July 6, 2022

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Monday

The pandemic has exposed the effects of ageism

From Minnesota, which has been at the centre of the world stage for many days now, comes a story which is not about riots and demonstrations. A World War II veteran named Chester Peake, was diagnosed with coronavirus in a Twin Cities long-term care facility. He was asymptomatic, but spent two-and-a-half weeks in isolation. He died on June 2, just short of his 100th birthday.

His death certificate listed the cause of his death as “social isolation, failure to thrive, related to COVID-19 restrictions” — loneliness, in other words.

Monday is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. According to the United Nations, between 4 and 6% of elderly people have experienced some form of maltreatment at home. Elder maltreatment can lead to serious physical injuries and long-term psychological consequences. The incidence of abuse towards older people is predicted to increase as many countries are experiencing rapidly ageing populations.

The Covid-19 crisis has made this even more relevant. According to experts from the Frameworks Institute writing at the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “The hashtag #BoomerRemover emerged and started trending in mid-March as a way to mark and make light of ageist comments about the pandemic. And Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, had to repeatedly address public opinion that COVID-19 was not a serious concern because of initial public beliefs that it affected only older people.”

Older Americans lose an estimated US$2.6 billion or more annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation.

The Frameworks Institute experts point out that the pandemic has exposed the effects of ageism: “We can see the effects of ageism in under-resourced nursing homes and in insurance companies only partially covering the care they provide. Left unchecked, ageism will continue to have long-term, negative impacts—including elder abuse, depression, and early mortality—that discriminate against older adults and eventually affect us all.”

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

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