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Silver Buzz Cafe's 2009

SBC_ShrunkWe started this blog on April 9, 2009, not knowing where it would lead us. The goal was to provide a place where seniors, their families and caregivers could find relevant articles and information. Many blogs consist of very short posts, sometimes posted several times a day, rather like an extended form of Twitter. Once we started researching articles we decided to go for more substantive ones and that approach seems to have paid off. We’ve had days where more than 24,000 users found our site. The good news is that about fifty users revisit us for the second time every day. Interestingly, we get a lot more private comments than public ones, perhaps because those people work within an industry that we’re discussing.

We’ve covered a wide range of articles of interest (we hope) to seniors, ranging from gadgets to telehealth, and from saving money on prescription drugs to avoiding financial scams. If you look at the Tag Cloud in the left hand sidebar you can see that the most covered topic (other than “Senior Blog” and “Senior Health”, which are catchalls) is “Healthcare Reform”. The complex highs and lows of that ongoing debate drew us into public political debate for the first time ever. We also got a kick out of seeing adverts for health insurers placed alongside articles that, by and large, tended to be highly critical of them. That’s the magic of Google Ads.

Verna has worked in the health care sector for most of her professional life, but I haven’t, so most of the topics that we’ve covered have been new ground to me. The medical studies are always interesting, but both of us learned new things about how our senses change as we age and the advances in understanding how our bodies and brains work at the cell and connection level. Some series, such as the one on the Big Pharmas, offered an opportunity to look at something that affects all of our lives, but that we have generally only understood at a superficial level. I still have fun quizzing people on the seven government run health systems that we covered in a series on them. Some people can name four or five of them. Most can only think of three – Medicare, Medicaid and the Veteran’s Health Administration. Nobody had heard of the Indian Health Service.

By far the most widely read article was the one on the socialized healthcare systems abroad. It’s still getting new readers every day. It was largely because of that article that we started getting more involved in the health reform debate. Until then we’d only called out obvious lies, topped by the infamous Palin “death panel” claims, which still haven’t been properly buried. Like any good soap opera, the heroes and villains kept emerging as the plot evolved. Unfortunately, there were many more villains than heroes.

When we ran a poll on the Senate version of the health reform bill the visitor meter was changing so rapidly that it took a day longer than we expected for the flow to slow down. It was clear that public opinion of the Senate was driven even lower because of the health reform debate. We switched channels when we saw Senators slapping each other on the back and congratulating themselves after the vote. The health sector clearly got what it wanted from its puppets. Health insurance company stock prices rocketed skywards in the days after the Senate’s vote on the health care bill. It would have been more appropriate to see all of the Senators slapped with recalls, if that were possible. That’s one good thing about the political system in the United Kingdom. With no fixed terms, the government can fall at any time if it loses a vote on a major campaign issue, forcing a general election. We’re going to do some analysis of a weighted vote scheme that would penalize politicians according to the amount of special interest money they’ve received. If Senators who had received nothing from the health sector could cast ten votes and the largest benefactors could only cast one, Senators Ben “$1,258,660″ Nelson (D-NE) and Joe Liebermann (I-CT) – the “Senator from Aetna” – would have been left in the shadows.

So, we’re looking forward to an interesting and better 2010 for the nation than 2009 was, perhaps with a real health reform bill. Let’s hope that there are more discoveries and potential cures found by researchers and that we finally pull out of the dreadful recession we’ve been through. Meanwhile, have a Happy, Healthy and Safe New Year’s Eve!. We’ll be back next year. Thank You for your interest, comments and time.

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