“Youth is wasted on the young!”
Many older people watch today’s youth blundering through life with their signature irreverence, the firm belief that they are somehow immortal, and the absolute confidence in their limited knowledge of life. They often look down from an elevated level of unconscious incompetence at the elderly, and simply don’t see the value of the wisdom and experience locked up in their ageing bodies.
This lack of understanding and care has become frighteningly apparent as the COVID-19 pandemic rushes through the world.
A closer look at the numbers tells a somewhat grim story about the effect that COVID-19 has had on the elderly population. And an even more sombre realisation is how it’s being dealt with by the world powers.
The Effect of COVID-19 on the Elderly
So far, the statistics on the effect of COVID look something like this.
COVID-19 can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or nationality. Statistics have offered data to show that approximately 5% of people are susceptible to severe infection requiring admission to an intensive care unit and/or resulting in a fatal outcome.
This small percentage of people has been identified by two main factors: medical comorbidity and/or age. If we remove these two main factors, then the death rate of COVID-19 shrinks to less than 1%.
The article referenced above from Psychiatric Times says, “Thus, readers should keep in mind that COVID-19 fatality rate estimates are influenced by at least 2 factors: estimated rates will be higher based on the percentage of the population that has the risk factors of comorbid medical illness and/or is ≥ 85 years of age (e.g., a nursing home populations versus the general population)”
And there’s the kicker: older people are more likely to suffer from the comorbid conditions of obesity, respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease or liver illness which provide the perfect storm for the coronavirus.
This vulnerable group, especially those confined to nursing homes, are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 fatalities.
What is happening on the flip side of the coin?
The Economic Impact
It’s safe to say that the public, in general, is fed up with the lockdown and the economic pressures that they are enduring. This is said without diluting the mental and emotional toll that COVID-19 has taken on those that are suffering with or have lost loved ones to the illness – it’s just a sad fact.
Many people outside of the COVID hotspots have not seen the sickness first-hand, have not lost anyone, and in many cases, don’t know anyone who has lost someone dear to them. What this means is that there exists a restlessness with the man on the street as well as within the business communities to reopen the economy and get “back to normal.”
Governments are watching their GDP dropping and unemployment climbing as small businesses, in particular, succumb to the pressure of COVID.
The problem runs even deeper: In some U.S states, the local government has “recommended” that certain businesses reopen, but many are reluctant to do so. Why?
“The businesses are “allowed” to open, but the owners are hesitant. What happens when they decide not to comply and then file a claim for business interruption insurance (if they haven’t already done so)? That business interruption insurance will probably be denied the minute the opportunity to reopen is established. Because they could operate, even at a reduced capacity, but they are choosing not to do so.
“Landlords can demand the rent – even from businesses that are slow to re-open – because the bowling alley, restaurant and movie theatres could generate revenue. What if the owners find the courage to open their doors, but customers don’t show up? Will creditors and overhead break the back of underperforming small enterprises?”
So here we have an ageing population at risk of a virulent illness locked up in hospitals and nursing homes, a global economy teetering on the brink of disaster, business owners and governmental authorities who need to get the hamster wheel running again but don’t really know where to start, and the very real possibility of a worldwide depression.
This is, indeed, a mess!
What we’re seeing is that there is a push for the economy to open, and for people to exercise “reasonable care when going about their business.”
That’s all well and good, but the statistics for the elderly remain the same: 13% of people 80 years or older will succumb to COVID-19 if exposed.
Are the authorities turning a blind eye to this number? Does the economy take priority over these lives? Are the aged dispensable, having lived their lives and paid their taxes? Some have gone so far as to theorise that the governments are intentionally placing the elderly at risk to reduce the costs to the economy.
There are over 110 million people over the age of 80 alive today. (Source) That means that approximately 14.5 million people could potentially fall victim to COVID-19.
14.5 million grandmothers, grandfathers, parents, favourite aunts and uncles, cousins and friends – an entire generation of knowledge, wisdom, and family stories that will go untold. What price do we put on the lives of these elderly ones?
There is no easy answer to any of these questions, and wherever we stand on the debate, we will find that concessions will need to be made.
All we ask is, can these concessions please not be paid in human lives?