With older Americans being most at risk from the COVID-19, the response is highlighting issues of ageism in the United States. According to experts, ageism is evident in the lack of protective equipment allocated to nursing homes.
Experts on aging say the medical field, politicians, and the public may have acted quicker and taken it more seriously if it affected younger Americans. From the Washington Post, Nina Kohn argues the “devaluation of older lives” caused more older Americans to die than necessary.
Many young people ignored social distancing recommendations at the start of the pandemic. Headlines emphasizing the virus’s effect on young people were used to persuade Americans to take the virus seriously. Geriatrician Louise Aronson pointed out that “when you say ‘just’ older people, it sounds like, well, it’s just killing old people, they’re all dying anyway.” Aronson adds that some older Americans have not followed social distancing because they do not think they are “old.” “It’s almost as if, if they’re not out there doing things, then they’re one of those old people that doesn’t count. We have created that cultural reality, so shame on all of us.” As the debate about closing our economy to prevent the spread of the virus, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick suggested that seniors would be willing to give up their lives in order to help the economy. He has since recanted the statement.
How COVID Affects Seniors
Although COVID-19 has been more deadly for seniors who have contracted the virus, hospitals are helping younger patients. An article in The Atlantic says special protocols were developed for children and adults, but not seniors. Kohn explained that “Ageism is evident in how we talk about victims from different generations, in the shameful conditions in many nursing homes and even — explicitly — in the formulas, some states, and health-care systems have developed for determining which desperately ill people get care if there’s a shortage of medical resources.” Nursing homes have been a hotbed for coronavirus, but have been slow to receive the necessary protective equipment for their employees and patients. Also, cases have begun to skyrocket again in the United States. Over the last few months, it is noted that younger age groups are catching COVID. This is likely from not practicing social distancing and states opening-up.
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