To many, the year 2020 is synonymous with the COVID-19 pandemic. The novel coronavirus has spread across the globe, resulting in over 74 million confirmed cases and over 1.6 million deaths worldwide as of December 19th, 2020.
Many people worldwide are affected by the pandemic in one way or another; however, there is one group of individuals who stand out from the rest.
Being considered a high-risk category of people, older adults have been disproportionately affected by the virus in more ways than one.
Aside from getting much sicker and dying at much higher rates than their younger counterparts, older adults have also been victims of ageism that has intensified during the pandemic.
The hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic have created an even bigger-than-normal divide between younger and older people.
One way this has happened is through the media spotlight being shone mainly on older people and their “vulnerabilities,” although there are people of younger ages that can also be vulnerable. Even on social media, there has been a clear focus on older individuals. In some cases, it has led to unrestrained ageist discourse with hashtags referring to the virus as the #boomerremover.
At the best of times, the experience of ageism can have a stark impact on older individuals’ self-esteem and well-being through the process of internalizing the negative age stereotypes that they are bombarded with.
Seeing their age or the ageing process in such a negative light can be predictive of the symptoms of depression.
Now when we compound the typical effects of ageism on older adults with the isolation, fear, and grievances that many may be feeling during the pandemic, it is frightening to think about how the last fifteen months have affected older adults.
What can each of us do to remedy the effects of ageism and the pandemic on older
- A great start is to actively fight back against ageist discourse, especially ones that refer to
older adults in extinguishable terms and refrain from using such language ourselves.
- Check-in on the elders in your life, ask them if you could pick up groceries or run errands for them, and
remind them of their value and meaning.
- Do what you can to promote an optimistic view on ageing, which one study found to be protective against the adverse effects of internalized ageism.
Some people are more comfortable going out than others at this time, and one’s choice to stay home should not hinder their ability to seek psychotherapy!
Telepsychology and online psychotherapy have been around for quite a few years now, and it’s been proven to be just as effective as in-person therapy. If you feel that an older family member could use some counselling, tell them about telepsychology and the benefits that it can bring them.
Blog post by Ally Nelson, Volunteer
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