Yesterday saw the passing of legendary Pennsylvania State University football coach Joe Paterno just months after being fired in the wake of sexual assault charges against assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Paterno’s abrupt decline and death after leaving Penn State in disgrace have many asking whether the scandal hastened his death. Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Michael Vitez asked Dr. Bill Thomas whether the scandal could have hastened Paterno’s death.
Experts say Joe Paterno’s dismissal could have hastened his death
Did the hammer blow to Joe Paterno’s lifelong legacy hasten his death?
At least one national expert on aging said Paterno’s firing as football coach at Pennsylvania State University, and the accusation that he should have done more to prevent a sex-abuse scandal, could have diminished his will to live.
“When you feel that you’ve lost your place in this world, death is never far behind,” said Bill Thomas, a Harvard University-trained geriatrician and a pioneer in improving the quality of life for the frail elderly.
Thomas… who founded the Eden Alternative and the Green House Project, major efforts to end the institutionalism of nursing homes, said people must have meaning and purpose at the end of their lives, and must feel the swirl of life around them to survive.
Paterno, he said, “built his identity around his work. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have a loving family; of course he did. But his identity was largely framed around his work and his football team and his university. His legacy suffered a grievous blow that disintegrated a big part of who he saw himself as – a direct assault on things he held dear.
“To come to the last days of our lives and to be judged publicly on the least admirable things we ever did, that’s a major blow.”