Opinion: We’re talking a lot about seniors and coronavirus. Here, they talk for themselves

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said in a Fox News interview, "Those of us who are 70-plus, we'll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country."
(Tom Fox / Associated Press)

There’s a group often bandied about in this pandemic as if its members are just another variable to be considered in how we respond to the coronavirus: older people. As it happens, our letter writers tend to skew strongly to that demographic, and as you might have guessed, they have thoughts about politicians who suggest they should sacrifice their health for the country’s economy, among other things.

The letters from readers who mention their advanced age rage in tone from somber to angry. Most striking to me is the number of writers who have said they would forgo use of a ventilator that could go to a younger patient.

Long Beach resident Thomas Gillman wants to live to vote against the president:


Like a lot of your senior readers, I am angry as hell and I won’t go quietly.

I have lived with AIDS for 35 years; I have fought three distinct types of cancer with enough surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for 20 more should they come; I’ve lost sight in one eye, and my hearing’s going south as well; and I’ve had six back surgeries.

I have not fought my way through all of that to be a willing statistic to this virus that cannot be washed off the hands of our defensive, narcissistic president who could have limited the scope of this disaster had he been paying attention.

Seniors, we are no man’s lambs. We have to live to make sure this man and his party are voted out of office.

Diane Diamond of San Luis Obispo cites the economic boost provided by retirees:

Should we say goodbye to granny for the good of the economy?


Maybe before willfully doing in a generation, we should consider all the unpaid hours that retirees give to the country and its economy. Experienced seniors work for free in schools, libraries, museums and state parks. They serve on community boards and help feed homeless people. They tend to grandchildren so that their sons and daughters can work full-time jobs.

Countless hours are shared at no financial gain by skilled, experienced professionals in administration, science and the arts. People with craft skills are building houses with Habitat for Humanity.

Next time politicians or pundits call for human lives to be sacrificed, they should be reminded what those lives have meant for their communities and what their unpaid work has saved in government spending.

Mission Viejo resident Mary Carlson says seniors can speak for themselves:

As a senior, I understand how we become “invisible.” Seeing articles about the ethical choices medical professionals might have to make about who lives and who dies, followed by the example of a 20-year-old versus an 80-year-old, really disgust me.

I might ask if the 80-year-old is the only sources of income for his four grandchildren. Would doctors be taking the time to ask all of these kinds of questions before they make their decisions?

I suggest that doctors give older patients information about the situation, and then ask them outright what they should do as doctors. Patients’ responses would vary tremendously, but I’ve had a wonderful life, and I hope my response would be to give the ventilator to a person who needed it more.