David Dunn-Rankin

I listened. The hurt in his voice – clearly in pain.

“You are not going to believe what happened to me,” he said. “You know I’ve been looking after my grandchild on the weekends. My son and daughter-in-law now tell me that I’m not needed anymore. They don’t want me to get sick with the Coronavirus. It’s for your own good – Grandpa.”

What could I say? In this particular decision, his kids are insensitive idiots.

As someone who has grandkids, perhaps I can enlighten the younger generation about their parents – Grandpa and Grandma.

We might be old, but we aren’t frail. Most of us don’t have a preexisting medical condition. Stop treating us like we are your children. We are capable of making our own decisions on how much risk we are willing to take.

We, of the older generation, are no longer engaged in the anxious striving of our youth. We aren’t so much happy as content. We’ve had a good life. Each new day is a bonus to be savored. We hope we don’t die from the Coronavirus, but we now understand life is not forever. Shouldn’t we be allowed to decide how much personal risk to take?

But we do have fears. We are afraid of cancer and Alzheimer’s. Scarier than cancer or Alzheimer’s is long-term loneliness. Loneliness is the old person’s scariest disease. By denying your parents the chance to be with their grandchildren, you have made their worst fear come true. And you did it because you think it was for Grandma’s own good?

We are also incredibly afraid of losing control over our lives. Are we fully alive if someone else is making our decisions for us? Decisions like where we can live, if we can drive our own car, if we can visit our own grandchildren.

By denying grandparents the opportunity to be with their grandchildren during the Coronavirus, you have said to them, “Be afraid. I am making your life decisions for you, whether you like it or not. It is for your own good Grandma.”

You think you are saying, “I love you and care about you.” What we hear is, “You are no longer in charge of your life. Be afraid. Loneliness and loss of control is your future.”

As I listen to concerned politicians and public health officials talk about people aged 60 and over during the Coronavirus, I realize they are just like kids trying to take care of Grandma and Grandpa – for their own good.

A small suggestion for public servants. Change your language to focus on protecting those who have compromised health conditions – young or old.

Yes, there are some older folks whose health qualifies as frail. Most older folks are not frail. We, who are healthy, don’t want to be stereotyped or bossed around by either our kids or a government bureaucrat.

We want and need to get out of the house and enjoy the company of family and friends. We want and need to make our own decisions about what is right for our life. We’ll be danged if some family member or bureaucrat is going to tell us – stay quarantined just because you are old – it is for you own good – Grandpa.