A Vatican cardinal has denounced that COVID-19 is exposing the “vulnerability and fragility” of the elderly people living in nursing homes.

– European nations have neglected the aged

In an interview with Vatican News, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, lamented statistics that suggest that up to half of Europe’s COVID-19-related deaths have occurred among aged people living in care facilities.

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

– Vulnerable humanity, vulnerable structures

Speaking to the Vatican media outlet, Cardinal Turkson also urged societies to take care of the elderly in a sign of inter-generational solidarity.

He said society needs to recognise that there are two very vulnerable and fragile phases in the life of the human person: the beginning of life in the womb and in childhood and then at the end of life, in old age.

The Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development added that there is another aspect of vulnerability that society needs to look at.

That is that 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, Cardinal Turkson denounced.

– Community of Sant’Egidio deplores elderly dying “at unprecedented rates”

One Catholic group that has consistently sounded the alarm for the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the Community of Sant’Egidio, which April 24 launched an urgent appeal “to engage in active solidarity with vulnerable people living in nursing homes, in order to stop the life-threatening social isolation” brought on by the coronavirus threat.

In the US and beyond, COVID-19 “is quietly devastating the lives of thousands of vulnerable elderly and disabled residents of nursing homes”, Sant’Egidio deplored.

“With restricted mobility and means of communication, as well as dependence for their most basic needs, nursing home residents caught in the storm of this pandemic have no control over their fates and are dying at unprecedented rates”, the Community added.

The group deplored that in addition to the immediate threat to life posed by the coronavirus, the “severe social isolation” of nursing home residents – who are barred because of health precautions from personal contact with friends or family and confined to their rooms – “threatens to severely compound the downward spiral of health risks and increased mortality”.

“As the death toll mounts, it is clear that many nursing homes have become places of death and abandonment”, Sant’Egidio decried.

“This must change, and we have the power to change it. Starting now we can all play a part in saving lives and overcoming deadly social isolation”, the Community insisted, calling for increased “outreach and partnership” and vitally necessary bridges of communication” with the isolated residents of aged care facilities.

(With reporting by Vatican News)

More on Novena on the threat of COVID-19 to the elderly:

Sant’Egidio founder denounces “massacre” of elderly in nursing homes during COVID-19

Sant’Egidio, on COVID.19: “No one should be left alone, especially the most fragile and vulnerable, in the face of the pandemic”

Sant’Egidio founder says after COVID-19 “the most humane and economical solution” is “to have the elderly at home”

15/4: In Santa Marta Mass, Pope prays for elderly afraid of COVID-19: “They are our roots, our story, our history”

Vatican urges more help for elderly in COVID-19 emergency

Angelus 29/3: Pope prays for isolated, elderly, unemployed: “Many people are weeping. We too, from our hearts, accompany them”

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