Hazards of Warehousing the Elderly

The coronavirus pandemic has precipitated a behavioral sea change across the land.

We all now do things that might have seemed ludicrous just a few short months ago; no handshakes, no hugs, no kisses, and no large gatherings. Social intercourse, literally and figuratively, has become frozen in time. Indeed, for the moment: birth control, population control, and abortion debates may have been rendered moot by fiat.

Indeed, with the possible exception of Spring Break snowflakes, most of us are in some sort of social quarantine or “lockdown.” The intercourse of choice at the moment is “social distancing.”

If we are indeed at war with a virus, then the demographics and outlook are grim for the most vulnerable among us. The target-rich environment for the coronavirus “war” is the senior citizen demographic.

Today, there are 703 million people (worldwide) aged 65 or older, a number that is projected to reach 1.5 billion by 2050. According to the latest population estimates and projections from UN DESA’s Population Division, 1 in 6 people in the world will be over the age 65 by 2050, up from 1 in 11 in 2019. The latest projections also show that the number of people aged 80 or over will triple in the next 30 years. In many regions, the population aged 65 will double by 2050, while global life expectancy beyond 65 will increase by 19 years.

At the moment, approximately six million American older adults live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, to say nothing of all those “adults only” communities where the great divides are affluence and age.

The death rate (number of deaths/number of cases) according to Worldometer for the over 70 demographic is now 35 percent. The death rate for groupings below 70 years of age ranges from 3.6 percent to 0.2 percent.

Adding insult to senior injury, many countries and municipalities (England for example) do not report senior coronavirus deaths at elderly living facilities. Withal, segregation of communities by age doesn’t seem to be a very progressive or practical idea, especially if you are over 70.

Unfortunately, hindsight isn’t insight

When the smog of war lifts, the Monday-morning quarterbacks will come down from the hill, shoot the wounded and demand all manner of post-mortems and self-righteous investigations. When they do, we need to reflect on selfishness and the “me too” ethos that has energized two generations of yuppies, millennials, and snowflakes -- those who would party during the plague whilst isolating seniors from the rest of society.  

Sadly, coronavirus has put institutional euthanasia on autopilot and provided a tailwind for Diane Rehm’s (PBS) “death with dignity” crowd on the American left. Dying alone in a nursing home, from a preventable aliment, has nothing to do with dignity of any sort. It doesn’t matter whether commitment to an “institution” is voluntary or mandated; confinement to a geriatric ghetto in a health crisis is now a premature death sentence.

We need to rethink our metrics of caring -- and human dignity

G. Murphy Donovan is a senior, erstwhile deep state creature, who lives on a tree shaded street with lots of kids, cats, and dogs.

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