I found my editor, Dan Ferguson, in an unusually jovial mood. “The old,” he said, “are not like us; they got here first.” I thought that was pretty good, until I realized it was just a paraphrase of an old F.
Scott Fitzgerald quip about the rich. But Dan went on without waiting for applause: “So get out there and find out what they’re up to.”
All of which was so typical of Dan that it took no time to figure out that as the National Health (Revision) Bill was coming up for a first reading in July, he probably wanted to know which way the senior vote was likely to go. But Dan was not the kind of man to explain himself to a rookie reporter, and as he was my boss, I did as he asked.
My first stop was at the Bide a Wee retirement home, which admitted only seniors over 80, unisex. There were several dozen inmates and, to my surprise, at least eight women to every male, which tells us something about the frailty of man.
But even more surprising, each male had his own circle of complaisant females. Not that moral considerations were likely to arise here, but, probably because the ladies had grown up in a patriarchal society, now long gone, they found it comfortable to defer to the nearest male.
Actually, nearly a quarter of the inmates had long ago retired into their own private world of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or intractable pain, and remained unresponsive to questioning. But the rest were quite alert and eager to talk to someone from the outside world, even if he was just a nosey reporter, except that they had apparently lost all interest in politics.
So far as I could make out, after decades of broken promises, they had all decided that no politician of any stripe could be trusted to give them so much as the time of day, either before or after an election, so why bother with the bounder?
Disappointed by this negative reaction, I went on to several other retirement homes, and concluded that fewer than one percent of their inmates had the slightest intention of voting in the next general election, let alone supplying an opinion about the upcoming bill.
So much for Dan’s news story. My last group was made up of selfemployed professionals such as doctors, lawyers and architects who were still practicing at an advanced age. These busy people, being disinclined to wait around in public clinics, generally belonged to private health groups and so had no interest in the fate of Dan’s bill.
But aside from politics, from the answers they gave to my questions, it was evident that this group, males and females alike, rarely took sick and even then resisted going to a doctor until virtually at death’s door.
Presumably there is something about selfemployment and keeping busy that protects these people against the ills that beset us common folk.
So in the end I didn’t have much to give Dan, other than the standard advice we all get and routinely ignore: choose the right parents, eat and drink wisely, stay involved and avoid politicians like the plague. As I was leaving Dan’s office, I added, “And by the way, the old don’t give a damn about your National Health Bill!”
And I slammed the door behind me.