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A doctor talking to an elderly Covid-19 patient in Madrid, Spain.  A doctor talking to an elderly Covid-19 patient in Madrid, Spain.   (AFP or licensors)

Cardinal Turkson urges not to ignore the elderly in pandemic

Cardinal Peter Turkson recalls Pope Francis who calls for the care and protection of the elderly who nurtured and protected life when it was young and fragile.

By Vatican News

Up to half of Europe’s Covid-19-related deaths have occurred among the elderly living in nursing homes and other care facilities.

A report released this week by the World Health Organization said European nations have focused their attention on hospitals and left those in care homes without proper help.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, lamented these statistics in an interview with Vatican Radio.

Cardinal Turkson also urged societies to take care of the elderly in a sign of inter-generational solidarity.

Listen to Cardinal Turkson

Old age and the type of experience that the elderly face in society today, the cardinal said. There are a lot of issues attached to this experience coming from the cultural dimensions and values systems. 

Basically, he said, we need to recognise that there are two very vulnerable and fragile phases in the life of the human person.  The vulnerability and fragility of life begin in the womb and continues after the baby is born.  Here, parents have a big role in protecting this life. 

Cardinal Turkson then went on to point out that there comes a time when these parents age and themselves become vulnerable and fragile. They, in turn, need the care and protection of those they protected before.  There is a need for reciprocity of attention and care between the generations so as to protect life both at its beginning and at its end.

Unfortunately, he noted, the present Covid-19 situation is exposing the fragility and vulnerability of the elderly in the homes for the aged.  When the disease broke out, it was already understood that it would be tough on the elderly due to the vulnerability of advanced age, weakened biological systems, depressed immune responses, etc., which compromises the health of the elderly.

Cardinal Turkson said that there is another aspect of vulnerability that society needs to look at.  Since human life itself is vulnerable, the vulnerable and imperfect human person creates imperfect or fragile systems and structures.

This becomes visible as inequality in society.  Access to healthcare is not equal for everyone and it is not even available everywhere. 

In this context, he recalled Pope Francis who calls for appreciating the elderly in society because they are the “bearers of memory” and witnesses to the culture of society.  The inter-generational solidarity that we often talk about, the Cardinal said, is not only for the sake of creating a safe future for the young but also for the sake of the safety of those who are responsible for our being here at this time and point of history. 

25 April 2020, 17:56