Grown-up seniors have earned right to complain

It seems perhaps I didn't make myself clear on this Senior Center bugaboo. I hate to refer to it as a genuine brouhaha, because the issues don't quite qualify.

A brouhaha has a bit more substance. Such as an elementary school with no heating or air conditioning. You remember that brouhaha, don't you? The district tried to pass a school bond that would help finance school repairs so that our children might have a better environment in which to learn how to read and write? And the voters pretty much told the district to go pound sand?

Now that was a brouhaha.

Then there was the library bond. You remember that one, too, don't you? The library folks wanted to expand the facility, thinking that a forward-minded community such as ours ought to have a great library with great facilities and great hours. And the voters pretty much told the library folks to go pound sand?

Now that was a brouhaha, too.

I wrote a little piece last week suggesting that $2 lunches at the Senior Center are bound to be cold from time to time and that disputes over pool table placement or staff personalities are rather insignificant compared with making ends meet, skyrocketing medical costs and other real calamities facing Older Americans today.

A couple of those Older Americans were offended by my comments, suggesting that they had paid their dues and therefore have earned the right to bitch about anything they choose to bitch about.

For the most part, they are absolutely correct. Anyone who has survived a Depression and a couple of wars has definitely earned a place at the head of the complaint line.

But that doesn't include everyone over 65. You don't earn that right by simply breathing in and out for 65 years. I'll bet there are lots and lots of Older Americans who never contributed a thing to society. I know a few 25-year-olds who are losers today and will probably be losers when they are 65. The only visible change will be the baseball cap that will be turned from back to front.

Unfortunately, they will probably be the most vocal in terms of demanding "something back" from society. They'll want us to pay their medical bills after smoking for 55 years in spite of the surgeon general's advice. They'll want us to pay for their food and lodging in spite of never holding down a job for more than a week. They'll vote against school bonds and library bonds because they've convinced themselves that they've "paid their dues" and that everyone else can go pound sand.

For the record, there is nothing in the Constitution mandating that cities or municipalities provide senior centers. Not that it shouldn't be. This country ought to be ashamed of the way it treats its older citizens. It should be particularly ashamed of the way it treats its older citizens who fought on battlefields to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today. They were promised medical care and other benefits that they are still fighting to receive.

Children should also be ashamed of the way they have treated their parents. Next time you want to be really depressed, swing by a convalescent home. Most are filled with Older Americans whose children have dumped them there to die alone. In many countries it is assumed that mom and dad will go to live with their children once they can no longer care for themselves. There was a deal at birth: "If you make sure my diapers are clean and keep my fingers out of electrical sockets for 18 years, I'll take care of you when you need diapers."

It was like that once in America, back in the days of family commitment. Before quickie divorces, palimony suits and multiple-parent units.

If I could change anything from my comments last week it would be the part where I encouraged the warring parties at the Carson City Senior Center to grow up.

That was inappropriate. Most of them have grown up and that is probably the gist of this whole bugaboo.

We grow up too fast and before we know it we are gray and folks are trying to shove us aside to make room for the young.

Maybe what we need more than anything at the Senior Center today is a little more respect. Perhaps the cold food, the pool table and parking are simply hangers upon which a greater issue is being pulled from the closet.

Tom Baker, who sits on the center's governing board, is a man of his word. He served on the battlefields in Vietnam and he continues to serve his country and his community today. He will certainly have earned his place at the head of the complaint line when he officially becomes an Older American.

Until then, allow Tom and the board to deal with the problems at the senior center. None of those problems seem insurmountable.

In the meantime, enjoy life. It's short and none of us will get out of it alive.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment