Unlocking the mystery of a long life

This past weekend, I saw How to Live Forever, a documentary looking at various avenues and theories to living a  long  life.  Bessie lived to 108 and I have always been struck how someone with such hardship lived so long.  During the post-film discussion, Mark Wexler, the director, and Jay Olshansky, a UIC professor whose highly regarded expertise and research focuses on aging, longevity, and other related topics, took questions. Mark Wexler directed, narrated, and appeared the film.

One of the approaches presented in the film was the low calorie intake diet  – as in about 1200 calories a day. In one scene, Mark Wexler is presented a meal of a few peas, a slice of a yellow pepper, and some other small portion of a vegetable. The audience laughed at his attempts to put his fork on a single pea.  In the post-film discussion, however, Dr. Olshansky indicated (this is not verbatim, but what I understood –  so no clamoring against Dr. Olshansky, please!) that there are theories that the low-calorie diet has an effect only if done early in life. So, adopting this lifestyle later in life will not have the same efficacy.  These circumstances were often not of choice and unlikely to be replicated.

How does this relate to Bessie? Bessie’s tenure at the Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum was from the age of 10 to 16. She then lived at a boarding house called “Martha House” until at least for another 4 years until 1920 (census record to be posted soon).  Perhaps this is what contributed to her long life.  Or maybe not.


Chicago: A History and Forecast

A slight diversion today….

For some time I have had a book called Chicago: A History and Forecast.  It is from 1921, published by the Chicago Association of Commerce.  I’d given thought about scanning it – but it has already been done. See the following:


Last week on the radio program Fresh Air there was  piece on water waste.  On page 255 of Chicago: A History and Forecast,  Chicago is called on the carpet for water waste.   Their solution? Water meters. (Remember, the book was written in 1921!) It’s 2011 and we still don’t have a water meter system in Chicago.

Municipal Miscellany, Page 255

Municipal Miscellany, Page 255

Still Working on December 2001 Visits

I’m enthusiastic about getting more visits posted, but it is taking longer than planned. This is partly because of the walk down memory lane every time I read my journals about these visits. On the December 26th visit, I wrote about the space heater, which re-appears in later entries and then makes a headline in later visit. Luckily, no one was hurt by this space heater, but it did have potential danger.



With a little help from the internet

New documents added today: Bessie’s social security number application in 1936 and tax return from 1942. If only taxes were that simple today! Remember, the Social Security Act was signed into law in 1935.

I’m sure that the pundits would have something to say about a woman who was one of the earliest people to get a social security number receiving benefits until she was 108. Yet, most of the seniors I visit are very thankful for this. I don’t know what would happen to them if it didn’t exist.

Readying for the the next wave

More plans for a bit of re-work  on the site is forthcoming. More pictures and easier access to specific dates to the “Visits with Bessie” page are  planned.

This week, I sent an old friend a small birthday note and gift – chocolate. It’s a small gesture, but I think my friend will be as excited to get a package as my 7 year old nephew, who will also receive a birthday package this week.

Bessie always wanted to be a giver, whether an apple in the fridge or  a little toy. She was a hoarder who always said, “Someone can use this!  These are still good!”  Unfortunately, many of these things remained in her apartment, ungiven.

Getting the story moving…

I promised more frequent updates in 2011 with more pictures, more visit logs, and just more.

While I have not come through on this promise, I have reconnected with one of my old friends (aka senior, elder) at Little Brothers. We used to see and talk to each other regularly, but when I started grad school in 2008 I had to cut down on that drastically. The reconnection has been like any longtime friendship that you can pick up from anywhere.

In comparison with Bessie, who never knew my name, I can only say that friendship takes many forms.




More updates and photos promised in 2011!

Happy New Year to All!