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Roy Green: Is modern society divorcing its elders?

The Altamont Care Community long-term care home is shown in Toronto on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
The Altamont Care Community long-term care home is shown in Toronto on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Images of the confined and elderly blowing kisses to family standing outside seniors residences and long-term care facilities as COVID-19 fears restricted human contact were and remain immensely saddening.

In recent weeks, I’ve found myself asking repeatedly whether these older people were residents of such facilities by choice and required 24-7 assistance beyond their families’ ability to provide. Or has our pop-culture society reached the determination by some kind of unspoken generational agreement that even a minimal degree of additional assistance should be defined as burdensome?

This is a question, not an indictment. And not a welcome question, either.

READ MORE: Who owns the 5 Ontario long-term care homes cited by the military for extreme neglect, abuse?

Browse a search engine and push-back is waiting.

Questioning the placement of the aging into a seniors-focused environment is deemed a hurtful indictment of families who have initiated such decisions.

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Methinks thou may protest too vigorously.

Of course, the time may arrive when the most basic self-care becomes significantly challenging and so much so that untrained assistance, no matter how loving, has the potential to be more hazard than help.

At such a time, an environment geared to the particular needs of a senior, supplemented by committed professional and personal care, may become essential — and hopefully, whenever possible, with the engagement and endorsement of the senior family member in question.

But that’s not the point of this commentary.

Who will be held accountable for crisis in long-term care homes?
Who will be held accountable for crisis in long-term care homes?

Our society is definitely youth-oriented — something that I, as a relatively early boomer, collide with.

While I’m functionally computer-literate and am able to navigate my way around technology as I need, there are aspects to this brave new smartphone world I require assistance with. That doesn’t mean I need counselling when matching my socks, changing gears on my bicycle or looking after myself.

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However, I have experienced situations when someone 20 or 30 years my junior thought it might help if they leaned in and spoke more loudly and slowly. My reply invariably, “Is there something I can help you with?”

I’ve made no secret that I’m 73 years of age, and yes, there is some hard-earned mileage on the chassis — mileage I’m proud of. And sure, the first steps in the morning may be accompanied by the odd wince thanks to a congenital lower back issue, but later in the day, I may just leave a 50-something cyclist in my dust. In fact, I have. And recently.

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Like many Canadians of my vintage, I’m very competitive, place great value on my independence, and for me, Woodstock isn’t folklore.

I have also, in conversation with peers, heard “Oh, he (or she) is at a seniors residence” when asking about a mutual acquaintance. Not long ago, that was followed with: “The kids thought it was for the best.”

I didn’t ask any further questions because I didn’t know if I’d like the answers.

This commentary isn’t intended to take advantage of the growing national outrage over what we are learning about horrid conditions in a number of long-term care facilities, although the presence of COVID-19 and its responsibility for the images of heartbroken families impotently waving through impenetrable panes of window glass has raised, for me at least, this question.

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Is each one of these people so domiciled to their benefit?

Just asking.

Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.

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