Adult Children and Their Parents: A Delicate Relationship: Jane Isay
Aging Gratefully
Dr. Peter Brill

Episode 33 - Adult Children and Their Parents: A Delicate Relationship: Jane Isay

No one can say the relationship between Third Agers and their adult children is always easy.  Our guest, author Jane Isay says, “It is no easier being the parent to an adult child than it was raising children at any other stage of growth.” How do we nourish good a relationship with our adult children? What do they complain about? Do they love and appreciate us?  Jane Isay, author of Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents, gives us a roadmap to enrich this often difficult relationship.

Jane Isay grew up in New York City, the daughter of a columnist for the New York Post and a psychiatrist. She worked at the Yale University Press, creating their lists in psychiatry, psychology, and child development. In 1979 she moved to Basic Books, and for the next 25 years she was an executive at a number of publishing houses. In 2004 she left her job as Editor-in-Chief at Harcourt Trade Books to embark on a new career as a writer. Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Parents is the result.  Some of the questions she tackles in the episode of Aging Gratefully are: 

1.) How can one close the communications gap between parents and their grown kids?
2.) How come the decade of the 2000’s can be so tense and disappointing?
3.) Grandchildren and their parents—what are the keys to their kingdom?
4.) What are some of the issues or problems facing a person when marrying into a family with adult children?
5.) What about money and its discontents?
6.) What are the words that welcome and the words that separate?
7.) Why we have to grow into this new stage of parenting, and how to do it?



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David Debin: Hello and welcome to the Third Age with the doctor and the man from Hollywood. I'm David Debin, the man from Hollywood. [music] Oh, great, thank you, Lisa.


David Debin: And the doctor is Dr. Peter Brill who says after his name, M.D. So, I guess that means he is something. What does that stand for? Medical doctor? OK.

Peter Brill: Med.

David Debin: Med doc.

Peter Brill: Mad dog.

David Debin: Peter Brill, mad dog. On this show we turn the myths of aging upside down. We are going to sort out the scientific and the trendy, the medical and the cultural, and we will tell you everything you need to know about living in the Third Age. Remember, we guarantee if you listen to us you will never grow old.

Peter Brill: Wow! What a promise. And I'm the doctor, Dr. Peter Brill. The Third Age starts somewhere around 45 or 50. It is a time when you start to feel a stronger desire for deeper meaning and fulfillment in your life. Your first age is Childhood. Your second age is Building Career and Family. The Third Age is a major change or transition to a whole new set of problems, values, opportunities and gratifications.

So, join us as fellow explorers in this journey to discover what brings passion, purpose and joy into this uncharted time of life.

David Debin: No one can say--this is a segue but it has to do with what we are doing here. No one can say the relationship between Third Agers and their adult children is easy. You haven't heard that, have you?

Our guest, author Jane Isay, our guest today says that it is no easier being the parent to an adult child than it was raising children at any other stage of growth. I heard the statistic actually that we spend more time taking care of our parents than we do taking care of our children.

Peter Brill: I think that's as it should be since all I have is children left.


David Debin: What a narrow point of view you have. Anyway, we all want to know how we nourish good relationships with our adult children. What do they complain about? Do they love and appreciate us? That's really a good one.

Stay tuned as Jane Isay, author of "Walking on Eggshells", navigating the delicate relationship between adult children and parents gives us a road map to enrich this sometimes difficult relationship.

Peter Brill: Good opening there, David.

David Debin: You know, it's going to be very interesting. At this very moment we, my wife and I, are experiencing a little, you know, trying to get on the same page with our son.

Peter Brill: Are you?

David Debin: I mean, it's a good thing, but he and our daughter-in-law are all atwitter because they are going to have a new baby. They have been trying for a couple of years now, and so they don't want anyone to say, "Oh, well, how are you? What's doing?" All that. And yet, you want to still have that intimate relationship where they tell you everything, so there are a lot of little things that come along that are interesting.

I wanted to talk about, and you and I discussed this earlier, happiness.

Peter Brill: Yeah.

David Debin: Before we do that, I would like to say one thing. I would like to say farewell to Bitsy, who is a guinea pig who my wife and I have had for almost five years who passed away this morning.

Peter Brill: We're going to have a moment of silence for Bitsy?

David Debin: Yeah, well, we take it very seriously.

Peter Brill: Oh, no. We'll have a moment of silence for Bitsy.

David Debin: Yeah, OK. Bye, Bitsy.

Peter Brill: Bye, Bitsy.

David Debin: OK.

Peter Brill: That wasn't much of a moment.

David Debin: I know, but you can't take too many moments on the air.

Peter Brill: [laughs] She was small?

David Debin: She was small She was very sweet. Loved her.

I have a friend, and I wanted to ask you your opinion about this.

Peter Brill: OK.

David Debin: He's 55 and he's a great guy, but he has always seemed to think that happiness was around the corner when he got something that he thought was missing. He had a certain--He called it a magic number, you know, beyond which--once he got to that number he could be sure that he could live for the rest of his life on that number. Until he got that number he was very, always intense and worried about it. When he had certain comforts, he felt that he would be happy and assured of those comforts forever.

It just seems like what happened was he got to that number, and it didn't seem--for a while it seemed like everything was OK, but then it seemed like he was going back to some other thing to distract him from happiness being now. What do you think about that?

Peter Brill: Well, you know, there is a lot of research and some of it even since the last time I've written on the subject. There is a lot of research on happiness. One of the most consistent findings that always surprises people is that there is almost zero correlation above some minimum amount of money, you know, 30-40,000 thousand a year or something like that. There is almost zero correlation between happiness and money.

What does that mean? It means that more money does not bring more happiness. It's been in study after study after study.

David Debin: But what if you are on the brink of poverty, let's say, and you get more money? Is that going to make you...?

Peter Brill: If you're literally starving or you're...

David Debin: Or you're living from Social Security check to disability check to check...

Peter Brill: If you are in chronic pain and don't have enough to eat that certainly affects your happiness.

David Debin: Right.

Peter Brill: But as you get out of that range of experience where you have enough to eat, you have a place to stay, it just doesn't seem like there is much correlation at all between money and happiness.

David Debin: And you also told me something about...

Peter Brill: Cross cultural--it's been found everywhere.

David Debin: And you told me the other day something really interesting about happiness, the spectrum that we have.

Peter Brill: Yeah, wait a minute, before I did it, there's just one other thing. In Japan, for example, the standard of living in Japan jumped fivefold from 1950 to 1980. So, we're up to 1980, and there was not one increase, one tenth of a percent increase in the happiness of the population in that time.

And if you look at American population, the amount of income has gone up and the amount of happiness has gone down over the last 20 years.

David Debin: Income has gone up and happiness has gone down. Well, we're going to have to investigate that. I don't know if many of our people would agree with that.
Peter Brill: Do you know what time it is?

David Debin: It's time for our news story.

Peter Brill: A news story.

[sound of gong]

David Debin: I thought that we'd go overseas for this one. This comes to us from the London Times. It's about a foul-mouthed parrot who apparently is very happy. He once told a vicar or a pastor around here to f*** off, and he has been teaching other birds how to swear.

Peter Brill: [laughs] He's teaching other birds.

David Debin: Yeah, Barney, the macaw, has refused to clean up his act despite being taken to a language specialist. Reports Metro, his most shocking outburst was when he told a mayoress, a vicar and two police officers to f*** off when they visited the Wildlife Sanctuary. Barney is--I know some people like Barney.

Peter Brill: I do, too.

David Debin: Yeah. I think, didn't Dick Cheney tell that to Robert Byrd in the Senate?

Peter Brill: [laughs] He did. That's before he shot him.

David Debin: Before he shot him. [laughs] And the seven-year-old macaw has now been spreading his obscene vocabulary to two other parrots, Sam and Charlie at the center. Owner, Jeff, said, "They just sit there swearing at each other now, all kind of foul language. It's unbelievable." Can you imagine how much, how funny that would be?

Peter Brill: That it really would.

David Debin: Walking into...

Peter Brill: I find it fairly diabolical that one parrot is teaching another how to talk.

David Debin: Yes. Oh, you mean, like you are starting to think of conspiracies and...

Peter Brill: Conspiracy, too.

David Debin: Like computers are going to take over. The parrots are going to take over.


Peter Brill: The parrots are working on it.

David Debin: The parrots are in a league with the computers. That's it.

Peter Brill: There you go.

David Debin: That's it, and they are all going to take over.

Peter Brill: Something like that. Anyway, with bad words.

David Debin: We are going to have a great show today.

Peter Brill: We certainly are. We have a very, very interesting topic which is the relationship between adult children and their Third Age parents, their adult parents. We have an author of a new book, and so stay with us. We will be right back.

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David Debin: Hi. You are listening to the Third Age with David Debin, the man from Hollywood, and Dr. Peter Brill. We have a very interesting guest that we are going to talk to now. Her name is Jane Isay. She grew up in New York City, the daughter of a columnist for the New York Post and a psychiatrist.


Peter Brill: I apologize for that.

Jane Isay: Never mind.

David Debin: She worked for the Yale University Press creating their lists in psychiatry, psychology and child development. A few years ago, I won't mention the date, she moved to Basic Books for the next 25 years. She was an executive at a number of publishing houses, and in 2004 she left her job and she went on to do something that I believe she has probably wanted to do for a long time, embark on a new career as a writer.

Her book is "Walking on Eggshells", navigating the delicate relationship between adult children and parents. Welcome to the show.

Jane Isay: Thank you so much.

David Debin: I noticed in your resume that we didn't get to read all of because it would have gone on for about 30 minutes; you were involved in publishing some absolutely groundbreaking, landmark books in the field of psychology, psychiatry self-help.

Jane Isay: Yes.

David Debin: And in particular was Alice Miller's book, "Drama of the Gifted Child", which I've read many, many times, and I think it is one of the great, great books.

Jane Isay: It is one of the great books.

David Debin: And were you involved in actually editing that book?

Jane Isay: Well, actually I got the translation, an English translation, of the German book on a Friday, and I was living in New Haven at the time commuting from New York. By the time I got off the train I knew I had a great book I wanted to publish, and I called my colleague and I said, "I think I need to buy this book very soon", and I did. It took a long time for anybody to pay it any attention. Peter, at that time I was married to a psychoanalyst.

Peter Brill: Oh, your father was a psychiatrist and you were married to a psychoanalyst?

Jane Isay: It's even worse, but anyway...


Jane Isay: I couldn't get anybody and we were deeply engaged in the American Psychoanalytic Association and so on. I couldn't get anybody to give me a blurb for this book because they didn't appreciate it. It really became a classic because patients in New York started giving the book to their therapists.

David Debin: Ah, wow.

Jane Isay: This was a grassroots effort.

David Debin: Wow, that's fabulous. That's the way a book should grow, actually.

Jane Isay: Yeah.

Peter Brill: To change topics just slightly...

Jane Isay: Yes?

Peter Brill: Let's talk about adult children and their parents, adult parents and their adult children.

Jane Isay: We are both trying to get adult. We are trying to grow up all the time, Peter.

Peter Brill: Why is it a problem?

Jane Isay: Well, I think what's especially the case in our generation and the generation of the baby boomers as parents, we had a very different kind of relationship. Many of us had a different kind of relationship with our parents who were after all the greatest generation. They were much more authoritarian, and they had lived through much harder times than we ever did. They knew what was good for us, and they pretty much told us what to do, but we raised our children with Dr. Spock. We didn't tell them what to do as much, and we want to be closer to them. We want greater intimacy with our grown children than we ever had with our parents.

So, it's a new world out there, and I believe that this is a new stage of parenting that we need to figure out how to master the skills of parenting grown children in the same way that we needed to master the skills of parenting little kids.

Peter Brill: All right. So, give us some stories. Where do people run into trouble?

Jane Isay: Well, you know, the first thing I found and this is so important for parents; is I went across the country. I interviewed over 70 people, half of the parent generation and half of the grown kid generation. Every one of those grown children told me how much he or she loved their parents even if they weren't speaking.

Peter Brill: OK because I was reading your book, and I was mentioning to David this morning when we prepared for the show. I said because our figures run about 70 percent of adult parents who have adult children are alienated from one or more of their adult children. It is that large.

Jane Isay: That's amazing.

Peter Brill: And this fact that they talk once a year or they don't talk at all, but basically they are emotionally divorced or separated.

Jane Isay: That's terrible.

David Debin: So, when Peter told me that the people you interviewed expressed love and respect for their parents, I said I would assume that that probably is said regardless of whether they are speaking or not.

Jane Isay: It is. And that is what was so interesting to me. There was one woman who trades the meanest voice mail messages with her mom, and I knew it. I knew they really don't get along, so when I interviewed her I was like, "Tell me about your mother", I said and I was expecting a blast. What she said to me was, "My mother is a hero". And she went on to tell me the story of their childhood of great poverty and her mother's heroism. She can't be in the same room with that woman, but she loves her.

David Debin: Well, what is the basis of their conflict?

Jane Isay: Their conflict is the mother isn't very good about boundaries. This woman is in her 30s. She was getting married a couple of years ago, and she was stationed in Europe. She's in the service, and her mother went and bought a wedding dress for her without checking with her. When she got home she found a beautiful dress in Italy. She got home and her mother said, "But, you are wearing this". And she said, "I am not". The mother was hurt, the daughter was furious and there you go.

But, what makes it so important to know is how much they love us. It means that a lot of our guilt and anger can be put in a different perspective because if we know that they love us even when they are being terrible because they are people who have a lot of issues it makes it easier for us to find a way to give up our ego and begin to make the little tiny connections that can bring families back together.

Peter Brill: How do we do that?

Jane Isay: Well, it's little things. I discovered that you can't bring everybody to the dining room table and say, "At the end of this evening we are going to love each other and be comfortable"; oh, no, but little tiny expressions of love and acceptance.

Peter Brill: Give me an example.

Jane Isay: Here's an example. There's a magic sentence. Here's a story. A woman I know; her father was in the Vietnam War, and he was ruined by it. They didn't know about PTSD or it wasn't well known, and when he came home he left her mother and her and abandoned them. She was so mad at him and for good reason.

Then, she needed, 20 years after this, she was now in her 30s--she needed his help. So, she went to ask him for help, and he who had been really not friendly, offered his help. She told me this story. At the end of their conversation he said to her, "Honey, I am so proud of you". And she said to me, "Jane, at that moment 20 years of rage melted, and all I saw was the poor, sad man who was my father". It's the most amazing sentence: I am proud of you.

And another thing I found, again from the stories, in our generation of boomers there's a whole population of children I interviewed whose fathers were alcoholic or who beat them. There's a lot of violence, as you know.

Here's an example. One woman hadn't spoken to her father. Her mother made a midnight escape with her and her little brother, and she hadn't really seen her father for years. He didn't come to her high school graduation, college; wasn't even at her wedding and she really, really didn't like him because when they did find each other he was rude and horrible.

Then, at his mother's funeral, at her grandma's funeral, he had changed by this time. He was off the booze, and there is new medication every year. He wanted back in that family and an apology and some loving words, and she wanted her dad back.

Peter Brill: Wow. We're going to have to hear the rest of the story and take it from there after a short break. We'll be right back. We are going to have more stories and parents and their adult children.

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David Debin: You are listening to the Third Age with David Debin, the man from Hollywood, and Dr. Peter Brill, the man from Mars. We are having a fabulous discussion with Jane Isay who has written a book which is called "Walking on Eggshells", navigating the delicate relationship between adult children and parents. Jane, hi.

Jane Isay: Yeah, hi.

David Debin: Before we continue, I have a question that occurred to me. You are the daughter of a psychiatrist.

Jane Isay: Yes.

David Debin: And you married a psychiatrist.

Jane Isay: Yes.

Peter Brill: Psychoanalyst.

David Debin: Psychoanalyst. Is that not the definition of insanity?


Jane Isay: Well, it turned out--yes, in a word, yes.

David Debin: OK, I just wanted to check. I wanted to make sure I had my psychological ducks in order.

Jane Isay: You're right.

Peter Brill: So, how do we close this communication gap between the adult...? How do we say this, adult parents and their adult children?

Jane Isay: Parents of adult children is what I say or boomers. I think we do it gradually. Here are some things that help to make it easier for kids who are angry to reconnect. An email that doesn't require a response, either a joke, something that you know would be of interest. Just a note saying "thinking about you".

There's one man in my book who has three daughters-in-law, and one of them--they have the same sense of humor. He clips those stupid little bits in newspapers that make him laugh, and he just puts them in an envelope, and he sends them to her when he has a few. No comment, no note, just "understanding you'll get a kick out of these". They have a very relaxed and good relationship without any words.

Peter Brill: What kind of parents do those?

Jane Isay: Those are the parents.

Peter Brill: Those are the parents? What can the kids do?

Jane Isay: What the kids can do? Here's the magic sentence: I told you about I am proud of you. The magic sentence I have found from grown kids to their parents; the phone rings and you hear your child's voice and it says, "Hi ma. How are you doing?" A conversation without an agenda.

A voice of concern makes such a difference for parents who feel guilty about all the things they did wrong raising their children and who feel responsible for all the things their kids are doing wrong.

In fact, when your kids are grown up they have to take responsibility for their own choices and decisions just the way that we did.

David Debin: So, I know somebody who has got this situation, problem. One of her daughters refuses to speak to her. Now, she had two daughters who refused to speak to her...

Jane Isay: Because?

David Debin: It had to do with the way they were brought up, with the husband who was abusive to her and to them.

Jane Isay: Yeah.

David Debin: But they didn't know it until she told them or she didn't know it. You know, one of those really mixed up things. The older daughter came around and actually had some kind of a spiritual revelation even without being prompted by the mother and sent her this incredible, beautiful letter of forgiveness and all of this. They have been tight as can be ever since.

The younger daughter just refuses to speak to her, and she has tried a lot of things. But, what you said I think makes sense. I don't think she's tried what you call a conversation without an agenda.

Jane Isay: Yeah. It makes such a difference, and all it's saying is I'm here and I am thinking about you. It makes it easy for the door to open, and the fact that this first daughter had a revelation and they are close again, it proves my point. They love us.

Something else I wanted to talk about, the tensions. When kids are in their 20s I call them the "gotta go" generation.


Jane Isay: No, you pick up the phone. You are dying to talk with them, and just when the conversation gets juicy they say "gotta go".

Peter Brill: That's my daughter. [laughs]

Jane Isay: And they come home and they drop their dirty laundry on the floor and expect to be treated like grownups. It's really annoying. A lot of parents think that they made terrible mistakes, and their children are totally a mess. Also, the kids in their 20s are not making the kinds of decisions in their lives that we made when we were in our 20s. They are aware of that, so they will say to me, "I am 23 years old and by the time my mother was my age she already had us, and I don't even have a boyfriend".

And you know about this, Peter. This is the emerging adulthood generation.

Peter Brill: I know.

Jane Isay: And so that causes a lot of pain on both sides because the parents think that their children are failing the timetable, and the fact of the matter is that the timetable has really changed.

Peter Brill: You know what I say to my wife and so forth is that the greatest gift that I think we can give our children is the belief in them.

Jane Isay: Oh, I couldn't agree with you more. As a matter of fact, at one of my readings this man of my age raised his hand and said, "But, I want to give my children the benefit of my advice".

Peter Brill: Yes. All my wisdom.

Jane Isay: Tell me about your parents, and he said, "Oh, I loved my dad He always trusted my judgment".

Peter Brill: Right. In your book here you have a thing on giving advice. They don't want it. They don't hear it. They resent it. Don't give it.

Jane Isay: Yeah, you know, I really believe that. Parents, people have a hard time with that because everybody wants to help their kids, and everybody wants to get them on the right track. But, you know perfectly well, they will take the track they want to take.

Peter Brill: And everybody wants to prevent them from making all the mistakes we did.

Jane Isay: Exactly. The wise people say, "You learn most from your mistakes". So, when we are trying to keep our kids from making mistakes we are trying to keep them from learning.

Peter Brill: How about money? Tell us about money.

David Debin: Does that have anything to do with parent-child relations?

Jane Isay: Money?

David Debin: Money?

Jane Isay: What might that be?


Jane Isay: You know, here's what I think that when money is a necessity, that is, to buy heat and light and gas and food, it is a material thing. When there is money beyond the bare necessities it takes on so many different roles. It's love. It's appreciation. It's favoritism. It's approval. It's neediness. It takes on all these emotional roles, and so as parents...

Peter Brill: They were raised by you. They're good people. Those are good words.

David Debin: Go on.

Peter Brill: You go ahead; sorry.

Jane Isay: We as parents are often completely confused about it because, of course, we want to give our children everything. We love them, but we also know that they need to be independent. One of the things I learned from my research is brothers and sisters who are grown know what you are giving all of them.

Peter Brill: To the penny.

Jane Isay: To the penny, and they are keeping little mental notebooks, spreadsheets, maybe, in this age, a little Excel file called Sibling Dollars. That is a very great source of conflict between the brothers and sisters if you are not being fair. As far as I can tell, there are two different ideologies about that. One is the capitalist model which says everybody is going to get the same, and the other is the socialist model which is I will give to the one who needs the most.

Peter Brill: What about the capitalist model, I'll reward the one who performs the best?

Jane Isay: Right. Well, yes. That's the ultra capitalist model; the right wing model, I might say.


Peter Brill: The one who visits me gets the money.

Jane Isay: The one who needs it least. It's a big deal. I think the problems I've heard from parents, or the stories that I've heard--people who loan their children money can either expect it back or not. If they do expect it back, they need to tell their children they expect it back. And one of the people in my book...

Peter Brill: That doesn't mean you are going to get it.

Jane Isay: Well, but you know, again if you can take the heat out of it.

Peter Brill: I've got a story for you. We are going to have to take a break here for just a minute. We are going to come back. There is a lot more to talk about money. We're talking about adult parents and their adult children, and we'll be right back.

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David Debin: You are listening to the Third Age with the man from Hollywood, David Debin, and the doctor, Dr. Peter Brill. We are talking to Jane Isay, who has written a very important book, something we are all going to have to read at one point or another. It is called "Walking on Eggshells", navigating the delicate relationship between adult children and parents. Welcome back to the show.

Jane Isay: Hi, there.

David Debin: Boy, you've got us all stirred up here.

Jane Isay. I hear. It's so exciting.

Peter Brill: So, we're talking about money. So, you were finishing up the story about money.

Jane Isay: Oh, yeah. So, there was a woman who I interviewed. She and her husband had loaned her son money to get his PhD in psychology.

Peter Brill: Oh, well.

Jane Isay: And then, he got married and had kids, and he couldn't repay them. He started sending them $50 a month. Now, they will be long buried by the time that $50 a month equals the sum he borrowed, but they are so proud of the fact that he is honoring his obligation. I think, in many cases, honoring the obligation is really, really important.

David Debin: It's more important than the money.

Jane Isay: Much more important than the money, but a conversation has to take place. If you are going to loan your kids money you need to have a conversation, again, without a lot of sturm und drang  which says, "I am going to expect you to pay me back. It may take a long time, and don't feel bad if it does but it is part of this deal".

Peter Brill: Well, I would just throw in a few more cautions about it. Like you say, money brings a lot of messages to it. A lot of parents that I've seen, and I'll tell you one quick story in a second, give their children money hoping to make their lives better. Often, it doesn't make it better; it makes it worse.

A friend of mine loaned his son, age 40, money for a business that went bad, and then kept giving him more money for this business. Part of the underlying dynamic of the situation was this kid never kind of faced the reality that he had to really get a job and work.

Jane Isay: Right.

Peter Brill: So, the parent by giving money was just making it worse, and the kid felt inadequate relative to the successful father, so it just kept reinforcing that he was one down.

Jane Isay: That's absolutely right, and that's another reason why we need to work very hard to make sure that if they need money it's for their own needs and desires, and we do whatever we can to keep the emotional attachments down. Since most of our children if we could walk and talk and still have jobs, most of our children feel inferior to us anyway.

Peter Brill: Exactly.

Jane Isay: And you know they are. They feel they failed us. We feel guilty because of all the things we did wrong. They feel bad about all the things they didn't do right, and yet there are these oceans of love below the surface of difficulty.

Peter Brill: One of the things I would say very often to parents if they want to bridge the gap to their children is just to start opening the door to talking to them. What do they feel? What's the sense they have?

My daughter used to come down when she was in her early 20s, and every day she would have a new thing we had done wrong.

Jane Isay: Yes.

Peter Brill: And this went on for over a year. Now, I thought she was very creative and bright to be able to come up with 365 things when I can't even remember my car keys. And I said to her; this was actually when she was 18 or 19, I said, "When you are 21 if you still have those lists, I will give you a sincere apology for every one of these". But, people don't basically need to prove that they were right, they just need to understand.

You know, we are going to have to thank you very much for being on the show today.

Jane Isay: It's my pleasure.

Peter Brill: It is a fabulous book, "Walking on Eggshells", navigating the delicate relationship between adult children and their parents.

Thank you very much, Jane.

Jane Isay: My pleasure. Bye.

Peter Brill: Bye.

We are instituting a new segment on the show we have been talking about which is about the environment. Today, we have a guest from the Community Environmental Center, Michael Chiacos. Is that how we say it?

Michael Chiacos: Yes, good job. Michael Chiacos.

Peter Brill: And you are the Energy Program Senior Associate.

Michael Chiacos: Yes.

Peter Brill: And you are coming on today to talk to us about something in the environment, right?

Michael Chiacos: Yes. I want to talk with you guys a little bit about a very pertinent topic which are the high fuel prices that we are seeing as well as some different technologies and different things that we can do, you know, to help with these rising energy prices.

Peter Brill: What should we do?

Michael Chiacos: Well, how about we talk about the rising energy prices at first? Have you guys heard about peak oil?

Peter Brill: Yep. Tell what peak oil is?

Michael Chiacos: Well, peak oil basically refers to the maximum rate of global petroleum production after which production goes into terminal decline. So, after peak oil what happens is the current slow moving energy crisis that we are seeing will become progressively worse as energy hungry nations bid up prices on an ever decreasing supply.

Peter Brill: Are we there now?

Michael Chiacos: I heard we hit $120 a barrel oil recently. About 10 years ago it was $9.16. So, things have gone up quite a bit, you know. There are some important things that we need to do that really try to work on these issues.

Peter Brill: Tell us what to do.

Michael Chiacos: Well, the best thing you can do is use alternative transportation, try to move closer to where you work, ride the bus and bicycle. Obviously, that is not going to be the right thing for all the different types of transportation we need to do. One of the most interesting things that is coming down the pipeline is the electrification of the transportation sector. So, this is basically using electricity to run cars rather than using gasoline.

Peter Brill: And it's much more efficient for energy to use electric cars and batteries than it is to use gasoline, right?

Michael Chiacos: Exactly. Electric engines are about three times more efficient than internal combustion. You probably heard. There is a lot of heat and exhaust and a lot of waste when you use gasoline in the internal combustion engine.

So, one of the things that is probably going to hit the market first--there are some pure electric vehicles out there, but they are kind of just around town. You can't go more than 25 miles per hour in them, but the plug-in hybrid vehicles are something that we are really excited about.

At Earth Day the Community Environmental Council--we put on Earth Day every year--we had some of these conversion kits for like a Prius. So, you have your Toyota Prius. You put in extra large batteries and a plug, and then you can basically just fill up on electricity from your home, and you can use that electricity for the first 10 or 20 miles around town. It might be all the commuting or driving you are doing in a day. Then, if you need to go to San Francisco or on a longer trip then you can just use the regular gasoline like in a hybrid car.

David Debin: Wow. That's fantastic.

Peter Brill: That's fabulous. So, how do people find these kits, Michael?

Michael Chiacos: Well, one of the best sources is CalCars, and this is the California Cars Initiative. They basically have put together this whole technology, and there are some retrofit companies that are now doing this. It is a little bit expensive right now, and a lot of people who are early adopters will do it more for environmental reasons and wanting to get off foreign oil and these other reasons rather than the strict cost savings.

You could go to, and there there's a list of all the different companies that are doing plug-in conversions.

Peter Brill: Michael, we are going to have to break for a commercial, and I want to thank you for bringing us our environmental message for the week. Listeners out there, we will be right back.

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David Debin: You're back with us at the Third Age. I'm David Debin, the man from Hollywood. I am here with Dr. Peter Brill, our engineer, Lisa Headley and our associate producer, Emily Figurato. Hi, Emily Figurato. How are you doing today?

Emily Figurato: I am great, thank you. How are you?

David Debin: I'm fine, actually. I'm having a very good time today. And speaking of a very good time and having fun doing the show, we have our minute coming up from Shannon Brooks, who is the Director of Communications for the Santa Barbara Conference and Visitors Bureau. She also works with the Film Commission. So, you're going to hear what's fun now. This is not a commercial. It's part of the Third Age Foundation's public service. We want you to have fun so...

Peter Brill: Boy, do we have something special this week. Shannon, what's fun?

Shannon Brooks: A whole new form of transportation, segways. Segway of Santa Barbara is a shop that you can actually buy a segway or you can rent one, and they even do guided tours.

Peter Brill: What is a segway?

Shannon Brooks: It's a two-wheel, kind of funny looking thing you stand up on. [laughs] That's not the official description, but that's what it looks like. And you might see people around town.

Peter Brill: Two wheels and people standing up on it? Does it move?

Shannon Brooks: Two wheels and it looks like you're balancing.

Peter Brill: It moves.

Shannon Brooks: It moves and it's battery powered. They say you can't tip over unless you really mess up.

Peter Brill: Really?

Shannon Brooks: So, people really...

Peter Brill: I can really mess up.

Shannon Brooks: But, it is eco friendly.

Peter Brill: Where do they tour you to?

Shannon Brooks: You can go as far as the Old Mission. You can go to Butterfly Beach. You can go through Santa Barbara for a historic type of tour.

Peter Brill: And you have a whole group of people that are going along, all segwaying.

Shannon Brooks: Actually, you can have your own group. You can do it privately, and you can even rent them and go explore on your own.

Peter Brill: Now, that is fun, Segway Tours.

David Debin: I am going to try that. I see people riding around town on them, but to me they look like Michael Dukakis sticking out of the tank with--standing on those things with those silly helmets on their heads. I guess you've got to wear a helmet for almost anything nowadays, right?

Peter Brill: But having fun is vital to the Third Age. It's a very strong predictor of how long you live.

David Debin: I'd rather be miserable.

Peter Brill: And live a short life. I'm sure you would.

David Debin: I would. Having fun is doesn't sound like fun to me.

Peter Brill: Or fun to suffer.

David Debin: How about our guest today? Wasn't that great? She was so lively and fantastic.

Peter Brill: She has so much more to say about--you know, I just wanted to talk a little deeper just for one minute about children can do with their parents; we started talking about what parents can do with their children.

Oftentimes, the children aren't clear with their parents about the boundaries for themselves: I don't want you to give me advice, but I do want this from you. And providing some alternative way to have a relationship with them. All I can say is that these things don't get better by not talking about them.

David Debin: No, they just grow. They just grow worse. I love her suggestion, you know, just to check in and don't expect a reply. That's the thing. I never call him or I never call because they just won't answer me. So, why should I keep doing it?

Peter Brill: Yeah.

David Debin: Well, if you keep doing it without expecting an answer, but just the idea that you are just connecting then whether it works or not is immaterial. You are doing your part.

Peter Brill: Yep, that's absolutely true.

David Debin: One thing we didn't talk about was grandchildren and how they figure into the equation of adult children and their aging parents. In some ways it can be very positive. In some ways it can be troublesome.

Peter Brill: Boy, it sure can. There's a lot of tension around that. Well, we want to thank Lisa Headley for being our engineer today and Emily Figurata...

David Debin: Figurato.

Peter Brill: Figurato. I can never pronounce that. Les Carroll, I want to thank you, and we want you to visit us again for our next show when we will have another journey into the Third Age.

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