Seniors Out Now!

I get a lot of tongue-in-cheek e-mails, most of them having to do with either aging or politics. Recently, I received a facetious one that combined both! It said, basically, that in an effort to lower the national debt, legislation would be introduced in the House of Representatives mandating the Department of Immigration to start deporting seniors, instead of illegals, thus lowering Social Security and Medicare costs.

It went on to say that since seniors are easier to catch and once deported wouldn’t remember how to get back home, this would reduce the need to hire more Border Patrol personnel. Ha, ha. As someone who would likely be rounded up and shipped south were this anything but a joke, it behooves me to mount some kind of rebuttal. But don’t take it any more seriously than the proposal!

First of all, many seniors (including “snowbirds” from Canada) already travel regularly across the southern border for cheap prescription drugs and medical services.The Mexican border town of Algodones, near Yuma, Arizona, is said to have within a four-block radius more pharmacies, doctors, dentists and opticians than any similar four-block area anywhere else in the world. 

Other seniors go even further south for their health needs. In Buenos Aires I met a woman from the States who was down there for a six-month’s stay in order to get a mouthful of new teeth implanted at a fraction of the cost she would have to pay back home. And that was even factoring in her travel, lodging, etc. Other seniors mail-order their drugs from Canada, which also sells them more cheaply than we can get them here.

But nobody is suggesting that seniors be deported north. And for good reason. The cost of living and the climate are so much better in the other direction. And since health care is the major expense for the aging, why not move permanently to a place where it doesn’t bust the budget?

Another rationale for deporting seniors is that they are so often considered of little use here.They cannot increase the population, pick fruit, mow lawns, slaughter animals, or build infrastructure. Most are electronically challenged, to put it kindly. You rarely see seniors sitting around and texting, for example, so they could hardly be credited with adding much of a contribution to the ubiquitous “social network.” So why, indeed, keep them around? On top of that, there’s the disturbing matter of their obvious overuse of U.S. medical facilities, which should be reserved for those whose conditions have a better chance of improving. 

The year-round climate is generally so pleasant south of the border that some American seniors, as well as those from other northern countries, have already retired there. As for the possibility of becoming homesick, once these widespread communities are established and thriving, most nostalgic fallout from the relocation would likely vanish. Anyway, the kids could come down for vacation and play on the playas

Sure, it might take some getting used to the diet -- refried beans are good for you, by the way! -- but it would be inexpensive enough to hire some local to do the cooking, and that’s a blessing in itself when one gets old. The roads are bad, of course, but few seniors drive long distances anymore. The same is true of waterways; the drainage is a mess and the beaches tend to stink, except maybe in the tonier resort areas, which is not where seniors would be sent to settle. But if all they have to do is sit around and play canasta and Mexican train (how appropriate!) what difference does it make? (No, Hillary won’t be joining them -- not yet!) 

As for the matter of certain endemic diseases, such as dengue fever, all that seniors need to remember is to stock up on a goodly supply of mosquito repellant, insect spray, sun block, etc. Hats are a dime a dozen and sold on corners.

The criminal element could prove a tad scary. After all, in the last six years, there have been 50,000 violent deaths in Mexico alone. But if the word goes out that seniors from the United States are not as well-heeled as suspected, nothing will likely happen. And since most of them are not involved in the crime or drug scenes, then -- aside from the chance of being an innocent bystander in a shoot-out -- they will be largely  ignored. That’s a feeling older people have already grown used to in the United States.     

Transplants might even live long enough down there to become brainwashed, which is what happened to my daughter-in-law’s grandfather and his wife, who decided to leave Portland, Oregon and settle in San Carlos, Mexico. When we visited them, they were happy as proverbial clams. Grandpa was immersed in helping  the children in the community with their English studies,  gratified to find his efforts appreciated  far more there than they would likely be here. He told us he expected the Mexican educational system to soon surge ahead of that in the United States.  

He and his octogenarian wife had even become regular worshippers in a congregation presided over by a popular aging minister from the States, whose new Spanish-style hacienda was being built with church funds, and whose wife wore such exquisite clothes -- bought during sprees to upscale shopping centers elsewhere -- that one might suspect the couple were on the lam from a questionable ecclesiastical experience in Texas.

So all things considered, it might not be that bad to be deported southward. At least that’s what I thought before I got the most recent tongue-in-cheek e-mail on the subject  It showed a boatload of people being intercepted off the Texas coast. No, they weren’t Hispanics headed here.  They were retirement-age Americans trying to get to Central America so they could return to the United States as illegal immigrants, which they figured would entitle them to far more benefits than they are receiving now.