COVID19: Ageism – A Concern In The Middle Of The Pandemic

Apr 15, 2020 | All posts, Opinions and contributions, Relevant news and stories

During an acute pandemic of pneumonia caused by a new strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19), age discrimination becomes more evident and widespread than ever in many parts of the world. This not only creates an obstacle for the epidemic itself but also creates a negative impact on the community.

Study on the impact of COVID-19 on older people

More than 80% of all deaths caused by COVID-19 in mainland China are people over 60, according to data from the National Health Commission of China, identifying older people as the most at-risk age group. Another study on more than 44,000 patients conducted by the China Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also confirmed that a group of patients over 80 years of age who were positive for COVID-19 had a mortality rate of nearly 15%, much higher than the estimated overall mortality rate of 2.3%.

Notifications related to the risk factors of this disease for older people to call for a suitable global response plan, highlighting the importance of implementing these activities. interventions with older people, not only in prevention measures but also in support of social care and reduction of opportunity risk factors.

Misconceptions about COVID-19 and older people

However, after a series of observations and studies confirming the high level of risk of older people in the context of a pandemic, a wave of ageism has occurred in many places. First of all, the thought that the Colombian virus only occurs in older people has led to attitudes to disregard the disease in many young or middle-aged people. They do not take preventive measures such as wearing masks, avoiding gathering … leading to an outbreak in many parts of the world. Many articles have had to point out that COVID-19 is not a disease of older people in the hope of raising the awareness of the community in the prevention of epidemic in general as well as the age stigma in particular.

At this time, when the epidemic broke out in many countries, causing both human and property losses, age discrimination continued to appear in the community. This means that besides the COVID-19 pandemic, we are facing another pandemic called ‘ageism’. In the context that the health system is overloaded, with age discrimination, older people may be neglected or denied treatment. Political scientist Yascha Mounk’s report notes that doctors cannot care for all who need treatment. Besides, the health system has a severe shortage of medical equipment to respond to treatment for people in critical situations. [1]

On Twitter, Yascha Mounk wrote: “It may become necessary to establish an age limit for access to intensive care. This is not a value judgment but a way to provide the extremely scarce resources to those who have the highest likelihood of survival and could enjoy the largest number of life-years saved. ”

Older people can still survive and recover

In fact, despite the community’s prejudices and misperceptions about COVID-19 and older people, elderly patients can still recover from the illness, while young people can face severe disease and death. Thus, although consideration of screening of patients based on age before treatment is thought to be aimed at resource utilization, there is no solid basis in place for the resilience of older people who are lower than other age groups. More than a quarter of people hospitalized in Italy are under 50 years of age, many of whom are experiencing serious diseases. [2]

A few days ago, the world recorded recovery cases in elderly patients. In Spain, 95-year-old Alma Clara Corsini, from the city of Fanano (Modena), has recovered after more than 2 weeks of hospitalization for signs of SARS-CoV-2 infection. [3] In Wuhan, the first outbreak of the disease caused by the Coronavirus, also recorded cases of recovering from infection at an advanced age, including a 101-year-old man and a 98-year-old lady. [4] Therefore, it is necessary to develop triage guidelines for governments ensuring that decisions are based on medical grounds, scientific evidence and ethical principles, rather than the age or assumed social worth.

Older people and their contributions to the COVID-19 pandemic

Not only older people can totally recover after infected with COVID-19 if they can receive proper care and treatment, but they are also one of the forces that actively contribute to COVID-19 prevention. In many parts of the world, retired health workers are called to return to work in response to the pandemic. In Vietnam, hundreds of retired doctors and nurses voluntarily participated in epidemic prevention. In the community, the older are seriously taking preventive measures according to the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health, and continue to be active in an appropriate way. Intergenerational Self-Help Club model – a community group led by older people, has practical activities to join hands in combating the disease calendar. Many clubs have actively participated in guiding, propagating, campaigning, reminding club members and older people and the general population in the locality to strictly and properly implement measures to prevent muscle diseases. Health officials offer … In the context of the epidemic, self-help activities (material, spiritual) and care, support at the home of the Volunteers Club for older people difficult, loneliness, disability, sickness are more meaningful than ever. In addition, clubs always follow measures to protect themselves and prevent diseases during this care and support process.

As an organization representing older people in the country, the Association of the Elderly at all levels plays a major role in propagating to the grassroots Association and its members about the epidemic situation, and universal epidemic prevention measures. In addition to the active participation of health authorities, with the active participation of the media of the Association, such as Newspaper of the Elderly, the Elderly Magazine, the digital portal of Vietnam Association of the Elderly, digital portal of provincial Association of the Elderly, etc. The association also closely follows developments at the grassroots level, early detects problems to advise the Commissioner and authorities. In addition, Vietnam Association of the Elderly has also cooperated with HelpAge International in Vietnam to assess the needs of the older people in the epidemic, thereby promoting mobilizing resources to support older people, and at the same time advising for all levels and sectors including health and population … to actively contribute to COVID-19 pandemic response activities. in the community in general and for older people in particular.

Age discrimination – Brings health risks no less than the pandemic

Research has shown that age discrimination has many far-reaching consequences for human health. It can negatively affect physical and mental health, and may even guide behaviours in providing health care, including access to treatment, duration, and frequency of treatment. as the effectiveness of treatments.

“Most of us are living many years longer than previous generations and this is a gift to be celebrated. But the outdated and harmful attitudes laid bare in this research are preventing too many people from making the most of those extra years. Ageism is deeply damaging, and yet all too often it isn’t taken as seriously as other forms of prejudice or discrimination.” said Anna Dixon- Managing Director of Center for Ageing Better.

In fact, according to the retrospective results, 95.5% of the studies, 74% of 1,159 communities have an age discrimination attitude that has a significant negative impact on people’s health status. Studies show that age stigma has affected over 45 countries, 11 health sectors, with the statistical significance increasing gradually over time. In less developed countries, the link between age discrimination and health is higher than in developed countries. The health of older people with low levels of education is particularly vulnerable to this stigma. Evidence of community age discrimination is found at any age, gender, race/ethnicity. [6]

Deborah Alsina, Director of the Independent Age charity, said: “Classing people in later life as a ‘burden’ is the ultimate insult and is particularly concerning in the current climate. The whole of our society needs to pull together, but these findings show that we are not always treating each other fairly. We must all work to ensure these ageist stereotypes are removed from our public discourse altogether, now and in the future.” [5]

Mr David Sinclair, Director of the International Longevity Center, said: “The negative impact of ageism hits all ages. It results in people being forced out of work early and losing access to vital services. ” [5]

This blog was originally posted on the website of HelpAge Vietnam and can be accessed here.