Letter: Protect, respect, generation of elders

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To the editor:

Like most of us I watch the news about level of risk from the coronavirus virus very carefully. I am 71 so I certainly meet one risk category (over 70) but I am otherwise in good health. So,I feel relieved when the mortality news states the victim was elderly or otherwise compromised. Maybe I will be OK and the people dying were pretty old or sick already.

Then a friend's husband died. He was 81 and had been ill with some chronic health issues. So he could have been just another statistic — elderly and in poor health. But his death changed everything. I knew him and I knew how tenaciously he fought for his life. He had health scares before and every time beat the odds and returned to his favorite chair in front of the TV.

He fought for every day of his life. This time he contracted the virus and it killed him but not before he suffered days of hospitalization and pain and discomfort. And, at the very end he died alone without the comfort of the family that loved him.

If this vicious virus disproportionately takes out a generation of our elders it is so wrong if we are not too disturbed by that fact. It's funny how we look at "primitive" cultures and how they treat their elders. We were told the Eskimos put old people on ice floes and let them drift away to sure death. Are we so different if we continue to relegate our elders to crummy nursing homes staffed by underpaid and overworked workers? If we continue to see them as has-beens and burdens rather than a necessary part of the continuity of and well-being of our culture?

As we recover from the pandemic we need to do real work on our generational issues. To see the intrinsic value in our elders and to work to make our health care delivery system more responsive to their real needs.My friend's husband was a proud veteran and a loving and caring family man. He deserved better.

Nora Hayes,

Hillsdale, N.Y.

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