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As I often feel creepily ancient here in the Blogosphere, I was heartened to discover the Elder Wisdom Circle, a collective of Bay Area seniors aged from sixty to ninety-seven that answers requests for advice. I wish that it had been around when a distant cousin, long since passed away, began to have serious incontinence problems. The elders whom I consulted all took a rather unhelpful approach, best summarized by a disclaimer: "If I ever do that, just shoot me."

How nice to have questions that older people can help out with. That has never been my good fortune. I've almost always been convinced that nobody older than I was had a clue about anything, and that's a conviction that has ebbed only as I've moved into old age myself. It still seems clear to me that we baby boomers grew up in a world that the parents didn't understand, a world, in fact, that was in many ways their rejection of what they had grown up understanding. They were very slow to realize, for example, that television was going to work very differently from radio.

In some wacky way, I knew that computers were going to change everything in general and my life in particular. I certainly knew this as a freshman in college, when I spent hours in the basement of the Computer Building typing punch cards for the student radio station. (Don't ask.) The computer of the day - there was just one in the building, an array of refrigerator-sized boxes with tape reels that hummed beyond a plate-glass wall - was obviously not up to "programming" the radio station's playlist, but I was fascinated by the possibility, and, had I been a generation younger, I might have tackled the problem seriously. Now I learn from younger people. I have a few things to teach, I suppose, and I'm very fond of quite a few really old people, but I don't ask them for advice, and they don't offer it.

In two years, I'll be old enough to apply for membership in the Circle. I doubt that I'd be accepted; my preference for the interesting, unusual solution to everyday problems marks me as the likely source of dodgy advice. But it's always nice to be asked.


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