By Catherine Browning

Let me tell you about Max. Max was one of the engineers that worked with Mary Jackson at NASA on the command modules for all the Apollo missions. He also worked at Rockwell International on the B1 bomber and jet engines. This man was no dummy. He was brilliant and won an award for an invention he made for the Polaris missile. They sent him on a trip to Germany. He retired at age fifty-five.  All his nieces and nephews loved Uncle Max. He was fun and funny, had an easy-going personality and a silly sense of humor.

Max and his wife moved in with his son and daughter-in-law four-and-a-half years ago because he had too many incidents where he couldn’t find his way home and his wife had to sell their house.  It was immediately obvious that his wife couldn’t take care of him. She was ill and died five months after they moved in.

Max was hard of hearing, so at first, his son and daughter-in-law thought his behavior was because he couldn’t hear. But noooo . . . Daughter-in-law Amy became his primary caregiver during the day when he was diagnosed with dementia.

“You really have to be willing to just drop everything and go if he thinks he has to go somewhere. Or try to distract him. Sometimes it’s easier just to go.”

Amy and her husband David watched as his dad deteriorated, forgetting how to use the bathroom, how to eat, what words or actions are inappropriate, confusing day and night.

What did they learn? In a moment of lucidity toward the end, Max told his son, “I love you.” It was a difficult four-and-a-half years, but they were able to give one old man a quality of life he wouldn’t have had in an institution. It was worth it.



By Catherine Browning

Have you ever seen a tiny white-haired woman shuffling along with a cane or walker and thought, “I’ll never end up like that!”?

But what if you win the ‘little old lady’ lottery?

Yesterday was my annual physical exam to determine how far along the ‘little old lady’ road I have traveled. The first test is the height and weight test. We will gloss over the weight test and skip directly to the height part. My adult height was 5 feet 10 inches. A number of years ago I was in a tobogganing accident. The result was a compressed disc in my lower spine. Height: 5 feet 9.5 inches. Years of hiking and jogging along with regular living further eroded the height I had down to 5 feet 9 inches.

Shock doesn’t begin to describe my reaction to yesterday’s measurement: 5 feet 7 inches. And I now have to carry a cane when out of doors. People have started helping me out of chairs. Sleeping the night through is a thing of the past.

Never say never! But don’t give up either. My second novel is in the works and it doesn’t have a height requirement.

Hang in there, Baby! page: Catherine Browning Books@cbbooks76, or


Ina Albert, Author


It’s late on a Wednesday night, and Franklin Crawford, 52, is pushing a shopping cart around a 24-hour grocery store in Ithaca, New York. He’s found the bananas and cat food he needs, but as he roams the aisles he adds ice cream and other nonessentials to his basket. “This is the meeting place, the agora,” he explains. “It’s the abundance, the people, the bright light. It makes me feel good.”

Crawford visits a store like this almost every day. This one is his favorite because the café stays open until 10 p.m. and the security guard lets him hang out if he buys something. Paying for stuff is not the problem. Crawford is employed. He is also fit, well dressed, and well read. Other good-looking, well-dressed people are also here alone, slowly pushing carts of their own. Most of them don’t seem to be in a hurry, either, but Crawford says he usually doesn’t make eye contact or start conversations. “I don’t think we really want that from each other,” he says. “Sometimes I think maybe we despise each other, because we’re all here instead of home with someone else.”

Today more than 44 million adults over age 45 suffer from chronic loneliness.

Crawford is lonely — but he’s not alone. A groundbreaking AARP The Magazine survey reveals that millions of older Americans suffer from chronic loneliness, and their ranks are swelling: Of the 3,012 people ages 45 and up who participated in our study, 35 percent are chronically lonely (as rated on the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a standard measurement tool), compared with 20 percent in a similar survey a decade ago. Loneliness was equally prevalent regardless of race, gender, or education levels. Unexpectedly, though, age does make a difference: Those who said they are suffering most are not the oldest among us but rather adults in their 40s and 50s.

Chronic loneliness, experts tell us, is an ever-present, self-perpetuating condition that pushes people away from the relationships that sustain us and make us happy. But the chronically lonely are not merely unhappy — they are in danger. “Loneliness has surprisingly broad and profound health effects,” says John T. Cacioppo, Ph.D., director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago and a leading authority on the topic. There is mounting evidence that loneliness significantly increases the chances of diabetes, sleep disorders, and other potentially life-threatening problems. Research has also shown a greater risk of high blood pressure among lonely people, as well as higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, weakened immune systems, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Authors are often lonely. Spending time in our heads doesn’t permit the open expression of our ideas and critiques of our premises.  What better reason to join a group, bring your secret characters to life through someone else’s eyes, express them in a different way and recheck your premises.