Everyone Loves a Countdown

In his own words, this writer’s top 5 commentaries of 2015

Published in the Woonsocket Call on December 27, 2015

As a columnist on “the aging beat” it has been a very eventful year in covering aging, health care and medical issues. During 2015, over 47 weekly commentaries appeared in the Pawtucket Times and Woonsocket Call. By reading my weekly commentaries readers were kept abreast on a dazzling array of aging issues including Congressional attempts to whittle away the Social Security and Medicare programs. They learned first-hand about the Rhode Island General Assembly’s move to not tax Social Security and to provide new benefits to Ocean State caregivers. Commentaries even touched on the passing away of Wayne Dwyer and Capitol TV’s Dave Barber, how to put the fire back in your relationship, and even travel tips.

Below are five article, providing you with the breadth and depth of my commentaries. Al other articles can be found on my blog, herbweiss.wordpress.com.

1. “Cicilline Spearheading Key Comeback: Rep. Wants to Reestablish House Select Committee on Aging, published in the Dec. 20 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the Dec. 21 issue of the Pawtucket Times.

After Congress eliminated the House Select Committee on Aging in 1993 to rein in costs, this commentary takes a close look at Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) and 63 House colleagues efforts to urge the newly elected GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan in correspondence to bring back the Aging panel to the House Chamber. It was extremely obvious to Cicilline and his cosigners of the House Aging panel’s importance to today’s Congress, especially with efforts to put Social Security and Medicare on the budgetary chopping block. In the late 1980s as a journalist covering Capitol Hill I saw first-hand how the former Aging panel’s bipartisan approach ultimately created sound aging. Working together for the common good of older Americans is sorely needed now with a House divided. Cicilline’s legislative efforts to bring this select committee back to life, can send a powerful message that the House is ready to confront concerns of the nation’s seniors. Go to: http://www.herbweiss.wordpress.com/2015/12/20/cicilline-spearingheading-key-comeback/.

2, Pausch’s The Last Lecture Is a Must Read,” published in the Jan. 30 issue of the Pawtucket Times. The 206 page book, “The Last Lecture” coauthored by Randy Pausch and Wall Street Journal reporter Jeffrey Zaslow, published by Hyperion in 2008, is a great read for those wanting to get their life’s priorities in order. The tome is jam-packed with Pausch’s wisdom that will certainly come in handy to the reader when confront by the “brick walls” or challenges in personal and/or professional careers

This commentary details the thoughts of terminally ill Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Professor Randy Pausch, a 47-year-old father of three who had from three to six more months to live at the time he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2007. One month before his death he gave his last lecture, part of an ongoing CMU lecture series where top academics give their “final talk,” revealing what really matters to them and the insights gleaned over their life if it was their last opportunity. Sadly, Pausch literally got his last chance to give his talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” Go to: http://www.herbweiss.wordpress.com/2015/01/30/pauschs-the-last-lecture-is-a-must-read.

3. “You are Never Too Old for Romance,” published in the February 13 issue of the Pawtucket Times. Rekindling your relationship may be as simple as packing your bags and taking a romantic trip. In this commentary AARP’s Love and Relationships Ambassador Dr. Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist and sexologist teaching at the University of Washington in Seattle Washington, says the findings reveal a need for couples to plan romantic getaways as a way to spend quality time with their partner and bolster their relationship.

In this commentary Dr. Schwartz, co-author of the newly released book Places for Passion, says “I wish we could be as romantic at home as we can on a trip but there is something about getting away that lets us forget about our daily stuff and instead, fully concentrate on each other. When we stay at home, it’s hard not to answer the phone or try to answer one more email but in fact, we seem to need to get away to have a new stage setting’ for romance to bring out the best in us.” Couples with children can take a short trip without them to boost the romance in their relationship, she says. Readers will find the commentary chock-full of tips for heightening the romance on the trip. Go to: http://www.herbweiss.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/baby-boomers-can-spice-up-valentines-day.

4. “Sensible Advice from Seasoned Folk to the Class of 2015,” published in the May 17 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the May 18 Pawtucket Times. Every year very notable and professionally successful commencement speakers gather at the nation’s Colleges and Universities to give the graduating seniors their practical tips and advice as how to have a rewarding personal and professional life. This commentary calls for the end of the practice of bringing celebrities, politicians and corporate heads to give commence speakers. Regular people will do. Thirteen Rhode Islanders, many not recognized on the street but well-known in their communities were asked to give their “pearls of wisdom” to graduating seniors if they had the opportunity. They most certainly did. Go to:  http://www.herbweiss.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/sensible-advice-from-seasoned-folk-to-the-class-of-2015.

5. “Aggressive Scams Popping up All around the Ocean State,” published in the November 25 issue of the Woonsocket Call; in the November 26 issue of the Pawtucket Times. Throughout the year there were several commentaries to increase the reader’s awareness of protecting themselves from financial scams. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission list of top consumer fraud complaints last year, more than 6,200 Rhode Island residents were victims of imposter scams. The commentary details one scam where the caller “Sergeant Bradley” threatens a person with a felony for not appearing in court unless they immediate make a payment on a debit card.

The commentary details AARP’s Fraud Watch Network. By registering for the free service a person can receive alerts via smart phone or your computer when a new scam surfaces. This program also allows you to report a scam going around your neighborhood that is shared across the network. For those not connected to the Internet, you can receive alerts and tips via a quarterly newsletter mailed to homes. Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin calls for “constant vigilance” and gives tips also gives tips on protecting yourself against scams.

 

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You Are Never Too Old for Romance

Published in Pawtucket Times, February 13, 2015

             Packing your bags can simply become the first step you take toward rekindling your relationship. Last week, with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, Love and Relationships Ambassador Dr. Pepper Schwartz weighed in on a recently released AARP Travel study that reveals that 85 percent of Americans 45-plus have not taken a romantic vacation in the past two years.

For Dr. Schwartz, Ph.D., a sociologist and sexologist teaching at the University of Washington Seattle Washington, an author or co-author of 19 books, magazines, website columns and a television personality on the subject of sexuality, the findings reveal a need for couples to plan romantic getaways as a way to spend quality time with their partner and bolster their relationship.

Make Time for Love

In a release, Dr. Schwartz, co-author of the newly released book Places for Passion, says “There is every indication that romantic travel really does refresh a couple’s relationship, makes them feel more in love, and makes them crave each other’s company,” “And there is also research, which indicates that trying something new is the best bonding mechanism of all.”

“I wish we could be as romantic at home as we can on a trip- but there is something about getting away that lets us forget about our daily stuff and instead, fully concentrate on each other,” says Dr. Schwartz. “When we stay at home, it’s hard not to answer the phone or try and answer one more email- but in fact, we seem to need to get away- to have a new stage setting’ for romance  to bring out the best in us,” she adds.

“That of course goes double if you have children at home; even a short getaway without them is a great romantic boost,” notes Schwartz. .

But, if a vacation can be healthy for your relationship, why are the numbers of those who have taken romantic vacations so low? According to AARP Travel research, people most often cite busy schedules and tight budgets as the primary reasons to not pack their bags, forgoing a needed vacation. However, Dr. Schwartz says that with smart and easy-to-use tools and resources, the perfect romantic vacation can be just as relaxing to plan as it is to enjoy and affordable.

Creating New Memories, Igniting Passions

Dr. Schwartz’s book, Places for Passion, co-written with Dr. Janet Lever, Ph.D., a sociology professor  at California State University in Lost Angeles, who lead teams of researchers who designed three of the largest sex surveys ever tabulated (also coauthoring  Glamour’s Sex and Health column), outlines 75 destinations across the world for couples to explore and create new memories.  Because people have such different preferences Dr. Schwartz and Lever’s 416 page book, published in December 2014, identifies romantic destinations in urban areas, around beaches, in places that offer national wonders, or those places for the adventurous.

“However, whether we are recommending, Santa Fe, Bali, Zion or Capetown, there are certain romantic ‘must haves’ that are specified in the book, says Dr. Schwartz. She also urges aging travelers to avoid “convention hotels” which can ruin a romantic mood. “We don’t like Bed and Breakfast Inns unless they are built for privacy and still provide private, luxurious bathrooms,” adds Dr. Schwartz, noting she and Lever provide the reader with a full listing of hotels, restaurants and attractions– all geared for romance.

Creating the Mood

Get expert advice to create the romantic mood, says Lever, suggesting that the hotel concierge or manager be approached for interesting ideas or help in creating dinners in unexpected places.  “We’ve heard of people placed at the side of waterfalls, alone in front of the fireplace, or even loaned the balcony in an unused suite,” she says, stressing, “You won’t know what your options might be if you don’t ask.”

Lever says, “If you are already on vacation, splurge on a room service dinner.  If you’re not, look to the future and create an ‘I Owe You’ for a future travel getaway.  Set your date, so it really happens, then enjoy a nice dinner and ponder the choices for your promised vacation.”

Book reviewers are raving about Places for Passion, too.  Dr. Helen Fisher, Ph.D., Anthropologist at Rutgers University, says, “Travel is the liquor of romance. Novelty triggers the brain’s dopamine system to sustain romantic passion. This surge soon fires up testosterone to tickle your sex drive.  And as you hug and kiss, you feel the oxytocia system – ushering in feelings of deep attachment.  So Peper Schwartz and Janet Lever have it right with t his charming book.  It’s full of great ideas on how to keep love alive.

“As for spice, we are the same authors who wrote The Getaway Guide for a Great Sex Weekend! It’s a much different type of book with a lot of tips for providing more eroticism and sexual playfulness, adds Dr. Schwartz. “But for starters people who could make sure they brought sexier clothes to sleep in (or even take off), and maybe rent an erotic movie or read a sexy book. Giving each other a shampoo and head rub in the shower a foot or hand massage afterwards also helps heat up the evening, “she says.

AARP Travel (www.aarp.org/romantictravel) includes information about most of those destinations on the website alongside other planning guides, which can be valuable tools for couples looking to enhance their relationship this Valentine’s Day weekend.

To watch Dr. Pepper Schwartz talk about AARP Travel’s research on the importance of Romantic Travel, please visit: origin-qps.onstreammedia.com/origin/multivu_archive/MNR/66070_Pepper_Schwartz_Valentines_Day_0202.mp4.

(Note: This is the unedited version submitted to the newspapers.

Internet Sex Survey Sheds Light on What’s “Normal” in Relationships

Published in Pawtucket Times, February 8, 2013

Just after the little blue tablet, Viagra, endorsed on television commercials by a former Senate majority leader and former presidential contender Bob Dole in the late 1990s, the prescription wonder drug for those with erectile dysfunction in later life literally became the talk of the town.

We began to talk a little bit more openly about our sexuality, joking about the miraculous powers of the Viagra, including Cialis and Levitra, probably with the intent to relieve our own personal discomfort of the taboo topic of sex.

But even today, this columnist still hears snickers from those who believe that older persons are asexual, and that sex is of no interest to them in their twilight years. It’s a myth, experts say, their observations supported by a recently published book and a decade worth of AARP studies on sexual attitude and practices.

Creating a New Normal for Your Relationship

Based on data obtained on the internet from nearly 70,000 respondents from the United States and around the world (with significant numbers of returns coming from China, Spain, Italy, France, England, Australia, Philippines, Hungary, Brazil, and Canada), last Wednesday Random House released, The Normal Bar: The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples and What They Reveal About Creating a New Normal in Your Relationship.

Dr. Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D, Love and Relationship Ambassador for AARP, a Sociologist who teaches at University of Washington, and her coauthors, wellness entrepreneur Chrisanna Northrup and Dr. James Witte, Ph.D., a Sociologist who serves as Director of the Center for Social Science Research at George Mason University, teamed up to design a very unique interactive internet survey that would draw relationship data from around the world.

The researchers partnered with AARP, American on Line, the Huffington Post and Reader’s Digest, who encouraged tens of thousands to take the project’s innovative internet survey.

Dr. Schwartz and her co-researchers, took a look at what constitutes “normal” behavior among happy couples and outlined what steps you should take if that “normal” is one you want to strive for. They believe that their study gives the “clearest picture yet of how well couples are communicating, romancing each other, satisfying each other in the bedroom, sharing financial responsibilities, and staying faithful.”

Since the Normal Bar survey methodology sorts for age and gender, racial and geographic differences and sexual preferences, the authors were able to reveal, for example, what happens to passion as we grow older, which gender wants what when it comes to sex, the factors that spur marital combat, how kids figure in, how being gay or bisexual turns out to be both different and the same, and –regardless of background — the tiny habits that drive partners absolutely batty.

The book provides revelations to the reader, from the unexpected popularity of certain sexual positions, to the average number of times happy – and unhappy — couples kiss, to the prevalence of lying, to the surprising loyalty most men and women feel for their partner (even when in a deteriorating relationship), to the vivid and idiosyncratic ways individuals of different ages, genders and nationalities describe their “ideal romantic evening.”

Much more than a peek behind the relationship curtain, The Normal Bar offers readers an array of prescriptive tools that will help them establish a “new normal” in their relationships. Mindful of what keeps couples stuck in ruts, the book’s authors suggest practical and life-changing ways for couples to break cycles of disappointment and frustration.

AARP Article Zeros in On Older Couples

The Normal bar survey findings in this recently released book, drawn from responses of 8,000 survey respondents who are over age 50, were published in the February/March issue of AARP The Magazine in an article, penned by Northrup, Drs. Schwartz and Witte, entitled Sex at 50+: What’s Normal? Among the findings reported in this AARP article:

Thirty two percent of men and 48% of woman do not hug their partner in public. The researchers believe that public displays of affection (PDA) positive impact relationships. Sixty eight percent now showing PDA are unhappy or slightly happy with their partner. A whopping 73% of the happiest couples can’t keep their hands off each other in public and do so at least once a month.

Meanwhile, 78% of the couples admit they hold hands at least some of the time. However it seems to be the younger pairs, because among all the couples who have been together for over 10 years, more than half say they no longer hold hands.

“I love you,” just three little words said often may just spice up your relationship. The researchers found that among the happiest couples, 85% of both men and woman said those words at least once a week. It’s a male thing – more than 90% of men tell their partner “I love you” regularly while only 58% of the woman do so.

The researchers found that 74% of the happiest couples will give their partner a passionate smooch. Thirty-eight percent of all age 50 plus couples do not passionately kiss. Kissing can be the connector between each partner, note the researchers.

Thirty-one percent of the aging baby boomer couples have sex several times a week while only 28% have sex a couple of times a month. Around 8% have sex just one time a month.

Forty-seven percent of woman praise their partner’s appearance regularly in comparison to 55% of men. The study’s findings reveal that praise is important for a couple’s happiness.

Thirty-two percent of the couples give a thumbs down to date nights. Eighty-eight percent of the happiest couples spend time alone together. The researchers recommend that you go out twice a month to “maintain the sense of closeness.”

Thirty-three percent of the respondents report they rarely or never have sex. However, even among the happiest couples, a whopping one-fourth don’t do it.

Dr. Schwartz believes that the most important observation made from the study is that sexuality is important throughout one’s lifespan. “People have to take care of their relationship and not put it on automatic pilot,” she says.

Bringing Sexuality Out of the Closet

With the graying of America’s population, it is now time to bring senior sexuality out of the closet. We must accept the fact that sexuality continues throughout the human life-span, and encompasses more than just intimate sexual intercourse. It also includes cuddling, a tender kiss, a light touch on the shoulder, or holding hands, as noted in The Normal Bar.

A well-known song, “As Time Goes By,” reminds us sexuality is to be experienced by both young and old. “You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh, the fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”

For more info about The Normal Bar, to take the Normal Bar survey or to purchase the book, go to http://www.thenormalbar.com.

Herb Weiss, LRI ’12, is a Pawtucket-based freelance writer covering aging, health care and medical issues. He can be reached at hweissri@aol.com.