Chronicle: On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of my death


End of August marked the 10th anniversary of my death.

I didn’t give it much thought because I was busy with visits to my cardiologist and a foot surgeon. The older you get, the more time you waste trying to stay alive.

Then I got an email from a woman who called herself an “ole lady” in her mid-70s, which I don’t think is that old. West Side Berti had read my column about buying an electric car and said no thanks, she’s happy to stick with her 2003 Toyota.

“She has both a CD player and a cassette player!!!! wrote Berti about his tank.

She must have rented a car recently, but it had “so much cutting-edge technology” in it that she couldn’t figure out what it was. Berti said she still used a landline phone with an answering machine to screen her calls, although during the height of the pandemic she used Zoom to keep in touch with her friends.

I can easily identify with an aversion to the insidious and dehumanizing intrusion of technology into our lives.

You need your watch to find your phone, but why bother because you can’t reach a live person online. You need one remote to turn on the TV, one to change channels, one to stream, and one to beat your head on.

You need a password to change your password, but then you have to decide if you want to log in to Facebook, Google or email, which of course requires a password.

“I’m really struggling, and a lot of it is the attitude. I could learn it, but part of me just doesn’t want to,” said Mike Washington, one of the regulars I checked out. got to know at Tolliver’s Barbershop in South LA.

Washington, in his 60s, bought an electric Mustang and said he couldn’t decipher half of the tech options. His wife tells him he’d better get back in shape, but Washington says he’s only learning what he needs to do, and nothing more.

“Us old folks are trying to learn new technology because, I mean, we kind of get trapped,” said Linda Harner, whom I met at Culver City Senior Center, where she follows a Spanish class.

You simply can’t deal effectively with the modern world unless you learn some technical skills, said Harner, who recently helped a friend with a disability. The woman, who lives alone, was recovering from knee surgery and needed to set up an account with her healthcare provider.

“I helped her go online to get a password,” Harner said.

“Society is not made to grow old,” said Jill Thomsen, the senior center supervisor. She’s in her thirties, she says, and even she’s discouraged at times.

“You get to the point where it’s like, TikTok? I don’t go to another social media site and try to figure that out,” Thomsen said.

And yet, Thomsen noted, when the pandemic closed the doors of the senior center, some of the members used technology to stay connected.

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” said Maribeth Dougherty, who teaches the MindBody dance class at the senior center and conducted her classes over Zoom during the shutdown.

Infuriating as the technology can be, Dougherty said, “When you create new neural pathways in your brain, there’s a benefit.”

There’s also a life force upside on a dance floor, with dozens of people defying time. I walked into Dougherty’s class and saw a lot of inspiration.

“The little woman in the front, who I believe dances louder than anyone in the whole room, is about to turn 98 and she’s a Holocaust survivor. There is another woman, from France, who is a Holocaust survivor at 95 and moving like a teenager,” Dougherty later told me.

I noticed a nimble man in a US Open tennis t-shirt and a smile as wide as the Santa Monica Bay.

“I’m talking to you right now on my iPhone watching doubles tennis on TV,” Homi Gandhi, 81, said when I called him the next day. He drives an electric car, and when I sent him the photos I had taken of him, he deftly sent them to his children and grandchildren, who weighed in on which they liked best.

Gandhi, a retired accountant, said he doesn’t like the way technology is abused by those who target older people with anxious sales pitches and otherwise invade their privacy. But whether it’s a Zoom class or communicating with his family, he doesn’t want to be left behind.

“There is no other way out,” said Gandhi.

Pete Matus, teacher and event coordinator at the Pasadena Senior Center, told me the pandemic has turned many members into tech savvy. They bought tablets and smartphones and learned how to shop, explore social networks and take online courses.

There were a few glitches. Namely, a few cases of people who forgot to turn off the video stream while responding to nature’s calls. And not everyone has embraced the modern world, but the majority have.

“I would say about 80% of them are there to change over time,” said Matus, who teaches an iPhone and iPad course and told me that on scenic walks, seniors learn photography. and how to edit their reels.

Dr. Gene Dorio, a geriatric home specialist in Santa Clarita, told me that he tells technology-resistant patients that they are perfectly capable of learning the basics.

“I think we’re told or made to believe that the technology is over our heads, but that’s nonsense, because once you learn it, you realize it’s not is not a problem,” said Dorio, a member of the LA County Commission for the Elderly.

Dorio told me that he recently visited a 95-year-old patient in a home where the temperature matched her age. She thought the AC unit was broken. Dorio took a look, replaced a battery, and the temperature dropped 10 degrees during the time he was there.

Family members and others should watch out for frail older people, especially amid deadly heat waves, Dorio said, and help them get a little more familiar with the technology. And senior centers and other organizations must emphasize the importance of technology as potentially life-saving, with various SOS devices capable of detecting a fall or other emergency.

We just need to make sure, with all this technology on the loose, that patient privacy is protected and that telemedicine is not corrupted, and that life-saving gadgets are available to the many rather than the few. -ones.

This brings me back to my death and resurrection 10 years ago. I went into cardiac arrest post-surgery after knee replacement, but was quickly resuscitated and left the hospital with a new knee and a pacemaker. I then had a second knee replacement a few months later and was still alive on the second try.

If my heart skips, I use a pacemaker monitor to read my condition and alert my cardiologist. When I visited with Dr. Leslie Saxon last week, she said I could have foot surgery if I wanted. She suggested I consider a smartwatch because wherever I am it can monitor my heart rate and even do an EKG, which I can download and send to her.

It might help if, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my death, I enroll in the MindBody dance class in Culver City, as Professor Dougherty suggested.

I told Dougherty I had a planted foot and two knee replacements.

“Everyone in class has artificial joints,” she said.

The trick is to keep moving forward, no matter what.


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