Old stiffs 


Europeans always make Americans look like total Gomers. Their sophistication, their intellectualism, their genius at slowing down children by giving them wine ... we may be good at some things, but they're better at just living life. Except for German tourists, who insist on wearing socks with their sandals and shorts, Europeans are the Fonz and we're Potsie.

It isn't just Vespas, absinthe and names like Stern Magazine that make Europeans cool. It's self-acceptance. While Amer-icans, mainly those of the Right sort, seem hellbent on turning everyone into Shirley Temple, Europeans accept that people drink, smoke, do drugs, grow old, die, have many and varied sexual experiences and require lots of time off. That's human nature and they're cool because they can handle it.

So it had to be Europeans who came up with a remarkably simple concept for improving the lives of the elderly in nursing homes: sex. Copenhagen's Thorupgaarden nursing home has been treating its residents to broadcasts of porn on Saturday nights for years. It also allows patients to arrange for prostitutes to visit, which is probably a lot more than their lousy kids ever do for them. Noting that the elderly who voice their sexual interests are usually considered "old perverts," Maj-Britt Auning, a department head at the home, said in a story published in the Toronto Globe and Mail, "It's time that we show the elderly some respect and start addressing their needs, including the sexual ones."

Great Danes

You have to love that. Americans don't even like to admit that teen-agers have sex. Old people are almost never shown in a sexual situation, and if they appear flirtatious on a TV commercial -- say, holding hands -- it's to elicit an "oh, how cute!" reaction, the same you'd get if you showed two kids or two cartoon mice doing the same thing.

The Danes have found that porn is better at calming patients than drug therapies, which is great news and (suddenly) incredibly obvious. Sex is the ultimate tension reliever, and old people have a great deal to be tense about. Put the two together and, voila, you have a natural, sensible, joyful solution. It's like the old saw about giving a man a fish, and he eats for a day: Give an old lady an expensive Paxil prescription and she's calm for a month, but give her a vibrator with rechargeable batteries and she'll never need line-dancing class again.

If it's cheaper and healthier to connect old people with porn and hookers rather than putting them on Hunter S. Thompson-level drug regimens, the U.S. should look into it immediately. I have nothing against drugs if that's your hobby. But if I were near the end, I'd rather spend my remaining days drooling over the men of Playgirl instead of drooling in front of the television. The former is so much more dignified. Americans may not be quite ready for such things, but ours won't really be a compassionate society until Medicare is paying for gigolos, and the good kind, too -- not ones that look like Steve Buscemi.

Denturous liaisons

What makes this perfect is that some states, including Florida, have considered posting "granny cams" in nursing homes, so that video surveillance can make sure the olden ones are decently cared for and not abused by the staff. If you turned the residents on to porn and the porn turned the residents on, you could go the Danes one better and put those cameras to use in closed-circuit mode, so that residents could scope out their neighbors. Instead of hookers, they might hook up with each other.

Link them with cams in other nursing homes and after a while they could have their own channel going, or at least a website. Perhaps they'd generate a little money while they're at it, so to speak.

Jobs are good for old people, and just imagine the bloopers videos that their hearing and vision impairments inevitably would provide. I mean, these people can't really see where they're sticking things anyway, especially not if they're doped up. Picture a pissy director on the verge of tears, saying, "Gladys! Get that out of your mouth! It's the faucet! Gladys! Thank god she doesn't have her dentures in. That's how she broke the last set, you know. I can't work under these conditions."

Makeup, lingerie and workouts are not a problem -- just blur the focus and everyone will blame their glasses.

It's seldom you find a project that appears to have absolutely no drawbacks, and with wealthy baby boomers marching toward decrepitude, the market is certain to grow. Plus, I'm thrilled to know that horniness still exists in old age; it gives me a reason not to die young. Poet Dylan Thomas wrote, "Do not go gentle into that good night." Do not go gentle. Go hard.


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