It’s not what we’re allowed to do but what we choose to do that’s important

May 19, 2020, 1pm — I’ve just heard a woman call Radio Noon to complain about ageism during the pandemic. She stated that she is 72, and no one would know it because looking at her, people would think she is 62. She complained bitterly about how healthy seniors are being treated by the provincial government, being told to stay at home and go out only for walks.

I will be 71 in July and like to think I look younger too. But I don’t understand what this woman’s problem is. She seems to think she is not allowed to shop for groceries or do anything much outside her home and yard because she’s over 70. No one has told us we can’t shop for groceries or meet friends six feet apart or go to the bank. Yes, like the rest of the population, we should wear masks but no orders have come down from on high prohibiting us from going out on errands.

The first suggestion to seniors came the third week in March — that seniors over 70 stay home. But a lot has changed since then. Then we were told to wear masks only if we were showing symptoms and that masks protect others, not ourselves. This is hogwash. And we knew it then. Of course we protect ourselves and others by wearing masks. They just didn’t have enough masks on the market then so they wanted us to believe they were unnecessary. We are not stupid! What’s bothering me now is how few people on the streets are wearing masks even after the premier’s strong suggestion that we do so.

But back to being 70, no one is being ordered to refrain from activities that younger Quebecers do. And so the accusation of ageism is only in the mind of the caller.

It’s about what we do and how we do it, it’s not about following orders. And it’s about which businesses we choose to frequent.

This morning I went to my TD bank on Monkland, and for the first time in over a month it was open and I was welcome to come in, but I didn’t. I did my banking at the interac machine. I could see that there were screens placed between the tellers and the clients so when we do our business deposit, we will be protected. But I will not go there every day as I did before. This is only common sense. Fewer people means less spread of the virus.

I also went to Jean Coutu on Monkland with the intention of sending a parcel to my niece in the US for her 11th birthday only to find that it was only open at noon. When I returned at noon, there were already 12 people in line, all the way down the Melrose lane. So my common sense clicked in and I opted to go home and later go to the post office on Greene Ave, which is quick and rarely has customers. The two postal clerks are far apart and there are screens up to separate us from them.

What I don’t understand is why one of my favourite grocery stores is not taking precautions with the exception of only allowing in one person at a time and having people use hand sanitizer. I did go in there today because they have wonderful produce and tasty, homemade delicacies that we love during this time. So it’s popular! However, I wonder why none of the staff are wearing masks including two or three behind the meat counter standing close together, why one of the staff kept almost bumping into me, why there are no screens between the customers and cashiers, and why we are left to our own devices to avoid bumping into each other. It’s Maitre Boucher I’m talking about and I mention their name because I love them and want them to take my suggestions seriously so I can go back there: Have your staff wear masks and gloves. Allow fewer people in at the same time. Keep yourselves safe and whether we are seniors or not, keep us safe.

Now a word to parents: Why are you taking your kids shopping with you and to the post office in Jean Coutu? Why are you letting them run around on the sidewalk infringing on my space, given that we have to practice social distancing? And why are you not wearing a mask? I don’t know how many parents will read this but if one does and it’s you, it will make a difference.

So Madame Caller, it’s not about being over 70, but about the risk to our health that we are taking if we choose to engage in risky behavior — which I try not to.

Here are some activities I will not engage in:

  • Getting ice cream on Park Ave at Dairy Queen. I saw that photo in the Gazette and was upset just looking at all those people without masks and standing close together in a line with children running about freely.
  • Playing soccer in the park. Never did. And certainly not now. I felt terrible listening to the nurse on the radio on the way to her shift, who made a video of the crowds in the park this weekend, knowing that some of them might end up in the hospital adding risk not only to themselves but to her and her colleagues.
  • Going into a coffee shop to get a special coffee with a logo on it. Why risk it? I can make better coffee at home. I know. I know. You want to support the owners and barristas, but can’t they bring the coffee out to you? By the way, now is the time to invest in a good espresso maker or even buy a French press and a coffee bean grinder rather than enter into a closed area and get a paper cup of coffee.

Here’s what I will do and so far no one is telling me I can’t.

  • Visit with a friend in my front yard six feet apart and wearing masks.
  • Offer them coffee in paper cups if they choose.
  • Washing my hands before and after.
  • Taking walks with my friend Daniele and our doggies in VSL near her house.
  • Going to the Pharmaprix near her home because we get to check out our purchases ourselves and there are very few people shopping in a very large space. They have also started selling more food such as eggs, milk, cheese, at very good prices.

It’s all a matter of what you choose to do and how you do it. No one is telling you how to live, no matter your age. Enjoy your summer but do it safely! Okay, I’m not ordering you to do it, but please wear a mask when you go out!

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