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Column: Never take life’s conveniences for granted

You don’t know what you got till it’s gone. The U.S. Postal Service announced this week that Saturday mail delivery of first-class mail will be phased out by summer. When I lived temporarily in Chicago last fall during my sabbatical, my neighborhood was bereft of post offices, and I used “postal stores” that charged outrageous fees to mail packages.

When I returned to Spokane, I felt a renewed appreciation of the handy post office across the street from the newspaper building. Esquire magazine recently published a long story on why the post office system still rocks. Here’s an excerpt:

“Today the postal service has a network that stretches across America: 461 distribution centers, 32,000 post offices, and 213,000 vehicles, the largest civilian fleet in the world. Trucks carrying mail log 1.2 billion miles a year.

“The postal service handles almost half of the entire planet’s mail. It can physically connect any American to any other American in 3.7 million square miles of territory in a few days, often overnight: a vast lattice of veins and arteries and capillaries designed to circulate the American lifeblood of commerce and information and human contact.”

STATISTICS LAND: The Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics released its Older Americans 2012 report in August, the middle of vacation season. It didn’t get much publicity. Here are some highlights.

• Older women are hanging in the workforce. In 1963, only 17 percent of women ages 65 to 69 worked outside the home. It’s now 27 percent.

• Older people have more money. Between 1974 and 2010, the poverty rate for older Americans was cut nearly in half. It’s now just 9 percent. And the percentage of older Americans with high incomes (above about $42,000 a year) nearly doubled to 36 percent.

• Dying at home. More older people are doing so. Only 15 percent died at home in 1999. A decade later, it was up to 24 percent.

IRRITATION ALERT: A 20-something friend of mine recently complained about her new 60-something boss who “makes noise when she pounds on her computer keyboard.”

It made me self-conscious later that day at my computer keyboard, surrounded by younger-generation colleagues.

Do we boomers pound harder on our computers? And if yes, is it because of getting our start on typewriters?

HANDS UP: The stereotype that most volunteers are older, retired and somewhat lonely folks with lots of time on their hands isn’t a reality.

Those most likely to volunteer are men and women between 35 and 54. Married folks volunteer in greater percentages than single, divorced and widowed people. Adults with children volunteer more often than those without children. And the more education you have, the more likely you’ll raise your hands when someone is seeking a volunteer. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

GEEZER TALES: We older boomers used to hear the stories of how our Greatest Generation parents walked everywhere in good weather and bad. Five miles to school in the snow and back again!

Now, we can have our version of snow stories. Baby-sitting stories.

In a newsroom discussion recently, I learned that the going rate for teenage baby-sitters is between $7 and $10 an hour. When we were teens, the going rate was between 25 cents and 75 cents an hour. And we cleaned the house up after ourselves, too.

IDIOT OR NOT: Ashton Applewhite is a New York-based writer who focuses on aging issues. She helps readers figure out if they are being treated like old fogies on her blog “Yo is this ageist?”

Here’s a recent post: “Why in the world do men call older women ‘young lady?’ Is it supposed to make you feel good or something?”

Applewhite’s answer:

“‘Young lady’ is condescending at any age. Only an idiot would consider it a compliment. This makes the guy either an idiot or a jerk. Point any or all of this out to him.”

Do you agree with Applewhite’s answer?

THIS WEEK, A SAMPLING: Chamber Soiree: Winter – wine, food, Spokane Symphony music, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. Spokane Club, 1002 W. Riverside Ave. (509) 624-1200. KPBX recordings and videos sale, Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. The Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St., Spokane, (509) 328-5729. Basic Beekeeping Class, this Saturday and again Feb. 23, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., WSU Spokane County Extension, 222 N. Havana St., Spokane Valley, (509) 477-2048.

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