Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Elderly In Korea During the Pandemic

"Grandma, stay home and rest."

These words addressed to the mother of the Peace Columnist in the Catholic Peace Weekly is the topic for the article. She had died years earlier but in her later years, her age was the reason she was told to rest although very active in the church. 

Once waiting to take the bus to the cemetery with the other parishioners she was told that there was no need for her to go. On one occasion she went with a basin, broom, and mop to clean the church's bathroom, she heard the words: "The young people will do it." The writer also chimed in: "It's all concern for you, mother. You have to be careful about your health." Her concern for the community was repudiated. Her spirit because of this was often depressed. Older parishioners, because of age, face discrimination.

He hears her words running through his head often during the present pandemic. Elderly people (65 years of age or older) were parishioners at risk if infected with Corona19 and need not attend Sunday Mass. This was printed in the Sunday Bulletin. Suddenly the writer realized he was over 65. He had no problems and was not hurting others, so he continued attending Mass. The following week, the word "over 65" was omitted, and it was written only as an elderly person. Now, the elderly as the subject disappeared altogether, but for a time the words "over 65 years old" lingered with him.

According to the coronavirus statistics (2020.5.25), the fatality rate is 2.83% in the 60s, 10.99% in the 70s, and 26.27% in the 80s. Excluding the elderly is understandable to protect the elderly and the community. Everyone accepted this in their own way. It wasn't a step that prevented them from coming to church, so those who could go went with caution. But to the writer, something was not right.

Twenty years ago, an elderly believer in a Baptist church was killed in a traffic accident while going to worship at dawn. In a nearby church, a priest in his 40s, during his sermon, told the elderly people attending Mass that they need not come because it was dangerous. This could easily be understood as a mother's concern for her child but some elderly believers did have trouble with the words of the priest. They did not hear the words as caring but rather alienating them.

Physically disabled people have more problems moving about than the non-disabled. It is discrimination not to allow people with disabilities to move about in society. Electric wheelchairs are provided for people with disabilities to go out comfortably. Electric wheelchairs can also be arranged to help the visually impaired. Is this not done to allow them the freedom to move about like all others.

According to the Korean Catholic Church Statistics' in 2019, 20.5% of all believers are over 65. The aging of the church is going right along with the aging of society. Older believers are sometimes burdensome, but they are a strong asset to the Church. The seriousness of their life of faith stands out above all the other age groups. The Mass participation rate is also high. The more eager the believer, the more difficult it is for them to not participate in the community.

The corona crisis is unlikely to end soon, and similar disasters can one day appear. Shouldn't active consideration for the elderly be systematically established? He brought this topic up with a few devoted believers in their 70s. Is it not possible through the media to have the Mass with sermons directed to the elderly and infirmed and have them regularly receive the Eucharist in their homes?

If people show us concern we need to be grateful but not all are grateful: we are not like pieces on a chessboard, We need to be active in helping persons find and achieve what they want. If not they become an 'outsider' and look upon themselves as losers. We need to share with those who are feeling 'outside'. What is lacking is the practice of love (Luke 6 31).

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