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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: From coast to coast we are buying land and building new jails. Also, from coast to coast we are closing our armed forces bases.

During World War II, we had hundreds of German prisoners of war in this country, and we did not build new jails. We put the prisoners on one part of an established military camp and made maintenance men and helpers out of them.

We, the taxpayers, own the land that the bases are on. Many bases have security systems for at least part of the base. There are buildings near most bases where the families of the armed forces lived, and now the families of the prison workers could live there. Have the prisoners keep every piece of equipment, every building and the grounds in perfect condition. Some might even learn a trade.

If there is a natural disaster, go to the nearest base and there is a shelter ready to move into -- the roads, lighting, etc., and all are in top condition and ready. Preparedness is a comforting and wonderful feeling.

Please do not use my name or address. Just sign me ... ANONYMOUS IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR ANONYMOUS: Your idea seems sensible to me. However, there are many reasons why our closed military bases are not being utilized as prisons. Among them are toxic wastes in some locations, substandard buildings, and the fact that landowners in adjacent communities fear it would devalue their property. Also, local governments would prefer to turn the bases into moneymakers to generate more tax revenue.

DEAR ABBY: I am responding to "Fed Up in Huntsville, Ala.," who said that after four years of marriage her 70-year-old husband wants only to eat, sleep and sit.

Abby, this woman is describing the typical symptoms of depression in the elderly, which often goes unnoticed. I have been witness to this in my own family. I tolerated similar behavior in my 73-year-old husband who had already had two heart attacks. One day he cried out in anguish, "Why doesn't God take me right now?" Only then did I realize his "lazy" behavior was not voluntary. We saw a doctor the next day.

My husband is now taking anti-depressants and is so thankful that he feels better. Our active life has resumed, he is once again playing golf, and we are even doing some traveling!

My only regret is that I did not recognize his problems sooner. I am ashamed to admit that I am a registered nurse. I hope my experience will help other senior citizens realize they may need help. -- AN R.N. IN FLORIDA

DEAR R.N.: You have done a great service by writing. When an individual, especially a senior citizen, begins to exhibit unusual behavior, a visit to a physician should be the first order of business.

DEAR ABBY: Three years ago, my 58-year-old husband had a brief affair with his secretary. It was no secret; all the tongues in this little town were wagging a mile a minute.

Once, when I found a motel key in his coat pocket, he had the gall to tell me that he got tired of driving, so he checked into a motel to take a little nap. (Three miles from home!)

Well, last year he had some surgery that left him impotent, and since then, I couldn't ask for a more devoted husband. He sends me flowers, and phones if he knows he's going to be half an hour late. He even takes me on business trips, which he never did before.

Of course, I'm enjoying all this attention, Abby, but in your opinion, why has my husband turned over a new leaf? -- WONDERING

DEAR WONDERING: Probably because there's not much left under the old one. Enjoy your good fortune.

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