Older Adults Are Not Disposable
At the end of March 2020, due to Coronavirus articles started appearing discussing “sacrificing Grandma” for the GDP. Other articles reinforced a growing opinion, surrounding older adults to die prematurely to save the economy. I try never to be an alarmist; however, a quick Google search reinforced the above opinions. I was shocked to read that the Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a 62-year-old (at the time that this was written) disseminated this opinion as well.
Moreover, within that same Google search, the term “the elderly” kept appearing. When one hears that the word “the elderly,” one envisions a picture of a frail and helpless individual. When is everyone going to understand older age…does not mean fragile?
Often, I get frustrated when the media is the scapegoat for many problems facing society, but in this case, the media is perpetuating stereotypes that lead to this “frail” construct.
For instance, I was watching the Today Show after Dr. Anthony Fauci threw out the first pitch. The correspondent reporting the story said, “well come on, he’s 79 years old, I bet I could barely walk to the mound at that age”! I am paraphrasing, but my point is clear; Dr. Fauci is sharper than many younger Americans. He also ambulates just fine. Why did The Today Show correspondent suggest that it was hard to walk to the mound due to Dr. Fauci’s age? The Today Show’s statement is an example of a microaggression. A microaggression is a subtle insult verbal, nonverbal, visually typically directed at Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) individuals (Kohli & Solórzano, 2012). Microaggressions stem from the framework of Critical Race Theory are subtler forms of racism that exist in daily life, which may be hard to pinpoint as racism, but cause harm nonetheless (Crenshaw, Gotanda, Peller & Thomas, 1996). Microaggressions can be applied to all forms of discrimination.
Going further, the blatant disregard for older adults by the media and leadership is a macroaggression. A macroaggression is a large scale or overt aggression toward those of another race, culture, gender, etc. (Boske et al., 2016)
Like all humans, older adults desire a life with good health, dignity, economic independence, and …a happy continued life. Why are we sidelining them? What age is considered old?
When did it become acceptable to debate the lives of individuals openly? Older adults are living longer, and according to U.S News and World reports (2015), in the United States, baby boomers produce more than two-thirds of the disposable income. Baby boomers are categorized as people born between 1946 and 1964, and approximately 77 million Americans were born during this time. Additionally, 59% of baby boomers financially support their adult children ages 18-39, as noted by the National Endowment for Financial Education. There are multiple reasons for this: difficult job market, cost of living, and record-high student-debt levels.
All generations enhance and support one another. One generation is not greater than the other.
Now, can you imagine if you woke up and you have people openly debating and deciding if your life counts? It reminds me of The Hunger Games all over, set in a dystopian country consisting of the wealthy Capitol. Every year, children are selected via lottery to participate in a death match. Instead of a lottery, your fate is now decided by age. May the odds forever be in your favor!
People fail to realize that ageism is unlike other discriminations, in that if we are lucky enough to age, then we will all experience this form of discrimination.
Now is a time for acceptance and understanding for all humanity. It is time to break down walls and build bridges. We need to value all people no matter how their hair grows, their culture, their gender, or their age.
We can age better together. Let’s Age On!
Stephanie Lowrey-Wilson is the founder and Chief Learning Officer at Age On, an organization aiming to eliminate ageism and enhance equality for all. Age On raises awareness and educates on biases and discrimination due to age, as well as looks at other overlying oppressions and age. SLW is currently obtaining her Ed.D in Organizational Change and Leadership from the University of Southern California and studying ageism and intersectionalities. For more information or to request a consult, please email [email protected] or visit ageonmovement.org. We are always looking for guest bloggers and collaborations.
Boske, Christa & Osanloo, Azadeh & Newcomb, Whitney. (2016). Deconstructing Macroaggressions, Microaggressions, and Structural Racism in Education: Developing a Conceptual Model for the Intersection of Social Justice Practice and Intercultural Education.
Crenshaw, K., Gotanda, N., Peller, G. and Thomas, K. 1996. Critical race theory: The key writings that formed the movement, New York: The New Press.
Kohli, R., & Solórzano, D. (2012). Teachers, please learn our names!: racial microagressions and the K-12 classroom. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 15(4), 441–462.