Assisted Living Becomes Real for Baby Boomers

Journalist Martin Bayne finds purpose in sharing his assisted living experience with fellow boomers

Martin Bayne

Martin Bayne is far from the type of person you would typically imagine when you think of a long-term assisted living resident. At age 44, he learned that he had developed adult-onset Parkinson's Disease. After many years of trying to cope, he decided that his best option would be to move into an assisted living facility. Now 63, Martin has been a resident for 10 years. In assisted living, he has found an environment with a pervading ambiance of depression and loss, where the close friends he made will inevitably pass away, and where staff turnover was rampant due to administrators who fail to provide adequate pay for their hardworking aids, who Martin calls the "lifeblood" of these institutions.

For someone with end-stage Parkinson's, a wheelchair is essential. While he cannot speak for all institutions across the U.S., Martin claims that more often than not, accessible technology alternatives are not available to the population at large. But the good news is that as the huge Baby Boomer population starts to "come of age" and think about their future options, he feels confident that there will be more competitive and creative solutions to come; for now, there is still a ways to go.

Martin started his career as a journalist and later spent time at two different monasteries: one Catholic, and one Zen Buddhist. While there, he realized that his life had a "mission of sorts," although he was not yet aware exactly what it would be. During the 1970's, he went to MIT and did graduate work there. It was shortly following graduation that he was hit by a car, and the doctors believe that this accident is what triggered his dormant Parkinson's.

Martin later discovered that his Parkinson's, in tandem with his move to assisted living, had presented him with his ultimate life's work: to be a voice for the voiceless, to speak out for those who could not speak for themselves – both literally and figuratively. Feeling that the public needs to know about the people who exist at these institutions and what their lives are really like, Martin resolved to be their spokesperson.

Martin's work has met with much success. He has been featured on NPR and many other media outlets. He has written two books, entitled Martin Bayne on Turning the Stream of Compassion Within and Zen for Tough Guys

To learn more about Martin's experiences in assisted living facilities, read his article, "A Room with a Grim View: The 'Ambient Despair' That Marks Life in Assisted Living"

Martin also has a blog, www.TheVoiceOfAgingBoomers.com, which he updates regularly. He is building an advocate group in the U.S. of people all over the country who are contacting him with similar concerns, and they are working to compile as much information as they can about the elder purpose and plan to put it into book form.