What the papers have been saying in the week ending March 28th 2020
We remain engulfed by reports of the spread and impact of Covid-19 across the countries of the world. Sam Jones and Angela Gluffrida reported on old people being found dead and abandoned in care homes in Spain. They provide similarly chilling references to situations in India, South Africa Italy, France, China and SouthKorea https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/23/spain-distributes-650000-testing-kits-as-coronavirus-deaths-rise-steeply
As people are restricted, interpersonal tensions give rise to danger of violence and abuse https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/mar/28/lockdowns-world-rise-domestic-violence
A local church website flirts with the suggestion that we are seeing divine judgement being enacted. In the Guardian George Monbiot acknowledges Nature as the reluctant author of this tragedy https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/25/covid-19-is-natures-wake-up-call-to-complacent-civilisation He describes the current hazards as ‘biblical’ – because they are so extensive in their effects – as with Noah and the Flood. He recruits Mark Lyonas and his forthcoming ‘Our Final Warning’ to emphasise the point. The point being that judgement is at hand from one source or another.
Inger Andersen, The Environmental Chief at the United Nations, identifies himself with this moral too: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/25/coronavirus-nature-is-sending-us-a-message-says-un-environment-chief
An earlier article had reflected anxieties within the Orthodox Jewish community that messages about Covid-19 were not getting through to believers who make no use of media news. And religious observance is being blamed for the high death rates amongst religious older people in the West Midlands https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/26/west-midlands-emerges-as-a-hotspot-for-coronavirus-deaths
There are calls to free prisoners who have health problems and who are detained by sentences with no defined end date, least their detention becomes a death sentence at the hands of the virus https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/26/covid-19-uk-prisoners-with-health-issues-face-death-sentences There are complex arguments here – We have previously made note of the underused and biased use of the facility to release prisoners who are known to be terminally ill. There are not currently reports of high rates of Covid-19amongst prisoners – though it could come
Strategies to cope with this extraordinary situation range from volunteering: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/26/ill-do-anything-coronavirus-volunteers-sign-up-to-help-nhs to art: http://guardian.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx
Letters encourage us to use a non-touch ‘How’ greeting – just as we did when playing cowboys and Indians. Music might include immersion in the works of Joy Division (No joy at all!). Sales of Camus’ ‘La Peste’ have rocketed
It is noted that members of the Royal Family and leaders of government and their advisors have fallen prey despite the daily recommendations on how to minimise the spread of Covid-19
During this week we have lost Julie Felix: ‘Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow’ https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/mar/24/julie-felix-obituary
And Albert Andersen – a creator of Asterix https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/mar/24/asterix-creator-albert-uderzo-dies-at-92
Both have contributed greatly to the childhoods of generations. Neither death was due to Covid-19 as far as we know.
In the absence of real church services, many churches are providing virtual services via the internet.We found Aled Jones in discussion with The Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell and a compilation of Songs of Praise.Hope in troubled times
Last Sunday we lit a candle at 7pm – and we plan to do the same every Sunday until this business is done
The local church school has mounted a Rainbow at the top of our park.
Rainbows and candles are special
What the papers have said in the week ending 21.3.2020 also available on our NEWS page
The week has been dominated by the Coronavirus crisis. Much has been written and we have become transfixed by daily presentations from the Prime Minister. Helpful perspectives have come from letters:
Fr Alec Mitchell reflected on the afterlife: ‘We don’t know much about it’ https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/mar/15/afterlife-we-dont-know-much-about-it
Letters by 19.3.2020 had begun to find some humour . One man raised the prospect of ‘self-immolation (if anyone knows what this means), another declaring old people locally had set up an origami club to pass the time – but it has folded! And another admitted this business had succeeded where his wife had failed for many years: he cannot go to the pub.
Mutual aid groups have been spawned in almost frightening numbers https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-51978388 most on a model of young people doing good for older people who will stay home. The Guardian’s G2 section on 17.3.2020 recommended twenty games we can play at home: these include Boggle (which can raise tensions between players), Exit (where players strive to break out of a box) and Pandemic (where doctors and healthcare experts fight an epidemic which threatens to destroy the world). All good diversionary therapies.
Perhaps the most sober and innovative letter came on 21.3.2020 from Lyn Jenkins, a retired GP, who made clear that she, being almost 70, does not want to be taken to hospital to die with Covid-19. She asks that a Home Care Service, staffed by retired GPs, District Nurses and Palliative Care Nurses be established to help people live or die with the virus at home. Within the scramble to be kind and caring to the vulnerable, prejudices and stigma reveal themselves. Not all over-70s are alike: some are vulnerable – usually because of coexisting pathology (including dementia), but others are fit, able and have been and will continue to be carers of others and activists for good. The Centre for Ageing Better has recently released a report which addresses such matters: “Doddery but dear? – Examining age-related stereotypes”, go to www.ageing-better.org.uk/publications/doddery-dear-examining-age-related-stereotypes
There have been other weighty matters which should not be lost: Amelia Gentleman brought the expected report on the Windrush scandal to attention 19.3.20 https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/19/windrush-review-to-call-for-reform-of-reckless-home-office This article was supported by a photo-montage and vignettes of thirty-one people who had been left ‘bereft and stranded’ by the process. By the next day the Windrush lessons-learned report had been released https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/mar/19/windrush-report-condemns-home-office-ignorance-and-thoughtlessness
It shames our government. It shames all of us that this has happened on our watch. People who are seen as different not being treated with the respect they are due. The report analyses what happened and how it could happen and makes recommendations. It is to be hoped these will be accepted and followed. The worry is that much of what was done, and has been so harmful, was done despite laws which had been passed specifically to make such things impossible. But the laws were forgotten
What are the Churches doing to help people cope with Covid-19?
If you want to know what your own Church denomination is doing and what advice it is giving, the best course of action is to visit its website. Links to all the major Christian denominations are accessible on our Resources pages under Helpful Links.
Most local churches will, by now, have begun to make arrangements to deal with government advice and guidance, along with the health and scientific information regularly made available.
Christians on Ageing is a small organisation but we are quite good at sign-posting good ideas and practice – and there’s lots of it around in all the Churches. We are looking at the possibility of highlighting important steps that local Christian communities are either already taking or could take over the next few weeks (and possibly months). We are hoping that visitors to our website will let us know of practical projects which are producing results and which can easily be copied. The focus is, of course, on older people – but this does not mean shutting us out of all community activity. There will be some, however, in our parishes or congregations who might become anxious because of what they see/hear on news programmes and who would benefit greatly from reassurance. What sort of contact would allow this to happen?
Christians on Ageing will not be the only organisation with a focus on older people which is uneasy about the language being used and the proposals being offered in public attempts to safeguard the health of the nation. The use of the word ‘elderly’ has made a re-appearance and is being applied indiscriminately to those in their 60s and, especially, those who are 70 years of age or older. Being older, being frail or being vulnerable are not interchangeable terms. We would welcome views on how best the Churches can get across far more positive messages.
AND, NOT FORGETTING
What the papers have been saying week ending March 15 also available on our NEWS page
This week has been dominated by one topic – The Covid-19 Pandemic
Originally identified at the very end of 2019 in China, this new variety of coronavirus has now spread to many countries. Affected individuals are variously unwell and there is a death rate of the order of 2% overall, but most deaths have occurred amongst older people, especially those who are vulnerable because of multiple established pathologies https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-age-sex-demographics/
So this is a topic which is of great significance to older people, families and those in the community and professions most involved with older people.
Strategies to limit the spread of the disease and to manage it are differing in different countries. This in itself has been a cause for distress and puzzlement. The UK and particularly English policy makers have taken a moderate line – leading them to find fire from observers who note more vigorous and extreme precautions being taken elsewhere https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/13/this-government-must-show-us-the-evidence-behind-its-covid-19-policies
We are being pushed to progressively more severe restrictions on social life: sports activities are being cancelled, all events which will attract large numbers are being questioned and often abandoned. Some schools have been closed
There is even the suggestion that everyone aged over 70 will be required to stay at home to receive support from others. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-51895873
A major concern is how to care for the most vulnerable older people who are in hospital or a care home. Imposition of rules which require staff who are unwell to self-isolate have led to homes struggling to cope with inadequate staff numbers. Exclusion of visitors leaves residents to feel alone and unloved in a situation they cannot comprehend. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/13/experts-question-bupa-care-home-ban-on-most-family-visits
Discussion is characterising two approaches – that of the epidemiologists who are determined to reduce numbers of people affected and deaths, and behaviourists who would also wish to see numbers affected and deaths minimised, but ask for awareness of the potential damage to the mental health and physical health of individuals and families by restricting access, and the damage being done to worldwide infrastructure by such restrictions.
What we need is calm and moderation, taking all aspects into account.
A splendid example came in a letter from Susan Roaf, Emeritus Professor of Architectural Engineering, who points to the effectiveness of open windows and high ceilings – greater power than many modern energy intensive approaches to clearing air: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/11/if-you-want-to-fight-infection-think-about-opening-a-window
Elsewhere we read Sophie Arie’s reflections on focussed arrangements for the emergency medical needs of patients over 80 (this is not linked to Covid-19). A very positive approach in Norwich is questions by colleagues from other hospitals. My affection is still for assessment and consideration of treatment at home before the strengths of home are cut out by transport to the hospital. https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m931
And we are reminded that older people can do all sorts of things, quite apart from being vulnerable. Sara Brewer, aged 64 years, and her younger partner rowed across the Atlantic – 3,000 miles in 86 days. 64-year-old becomes oldest woman to row across Atlantic Ocean
Round-up of what the papers said prepared by David Jolley (Vice-Chair, Christians on Ageing)