Change that scares the dickens out of me

Growing up in the segregated South of the 1950s, I lived in an insulated world where everyone in my circle of influence was white, working class, and, as far as I knew, heterosexual. A “good” black man stayed on his side of town. A “good” white woman bought the best detergent for her family. Girls who got pregnant suddenly disappeared. Aspirin was the drug of choice.

Change we can believe in? How about change that scares the dickens out of me? For I’m part of the Silent generation, Americans between the ages of 66 and 83 who need a map to navigate this new world. OK, not a map: a GPS. My identity can be stolen, my whereabouts tracked, my private conversations monitored. And there’s all that technology I don’t know how to manage: the DVR, features on my cell phone, having to plan my own itinerary on the internet.

But equally disconcerting for me and my generation is the change in values. Teens and young adults engage in sexting and get hooked on drugs. Children are murdered at school. Sex and violence permeate TV programming. It’s little surprise that my generation, which has witnessed such enormous change, tends to hold conservative positions on social issues and is either angry or frustrated with government (  We fear for the future of our families, our country, and our world.

What do frightened people do? They place blame. It’s the government, It’s the schools. It’s the parents. It’s Obama’s fault. Behind the blame is a yearning for simple solutions. If we just allowed prayer in the schools. If young women would just say no to premarital sex. If poor people would just go out and find a job. If the government would just quit interfering.

But to stay stuck in simple solutions perpetuates stereotypes of—yes, I’ll say the words—old people as complainers. It also makes us irrelevant.

An alternative is to live in the NOW. That is, we can seek opportunities to be with people who represent our changing society: those who are younger, of a different race, ethnic group, or sexual orientation. Not to preach or speak fondly of the past, but to listen and withhold judgment. Standing with them rather than against them might just make a heap of difference.


Voucher plans vs. Medicare: one more decision

English: image edited to hide card's owner nam...

English: image edited to hide card’s owner name. author: Arturo Portilla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I search the toilet paper aisle. One ply or two? Scented? How do costs compare? On to the grocery’s cracker aisle. Whole wheat? Herb flavored? I spend five minutes studying the nutritional information on the boxes. These are simple choices compared to buying a cell phone and computer, or deciding how to invest my pension. In fact, modern living demands so many decisions that I sometimes throw up my hands in frustration, postpone making them, and miss the deadline.

When my husband and I went on Medicare, we spent hours researching supplemental health insurance companies. Next we studied options for Medicare, Plan D. Since we enrolled in Plan D, the co-pay has increased drastically, and when my medication needs changed, the company wouldn’t cover much of the new prescription’s cost. So we’re again on the internet researching our options.

Now Republicans want to replace Medicare with a voucher plan. The G.O.P. platform says it wants to “empower millions of seniors to control their personal health care decisions.” Hey, Republicans, seniors find empowerment through freedom from fear that an illness or injury will wipe out our savings. We find empowerment when we have enough financial security to engage in activities that energize us. Those activities include volunteering in our communities’ schools, hospitals, shelters, and churches.

A voucher plan doesn’t empower America’s senior citizens as much as it forces us to spend precious time making yet one more complicated decision. Stories abound of unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of vulnerable seniors. TV ads, mailings, and phone calls will promise us anything to get our business. (At the same time Romney plans to eliminate the Consumer Protection Agency.) What if I choose an insurer that quits financing the care I need? I’m left feeling—certainly not empowered.

Under a voucher system wealthy individuals can hire professionals to study the options, pay lawyers to apply pressure if an insurer doesn’t come through. But most Americans have neither the time nor skills for weeding through contracts where one whereas follows another. I’ve been told that changes in Medicare won’t affect me. As if I’m so self-centered that I don’t care how my adult children will fare when they’re my age.

When extensive research is necessary and papers are to be signed in triplicate, when terms of agreement are written in legalese, thanks, Mr. Romney, but having the choice does not leave me feeling empowered.