(Image: AAP/Richard Wainwright)

In our Missing Voices series, Crikey is asking our older readers to share their first-hand experiences of the pandemic.

Joyce Sanders (72) writes: I think it is the older voices who are most able to look back and see where we made the biggest mistakes in reaching our “preparation” for the pandemic. 

We’ve watched the aged care homes go private and reduce their staffs and food budgets.  We’ve watched our children go into casualisation and have to work three jobs. 

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I hope that if we are only in our seventies, we may have a little time to reverse some of the obvious flaws in aged care, so that by the time we get there, we’ll have good food, permanent staff, and maybe even the common, annual flu won’t be wiping out huge numbers of us.

John Barker (75) writes: I first became involved in athletics — sprinting, jumping and lifting — at the age of nine, when, in early 1954, we shifted to a farm near Jingalup in the south-west of WA.

Life was very physical for us — although we benefited from skills practice, there was very little need for fitness practice for sport. We milked cows early in the morning before we rode about 4km to catch the school bus. At school we ran around madly at morning recess and at lunchtime and after school I chopped wood, carried food and water for farmyard animals and milked cows again. On the weekends we walked the bush hunting kangaroos, which were in plague numbers, as well as general farm work.

Despite all of this activity, I found that while I was strong and well, I would rapidly “run out of puff” with extended exercise. This persisted into my teens, when, as a champion sprinting and jumping athlete, I still could not run more than the 220 yards — now 200m.

This I now attribute to my being an unwitting “passive smoker”, with both my mother and stepfather being “pack-a-day” smokers. My father, with whom I lived until I was five, was a “pouch-a-day” smoker — two ounces of Capstan, or 50 hand-rolled cigarettes.

All of my parents and step-parents died of tobacco-related illnesses, from heart attacks to strokes. Dad gave up smoking in his fifties, by which time he had emphysema and died at 72.

By my early thirties, as a non-smoker, I found that my endurance had improved significantly, but throughout my life I have found that even common colds would hit me particularly hard — sniffs and coughs would soon progress to bronchial infections. I am among the first to line up for my flu shot each year.

Although I’m a quite well-and-fit 75-year-old, I know that I’m highly likely to succumb to COVID-19 if it comes my way.

Short of a vaccine being developed soon, the high barriers around WA are only a stay of execution for me and many other ageing baby boomers, many of whom were smokers and most of us having impaired lungs through intense passive smoking via our parents in our childhood.

Marilyn Hoban (72) writes: I am a 72-year-old baby boomer. My parents worked very hard to give me and my brothers and sister a private school education and fulfill my mother’s dream of a university education for her children. (The Depression deprived her of this opportunity for herself).

This post-war opportunity and hard work by my parents has enabled me to live a very privileged life.

My hope for the future is that we will reduce the gap between the rich and the poor and provide the same opportunities of a good education and access to high quality medical and dental care that were offered to me.

My wish is to see a country that doesn’t stigmatise the poor and make them navigate punitive government systems.

I want to see a country that values all its people and the role they play in making our society a wonderful place to live.

Crikey is calling for readers in their 70s and beyond to share their first-hand experiences of the pandemic. To contribute, write to us at boss@crikey.com.au with “Missing Voices” in the subject line.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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