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

Peter Barry writes: Coronavirus has stressed our social, health and political systems, revealing hidden cracks and innate weakness. As a 75-year-old with a few medical vulnerabilities, I am in the at-risk group. Like many in a similar position, my biggest regret is not being able to have physical contact with my children and grandkids. I am heartened by the willingness of young people to endure severe restrictions and financial stress to reduce the number of deaths, even when these appeared to mainly affect the elderly.

My fear is that the recent bushfires and this wicked contagion are merely precursors of ever more tribulation related to global heating, pollution, desecration of the planet and overpopulation. Our insouciant disregard as we glide past invisible tipping points means that my descendants will live on a blasted planet and will have no chance of living the blessed life that I have enjoyed to this point. To see all this horror approaching my family, and have no power to bring those in power to their senses, is deeply distressing.

Robert Owen writes: At age 71, I have been living in Bangkok since January 2019 when I split with my wife in Melbourne. About two-and-a-half years ago I donated a kidney to a family member, and this requires me to return to Melbourne every six months for a checkup.

If I return to Australia, I am not sure how long I need to stay there before the government allows me to leave the country — plus there is the problem of getting back into Thailand. Since the lease on my condo ($13,000/year) expires next April, I am not in a position to return to Australia and pay for accommodation in both places.

Kate Fawns writes: It’s been disheartening recently to hear certain voices suggesting some lives are more precious than others.

51 years ago, when I was 21 and travelling to Australia by ship, I took part in a version of a balloon debate. The balloon had collapsed, and we, the passengers, each had to justify our place on the sinking boat, until everyone else was sacrificed for my sake. Whether in a real-life situation I would have survived in that boat, who knows!

My immune system is compromised and, if I were to die now, whether of COVID-19 or other causes, my biggest regret would be that I wouldn’t know what the next pages held – especially in the lives of my young Scottish grandsons. How eight-year-old Hamish would manage his dyslexia and use his amazing talents to write and direct films; whether six-year-old Jack would become an engineer or a wrecker; and if his twin Alex would make his living as an artist or a charming PR guy.

I’ve been writing stories — which the boys love to hear on Skype — about their dad’s rural Australian upbringing. I would like to reach the beginning of their dad’s uni days before I stop writing. And I’ve been scribbling about my life, too, hoping these stories would give the boys a sense of times past. 

But if there were a choice between saving a young person or me, I’d have to say: “choose the young person. Throw me overboard.” And I’d hope that the following pages in the story would tell of healthier, happier and more secure times.

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 [email protected] with “Missing Voices” in the subject line.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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