Professor Nina Kohn Writes in WaPo "America Doesn’t Care About Old People"
The Pandemic Exposed a Painful Truth: America Doesn’t Care About Old People
(The Washington Post | April 8, 2020) When the novel coronavirus first emerged, the U.S. response was slowed by the common impression that Covid-19 mainly killed older people. Those who wanted to persuade politicians and the public to take the virus seriously needed to emphasize that — to cite the headline of a political analysis that ran in The Washington Post in March — “It isn’t only the elderly who are at risk from the coronavirus.” The clear implication was that if an illness “merely” decimated older people, we might be able to live with it.
Of course, older adults are at heightened risk, even though Covid-19 strikes younger people, too. But across America — and beyond — we are losing our elders not only because they are especially susceptible. They’re also dying because of a more entrenched epidemic: the devaluation of older lives. 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.
It’s become clear that nursing homes are particularly deadly incubators: Fourteen states report that more than half of their Covid-19 fatalities are associated with long-term-care facilities. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says that as many as 50 percent of all deaths in Europe have occurred in such places. Hans Kluge, the WHO’s top official for Europe, called this “an unimaginable human tragedy" ...