Retired Guys Wanted. Low Wages. No Benefits. When Stewart Feldstein saw that ad, it was just what he was looking for. After a career as a clothing importer from Asia, the UC Berkeley graduate and his wife Janice had retired to Scottsdale three months earlier. Although Stewart liked Arizona, retirement did not suit, so he took a job managing homeowner’s associations. That was twenty-five years ago. Today, at age 87, Stewart still works three to six hours a day handling six local associations. He is the company’s most senior member in both age and length of employment. The man loves to work, though he took an important break two years ago when he went on the Honor Flight to Washington, DC. Stewart is one of two World War II veterans’ I’ve met; the tribute he experienced in our nation’s capital was a moving experience.
It took Janice a bit longer to warm up to Arizona, but she also worked through her traditional retirement years. Janice was a school librarian in the Bay Area, but she left that to run a doctor’s office for 26 years. When she moved to Arizona, Janice went to the local hospital and asked the OR nurses which doctors they used for their own care. She pursued those doctors and spent 23 years running their office. Two years ago, at age 79, Janice stopped working. Now, she volunteers at the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale and plays a lot of Mahjong.
There is a popular conception that people grow more conservative as they age. Janice and Stewart Feldstein are the oldest hosts I’ve stayed with on my trip. They come from solid, liberal Jewish stock. I know their two children and have heard much about their grandkids. Stewart claims to have been an “ultra-liberal” but now espouses many conservative ideas to which Janice quietly acquiesces. Does this transformation validate that we grow more conservative with age? The reality is not so clear. There is evidence on both sides of the liberal / conservative divide as to whether our politics shift with age, though Stewart makes a strong case that we grow more conservative with time.
How will we live tomorrow?
“I’m not very confident. I’m afraid we’re heading toward a welfare state. In many instances it’s more lucrative for people to take government assistance. I read about a woman in California with eight kids and eight different fathers. She gets $4,000 a month to sit and collect checks. When I was at Berkeley I was an ultra-liberal. As I got older I became conservative. A lot has to do with unions. Two unions tried to take over companies I worked with. As you get older, you get more conservative.
“We have become slaves to technology. We’ve become so enamored of technology, kids text their every move. There is too much information about individuals out there. Consequently, a lot of bad people can do a lot of bad things. What happened in France (terrorist attacks in Paris) couldn’t have happened without all of this electronic communication.
“If I were President, I’d get the CEO’s of the major electronics companies in one room and tell them they can’t leave until they solve the problem. We have to be able to dismantle these devices when they get into the wrong hands.” – Stewart
“I led a very different life than Stewart did. My grandmother raised me because both of my parents worked. She told me I could go to the University of California and meet a nice Jewish boy and get married. And I did that.
“I lost my parents very young. I am an independent person; I like to do what I want when I want. But I’m also a pessimist. I have my political views, but I let Stewart articulate them. I am more of a pacifist. I don’t worry about who will be the next President because I think he’s a figurehead. I don’t worry about tomorrow because it’s not here.” – Janice