She got me into Sex and the City when I was 12. Lately, she's been badgering me to read George Eliot's 800-page opus Middlemarch . She exercises every damn day and loves checking out men in the mall almost as much as she loves the shopping. She follows the stock exchange religiously, is a decorated veteran of the dance floor and pumps her own gas. In one month, my grandmother, who we all call Bubbie , will turn 94.
You can bet I was thinking of her when I read this back in March from Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick : "As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?... If that is the exchange, I'm all in."
Sitting in my Paris apartment, rage and sadness stirred together in my Boston-bred blood. But it's not just about me and my Bubbie, and it's not just an American calculation. The oh-whatever-this-virus-only-kills-old-people song has been sung all over the world, a tune that's both factually incorrect and a smash hit on age-bias radio. The Spanish army discovered a nursing home with residents dead in their beds, completely abandoned by their personnel and society. A survey by the Agewell Foundation found that 59% of seniors in India felt loneliness even when confined with their family, with 23% feeling ignored by younger generations addicted to screens.
Ageism was a global epidemic long before COVID — a World Health Organisation article from 2018 reported that 1 in 6 people worldwide over the age of 60 suffered abuse at the hands of their community. Even if you live in a place that respects its elders, the way other nations treat their most vulnerable members during this pandemic will affect yours, as the indiscriminate, contagious nature of the virus means no one is safe until everyone is safe.
Death is final, and thus make Dan Patrick's demographic-economic calculations meaningless — and inhumane. The idea that the lives of the elderly are disposable should simply be a non-starter, even if you don't have a grandmother around like mine.
Every Thursday, I call Bubbie. At the end of each call she tells me, "Be good." It's a joke, because neither of us have ever been very well behaved. I sign off to you, however, without any humor. As a 30-year-old, I know it may be hard to empathize with aging and illness when you feel like your life is in front of you. But for the love of the people who made us all, be good .
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