We can’t walk away from this just because ‘they were old’

Elsa Hagen is described as a kind and generous woman, with an awesome sense of humour. Rudy Hagen, her husband, was a retired construction manager, who loved to take long walks with his dog.

Elsa Hagen is described as a kind and generous woman, with an awesome sense of humour.

Rudy Hagen, her husband, was a retired construction manager, who loved to take long walks with his dog.

They were a couple not unlike many of the retired senior citizens who live in Red Deer — except that on Sept. 11, a day already infamous for another reason, they were not like other seniors at all.

On that Sunday morning 10 days ago, they were both discovered dead in their Sunnybrook home. Sometime in the previous 14 hours, Elsa and Rudy Hagen passed away — together since the end of the Second World War, they were together in death.

Their deaths were not accidental. Police, who have been tight-lipped because they want to spare the family further suffering, confirm that it was “technically” a murder-suicide.

What does this mean? The community is left to only guess.

While deaths may be classified as a murder-suicides, it could well be that while one person took the life of another, both were aware of what was happening. In a way, it would be more like a suicide pact, a double suicide.

Often in the case of murder-suicide, there is violence, many times centering around domestic/family issues where relationships have gone beyond sour.

The Hagens were not known to police. They appear to have lived their lives quietly, peacefully and respectfully in Red Deer.

The information is scant, but an obituary in the Advocate on Saturday sheds a bit more light on this senior couple. According to Red Deer RCMP, Elsa was 93 and Rudy was 89.

Together for so many decades, it seems hard to believe that one could be doing anything without the other knowing.

A photo shows two seniors smiling. If a picture tells a story, this picture, tells a story of a handsome couple, happy and in love, after so many years.

But there’s something wrong with this picture.

With all due respect to the family, and understanding that in death sometimes privacy comes first, questions must still be asked: Why would an elderly couple choose to die? Is there something that could have been done to prevent their deaths in this manner? What of those left behind? Survivors of suicide often have grief for the rest of their lives.

Red Deer City RCMP said the case was a “true tragedy” and “an extremely unfortunate set of circumstances.”

The Hagen obituary tells us that the couple had faced health problems and age-related issues became overwhelming.

It’s easier for us to walk away without asking any questions from this double death and say: Well they were old and sick anyway.

What we should be doing is asking ourselves whether enough is being done to make sure seniors are aware of the various resources available to them.

Seniors should not be dying by taking their lives, alone or with each other.

When the time comes, as it will for everyone, the elderly and frail should be as comfortable as possible, surrounded by their loved ones.

Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at barr@bprda.wpengine.com, or by phone at 403-314-4332, She’s also on Twitter — @maryannbarr1