Monday, July 30, 2012
Coming soon to a home near you
My wife and I have two 90+ year-old parents, both of whom are remarkably well. True, neither of them can walk far, but both are more than able to keep up their ends of a conversation with intelligence, personality, and humor. Not long ago, in fact, my father-in-law passed his drivers tests, written and road, with flying colors, the written with only one wrong--in all my years and all my moves, I've never scored that high. My mother can tell you what she thinks the season holds for the Packers and explain by draft choices.
They live in nursing homes that feature plushy dorm-like rooms, homes where the only noise in otherwise silent halls is from cranked-up TVs and a little muzak from ceiling speakers. Both eat well, although my mother, who was never a great cook, is far more satisfied with the cuisine, my father-in-law long ago tiring of overcooked meat and vegetables you can almost suck through a straw. The food is, at both places, institutionalized, but both places offer cloth napkins.
Even though they live in facilities 500 miles apart--in both institutions, building projects are going on right now, expanding the facilities.
Because of us--because of baby boomers. We're coming soon to an old folks home near you.
I've had occasion frequently in the last few weeks to look over my own economic situation, now that retirement has arrived. We're doing well, it seems, although my ability to draw an economic course is largely suspect, my wife having been born with abilities that make her both more fascinated by and competent with facts and figures. I've overdrawn my bank account only once or twice in the last several decades, but I haven't balanced a check book in years. These days, of course, who needs a check book?
But our future(s), like most boomers these days, almost inevitably leads to a home. What will it look like? I dare say the place in which we get corralled won't be like the places our parents now--for better or worse--are presently housed. We're boomers, after all, not "the greatest generation." We have no memory of any Depression, and the only war we fought was something of a bust. We screwed everything up when our fathers, home from WWII, couldn't stop reproducing. We're selfish to a fault, inconsiderate of lines in the sand, forever wanting our own way--or at least that's what people say. And like the spoiled brats we are, we'll likely expect more than our parents do out of our nursing homes.
It seems clear to me that there may well be some drumbeat for real death squads in the not-too-distant future. Keeping the boomers--millions of them--alive is going to cost royally, and there are simply fewer young people paying into the system. Besides, in 20 years, who knows how long we'll live? We could become, once more an Old Testament world where 80 is the new 40.
The Republicans are right--it's a recipe for disaster.
But I also think--as does Thomas Friedman in Saturday's New York Times--that those new, nursing home additions will continue to go up only if our military spending goes down. Perhaps the greatest change a'comin' is that we'll no longer be able to afford to be the world's policemen, and proud American Republicans may have to concede, as Ron Paul stoutly maintains, that our strength will no longer be created or calculated by our ability to shoulder the world's finest weaponry.
Something has to change. Sooner rather than later, we boomers will be needing the home.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:26 AM