From Rotary Magazine:
Advanced in Years: Americans have long valued youth over age and experience. Shouldn’t seniors have their moment?
Not long ago, a letter appeared in our local newspaper. In it, the writer argued that the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 (more than 525,000 at this writing) couldn’t be compared to the U.S. death tolls of various wars: Korea, 36,574; Vietnam, 58,220; World War II, 405,399; the Civil War, 498,332.
The reason, he wrote, was that wars killed young people. COVID-19, on the other hand, was killing old people.
“The average [age at] death of a soldier,” argued the writer, who was in his mid-70s, “is conservatively [estimated at] 25, and if they lived on average to be — again, conservatively — 75, each death represents 50 lost years of life. The most common age of COVID death is over 70, and even with a life expectancy of 85, that’s a 15-year loss of life or less.
“A death is a death,” he concluded, but averred that even so, a 25-year-old cannot be compared to a 75-year-old.
Many of us feel this way: that the death of a young person is more tragic than the death of an old one. In this calculus, a life’s value is determined by the number of years not yet lived, rather than the amount of life experience acquired. This assessment posits that potential life is more valuable than actual life.
If we follow this logic to its end, here’s where we find ourselves: believing that the process of living is one of inexorable decline, and that every day we are worth less than we were the day before until, at the end, we find ourselves without any value at all.