Opinion | In Their 80s, and Living It Up (or Not)

Credit…Matthew Monteith for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Living My Life Again,” by Katharine Esty (Opinion guest essay, Sunday Review, Nov. 21):

Dr. Esty, who is 87, put her social life on hold for most of the pandemic, but now she goes out often, plans to attend parties and has been to several restaurants.

Although I, too, am elderly — 88 — my life is different. I haven’t received any invitations to parties and haven’t been inside a restaurant for over a year. I, too, had a “boyfriend,” but he died a few years ago. We went to restaurants together — so enjoyable! — and did a lot of traveling, some of it quite adventurous, but those years are the stuff of nostalgia, not present-day reality.

I think that Dr. Esty could be a little more humble about the vicissitudes of aging. Yes, of course we should all try to make the best of our situations in life, but illness can stop us dead — or almost dead — in our tracks. She seems a bit judgmental toward her fellow elders who succumb to fatigue, anxiety and creaky joints. She, on the other hand, pulls herself up by her bootstraps and lives every day to the fullest.

To give her credit, she wants to set a good example. Fair enough. But let’s bear in mind that getting old sometimes seems like a conspiracy against our intentions — no matter how deeply held — to stay strong and master every challenge.

Nancy C. Atwood
Cambridge, Mass.

To the Editor:

Dr. Katharine Esty has the right idea. I am 85 and my wife is 80. I work out six times a week at my local gym, and I teach mathematics at Fordham University. We are fully vaccinated, including boosters.

We eat out in restaurants about five times a week, visit our children and grandchildren, who are all vaccinated, and go out with our few remaining friends whenever we can. We have few years left, and we would be fools to spend them as prisoners in our house.

Incidentally, we have no intention of moving anywhere. We will die where we have lived for the past 51 years — in the house that we had built for us where we raised our children and stored our memories.

Jack Wagner
New Rochelle, N.Y.

The term was used by Fareed Zakaria in Foreign Affairs in 1997 (“The Rise of Illiberal Democracy”) and was popularized by Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary to describe his regime.

Let us give that oxymoron a well-deserved rest. Suppression of human rights, repression of the press and government manipulation of elections bear not the slightest resemblance to any form of democracy. “Illiberal democracy” is not democracy; it is dictatorship pure and simple.

And its perpetrators are not merely “authoritarians” or “autocrats”; they are dictators.

Mark Bernkopf
Arlington, Va.

To the Editor:

Re “How the Pandemic Worsened the Housing Crisis in the Bronx” (news article, Nov. 17):

As the primary housing legal services provider in the Bronx, we have seen firsthand how the pandemic has intensified the economic inequalities in the borough and pushed already vulnerable tenants deeper into housing instability.

Bronx residents need meaningful policy solutions to thwart the risk of homelessness should the statewide eviction moratorium expire in January.

There are two key bills pending in Albany that would provide robust tenant protections for Bronxites.

First, the Good Cause eviction bill, budget-neutral legislation, would protect renters in non-rent-stabilized units from baseless evictions and exorbitant rent increases. Good Cause has already been enacted in multiple localities across the state, and support continues to grow.

Another bill, the Housing Access Voucher Program, would provide vouchers to homeless families, facilitating their transition from shelters into stable housing. New York should fully fund this program to the tune of $1 billion to meet demand.

Our clients in the Bronx deserve these common-sense protections from what could be a tsunami of evictions in 2022, and Albany must act now.

Adriene Holder
New York
The writer is attorney-in-charge of the civil practice at The Legal Aid Society.

To the Editor:

In “What’s the Matter With Scarsdale?” (The Morning Newsletter, nytimes.com, Nov. 4), David Leonhardt suggests that affluent voters who support tax increases are voting against their economic interests as much as working-class voters do when they oppose those same increases. This line of argument defines the meaning of economic interest too narrowly.

Affluent voters who support more social services often do so because they understand that inequality and poverty are bad for everyone. Unequal societies have been shown to have more anxiety, less economic growth and greater political instability. It is thus in everyone’s economic and political interest to have more egalitarian societies. Some rich people will have fewer excess goods, but that’s a small price to pay for a decent and stable world.

The real issue is that the shared interests of the affluent few and the less affluent many are perpetually blocked by a political and economic elite who continue to pit us against one another. Until this elite is either rejected by a nonviolent social movement or manages to recognize that they, too, will be better off in a more equal world, we will continue on the path of our fractured politics.

Avram Alpert
Princeton, N.J.

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