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Older dads relish the joys of fatherhood

Dads traditionally get deluged with “guy stuff” like propane grills, razors and wallets on Father’s Day, but West Alexander resident Louie Blum was the recipient of an unforgettable gift on Father’s Day four years ago.

He became a father for the first time at age 41.

Two more have followed for Blum and his wife, Denise, with the youngest being 5 months old.

“I’m living for my kids right now,” Blum explained last week. “I’m not living for myself.”

The average age where men become fathers for the first time in the United States has been creeping up in recent years. A 2017 report by Stanford University found the average age of new dads in America was 30.9, increasing from age 27 in 1972. The study also found that 9% of children born in the United States every year have fathers over age of 40. That’s twice as many as the 1970s. And 40,000 children born in the United States every year have dads over age 50.

Mothers have been getting older, too, and young people have been delaying marriage and childrearing in order to launch careers, build a more solid financial foundation, and get to know themselves a little better. And, because there are no biological impediments to doing so, men have been fathering children when they might also be dandling grandchildren on their knees for ages.

John Tyler, the 10th U.S. president, had seven children after he turned 56, with the last being born when he was 70; Charlie Chaplin, the revered film star and director, had eight children after he turned 56, with the youngest, the musician Christopher Chaplin, having been born when Chaplin was 74. Grover Cleveland, Donald Trump, Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, Paul McCartney, Pablo Picasso, Marlon Brando, Mick Jagger, George Clooney, Jeff Goldblum and Steve Martin are among the luminaries who have become new dads at the midpoint of their lives or beyond.

Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, was born when his father was 52.

Older fatherhood, like parenthood at any age, comes with its share of pluses and minuses. On the one hand, older dads tend to be more financially secure and more patient with their children than they would have been at, say, 25. But then there are concerns about being able to keep up with children who might be heading toward college just as their dad has started retirement, or whether middle-aged muscles will be torn or pulled while tossing footballs or baseballs in the backyard.

There have also been well-publicized studies indicating that older fathers might end up siring children with a higher risk for autism or schizophrenia, though researchers say the odds are still small. On the flip side, some researchers say the children of older fathers tend to live longer.

Kristi Walsh, a California-based family and marriage therapist, told the Chicago Tribune in 2014, “Life stretches out in the 40s. Some of the basic tasks of solidifying an identity and place in the world have occurred, and one’s energy circles back around to home and family. Dragons have been slain, and lands have been conquered. By 40, there is less to prove.”

Blum explained that “everything is an adjustment” when it comes to midlife fatherhood, both physically and mentally, but that he probably appreciates his children more than if they had come into his life when he was younger. And though it might take a little longer to rebound from calming a child when they have a restless night, Blum says its endurable.

“You live through that, and you’re happier,” he said.

John Frazier, a Washington-area cardiologist, became a father when he was 49 and again when he was 55. He pushes back against the notion that the children of older fathers lose out in terms of engagement or time.

“I never felt that my kids were deprived in any way,” he explained. “We feel blessed that we had the children and they came along when they did. We think they’re wonderful children.”

Frazier’s children are now 29 and 23, and his son, also named John, just became a father himself. When they were younger, Frazier said he had no problem with keeping up with them.

“I never had a concern at all,” Frazier said. “We’ve always been active. I didn’t have a single concern.”

Not even with restless, sick or hungry babies in the wee hours of the morning?

“As a medical guy, I’m used to the phone calls all night,” Frazier said with a laugh.

Any advice he would give to men who are considering fatherhood when they are 40 or beyond?

“It’s worth it,” Frazier said. “It adds joy to your life. You think about the future rather than the present.”

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State's jobless rate falls to 13.1% in May

There’s good news on the unemployment front in Pennsylvania – sort of.

The jobless rate for May was 13.1%, down three percentage points from April, according to the state Department of Labor & Industry’s employment situation report released Friday.

Data was collected the week of May 10-16, before many counties advanced to the yellow phase of reopening. That decline may be a hopeful indicator, as fewer Pennsylvanians would have returned to work at that time, compared with after their counties transitioned to yellow and green.

May’s pandemic-related rate, however, was 8.9 percentage points higher than the 4.2% figure of May 2019. Last month’s data are seasonally adjusted, providing the most valid month-to-month measurement.

The national rate for May, which was reported previously, was 13.3%, a decrease of 1.4 percentage points from April. Last month’s U.S. figure represented a 9.7-point jump from 3.7% a year earlier.

Pennsylvania’s civilian labor force – the estimated number of residents working or seeking work – increased by 23,000 from April. Employment rose by 211,000 and unemployment dropped by 188,000.

There were 198,300 more non-farm jobs than in April, a record jump for one month – raising the statewide total to 5,191,400. Employment increased in nine of the 11 industry supersectors, the largest occurring in construction – 77,400. That represented a recovery of two-thirds from March and April losses.

Over the year, however, total non-farm jobs in Pennsylvania were down 863,800, with declines in all supersectors. Leisure and hospitality absorbed the biggest loss – 300,100.

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Activists meet with local leaders to discuss race

After organizing peaceful demonstrations in the month after George Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis, a group of young activists wants to move from protest to policy change.

The Black Americans, all in their early 20s, met with local legislators Friday at the Juneteenth Panel on Black Issues at the LeMoyne Multicultural Community Center to ask them questions about issues that impact their push for racial equality and justice.

“We’re here to engage with and appeal to people of higher authority who can make change happen for us,” said Zhiere Patmon, 21, of Washington, one of the panelists.

In attendance were state Reps. Tim O’Neal, Pam Snyder and Jason Ortitay, and state Sen. Camera Bartolotta. State Rep. Bud Cook and U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler did not respond to an invitation to attend.

The panelists asked legislators for their positions on several topics, including curriculum on Black history in schools, defunding police, no knock warrants and choke holds, disparities in health care among Blacks and other populations, Black voter rights, and labor and workers’ rights.

Panelist Kierra King, 21, of Canonsburg, said today’s curriculum is designed in such a way that makes Black students feel inferior.

“The majority of us learn in school that, one, Black people were brought to this country on boats, picked cotton, discovered the underground railroad, and were freed by Abraham Lincoln, and two, that Martin Luther King Jr. was the face of the Civil Rights movement and that Rosa Parks said, ‘no,’” she said. “We do not address systemic racism or talk about the significant contributions (of Black Americans). How can we expect our Black children to believe they can can grow up to be anything they want to be if we continue to teach a history that subconsciously preaches and praises oppression?”

Panelists also shared implicit biases encountered by Black women, such as the belief that they feel less pain than white women and are, therefore, under-treated for pain.

Patmon discussed efforts to suppress Black voters and asked legislators to help ensure voting rights.

The panel also included Ahmad Morris-Walker and Faith McClendon of Canonsburg, and A’Shon Burgess of Washington.

Bartolotta said the topics discussed are “all conversations we desperately need to have.”

O’Neal said it was important to attend the event.

“Obviously, (race) is a huge topic here recently, but it’s long overdue to be a topic. The reality is every person, regardless of the color of their skin, is a person who deserves dignity.”

Ortitay said the meeting was “just the start of the conversation.”

“We want to continue working with you so we have meaningful reforms that actually work the way that you envision them,” he told the panel.

The panelists also thanked the lawmakers for attending and invited them to come to a peaceful protest that will be held in Canonsburg today.

“We know that we want to continue our contact with you and keep pushing to make change,” said King.

She said Saturday’s protest is “a gathering to spread awareness, to spread knowledge like we tried to do today, just to educate our community on the social injustices and changes we’re trying to make.”

The demonstration will begin at noon at the Canonsburg Borough building parking lot.

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Washington County sees four new COVID-19 cases

Washington County recorded four new COVID-19 cases Friday, taking its total to 162 since March.

Greene County’s count remained again at 30, while Allegheny County went three straight days without a new death from the virus, state Health Department records indicate.

The virus has killed 6,399 people statewide after 38 new deaths were added to the total. There have been 80,762 cases in Pennsylvania, with 526 new ones announced Friday.

Gov. Tom Wolf also announced Friday that another dozen more counties, including Philadelphia and Erie, will transition into the green phase of reopening June 26.

“It’s a testament to the many residents and businesses that have sacrificed over the past three months to stay home and adhere to the guidance the state has provided to protect lives and livelihoods,” Wolf said. “As we begin to reopen, I urge everyone to stay alert and continue to follow social distancing to maintain the momentum of mitigation we have in place.”

The only county not moving to green next week is Lebanon. Against the advice of public health experts and against orders from Wolf and state Health Secretary Rachel Levine aimed at keeping Pennsylvanians healthy, Lebanon County commissioners voted 2 to 1 along party lines to prematurely reopen in late May, Wolf said.

“Now, the county is facing an uptick in cases, and is unable to move to green,” he said.