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'Just because I’m 90 doesn’t mean I'm ready to die. Nobody has the right to write me off.'

While Republican party members and right-wing aligned journalists in America have been quite gung-ho about "sacrificing" the elderly, this artist believes no one gets to decide when a person's life is no longer valuable.

'Just because I’m 90 doesn’t mean I'm ready to die. Nobody has the right to write me off.'
Image Source: YouTube/Living Legacies Productions

The ongoing global health crisis has thrown into sharp relief a number of issues that have plagued our society for generations. Racists brazenly showed off their true colors, launching physical and verbal attacks against those of East Asian descent—in response to China first reporting cases of the Novel Coronavirus—and those opposing government-mandated lockdowns casually propagated ageism by suggesting that the elderly take one for the team. With conversations about the elderly being disposable for the sake of the so-called "greater good" gaining momentum, Varda Yoran, a 90-year-old sculptor, is here to remind us that no one—irrespective of their age— is disposable.



Yoran, who at 82 years of age founded the Rose Art Foundation—a non-profit organization that has donated 800 recliners on wheels to immobile patients throughout America—recently spoke out for the elderly in the growing debate over senior citizens vs. the economy. "I’m not disposable, and I’m saddened that there are people who think age dictates whether a human life is worth saving," she wrote, in a powerful article for The Huffington Post. Yoran hit back at the general argument that the elderly have lived long full lives and should, therefore, volunteer to become scapegoats in the current scenario with the reminder that age is no bar for more dreams.


"I can tell you that I, and my loved ones, want me to live for many years to come. I want to attend my grandson’s high school graduation and see which college he’ll attend. I want to see my older grandson, who is married, become a father. I want to continue my joyful life. I am unable to travel as extensively as I once did, but I want to visit Israel again. Just because I’m 90 doesn’t mean I don’t have things to learn and skills to hone," she wrote. "I'm growing as an artist."



Yoran has been keeping busy and active even as she self-isolates during the pandemic, organizing a philosophy club via Zoom that discusses ethics, forgiveness, anger, creativity, and various other topics. Acknowledging that she has seen in a lot in her lifetime, Yoran wrote: "At age 90, I have lived through a lot of history, but I’ve never seen a situation like this. Some people may suggest that if I were to die of the coronavirus, I at least have lived a full life. And yes, I have lived a full life."


Born in China to Jewish parents who left Russia after World War I, Yoran moved to Israel in her twenties and 30 years later to the U.S. She flourished as an artist in her 50s in the U.S. and went on to pen her husband's memoir, The Defiant, at the age of 70. "I have more physical limitations and ailments than I choose to mention but that won’t stop me," she wrote. "Our lives, our dreams, our productivity don’t end when we turn 65, an age that society decided was 'old enough.' Senior citizens can be productive and contribute to the world, bringing to it their added dimension of age and experience. I think no limit should be set on when a person’s life is no longer valuable."



Unlike Yoran, Republican party members and right-wing aligned journalists in America have been quite gung-ho about "sacrificing" the elderly. Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick sparked controversy in March when he claimed that many grandparents across the country would be willing to sacrifice their lives for the good of the economy. "No one reached out to me and said, as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren? And if that's the exchange, I'm all in," the 70-year-old said at the time.



Former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly displayed a similar irreverence for human life when he said that those dying from the virus "were on their last legs anyway." According to Independent, O'Reilly made the insensitive comment as the number of U.S. deaths from the disease neared 15,000, saying: "Many people who are dying, both here and around the world, were on their last legs anyway." Yoran strongly condemned such callousness, writing: "I’m 90 and I’m waiting for the quarantine to end. As long as I’m still creative and surrounded by the love of family and friends, as long as I still enjoy life, nobody has the right to write me off."



Note: Varda Yoran's first-person story first appeared on Huffpost.

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