Archive for category: Op-Ed

The Reminiscent Telomere

22 Jul
July 22, 2016

I remember, with great fondness, standing on the playground of St. Ambrose School in Endicott, New York – an eighth-grader in his thirteenth year of life – holding his ubiquitous red transistor radio in one hand and a well-hidden cigarette in the other – listening to an up-and-coming group from the UK sing, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

At that moment I was intoxicated with the simple joy of being alive; unaware of the pain and disappointment aging and adulthood held in reserve – the birth, old age, disease and death we collectively call suffering.

Is memory a trickster? When, today, a half century later, I think back on these watershed moments with great affection, I often wonder what became of that beautiful and brilliantly-innocent child. Did he lease his soul to a dark angel in return for safe passage through puberty and adolescence or was it the drama of high school that drained him of his last reserves?

Actually, it was neither. With an insatiable curiosity for and an indefatigable commitment to personal emotional and spiritual evolution, the then 21-year-old sought sanctuary in monastic life. After an extended retreat in a Benedictine[Catholic]monastery, I signed up for Zen Buddhist training. It was here, in the years that followed, that I found a wellspring of healing – having learned to turn the stream of compassion within. Today this sixty-six-year-old baby boomer is a clarion for 77 million of his contemporaries – a still, small voice crying out in the wilderness.

And now, that voice – my voice – extends to you an invitation to celebrate life as a member of the largest age demographic in the western world. An invitation to look within, to discover our individual and collective essence – to embrace a spiritual, intellectual and emotional dynamic that offers the possibility of no less than a look at the face we had before we were born. —-Martin Bayne

World Mind Part II – Elder Warrior

07 Jan
January 7, 2016

We  are told by a prominent and highly-respected geriatrician that the three plagues of growing old are loneliness, helplessness and boredom.

I respectfully disagree.

If you have not conquered loneliness, helplessness and boredom by the time you begin to “grow old,” chances are, you never will.

For example, when was the last time you heard of an 85-year-old entrepreneur discussing a new business start-up opportunity?

World mind says “never,” but Warren Buffett, ‘the Oracle of Omaha.’ would disagree.

What’s my point? Just this . . .Does Mr. Buffett impress you as a lonely, helpless and bored Octogenarian?

No? Me neither. (In fact, I know Zen Buddhist monks who would be envious of his courage, joy and ‘life in the moment’ commitment)

There will always be those — young and old — who hunger and thirst in a valley of sadness and suffering. That is the nature of life on this planet.

And there will always be those who, despite almost impossible odds, choose the life of a true warrior.

Which path will you travel?



World Mind

03 Jan
January 3, 2016
In Japan, some married couples — when faced with advancing age and the “empty nest” syndrome — choose to spend their final years in Buddhist monasteries.

The monastic environment offers a number of advantages:

In a like-minded community of both young and old trainees, ambient despair (the disability, dementia and depression that exist in an aging secular community) appears with much lower frequency. (anecdotal)

Because zazen (meditation – sitting quietly) is  integrated into every aspect of a trainee’s life, this simple, but powerful tool – after diligent practice – fills every moment of the trainee’s life. Thus, there is no need to “kill time” with hours of Bingo and Pinochle. Time itself becomes infinitely valuable.

Trainees ultimately learn that everyone: Buddhist, Hindu and Atheist alike possess the Buddha Nature — our original, primal nature. Therefore, it’s no surprise that when fellow monks become old and infirm, they still retain value. This is when long term care takes on a new dynamic. People, regardless of their level of ADL failure, are treated with respect and compassion.

Everyone dies, yet to grow to grow old and not know who you are — this is the profound sadness of “world mind.”

And while it is tempting to cast blame on “evil corporations” and “reckless REITs”  for imperfect SNFs and CCRCs, rarely do these equations balance. Seniors are rarely held accountable for their lack of determination and vision. Our parents are not helpless victims and it’s time we stopped treating them as such, world mind or not.

Story Telling

28 Oct
October 28, 2014


In 1999 Dr. Bill Thomas and I were invited by Chief Oren Lyons to visit The People of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois Confederacy. The Native Americans call themselves the Hau de no sau nee (ho dee noe sho nee) meaning People Building a Long House.

The purpose of the visit was to discuss long-term care options with the elders of the Six Nations.

Located in the northeastern region of North America, originally the Six Nations was five and included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. The sixth nation, the Tuscaroras, migrated into Iroquois country in the early eighteenth century. Together these peoples comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence for those of us not familiar with this area of American history. The original US representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations.

And although I drew great inspiration from the ceremony and camaraderie that day, it was not the Native Americans who proved to be the most impressive – but rather Bill Thomas.

As a lunch of buffalo finally settled in an otherwise courageous stomach, and the winter sun began to drop behind the mountains, one of the young Native American women who had attended the event stood, pointed her finger at me, and with a pronounced scowl, demanded to be recognized.

You could have heard a tobacco pouch drop.

Seconds later she launched into an indictment of “the evil white man” circa 1700-1970. It wasn’t pretty.

And the more I tried to extinguish the fires of anger, the uglier it got.

Suddenly, from behind me, a firm yet forgiving voice cut through the angst and confusion with five simple words: “Let me share a story.”

Then, with a unique mix of Mark Twain and Rumi, Bill Thomas wove a short narrative into a tapestry. Even the tribal elders, who spoke no English, were smiling at each other. Truth is, I don’t think I ever adequately expressed my appreciation. So, “Thanks,” Bill – for everything.

Post Script: What follows was culled from an interview I had some months later with Chief Oren Lyons.

“Martin…We’ve always been a very spiritual people. Much of our culture revolves around ceremony and thanksgiving, and when an elder speaks they carry an authority and wisdom that only comes with age and experience – when the sharp emotions of youth are worn down and rounded. 

There is a standard in the Natural World, where the elders always are, in which they are perceived as leaders. In a buffalo herd, the eldest is the leader. In the forest, the oldest, largest trees are the most fruitful and productive. They are the great seed bearers. If you look only to the Natural World, you will see the value that nature places on aging.

There is a standard of law and authority that we live by, and we call it the Natural Law, and that law prevails. And we understand this.

In many of today’s industrial nations, they generate their power and authority from youth – they build their foundation on the strength of their young, and this is a great loss; a great disconnect between that society and their elderly”

Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper, Turtle Clan, Onondaga Nation, Haudenosaunee, Six Nations, Iroquois Confederacy – 2000 interview


STUDY: More Complex Physical Health Needs Result in Greater Stress and Diminished Quality of Life for Caregivers

23 Aug
August 23, 2014

NEW YORK, NEW YORK August 19, 2014 The United Hospital Fund and AARP Public Policy Institute issued a report today with compelling new evidence that family caregivers who provide complex chronic care to people who also have cognitive and behavioral health conditions face particularly demanding challenges, including high levels of self-reported depression. As a result, a majority of them (61 percent) reported feeling stress “sometimes to always,” between their caregiving responsibilities and trying to meet other work or family obligations.

Adding to the challenge, people with cognitive and behavioral conditions (collectively termed in the report “challenging behaviors”) were generally sicker than other people requiring caregiving.  These persons needing care often had chronic physical health diagnoses—including cardiac disease, stroke/hypertension, musculoskeletal  problems (such as arthritis or osteoporosis), and diabetes—at higher rates than those without cognitive and behavioral conditions. Further illustrating the complexity, family caregivers of people with challenging behaviors often met with resistance from the person they were trying to help. Caregivers noted that “more cooperation from their family member” would make one key medical/nursing task—managing medications—easier.

take care elder symbol

 Can we all agree there’s nothing noble about being stuck and cornered into providing 24/7 long-term care for a parent, sibling or friend. Nothing inherently virtuous about helping them use a bedpan/urinal, or providing a steady hand to bring food to their mouth.

Yes, it can be satisfying on many levels, but –let’s face it — if professional assistance was both available AND affordable, wouldn’t you enjoy the option of respite for you and/or parent?  Or if you could sleep through the night, soundly for two nights in a row, wouldn’t that go a long way toward lifting the depression that has covertly attached itself, body and soul?  

Why is caregiving so difficult? 

These, of course, are rhetorical questions — we  know the answers, and those answers, in large part, are due to a lack of planning and confrontation avoidance during the years we are young and in good health.  We believe that somehow, magically, these things will “work themselves out” somehow, somewhere. But they don’t. And the consequences are often tragic.

I am in the process of securing a Congressional Resolution, setting aside Dec. 23rd as NATIONAL LONG TERM CARE INTERVENTION DAY.

It will encourage families to spend quality time together, talking about long term care options.

Hey, it’s a start.   Martin Bayne


WHAT – The New Algorithm

16 Oct
October 16, 2012

There is a new and simple algorithm that describes the challenges of upgrading our current institutional aging facilities – WHAT.


H-Human Potential




The women of color that are the backbone of this country’s network of institutional aging facilities – many of them single parents – are denied a living wage. This creates a “revolving door” phenomenon that cripples moral and destroys any sense of continuity for the residents. This cannot stand.

Human Potential In most Institutional Aging Facilities, “activities” resemble the kinds of games and puzzles you’d find in a third-grade classroom. This reflects the ‘dumbing down’ of the American institutional aging resident. Worse, it reinforces the I AM experience of aging rather than the WE ARE.

BOTH INTER AND INTRA COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES MUST REFLECT THE NEED FOR INSPIRATION, DEDICATION AND EDUCATION. People don’t stop growing, learning and contributing as they age – unless they choose to.

 Advocacy  With the exception of video-recorded physical abuse, aging Americans are without effective advocacy.

We MUST develop a timely, responsive and effective system of advocacy for this nation’s elders.

Technology We already possess the technology to enrich, protect, and educate our elders. WE MUST SEEK IT OUT                                          AND UTILIZE IT.