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
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 hes going to sunny
Florida for a weekto visit an aunt, so he says! Well,
records were meant to be broken. Maybe in the heat of the summer
hell 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 minuteIm 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
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 ofand 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 earlierthat 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 didthat 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.