The Great Bridge

by:  Martin Bayne – Journalist, Buddhist monk, MIT graduate, and well-known advocate for the aging; cofounder & CEO of New York Long-Term Care Brokers, one of the nation’s largest LTC insurance brokers, Martin developed Parkinsons disease at the height of his career and has spent more than a decade energetically advocating from a wheelchair while personally experiencing life in LTC facilities.  He knows whereof he speaks.

We call the bridge between birth and death “aging.”

In it’s ascendancy, we are “young” even though our 10 trillion youthful cells have already started losing DNA telomere base pairs each time they divide.

If we survive youth, our aging cells become senescent and start to die. We call this “growing old”.

We are the only species that attempts to manipulate this natural cycle. (Ever see a  toothless lion in the wild?)

Because of our aversion to death, we prolong or “stretch out” this aging cycle, but the mind and body have no blueprint for these extra years, and without an instruction set, we simply create more hospice, skilled nursing, and assisted living beds.

What is the answer? In my lifetime, man has discovered DNA and mapped the human genome, rocketed to the moon and back, invented the transistor and created ambitious machines the size of small cities to explore sub-atomic particles. Yet, elder care remains stuck in the nineteenth century:  we still throw the confused, demented and disabled in “facilities” hoping God will sort it out.

Solving the aging dilemma is like nailing Jello to a tree. In truth, despite what the country’s most astute geriatricians, erudite scholars, and faceless Internet experts will tell you, there is very little one can do for an 82 year old woman with Alzheimer’s, a frail, 97-year old man in protracted renal failure, or a 62-year-old journalist with 19 years of Parkinson’s under his belt.

I know.

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One Response to The Great Bridge

  1. Cherie Lejeune says:

    Martin….your comments sear..but your intention to get our attention. Why not say it out straight…”Dying Sucks”. Heck many of our final travel package are not worthy of a one star rating on the Death Yelp. So to address your comments.. If I could fit a toothless lion with dentures I would but I can get some new teeth for “friends” to enjoy tearing apart a little protein again, because it is possible. All the big saintly words tossed onto parchment and digital clouds now, shout out for this final phase in so many cluttered, and often silly ways without action. Heck take away the blogger’s bloat and what score card really matters? For the 82 year old woman you mention is hopeless with Alzheimers, well I say you are wrong about her life’s value. Perhaps she falls outside the validity template we apply judging older people. But being able to pass a collection plate on Sunday or still be able to pull weeds from one’s garden isn’t the measure of “right to life”. No, she still has a potential you have overlooked. I journey with many like her daily taking them online to visit museums, laugh at really stupid cat Youtube videos and always and I mean always, we finish our time together exchanging opinions that defy all those dead cells you speak of. I experience their return to life, a validation, that is profound. I Come visit us if you doubt. Your Parkinson’s , a curse which no Himalayan chant can alter, but whose harsh lessons no doubt have forced epiphanies about living. The collection of your words, in this life phase ironically will be your unique legacy footprint (OK, wheel mark) to wake up those who are behind you on the track..you succeeded for you still have so much living ahead. What I see beyond your gloomy sloughing off of our cells, is the profound and inexplicable neural explosions even when we are embedded in the most crusty of ages, to tender our soul by acting with kindness to another human being. We need to train all our lives to improve this soulful habit we call compassion. You may think I am a hopeless optimist (a lovely side effect enjoying being alive), but if we tried harder showing Person Centered Care, this last blip of life could potentially alter humanity for the better. It’s like walking, one kind act, in front of another. PS we are the same age, just in case you thought I was hopeless naive under 40 year old.

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