We often hear it said that physical distancing, confinement and curfew are a lot to impose on oneself and the economy to save people who are already elderly or suffering from co-morbidities, supposed to die soon anyway. .
The general response is that it is the health system that must be protected. That these people, even elderly and sick, will require care from already overworked and exhausted staff.
This is true, but personally, I don’t even want to surrender to that argument anymore. I find that we have not said over and over again that seniors are worth saving, period.
A rich life
The word comorbidity is heavy in itself. When you hear it, you imagine a person with tubes in their nose, their legs swollen like hams, their pale body covered with large blue veins.
However, this is not a comorbidity. A 75-year-old may very well have high blood pressure or diabetes and still lead an active and productive existence. She can practice physical activity, have a rich social and family life, and be involved in her community. There are even people who still have jobs at that age, even if they too accumulate the little ailments that come with aging.
That said, having a risk factor for COVID-19 does not make you seriously ill or disabled.
My grandfather died suddenly at the age of 83. He had suffered from heart failure for several years. That had not prevented him from disembarking without warning at my mother’s house the day before to do some work on his land.
My grandmother died at the age of 96. In the end, she was gone, but five or six years ago, she still made us dinner in her house and she made her meat pies for the holidays with a sneer. Until the end, she told us our story. Yet she had been diagnosed with diabetes for over 20 years.
If a sneaky but controllable virus had picked up my grandparents at 70, we certainly wouldn’t have thought that was okay, since they were due to die anyway.
According to the INSPQ, 40% of the Quebec population lives with a chronic disease. This rate rises to 70% after 65 years. This situation can be explained a lot by lifestyle, it is true, but also by congenital, environmental and social factors.
At some point, we will have to make lucid observations about our society. You can’t just say that locking up vulnerable people is enough to protect them and then throw away the key. Including their loved ones, the staff who care for them and their own family members, it is well beyond half of society that should be completely quarantined for a minority to go about their business.
In the end, the lives of our elderly are worth protecting as well. Making this choice is not a sign of the weakness of a too cozy society. It is a sign of decency of a people grateful to its elders.