was wounded at the Battle of Ortona in Italy. Many of us also had grandparents who served in the First World War.

When I was a child November 11th was actually an official holiday. We did not go to school that day because we were meant to attend our local cenotaph for a Remembrance Day service. By the time my own children started attending school, November 11th was no longer a school holiday, although banks, post offices and government offices were generally closed in Canada, as they continue to be today. Wisely, I believe, schools now hold Remembrance Day services on the 11th and the children spend the week leading up to Remembrance Day learning why this is an important national day of remembering. I used to enjoy attending these school services and found them very meaningful. I also try to hold a Remembrance Day service at my church every year.

What about you, my Boomer friend? Are you wearing a poppy this week? And will you attend a Remembrance Day service this year?