The Coastal Post - November, 1999

Aging Center Hum Drum Drones On And On

By Stephen Simac

The Buck Center for the Aging of Marin, a medical research palace, continues to ride up the flanks of Mt. Burdell in Novato. The Partridge Knolls neighborhood below continues to crumble from the weight of the earthen berm piled up above them by the Center, then removed when the obvious happened. The parties continue to meet in secret, lawyers are still working out a deal between the aggrieved and the builders of the palace, who failed to note that the site was "geologically unstable."

The Mt. Burdell site has been cursed from the beginning with the geology report, to the legal stake in the heart of A60 zoning, to the end run around the majority of voters in Marin by transferring the site from the county to the city of Novato, which rolls over for developers. The neighborhood of Knolls is downhill from some of the consequences.

In the larger picture, will this monolithic biomedical research center, really help the "needy and the homeless of Marin?" When Mrs. Buck, widow of an oil baron, stipulated that her wealth be administered for that purpose, did she really mean building a palace and funding fat cat researchers so centenarians can still play golf, "using titanium clubs for a sweeter swing?" This sounds more like the Needless and the Homely.

Of course we're all going to get older, unless we die young. Do we really want or need to live that long? There will be miles of nursing home prisons filled with baby boomers tied to their beds. Kevorkian centers would be more merciful.

This country already spends seven times more for medical funding on our aging than we do on our youth, from fetuses to adolescents. Yet researchers have discovered that from prenatal to age four are the most important in human development of the brain, and by age twelve our ability to learn and change rapidly diminishes. It's criminal not to fund the youth, yet the older you are in America the more reliably you vote for prison building over education, and maternal and infant health. Are we really getting the wisdom of the elderly we are paying for?

The first four years are the formative years for the development of the complexity of our brain, our physical and emotional intelligence, our expectations and patterning around relationships, our personality, and according to researchers, our overall health throughout our entire lifespans.

The youth of Marin are far more needy and more likely to be homeless than the aging. Money spent on our youth will give future dividends greater than the oil stocks the money comes from, and yet the Buck Fund parcels out money to them like a parsimonious old Aunt. Here's a shiny nickel, you sweet little child.

The Center for the Aging is one of two Projects funded by court order, after the SF Foundation, which was administering the will, wanted to spend some of the wealth outside of Marin. They were sued and the Marin Foundation took control of hundreds of millions from "black gold," all for Marin.

Gary Giacomini, former west Marin supervisor, and governmental agency board sitter extraordinaire, has played blocking guard for what he calls "A World Class Center." His vote on LAFCO, an agency which allowed the incorporation of Mt. Burdell land to Novato, was one of several blind side clips he performed in his duties to a higher calling. BioMedical Temple Priest.

The Palace is projected to cost $100 million to build, with a significant chunk immediately going out of Marin to a "world class" architect, I. M. Pei. It's projected maintenance and funding threatens to exhaust the available monies of the Buck Fund, unless huge amounts of research funds become available from government or private sources. They plan to specialize in research on Alzheimer's, aging related blindness and improving the quality and productivity of our golden years.

Brain research has shown that early brain complexity development is the most important preventive for senility and Alzheimer's, and certain nutrients including Ginkgo tree leaf, are also beneficial and inexpensive.

Most blindness in elderly is diabetes related, which is also a big cause of high blood pressure and coronary disease. Adult onset Diabetes is an unheralded disease, which triggers off kidney, circulation, respiratory, immune and nervous system failures. These symptoms and the underlying cause are all most effectively and economically prevented by balanced diet and exercise habits beginning in infancy and childhood.

Aside from findings that this is most easily and affordably accomplished in the earliest years of life, research has conclusively shown that maintaining social relationships both in number and quality, gaining in education and income levels, keeping a balanced diet and exercise habit, not smoking or drinking to excess, and having a sense of personal control, in youth, middle age and even into retirement are the most significant factors in increased health and lifespan, as well as reducing medical expenditures.

These findings are from biomedical research, including the Framingham, Massachusetts decades long study, into health and significant factors promoting or disturbing health. The researchers in the bunkers of the Palace on the Hill will look in a more traditional direction, medical manipulation through pharmaceuticals and heroic intervention for symptomatic relief.

Those who can afford the best Medicine in the World, the trillion dollar a year American Medical Monopoly, may be able to keep buying lighter and stronger golf clubs. Those who can't may not even live to retirement age, unless they take personal responsibility for their own health. Everything in our culture is conspiring against our ability to do that, with the most pressure on the poorest and the youngest.

The Buck Center had an opportunity to do world class research into the most economical and effective ways to improve the health of youth into old age by thinking about the bigger picture, but they chose instead to do patch jobs on the final years of our lives as symbolized by the grandiosity of their World Class Palace on the Hill.

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