When I announced my candidacy, I was contacted by a woman who volunteers and advocates for those who live in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. We talked about the backlog of reports filed with the state on violations and reports of abuse or neglect, the turnaround time of investigations (one year), the lack of adequate staffing — and their low pay, and horrifying stories of neglect that lead to deaths of senior citizens that deserved far more.

I think back to that phone call often, but even more so now, knowing that the majority of the COVID-19 victims are and will continue to be the elderly patients, along with baby boomers. They’re our great-grandparents, mamaws and papaws, moms and dads, and favorite aunts and uncles. They’re family. So why the f--k are so many dismissing the severity of this pandemic because it “only kills old people”?

(Set aside the fact that this virus isn’t only killing old people for a second.)

It’s been difficult to process that so many Americans are indifferent to the projections of how many people will die of this virus, and how many have already died, because it isn’t hospitalizing perfectly “healthy” people under 40 at the same rate. The young continue to ignore the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for social distancing, unable to view the vulnerable as people worth the sacrifice. It comes off as “they’re going to die anyway,” and it’s gross.

Imagine living your life — working hard, raising children, working within your community, building something to leave behind, or even just living a quiet but good life, only to wake up one day and see your kids and grandkids unwilling to reward your hard work of raising them by just staying home and not infecting you with a deadly virus. No wonder they feel invisible.

America already makes retiring nearly impossible, leaving many to work until the day they die. My Dad, who is 67, will likely have to do that — if he can find another job after being laid off recently. Sure he can collect Social Security now, and he’s on Medicare, but it isn’t enough to live on. And trust me, that man is about as bare essentials/minimalist as one can get. He has had multiple heart attacks and has other health issues that leave him vulnerable to COVID-19. I need him to stick around as long as possible. I don’t know what I would do if I lost him. He has a lot of good years left. He isn’t expendable. He sure AF isn’t replaceable.

Please take this seriously. Listen to those leading with science and facts. Do it for everyone else’s family, if not your own.

We need to do better for our elders. Especially those who are alone, left with no family or friends to take care of them. What kind of society are we if we don’t look after our oldest and most vulnerable?

JENNIFER SKIDONENKO is a mother of two, an organizer, activist and the Democratic nominee for state representative, District 106, in the Nov. 3 general election. You can visit her website at www.skidonenkofortx.com.

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