Those of you who've been around this blog for a long time know that I regularly bang away at ageism and age discrimination in these pages. You may also have noticed that my efforts have not made an iota of difference in all these years.
Nevertheless, here I go again.
ITEM: Have you seen the Twitter hashtags #BoomerRemover and #BoomerDoomer? Those came along in the early spring because old people were doing most of the dying. (They still are.)
ITEM: In March, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick told Fox News that it was time to open businesses again and that old people should be willing to sacrifice their lives for the economic good of the country.
ITEM: Then in April, as nursing home deaths from the virus continued to spiral out of control, California Governor Gavin Newsom's administration told hospitals to give preference in treatment to younger people with greater life expectancy over old people. In response to the uproar, the edict was withdrawn.
ITEM: Even with the recent news that more young people are getting sick from the virus than earlier in the pandemic, the number of deaths of elders in nursing homes and assisted living homes continues to lead all other age groups. According to The New York Times,
”At least 54,000 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults in the United States, according to a New York Times database. As of June 26, the virus has infected more than 282,000 people at some 12,000 facilities.”
Although statistics for the virus are fungible due to states' differing methods of counting and reporting, it is clear that the effect on old people is disastrous.
A few days ago, the Washington Post published a story titled, “With the novel coronavirus, suddenly at 60 we're now 'old'”. Written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Katherine Ellison, it takes issue with reports that people age 60 and older are more vulnerable to the virus than others.
Ellison's complaint is that the cutoff for old age seems to have been moved from 65 to 60. Her difficulty seems to be that she resents now being cast among the old:
”Many of us, BC - before the novel coronavirus - had counted on a little more time before we had to see ourselves as 'old'...
“Suddenly 60 is the new 65. At 62, I believe I speak for many other late-stage boomers when I say: Wait, what?...
“All the same, this sudden downward pressure on the boundary of old age strikes me as un-American...
“More important, for those of us in the early-60s gray zone, the slipping standard harms more than our vanity, stealing our last shred of deniability even as the shutdown deprives us of tools we’ve relied on to pass ourselves off as younger, such as Botox, hair salons and gyms.”
As I read, I kept wondering if this was supposed to be funny and somehow I was missing the joke. Not that I think old people dying in droves in a pandemic is joke-worthy.
She gives readers a thin tour through the ageist media culture and its negative effect on old people (to which she attributes her aching knees), quotes a couple of research studies, but never questions her desire to be seen as younger than she is.
Before the pandemic, I too imagined myself as, at worst, pre-elderly, while assuming there was widespread agreement about the endpoint of plausible youth...
“But then I realized just how much the coronavirus may be infecting all of us with the most dreadful view of aging, in which 'old' is synonymous with useless and expendable. And who's ever ready for that?”
Really? Is Ms. Ellison just now discovering there is such a thing as ageism? The phenomenon had already been around for decades when the late distinguished geriatrician, Robert N. Butler, coined the word “ageism” 45 years ago.
The coronavirus is a dreadful plague but let us be clear: it did not cause ageism, people do and some of them have used the virus to perpetuate the last acceptable prejudice in the United States.
This is the place in today's post where I would usually go in to my closing diatribe. But I discovered that a lot of the nearly 2000 comments on the WaPo story had made my point, saving me some work. Here is a short handful:
”OMG! We're in the middle of a pandemic and you're whining about how it makes you feel old? And where in the world did you get the idea that 'Denial plays a vital role in human survival'? What cultural anthropologist are you reading?”
”I'm a millennial...here's what I think. Embrace whatever good you can from your age. Wisdom, insight, experience and positivity are often in short supply. Share what you worked hard to learn. Don't take the negativity about age too seriously. They'll get older too someday. We all do if we are lucky.”
Hmmm. I thought this article was going to have something to do with the Coronavirus, not the self-absorbed ramblings of a Boomer in denial.
“I turned 60 today and I only feel about 59.”
We are living in a period of what feels increasingly like an apocalypse but the writer and the Washington Post choose to double down on ageism? Spare me.