COVID-19 and the elderly: Survival of the fittest, a generational debate

Sam Tench / Photo blogs / / 2 Comments

A disturbing and unfathomable chain of thought is doing the rounds. It’s a dilemma that seems to have no reasonable answer; a generational debate between the young and their longer-term economic survival and our elders who, some people consider, are apparently now an undervalued segment of our population. You’ve probably heard something similar, “Let the elderly succumb to COVID-19, they’ve had a good, long life. They should let the younger generation live.” Like, they are supposed to sacrifice themselves for the survival of the young and, in some cases, reckless individuals. At what point did reckless such people become God? At what point was did it become okay to sacrifice the elderly for the benefit of the young?

Unbelievably, I’ve witnessed such thoughts directly from people I know. My mind boggles that anyone could think this way as I remind myself that we are living in Australia in 2020. Since when has our great country functioned in such a manner? Most people will have dearly cherished elderly and at-risk individuals within their own families. How can such thoughts even be verbalized? It’s disturbingly unthinkable. Emotionally and rationally, I could never speak this way about the older generation. Suggesting our older generation is somehow disposable for the benefit of the young is misinformed and utterly disrespectful.

We’re hearing a lot lately about human rights in this and other ways. As the pandemic rages, our society is being bombarded with messages, showing little regard for people’s health and safety. Exhibiting a brazen sense of defiance with respect to health-related orders, people insist on protesting in large groups despite being asked not to.  It’s becoming tiresome, watching protesters place their cause ahead of the predicament facing the world. Maybe a more positive way of looking at our world’s population would be to deliver messages that promote the health and well-being of everyone. No particular age group, gender or ethnicity should be singled out.

Nobody deserves to be sacrificed for the benefit others. This includes the lives of those who are in their 70s, 80s and beyond. I say with 100% conviction that the lives of my parents are not expendable. Their age has no correlation to the value they bring to society. I know my children value their grandparents greatly – they love them dearly and my parents are such important influences in their young lives. Likewise, I value the lives of numerous mature people, they bring great value to our community with a wealth of experience that we can learn from.

Being a part of the younger generation doesn’t guarantee that you are in any way safe from the perils of this relentless virus. If we can say one thing about the virus, it’s that it does not discriminate. COVID-19 has already demonstrated its ability and intent to continue to inflict harm regardless of people’s age, gender and ethnicity. I cannot deny my own vulnerability simply because I’m in my 40’s.  As stated by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “The choices made by the young can be the difference between life and death for someone else.” He goes on to add: “I have a message for young people: You are not invincible; this virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you. Even if you don’t get sick the choices you make about where you go could be the difference between life and death for someone else.”  Ignorance can only take one so far in life before reality sinks in, it may just be too late by that point.

We only need to look to other countries where it has been suggested that senior citizens should risk a painful death in order  to keep the economy afloat for the younger generation. I am enraged this has even been considered. I’m also enraged by the lack of compliance we are witnessing in Australia, as well as the selfish actions of people who not only put the lives of the older generation at risk, but also the lives of every Australian. Clearly, much of our everyday narrative demonstrates a willingness to undervalue the elderly: It is the elderly who always seem to be the first group mentioned when talking about the vulnerable, serving as a linguistic reassurance to those who are young and healthy: You won’t die, only those who don’t matter will. While it is important to celebrate that children aren’t usually affected by this virus, why should it be a reason to celebrate that those children might grow up without grandparents?” (Rani Neutill,”. For my children, such a scenario would be devastating.

The situation for the elderly is scary, particularly those who live in nursing homes. Many people affected by the virus have lived a long and productive life. Some may be war veterans who have put their lives at risk so we can live in the democracy we find ourselves in today. They’ve worked hard, have done their bit for society and our economy and now, at retirement age, they should be on the receiving end of some TLC and spend well-deserved quality time with their families. Sounds fair to me. Yet, due to the current circumstances and through no fault of their own, many have been closed up for months, isolated from their families and the outside world at large.

Imagine not being able to see your grandchildren for months. Imagine not being able to see your own mother or father for months. Thankfully, I’m not in this predicament but I know many people who are, and I see the heartbreak. Imagine being unable to see your own family, even though they may be living just down the road. Our older generation does not deserve to be kept in such conditions and desperately need us to stand up and advocate on their behalf.

Take Home Message

If this pandemic has revealed anything thus far, it’s that too many people, particularly those within the younger generation, are prioritizing their own lives above all else. If this describes you, imagine being stuck in a hospital bed, in your so-called prime, alone in a bed with a ventilator. Facing the end of your life, largely due to the actions of others. You haven’t seen your family face-to-face for months and even at this critical point, no-one is allowed to come and sit with you. You’re alone. Things don’t have to be this way, if everyone comes together and shows that good Aussie spirit of care, respect and support for the entire community.

Let’s remember that if we are lucky, we younger generations will eventually reach the age of those that many are choosing to abandon during these difficult times. We are failing to teach the next generation, our children, a valuable lesson: the value in taking care of everyone, young and old.  It’s time for us to silence the debate, for the sake of our country and the people who call Australia home. Let’s take a stand, a positive stand; to work together and do the right thing for the sake of all Australians.





  1. Julie Johnson  —  3 August 2020 at 10:41 pm

    Well Sam, you have really hit a home run with me tonight with this blog. All of them have been excellent but I think this is from a totally different perspective, one of your best. I am sure that not all people feel that we in our later 60″s are not dispensible, however yes I agree that there are a proportion of people who feel we have had a lucky life and our deaths unfortunate though they may be will ultimately benefit the economy of the country. and they may if you are only thinking in terms of economy. If you apply further thought to the nuturing of younger citizens of the community and the benefit of a long life of work experience and economic denial where we have gone without rather than go into debt could provide the benefit of example and prudence for the younger population. I am once again called into zoom teaching and am chasing resources from teachers I know for my grandaughter in Prep. I also have the Secondary school aged kids in Yr 8 to help as help. Dispensable, not quite yet, maybe after I have solved these problems. You also hit home with my Dad who is 95 and served with the British Army in Europe for 4 years going over in the invasion of Normandy. He would like to be dead and with Mum, it is hardly his fault he has lived a healthy life and now I can’t see him either and I went daily. It is a really sad time for us, all but if people would only do what is asked of them we would be in a much better place. I just keep thinking, what a selfish thoughtless lot some of us have become. It is basically a me, me and me society, what I want. Well we just need to stand up and fight for all of us and our loved ones and not let those who are so selfish take control. All for the greatest good for the most we can accomplish this with what things we can control by a few easy restrictions and just suck up the hard yards for a few more months. Loving reading and responding to your blogs, am thrilled with how much you are accomplishing and how far you have come. Excited for your future!!! xxx Julie

    • Sam Tench  —  8 August 2020 at 4:39 pm

      Thanks Julie, I really feel like this is such an important topic right now. The attitude towards the elderly (and I don’t place you in this category by the way) in particular, is simply not acceptable. Yet it’s an attitude that seems to be gaining momentum each day. What a disrespectful generation of individuals we seem to have, me, me, me all the way, who cares about anyone else. You’re right, if people weren’t so self-righteous, we’d most likely be in a much better position than where we currently find ourselves.

      Allow me to share a personal experience. This relates to a response I received relating to the passing of an older friend due to Covid. I still find it hard to fathom that people actually think like this. This particular persons response came from a place of ‘oh well, she was old, it was her time’. The actual response, ‘Yeah, I heard about your loss of a friend to covid, it’s sad’. But wait, there’s more!! The next words that came out of this person’s disgustingly disrespectful mouth, were to merely highlight the fact it was probably my friends time as he went on to tell me that one of his grandparents had passed from pneumonia! Um what? How is that in any way related? No, no, no!! Being a little older does not equal dispensable. What kind of world would it be without the older generations?

      Julie, your grandchildren are very lucky to have you in their lives. With your abundance of teaching experience, you’ll be a valuable source of support and relief for your own kids. You get to take some of the pressure off of their shoulders by helping out with your own grandchildren’s education and you’ll be supporting them emotionally along the way. I’m sure the grandchildren don’t mind having you play teacher for a while. I also know a lot of people who would give anything to have someone with your skills in their family. I certainly would (no disrespect to my mum!)! Good on you, I hope this gives you much pleasure. You are important and you definitely still have a whole lot more to offer the world, you’re helping me just by reading and responding to my blogs! Dispensable, not at all.


Leave a Reply