Last month the world commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day to recognize the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the concentration and extermination camps operated by Nazi Germany during World War II. Civilized nations want to make sure that people don’t forget the atrocities that took place in those camps.

It wasn’t that long ago that most people died of infectious diseases, acute illnesses, and accidents.There was often little time between the onset of the problem and the person’s death. But clean water and air, and vaccines, and better understanding of what keeps us healthy has given us longer life spans on average. And today most are living long enough to be struck by cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases – many of which we refer to as age-related, although some strike occasionally at earlier ages. These problems can last ten, twenty, or more years, and are most often managed more than they are cured.

Back in the '40s, when I was growing up in Muskegon, there were two ways that my family used to visit Grandma and Grandpa in Detroit. The first was the family car, which my dad preferred. He would pile Mom, my sister and me in our old Chevy, and then embark on a grueling, and sometimes harrowing, six-hour trip on two-lane U.S. 16, with one stop around halfway. We all dreaded it.

We hear it from all quarters: our nation is deeply in debt. Our spending is out of control, certainly in Social Security, the big entitlement demanded by greedy older Americans.

Everyone should be married, ‘cause someday you’re gonna run into a problem that you can’t blame on the gov’mint.  – Unknown

In our nation, we have two avenues for citizens to improve their well-being. The first is the individual pursuit of private interests, including personal wealth. It has been the source of most of our national wealth, and the ready  availability of desired goods and services. It’s referred to as the free market, or capitalism in the U.S., and it elevates the individual and his or her self-interest as the primary force to maintain our national prosperity.

Remember North Central Airlines? If you’re over fifty, you may. North Central would bring to Ross Field each day a couple silver Convair 580 aircraft adorned with the blue goose on the tail to pick up Twin City travelers to take them to O’Hare Field to connect with flights beyond.

The local Rotary Club, of which I am a member, has instituted a policy of asking new members to tell the club why they chose to belong to Rotary. It’s a great way for new members, mostly younger, to share their perceptions of the community and of the service club community. They reveal solid insight on the problems facing our local community, and their concern is sincere and often inspiring. The local service club community is lucky to have these younger generations to draw from.

“A capitalist hires people only as a last resort.”  - Nick Hanauer, venture capitalist, on CNN

According to most surveys, the issue about which most Americans worry is the economy. But stocks are hitting record levels, profits are up, corporations are sitting on trillions of dollars, dividends are increasing. What’s to complain about?

A nation must have skilled plumbers, as well as skilled philosophers, or neither its theories nor its pipes will hold water.  – Unknown

Labor Day is almost upon us. It’s the day we set aside to salute America’s workforce, particularly those who build and maintain our homes, provide our infrastructures, transport us and our goods, clean up our messes, organize files, sell products, support those of us who need help.  How shall we celebrate? With huge rallies and parades? With high-flown speeches about the dignity of work? With fireworks?

Early in the Twentieth Century, most older Americans were at serious risk of poverty. Pension plans were unknown for workers. Few made enough to put substantial amounts aside to support themselves in their later years.

Life expectancy was lower than it is today for those managing to live beyond their working years, so many simply died before they exhausted their skimpy savings.

Yes, we’ve fallen in love with technology, and patients are crying out, saying, “Sit down and listen to me.” – Dr. Charles Hatem, professor at Harvard Medical School.

My first serious encounter with our nation’s medical system occurred when I was in the fifth grade. I had returned home from a happy Cub Scout meeting with a slightly upset stomach. A few hours later I was doubled over in pain, throwing up most of what I had eaten in the last two days.

In 2004, the Canadian Broadcasting Company surveyed the Canadian people to discover who they believed was the “greatest Canadian of all time.” It wasn’t Pierre Trudeau or Lester Pearson, two popular prime ministers. It wasn’t even Wayne Gretzky. It was … Tommy Douglas.

We read in the media that we begin to lose strength and muscle tone and sexual prowess in our late twenties and  begin to lose our mental powers in our thirties. Because the decline is so gradual at over the next 30 or 40 years and our capacity to meet the demand on these functions is usually quite adequate, we can wave off concerns rather blithely.

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.  – Abraham Lincoln

In the past few years, there has been an increasing incidence of parents choosing to exempt their children from being vaccinated. Many are well-educated, fairly well-off people who, for various reasons, have decided that somehow that the human body – healthy and hardy – is better equipped to ward off serious disease than one injected with some foreign substance.

Suppose that you or a loved one were facing a very serious illness or critical condition, a situation anyone over sixty would recognize as inevitable. One of the important decisions you might face is where should you seek care? At a local regional system like Lakeland or a nationally known facility like the Mayo Clinic, or the University of Chicago Hospital, or the University of Michigan Health System?

At a meeting of Berrien County human service agencies a few weeks ago, the participants launched into an extended discussion of the problem of obesity, especially among our youth. All agreed that poor eating habits were a significant factor. Even with access to some of the best raw fruits and vegetables locally, many younger people don’t know how to prepare them well, so they munch on fast food or unhealthful processed foods.

In recent years, our nation has been frenetically searching for heroes. With public contempt for most our nation’s institutions, with the exception of the military and public safety, at an all time high, creative people, through television, books, magazines, and comic books, have presented us with real and fictional characters they feel we could admire. Some even hold contests to have readers nominate citizens who might be worthy of hero status.

Those of us growing up in the mid-Twentieth Century had our life paths clearly set by America’s robust industrial economy and its public school systems. In the curriculum, there were nods to our citizen responsibilities in civics, social studies, and history classes. Music, drama, art, and athletics were provided for those showing creativity in those areas. But then we were funneled into career tracks, as a result of batteries of objective tests – aptitude and career preference, IQ, academic achievement tests, etc.. 

Last fall before the general election, some older folks attended local town meetings carrying signs protesting taxes, while shouting,”Keep your hands off my Medicare.” For those of us in the older generations with even a modest understanding of politics, it was embarrassing. When some protesters were quoted, “Don’t let the government touch Medicare,” it all sounded as if we seasoned types were not only inconsistent, but downright ignorant.