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Strawberry Fields Forever

Thu, Jul 3rd, 2008
Posted in Commentary

The classes of 1968 will be meeting for 40 year reunions this summer. It would be a good time to be a caterer or a DJ with a great collection of classic rock, because there were a lot of us and we still eat and dance. We may well be seeing football heroes with paunchy bellies and, my hope, prom queens with age spots.

There were 76,000,000 babies born in the USA between 1946 and 1964- the largest generation ever seen here and the record still holds. Now, sometime in the 50's the adults probably looked at what an ant hill of humans they'd created and began to worry about how to deal with it. They started with playground equipment that was nothing more than welded iron pipe over concrete slabs. It allowed for some broken limbs and minor head injuries but we kept coming. In the 60's they offered up muscle cars with big engines and cheap bodies that teenage boys could wrap around trees and phone poles but most of us were still here. The horror show that was Vietnam took a toll for sure but we continued to march, six abreast, across the nation.

Now, we are beginning to trickle into retirement and are soundly filling the middle age demographic. Lennon and McCartney asked, years ago, "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" How about 84? 94? It may be a good time for dialogue about this with the generations behind us.

Medical technology and pharmaceutical science have fixed our cholesterol and managed our hypertension; we've sweated in health clubs to stay youthful, quit smoking and drinking and are now at risk of eliminating all the ordinary ways of dying. So, what should we do for about 40 years post-retirement?

We didn't have enough kids to support us economically or to take shifts caring for us physically. The numbers just don't add up. Besides, we sort of spoiled them so they'll be eager to turn our houses into cash instead of mowing our lawns.

I suggest we reconsider the commune. Chickens are easy enough to raise, a few potted tomatoes and some herbs on the porch and a greenhouse for recreational drugs out back. We'll call it Strawberry Fields.

Our nation seems unable to agree that health care is important for all its citizens. Our president vetoed a health care bill for children, for heavens sake. If we cannot afford to guarantee health care for our grandkids and great grandkids, I don't expect they will pay for my cholesterol medication and by-pass surgery when I'm 85. I read a statistic that 90% of one's total health care cost will be spent in the last year of life. I might advocate giving that year and those dollars up for a benefit to those who will be assuming the work of the world.

Baby Boomers changed many things in our culture and we can continue to. We remain "cooler" than our kids and we will redefine old age. We can concern ourselves now, while we still have a loud voice, about changing the health care system as it exists and leaving a health care trust for the future.

Remember the media event of Terri Shiavo's protracted death? Remember how all the politicians came forward with outrage about removing her feeding tube? These are the same folks who resist universal health care. When there are 76,000,000 of us with feeding tubes, who will call for the dollars to keep them in place?

Life has costs. Baby Boomers have driven the market on cars, clothes, houses and soft toilet paper. Now, we can choose to buy a healthy future for the youngsters we know and love and for those we'll not live to meet. Let's spend those finite dollars where they will get the best dividends. Even die hard Republicans should get behind that.

It is imperative that we find a means to distribute the excellent health care we have developed here. There are distribution models in place; the VA system, Medicare, some state plans. It is unrealistic to think that all things can be offered up to all comers at no cost. Dare we speak of rationing? Let those who can afford it buy all the additional insurance they wish, but the resources we have to share should be available to those who can most benefit from them.

So, to the class of '68 and those surrounding it, let's get on task for the future. Our party might not last another 40 years but it'll be a blast. Politicians, Health Care and Big Pharma executives are only invited if they redeem themselves to a noble system that cares about health care delivery. Immunize the kids, take care of the pregnant women, fix the miseries of the working poor and let us boogie on, knowing the future will offer care to our grandkids.

Beadrin Youngdahl lives in Peterson.

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