Over the last century, there have been a number of tragic events that affected humanity on a global level. The Spanish flu in 1918 took the lives of more than fifty million people worldwide  . Then came the second World War and the Great Depression.
Today, we are facing yet another global crisis- the COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus.
For many of us, this is the first time we are experiencing such a devastating event on a global level, but one Italian man has seen it all, and has lived to tell the tale.
A 101-year-old man known as “Mr. P” was recently discharged from a hospital in Rimini, Italy, after being treated for COVID-19.
Mr. P was born in 1919, just as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic was reaching its peak. The flu would eventually kill approximately six hundred thousand Italians. He then, of course, went on to live through World War Two and the Great Depression, and now he has survived the latest threat to humanity .
Given that the elderly have disproportionately been affected by the virus, his recovery is remarkable. Gloria Lisi, Vice Mayor of Rimini, described his recovery as “truly extraordinary”, saying that his case provides us with “hope for the future” .
COVID-19 Devastates Italy
COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, has impacted Italy more significantly than any other nation in the world.
Currently, the European nation leads the world in the total number of deaths caused by the virus, exceeding eight thousand as of March 27, 2020 . This is more than double the number of deaths in China, where to date there has been just over three thousand confirmed.
This puts the mortality rate in Italy at ten percent, far exceeding the global average of 3.4 percent.
There are a number of reasons why Italy has been hit so hard with the virus, potentially the most significant being the age of the country’s population.
Another factor that may put Italians at a higher risk is smoking. People who smoke are at a higher risk of being infected with the virus, and a survey from 2017 determined that more than twenty percent of Italians are smokers .
The culture in Italy may also have something to do with its massive number of cases. In Italian culture, closeness is customary: hugs and cheek-kisses are the standard greetings in Italy, and they tend to stand closer to each other even just in conversation. A study from 2017 found that their culture’s psychological perception of personal space is smaller than in other countries .
Italy also has a very dense population at 533 people per square mile, making it much easier for a virus to spread quickly. Nearly seventy percent of the population lives in densely packed urban areas, particularly in cities like Rome and Milan, that pack in 5 800 people per square mile and more than 19 hundred people per square mile, respectively .
Italy was also the first European nation to be hit with the novel coronavirus, and thus they were completely unprepared. Dr. Lorenzo Casani, a hospital administrator in Codogno, Italy, believes that the poor air quality in the Northern part of the country, coupled with a lack of preparedness likely contributed to the massive number of cases and high death toll.
“We do not have emergency plans for pandemics. We have it for natural disasters. And, also we were the first, so we were totally unprepared,” he said .
Why is COVID-19 More Dangerous for the Elderly?
Older adults are at higher risk of becoming critically ill from the novel coronavirus because their immune systems gradually deteriorate with age, making it more difficult for their bodies to fight back against the virus.
Older adults are also more likely to have underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, that make them more susceptible.
If you or a loved one is in this age category, it is vitally important that they take precautions to limit their exposure to the virus, particularly if they have any kind of health condition that may reduce their immune function. This means coming into contact with as few people as possible, particularly if they are living in an area with confirmed cases.
If possible, they should have someone else assist them with tasks like grocery shopping or picking up medications, to avoid being in public spaces, and they should call their doctor or local clinic immediately if they are feeling symptoms .
“The Future Has Yet to be Written”
For the Italian people, as well as people around the world, Mr. P’s story is one of hope. Upon his release from the hospital, Vice Mayor Lisi provided a poetic statement to the local paper of hope for the people in her community:
“Given the progress of the virus, it could not even be called a ‘story like many’ if it were not for a detail that makes the life of the person returned to their loved ones truly extraordinary.
Mr. P., from Rimini, was born in 1919, in the midst of another tragic world pandemic. He saw everything, hunger, pain, progress, crisis and resurrections. Once over the 100-year-old barrier, fate has put this new challenge before him, invisible and terrible at the same time. Last week, Mr. P. was hospitalized at in Rimini after testing positive for COVID-19. In a few days, it became ‘history’ for doctors, nurses, and the rest of the healthcare personnel who treated him.
A hope for the future finds itself in the body of a person over a century old, as the sad chronicles of these weeks mechanically tell every day of a virus that is raging especially on the elderly.Yet, Mr. P. made it. The family brought him home yesterday evening, to teach us that even at 101-years-old, the future has yet to be written.” 
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