Stan's Tuesday Walks

A Weekly Feature
by Stan Evans,
President, Santa Fe Always Online

March 19, 2002

When I woke up this morning at 5, I knew at once that Santa Fe was in for a perfect spring day. I didn't even bother to check the temperature. Even my neighbor, who joined me outside at 6, was reasonably dressed. For the past two weeks he wore so many layers he waddled as he walked.

This third time in a row was a new record for my neighbor. Usually he heads back to Palm Springs, California, after just one (or at the most two) Tuesday walks. I chide him that he can't take the cold. Now that the weather is warming up, I guess he figured he could handle three walks in succession. But that is as far as this record is going, because on Friday he’s going to sunny Florida for a week—to visit an aunt, so he says! Well, records were meant to be broken. Maybe in the heat of the summer he’ll top it again.

As usual, our conversation focused on one subject, and this time it the subject was the elderly. The discussion began when he said that he was concerned about the elderly aunt he will visit in Florida. The family thinks that the time for her to quit driving has come, but realizes that asking her to give up her independence will not be easy.

From that starting point we moved quickly to the fact that the number of octogenarians is steadily increasing, raising the question of who is going to take care of them financially in the future. My neighbor, a nurse and a former Marine nurse who served in Vietnam, began talking about all the things that are happening in medicine to make us live longer. (I always talk about my neighbor's Marine experience, because I think that the people who served there never got the recognition they deserved.)

I began wondering if maybe we were getting too far ahead of ourselves in learning how to live longer before figuring out how to support ourselves in a reasonably comfortable way. I mean, what is the point of longer life if we cannot enjoy it? But then I said to myself, “Wait a minute—I’m going to be 62 this May, and am approaching that octogenarian class rather rapidly. Hey, you out there, just keep on making new strides in making us live longer, and we'll worry later about who is going to support me!"

Coming out of my thoughts and rejoining the conversation (my neighbor never missed me, because he was still rattling off medical advances), I said, "Neighbor, you are quite a bit younger than I, so I guess you'll be in charge of paying into Social Security for several more years to make sure I'm taken care of—and during that time, you better figure who is going to take care of both you and me when you retire!"

He gave me a puzzled look. I saw wheels turning in his head, as he realized that what I had said was probably the case. Maybe he was thinking the same thoughts I had earlier—that medicine was getting ahead of its time. Maybe he was looking ahead and picturing himself as an octogenarian. And in the end, he reached the same conclusion I did—that any notion that medicine slow its progress must be dropped, and the only real consideration is how all the elderly are going to be cared for. His shoulders slumped as he pondered paying for my welfare while worrying about who was going to pay for his.

By the time we reached our usual stopping point at the French Pastry Shop, I was hoping he had accepted the idea that he was in charge of my welfare, and would ease into his responsibility by buying breakfast. But no, I guess he figured it was still my turn. I ended up paying the tab.

Have a great day.


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