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Defiance is only natural as arbitrary diktat unfair to many healthy over-70s

Liam Collins


Young at heart: Liam Collins is determined not to let spring pass him by. PHOTO: DAVID CONACHY

Young at heart: Liam Collins is determined not to let spring pass him by. PHOTO: DAVID CONACHY

Young at heart: Liam Collins is determined not to let spring pass him by. PHOTO: DAVID CONACHY

The Government has pushed retirement out to 68, yet now it is telling people just two years past that age they must wrap themselves in cotton wool and "cocoon" for the duration of the present crisis.

Not only is this discrimination against those over 70, it is ageism in its purest form and an attack on individual rights.

Of course everybody wants to be part of a national effort to contain and defeat this virus. But for the Government to simply draw a line at 70 and tell people they must stay at home is, in effect, telling them they are lesser citizens then the rest of the population.

Presumably the thinking behind this is to protect the over-70s who are statistically more at risk in this pandemic.

But some people see it as a move to protect the rest of the healthy population from the natural infirmities that come with age, which is ridiculous as the old, who often lived with social isolation, are less of a threat than other sections of the community.

It is no wonder a certain defiance has manifested itself among the over-70s - mostly tough old guys who have lived a good life and whose attitude is "nobody is going to bloody well tell me what to do!"

Although not yet 70, I am within spitting distance (sorry, not appropriate) of it and can empathise with them.

Like many of the defiant auld fellas, I have lived by the principle 'you are as young or old as you feel'. In my lifetime, I knew people who were old in their 20s, and quarrelsome old guys who remained defiantly young until they were carried out in a box.

"Youth has strength without patience, age patience without strength; but our best years have both," said the philosopher Simon May. If 70 is the new 50, why is this age group being picked on and essentially told to abandon hope for the foreseeable future?

Of course there are differences among the over-70s, as there is with other sections of the population. Yet many are healthy and physically fit.

They grew up in the hungry 40s and the frugal 50s and are far tougher mentally and physically than the 'snowflake' generation who never had it so good and don't realise how lucky they really are.

Go to any bathing place - Salthill in Galway, the Forty Foot in Dublin - and who will you see swimming, winter, spring, summer or fall? Mostly the older generation, many over 70.

In the early stages of this crisis, the teenagers were demonised as irresponsible for socialising in groups.

The over-70s are the new delinquents because they won't take arbitrary diktats to stay at home.

What those who are so quick to criticise the rebellious over-70s fail to see is how much they lost: the occasional but cherished mid-morning coffee or lunch with friends, the afternoon racing on TV, an early-evening pint, and family visits from children and grandchildren.

Even the free travel (thank you very much, Mr Haughey) is now off limits.

The younger generations have their streaming services, the complexities of Zoom, Snapchat and other awful apps to keep them endlessly connected to each other.

Apart from the occasional defiant cyclist, the over-70s I see are going down to their local newsagent to get the newspaper or taking the dog for a walk. They are as careful as anybody else to keep their distance and obey the new rules of social etiquette.

Why shouldn't they enjoy the good clean air, the beautiful weather, the scent of cherry trees in full blossom and the sights and sounds of spring?

Let's all smell the roses together in these troubled times and not exclude those who have reached the meaningless milestone of being born before 1950.

Irish Independent