I never set out to be an activist. It was never offered as a life option on a social profile or a check-box in a divine master plan. Yet, there I was — deboarding a flight at Dulles International from New York and hailing a cab to the Pentagon for a meeting with the Adjutant Surgeon General of the Army, Lt. Colonel John Payne.
It was the summer of 1969 and I was a nineteen-year old journalist with the Times Herald Record, writing a bi-weekly column called Action.
Hardly an impressive resume, but if Florida, New York resident Sgt. John Fasanello wanted to leave his post at a secret military base in South Vietnam and be flown half-way around the globe to join his father at the Mayo Clinic for his father’s open-heart surgery, he would need to convince decision-makers at the highest level.
That’s where I come in — a teenager who believed anything was and is possible.
The Pentagon – the largest office building in the world – was even more massive than I expected, though any notion of a gingerbread ending to this story was dashed when my meeting with Lt. Colonel Payne wrapped up after only fifteen minutes . . . a big disappointment, yet if the truth be known, I had no strategy, no plan to speak of – the entire tactical operation was a Hail Mary pass at best.
With one hand on the door knob, and the other firmly gripping Payne’s, we said our goodbyes and I turned toward the network of hallways that connected the nucleus of the American military-industrial complex.
At that very moment, I experienced a brilliant and unexpected epiphany that shone like a dozen suns – a simple idea that could very well bring Fasanello home.
I asked Payne for ten minutes to explain.
He, begrudgingly agreed.
Three days later, Fasanello was homeward bound on a plane to the States, and I had been catapulted into the world of advocacy.
Looking back on the summer of ’69 – those golden, halcyon days of Woodstock and the Apollo 11 moon landing – our teenager sets off on his journey of self-discovery . . . a spiritual expedition that would shape and mold him into the man he is today, a half-century later. Our trip begins at Mt. Savior, a Catholic Benedictine monastery near Elmira, New York.
Located on a thousand acres of rolling hills and rich farm land that includes one hundred Holstein dairy cattle, I joined the brothers of St. Benedict for a twelve-month retreat. Each day, starting at 3:00 AM with the first of six prayer services, my life was consumed by a rich, monastic tradition of work, meals and study. At first, I felt lost in my own stage play of ignorance and darkness, but as the months passed, I awoke to a light within and a dense fog began to lift.
It was also during these months I discovered a Japanese tea ceremony room the monks had built, complete with tatami mats, calligraphic scrolls and a collection of Buddhist texts. Hungry for wisdom, I consumed the texts like a starving man. And one day — a day I’m unlikely to forget — I came across a Buddhist scripture that used the phrase “turning the stream of compassion within.”
To say I was moved by this phrase barely scratches the surface. Truth is, I wept like a child suddenly freed from a nightmare and made a commitment to discover the source of this unique and profound insight, regardless of cost or consequence. Today, looking back on that day of discovery, I realize it was a turning point in my life: the genesis of self-compassion and understanding.
The commitment I made to discover my inner source of compassion led me to Shasta Abbey . . . a Soto Zen Buddhist monastery where I would spend the next years learning to “eat when hungry and sleep when tired.”
I returned to the secular world in the late 70s to fulfill a lifetime dream — acceptance as a graduate student into The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Interdisciplinary Science Program.
And if my acceptance at MIT was the cake, the icing was a Research Assistant-ship (RA) at MIT’s Cell Culture Center (CCC). Not only was my RA the equivalent of a full scholarship, but I also had the bonus of working at the CCC, which provided an opportunity to work with some of the top laboratories and professors at MIT, Harvard, Boston University, including Nobel Laureates David Baltimore and Phillip Sharpe.
Following my graduation at MIT, I returned to New York for a little R & R. . . after all, I reasoned, after six years of work and study, I’d earned it. A month later I was struck by a car while jogging. The injuries, fortunately, were not life threatening, but I was quite shaken by the incident. Vowing to myself to rest, heal and keep busy, I secured a securities license and began to build a client base with the sale of socially-responsible mutual funds.
It was during this phase of my life that my interest in long-term care blossomed – not merely from a financial perspective, but from a personal/psychological one as well. I even started to publish a modest newsletter with the nom de plume Mr. Long-Term Care. After building a web site of the same name, I was approached by the Novartis Elder Care Foundation to become my content partner. I also developed an interest in a New York State insurance program – a public/private partnership called The NY State Partnership for Long-Term Care.
Things began to fall in place and I took on a business partner in a joint venture that became New York Long-Term Care Brokers, Ltd.
But all of life is impermanent. At forty-five I was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s.
Despite the diagnosis, my business partner – Kevin J. Johnson – and I became one of the largest long-term care insurance brokerage firms in the United States.
Parkinson’s, a relentless bully, always has the last word. – I retired at age 50, sixteen years ago and began speaking and writing on the subject of care giving; a subject, for practical reasons, that had become near and dear to my heart.
Today, I live in an assisted living facility in southeastern Pennsylvania. In total, I’ve been a resident in assisted living for the last fourteen years.
Frustrated by the fact that three generations of Americans are familiar with Ronald McDonald, yet still lack a spokesperson for aging and long-term care, I spend a good deal of my time talking and writing about care giving. These discussions and interviews have included Hillary Clinton, Clint Eastwood, Jimmy Carter and other notable personalities.
When asked what he did all day in the monastery, a monk replied: I fall down and get up, fall down and get up, fall down and get up . . .
|Residence||Center Valley, Pennsylvania|
|Alma mater||University of Waterloo
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
|Occupation||Advocate, Journalist, Videographer|
Martin Bayne is a blogger and advocate for assisted living who suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Bayne is a former journalist and CEO of New York Long Term Care Brokers. After the onset of Parkinson’s disease, he dedicated his time to supporting the elderly and advocating retirement home and assisted living reform. Bayne has been featured on NPR, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
Early Life and Background
Martin Bayne was born in Binghamton, New York in 1950. From October, 1972 to July, 1976 Bayne trained as a monk at Shasta Abbey, a Soto Zen Buddhist monastery in Mt. Shasta, California. He attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and earned his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary sciences in 1979. Afterward, he earned his Master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a thesis focusing on accelerated production of human interferon from PolyI-PolyC induced fibroblasts.
Bayne began his career as a mutual fund broker, and worked for nearly a decade before starting his publication of Mr. Long Term Care, a newsletter devoted to long term healthcare insurance and support for those needing care services. He also founded New York Long Term Care Brokers in 1991, which became one of the largest insurance companies for long term care coverage in the United States.
Bayne was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease in 1995 at the age of 45. Several years later at the age of 53, he began staying at an assisted living facility. There, he received first-hand experience of the challenges that face residents in assisted living homes. This prompted Bayne to start his blog, The Voice of Aging Boomers, where he writes about his experiences and advocates reform of assisted living facilities, including improved handicap accessibility, social interaction, and available equipment.
In 2013, Bayne won the American College of Health Care Administrator’s Public Service Award.
Bayne advocates for elder care.
- “Advocate Fights ‘Ambient Despair’ In Assisted Living”. NPR.org. September 6, 2012. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- “Profile: Martin Bayne”. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- JUDITH GRAHAM (March 20, 2013). “How to Live in Assisted Living”. The New York Times. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- Martin Bayne (July 9, 2012). “A man depicts the often grim atmosphere in assisted living facilities”. The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- “About Martin Bayne”. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- “Getting you the Best available Long Term Care insurance information is the reason we have created this site.”. Mr. Long-Term Care. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- “Mr. Long-Term Care’s Story – Part 1”. Mr. Long-Term Care. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- Milton D. Carrero (January 23, 2012). “An unusual superhero”. The Morning Call. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- “MAY 2030”. The Voice of Aging Boomers. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- “A Room With A Grim View: The ‘Ambient Despair’ That Marks Life In Assisted Living”. Health Affairs. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- “Martin Bayne on Turning the Stream of Compassion Within”. Retrieved 10 May 2013.
- “The Voice of Aging Boomers (Press Release)”. The Voice of Aging Boomers. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- “From the front lines, a fight for aging boomers”. Philly.com. Retrieved 24 June 2013.