Grandpa Goes to Grenada

America is no place for the old. Then there's Mexico.

Many Minnesotans already voyage south when Paul Douglas starts getting that wild look in his eye come November. But paying for a surgeon to stick a stent in your fat-hardened arteries is no cheaper in Tucson than it is in the Twin Cities. So what if Uncle Sam encouraged a wagon train of those RVs--say the least capitalized 20 percent of the senior population--to keep rolling across the border? Heaven knows enough Mexicans are drenching their shirts while swimming across the Rio Grande in the other direction.

According to the slide-rule wizards at the World Bank, the per capita income in Mexico is $5,910--which is the equivalent of $8,540 in U.S. purchasing power. How far do you think a thousand-dollar-a-month prescription drug payout would go in Ixtapa? Poland's income per potato-liquor drinker is $4,570--or $10,130 in purchasing power parity. The castle your great uncle Wladimir could buy in Warsaw on his postal service pension is no Polack joke.

These are countries begging for foreign investment and intellectual capital. Do you know the coot next door with the retirement watch from 3M, who calls the cops when your BBQ goes past 8:00 p.m.? Well, it turns out he has both those things. Black folks from Minneapolis's north side, following America's historically helpful role in Liberia, could act as stabilizing elders for an African continent laid low by AIDS deaths and youthful upheaval. All altruism aside, the equation is simpler than a Bingo board. America's bifocal wearers could see twice the lifestyle in another country for less than half the government spending.

International retirement resorts and roaming senior cruise ships are already a boom business. (Everyone can afford to play shuffleboard once you shed the labor-cost straightjacket of crooked union contracts.) But not every senior is going to be ready for the adventure of a lifetime in tropical climes--or to get in touch with his ethnic roots in Minsk or Monrovia. As Americans, the elderly who haven't saved enough on their own have the right to remain miserably and hungrily in our midst (though ultimately, relocation for foreign-born and some low-income seniors may need to become compulsory).

The way I look at it, America has a single question to answer when we plan the future for our near and dear fogies. Do we want to imagine our elderly having their feet rubbed by peso-an-hour nurses in comfortable condos as they gaze at the gentle surf off Cabo San Lucas? Or do you want your ma and pa cutting out coupons for a Purina dinner while toiling into senility as a greeter at Wal-Mart?

Made up your mind yet? Now just promise that you'll save some tequila for me!

 

Believe it or not, the first appearance of "The Right Man" was about as popular around City Pages as Sirhan Sirhan at a Hyannisport cotillion. And it left a lot of the paper's usual readers braying about lost causes and bawling for the poor into their fat-free chai coolers. No new opinions welcome here! The I-Hate-America editor of this T&A tabloid actually spiked the column you're reading now in favor of running a dull hatchet job on our President George Bush--whose main crime, as far as I can tell, is believing that American lives are worth more than those in Mullahstan.

Maybe open minds prevailed in the publisher's office--or perhaps advertisers came out of the woodwork to endorse some writing that doesn't insult small business owners. I personally believe it was your letters that won "The Right Man" another page in the paper. Turns out Che T-shirts stained with patchouli oil aren't an instrument of the revolution, but your e-mail messages are. Kindly copy those declarations of independent thinking to flyon@citypages.com. I promise, shedding those tired liberal orthodoxies will keep you looking and feeling younger!

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