No Time to Rest : At 89, longtime activist Dr. Sol Londe continues to work for such important-to-seniors causes as medical reform and strengthened Social Security. He says, ‘What I want on my tombstone is, “He tried.” ’


H ere’s Dr. Sol Londe’s prescription for a long life: “Be interested in something outside of yourself.”

At 89, the Northridge pediatrician is living proof that the doctor is healing thyself. Londe, who made a name in blood-pressure research, still spends two mornings a week performing physicals on young offenders at Juvenile Hall. A longtime activist, Londe pushes the senior and liberal agendas as a board member of the Westside chapter of the National Council of Senior Citizens, the Congress of California Seniors and the Los Angeles chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. May 19, 1993 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday May 19, 1993 Home Edition View Part E Page 6 Column 6 View Desk 1 inches; 18 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong caption--Dr. Sol Londe is a salaried employee at Juvenile Hall. He was incorrectly described in a caption in Monday’s View.

In fact, Londe met his second wife, Jeanne, 72, at a nuclear freeze march on Washington in 1983. They married the next year on Londe’s 80th birthday. The cake was decorated with a peace symbol, and instead of serving mints, they provided their activist guests with protest buttons that read: “Arms are for hugging.”


“What I want on my tombstone,” Londe says, “is , ‘He tried.’ ”

He talked about the senior movement with Times Staff Writer Irene Lacher:

The popular view of seniors is that they’re living off the fat of the land, that they’re all getting Social Security as if it were a magnificent income. It really isn’t so. According to the National Council of Senior Citizens, 60% of elderly families have incomes under $23,000 and 10% have incomes under $10,000. Only 8% live in households with an annual income of $50,000 or more. Most seniors are not living high off the hog.

Many seniors are doing volunteer work, (working) as school aides, volunteers in nutrition programs, in hospitals, and many have been very actively involved in elections, (working) on issues, doing precinct work, phone banking, supporting their candidates. So many, many seniors are very active people, usefully contributing to our society.

Now the senior movement not only is working for the benefit of seniors, but it recognizes that we’re a part of the whole society, and what’s affecting the whole society is affecting us. If there’s mass unemployment, not only are the jobless suffering, but there are decreased funds going into the Social Security fund. That’s an example showing the interconnection between the generations.

And to illustrate the broad interests of the last convention of the Congress of California Seniors, they passed a resolution to end nuclear weapons testing and a resolution calling for a 35-hour work-week with no cut in pay. We’re members of the whole society, and we don’t want to see our younger people suffer.


I’m not an organizer, although I was president of the Westside chapter of the National Council of Senior Citizens for four years. One of the things that’s happening in the senior movement is that (a) generation of activists is dying out, and the generation that follows is not such an activist generation.

I come from the generation that lived in the Depression. What’s happening is that the older guys and gals who were activists are passing away; there aren’t enough people (willing) to take the responsibility of leadership. So every year we have a hassle--and that’s not only our organization--of getting people who are willing to become president or officers.

I was very much influenced by my (former) professor of biochemistry (at Washington University in St. Louis). He’d been a socially active person in Hungary. He started talking to me. I started reading and then I became involved.

For example, during the Depression I was involved in a middle-class movement of social workers and professionals to get government relief, because before that time there were just poorhouses. And so in St. Louis, they started charging a toll on what they called the Free Bridge to raise money for relief.

Some years later I became involved in the senior movement in St. Louis when I heard that a senator from Indiana had (said) that Social Security trust funds were being used for the Vietnam War. I joined a group that was known as the Older Adult Issues Society, and they were members of the National Council of Senior Citizens, so I joined the council.

The most important issues for the elderly are keeping the integrity of Social Security, not only for ourselves, but for other generations. It’s the best pension plan.


No. 2 is health care, not only for ourselves, but for the whole society. Of course, we have health insurance in Medicare, but Medicare pays only about 49% of the out-of-pocket payments. We’re having to carry supplemental insurance.

The organized senior movement is in the forefront of the fight for a national health insurance plan, and we’re for the single-payer system, modeled on the Canadian system. The single-payer means the money goes to the government and the government is the purchaser, instead of 1,500 insurance companies paying.

Anything will be better than nothing, but we’re concerned that managed competition is going to be a tremendous step back in the quality of medical care because groups will be shopping for the lowest price they can get. And it’s going to cut out the free choice of physicians, which the Canadian system, of course, retains.

The organized senior movement has been circulating petitions for this, and we’ve been bombarding Congress, much more than the younger people who really need it more than we do. I’ve heard well-to-do people complain about what they have to pay.

I think for longevity, there’s a genetic factor--both my father and mother lived to 80 at least. But it’s also very important to be interested outside of yourself. You don’t have time to listen to the aches and pains that accompany old age, and I think mental activity plays an important role. If you read the obits in scientific magazines, most of the scientists live to be fairly old.