old woman with her head in her hands

2022 Grateful 45: Old, cold, dead

I’ve pretty much removed myself from mainstream news. I find it very depressing. Knowing what’s going on in the world is good, yes, but sometimes it gets too much.

I read reports about people in Brazil who lost their homes in a mudslide and I started wondering what I’d do if that happened to me. It won’t. We live on the flat. But could we be flooded? The lake is a couple of hundred meters from our back door. But the land slopes downwards. Mudslides I don’t have to worry about. Not yet.

I do the same with earthquakes, tsunamis, wars, famine.

This is why I’ve been rationing my news intake. I can’t help myself. I put myself in their position and for a few minutes wonder how I’d react, what I’d do, how awful it would be if it were me. But there’s always that distance. They’re over there somewhere and I’m here.

I read something recently, though, that has me bothered.

In the four months from October 2021 to January 2022, 118 people died in Hungary. From exposure. I know Hungary is fourth in the world with 4.4 deaths/1000 from Covid, but that’s Covid. This is cold. Very cold.

And most of those who died were old, weak, and alone living in flats having to choose between heating and eating. How could this be – 118 old people dead in four months from the cold. They died inside. Not outside. Inside.

This number is up 33% on the same time last year, according to Magyar Szociális Fórum (Hungarian Social Forum), who attributes the deaths to an inadequate social safety net.

How does Hungary look after its elderly? How does any country look after its elderly? We’re not talking about those who have factored in the cost of retirement in their life plan. We’re talking about those on state pensions surviving on little or nothing and trying (and failing) to live on what the state gives them in return for years of work.

It has me thinking.

I’m lucky in that as long as my fingers stay working and my brain keeps engaging, I can keep doing what I’m doing for a few years yet. Himself, too. if we hold on to our faculties and keep our ability to reason, we can keep working. And working. And working. Luckily we enjoy what we do.

But what happens when we get to the stage that we can’t do what we do as well as we do it now? What then? Will we become a statistic?

I know. I know. I know. I’m being fanciful here. But this is what listening to the news does to me.

It has me checking the houses in the village and making sure I can see smoke coming from the chimneys. And it has me giving thanks on a regular basis that we don’t have to make the choice between heating and eating.

It’s not just Hungary. I went down a rabbit hole reading about a study on heating and eating in winter in the USA. And with energy bills as a proportion of benefits reaching an all-time high in the UK, more and more people are facing this choice. The price of oil has broken €100/barrel mark so we’re in for energy price hikes in the next few months. What’s happening with Ukraine and Russia could well take these even higher. Yes, it’s nearly March but there are a couple of cold months left.

Be neighbourly. Keep an eye out. If you have the wherewithal to help, then do.



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