After searching, I only found one story of a single American senior who froze to death in her home due to inability (presumably) to pay her gas bill. My eighty-four-year-old great-aunt--who, obviously, knows far more old people that I do--knows of no one to whom this has happened. However, we live in LA—though, even here, it’s often been close to freezing at night during the past few winters.
What about you folks in the north-east and the mid-west? My grandmother lives in Chicago, my grandfather in Albuquerque, and my aunt still has old friends living in New York and Oklahoma. They all seem to be okay, with no reports of home heating issues during this abnormally cold winter.
Undoubtedly, however, there are many American senior citizens who are in need of monies to defray their home heating oil costs. And, courtesy of the viewers of the German TV show Weltspeigel were generous enough to donate their Euros toward that end at the behest of the show's producers, many of them may have a few more dollars in their pockets. I say schönen Dank on behalf of the seniors in my family, even though none of them is in danger of freezing to death in subsequent winters, God willing. However, other American seniors who don’t have any younger family members who care about them and who rely solely on their meager Social Security benefits could probably use a little extra Geld. (And who am I to look a gift-horse in the mouth, especially when I won’t be the recipient of the gift?)
Along with Ray D. at Davids Medienkritik, though, I would humbly suggest to our generous German friends that they donate their funds to a recipient much closer to home--to a place in more demonstrable need and to which their form of exchange would not be subject to exchange rates. A few years ago, their neighbors to the west experienced a devastating death rate (in the tens of thousands) of their seniors due to excessive summer heat, lack of air conditioners and due to many of the seniors’ younger relatives being on holiday and incommunicado.
But the French debacle was about more than lack of funds.
Ray is inclined to view his countrymen’s gesture as ‘snobbish’ and ‘condescending.’ He’s probably correct, as far as the producers of Weltspiegel are concerned. However—unless those Weltspiegel's viewers are proactive seekers of alternative information, they are only reacting to the spun news which they are fed. The situation is often much the same right here in the US.
Therefore, I’m more inclined to attribute ‘generosity of spirit’--rather than condescenscion--to the Germans desiring to protect the aged in America. They were on reacting to a perceived problem.
Our German friends, however, should take it one step further: exhort all of us to keep an eye on our aged parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. The deaths of French seniors in such large numbers back in 2003 spoke to a larger issue than lack of environment-regulating machinery: it told the world that all too many French people just didn’t consider the fate of their living forebears to the extent that they would make sure that their parents/grandparents were safe and well.
Many Americans can’t throw stones at the French in this area.
One of the American beneficiaries of German generosity is a Boston couple—Jerry and Anne Garten. Their saga was put before Weltspiegel viewers and they gave generously. One thing, however: Jerry and Anne have six daughters. As one of Ray’s commenters notes, the Gartens’ children and grandchildren (assuming adult grandchildren exist) don’t seem to be able to kick in ten dollars a week to ensure that their forebears don’t freeze. (I’m not discounting the possibility that the Gartens are horrible parents, but making sure that they don’t die a horrible death is different from having anything to do with them; honor thy father and mother and all that.)
If it is true that older Americans in large numbers are dying due to their inability to afford heat, then it is our problem—a problem that can be solved by us. Whether the European Union countries want to use a well-noted problem of theirs and throw it back in our faces as a real or imagined American problem is, mostly, irrelevant. It is up to all of the relatively young and able-bodied fend for their parents and other older relatives. Consider it returning the favor.
(Thanks to Pajamas Media)