Elder Abuse and Ageism During COVID-19

Older adults have been hit hard by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Mortality data from Oxford COVID-19 Evidence Service indicates a risk of mortality of 3.6% for people in their 60s, which increases to 8.0% and 14.8% for people in their 70s and over 80s.1 An age-related mortality study from China showed that patients of COVID-19 above aged 55 years had 3 times increased mortality. Older individuals are much more likely to develop COVID-19 related complications.2 The increased mortality reflects the underlying biological, social, and psychological vulnerabilities faced by the older population. Elderly individuals are also disproportionately affected by social distancing policies and other restrictions to stop the spread of the virus, resulting in increased loneliness, social isolation, and loss of freedom and support networks.3

Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen considerable media coverage about the risk of COVID-19 to older people. Unfortunately, much of this discourse has negatively fueled an already existing ageist sentiment. Ageism, which some define as stereotyping, prejudice, or discrimination toward people on the basis of age, is a serious international concern with important health implications.4 Multiple studies have indicated that ageism toward older adults is highly prevalent across countries and continues to grow with global population aging.5 Negative attitudes toward older adults pose significant risks to the health and well-being of older individuals, such as higher mortality risk, poor functional health, slower recovery from illness, and poor mental health.

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