Author Richard Ford Says ‘Let Me Be Frank’ About Aging And Dying

Mike Groll | AP

A house on the central Jersey Shore coast collapsed after Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012. Richard Ford said he focused on houses in the wake of the storm in his new book, “Let Me Be Frank With You”, because they have an “almost iconic status.” “A house is where you look out the window and see the world,” he says.  ( Mike Groll | AP )

By Teri Gross — “Fresh Air” | NPR
November 12, 2014

Let Me Be Frank With YouWhen Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Ford was a young man, he says, he had a cynical view of aging.

“I sort of went through life thinking that when you got to be in your 60s that basically you weren’t good for much,” Ford tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “That’s a younger man’s view. I know that the AARP phones are ringing when I say that, but now I’m 70 and I don’t think that anymore, OK?”

Not only is Ford older, but the character he’s been writing about for years has aged, too. Frank Bascombe, whom Ford wrote about in The Sportswriter and Independence Day, is now 68.

Ford’s latest book, Let Me Be Frank With You, is a series of four interconnected novellas about Bascombe, who is retired from his work as a real estate broker. It’s 2012, just before Christmas, and just a few weeks after Superstorm Sandy destroyed parts of the Jersey Shore near where Frank lives.

Ford says for this book, he had to bring Frank “up to date” to make him a plausible character.

In the stories, Frank is dealing with the aftermath of Sandy, his aging body, a dying friend and his ex-wife, who has Parkinson’s and has moved to a nearby assisted living facility.

“I really got interested in the consequences of the hurricane, and I got interested in having Frank be my instrumental narrator in assessing those consequences,” Ford says. “So once I figured out how old he would be, then I had to sort of fill in the absences there that weren’t taken care of in the other books. In other words, I kind of backed into it being about aging because he happened to be that age.”

In the stories, Frank is dealing with the aftermath of Sandy, his aging body, a dying friend and his ex-wife, who has Parkinson’s and has moved to a nearby assisted living facility.

“I think these things are surrounding us all the time,” Ford says. “We don’t have experiences to get over [them]; we have experiences so we can sort of deal with them and address them and have, in some ways, some stability towards them.”

Listen to this story on NPR, read transcript, or view interview highlights 

Read excerpt of Let Me Be Frank With You


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The Dutch Village Where Everyone Has Dementia

The town of Hogeway, outside Amsterdam, is a Truman Show-style nursing home.

Gabriel Rocha | Flickr

Gabriel Rocha | Flickr

By Josh Planosov
The Atlantic—November 14, 2014

When Yvonne van Amerongen received a phone call from her mother two decades ago, relaying that her father had died of a heart attack—sudden and painless—one of the first things she thought was, Thank God he never had to be in a nursing home.

Van Amerongen was working as a staff member at a traditional Dutch nursing home at the time, getting a front-line view of what she never wanted for her parents. That call from her mother spurred Yvonne into action as she became committed to making nursing homes more livable and less of a departure from reality for their residents. She envisioned a setup as far away as possible from the nondescript buildings and polished floors of her workplace, where everything carried the scent of a dentist’s medical cabinet. Over the next 20 years, she worked to secure the funding she’d need to make the idea a reality.

There are homes resembling the 1950s, 1970s, and 2000s, accurate down to the tablecloths.


Today, the isolated village of Hogewey lies on the outskirts of Amsterdam in the small town of Wheesp. Dubbed “Dementia Village” by CNN, Hogewey is a cutting-edge elderly-care facility—roughly the size of 10 football fields—where residents are given the chance to live seemingly normal lives. With only 152 inhabitants, it’s run like a more benevolent version of The Truman Show, if The Truman Show were about dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Like most small villages, it has its own town square, theater, garden, and post office. Unlike typical villages, however, this one has cameras monitoring residents every hour of every day, caretakers posing in street clothes, and only one door in and out-of-town, all part of a security system designed to keep the community safe. Friends and family are encouraged to visit. Some come every day. Last year, CNN reported that residents at Hogewey require fewer medications, eat better, live longer, and appear more joyful than those in standard elderly-care facilities.

Read the full article here

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Book Review: “Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat”

Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat | Miyoko Ihara

みさおとふくまる – Misao to Fukumaru
(Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat), by Miyoko Ihara
(Tōkyō : Ritorumoa, 2011)

Review by Hank.

book coverThe Internet and cats. Apparently, it’s a thing.

There is Maru (まる) of the 200 million+ views on YouTube. There is Grumpy Cat®: “The World’s Grumpiest Cat”. There is ScarfaceLil BUB the “perma-kitten”, and Colonel Meow: Entertainer. Locally, there’s Cooper: Photographer Cat, and Henri: Le Chat Noir. There are LOLcats, animated GIFs, and countless associated posters, t-shirts, plushies, coffee mugs, books and calendars.

Until now, none of these cybercats have ensnared me—okay, I dig Henri, but we share a vet—until Misao to Fukumaru. I discovered this little gem of a book via one of those dreaded chain email forwards. You know that email.

Maneki Neko Fukumaru! (Miyoko Ihara | Rex Features)

Maneki Neko Fukumaru!

But what a great discovery!

Photographer Miyoko Ihara (伊原 美代子) began making photos of her grandmother Misao in 2003 as a way of documenting her grandmother’s life. In 2006, Misao found a white kitten abandoned on her property, which she named Fukumaru, or as Ihara explains, “in hope the God of fuku (good fortune) comes and everything will be smoothed over like maru (circle).” The two have been inseparable ever since.

Fukumaru is so happy and contented at my grandmother’s side. When I take a picture of the two of them together it’s like I’m photographing myself as a little girl.

(Photo: Miyoko Ihara |Rex Features)

This Japanese photo book really needs no translation. There’s so much personality, love, and humor in these images, I immediately flipped the book over and went through it again.

Through this collection of images, we’re also given a peek into a more rural side of Japanese life. Though the Chiba Prefecture where Misao lives isn’t far outside of Tokyo, it seems worlds away. Similarly, Misao is ageless in her garden and orchard, even as the photographs document many years of birthdays and daily moments with her beloved cat.

As Ihara notes on, “When I see the way my grandmother is living her life, I really feel that she has a kind of strength that my generation simply can’t match. She gets up with the sun, and goes to bed when it sets. She loves her cat and the vegetables in her field like her own children. If her vegetables come out well, she’s happy. She doesn’t have to worry about questions like ’what is the point of my work?’ Her way of life fills me with admiration and a sort of envy.”

This is the second of two small books’ worth of photos of Misao and Fukumaru. Many of the images are available to view online (see links below), but this makes a great gift and/or coffee table book for almost anyone on your holiday list—even curmudgeonly old dogs.

Pick this book up. It might just make your day!

Miyoko Ihara | Rex Features

Miyoko Ihara Rex Features

Cherry Blossom Miyoko Ihara | Rex Features

"Tea" by Miyoko Ihara | Rex Features

"Fukumaru" by Miyoko Ihara | Rex Features

Misao Ihara by Miyoko Ihara | Rex Features


Find this book!

Seattle Public Library:



Misao & Fukumara on Facebook:

Miyoko Ihara’s website:

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Ihara’s first book: “Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat, Goodbye, Hello”

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Rx for soaring health costs: Give more Americans a ‘purpose in life’

Are people who have a "sense of purpose" in life more likely to take advantage of cost-saving preventive healthcare services? Researches put the theory to a test.  (Joe Raedle|Getty Images)

Are people who have a “sense of purpose” in life more likely to take advantage of cost-saving preventive healthcare services? Researches put the theory to a test. (Joe Raedle|Getty Images)

By Karen Kaplan
Los Angeles Times—November 3, 2014

Researchers have an unconventional idea for reducing medical costs in the U.S.: Give more Americans a sense of purpose.

You see, people who believe their lives have purpose are motivated to optimize their health. That means they’re more likely than other folks to take advantage of preventive health services, like cancer screenings. And people who take advantage of preventive healthcare save the medical system big bucks.

Read the full article

Read the scientific abstract at PNAS

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A Tiny Stumble, a Life Upended

Katherine Streeter | The New York Times

After a fall, life is upended in an instant — a sudden loss of independence, an awkward reliance on family and friends, and a new level of fear for those who fall, and their contemporaries. (Art:  Katherine Streeter for The New York Times)

AFTER THE FALL: Second of two articles
By Katie Hafner
The New York Times—November 3, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO — Joan Rees, 79, had hardly been ill a day in her life. Her biggest problem was arthritis, mostly in her knees, but at home in San Francisco she walked every day and she traveled frequently.

At dusk last November in Istanbul, on the final day of a cruise, she missed a step and lost her footing. When she couldn’t stand up, she knew something was terribly wrong.

In that trivial act of misplacing her foot and falling, she had fractured her pelvis in multiple places. “It was a complete shock,” she said, “that I did something so destructive to my body.”

Her life would change with cruel, unanticipated swiftness.

Read full article

Read Part 1 (“Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation”)

By Katie Hafner
The New York Times—November 3, 2014

Older Americans, Falling MorePreventing a fall, and the resulting injuries, isn’t simply a matter of being more careful. Indeed, experts who have studied falls wish that people would take measures to protect themselves much as they do against heart disease or viral infections.

Judy A. Stevens, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stressed the importance of exercise. Among those who do fall, she said, “if you’re in better physical condition, you’re less likely to be injured.”

Read full article


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Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation

Ramin Rahimian for The New York Times

As the population ages and people live longer in bad shape, the number of older Americans who fall and suffer serious, even fatal, injuries is soaring. (Photo: Ramin Rahimian for NYT)

AFTER THE FALL: First of Two Articles
By Katie Hafner
The New York Times—November 2, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO — Eleanor Hammer, 92, executes a tightly choreographed, slow-motion pas de deux with her walker during meal times at The Sequoias, a retirement community here. She makes her way to the buffet, places her food on the walker’s built-in tray and returns to her table.

Her small act of independence has not come easily. To eliminate trips that could lead to falls, management at The Sequoias required residents to have walkers valet parked once they reached their table, then remain seated while staff served the meal.

Click here for full article

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PNA Village Needs YOU!

Please consider contributing to our Connections blog and newsletter by submitting your writing, photos, or ideas for publication. We’d love to hear from you!

Here are some general guidelines for submission:


PNA Village Connections blog publishes a variety of posts on aging in place and staying active, healthy and engaged in our community. Our readership includes members and volunteers of all ages.

General categories include:

Word Count

Posts vary from 100 word (or less) announcements to 1000 word (or more) book reviews and articles. Most posts fall in the 250-500 word range. We also publish quick links to articles and event notices published elsewhere that will be of interest to our readership.


  • Posts with original photos get the most traffic on the blog—your photos are very welcome submissions!
  • Posts that feature animal companions and/or wildlife are very popular
  • Less is more—our most-read posts fall in the 250-500 word range
  • Posts on the PNA Village Connections blog are cross-posted to our Facebook and Google+ pages


Please send queries to: and be sure to include your contact information (name, email, telephone number) and any applicable links to your material.

Submissions may be kept on file for consideration for several months. PNA Village Connections blog retains the right to edit all submissions.

Thanks for contributing your voice to our Village!

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When Planning for Retirement, Consider Transportation

[ Sam Hodgson for The New York Times ]

Roland and Rosemarie Dion live on the eastern edge of San Diego, and have begun planning for a carless future. They have considered moving, but have not yet made any concrete decisions. (Photo: Sam Hodgson for The New York Times)

By Harriet Edleson
The New York Times—October 20, 2014

For Roland Dion, 81, who lives on the eastern edge of San Diego, being isolated in a place where the car rules is all too real a possibility.

“Out here, it’s cars,” Mr. Dion said. “Cars, cars, cars, cars.” Doctor appointments, grocery shopping, movie theaters, even reaching the beach from where the Dions live all require a car. “If you don’t have a car, you’re stranded,” said Mr. Dion, a retired marriage and family therapist. He and his wife, a master weaver, moved to California 38 years ago from Connecticut.

While he still drives 16 miles — on three freeways — to writers group meetings, he has decided the time has come to plan for a carless future.

Click here for full article

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What if Age Is Nothing but a Mind-Set?

Photo illustrations by Zachary Scott for The New York Times

Photo illustrations by Zachary Scott for The New York Times

By Bruce Grierson
Oct. 22, 2014—The New York Times Magazine

One day in the fall of 1981, eight men in their 70s stepped out of a van in front of a converted monastery in New Hampshire. They shuffled forward, a few of them arthritically stooped, a couple with canes. Then they passed through the door and entered a time warp. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan welcomed guests on a black-and-white TV. Everything inside — including the books on the shelves and the magazines lying around — were designed to conjure 1959. This was to be the men’s home for five days as they participated in a radical experiment, cooked up by a young psychologist named Ellen Langer.

Click here for full article

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A Guardian Seagull

seagull on rail

By Charles Forsher

October 13, 2014

This morning, as I’ve been doing for many months now, I visited a pocket park near my home that overlooks a very old railway drawbridge. Today would likely be the last day I could sit and enjoy the park before our rainy season begins. Of course, Seattle’s rainy season consists of days on end of rain—sometimes light, sometimes heavy—that can cancel plans for a long sit on a park bench.

In good weather, one of my favorite pastimes at this particular park is feeding the local crows. I bring two ounces of sesame seeds and a few slices of bread with me for each visit. Over the past week some seagulls took note of my beneficence to the crows and began interrupting our get-togethers. While not interested in the sesame seeds, they’ve gobbled up the crow-sized pieces of bread and blocked the crow’s access with shrieks and half-raised wings. My crow friends now seem terrorized and reluctant to help themselves when I throw the bread.

Today, on this last possible morning for our sunny park bench tradition, the seagull disruption continued. This time I waited patiently for the seagulls to lose interest and fly off. After they’d gone, I noticed several crows waiting nearby as if in secret, so I resumed breaking up my wheat bread and tossed some out. I am not by nature a praying man, but here I petitioned the unseen to please hold back the seagulls so I could feed the crows one last time.

I quickly collected a tribe of a half-dozen crows. After a brief hesitation, and as if my prayer had overcome their own terrors, the crows merrily set to consuming the strewn bread.

Before long a lone, large white seagull appeared overhead and circled several times before landing on a thick wood railing at the edge of the park. I continued spreading small pieces of bread to the crows, and they kept eagerly snapping up the pieces tossed.

The seagull just watched us.

Amazed, I took the second slice of bread and shared it around. By this time the morning fog had evaporated and a late morning sun cast its shadows wide. My crow friends flew away sated but the lone seagull stood sentinel on the wood railing. Staring. This vigil continued for the longest time.

Had some agency conveyed my request to this bird?

Only when a smaller, gray gull flew in and landed on the empty brick patio did the white seagull shriek, in a manner strongly suggesting to the newcomer, ‘Leave…NOW!’ The interloper departed but the lone gull continued to stand and watch. By now I had the uncanny feeling this seagull had answered my prayer.

Not long after, the seagull disappeared and I was left alone once again. I did not see it fly away.

·    ·    ·

Author Charles Forsher is a PNA Village member.

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